Friday, December 17, 2010

RICE NOODLE BOWL

If you're looking for a satisfying meal that involves very little cooking, quick preparation from healthy pre-packaged foods, and looks oh-so-impressive when it's sitting in front of you- then you've just found it! My rice noodle bowls are so simple to put together and all the different flavors tasted together just explode in your mouth! It's spicy, sweet, salty, smooth, warm, crisp, and fresh all in one delicious bowl. So if you're feeling a little 'exotic' tonight, whip up some noodle bowls and you'll be a fan for life!

INGREDIENTS:
7-8 oz. rice noodles (Thai style, such as Annie Chun's)
1 small onion, small diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1" fresh ginger, minced or finely grated (on a microplane)
1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
1/3-1/2 English cucumber, cubed into 1/4" pieces (about 3/4 cup)
3/4 cup cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
3/4 cup carrots, cut into matchsticks size
15 oz. can bean sprouts
2 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. fish sauce
3 tsp. rice vinegar
1 tsp. hot sauce (such as Sriracha)
4 cups chicken broth, warmed
3/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
1 lime, cut into wedges (for serving)
canola or vegetable oil

DIRECTIONS:
-cook noodles according to instruction on the package, set aside
-in a large skillet or wok, warm 1 tbs. oil over medium-low heat
-add onion, garlic, ginger, and mushrooms and cook for 5-7 minutes until onions start to soften
-add carrots, chicken, soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar, and hot sauce
-stir and cook until warm through and combined
-divide the noodles evenly into 4 large soup bowls
-divide evenly the cabbage, bean sprouts, cucumber, and chicken mixture into the 4 bowls
-pour 1 cup warm broth in each bowl
-sprinkle with copped cilantro and peanuts
-serve with a lime wedge and chopsticks, and enjoy!

SHOUT OUTS:
I came up with this dish when we had a fridge full of Chinese leftovers (lettuce wraps) and I was looking to change up the taste and texture of the food. It went from cool, crisp, and spicy to warm and comforting, and quickly became a favorite!



TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-SAVE TIME! Use prepackaged shredded cabbage and carrots and a store bought rotisserie chicken.
-You can skip the fish sauce if you can't find it, don't have it, or don't want to use it. But- I recommend trying it. It has a deliciously mild flavor!
-No fresh ginger? Add a pinch of dried ginger instead.
-Don't like cabbage? Try this dish with chopped ice burg or romain lettuce.
-No cilantro? Chop up some mint and/or basil or you can use a combination of all 3 too!
-Try the dish with shrimp, beef, or pork!
-Can't find rice noodles? Use whole wheat angel hair pasta, or soba noodles.
-You can certainly leave out any ingredient you aren't fond of, and it will still taste delicious!
-Make this dish vegetarian: leave out the meat and add in some more veggies such as sliced bell peppers, cubed zucchini, and snow peas.
-You don't have to use chopsticks, but it makes eating the meal more of an experience!
-Like it spicy? Add on as much hot sauce as you'd like- but be careful! It is HOT!
-Most larger grocery stores have great international sections where you can find such ingredients as the rice noodles, fish sauce, bean sprouts, rice vinegar, and thai hot sauce. No need to go to specialty stores anymore!
-Cook and chop all these ingredients up to a day ahead, and assemble the dish when you are ready to eat!


LESSON LEARNED:
-If you use rice noodles, this is a naturally gluten free meal! (Make sure to check the packaging of the noodles, just in case!)
-This meal is called many things: Vietnamese Noodle Bowl, Bun, Pho, Asian Noodle Bowl, Thai Noodle Bowl- they are all just about the same tasty dish with a few ingredient variations.
-If you've never used fresh ginger before, take off the brown outer skin with a vegetable peeler or a knife, cut off the 1" 'knob' and grate/mince the bright yellow ginger. With your leftover ginger, tightly double-wrap it in plastic, and keep it in the freezer. It will keep fresh for months this way!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP

Start the fiesta with course of my chicken tortilla soup! This dish is just about as easy to make as it is to open a can (or two!). Chicken and black beans provide plenty of protein to the dish, and the tomato paste and cheddar make this soup rich and creamy. Make this soup-gluten free, dairy-free, spicy, or mild- this soup is easily adaptable to any one's needs!

INGREDIENTS:
1 small yellow onion, small diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
15 oz. can of black beans, drained
4 oz. can of green chilies
1/2 cup corn (frozen, fresh, or canned)
1 chicken breast, shredded
3 cups chicken broth
8 oz. can tomato paste
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (plus more for serving)
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper (to taste)
4 flour tortillas
canola or vegetable oil
sliced avocado (optional)
sour cream (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
-in a large pot, warm 1 tbs. canola oil over medium-low heat
-add onion and garlic, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
-pour drained black beans into the pot, mash with a potato masher so beans become creamy
-add broth, tomato paste, chili powder, and cumin, stir until combined
-add chicken breast, corn, 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, and green chilies, stir until combined
-let soup cook until warmed through, adding salt and pepper to taste
-slice tortillas into thin strips about 2"-3" long
-in a large skillet, warm 1 tbs. canola oil over medium heat
-stir tortilla strips into oil
-let cook for about 5 minutes until strips start to brown and crisp, stirring occasionally
-pour soup into individual bowls, place a handful of crisp tortilla strips in each soup bowl
-serve with sliced avocados, sour cream, and extra cheddar cheese, enjoy!

serves 4

SHOUT OUTS:
I first fell in love with tortilla soup at Max & Erma's... I love their creamy, cheesy take on this dish!

TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-Leave out the chicken if you want the dish vegetarian.
-Try the dish with a can of refried beans, pinto beans, or cannellini beans instead of black beans.
-Want your soup to be extra creamy? Instead of the tomato paste, stir in a can of cream of cheddar soup!
-Throw in a couple of spoonfuls of your favorite salsa to help flavor the soup! Or, if you don't have tomato paste on hand, you can use salsa instead too.
-Make it spicy but adding in some diced jalapenos, use hot green chilies instead of mild, add a few shakes of cayenne or hot sauce, or add in a couple spoon fulls of spicy salsa.
-I like my soups thick; but if you prefer yours a little bit thinner, add more broth to the dish (about 1 extra cup should be enough).
-Slim this soup down by leaving out the cheese and the tortilla strips; it's still just as tasty!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

VEGETARIAN STUFFED SHELLS

These tasty little pasta shells are the perfect carrier for cheese and vegetables. Creamy ricotta pairs up with roasted veggies to make this dish not only delicious, but healthy! My vegetarian stuffed shells are great for large family meals or dividing up into smaller serving dishes and freezing for later. This versatile dish shows you how to go 'vegetarian' tonight and I promise, you won't miss the meat!

INGREDIENTS:
1 box of jumbo pasta shells (you'll need about 30 shells, or a 10 oz. box)
1 medium sized eggplant
1 medium sized zucchini
1 small yellow onion (1/2-3/4 cup), small diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 large mushroom caps (such as crimini or button mushrooms), halved and sliced thin
1-2 handfuls fresh spinach
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1 egg
pinch of nutmeg
1 tbs. prepared pesto
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
2-3 cups marinara sauce (jarred or homemade)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
-boil and prepare pasta shells according to directions
-peel eggplant, and cut it and the zucchini into 1/2" cubes
-place eggplant and zucchini on a large baking sheet
-drizzle about 2 tbs. olive oil on top of eggplant and zucchini, sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and toss to coat
-cook vegetables in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes
-meanwhile, in a medium sized skillet, warm 1 tbs. olive oil over medium-low heat
-add garlic, onion, and mushrooms and cook for 5-10 minutes until onion starts to turn transparent
-stir in the spinach and let it wilt in the warm mixture
-in a large mixing bowl, stir in beaten egg to the ricotta cheese
-add vegetables, onion mixture, pesto, parmesan cheese, and a pinch of nutmeg
-fill each shell with 1 heaping tablespoon of ricotta filling and place in a greased 13x9 casserole dish
-cover with marinara sauce and top with mozzarella cheese
-cook in a 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes, until cheese is melted and sauce is hot and bubbly
-serve and enjoy!

[shells before they are 'sauced']

[shells after they are 'sauced' and baked]

serves approximately 4-6

SHOUT OUTS:
These shells are a version of a creamy pesto vegetarian lasagna served at Vaccarro's Trattoria off of Ghent Road in Akron, Ohio.

TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-You can leave the egg out if you can't eat eggs!
-Add some meat to it such as: shredded chicken, crumbled sausage, or ground beef or pork.
-No time to cook and stuff the shells? Make this dish into a lasagna! Layer no-boil lasagna noodles with the ricotta filling and marinara sauce. Cook as directed on the noodle box.
-Put the shells into 2 8x10 casserole dishes, eat one now, and freeze one for later! Cover the dish you freeze with plastic wrap and then a layer of foil. Cook frozen shells at 350 degrees for 1.5-2 hours, until hot and bubbly.
-Need it milk free? If you can't find diary-free ricotta, try blending up some dairy-free cottage cheese in a blender or food processor. If the mixture is too thick, add a few splashes of chicken broth or water. Leave out out the additional cheeses, or use dairy-free cheese substitutes!
-No pesto? Chop up several fresh basil leaves or add in 1/2 tsp. dried basil or Italian herbs.
-Make it your own recipe: leave out the eggplant, add yellow squash, put in some more mushrooms...etc. Make it how YOU like it!
-Make it for a crowd! Double the recipe! Make ahead and keep in the fridge (for up to 24 hours) or freezer, and let it cook while you enjoy your company.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

PUMPKIN TURKEY CHILI

Everybody loves a cup of chili to warm up to, so why not have a cup full of disease fighting nutrients such as beta carotene, potassium, zinc, vitamins C and E, magnesium, iron, and fiber? Well when you add pumpkin to your chili, you get all that and you won't even be able to tell the difference! Try my low fat pumpkin turkey chili today and the only thing you'll be worried about is if there is enough for seconds!

INGREDIENTS:
1 lb. ground turkey
15 oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
15 oz. can pureed pumpkin
30 oz. can diced tomatoes
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chicken broth
2 tbs. chili powder
2 tsp. coriander
2 tsp. cumin
1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
extra virgin olive oil
grated cheddar cheese (for serving- optional)
sour cream (for serving- optional)
diced onions (for serving- optional)

DIRECTIONS:
-in a large pot, brown turkey meat in 1-2 tbs. olive oil
-in a large skillet, warm 1 tbs. olive oil over medium heat
-add to the skillet the green pepper, onion, and garlic and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
-add the green pepper mixture to the browned turkey meat
-mix into the pot the kidney beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, broth, and pumpkin puree
-add chili powder, coriander, cumin, cayenne, oregano, salt, and pepper and mix well
-cook until warmed through
-serve with typical chili fixings (like cheese, sour cream, or onions) and enjoy!
serves 6-8

SHOUT OUTS:
This recipe is my take on the delicious pumpkin turkey chili I had at the Wild Horse Winery in Templeton, California (along with many of their tasty wines!)

[Me at the Wild Horse Winery]
TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-Make sure you use 100% pure pumpkin puree and not pumpkin PIE puree which has pumpkin pie spices already added to it.
-Try the recipe with ground chicken or beef instead.
-Zest it up a bit and replace the 1/3 cup broth with beer or wine!
-Don't like your chili so chunky? Use tomato sauce instead of the diced tomatoes. You can also puree your onions and peppers into a 'paste' and then mix into the chili. It won't be so chunky, but you still get the great taste.
-If fresh pumpkins are in season, use 2 cups of roasted pumpkin chunks instead of the puree.
-Add roasted butternut squash, mushrooms, corn, grated carrots, or red bell peppers to the chili for added vegetables. Then you can...
-Make it vegetarian! Leave out the meat and add more veggies!
-Make the chili in advance, and freeze it for later!
-Keep it warm in a slow cooker- perfect for potluck dinners!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

CREAMY CHICKEN and RICE with MEXICAN BLACK BEANS

Looking for some cheesy, creamy indulgence without all the guilt? My version of this Mexican favorite stays healthy by using low fat, high protein yogurt and fiberful brown rice. Smokey, roasted poblano peppers add a mild heat which blends perfectly with the sweet corn. Combine the creamy chicken and rice with my easy, zesty Mexican black beans and you have a complete, healthy, and delicious meal!

for rice:
INGREDIENTS:
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 poblano peppers
1 cup brown rice
1 jalapeno, small diced
1 small yellow or white onion, small diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup corn (defrosted, if using frozen)
2 oz. goat cheese
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt (0% fat)
3/4 cup grated monterey jack or pepper jack cheese
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
salt and pepper
canola or vegetable oil

for beans:
INGREDIENTS:
30 oz. canned black beans
2 tbs. red onion, small diced
1/2 of a red bell pepper, small diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1 medium or 2 small tomatoes, small diced (about 3/4 cup)
1 lime, juiced
salt and pepper
few dashes hot sauce (optional)
canola or vegetable oil

for rice:
DIRECTIONS:
-roast the poblanos peppers over an open flame (such as gas stove top) or place on a baking sheet and broil until outside becomes black and charred
-place peppers into a brown lunch bag and seal tight, allowing the steam to help loosen the charred skin
-meanwhile, combine rice with 1 3/4 cups of water into a large sauce pan
-bring to a boil, reduce temperature to low, stir once, and cover with a tight fitting lid
-cook the rice for 45 minutes
-once peppers has cooled, the charred skin should easily wipe off
-once skin is removed, remove the stem and seeds of the peppers
-cut the roasted peppers into 1" slices
-in a small skillet, warm 1 tbs. oil over medium to medium-low heat
-add onions, garlic, and jalapeno to the skillet and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally
-once rice is done cooking, add to it the peppers, onion mixture, corn, chicken, goat cheese, 1/2 cup jack cheese, and yogurt
-stir until rice is evenly coated
-place rice into a greased 8x10 casserole dish (or similar size)
-place in a 375 degree oven and cook for 20-25 minutes until it is hot and bubbly
-(if necessary,) place under a broiler for 5-7 minutes until cheese turns golden brown
-allow to cool, serve, and enjoy!

serves 4

for beans:
DIRECTIONS:
-rinse and drain beans
-in a medium saute pan, warm 1 tbs. oil over medium to medium-low heat
-add red peppers, onion, and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
-add tomatoes, beans, coriander, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste
-if you like it hot, add a few dashes of hot sauce!
-serve warm as a side dish, and enjoy!

serves 4

SHOUT OUTS:
This recipe came about when I took some of my extra goat cheese enchilada filling and mixed it with some brown rice for a quick lunch- it was a delicious success!

TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-Never roasted a pepper before? Check these out: stove top roasting or oven roasting.
-If you are still nervous about roasting and removing the skins of the poblanos, skip those steps! Remove the stem and seeds, cut the peppers into 1" slices, and cook with the onions, garlic, and jalapenos on the stove top. It will taste just as good, just a little less 'smokey' flavored.
-Can't find poblanos? Use 8 oz. of canned, chopped green chilies.
-No goat cheese? Cream cheese will work just as well.
-White rice or wild rice can also be used in this recipe, just change the cooking time accordingly! (White rice only takes about 15-20 minutes to cook!)
-Try red beans or pinto beans instead of black beans.
-You can also use cheddar cheese or Mexican Chihuahua cheese instead of jack cheese.
-Instead of chopped tomatoes in the beans, add some chunky salsa instead!
-Leave the chicken out of the rice dish for a tasty vegetarian meal!
-Leftovers? Mix the beans and rice together, roll it in a tortilla shell, and cover with enchilada sauce!
-If you like your rice extra creamy, add an additional 1/3 cup of yogurt.
-Can't find plain Greek yogurt? Use low fat or fat free sour cream.
-Don't need so much? Cut the recipe in half!
-Want to kick up the heat of your beans some more? Add in a diced jalapeno!
-Take a shortcut and use a store-bought whole roasted chicken. Just shred up the breasts!
-Make both dishes in advance and place in the fridge up to 48 hours before eating. Don't cook the rice in the oven until you are ready to eat, increasing the cook time by 5 minutes to make sure it's warmed through. Reheat the beans on the stove top or in the microwave.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

QUICK CREAMED SPINACH

Looking to get out of the 'same-old-veggies' rut? Well here's the solution! My quick creamed spinach allows you to disguise a healthy vegetable with some tasty, low calorie cheesy-ness. Sauteed garlic and onions gives the dish a mellow sweetness that the nutmeg parallels. This dish pairs perfectly with fish, chicken, or steak so there's always an opportunity to make it part of your dinner tonight!

INGREDIENTS:
10 oz. package frozen spinach, thawed and liquid squeezed out
2 tbs. onion, small diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 wedges Laughing Cow Light Creamy Swiss or 3 tbs. cream cheese
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1 tbs. parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
-in a small skillet, warm 2 tsp. olive oil over medium-low heat
-add garlic and onions, cook for 10 minutes
-add spinach, broth, cheeses, and nutmeg
-stir until cheese is melted and covers all of the spinach
-add salt and pepper to taste
-serve as a side dish and enjoy!

serves 2-4 as a side dish

SHOUT OUTS:
This recipe was quickly put together when I was getting tired of our typical dinner veggie side dish. It's since been a hit many times!

TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-You can use fresh spinach instead of frozen. HOWEVER, it takes a whole lot of fresh spinach to cook down into what you can get in a frozen package. So take the simple shortcut, and buy frozen!
-Still not convinced you like spinach? Try adding just one pieces of bacon to the dish. Chop the bacon into small pieces and cook it with the garlic and onions. Delish!
-Don't leave out the nutmeg! It adds delicious flavor to anything cooked with dark greens and creamy cheeses!
-Turn this side dish into an easy one-dish meal: mix with some pasta and add in some cooked chicken and roasted veggies such as zucchini, tomatoes, or carrots.
-Add in some toasted nuts like sliced almonds or pinenuts.
-Make it spicy and add in 1/2 tsp. or more of red pepper flakes.

Monday, November 8, 2010

CHICKEN POT PIE

Talk about a slimmed down classic! I've taken an indulgent, calorie packed dish and turned it into a protein and veggie powerhouse. Velvety cannellini beans replace heavy cream in a typical chicken pot pie, and a variety of sauteed vegetables brings big flavor to this recipe. It's finished off with a thin layer of flaky pie crust and it will certainly leave you wanting more!

INGREDIENTS:
1 chicken breast, cooked and cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 cup sliced carrots, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 cup green beans, cut into 1" pieces
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup frozen peas
15 oz. can diced new potatoes, drained
1 small yellow onion, cut into 1/2" pieces (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup chicken broth
15 oz. can of cannellini or white kidney beans
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 refrigerated, roll-out pie crust
extra virgin olive oil
1 egg

DIRECTIONS:
-over medium heat, warm 1 tbs. olive oil in a large pan and add carrots and onions
-cook until they start to soften and turn slightly brown, about 5-7 minutes
-add another 2 tsp. of olive oil to the pan
-add green beans, mushrooms, and garlic to the pan, reduce heat to medium-low
-cook vegetables for an additional 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally
-meanwhile, drain and rise cannellini beans
-in a blender or food processor, puree the cannellini beans with chicken broth
-add pureed beans, peas, potatoes, chicken, salt, and pepper to vegetables, stir to coat
-cook for an additional 10 minutes on medium-low, stirring occasionally
-remove vegetable mixture from heat
-pour the mixture into 1 standard 9" pie pan (OR into 4 individual 5" small pie pans with about a cup of mixture into each individual pie pan)
-roll out pie dough and place on top of filling, cutting or folding in any extra pie dough along the rim (if using the small sized pans, divide the dough into quarters, then cut out one 5" circle from each quarter piece of dough)
-cut 3 slits into the center of the dough
-create egg wash: beat one egg with 2 tbs. water
-use a pastry brush to paint a thin layer of egg wash onto the dough
-cook in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes until crust turns golden brown and flaky
-let cool, serve, and enjoy!

serves 4

SHOUT OUTS:
I created this recipe when I was using up some leftover white bean soup. It's turned into one of my most asked for dishes!

TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-Make it vegetarian! Nix the chicken and add more vegetables like zucchini, celery, broccoli, corn, sweet potatoes, or butternut squash.
-Like lots of crust? Double up- put a second pie crust in the pie pan before you pour in the filling. -Instead of using a regular pie crust, try using puff pastry. Place it on the filling, add the egg wash, and cook the same way!
-Make it festive! use a tiny cookie cutter to cut a shape into the center of pie crust instead of making slits.
-There ARE gluten free and dairy free pie crusts out there!
-If you can't find diced potatoes, buy whole potatoes and dice them yourself into 1/2" pieces OR
-You can use a fresh potato instead of canned. Peel and cut the potato, place in water, and boil until the potato pieces are fork tender.
-Here's what I use: refrigerated pie crust and canned potatoes
-Make double and freeze for later! Assemble the pie as instructed, just hold off on the egg wash until your ready to bake. Place the frozen pie in the refrigerator 24 hours before cooking so it can thaw.
-Try it with beef instead. Cook and cut up a tender beef cut such as sirloin.
-Don't like peas? Or carrots? Leave them out! It'll still taste great!
-This recipe is perfect for using up leftover turkey from Thanksgiving!
-If you don't own glass or ceramic individual pie pans, buy disposable aluminum mini pie pans- they work great and are perfect for portion control.

LESSON LEARNED:
-Why use an egg wash? It helps make the crust turn golden brown and look pretty and glossy. This step can be skipped, or try brushing on olive oil instead.
-Why cut slits into the crust? It allows the steam made from cooking the filling release from the pie, so it won't explode in your oven!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

GREEN CHICKEN CHILI

As the weather grows colder, your tummy begs for something warm and comforting. Well, why not satisfy that craving with something warm, comforting, AND healthy?? My green chicken chili combines the mild heat of 3 different peppers and various spices, creating a delicate smokey flavor paired perfectly with the creaminess of the white beans. Lean shredded chicken provides the perfect meaty texture for this dish and the addition of chicken broth gives it that 'simmered all day' taste! So put away the traditional chili recipe for tonight, and give my green chicken chili a try!

INGREDIENTS:
1 cooked chicken breast, shredded
1 medium sized poblano pepper
1 anaheim pepper
1 jalapeƱo pepper
1 small white or yellow onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic
2 15oz. cans cannellini beans or white kidney beans
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 tbs. plus 2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1 tsp. salt
extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
-remove the stems, seeds, and ribs of the peppers
-rough chop the peppers into about 1" pieces
-put the peppers, onion, and garlic in a blender or food processor
-puree the pepper mixture into a thin paste, stopping to scrape down the sides of the blender/processor to make sure the ingredients are all minced into same size pieces
-in a medium sized pan, warm 1 tbs. olive oil over medium-low heat
-pour the pepper mixture into the pan and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
-drain and rinse one can of beans, then pour into the blender/processor with 3/4 cup of chicken broth
-process the beans until smooth
-in a large sauce pan, combine pureed beans and cooked pepper mixture
-drain and rinse the other can of beans, and stir them into the sauce pan with the pureed beans
-stir in the cumin, coriander, chili powder, pepper, and salt
-serve with a lime wedge and enjoy!

makes approximately 4 cups of chili

SHOUT OUTS:
This recipe is based on the delicious white bean chicken chili I always enjoy at Ruby Tuesday Restaurants.

TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-Enhance the nutritional value of the chili by adding in a handful of chopped fresh or frozen spinach or corn.
-Don't like a beany, chunky chili? Puree both cans of beans and chop the chicken up into smaller shreds.
-Try the chili with some shredded turkey- perfect for thanksgiving leftovers!
-Top with shredded jack or cheddar cheese, sour cream, onions, and/or oyster crackers just as you would other chilis.
-Like more heat? Keep the seeds in the peppers when you puree them or add a few drops of hot sauce to the chili pot.
-Make a double batch to serve more diners, or freeze it for eating later!
-This dish is dairy free, gluten free, AND low carb!

Monday, October 25, 2010

MASHED SWEET POTATOES

Looking for a tasty, new side dish to replace your go-to mash potatoes? Well don't look too far, because the answer is right here: mashed SWEET potatoes! This bright orange dish gives you the comforting feeling found in mashed potatoes but offers you complex carbohydrates, vitamin C and B6, dietary fiber, and beta carotene. So add a little color to a traditional favorite and try my easy mashed sweet potatoes!

INGREDIENTS:
1 sweet potato
salt and pepper to taste (optional)
chicken broth or milk (optional)
extra virgin olive oil or butter (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
-peel skin off sweet potato
-cut potato into 1/2" pieces
-place into a small pot, and cover with water (about 1" above the potatoes)
-boil potatoes over medium high heat for about 20 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender
-drain potatoes and place them back into the pot
-with a fork or potato masher, mash the potato until desired consistency
-if potatoes are too thick, thin out with a little bit of chicken broth or milk
-add richness with a splash of olive oil or a pad of butter
-add a small pinch of salt and pepper to your preferred taste
-serve as a side dish, enjoy!

1 potato makes one serving

SHOUT OUTS:
This one goes out to my dad, who introduced me to cooking sweet potatoes 'low and slow.'

TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-This recipe works for yams and/or sweet potatoes.
-To make it a sweet treat, skip the salt and pepper and sprinkle on some cinnamon, brown sugar, baby marshmallows!
-Give the potatoes a sweet and smokey taste by drizzling them with honey and sprinkling them with paprika and cumin.
-Try mashed sweet potatoes on top of a shepherd's pie instead of traditional baking potatoes.
-Mix in some roasted and mashed butternut or acorn squash or pumpkin with the sweet potatoes.
-A few slices of a mashed banana will give the sweet potatoes added sweetness without adding sugar!

LESSONS LEARNED:
-What's the difference between yams and sweet potatoes?
"What is marketed in the United States as “yams” are really a variety of sweet potato, grown in the South. A true yam is a starchy edible root of the Dioscorea genus, and is generally imported to America from the Caribbean. It is rough and scaly and very low in beta carotene.
Yams in the United States are actually sweet potatoes with relatively moist texture and orange flesh. Although the terms are generally used interchangeably, the US Department of Agriculture requires that the label "yam" always be accompanied by "sweet potato."
from: The North Carolina SweetPotato Commission

true yam

clockwise from top left:
yellow-fleshed yam, boniato,
white-fleshed yam, sweet potato

Monday, October 18, 2010

ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH and BROCCOLI FARRO with BRIE

The cool autumn weather is here, and that means it's time to start indulging into some warm comfort food! This decadent vegetarian dish is so hearty, you won't even miss the meat! Nutty roasted broccoli combined with the slightly sweet taste of the butternut squash is paired perfectly with creamy, savory brie. Serve it as a main dish or a side dish, and win over the hearts, and stomachs, of all.

INGREDIENTS:
1 lb of butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/4" cubes
1 head of broccoli, cut into bite sized florets
1/2 small onion, small diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups farro
7-8 oz. of brie, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained/squeezed of moisture
2 tbs. parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
-toss cubed squash and broccoli florets in about 2 tbs. olive oil
-salt and pepper the vegetables, toss to coat
-place the vegetables on a baking sheet in a single layer and cook for 20-25 minutes in a 400 degree oven, until vegetables start to brown
-meanwhile, put the farro in a large pot, cover with water (about 1 inch above the farro)
-bring farro water to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low, cook for 20 minutes, drain
-in a medium sized skillet, saute the garlic and onions in 1/2 tbs. olive oil over medium-low heat
-after 15-2o minutes of sauteing the garlic and onions, add the chicken broth and brie
-keep temperature low, allow brie to start to melt
-put farro back in cooking pot
-add broth and cheese mixture, roasted vegetables, spinach, and parmesan to the farro
-stir until farro is completely coated with cheese
-serve with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper for a little added heat, or paprika for no heat
-enjoy!

serves 4 as a main dish

SHOUT OUTS:
I created and perfected this meal after a beautiful autumn weekend in Brevard, North Carolina, when the butternut squash was bountiful!

TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-Delicious for a main dish, and perfect for a side dish as well.
-Pour into a casserole dish, refrigerate, and warm in the oven for eating later (easy to take to your next pot-luck dinner too!).
-You may need to roast the vegetables using 2 baking sheets if it won't all fit onto one large one.
-If you buy a whole butternut squash, cut off both ends, peel away the thick skin (until you see a bright orange color!), scoop out seeds (like a pumpkin), and then cube. HOWEVER a lot of grocery stores now sell already peeled, seeded, and cut fresh butternut squash in their produce section- so take the shortcut if you can! You will just have to cut it down to the 1/4" pieces.
-Want to boost the protein level? Add some cubed cooked chicken or a can of drained and rinsed cannellini beans.
-If you do buy a whole squash, save the seeds! Separate them from the strings and bits of squash, rinse and dry, toss with a little bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and place on a baking sheet. Cook at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes (like you would pumpkin seeds). Use them to garnish your farro, or just eat them as a tasty snack!
-You can use ALL of the brie, even the powdery-white outside; no need to cut it off!
-Can’t find brie? Try melting in 7-8 oz. of cream cheese, goat cheese, or camembert
-I have also used goat's milk brie before- just as tasty!
-If you simply can't find a butternut squash, try the recipe with a yellow summer squash, a zucchini, or even a sweet potato!
-Leftovers? Mold them into 'cakes' and pan fry, serve with an egg for breakfast
-Can't find farro? Toss with some orzo, Israeli cous cous, brown rice, or pasta!

[whole butternut squash]

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

POTATO and ZUCCHINI PANCAKES

Of the million ways to prepare a potato, this is one of the easiest and tastiest! The combination of potato, zucchini, and onion crisped up in a light oil creates tons of satisfying flavor. Plus, when is the last time you made one potato feed a family of 4? Try this tasty 'pancake' as a side dish with breakfast, lunch, or dinner tonight!

INGREDIENTS:
1 medium-large baking potato
1/2 medium zucchini
1 small yellow onion
1 egg
1/4 cup of dry biscuit/pancake mix
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
canola/vegetable oil
extra virgin olive oil
condiments for serving

DIRECTIONS:
-wash and peel the potato
-using a box grater or grater attachment on a food processor, shred the potato, onion, and zucchini
-transfer shreddings into a large mixing bowl
-add beaten egg, biscuit mix, garlic powder, salt and pepper, mix until combined
-place 1/2 tbs. of olive oil and 1/2 tbs. canola or vegetable oil in a large skillet, warm over medium heat
-when oil is hot, pour 1/4 cup of the pancake into the skillet
-create 1/4" thick pancakes, pressing the mixture flat to the desired thickness
-when latke becomes brown, flip and brown the other side (about 10 minutes total)
-let cool, serve with desired condiments, and enjoy!

makes approximately 8 pancakes (serves 4 people as a side dish)

SHOUT OUTS:
A quick, simple version of this world-wide favorite! Made them for the Shellhorns- and had rave reviews!

TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-Try the latkes with a side of applesauce to dip them in! They also would be great with jam, sour cream, or ketchup.
-You can certainly leave out the zucchini or onion, or shred in other veggies and foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, green onions, garlic, and/or cheese.
-Double the recipe to make it for a larger crowd.
-You can use all purpose flour instead of the biscuit mix if you'd like.
-Leftovers? Reheat and serve with a fried egg on top for breakfast!
-Make ahead, refrigerate or freeze, and warm again in the oven or on the stove top.
-Make them spicy by adding some red pepper flakes or diced jalapenos.

LESSONS LEARNED:
-potato pancake: also known as a latke
-Mixing the oils allows you to shallow fry the pancakes without worrying about the oil burning (Olive oil has a lower smoke point than the lighter oils. By mixing them, you bring up the olive oil's temperature).

Saturday, October 9, 2010

CORN BREAD PEPPERS

If you love corn bread muffins, then you'll love these: cubanelle peppers stuffed with healthy vegetables, fiery jalapenos, and moist corn bread- the perfect side dish! The sweet corn balances out the spicy peppers and the added mushrooms and spinach add delicious texture to the light fluffy corn mix. The only thing better than fresh corn bread is having an edible carrier for it!

INGREDIENTS:
2 large or 3 medium sized cubanelle peppers
1 box of corn muffin mix (I used Jiffy brand)
(mix needs: 1 egg and 1/3 cup milk )
3-4 button mushroom caps, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup corn
1/4 cup frozen spinach, thawed and additional moisture squeezed/drained out
1/3 cup cheddar cheese
1 jalapeno, minced
extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
-saute mushrooms and garlic in 1 tsp. olive oil, over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, add corn, set aside
-mix corn muffin mixture with egg and milk (or with whatever your brand calls for)
-add to the muffin mix the mushroom and corn mixture, spinach, cheese, and jalapenos
-cut the cubanelle peppers in half lengthwise
-fill the pepper halves with the muffin mixture (about 1/3-1/2 cup of mixture per pepper) and place in a casserole dish
-bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until corn muffin mixture is set
-let cool, serve, and enjoy!

serves 4 as a side dish

SHOUT OUTS:
This recipe was inspired by a recipe on Robin Miller's Quick Fix Meals on Food Network.

TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-Instead of cubanelle peppers, try poblanos!
-Use whatever corn muffin mix you would like... you will need about 6 muffin sized servings. The egg and 1/3 cup milk was what was needed for my muffin mix. Replace it with whatever your muffin mix needs!
-Make it dairy free: skip the cheese and use water, broth, or soy milk with the muffin mix.
-You can use canned jalapenos or even canned green chiles.
-Add some extra protein by adding a couple of tablespoons of black or pinto beans into the mix.
-Use fresh, frozen, or canned corn.
-Be careful when working with hot peppers... always wash your hands with soap immediately after cutting, and beware of touching your eyes! Or, just wear rubber gloves when chopping!
-This is a great side dish to bbq or latin style pulled pork or grilled, marinated fish or chicken.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

MEXICAN LASAGNA

Here's an Italian inspired dish with a Mexican flair- presenting you with layers upon layers of healthy and tasty ingredients. My Mexican lasagna has lean ground turkey, spiced up with classic Latin flavors, sandwiched between soft tortillas, fresh vegetables, and protein packed black beans. So the next time you're thinking 'lasagna,' impress the family with this Mexican style fake-out!

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 lb ground turkey
6 flour tortilla shells (10")
1 cup corn (fresh, frozen, or canned)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
16 oz. can refried black beans
8 oz. green chiles
1 cup fresh baby spinach
1 small zucchini, cut into 1/4" slices
1 small yellow squash, cut into 1/4" slices
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 small onion, diced
6 oz. can tomato paste
12 oz. chicken broth
1 tbs. chili powder
1 tbs. coriander
1 tbs. hot sauce (such as Frank's or Tabasco)
2 tsp. cumin
chopped parsley or cilantro for garnishing
sour cream and lime wedges for serving
extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
-in a large skillet, warm 1 tbs. olive oil and brown turkey
-once turkey is cooked, add chili powder, coriander, cumin, hot sauce, tomato paste, and broth and stir until evenly coated
-stir in corn, and set aside
-in another large skillet, warm 1 tbs. olive oil over medium heat
-add sliced zucchini, squash, onion, and mushrooms, cook 5-8 minutes until vegetables start to soften and brown slightly
-turn heat off, add spinach, mix vegetables and let spinach wilt, set aside
-in a medium sized mixing bowl, mix refried black beans and the green chiles, set aside
-grease a 9x13 casserole dish
-cut the 2 of the tortillas in 2 inch strips
-place the tortilla strips in the bottom of the casserole dish, 'puzzle piecing' and cutting the strips until the bottom is covered
-spread 1/3 of the bean mixture on top of the tortillas
-spread 1/3 of the meat mixture on top of the bean layer
-spread 1/3 of the vegetable mixture on top of the meat mixture
-spread 1/3 cup cheese on top of vegetables
-continue to layer tortillas, bean mixture, meat mixture, vegetable mixture, and cheese
-place in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, until hot and bubbly
-let cool, garnish, and serve with sour cream and lime wedges, enjoy!

makes 4-6 servings

SHOUT OUTS:
This recipe was developed for a dinner with my Mexican-food loving friend, Abi.

TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-You can use water instead of chicken broth, and use the empty can of tomato paste to measure it!
-Try swapping out sour cream with plain Greek yogurt- just as tangy and tasty, and much healthier too!
-Use regular refried beans instead of black beans.
-Ground chicken or ground beef would be excellent in this dish too.
-Use flour tortilla of choice, or what you have on hand: whole wheat, multi-grain, spinach, sundried tomato...
-Skip the green chiles if you'd like to to be less spicy, just add some broth, water, or salsa to help thin out the beans so they can be more spreadable.
-Use cheddar, jack, pepper jack, monterey jack, or any of these cheese combinations!
-Make it vegetarian by skipping the meat and adding more veggies.
-Make it now, freeze it for later! Just defrost 24 hours in advance in the refrigerator, and add about 10-15 more minutes to the cook time.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

SALTY-SWEET CABBAGE SAUTE

Are you a fan of a salty and sweet combination? Then this is the side dish for you! Sauteing the cabbage creates a slightly sweet caramelization which is enhanced with honey, while the addition of anchovies, capers, and vinegar tickle your salty taste buds. Try adding this cancer fighting vegetable to your next dinner plate!

INGREDIENTS:
1 head of cabbage
4 anchovy fillets, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white or yellow onion, small diced
3 tbs. red wine vinegar
1 tbs. honey
2 tbs. capers
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
fresh parsley, chopped
extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
-remove core of cabbage, quarter, and shred into thin slices
-place in a large pan
-drizzle with 1 1/2 tbs. olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss to coat
-cover with a lid and set on low heat
-let cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally
-add garlic, onions, and anchovies and allow to cook on low for an additional 5 minutes
-turn heat up to medium-high, cover, and cook for about 3 minutes, until cabbage starts to brown /crisp, remove from heat
-in a small bowl, whisk together vinegar and honey
-pour vinegar mixture over cabbage, add capers and pepper flakes, toss to coat
-season with salt and pepper to taste, garnish with parsley, enjoy!

SHOUT OUTS:
This dish was inspired by the fried brussel sprouts i had at Lolita in Tremont, Ohio. Since brussel sprouts are among the cabbage family- i swapped the two!

TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-Try it with brussel sprouts! Wash and quarter about 1.5 pounds of sprouts, cook as you would the cabbage.
-Anchovies scare you? When you cook them like this, they literally melt away into the cabbage and leave behind a delicious saltiness. You won't even know your eating them! Still scared? Skip them, and just add a little extra salt!
-No capers? Try it with chopped green olives.
-You don't have to finish with parsley, but it does add a tasty looking bright color to the dish!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

STOVETOP CHICKEN PARMESAN

another Italian dish made simple! think you don't have time during your busy week to prepare a delicious classic? Think again! I've simplified chicken parmesan and packed in a ton of taste (with my secret weapon- biscuit mix)! This thin cut of chicken cooks up quick and stays tender when you smother it with a hearty tomato sauce and creamy mozzarella cheese. Plus, all you need is 2 shallow dishes and a skillet, so clean up is just as easy as cooking!

INGREDIENTS:
1 large chicken breast, split in 2 or 2 small chicken breasts
1 egg
1/4 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup biscuit/pancake mix
1 tbs. parmesan cheese
1/2 cup tomato/marinara sauce
2 tbs. shredded mozzarella cheese
canola/vegetable oil
extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
-slice the chicken lengthwise into two 1/2" thin, even sized pieces or if using two smaller chicken breasts, pound out until 1/2" thick
-in a large shallow dish, mix breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, biscuit mix
-beat egg with 1 tbs. of water in another large, shallow dish
-place chicken breasts in egg mixture, let excess drip off
-place chicken breasts in breadcrumb mixture and coat the chicken, shake off excess
-let chicken sit for about 5-10 minutes before cooking
-warm 2 tsp. olive oil and 2 tsp. canola/vegetable oil in a medium sized skillet
-place chicken into the skillet, and cook approximately 4 minutes on each side
-pour 1/4 cup of tomato sauce on each piece of chicken, and top with 1 tbs. of cheese each
-cover with a lid, and let cook 2-3 minutes, until cheese is melted
-serve with a side of pasta or vegetables, and enjoy!

makes 2 servings

SHOUT OUTS:
An Italian classic made quick enough for a weeknight dinner- anything I can eat with a side of pasta is a winner in my book!

TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-Use your own homemade tomato sauce, or use a jar of your favorite brand.
-Don't have biscuit mix? Just use flour.
-Don't have seasoned breadcrumbs? season your own! Mix in a few shakes of onion powder, garlic powder, pepper, paprika, salt, and Italian seasonings/dried herbs.
-If your chicken is browning too quickly on the stove top, you can melt the cheese in the oven. Place the chicken in an oven safe baking dish, and place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes.
-You can used thin sliced chicken cutlets instead of thin cutting your own chicken breasts, just adjust the cooking time if they are thinner than 1/2" to about 3 minutes each side.
-Make it dairy free, and skip the cheeses. Eat the chicken with just tomato sauce, or add a topping other than cheese such as sauteed mushrooms!
-When pounding out chicken, place the breast in a large zip-lock bag, or between to sheets of wax paper. Pound out with a meat mallet, or with a heavy skillet.
-Want to make it for a larger group? Just double or triple the recipe!

LESSON LEARNED:
It's important to let the chicken sit before cooking: it helps set the coating and bind better to the chicken, so it won't fall off when you cook it.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

RECOMMENDATIONS

LITTLE KATE APPROVED PRODUCTS:

FOODSAVER VACUUM SEALER

Though you may have seen this item on a cheesy (yet mesmerizing!) info-mercial, don't dismiss it yet! If you like to always be prepared, this machine could become your best friend! Buy in bulk, buy on sale, and buy the staples and you will always have SOMETHING to cook in the house. Individually seal chicken breasts so you can always defrost the perfect portion. Buy seasonal fruits and veggies and seal them up to keep the flavors at their best. Buy a huge hunk of meat (like a pork shoulder) and split it into 2 or 3 smaller meals instead of one large meal. The possibilities are endless! From my experience- it's a product that is worth the money!

HAND BLENDER

Plenty of magazines I've read said this item is a kitchen must- so I purchased one- and I agree! The hand blender is much less clumsy to pull out of the cupboard to blend up your favorite soups and sauces. It saves a lot of cook and clean up time by placing the hand blender straight into a pot rather than slowly pouring foods into a regular blender or food processor a little bit at time- especially when you when you are working with hot foods. Most of these blenders come with a whisk and a chopping attachment which combines a food processor and a stand mixer all into this one little tool. It's handy, it's easy to clean, and it helps add a lot of delicious creaminess to your life!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

APPLE PIE COOKIES

there's nothing more american than warm apple pie baking in the oven, filling the house with an appetizing aroma. so why not make that little slice of america a little more handheld...? this sweet cookie embodies the classic apple pie with chunks of fresh apples and fragrant spices. the addition of protein packed greek yogurt and natural applesauce keeps the cookies moist, chewy, and irresistible. heat up the oven, put on the apron, and get a little nostalgic for this remixed favorite!

INGREDIENTS:
1 apple (firm and slightly tart)
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1/2 cup plain, unsweetened applesauce
1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 cup oats
pinch of salt
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of ground cloves

DIRECTIONS:
-peel, core, and dice apple into 1/4"x1/4" pieces, set aside
-in a large bowl, add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and both sugars
-in a food processor or blender, add oats and pulse about 15 times
-add oats to flour mixture and whisk dry ingredients to combine
-add yogurt, applesauce, and apple pieces, mix until all ingredients are combined
-grease cookie sheets or use parchment paper, and drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto the sheet about 1-1.5" apart
-bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 18 minutes, until cookies are golden brown
-let cool on a wire wrack, enjoy!

makes 2 dozen cookies

SHOUT OUTS:
this recipe is dedicated to my mom, who taught me how to make the best apple pies ever, and who loves cookies!

TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-add in 1/2 cup of: raisins, dried cranberries, walnuts, dried apricots, or pecans
-have pumpkin spice mix? throw in a couple of pinches instead of separately adding cloves, ginger, and nutmeg
-zest it up even more and use cinnamon applesauce!
-use a firm, slightly tart and sweet apple such as a honey crisp, gala, braeburn, fuji, or pink lady
-you certainly don't have to blend your oats, but it gives it a nice texture if you do!
-can't find greek yogurt (too bad- it's full of protein!!)? use regular yogurt, just place in a paper towel lined sieve or colander and let sit until additional liquid drips out, and yogurt becomes thick
-freeze the cookies and eat them later!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

GREEK PASTA and EGGPLANT BAKE

This recipe is a delicious rendition of two Greek classics: moussaka (a layered eggplant dish) and pasticcio (a layered pasta dish). I took the best of both, married the flavors, slimmed it down, and created this tasty Greek inspired masterpiece. A sweet and savory meat sauce accompanied by a thick, cheesy sauce covering tender eggplant and comforting pasta means layer upon layer of unbeatable flavor. So save yourself a trip to Greece, and try my Greek pasta and eggplant bake instead!

INGREDIENTS:
1 medium sized eggplant
1/2 lb ground beef
8 oz. (1 cup) tomato sauce
1/2 cup red wine
1 cup uncooked pasta
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg, plus one pinch
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
4 tsp. flour
1/2 tbs. butter
2 tbs. cream cheese
1 1/2 tbs. goat cheese
1 tbs. chicken broth
2 tbs. parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil

DIRECTIONS:
-brown meat with about 2 tsp. olive oil in a pan, set aside
-cut off both ends of eggplant then peel eggplant
-cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices
-lay the slices of eggplant onto paper towels or a large cutting board and sprinkle lightly with salt -set aside for 20-30 minutes to draw out the moisture
-lightly shake off excess moisture from eggplant, blotting with a paper towels to dry the eggplant -in a large skillet, warm 1 tbs. olive oil over medium heat
-add slices of eggplant in a single layer, cook for about 3 minutes each side (working in batches if eggplant won't all fit in the skillet at once)
-remove from the pan and set aside
-add meat, tomato sauce, and red wine to a medium sauce pan and warm on low for about 30 minutes, until sauce has thickened
-add 1/8 tsp. nutmeg, cinnamon, and parsley, stir in and set aside
-cook the pasta 1-2 minutes under package instructions
-reserve 3/4 cup cooking water before draining
-in a 9x9 casserole dish, layer eggplant in the bottom of the dish
-pour the meat sauce mixture on top of the eggplant
-spread the cooked pasta on top of the meat sauce, set aside
-in the same pan the eggplant was cooked in, add 1 tbs. olive oil, butter, and flour
-whisk together over medium-low heat for about 1-2 minutes, until flour is wet and smooth
-add 3/4 cup of the reserved cooking water, and whisk until smooth
-add cream cheese, goat cheese, and chicken broth, whisk until smooth
-add a pinch each of salt, pepper, and nutmeg and parmesan cheese, whisk until smooth, remove from heat
-pour/spread cheese mixture evenly over pasta
-sprinkle atop additional parmesan cheese
-bake in a 375 degree oven for 30 minutes
-broil for an additional 3-5 minutes for a golden cheesy top
-let cool, serve, and enjoy!

serves approximately 2-3 people

SHOUT OUTS:
This recipe was inspired by the tasty meal I had at the Greek Festival of Saints Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Cleveland Heights, Ohio.

TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-Double the recipe for more servings.
-For the tomato sauce, use homemade, or a can/jar of your choice!
-You can make this meal meat free, just add an extra layer of eggplant and pasta. Make the tomato sauce as planned (just without the meat) and spread between the layers. You may need more than 1 cup though! Finish with cheese sauce as above.
-You can make this meal gluten free by skipping the pasta and adding an extra eggplant layers. Double the meat sauce too. Finish with cheese sauce as above.
-Use ground beef, ground veal, or crumbled sausage.
-Use the pasta shape of your choice: penne, elbows, spirals... even try a layer of lasagna noodles!
-If you don't want to use wine- don't! But use tomato paste instead of tomato sauce to skip the reduction process, adding a little bit of water or broth to thin it down slightly.
-Try mixing in some sauteed mushrooms or asparagus with the meat sauce.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

GOAT CHEESE MACARONI with ROSEMARY CHICKEN and SPINACH


Who doesn't like macaroni? In my experience- not many! With this goat cheese macaroni you can transform a childhood favorite into a delicious culinary experience. Infused with the woodsy flavors of rosemary and the fresh, clean taste of spinach, a light coating of goat cheese gives the dish a delicate creaminess nearly impossible to resist. This recipe is perfectly measured for a romantic dinner for two, but can be easily doubled for a family feast! So get cooking and get lost in one of America's favorite comfort foods tonight!

INGREDIENTS:
1 uncooked chicken breast, sliced into 1/4" thin pieces
3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup onion, minced
1 tbs. butter
1/2 lb pasta
1 cup cooked frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 oz. goat cheese
3 tbs. grated parmesan cheese
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:
-in a medium sized pan, add butter and 1.5 tbs. olive oil and warm over low heat
-add smashed garlic clove, 1/8 cup of the onions, and rosemary sprigs and cook for 15 minutes
-remove garlic clove and rosemary sprigs, leave oil in pan (do not throw out rosemary)
-raise heat to medium-low and add chicken to the pan for about 3 minutes (or until cooked through)
-remove chicken, leave oil in pan, and add minced garlic and the rest of the minced onions, saute for about 10 minutes
-in a large pot, cook pasta according to package directions
-before you drain the pasta, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water
-place pasta back into the pot, add spinach, cooking water, goat cheese, and parmesan cheese
-remove the leaves from 1 or 2 of the cooked sprigs of rosemary and minced them, adding about 1 tsp. of the chopped rosemary to the pasta
-serve the pasta, garnish with a fresh sprig of rosemary and additional parmesan cheese
-enjoy!

serves approximately 2

SHOUT OUTS:
This recipe was inspired by the delicious goat cheese macaroni dinner I had at Michael Symon's Tremont restaurant, Lolita.

TIPS and ADAPTATIONS:
-Double the recipe to feed more
-Want it cow's milk free? Skip the butter and use olive oil instead.
-Can't find fresh rosemary? Use dried. Sprinkle about 1 tsp. on the chicken while it cooks, and an additional 2 tsp. mixed in when you add the spinach to the pot.
-You don't have to add spinach to your meal, BUT it does add great nutritional value and is a fresh tasted contrasting the rich creaminess of the goat cheese.
-Skip the chicken and make it vegetarian. You can also add additional veggies like sauteed summer squash, zucchini, mushrooms and eggplant.
-Use whatever pasta you please: penne, bowties, spirals, etc... whole wheat, regular, and even gluten free varieties like rice pasta!
-Try it with other herbs like sage and thyme in addition to the rosemary.