Monday, March 15, 2010

We've established that one of the most important things to do when you're trying to eat healthier and lose weight is to make sure the food you're eating still tastes good! I don't care how healthy something is for me, I won't eat it if I don't like how it tastes. Two words: wheatgrass juice...enough said! Keeping the taste while reducing fat and calories CAN be a challenge. C'mon...butter tastes great...admit it! Fat also carries flavors in foods; that's why reduced-fat recipes can taste bland and boring if you're not careful. Thankfully, there are plenty of things that can you do to keep the flavor in your recipes while reducing the fat and calories.

I've started using more herbs and spices to boost the flavor of my recipes...and I've been incorporating bold tastes with flavored vinegars and gourmet salsas. All of these ingredients have little to no fat and are full of big flavors. In plain speak, they give you a lot of bang for your buck, calorie-wise! I love to use fresh herbs like basil, thyme, and rosemary in my recipes...but I love to browse the bulk spice section at Central Market (a Texas-based gourmet grocery store) to find new dried seasoning blends to try as well.

I haven't posted many recipes in here yet, which is ironic considering how much I love to cook!! I'm going to rectify that situation starting now, though. The following recipe is a perfect example of packing a TON of flavor into a recipe while using only a small amount of healthy fat (olive oil in this case). This is my personal spin on a salad recipe that I found on the Cooking Light website this weekend.

Panzanella Salad With Mozzarella and Basil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (I used baby heirloom tomatoes, but roma would work)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 5-6 leaves basil, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped romaine
  • 2 ounces ciabatta bread
  • 2 ounces FRESH mozzarella
Step 1: Combine the first five ingredients in a bowl, stirring well. I find chopping garlic to be tedious, so I grate it directly into the bowl with my microplane. 

Step 2: Add the red onion, basil, and cubed mozzarella. Stir well to combine. At this point, your salad will look something like this:

Step 3: Place the salad in the fridge until you're ready to serve so the flavors can combine. You can do this for as little as 1 hour or as much as overnight. I chilled my salad for 2-3 hours. 

Step 4: When you're ready to serve the salad, cut the ciabatta in half horizontally so you have two pieces. Cut into 1-inch cubes and toast in a 350 oven for about 10 minutes. Just before you're ready to serve, add the chopped romaine and the toasted bread cubes. Stir to combine so the bread can soak up the dressing and the tomato juices.

The flavors in this salad really pop: the tangy balsamic, the brightness of the fresh basil, a bit of acidity from the fresh tomatoes, the slightly pungent red onion, the chewy bread, and the creamy fresh mozarella! This salad was a symphony of tastes and textures...DEFINITELY not boring or bland!

This recipe makes two generous servings. I served it as the side dish with a marinated London broil on Saturday night. Each serving is 5 Weight Watchers points (253 calories, 8 grams fat, and 5 grams fiber). 

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