A Little Word on Boca Burgers

The New Bite

When everyone and their neighbors turn on the grill and throw down the patty, there’s no reason to miss out on the backyard fun.

With Memorial Day Weekend behind us, I finally have a moment to get back to you, and back to little bites. Summer holidays are marked by potato salad, coleslaw and all-beef burgers and dogs grilling on the George Foreman. Despite all the edible temptations, and the inevitable indulgences, there are a few fundamental ways to revamp the American BBQ to keep afternoon picnics light, fresh, and vegetarian.

There are so many vegetarian and vegan burgers on the market nowadays, it can be difficult to pick the best one. Whether or not your a carnivore or an herbivore, Boca Grilled Vegetable Burgers are a great way to freshen up any backyard menu.  With only 80 calories per patty, 1 gram of fat and a whopping 12 grams of protein, Boca burgers are one of the most low-calorie options, and they are available in almost every supermarket.

Huge chunks of zucchini, corn and grilled peppers make this burger a flavorful alternative to the meaty standard. What’s more, when looking for the perfect vegetarian burger, I keep an eye out for visible ingredients – there’s nothing worse than an artificial burger made from a mysterious tan pulp.

When eating BBQ-style, go bunless and use fresh chopped onions and tomatoes as your condiment for an ultra healthy backyard bite.

Another great burger to try when shaking up a homestyle BBQ menu includes MorningStar Farms Grillers California Turk’y Burger, which is packed with the sweet and acidic blend of tomatoes and avocados and accounts for only 90 calories per patty,

No matter who you celebrate with, try substituting low-calorie, vegetarian options into your holiday gatherings.

Until next time, here’s to a weekend of celebration, remembrance, and perfect little bites.

Melanie

Where To Bite Tapas – Tapeo [Boston, MA]

Where to Bite

Authentic, Spanish-style tapas are really the epitome of little bites, and I’m always looking for the best new place to get them.

This weekend, perhaps the first honest days of summer, I stopped by a new Tapas restaurant on Newbury Street for lunch with a wonderful friend.

Tapas are perfect for a light lunch, for trying new things, for sharing. Because tapas means small Spanish dishes, usually served with a drink, it’s the perfect style of eating for delicious little bites. Order a few plates, split them with people you love, and try a variety of new flavors all while sipping on some delicious sangria.

What’s got me sold on Tapeo is it’s wonderful location and open patio for al fresco dining. Find it at 266 Newbury St., right in the heart of Boston’s Back Bay. While the traditional Spanish-style interior bar is beautiful, it’s the ability to dine in the open air that puts Tapeo at the top of my list of favorite Tapas restaurants of all time. http://tapeo.com 

Great food, a wide variety of sangrias, and a fabulous patio right on Boston’s main drag make Tapeo one of my new favorite spots to grab a little bite.

Recommended Dishes: Lots of specials and a wide variety of vegetarian options made it difficult to pick just two tapas. The Ensalada Mixta, with mixed greens, beets, hearts of palm and mandarin orange is a great fresh start to your meal. The sautéed portobello mushrooms served as my “main dish,” and were a juicy, delicious and filling course. Put the Ensalada Mixta’s vinaigrette on the side to keep things light.

The Not-So-Good Bite: As is often the case at tapas-style restaurants, there is a minimum order of two tapas per person. Given the mid-price range, this is not the cheapest option.  However, the tapas are the perfect size to fill you up, and when you bring a friend or two along for the bite, you won’t need much more to satisfy that mid-day meal.

The Good Bite: In addition to a number of vegetarian options on the permanent menu, Tapeo has a number of new specials every six weeks, keeping the menu fun and unexpected. One of my friend’s selections came from this temporary menu – a special Ensalada with corn, asparagus, green beans and grape tomatoes.

The Best Bite: Tapeo’s tapas-style menu is serving up the right-sized plates, and keeping things fresh and traditional. As I mentioned, tapas are fun for sharing, and for trying new things. Because of this, it’s a great place for friends, because there are vegetarian options, vegan options, gluten and grain-free selections, and a whole slew of meat-based dishes to please even the biggest carnivore. Hearty, honest cooking and authentic European flavors are guaranteed to please everyone around the table.

Thick-cut portobello mushrooms sauteed with peppers, onions and fresh garlic are a filling option for any diner, and the short ingredient list make it a perfect fit for any restrictive diet.

Pair your meal with a glass of sweet berry sangria and indulge for the day on the patio. Enjoy good food, good company, and a moment of relaxation. My mother told me a story recently about a perfect day,  in which her sister reminded her to stop, look around her, and remember everything as it was. Because no matter what, time is short, and never predictable, and that moment will never look the same again.

So if you’re strolling down Newbury and have time to spare for a little bite, call up a friend to join you for an afternoon out. It’s never too early in the day to begin winding down and savoring the moments in which everything is right, and every bite is as it should be.

No matter what, I’m always going to keep searching for that perfect little bite, because there are so many wonderful tastes out there to try.

Melanie

Plate of Illusion – Neen’s No-Noodle Lasagna [The Mouthful Morsel]

Create Your Own Bite, The Mouthful Morsel

This lasagna is layers of all of my favorite things – and best of all, there’s almost no guilt when the plate is cleared, which it most certainly will be.

Create Your Own Bite #8

Neen’s No-Noodle Lasagna

This recipe is dedicated by my mother, who first suggested the idea to me, and is the strongest, most wonderful woman I know. 

2 Zucchini

1 Spanish Onion

1 Plum Tomato

1 Cup Grape Tomatoes, Quartered

Trader Giotto’s Parmesan & Romano, To Taste

1 Jar Stonewall Kitchen Butternut Squash Pasta Sauce

1 Red Bell Pepper

1/2 Green Bell Pepper

15 oz Trader Joe’s Fat Free Ricotta Cheese

1 Large Egg

2 – 3 Cups Fresh Spinach

Pinch of Pumpkin Pie Spice (Or Nutmeg)

This recipe makes 9 slices of 3-layer lasagna.

Estimated Calories: 210

It’s mother’s day, and that means mimosas, chocolate coconut cupcakes, and lots of food. I am definitely my mother’s daughter. We both love eating, dining, and sharing food with the people we love. But when we can, we put the dressing on the side, hold the cheese, and, if your my mother, tell the waiter to sauté, rather than fry the calamari.

In her honor, I’m sharing this recipe that my mother, Eileen “Neen,” conceived one day on the phone, and that I put to the pan with two fabulous friends.

A Little Tip: This is a great recipe to make with your mother, your best friend, or someone who generally has good knife skills. It’s more involved than most of my recipes, and it’s fun to slit the work. Pass the time and share the final creation with amazing people.

To get going on your no-noodle lasagna, (gluten-free, vegetarian, low-calorie, and paleo-friendly) take the zucchini and slice it lengthwise into thin strips, about 1/8 of an inch thick. If you have a mandolin, this is really helpful tool – it will allow you to cut the zucchini into uniform strips. Unfortunately, this is not a device you can find in my tiny apartment kitchen, so a regular chef’s knife had to make-do.

Next, dice up the red pepper, green pepper, and onion. Get the diced onion into the sauté pan to start, allowing it to turn translucent before adding the peppers and quartered grape tomatoes. I put a splash of Chardonnay in the pan, but mostly because it was the beverage of choice for the evening and I thought the vegetables could use a little liquid.

Onions, peppers, and tomatoes make for a beautifully colored layer in the pasta. Plus, a dash of wine never hurt anyone.

In the meantime, get the ricotta filling ready by mixing the cheese with one large egg. Add a pinch of nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice. This will serve as the perfect complement to the sweet and tangy butternut squash sauce.

A Little Note:  This sauce was a gift from my mother, that I’ve been dying to put to good use. The sweetness and tanginess from the sauce is a perfect counterpart to the creamy ricotta, and the zucchini noodles are a wonderful vehicle for the heavier, higher-calorie sauce. Don’t hesitate, however, to substitute your favorite vodka sauce or traditional marinara. In this case, any sauce will work just fine!

Once the vegetables are thoroughly cooked, set them aside and get the spinach into the pan. The spinach soaks up all the delicious caramelization from the onions and the juice from the tomatoes. When the spinach is wilted, pull it off the heat, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and start assembling your lasagna.

The 90 calories from this recipe’s zucchini noodles are a great trade for the 570 calories found in an equivalent amount of no-boil lasagna noodles.

In a 9 x 9 non-stick pan, put down a thin layer of butternut squash sauce, and top with your first layer of zucchini “noodles.” This takes about 4 cuts of zucchini. Top this with the ricotta mixture, and then sprinkle a layer of Parmesan and Romano, to taste. Add a 1/3 of the vegetables, followed by 1/3 of the spinach, and a generous layer of butternut squash pasta sauce. Repeat until you’ve got three complete layers. On the final layer, garnish with nine thick slices of the plum tomato, marking each serving and adding an extra touch of acid.

Here, we topped our lasagna with thick-cut slices of tomato. Experiment with fresh basil leaves, or a handful of low-fat shredded mozarella.

Bake your lasagna for 45 minutes, or until you can see the sauce simmering. The zucchini will still be crisp – for a softer “noodle,” grill or boil the zucchini before cutting it. Allow the dish to cool for about ten minutes before diving in. Grab a slice for yourself, give one to a friend, and put two aside for your mom. Either way, this is a dish meant for celebrating, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s always important to find small reasons to celebrate in life.

Happy Mother’s Day, friends. Until next time, I’m off to share another little bite.

Melanie

Plate of Illusion – Carrot Fettuccine in Lemon Ginger Sauce [The Mouthful Morsel]

Create Your Own Bite, The Mouthful Morsel
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Once cooked, these thin ribbons of carrot take on the twirlable, familiar texture of pasta.

Create Your Own Bite #7

Carrot Fettuccine in Lemon Ginger Sauce

3 Medium Carrots

1 Teaspoon Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon Light Butter

1/2 Teaspoon of Ginger

1 Lemon

This recipe makes approximately 2 cups of Carrot Fettuccine, approximately 2 servings.

Estimated Calories: 100

The wonderful thing about using fresh, raw vegetables in place of pasta, is that they serve as the perfect vehicle to try new sauces that might otherwise be too rich or heavy.

Carrots, packed with carotene, are known for being loaded with nutrients to improve eyesight and help tissue development. Only fifty calories per one-cup serving, they make a fabulous substitute for high carb, high calorie pasta when peeled into long, thin strands.

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A few basic ingredients, prepared properly, can make a meal packed-with flavor and low in guilt.

The basic step in producing a carrot “pasta” dish is to grab your vegetable peeler and begin stripping the carrots  down into the noodle-length and thickness of your choice. After rinsing off three medium carrots and removing their rough outer layer, I pared mine down into a fettuccine-style strips with my handy peeler (a much easier kitchen tool than the food processor to conquer.)

Once all of the carrots have been pared-down, heat up your pan with the olive oil, and begin to cook your carrots. Toss frequently to keep the carrot strands from burning, but allow the “pasta” to cook thoroughly. If undercooked, carrots will maintain their crunchy, raw texture. To create supper-soft carrot noodles, a good tip is to steam or boil the carrots before tossing them into the pan.

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Toss the carrot “noodles” frequently to ensure even cooking and the perfect pasta texture.

Once the carrots have adopted the noodle-texture of choice, you are ready to add any other ingredients or sauces into the mix. Feeling inspired by the beautiful weather, long overdue and much needed, I decided to adopt a recipe I found on Epicurious that called for lemon ginger-butter sauce.

To create this component of a healthy springtime meal, I used Balade Light Butter, with the zest from one lemon, and the juice from half a lemon squeezed right into the carrot noodles cooking on low. Once the lemon juice, zest, and butter were thoroughly mixed with the noodles, I added ginger for a touch of heat.

Eat this as a snack, a light lunch, or bulk up your Carrot Fettuccine with diced yellow peppers and baked tofu for a hearty dinner. Either way, embrace the fresh, crisp flavors of summer and have fun with your favorite sauces on this pasta-illusion.

I’ll be back tomorrow for a look at an amazing no-noodle lasagna, invented by and in honor of my wonderful, fabulous mother.

Until then, I’m off to find another little bite!

Melanie

Plate of Illusion – Cauliflower Couscous [The Mouthful Morsel]

The Mouthful Morsel, The New Bite

Satisfy your desire for a plate of couscous with this raw, low-calorie replica.

This “Plate of Illusion” is not the first discovery that’s rocked my carb-craving world. Spaghetti Squash, Rutabaga Fries, and Tofu Shirataki Noodles are just a few that I’ve mentioned before. Sometimes, eating is really psychological, and it’s always good to look for foods that will fulfill sinful desires without all of the calories, fat, and sodium that are so often the repercussions.

This recipe, brought to my attention by Giuliana Hazelwood of Lovely Healthy Life, transforms the neutral, versatile cauliflower into a grain-like consistency that I lovingly term Cauliflower Couscous. 

Often labeled as a rice substitute, I find the final product to be more reminiscent of couscous, in texture and in its mild flavor. While one cooked cup of the original grain version has approximately 175 calories, a cup of cauliflower couscous has less than 50, in addition to dietary fiber, vitamin c, and potassium.

In order to transform a head of cauliflower into light and fluffy cauliflower couscous, you’ll need one very important piece of kitchen equipment. The food processor. This was a big step for me and my personal kitchen growth, as I avoid anything with blades or sharp edges whenever possible. (My first instinct was to make Mashed Cauliflower,) but following another tip from Ms. Hazelwood, I decided to conquer the scary-thing and “do the thing you think you cannot do.”

After breaking down a head of cauliflower into individual florets, you’re halfway to a delicious dish with a playful exterior.

A Little Warning: Be careful when doing the thing you think you cannot do. I admit, I have a battle wound to show for my first attempt at this recipe, having struggled – not to assemble or use the food processor – but to disassemble and wash it.

To create your own cauliflower couscous, start with a head of broccoli, cut into mid-sized florets. Microwave them on high for 4-5 minutes in a covered dish, to allow the cauliflower to steam.

Let the cauliflower cool, before loading up the food processor and transforming the florets into a true plate of illusion. Pulsing the cauliflower on low quickly creates a product bearing a remarkable resemblance to the semolina ground pasta.

Another Little Warning: This can be a time-consuming process, depending on the size of your food processor. I found it was better to do many small batches, in order to control the texture of the granules.

The great thing about this raw dish is that it is a perfect base for just about anything else your heart desires. I enjoy it with fresh chopped garlic, onion, salt, pepper, and a spritz of spray butter. The next time you’re entertaining for a group of paleo, gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian friends, whip this out and please everyone with one simple bite.

Tomorrow, I’m continuing my exploration of the best Plates of Illusion with a completely raw fettuccine, and on Sunday, I’m celebrating Mother’s Day with a dish my most amazing and wonderful Mom came up with – a no-noodle lasagna packed with flavor and unbelievably low-calorie.

Until then, I’m off to take another little bite!

Melanie

Green Vegan Pizza – CYOB

Create Your Own Bite

Pizza doesn’t need to be smothered in melted cheese to be hearty and delicious. This vegan pizza is satisfying and indulgent, and one slice of this cheese-less pie is only about 250 calories, and packed with vitamins, minerals, and nutritional yeast!

Create Your Own Bite #6

Green Vegan Pizza

A borrowed bite from pizza-extraordinaires Logan Coats and Katrina Martinez.

1 Trader Joe’s Ready-To-Bake Pizza Dough

1/3 Cup of Pesto fortified with Nutritional Yeast

1-2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1/2 Cup of Caramelized Onions

1/2 Cup of Broccoli Rabe

1/2 Cup of Asparagus Spears

This recipe makes one small pizza, approximately 8 servings.

Estimated Calories (Per Slice): 250 – 300

Pizza, like many other quick-make meals, has become a health taboo. Usually served by the greasy, cheesy slice on a paper plate at two o’clock in the morning, there are very few ways to make the dish delicious and healthful.

While certainly not a low-fat option, homemade pizza is a great way to get the nutrition you need, while taking control of the ingredients you ingest. Vegan pizza may not be synonymous with low-calorie, but it certainly avoids the calorie concern inherent with melted, molten cheese.

With experience in a vegan pizzeria, my friends Logan and Katrina have adopted the belief that if you’re going to do a vegan pizza, forgo the artificial, processed vegan-cheese and skip right to the pesto. A basil-pine nut pesto with olive oil and nutritional yeast is the base for this completely “green” pizza. Nutritional yeast, a source of B-complex vitamins, has a nutty, cheesy flavor that makes it a perfect addition to the pesto.  This flavor-packed mixture, pureed into a sauce, can complement any number of vegetable toppings.

After rolling out the dough, drizzle the crust with a little extra virgin olive oil, and a generous portion of pesto.

For a night of animal crackers, red wine and homemade pizza with friends, Katrina roasted broccoli rabe, asparagus and caramelized onions in red wine to top her vegan-pie creation. This, of course, is the fun part of making a pizza at home. If these ingredients don’t float your boat, you can pick any number of your favorite vegetables to complete your pizza.

Roasted zucchini and sauteed spinach could also complement the green theme of this vegan pizza.

Quick Vegan Tip: Pizza dough is almost always vegan, but make sure to check for honey, which occasionally appears as an ingredient. If you’re making your own, agave is a great vegan-substitute to help your dough achieve the same sweet flavor.

When your dream green pizza is complete, toss it in an oven, cranked to full blast, (usually 500-550 degrees) for 10-15 minutes.

If you can wait, let the pizza cool before digging in. As you can see from this “recipe,” making pizza is more of an art than a science. Trial and error, experimentation, and play are key to producing a delicious slice of pizza.

The lesson in this borrowed bite is that sometimes low-calorie isn’t the biggest concern. Keeping things fresh, nutritious, and homemade is the go-to recipe for making a perfect little bite.

Until next time, I’m off to find more ways to transform my favorite foods into healthy, delicious morsels.

Melanie