Posts tagged honey

Finals edition #1: fruit

 

It’s that time of year again, and as finals dreadfully dawn in Storrs, I’m bringing you a week’s worth of “brain food” to get you awake and motivated.  Most of rely on endless cups of coffee to get us through the week (I’m probably the guiltiest of all).  And when it comes to food for the week- that is, if we remember to eat, it’s usually grabbing a snack on the go between an exam and the library.  There are a few healthy options at the library (go for the yogurt parfait, or a protein bar over the candy or chips), but if you have the chance to eat at your place or at least make something to bring with you to the library, DO SO!  According to a post from Healthy Eats on the Food Network site, eating better can improve your academic performance immensely:

“High-fat packaged snacks, fried foods and other calorie-laden choices (late-night pizza run, anyone?) are tempting, but these foods will only fill you up (too much) and slow you down. You’ll feel sleepy, especially if you indulge towards the end of the day. In fact, a new study suggests that fatty foods can bog down your short-term memory — no good if you’re in the middle of exams or a big project.”

With that in mind, check back throughout the weak to read my latest post of finals edition.  In addition to an easy recipe, I’ll throw in a snack suggestion you can buy at the store if you don’t have any time to cook.  Best of luck to everyone on exams!

Brain food #1: Fruit (in particular, berries)

The antioxidants in berries has been proven to improve short-term memory (hello flash cards), plus they’re really healthy for your diet.  They’re very versatile and you can throw them in anything from cereal to smoothies, or enjoy them on their own.  Fruit also lends itself beautifully to yogurt (see my parfait recipe).  Warning: they are on the expensive side of the scale when it comes to grocery shopping; however, a little goes a long way when you use them the right way.  One way to do so is to mix them in a quick and easy fruit salad.

You’ll need:

  • Whatever fruit you want to use really, but consider the facts about berries and maybe this week opt for the blueberries, strawberries and raspberries: a winning combo.  I also threw in one of my favorite fruit, pineapple, but grapes,blackberries or peaches are other good choices.  Unless you’re serving for a lot of people, only buy a pack of each kind, since they’re pretty pricey especially since it’s not quite season yet for most of these berries yet.  
  • The juice of one lemon, to kick up the flavor

Now, you can leave it as is and enjoy the fruit the natural way (the healthier option), but I hear a lot of people complain about fruit (it’s too boring on its own, not tasty enough), so if you’d like make my poppyseed dressing, or throw these items together to drizzle over the salad:

  • A dash of sugar (don’t overdo it, the fruit already has natural sugar)
  • A dash of poppy seeds (not vital- I just had them in my cabinet)
  • About 1/2 teaspoon of white vinegar
  • About 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • A dash of cinnamon powder
  • A dash of salt

Directions:

  1. Rinse and drain all the fruit and put it all in a bowl.
  2. Stir it all together then top with lemon juice, squeezing the lemon right over the salad, facing the lemon up so you don’t drop any of the seeds in.  Stir again.
  3. Leave it here if you want to enjoy the fruit on its own.  Otherwise mix all the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl and stir thoroughly, making sure the thickness of the honey dissolves into the oil and vinegar.
  4. Drizzle the dressing over the bowl and stir the fruit together again, making sure you get every corner.  If you want to, drain the salad again for just a second to get the excess dressing out before putting back in the bowl.
  5. Store the salad in the fridge since it tastes better cold, and enjoy it by itself, or with yogurt in a parfait.

Here’s a step-by-step:

rinse and drain all the fruit

 

Stir all the fruit together and squeeze a fresh lemon over the salad

 

Prepare the dressing, stirring thoroughly

 

Drizzle the dressing over the salad and stir again

 

The Food Network has an entire collection of fruit salad recipes.  Here’s some of the best:

Paula Deen’s fruit salad (Paula Deen makes a healthy dish??) with honey dressing: the orange juice adds a nice touch

Grilled fruit salad from Sunny Anderson: a unique twist

A fruit salad made on Barefoot Contessa featuring all those healthy berries

Snack suggestion:

Pretzels with hummus.  Healthy carbs are our brain’s primary energy source.  Go for the whole-wheat pretzels since they’re also a good source of fiber.  Flavor it up with a low-fat hummus of your choice.  My advice is to dish yourself a big spoonful of hummus and a handful of pretzels, then put the stuff away, this snack can be very addicting!  Got the time? Try my hummus recipe.

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Spring is sprung! (At least on my calendar)

Storrs, CT, is dying for spring.  Girls are wearing sandals every chance they get and guys are sporting shorts, declaring it’s not too chilly to bear some leg.  In hopes of flowers and a few rays of sun, I brought spring into my kitchen last night with my favorite fruit: the  strawberry.  Inspired by a blog post I read by Connecticut food writer, Leeanne Griffin, I went with a spring salad.  My dish was a bit different: it features another favorite in this apartment, tortellini.  The combination of the two ingredients may sound a bit unconventional, but trust me, they work really well together, and it’s a versatile dish.  We had it for dinner last night, but it’s great for lunch too.  The best part about it is the honey  poppy seed dressing, a recipe I made up using a bunch of different ingredients, and you can store for later use on a regular green salad or over fruit.  This recipe is really quick and easy once you get all the ingredients together.  Hello, spring!

You’ll need:

  • One package of tortellini pasta (usually found cooled at the store)
  • Strawberries, about 5 of them
  • Scallions, chopped small
  • Half of a lemon

For the Honey poppy seed dressing:

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. poppy seeds
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • dash of black pepper
  • If you have some lying around, or want to spend the cash, add some sliced almonds to the list.  I left them out this time, but they do add a nice touch.

If you don’t have all these ingredients, and don’t want to spend the money or time making the dressing (if you get the chance to sometime, TRY IT!), then all you have to do is eliminate everything except the oil (use olive oil instead though), and the sugar and poppy seeds.  Don’t worry, poppy seeds aren’t too expensive if you buy them in a little can on sale.  I think I spent about $1 at Big Y on a tiny little can.

Directions:

  1. Prepare the tortellini as directed on the package.  Keep an eye on them, they usually cook pretty fast.
  2. While those are cooking, take the time to chop the strawberries and scallions.  Remember to cut both ingredients into small pieces.
  3. Prepare the poppy seed dressing.  Add all the ingredients listed above together and stir throughly with a fork or whisk (make sure that honey thins out).  Stick the dressing in the fridge until everything else is ready.
  4. Once the tortellini are done, strain them and put them into another bowl.  Make sure not to use a spoon with claws or tongs of any sort when moving them, they’re fragile.  Put the bowl of tortellini into the fridge for a while and let them cool (this salad is best served cold).
  5. Once you’ve waited for the tortellini to cool completely, toss in the strawberries and scallions (and almonds) and squeeze the fresh lemon over the bowl.  Then drizzle the dressing over the salad and mix everything together, but do NOT over mix.  This is one thing I learned the hard way.  The strawberries easily get spread out and mushy, and the pasta turns completely pink instead of maintaining that nice white contrast.  If it helps, stir everything together and then put the strawberries in and stir a little bit more.  

And that’s all you need to do for your spring-time salad fix!  Remember to use the dressing over regular greens for a tasty side dish if you have leftovers.  This salad would also work well served with grilled chicken (are you getting the barbecue by the lake image too?).  

Poppy seed problem?  I know I haven’t used poppy seeds in any of my previous recipes, so here’s a tip on what to do with those leftover seeds: lemon poppy seed muffins! A delicious quick fix!  All you have to do is buy a box of lemon cake mix, add 2 tbsp. of poppy seeds and bake the cake as directed in muffin tins.  A perfect breakfast solution for the rest of the spring semester! 

Here’s a visual guide for the salad:

Cook the tortellini:

Chop up the strawberries and scallions:

Prepare the dressing using all the listed ingredients:

Strain the tortellini and toss everything together:

Check out these other spring time salad recipes:

A springtime tossed salad from TasteofHome.com

A bunch of different spring salads to try from MommyTips.com

Had to get my Food Network fix: A spring goddess salad from Sunny Anderson

For different twists on the poppy seed dressing recipe, browse through CDKitchen.com’s collection, there are a TON!

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