Fig and Prosciutto Salad

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For someone who, not long ago, would gag at the suggestion of a salad for dinner, it’s slightly unsettling that this has been the Summer of Salads. In just a few short months, I’ve brought you a tuscan kale salad, a cucumber caprese salad, and a watermelon mint steak salad. And just when you thought there couldn’t possibly be any more salads up my sleeve? I bring you this: a blue-cheese-stuffed and prosciutto-wrapped fig salad. If you think that sounds pretty fancy for a salad, it is. But whoever said salads had to be boring?

I’d been on the lookout for figs at the farmer’s market for months now. I remember one time in May, I thought I’d seen figs in the Central Market flyer, so I went determinedly to go find some. After painstakingly browsing each fruit bin, Mr. Little Fish decided to just ask a worker where we could find them. “See those bins with the bananas? Right next to them.”  Yes! I thought, as I quickly shuffled between the crowd to get to them. Alas, upon arrival, only lowly dates sat in their place. Of course, when we went to ask again, employee-man said he thought we’d said dates, but figs, well, they didn’t have any. Sigh.

So, I waited, drooling over the fig pictures that kept popping up on my instagram. I had never even tried fresh figs before, only dried, but I had convinced myself they would be my new favorite thing. So, I went to the farmer’s market every weekend, crossing my fingers that this would be the time. Once, I happened across Confituras (find them on instagram!), a local small-batch jam maker, at the farmer’s market and bought some of her sugar fig jam, which was so good that I temporarily forgot about The Search for Figs.

But then, one Saturday, my friend M realized that she had weekends to herself again, so we decided to celebrate. I suggested going to the lobster roll truck at the farmer’s market, because when else is a great time to buy a $16 sandwich than when you’re feeling celebratory? So, off we went, with butter lobster rolls on our minds, and all thoughts of figs forgotten. But lo and behold, at the tiniest table in the whole market: baskets and baskets of fresh figs. Despite the odd looks I was getting from my friend M, I couldn’t contain my joy. I strolled right up to the vendor, said “that one!” while assertively pointing at the cute container on the corner, and handed over the cash. I was a woman on a mission. Feeling giddy with accomplishment, I asked the vendor was his favorite way to eat the figs was, and he suggested wrapping them in prosciutto and grilling them. PURE GOLD, I thought.

The idea went even further when, two stalls down, I happened across my favorite goat-cheese maker, CKC Farms. The enabler than I am, I convinced my friend M to try their plain goat cheese while I sampled there baby blue. Although I’m not typically a fan of blue cheese, I loved this one! It was very silky and smooth and had that lovely creaminess that goat cheese has. Remembering my plan for the figs, I declared that before wrapping them in prosciutto, I would first stuff them with this cheese. Meanwhile, my friend M shot darts at me with her eyes as she handed over the cash for the goat cheese she couldn’t stop herself from buying. =)

Thus, this salad was born on a weeknight after work two nights later. I paired it simply with a bed of arugula, some walnuts sprinkled over the top, and with a dash of balsamic vinegar. You can add whatever you’d like to it. You could even go fancier by reducing the balsamic vinegar with some honey until it’s a lovely, sweet syrup.  If you’re not a fan of blue cheese, this would work just as well stuffed with regular old goat cheese or, if you’re dairy-free, no cheese at all. Also, I ate this as a meal itself, but it would definitely make a great side for a steak on a date night (you’re welcome. 😉 !

Fig and Prosciutto Salad
Serves 2

IMG_7881Ingredients:

1 pint fresh figs, gently washed and dried
3 oz prosciutto
1 small package baby blue goat cheese
4 cups baby arugula
1-2 tbsps walnuts
2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp bacon fat or butter, for grilling

Directions:

1.  Using a sharp knife, delicately cut each of the figs in half. If they are very ripe, they will be a little mushy and you don’t wanna squish them too much.
IMG_78852.  Use a spoon to put a tiny bit of blue cheese in the center of each fig half. The amount should be proportional to the size of the fig and to your own personal preference.
IMG_78873.  Then, since my figs were quite small, I tore each piece of prosciutto into threes and carefully wrapped each third around one fig half. Make sure to wrap it fairly tightly so that the fig stays in the prosciutto when frying.
IMG_78884. Heat a large cast iron pan over medium heat, and add the fat. Once the fat is melted and/or started to lightly smoke, use tongs to place each fig half in a circle lining the outside of the pan and work clockwise until you get to the center. This will help you remember which figs hit the heat first, so you’ll follow the same pattern when it comes time to flip. Let sit for 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned. Use tongs to flip each fig over, and allow to sit another 2-3 minutes, until desired brownness. Remove from plate and turn off the heat.
IMG_78905. On a separate plate, put down about 2 cups of the arugula. Top with 4-5 figs, a tablespoon of walnuts, and more blue cheese crumbles, and drizzle about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar over it. Enjoy!
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Grilled Fig and Prosciutto Salad
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: American
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 pint fresh figs, gently washed and dried
  • 3 oz prosciutto
  • 1 small package baby blue goat cheese
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 1-2 tbsps walnuts
  • 2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp bacon fat or butter, for grilling
Directions
  1. Using a sharp knife, delicately cut each of the figs in half. If they are very ripe, they will be a little mushy and you don't wanna squish them too much.
  2. Use a spoon to put a tiny bit of blue cheese in the center of each fig half. The amount should be proportional to the size of the fig and to your own personal preference.
  3. Then, since my figs were quite small, I tore each piece of prosciutto into threes and carefully wrapped each third around one fig half. Make sure to wrap it fairly tightly so that the fig stays in the prosciutto when frying.
  4. Heat a large cast iron pan over medium heat, and add the fat. Once the fat is melted and/or started to lightly smoke, use tongs to place each fig half in a circle lining the outside of the pan and work clockwise until you get to the center. This will help you remember which figs hit the heat first, so you'll follow the same pattern when it comes time to flip. Let sit for 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned. Use tongs to flip each fig over, and allow to sit another 2-3 minutes, until desired brownness. Remove from plate and turn off the heat.
  5. On a separate plate, put down about 2 cups of the arugula. Top with 4-5 figs, a tablespoon of walnuts, and more blue cheese crumbles, and drizzle about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar over it. Enjoy!

Homemade 3-ingredient Energy Bars

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When I first decided to start losing weight, I thought exercising was the way to go. I have not-so-fond memories of waking up before work in the middle of the DC summer to do Insanity workouts in the 1 bedroom apartment I shared with three people. Two of us shared what would normally have been a living room, but instead had two little twin beds on opposite sides of the room. I used my little corner to do workouts so intense that I would continue sweating through my shower and all the way until I got into my air-conditioned office.

The problem with all the intense workouts , though, was that they were making me hungrier, which, when you’re trying to lose weight and restrict calories, didn’t end up working out too well. So, when I decided to get serious with the losing weight almost a year later, I switched gears and mostly focused on food. I worked out here and there, but I figured exercising would come more into play when I got to the maintenance phase. And now, after 7 months of maintaining my weight loss, I figured right.  Here I am now in week 4 of P90X3, and not only is it helping me maintain the weight loss, but I feel no signs of slowing down. As expected though, that hunger is returning.

Enter: these energy bars. I’m sure more than a few of you buy  the energy bars found at your grocery store. Not all energy bars are created equal though, and most of them contain a lot of preservatives, sugar, or other unrecognizable ingredients. For awhile, on the recommendation of a friend, I was eating these Thunderbird Energetica bars, which unlike many other bars, used all whole-food ingredients, natural sugars, and no grains.  They weren’t cheap though.

So, I decided to simplify things and make my own, using the same concept. It’s a pretty foolproof recipe: 1 cup nuts, 1 cup dried fruit, and 3/4 cup dates. The dates act as both a binder and a sweetener. The berries and dates give you the complex carbs you need before an intense workout, and the nuts give you some lasting protein and fat. No grains, no added sugar, no unpronounceable ingredients. Win-win if you ask me.

Homemade Energy Bars
Serves 9

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Ingredients:

1 cup dried cherries (or any other dried fruit), unsweetened if you can find them
1 cup almonds
3/4 cup pitted Medjool dates, halved
Parchment paper, for lining
Plastic wrap, for molding
NOTE: you can use literally any combination of nuts and fruit that you would like. I have also made a blueberry and walnut version that I really liked. Other possible combinations: blueberry-almond, cherry-walnut, cranberry-pecan. Be creative!

Directions:

1.  If your dates are a bit harder or drier, soak them in water for 20 minutes to soften them a little bit. Add all three ingredients into your food processor.
IMG_71492. Pulse for a minute or so to break up the nuts and other bits. Your mixture will go from this:
IMG_7150To this:
IMG_7151And eventually get here:
IMG_7152Scrap down the sides of the food processor if things seem to start getting stuck. Stop when you get to the ball shape above, about 10 minutes.
3. Scoop the ball out onto a cutting board lined with cellophane wrap.
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4. Cut off another piece of cellophane and place it on top of the ball.  Use this to mold the ball into a roughly 8×8 square, or however thick you would like your bars to be.
IMG_71544. Wrap the square up with the cellophane, and freeze the whole thing for 2-3 hours.
IMG_71565. Once pretty solid, take it out and cut into 9 squares (or more if you would like smaller portions).
IMG_71576. Use parchment paper squares (I just cut my regular roll) to separate the bars as you stack them into a container.
IMG_71587. Store in the fridge or freezer! I prefer them frozen, which gives them a pleasantly chewy texture and not as paste-like.

 

 

Homemade 3-ingredient Energy Bars
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Snacks
Cuisine: American
Serves: 9
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dried cherries (or any other dried fruit), unsweetened if you can find them
  • 1 cup almonds
  • ¾ cup pitted Medjool dates, halved
  • Parchment paper, for lining
  • Plastic wrap, for molding
  • NOTE: you can use literally any combination of nuts and fruit that you would like. I have also made a blueberry and walnut version that I really liked. Other possible combinations: blueberry-almond, cherry-walnut, cranberry-pecan. Be creative!
Directions
  1. If your dates are a bit harder or drier, soak them in water for 20 minutes to soften them a little bit. Add all three ingredients into your food processor.
  2. Pulse for a minute or so to break up the nuts and other bits. Your mixture will start with small bits and pieces of nuts and fruit, to more paste-like and, finally, to a big ball. Scrap down the sides of the food processor if things seem to start getting stuck.
  3. Scoop the ball out onto a cutting board lined with cellophane wrap.
  4. Cut off another piece of cellophane and place it on top of the ball. Use this to mold the ball into a roughly 8x8 square, or however thick you would like your bars to be.
  5. Wrap the square up with the cellophane, and freeze the whole thing for 2-3 hours.
  6. Once pretty solid, take it out and cut into 9 squares (or more if you would like smaller portions).
  7. Use parchment paper squares (I just cut my regular roll) to separate the bars as you stack them into a container.
  8. Store in the fridge or freezer! I prefer them frozen, which gives them a pleasantly chewy texture and not as paste-like.

From the makers of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter…

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Well, ok, not really. Unilever is neither related nor in any way affiliated with this post. Or with this recipe. This recipe is brought to you by me. Sorry to disappoint. I know you were really excited about something processed that’s meant to mimic something real. But instead, I’m just gonna give you one of my favorite desserts of something real that’s meant to mimic something processed: banana “ice cream!”

Why the quotations you ask? Well, if you are an ice cream purist (are there such things?), you will no doubt have taken offense if I had billed this as just ice cream. Because there’s no actual cream, or dairy, involved. There’s also no refined sugar or artificial flavorings.  Just pure, creamy banana. Thus, the quotations.

After you give up sugar for a good while, you start to really appreciate what my friend E refers to as “nature’s candy”–fruit. Whenever I get cravings for something sweet, which isn’t that often these days, I always try to have a piece of fruit first to see if that will quench it. If it doesn’t, then I know my body wants something a little more indulgent.  Some days, particularly on the weekends, that something indulgent will be an actual treat–Girl Scout cookies, for example, or a French macaron from Whole Foods (!). Other days, I still want that indulgence to be “good,” so I’ll make this ice cream. While banana is still a fruit, it definitely has enough sugar to qualify as a treat, so I try to eat it in moderation.

All you need for this recipe is three things: a food processor or blender, frozen bananas, and nut butter (or any other mix-in. I’ve been known to put Nutella in here. Don’t judge me.).  You want your bananas to be pretty ripe when you throw them in the freezer. I usually wait til they look something like this:

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I halve them and throw them in a ziplock bag in the freezer, so they are easy to portion out when I need them later (they work great in smoothies too!).

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Then, when I’m feeling a hankering for something sweet, I throw two halves in the food processor.

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If they’ve been sitting out for a bit and have softened, you can usually blend right away without any problem.  Sometimes, though, I will add about a tablespoon of water to loosen it up.  Once they start to get creamier, I add in the nut butter/protein powder/Nutella so that it doesn’t just get stuck to the blades.  You’ll also want to stop processing and scrape down the sides every once in a while so you don’t get any chunks (unless you’re into that sort of thing).  Eventually though, it will look like this:

IMG_6881And it’s done!  When I’m feeling fancy, I’ll actually pour it into a bowl and eat it like a civilized person.  Most times though I just take a spoon and eat it right out of the food processor (usually when Mr. LF isn’t around).  For purposes of the blog, I put it in a bowl and topped it with dark chocolate chips!

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If you feel like it’s a bit too soft when it’s done processing, you can always put it back into the freezer for a little bit and let it firm up!

Have you ever tried banana ice cream?  What’s your favorite mix-in?

Banana "Ice Cream"
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp nut butter/protein powder/Nutella
Directions
  1. Break up banana into smaller chunks and put in food processor (you can also use a blender but you'll probably want to use a bit more water).
  2. Pulse until banana is chunky. Add in water and chosen mix-in.
  3. Pulse until creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides so it's evenly mixed.

 

 

Chia Breakfast Pudding

I am all about quick and easy meals this week (like this one), and breakfast is something that I know everyone is always trying to make as painless as possible.  Most of us have zombie-level brainpower in the mornings that leaves us incapable of handling kitchen utensils with any dexterity.  When I feel a week like this coming on, I try to come up with no-fuss breakfasts that I can either portion out on Sundays or throw together any which way I want on a weekday morning.  I’ve already given you a smoothie recipe, which is about as easy as it gets, but I’ve also been known to make a huge batch of slow-cooker oatmeal, and lately I tried the latest craze to hit the interwebs:  chia pudding.

That’s chia, not chai (although I  bet a chai chia pudding would be amazing!).  Chia seeds are the one and the same that came in those chia pets we all grew up seeing on TV (if not owning).  But instead of sprouting the seeds as you would in the pet, you just eat them.  Chia seeds are a “superfood” that you can find in your health-food section, and they have loads and loads of health benefits, including being high in calcium, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids.  I trust that you guys are all good at The Google, so I won’t bore you with the details.

But full disclosure:  if you have a thing about texture, this may not be for you.  Soaking the seeds whole overnight vs blending them as I do below will give you different results.  But, essentially, if you are OK with a cross between tapioca, pudding, and Cream of Wheat, it really is an easy and healthy way to have a grain-free and dairy free morning!  I make mine a basic vanilla that I can use as a base for many combinations during the week (including adding cocoa powder to it one day!).

Vanilla Chia Pudding
Adapted from Detoxinista
Makes 4 servings

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Ingredients:

1 can full-fat coconut milk (almond milk would work just as well!)
6 tbsp chia seeds
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp maple syrup or honey
Any of the toppings you would use on oatmeal!

Directions:

1.  Combine everything into a blender, and blend for about 3-4 minutes until well-blended.
2.  Pour into an air-tight container, and let chill overnight, so that the chia seeds thicken the mixture up a little.  You could also portion the mixture into small jars/glass containers if you intend on grabbing-and-going on your way out.
3.  In the morning, I prefer mine a little warm so put my portion into the microwave for about 20 seconds.  Top with whatever tickles your fancy!  One day I used leftover berry compote , and then the next I used banana, dried blueberries, and walnuts!  Both were delicious!

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What’s your favorite no-fuss breakfast?

Chia Breakfast Pudding
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk (or almond milk)
  • 6 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp maple syrup or honey
  • Any of the toppings you would use on oatmeal!
Directions
  1. Combine everything into a blender, and blend for about 3-4 minutes until well-blended.
  2. Pour into an air-tight container, and let chill overnight, so that the chia seeds thicken the mixture up a little.  You could also portion the mixture into small jars/glass containers if you intend on grabbing-and-going on your way out.
  3. In the morning, I prefer mine a little warm so put my portion into the microwave for about 20 seconds.  Top with whatever tickles your fancy!

 

My NatureBox!

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I’m really liking this whole concept of having monthly boxes of Something Fun arrive at your house.  Especially when that Something Fun is a selection of things chosen by someone other than you.  It’s the surprise and adventure factor.  I’ve signed up for a clothing service that does this (because I am woefully inept at caring about fashion), and I recently bought a groupon that gave me 3 months of NatureBox for about half the price!

I’ve had my eye on NatureBox for a while, but, truth be told, I’m not really enough of a snacker to justify the cost overall.  Most diet advice suggests that you eat 5 meals a day–3 normal ones and 2 “snacks”–but I found that once I started eating more proper meals, I didn’t need snacks.  I’m not saying one way is better than the other, but I am suggesting that you pay attention to your own body and do what works best for you.

But for those of you that do need snacks, NatureBox’s schtick is that they provide you 5 full-sized nutritionist-approved snacks per month.  This means snacks that are free of high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, trans fat, and artificial flavorings.  I got my first NatureBox on the weekend, and I have to say that I am very pleased with the results!   Here’s what I got, in order of what I most enjoyed to what I least enjoyed:

1.   French Toast Granola

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I eat it with banana slices, peanut butter, and homemade almond milk!

2.  Dried Granny Smith Apples

Better than the Trader Joe's ones!

Better than the Trader Joe’s ones!

3.  Honeycomb Sunflower Kernels

Lightly sweet and a little salty is a perfect combination on these!

Lightly sweet and a little salty is a perfect combination on these!

4.  Pistachio Power Clusters

I would like these a little less sweet, but the flavor of the roasted nuts is really great!

I would like these a little less sweet, but the flavor of the roasted nuts is really great!

5.  Baked Sweet Potato Fries

These are not actually fries, but crackers.  I would have preferred fries, but I added a little bit of cayenne pepper to them and they were much better!

These are not actually fries, but crackers. I would have preferred fries, but I added a little bit of cayenne pepper to them and they were much better!

If you are interested in trying out NatureBox for yourself, use this link to get 50% off your first box!  I should mention here that I am in no way affiliated with NatureBox; I just thought I would share my newest food discovery with you all!