Summer is here and it’s absolutely my favorite time of the year! The sun is shining, the trees are in bloom, and everyone is outside enjoying the weather making it prime time for entertaining family and friends with barbecue and cocktails by the beach, lake or even in the backyard by the pool. I’ve put together some party planning and decorating tipsfor the perfect summer outdoor beach party, along with some menu ideas featuring lots of fresh seafood, finger foods, and refreshing fruits and veggies.
One of my favorite recipes to make for a summer outdoor beach party is a Shrimp and Veggie Pasta Salad with Lemon-Herb Vinaigrette. It has a light, lemony herb dressing with fresh basil and tarragon, lots of veggies including cucumbers, celery, roasted red peppers, grilled corn and scallions for some extra crunch, and fresh sautéed savory shrimp. It goes perfectly with grilled chicken, burgers, skewers and fresh fruit like watermelon, pineapple and mango.
Well, Spring is FINALLY here and the weather in NYC has been absolutely gorgeous this past week. I get so motivated when the weather warms up to go walking in the park, get moving around town, and most of all start eating healthy and maybe drop a few pounds or two to get ready for Summer. Plus, with all the gorgeous fresh fruits and veggies at the farmers markets – it’s hard to resist dreaming up some healthy, light recipes to get excited about making.
I know what you’re probably thinking – sometimes “low-carb diet” is a taboo word. And I’ve tried a few of them that have worked in the past (Atkins and South Beach Diet), but once I started eating normal again, the pounds just came back. So I’m making over my diet for the long term with foods that are good carbs – fresh green non-starchy veggies, low-glycemic fruits like berries and melon and citrus, light dairy including cheese and Greek yogurt, and healthy lean proteins across the board with omega3-enriched eggs, turkey, chicken, fish, beef, pork and seafood. My main goal is to cut out sugar and refined carbs like flour, pasta, bread, crackers, processed foods. Oh, the sugar cravings start kicking in the first few days, but once I get through the first week – it’s amazing how those cravings just go away. And my palate changes to crave all the good, healthy foods that actually keep me full and keep those cravings at bay. Yes, I will miss chocolate dearly. And crackers, and bread and pasta. But at the end of the day, once I start eating healthy low-carb, I actually FEELbetter. And SLEEPbetter. And my allergies and body aches GO AWAY.
I’m not talking about living on cheeseburgers, bacon and eggs my whole life. Just cutting down on the bad carbs that make me cranky. And tired. And have mood swings and blood sugar swings. It’s crazy how good I feel and hey, it doesn’t hurt to lose a few pounds along the way. So here goes – Day 1 of my Get Into Shape Low-Carb, Feel Good Diet for Spring. Let’s see if I can keep this going for a few weeks – who knows. I might not miss that chocolate as much as I think I will. And if I feel like cheating? Well a square of dark chocolate here and there (or a glass of wine!) might just have to happen. And I won’t feel guilty one bit. Especially when I’m feeling amazing in my bikini on the beach this summer
I whipped up this tasty recipe today for some grilled Parmesan Zucchini Beef Burgers & Sauteed Lemon Garlic Squash. The burgers are made with lean beef (but you can substitute ground chicken or turkey if you like), finely minced zucchini, egg, grated Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, garlic powder and red pepper flakes, then grilled to perfection, served over an arugula salad with a light vinaigrette dressing. I sauteed the zucchini and yellow squash in a lemon-infused olive oil, with some crushed garlic cloves, a pinch of dill and red pepper flakes, and that’s it! Light, healthy, filling and totally delicious. I think I could do this all the time. Enjoy! (and wish me luck!)
Spring is here, and there’s nothing better than gathering a few friends together for a casual get together with some canapés and cocktails featuring the fresh produce of the season. Fava Beans, Baby Garden Peas and Strawberries are a few of my favorites that start popping up in April and May with the first bloom of Spring.
I love to use my KitchenAid® 13-Cup Food Processor for making quick and tasty dips and spreads – I simply toss all the ingredients in the bowl of the food processor and give it a few whirls to make easy canapés and appetizers for sharing with friends.
An easy, fun idea is to serve crostini with a spread made of baby garden peas and fava beans, mixed with roasted garlic, mint, greek yogurt, feta cheese, lemon zest and olive oil. The flavors are bright, and it’s a light and healthy appetizer, perfect for spreading on toast and serving with fresh veggies for dipping. I love to serve them with some light Spring cocktails made with vodka, lemonade, fresh strawberries, mint and soda – perfect complement for the bite sized crostini! You can also make crostini with different veggies such as roasted red pepper, artichokes, avocado, olives – whatever you’re in the mood for!
Check out my post on KitchenAid’s Kitchenthusiast Blog for recipes, party ideas and how-to’s to get your Spring party started!
Summer Veggie Pasta with Roasted Garlic, Tomatoes, Zucchini & Corn
There’s nothing better in the Summer than a visit to the Farmer’s Market to get some super fresh veggies that are ripe in the peak of the season. Some of my favorites are fresh cherry tomatoes, zucchini and corn that are lightly roasted or sauteed tossed with some roasted garlic, fresh herbs, extra virgin olive oil and freshly grated parmesan cheese over pasta. It’s light, healthy and refreshing for a Summer dinner with a glass of wine with some friends at a table out on the back patio served with a green salad and some crusty bread.
Summer Veggie Pasta with Roasted Garlic, Tomatoes, Zucchini & Corn
A light and healthy Summer pasta dish with farm market fresh vegetables including roasted garlic, cherry tomatoes, corn and zucchini topped with fresh herbs and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Delicious!
1 package fresh or dried spaghetti (can sub fettucine, penne or tagliatelle)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small to medium garlic bulb
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium zucchini, sliced into ribbons
1 or 2 ears of corn, husked
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup fresh mint or basil leaves, torn
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Shave off ¼” of the top of garlic bulb and peel away the outer layers of the garlic bulb skin. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and wrap in foil. Roast for 45 minutes up to one hour and let cool. Squeeze out the garlic bulbs, slice or mash, and place in a bowl to the side.
Bring a pot of water to a boil (you can add a teaspoon of sugar and milk to the water if you like sweeter corn), and add the corn, bringing water back to a boil (about 5-7 minutes.) Once water is back to a boil, remove the corn ears. Let cool, shave off kernels and set aside.
Cut zucchini in half lengthwise and then cut in half again into quarters. Shave zucchini into thin ribbons and set aside.
In another large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain; place pasta in a large serving bowl.
While pasta cooks, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add zucchini to pan; and sauté for 5-7 minutes until soft and cooked through, stirring often. Add cooked corn kernels and roasted garlic and sauté together for another minute or so.
Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan along with tomatoes and ½ teaspoon salt; cover and cook 4-6 minutes. Add tomato-garlic-corn mixture to the cooked pasta; toss to combine. Top with torn mint or basil leaves, shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and freshly ground black pepper.
Serve with a green salad and crusty bread and a glass of crisp white wine such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc.
Summer is here and what better way to spend it than dining out on a rooftop, in a garden or an outside patio eating some glorious Summer food with a cocktail in your hand to soak up the sun? Or you might be in the mood for seafood, whether it be a luscious Lobster Roll, some rockin’ Sushi, a dozen steamed clams or fresh shrimp cocktail with a sexy margarita or fruity cocktail to accompany. The best part about Summer is being able to buy some of your own fresh seafood at a local market and firing it up on the grill. Where should I go do you ask? Well listen up friends. There’s some amazing places right here in NYC to please your palate and your eyes.
I had a great opportunity to do photography and write two feature stories about the Top Seafood Spots, Outdoor Dining destinations and local seafood markets in NYC for Downtown Magazine Summer issue. And oh, what a fun story this was! I visited some of NYC’s top seafood joints, swanky rooftops, garden patios and local seafood markets to come up with THE Hot List for your enjoyment this Summer. Keep reading for the full reviews in the article and scroll further down to see some great photos and links to the coolest, swankiest, tastiest hot spots in town this Summer.
Check out the tearsheets and more fun photos from the story below! (CLICK PHOTOS BELOW TO ENLARGE)
Last week I had the fantastic opportunity to cook and do food styling for a special healthy food segment on the “Joy Behar: Say Anything!” TV Show featuring Dr. Neal D. Barnard, M.D., founder and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). Dr. Barnard sits down with guest host Marilu Henner to discuss how saturated fat makes you sluggish and which colored foods are good for your brain and improve memory. Barnard says, “Greens, foliage — that contributes folate, which is a B vitamin which protects the brain.” He adds, “So when you see the greens, you know that’s good for the brain.” He also goes into discussing what foods to avoid such as heavy carb and fat-laden foods that make us tired and lack energy.
Power Foods For the Brain
I was asked to cook and style four of Dr. Barnard’s recipes from his new book “Power Foods for the Brain: An Effective 3-Step Plan to Protect Your Mind and Strengthen Your Memory” to display during the TV interview food segment. The recipes were all colorful and healthy and made with Power Foods and all-natural ingredients: Summer Salad made with Rainbow Chard, tomatoes, corn, onions and garlic and pecans, Minted Fruit Kebabs made with a Citrus Lime and Mint light dressing, Marinated Grilled Veggie Kabobs marinated in a balsamic and herb dressing, and Super Raspberry Protein Brownies made with black beans, raspberry jam, cocoa powder and figs.
Could that glass of milk affect your memory? Is that aluminum can increasing your risk for Alzheimer’s disease? Can a banana be a brain booster? Everyone knows that good nutrition supports your overall health, but did you know that certain foods can protect your brain and optimize its function?
In POWER FOODS FOR THE BRAIN, Dr. Neal Barnard has gathered the most important research and studies to deliver a program that can boost brain health, reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, and other less serious malfunctions, including low energy, poor sleep patterns, irritability, and lack of focus. The plan includes information on:
The best foods to increase cognitive function and boost folate, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12
The dangers dairy products and meats may have on memory
The role alcohol plays in Alzheimer’s risk
The latest research on certain toxic metals, like aluminums found in cookware, soda cans, and common antacids
Plus, 50-75 recipes and timesaving kitchen tips.
Here are the recipes I made and styled for the show. Enjoy!
Summer Salad – The more naturally colorful your meal is, the more likely it is to have an abundance of immune-boosting antioxidants and phytochemicals. The same foods that are good for your heart are good for your brain.
Chard’s slight bitterness is beautifully balanced by the sweetness of the corn and grapes, resulting in a surprising depth of flavor.
½ small white onion
3 cloves garlic
Leaves from 1 bunch chard
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels
¼ cup pecan halves
1 cup seedless black grapes
Pinch of sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Mince the onion and garlic, then smash them together a couple times with the back of a knife or with a mortar and pestle.
Wash the Swiss chard thoroughly, as it tends to be gritty, then slice it into ribbons by tightly bunching the leaves together and slicing them with a sharp, heavy knife. Place the chard in a salad bowl, add the remaining ingredients, and toss.
Marinated Grilled Veggie Kebabs – these are super easy to make and super colorful, and healthy. Marinated in a dressing made with balsamic vinegar, orange juice, honey, mustard and maple syrup with Italian season before grilling, they are super tasty too.
Serve these savory kebabs over a brown rice pilaf for a satisfying and easy meal.
16 cherry tomatoes
2 red onions, each cut into 8 bite-size chunks
2 green or red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 8 pieces each
16 button mushrooms
1 small yellow summer squash, cut into 8 pieces
1 small zucchini, cut into 8 pieces
½ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons prepared mustard
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
8 metal skewers, or bamboo skewers soaked in water for 30 minutes
Place the cherry tomatoes, red onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, squash, and zucchini in a large bowl.
In a small bowl, combine the marinade ingredients and whisk well. Pour the marinade over the vegetables and stir to coat. Marinate for 15 minutes.
Heat a charcoal or gas grill or your oven’s broiler. Onto one skewer, thread the ingredients in the following manner: 1 tomato, 1 red onion chunk, 1 pepper piece, 1 mushroom, 1 yellow summer squash slice, 1 tomato, 1 zucchini slice, 1 red onion chunk, 1 pepper, and 1 mushroom. Repeat with remaining ingredients and skewers. Place the kebabs on the hot grill or a broiler pan and brush with the marinade. Grill for 7 minutes, or until desired tenderness, turning the kebabs a few times. Serve immediately.
Minted Fruit Kebabs – Power up with blueberries and grapes. These “brain berries” get their deep colors from anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants shown to improve learning and recall in studies at the University of Cincinnati.
Fresh fruit makes a striking appearance in these antioxidant-rich kebabs. Enjoy them for a refreshing, light dessert!
8 red or green grapes
4 large strawberries
4 1-inch-square cantaloupe chunks
4 1-inch-square honeydew chunks
4 1/2-inch-thick slices peeled kiwi
4 1-inch-square watermelon chunks
1/4 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 10-inch bamboo skewers
Thread 1 grape, 1 strawberry, 1 cantaloupe chunk, 1 honeydew chunk, 1 slice kiwi, 1 watermelon chunk, and 1 more grape onto a skewer. Repeat with the remaining fruit and skewers. Place the finished skewers in a shallow container.
In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, lime juice, mint, and vanilla. Pour the marinade over the fruit kebabs, cover, and chill for at least 30 minutes (or up to 3 hours) in the refrigerator before serving.
Super Raspberry Protein Brownies – A brownie made with black beans? You bet! Beans are high in fiber, calcium, and protein, making them a nutrition powerhouse. Beans are free from saturated and trans fats. Researchers find people consuming the most saturated fat in their diets have more than triple the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
A brownie made with black beans? You bet! Beans are high in fiber, calcium, and protein, making them a nutrition powerhouse.
Beans are free from saturated and trans fats. Researchers find people consuming the most saturated fat in their diets have more than triple the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
1/4 teaspoon safflower oil
2 15-ounce cans low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup pitted dates
1 cup all-fruit raspberry jam
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8x8-inch baking pan with the oil.
Combine the black beans, dates, jam, and vanilla in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the flour, cocoa powder, and salt and process again.
Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for 30 minutes or until the top looks set. Remove from the oven and cool completely, then cut into 16 squares. The brownies will keep, refrigerated in a covered container, for up to 1 week.
Kristen Hess is a NYC-based Food Stylist, Photographer, Writer and Creative Director. Her client experience includes: Subway Restaurants, Grapes From CA, Food Network, Castello Cheese, Unilever, Bacardi, Stoli, Today.com, ShapeMagazine.com, KitchenAid, Nespresso, Buitoni, Colavita, Kraft Foods, The Works Catering, Downtown Magazine NYC, NYS Restaurant Association, Domino's Pizza, Cole's Supermarkets, Brown Brothers Wine and more.
Kristen is also the host of Cooking with Color 4 Kids®, a TV show that teaches children how to cook healthy, colorful food using fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the color palette. Learn more about becoming a sponsor or how to get involved with the TV show at http://www.ediningnews.com/cwc
The Artful Gourmet blog is a celebration of the art of food and cooking through colorful stories, recipes and photography.
Food Styling & Photography Portfolio: http://www.kristenhess.com