Brown Sugar Salmon…and SKINNY CHEESECAKE BARS

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It has been a few days since I have been able to even think about making food, due to a crazy work schedule. But, since I am done with work for the summer I felt like today was the perfect opportunity to cook a fantastic dinner, as well as a healthy dessert. A few days ago I was trolling Pinterest and I saw this recipe for Brown Sugar Honey Marinated Salmon with Caramelized Pineapple Quinoa.  I knew this would be absolutely perfect because I still had a pound of salmon in the freezer that was left over from the glorious salmon burgers I made a few weeks ago, and I am obviously currently obsessed with quinoa. The perfect combination! I was craving this recipe ever since I found it and it did not disappoint.  

RECIPE 

Ingredients
  • For salmon:
  • 1 pound salmon
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce, gluten free if desired
  • 1/4 cup fresh pineapple juice
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes, if desired
  • 1/2 of a whole pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into small chunks (so you don’t have to cut later)
  • For quinoa:
  • 3/4 cup uncooked organic quinoa
  • 1 cup coconut milk (I used light coconut milk)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Fresh limes to squeeze, if desired
  • 1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds, for topping
 

 Instructions

  1. In a large bowl whisk together the marinade ingredients: brown sugar, honey, soy sauce, pineapple juice, mustard, sesame and olive oil, ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes if desired. Place salmon in large ziploc bag and add marinade. Place in refrigerator for up to 8 hours but at least 1 hour. You can also marinade it in a baking pan.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degree F. Spray baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Remove salmon from ziploc bag and place skin side down on large baking pan lined with foil. Line pineapple next to salmon and brush leftover marinade on salmon and pineapple. Sprinkle with a little bit of extra brown sugar for extra caramelization. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until salmon easily flakes with fork. I usually broil my salmon for a min or two at the end to get an additional caramelization on top. Just be sure not to dry out your fish! 18 minutes is usually perfect timing for me! **See notes for additional information on cooking times.
  3. While salmon is cooking, prepare quinoa. Bring water and coconut milk to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low; add quinoa and cover; simmering until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand another 5-10 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and set aside. Add in red onion and cilantro to quinoa. Once salmon is finished cooking, remove pineapple from baking sheet and fold into quinoa. Season with salt and lime juice to taste.
  4. Spoon pineapple quinoa evenly into 4 bowls or plates. Cut salmon into desired serving sizes and serve with quinoa. Garnish with a tablespoon or two of toasted almonds. Drizzle with extra honey if desired.
 

 Notes

Salmon is very sensitive and can dry out easily if overcooked, so make sure you watch your fish! For every inch of thickness of the salmon, generally it takes about 10 minutes to cook. 
Usually salmon fillets are about 1 1/2 inches thick. Preparing quinoa ahead of time makes this dish even easier. You can serve the quinoa warm or cold.

 

So this recipe proved to be pretty simple! I marinaded the salmon in a baking dish and baked the salmon in the same dish (call me lazy?).  This caused the salmon to remain moist and although it didn’t necessarily caramelize, the sauce it created was delicious and the salmon was flaky and not the least bit dry.  The marinade was so amazing the salmon didn’t have a fishy taste at all, which I think is the thing that makes me generally avoid salmon.  The pineapple gave the salmon a nice fruity, tart flavor, and was delicious on its own.  Also, this was my first time cutting a pineapple (don’t judge me), so this was a great learning experience.  It was not as scary as it looked in the Youtube videos.  My salmon filets were not too thick and I feared overcooking them, so I baked them for 16 minutes and I think anymore time would have ruined them. Nothing worse than dry salmon. 

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Salmon Pre-Baking

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All done! 

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I threw the almonds on top of the fish with about four minutes left instead of roasting them separately (don’t they look pretty and impressive??) and I served the fish with lime wedges, which added even more flavor!  This recipe was so delicious and is one of the best salmon recipes I have ever tasted. (Even up there with the salmon burgers) 

 

Although the salmon was tasty, the quinoa was definitely my favorite part of the meal.  The coconut milk didn’t give the quinoa a strong coconut flavor (thankfully), but it made the quinoa really creamy.  I added the cilantro, the onion, and salt and pepper to taste and it was already so good, I thought it didn’t even need the pineapple.  But thank God I added the caramelized fruit.  It really took this side dish to the next level.  I also added a little bit of the leftover marinade from the baking dish to the quinoa just for taste.  This dish is packed with flavor and definitely made the meal for me! 

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For a vegetable (I have to have a veggie) I just made some quick and easy oven roasted green beans (so much better than steamed).  I drizzled the beans with a little olive oil, about 1 tablespoon, and sprinkled them with salt, pepper and garlic salt.  I baked them for about 12 minutes and they were delicious of course.  So easy, healthy, and crisp! 

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This meal was so good, and it made me hate salmon a little, no actually a lot, less.  When prepared the right way this previously exiled fish is not only tolerable but actually enjoyable! I will definitely make this dish again, although I must admit I really just want the quinoa.

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BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE !! 

Don’t worry I would never forget about dessert. Ever. I am addicted to sugar and I am not planning on dealing with that addiction anytime soon. My dad always complains there are not enough sweets in the house and I definitely agree with this.  I couldn’t decide what I wanted to make but inspiration struck yesterday when my mom mentioned how much she loves cheesecake.  I love cheesecake too, but I can never truly enjoy it because I know how many calories it contains.  It is honestly sinful.  I came across these pretty Skinny Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars and I knew I had found a guilt free sweet that would make the whole family happy.

Ingredients

Crust
    • 5-6 full-sheet graham crackers (or 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs)
    • 2 Tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted or salted butter, melted
Filling
  • 8 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, softened (do not use fat free)
  • 3/4 cup (185 grams) Chobani Greek yogurt (or regular yogurt, plain or flavored, low fat or fat free)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons (16 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (80 grams) raspberry jam

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line a 8×8 baking pan with aluminum foil with enough overhang on the sides. Set aside.
  2. Make the crust: Using a food processor or blender, pulverize the graham crackers into a fine crumb. Pour into a medium bowl and mix with melted butter. Press into the lined pan. Bake for 8 minutes. Allow to cool as you prepare the filling.
  3. For the filling: Beat the softened cream cheese for 1 minute using a hand or stand mixer. Beat in the yogurt, egg whites, sugar, and flour until mixture is smooth and creamy, about 3 full minutes. Add the lemon juice and vanilla, beat for 1 additional minute until combined.
  4. Remove the crust from the oven and spread filling on top. Swirl the raspberry jam on top of the batter (see the text in the post for how I swirl).
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, covering the cheesecake bars at the 20 minute mark with aluminum foil to prevent browning. Allow to cool for 20 minutes at room temperature, then chill completely in the refrigerator for at least three hours. Lift the foil out of the pan and cut into squares.

 The recipe was simple enough, although I was a little nervous about the swirling.  I wasn’t sure I could pull it off and there were no pictures to explain how to do it.  Up until the swirling, the recipe was easy! I was so excited that the bulk of the cheesecake is Greek yogurt.  Greek yogurt really is so versatile! After baking the crust (the smell was heavenly) and putting the cheesecake mixture on top of it, the time for swirling had come.  Instead of jam I bought sugar free preserves (we eat preserves in Greek yogurt so I knew they would be used) so I was a little worried that it wouldn’t work.  But, my fears turned out to be for nothing! The swirling was simple and mine looked almost as pretty as the ones on the blog.  As she said, these bars tasted like the real deal! They were creamy, fruity and definitely satisfied my sweet tooth without all the calories of traditional cheesecake.  I will definitely make these again, maybe with different fruits or maybe with a chocolate cookie crust.  YUM! 

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Brown Sugar Honey Marinated Salmon with Caramelized Pineapple Quinoa

Skinny Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake Bars.

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