Broccoli and Spinach Pesto

 

Pasta with broccoli is one of my favorite dinners. My mom always made it growing up with bowtie pasta as a side to flank steak or some other protein. It’s garlicky, cheesy, uses fresh veggies and is one the most comforting dinners any time of year. One night I had the idea to make the broccoli into more of a sauce so I took out my handy blender and started throwing things in there. The outcome was another easy weeknight meal that’s comforting and pretty good for you. Of course you can use a whole wheat pasta or whatever you like.

Ingredients:

  • Broccoli – 1 large head or 2 small
  • 1-2 cups of fresh spinach
  • Basil (this is optional- a few basil leaves is a good addition I didn’t have when I made it)
  • Pignoli nuts (also optional, I didn’t have any when I made it but it’s a good for protein)
  • Olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • Chicken broth- a cup or so
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Avocado (optional addition, I used about 1/3 of a small avocado. The more you use, the less cheese and oil you have to use to get a creamy consistency)
  • 1 lb of the pasta of your choice

Directions:

Put a pot of water on the stove  and bring to a boil. Salt it and cook your pasta. In the meantime, you can make the pesto sauce.

Put your garlic cloves and oil in the pan on medium heat. Once it starts to sizzle add the broccoli and saute a few minutes. Add in the spinach. Let cook until it wilts and then add in the chicken broth. This will help steam the broccoli so it’s not rock hard in the blender. And sauteing it first in the oil will give it that nice flavor.

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When the broccoli is bright green and softens, it’s done.

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Then put the ingredients (less the broth) in the blender. Reserve the broth to thin out the sauce later if necessary.

Add parmesan cheese, avocado, salt and cracked black pepper. This would also be the time to add basil and nuts if you are using them.
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Pulse until it’s nice and chunky. You don’t want to pulverize it to death. If it’s a little dry add some of the broth you reserved in the pan. This will prevent you from having to add more olive oil but of course that’s a tasty option.

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Add your sauce to your cooked pasta, stir well and top with more cheese! You may need another spoonful of broth here. I also drizzled a tiny bit of olive oil on top which is not necessary but decadent and delicious. Season with more fresh cracked black pepper and enjoy!!

 

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Homemade Ravioli

I’ve wanted to try homemade ravioli ever since I figured out how to make homemade pasta. A Valentine’s Day with wind chills in the negative degrees provided a perfect opportunity to stay home and accomplish this somewhat scary goal– and the hubby even helped! The pasta part really is a two person job. It is also time consuming but SO worth it. The best part is you can use any filling your heart desires. I couldn’t decide what to do so I made 4: 1) mushroom, truffle & goat cheese, 2) spinach, arugula and basil, 3) broccoli rabe and 4) ricotta and basil. This recipe made us about 50 ravioli. Keep in mind they are great to freeze so if you’re putting in the work, you might as well make a lot!

Ingredients:
For the pasta:

  • 5 cups of flour
  • 8 eggs at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup water

For the fillings:

Make sure you buy high quality cheese–fresh ricotta if you can. This will make a big difference in the final product.  
Truffle Mushroom & Goat Cheese:

  • Sautee one package of mixed mushrooms in oil and truffle butter. Season with sea salt and cracked pepper. Put the mushrooms in a blender and pulse. Then put in a bowl and add about 3 oz of goat cheese and some fresh parmigiano cheese.      

Broccoli Rabe & Garlic

  • I bought fresh roasted broccoli rabe and garlic with red pepper flakes from A&S fine foods in Stamford. I can’t make a better broccoli rabe and it takes out a few steps. If you are going to do it yourself you should par boil the broccoli and then sautee. Then put it in a blender and pulse. I added ricotta and fresh parmigiano cheese.  img_4879

Spinach, Arugula & Basil

  • Sautee spinach and arugula in some olive oil. You have the option to add chopped garlic as well. Put in processor and pulse. Add ricotta and parmigiano.  img_4881

Directions:

Make a well with your flower in a bowl and add the eggs and water to the center. Scramble the eggs with a fork and slowly bring flour into the egg mixture. This process takes a while. Be patient- you will probably think you did something wrong because the flour isn’t combining right away. Just keep working it.


Once you have incorporated all the ingredients, sprinkle some extra flour on the counter and knead the dough with your hands. You will probably have to put some flour on your hands so it doesn’t stick. You should work the dough for quite a few minutes with your hands until it smoothed out.

 Then place it in a bowl, put a dash of  olive oil on it and rub it all over the dough. Then cover the bowl with a dish towel. Let it rest.

My great grandmother used to roll the dough with a large rolling pin when she made pasta every week. That, I can’t imagine! I use my grandmother’s pasta machine which is much easier. I feed the pasta through twice on 8, twice on 6, twice on 4 and once on 2.

Although now they do make machines to do it for you–whichever way you choose is fine. pasta maker
When you are ready, roll the dough into a log and cut evenly into pieces.

You may want to cut only one piece at first to make sure it’s the right width. Making ravioli isn’t a science but I can already tell that the more you make these, the easier it will become.

Spoon out your mixture on to the pasta sheets. We learned after a few times that pressing the filling down to flatten it out will make a better ravioli.
  

We started by making square ravioli which we were messier to eat but it’s really just a matter of preference.

I don’t have fancy ravioli tools so I grabbed a pizza cutter and a fork. It worked!

What worked even better was when we found a small glass jar to cut the round ones.

I placed them on parchment paper with cornmeal to prevent them from sticking.

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To cook: bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. You don’t want a very high boil as it could damage all the work you just did! They cook in roughly 3 minutes.

For sauce: I found truffle butter and parmesan cheese on the mushroom ones were amazing! I also made a white wine and butter sauce with shallots and parsley that was delicious. And we had a few with tomato sauce. You can’t go wrong!


The cooked product! Yum!

And some with sauce…. Yum, yum, and yum!


  

 

One year later on Christmas day we made these again. It’s such a fun family activity–I highly recommend it! This time we made a pesto sauce and a red sauce. Mmmm mmm mmm!

 

 

Prosciutto Wrapped Arugula with Pear and Blue Cheese

It’s nice to have easy go-to recipes in your back pocket that taste delicious. This particular recipe also happens to be pretty healthy for you as far as summertime BBQ dishes go. It can be used as an appetizer or side dish, it’s easy to serve and eat with your fingers. The one downside to this recipe is that it’s not one of those make ahead dishes that can sit…otherwise you will have soggy lettuce. But you can whip it up in 10 minutes right when guests arrive or right before you leave the house.

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Ingredients:

  • Argulua, washed and dried
  • Balsamic glaze (like this one or make your own)
  • Good quality olive oil
  • Fresh cracked pepper (you really don’t need salt b/c the prosciutto takes care of that)
  • 1 pear, sliced into thin pieces
  • Crumbled blue cheese
  • 15 thinly sliced imported prosciutto

Instructions:

  • Put the arugula in a bowl, add a drizzle of balsamic glaze and olive oil. Then add fresh cracked black pepper and combine.
  • Lay your prosciutto out flat and place a small handful of arugula on the end of the slice. Add 1-2 pieces of apple and some blue cheese crumbles.
  • Roll all the ingredients inside the prosciutto.
  • Serve on a platter. Option to drizzle more balsamic glaze on top.


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If you have any vegetarians, skip the prosciutto and they have a delicious salad! image

July 2016 Update: I put a spin on this recipe so that it would stand up better to being left outdoors in the summer time. Form the prosciutto slices in small muffin tins and bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Add the same ingredients as above and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Amaze!

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

Cauliflower is all the rage lately on Pinterest. I’ve looked on with skeptical curiosity but finally decided to take the plunge given our goal to keep eating healthy. I will say making this crust was a bit more work than I expected, but, it really, truly was delicious. My crust was a bit soft in the center so I think I could have cooked the crust a few more minutes or the tomato sauce was too much to handle (I’ll have to make a few more before I can submitt a perfect recipe to you all). But if you are gluten free and cutting back on carbs (or want to hide some veggies from your kids) this recipe is a great option. It can be fun to do as a family, too!

Cauliflower crusted pizza by jewtalian

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 egg
  • Salt & Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Dried or Fresh Chopped Oregano
  • Red Pepper Flakes (optional for some spice)
  • 1 TBSP flax seed meal (optional)
  • 1/4 cup reduced fat mozzarella cheese
  • Few TBSPs of fresh grated parmigiano reggiano cheese

Instructions:

  • Put your pizza stone in the oven at 450 degrees.
  • Place your cauliflower in the blender and pulse until it looks like rice or some people say, snow.

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  • Place the cauliflower in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for about 4 minutes. It will come out piping hot. Dump the mixture on to a clean dish towel and when it’s cooled enough squeeze all the water out–this will take you several minutes. You will be shocked by the amount of water that comes out!
  • In a mixing bowl add the egg, cheeses, and seasonings. (I have used fresh parsley and the spicy oregano I grow in my garden) Incorporate the cauliflower and mix together–use your hands!

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  • Roll it into a ball and place on top of a piece of parchment paper.

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  • Using your hands press down on the “dough” flattening it out into the shape of a pizza. I used my fingers to create a crust around the edge.

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  • Place the crust on the parchment paper on the pizza stone and cook for 15 minutes 

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  • I topped mine with some leftover homemade sauce, caramelized onions, reduced fat mozzarella cheese, a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and of course some spicy soppressata.
  • After your toppings are done, bake the pizza until the cheese is bubbly and browning. NOTE: let your pizza cool and set a few minutes before you cut into it or it will be messy and more difficult to pick up a slice and eat it. Buon Appetito!

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Here’s another version I did with zuchinni, tomatoes and shrimp. 

Baked Chorizo Chiles Rellenos

It’s the New Year and it’s time to try and reign in all the indulgent eating we did during the holidays. So now my focus is on making healthy meals that are still fun and delicious (otherwise I’d go crazy). I was craving some cheesy Mexican food so I found a way to satisfy my craving without too much fat and calories. You can do this without meat and add more beans and veggies but I love any excuse to use chorizo. I’m careful about where I buy meats like chorizo but Whole Foods makes one thats delicious and I feel better about the ingredients in there. And instead of breading and frying these peppers as is customary, we will bake them. Still delicious, still cheesy, just a little healthier for you.

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Ingredients:

  • 4 poblano peppers, washed, top cut off and seeds removed
  • 2 links chorizo
  • 1/2 cup or so of black beans
  • Ancho chili powder
  • 1 small red onion
  • chopped scallions
  • Fresh cilantro and oregano, chopped
  • 1/2 bag of Mexican cheese blend (would also be good with manchego cheese or reduced fat cream cheese if you really want that creamy texture)
  • Olive oil for sautéing

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Instructions:

Pre heat the oven to 375.

Cut the chorizo out of the casing and put in a hot saute pan with olive oil and onions.

imageLet the meat brown a bit and using a spoon gently break apart the meat. Add salt, pepper, chili powder and incorporate well. When it’s cooked through and the onions are softened add your fresh chopped herbs and shut the heat off.

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Pour into a bowl and add the cheese. Mix well.

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Using a small spoon, stuff each pepper and place on a cookie sheet. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until it’s bubbly and the peppers are cooked. I put my broiler on the end to give the pepper a nice char.

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Dig in! This is great leftover and you can bring it to work for lunch the next day.

Nanny’s Homemade Manicotti

Growing up, Nanny often made manicotti for the holidays and special occasions. Soft crepe like tubes, stuffed with ricotta cheese, topped with sauce and more cheese; it’s quite heavenly. Don’t confuse it with cannelloni which is more of a pasta type dough that is stuffed typically with meats and baked in a bechamel sauce.

Each year for Christmas day, Mom and I like to take on a cooking challenge. We have all day, we aren’t getting out of our pajamas, so why not cook something fun? We made just under 100 manicotti and of course froze some for Nanny and other family members. In my opinion, if you are going to put in the work, you might as well make a lot. We paired them with roasted racks of lamp chops (recipe to come later) and sautéed zucchini–a well-balanced holiday meal that hit the spot! These delicate cheesy bites of heaven will satisfy any crowd and you can have fun doing it!

Note: We altered Nanny’s recipe a little as she traditionally puts mint in her ricotta stuffing. We opted to put parsley, basil and mint which worked out well!

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Ingredients & Directions:

Stuffing-

  • 4 lbs of riccota cheese
  • 1 bag of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • About a cup of grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
  • Salt
  • 2-3 eggs
  • Fresh chopped basil, parsley and mint

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Manicotti Batter- (should make roughly 100)

  • 12 eggs
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 cups of milk

If you want to cut the recipe down to 74, us 9 eggs, 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1 1/2 cups of milk.

Place your ingredients in a bowl and set your mixer to 15 minutes on a low speed.

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The batter should be on the thin side and smooth. Now here comes the tricky part… making the manicotti.

Mom and I wish Nanny was with us to help guide us through the many batches of trial and error. It takes a certain technique. Is it thin enough? It’s too thick. It’s too long or it’s not fat enough. Eventually we got the hang of it. Don’t lose hope.

Heat your griddle or flat pan to about 300 degrees. Nanny says grease it once and once only. The batter will cook fast but you don’t want it to brown/burn. It will bubble slightly and should easily come off the griddle with a spatula.

We used a metal spoon and poured the batter in a horizontal line and using the back of the spoon pushed the batter around in the shape seen below.

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Next to your stove lay out some cooling racks. Transfer your finished manicotti to the cooling racks for a few minutes. You should have lined your counter with wax paper which you will then move the cooled manicotti too (seen below).

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Next comes the stuffing! Don’t be skimpy. Place the filling at the edge and then loosely roll it shut. Don’t roll it tight like a burrito.
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If you are going to freeze some for leftovers, place them in a box on wax paper.
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For the ones you are eating. Place a layer of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish. Then add the manicotti, top with sauce and parmesan cheese and bake covered at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.

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Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! Mangia!

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Huevos Rancheros

Mexican breakfast eggs, as my husband calls it, or otherwise known as huevos rancheros is one of my favorite brunch selections. Some combination of eggs, beans, tortilla and salsa… yum. There’s endless ways to make this dish and mine is simply based off what I had in my kitchen. You can certainly make it for breakfast but “breakfast for dinner” is an even better weeknight option – cheap, easy and usually pretty fast. This meal also happens to be incredibly delicious.

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Ingredients:

-Eggs

-1 can black beans

-1 can pinto beans

-Fresh cilantro

-1 can fire roasted tomatoes

-1 onion

-3 cloves garlic

-Chicken broth

-1 lb flank steak (an optional ingredient but Kyle reeeally wanted steak that night and I reeeeally wanted eggs)

-1 red chili pepper (use any hot or sweet pepper you like)

-Ancho chili powder

-Salt & pepper

-Fresh head lettuce, chopped in thin strips (washed and refrigerated with a paper towel to get it crispy)

-Crumbled feta or cotija cheese (whatever you can find in the grocery store)

-Olive oil

Instructions:

If you are using flank steak, season well with salt, pepper, ancho chili powder, garlic powder and rub into the steak with a tiny bit of oil just to moisten it before you throw it on a hot grill. Cook on the first side about 7 minutes and then flip the steak over. Take it off when it reaches your desired temperature (I like it medium) and cover it with tin foil to let it rest while you make the rest of your meal. This will help suck all the juices into the meat and will leave you with a tender and juicy steak!

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Strain both cans of beans and add to a pot with fresh cilantro. You can add lime juice if you have limes or I added some chicken broth.

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I wanted to make the texture a bit like refried beans even though isn’t your traditional refried bean recipe. I mashed the beans up with a spoon and then I poured the flank steak juices on the plate to add some flavor to the beans. (Usually refried beans are cooked in bacon fat)

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Add your can of fire roasted tomatoes, garlic, pepper and onions to a pot. Season with salt & pepper and cook on medium heat.

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Puree the mixture with your hand mixer. I left mine as more of a chunky salsa rather than puree everything together to a smooth sauce.

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In a hot pan, heat up some vegetable oil to fry your tortillas. Cook them on both sides until they crisp up and start to brown.

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Top the tortilla with the bean mixture and then sliced flank steak.

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Then add your salsa.

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Finally, fry up an egg on medium to high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over easy and place on top of your salsa.

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Finish with shredded lettuce and feta or cotija cheese.

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Enchiladas Roja

Who doesn’t love some enchiladas? Shredded meat in a tortilla smothered with sauce and cheese? I’m in! I’ve previously posted a recipe for enchiladas verde and also a very healthy version of enchiladas. And this time I share with you my spicy roja sauce! And for the record, these aren’t terrible for you if you pay attention to the ingredients you buy.

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Ingredients:

-2 chicken breasts

-2 chicken thighs (optional to add, but the dark meat often adds more flavor)

-2 habanero peppers (only use 1 if you want it mild)

-3 garlic cloves

-3 or 4 small sweet peppers or 1 red bell pepper (If you like your sauce sweeter rather than spicy, consider using roasted red peppers)

-1 large can of tomato sauce

-Handful of cherry tomatoes (optional but I had them on hand so I threw them in)

-Tortillas (I bought a package of whole wheat and a package of spinach, they were only 110 calories which isn’t bad for a flour tortilla. In the end, Kyle and I felt the spinach was much tastier. Also, the whole wheat stands up better to the sauce and doesn’t get soggy as the white flour tortillas usually do- unless of course you fry them first which is customary)

-Manchego cheese, shredded

-Reduced fat Mexican cheese blend

-1/2 of spanish onion

-Fresh cilantro

-Ancho chili powder

-Salt & Pepper

-Olive oil

This recipe yielded two separate trays of 5 enchiladas. I made one for dinner and placed the other in the freezer for a weeknight when we have no food in the house!

Instructions:

In a hot saute pan add olive oil, garlic and peppers. Season with salt and let cook for 5 minutes or so.

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Add tomatoes and tomato sauce to the pan and puree using a hand mixer. Bring to a boil.

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Rinse your chicken and place them into the sauce with salt & pepper. Bring to a low boil then cover and simmer on low for roughly 20 minutes.

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Take the chicken out of the sauce and set aside to cool. Turn heat off the sauce as well.

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Using two forks (or your hands which is sometimes easier) shred the chicken apart. When your chicken is shredded, sprinkle salt, pepper and ancho chili powder on top and mix together.

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Put a thin layer of sauce in the bottom of your baking dish.

To assemble your enchiladas, put your chicken, chopped onion, fresh cilantro and a mix of each cheese in the tortilla. Roll it very tightly and place in your baking dish.

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Pour a layer of sauce over the center of your enchiladas and top it with the manchego cheese. You can choose to drench them all in sauce but I like my tortillas to remain a little crispy so I do it this way.

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Bake in a 350 degree oven for roughly 30 minutes until the sauce and cheese are bubbling. Top with fresh cilantro.

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Serve with a side of black beans which I cooked with onion, lime juice and salt! Cheesy-saucy-goodness.

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Grilled Jalapeño Poppers

Finding delicious new appetizers to bring to a summer BBQ is always a fun challenge for me. It’s a risk trying something new, especially when bringing it to a large group of people but if you just have confidence in your ingredients it will turn out great! I’ve seen a lot of Jalapeno Popper recipes on Pinterest lately but they are typically stuffed with some mixture of cream cheese and jack cheese and wrapped with bacon and sometimes fried. Not exactly healthy and not that exciting (to me) in terms of ingredients. I love jalapenos so I started thinking how I could put my twist on this recipe. I substituted using all that cheese with avocado and I bought an all natural chorizo made by Whole Foods meat department. I used fresh herbs, quality cheese and cooked them on the grill; great flavor with out all the fat.

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Ingredients:

-2 Fresh Chorizo sausage links from Whole Foods (you could substitute with other kinds of ground beef or pork but make sure you season it well with things like chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper cumin, etc.)

-2 garlic cloves

-12 to 15 jalapeno peppers (Make sure you pick out larger and fatter jalapenos so you can fit a lot of stuffing in them)

-1/2 of a ripe avocado

-1-2 tbsp whipped cream cheese with chives (of course you can use any kind but I had this in my fridge)

-Manchego cheese, freshly grated

-Fresh chopped cilantro

-Fresh chopped chives

-Juice from half of one lime

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Instructions:

-Cut your jalapenos in half and take out the seeds and membranes. If you have some jalapenos on the skinny side, cut off 1/3 of it so you have a big enough pepper to stuff.

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-Cut the casings off the chorizo and place in a medium hot pan with fresh chopped garlic.

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-Combine the cream cheese, avocado, fresh herbs and lime juice in a bowl. Add salt & pepper. When the chorizo cools, add it to the bowl and mix well.

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-Using a spoon, stuff each pepper and top with a sprinkle of manchego cheese. Press down the cheese into the stuffing so it sticks to the mixture and doesn’t fall off. I stuffed them in advance and covered with tinfoil for a few hours until they were ready for the grill.

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-Get the grill nice and hot and put the flames on a medium level. Place the jalapenos directly on the grill and cook until the cheese melts. It’s a good idea to warn your guests that sometimes jalapenos are mild and sometimes they are spicy–it’s hard to know which one you will get.

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-Pop one in your mouth! Enjoy!

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Caramelized Onion Turkey Burger

For a long time the idea of a turkey burger, for lack of a better phrase, grossed me out. I can’t explain it, but it just didn’t sound appetizing. Maybe because for years my father has repeatedly told us the ONLY bad meal my mother ever made in 30 years of marriage was turkey meatloaf. It ingrained in me the belief that turkey belonged on the Thanksgiving table with mashed potatoes and gravy– and that’s it.

However, given my desire to eat a little healthier and my passion to explore new foods and make my own recipes, I gave it a try. I went to the local market where I could get fresh ground organic white meat turkey (so I could be sure what was in there) and gave it a shot. I knew it needed to be packed with flavor in order to even try to compare it to a beef burger, so what better than caramelized onions and Italian seasonings?? All in all, I thought these “burgers” were delicious and would make them again–definitely on a grill this summer and try different variations.

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INGREDIENTS:

For the burger:

  • 1/2 lb ground white meat turkey
  • 1/2 lb ground dark meat turkey (optional but adds flavor and juiciness)
  • Fresh chopped parsley
  • 3/4 of a cup (ish) of caramelized onions (2 onions raw… I know, I’m bad at keeping track of how much I use. It’s the Italian in me… go with the flow)
  • 2 cloves fresh chopped garlic
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Mozzarella cheese (if you have something with more flavor like fontina or gouda that would also work well)
  • 2 tbsp fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste

For the rest:

  • 1 garlic naan or whole wheat pita
  • Arugula
  • Tzatziki sauce (I made it from scratch the first time and while it was good, it wasn’t perfect. So after I perfect it, I will post it)

You can also throw this burger on a traditional bun and it would be great!

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Caramelized onions can be made at any time and kept in the fridge for sweet and savory additions to meals throughout the week. Simply slice your onions thin, and place in a hot pan with olive oil. Cook on medium to high so they brown (be careful not to burn!). The longer you cook them, the better. About 20-30 minutes should do it. For this recipe I would dice them into smaller pieces so they work in the burger.
  • Add your turkey, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, parmesan, red pepper flakes and onions in a bowl and mix to incorporate. Make 4 even sized patties.
  • Place your cheese on top of 2 of the patties and then put the remaining 2 on top to make 2 larger burgers.

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  • It was winter so I was working inside instead of on the grill but either cooking method will work. Put your pan on medium/high and spray with oil. Place the burgers on the pan and brown on each side (roughly 5 minutes each). I then turned the heat down and put a cover over the burgers to ensure they cooked through.

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  • Place your burger on a bed of arugula and top with tzatziki sauce! Dig in and enjoy.

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Spaghetti Squash with Broccoli and Cheese

I fell in love with spaghetti squash a few winters ago and made it almost weekly coming up with different recipes. There are so many ways you can use it–essentially you can substitute almost any spaghetti recipe. When you are watching your carb intake it’s a filling and warm winter meal! No, it’s not the same as pasta and don’t let anyone tell you that–but it’s still good! I previously posted my pasta with broccoli recipe which is one of my favorite dinners. The below recipe is similar but with… spaghetti squash.

Spaghetti Squash


Ingredients

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • Olive Oil
  • Fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and lots of coarsely ground black pepper
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 shallot (optional)
  • Chicken broth- about 1/4 cup or so
  • Butter (amount to your liking- I used 2 spoonfuls of whipped butter)
  • Broccoli

Directions

To bake the squash, cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds. Spray with olive oil and add salt and pepper. Put it in a 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.

Put a small amount of water in a pan on high and steam your broccoli florets until bright green – about 3 or 4 minutes. Take out and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Then place on a cutting board and chop up into small pieces. You can also put them in food processor and give it a rough chop.

In a saute pan add olive oil, garlic and shallots and cook until translucent. Then add some chicken broth and let it simmer for 1-2 minutes.

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Add the broccoli and butter.

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When your spaghetti squash is ready, use a fork to scrape out the “spaghetti”. (This time I scraped the seeds out after I cooked it)


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Squash

Add the spaghetti in your pan with cheese salt and lots of black pepper. If you’d like, dress with some more olive oil. Toss together and serve.

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Squash and broccoli

Italian Garlic Bread with a Twist

Garlic bread is delicious. No matter how you make it, garlic with bread and oil or butter is going to be amazing. But, there is a way to fancy it up and make it even more irresistible. In Southbury, CT there was an Italian market called Villarinas where we always used to order garlic bread which came with roasted red peppers and fresh mozzarella. Since we don’t live there any more we decided to make it at home. This is quick and simple and can be used for an appetizer or side dish to compliment any meal. This would be a great addition to your Christmas Eve menu consider the beautiful colors.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh Italian bread
  • Garlic
  • Basil
  • Toasted pine nuts
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Roasted Red Peppers
  • Fresh Mozzarella Cheese
  • Salt & Pepper

Directions:

  • Place basil, pine nuts, olive oil in a small blender and blend until smooth. Add some parmesan cheese, salt and pepper, and blend again until combined. Brush the pesto on your bread evenly.
  • Cut up the roasted red peppers and place around the bread.
  • Top with mozzarella.

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  • Bake in the oven at about 400 until the cheese is bubbly.
  • Cut up in pieces and mangia!

 

Adult Grilled Cheese

They call it grilled cheese for a reason. Trust me. It should be made on a grill.

My sister came over to eat dinner with us on a beautiful Friday night and we decided to grill on the back deck. After debating several options we thought it would be fun to make adult versions of the childhood classic grilled cheese. There is little I enjoy more than the combination of bread, butter and cheese and with probably a million options of topping combinations it wasn’t easy picking the finalist. In the end a few favorite Italian staples won out: pancetta, pesto with gruyere and tellegio cheeses. Wow. Enjoy a crunchy, cheesy, salty and savory dinner, with your vegetable protein and starch, all between two slices of bread.

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INGREDIENTS:
Pesto
-basil (about 1 cup)
-spinach
-arugula
-1/2 avocado
-1 or 2 cloves garlic
-parmesan cheese
-olive oil
-salt & pepper

Sandwich

Crusty Italian bread, sliced (Don’t underestimate the importance in picking out good fresh bread that is sturdy enough to hold the sandwich. It’s critical to the success of your grilled cheese)
-Gruyere cheese
-Tellegio Cheese
-Pancetta, sliced thin and sautéed until crisp
-Butter

INSTRUCTIONS:

Spread butter on the front and back of each piece of bread. I recommend a butter with olive oil in it for easy spreading and extra flavor. If you only have regular butter just set it out before using so it softens a bit.

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In a blender add basil, arugula, spinach (or whatever combo you have/prefer), olive oil, salt & pepper and parmesan cheese. Blend together. Add half an avocado for extra creaminess and blend again for a few seconds until combined.
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Spread the pesto on the bread.
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The first layer should be the cheeses and then add the pancetta. Top with more cheese and close the sandwich.
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Turn your grill on and get it nice and hot. Place your sandwiches directly on the grill (the butter will prevent sticking). Cook for 90 seconds and then move each sandwich to get the x marks from the grill. Cook for another 90 seconds. Flip and repeat. Make sure to use your spatula and push down on each sandwich to help it meld together. Turn the heat on low and cook until cheese is melted.

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Grillin outside on a beautiful night, drinks in hand=perfect.

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Cut in half and serve.

What’s better than this?

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Mexican Pillows

Two cultures collide when I use Mexican flavors and wrap them up inside a Chinese wonton.  It just works! I created this recipe for a Super Bowl appetizer and they were a lot of fun to make.  The nice thing about them is you can substitute with any meat, cheese and/or vegetables you like!

Ingredients:

  • Wonton wrappers
  • Chorizo
  • Red Onion
  • Garlic
  • Jalapenos
  • Tomatillo pepper
  • Fresh chopped cilantro
  • Cream cheese (about 1/4 of a cup)
  • Asiago cheese
  • Lime (juice and zest)
  • Ancho chili powder
  • 1 slice bacon
  • Olive oil

Directions:

  • Saute onion, garlic, jalapenos, and tomatillo peppers for a few minutes. Add s&p.
  • Take chorizo out of the casing and add to pan.

  • Let ingredients cook for a few moments, add ancho chili powder, salt, pepper, the juice and zest from 1/2 lime.
  • Remove from heat and let cool for a few moments in the food processor. In the mean time cook a slice of bacon on the pan.  Soak up any excess grease.  Add chorizo mixture, bacon and  fresh cilantro in the food processor and blend together.

  • Remove from blender and put in a bowl. Add both cheeses and mix well.  Keep in mind you can use any cheese you  like.
  • Take out a wonton wrapper and place 1 spoon full in the center.  Dip your finger in water and wet the edges.  Then fold it in half.

  • For some texture, you can use a fork around the edges of the pillow.
  • After you have finished assembling your pillows, spray well with olive oil on a baking sheet.  Bake in the oven until brown (about 15-20 minutes).  Of course you can fry them in some oil but I always prefer the healthier option. They still come out hot and crispy!

If you would like a dip for these Mexican Pillows try mixing avocado with sour cream and add some spices! It provides a cool relief to the hot and spicy pillows.  Enjoy!

Eggplant Rollatini

Fried eggplant is so delicious and when you pair it with sauce and cheese it just doesn’t get any better. I made eggplant rollatini for the first time, for my non meat-eating friend, on New Years Eve 2012 and it was pretty easy to make and rather delicious!

Ingredients:

  • Eggplant (3 eggplants will fill two trays and be enough for roughly 6 people)
  • Italian bread crumbs (I use a mixture of panko and regular and mix in some fresh chopped parsley and garlic and a little flour)
  • 3-4 Eggs
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Oil for frying
  • Ricotta Cheese
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Fresh Basil
  • Tomato Sauce

Directions:

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Set up paper bags lined with paper towels so you can soak up excess oil on your eggplant.

If you have a mandolin, I recommend using it to cut roughly 1/4 inch slices of your eggplant. It makes this dish much easier! Set up two shallow bowls, one with breadcrumbs and one with your beaten eggs.

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Heat up oil in frying pan on medium to high heat.

Coat the slices of eggplant in egg and then coat in bread crumbs. Use your fingers to really pack the breadcrumbs on to the eggplant so they stick. Start frying the eggplant a few pieces at a time until golden brown. Then rest them on a paper towel lined bags.

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In a bowl, mix a few tablespoons of parmesan cheese with the container of ricotta cheese. Add salt, pepper and fresh basil (some use mint instead). Place a small scoop at the end of each eggplant and roll it up. Place in a baking dish seam side down.

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Cover the entire dish in sauce and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake until sauce is bubbly and the cheese is brown. If you aren’t going to bake them until later, don’t add the sauce until you are ready to put them in the oven.

Mangia!!

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Mac n’ Cheese

What’s better than hot, cheesy mac n’ cheese with a nice crunch on top? Try this recipe and know it’s just as delicious leftover!! It’s up to you what cheeses to use- there are so many options! In my experience, Trader Joe’s has a huge selection for the best prices.

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Photo Courtesy of Snap Photography

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2lbs Cavatappi (make sure you pick a noodle that can hold the cheesy sauce)
  • Milk
  • Stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 12 ounces Gruyere, grated (4 cups) I used two different kinds of gruyere
  • 8 ounces white Cheddar, grated
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pancetta chopped up real tiny, sauteed in olive oil with garlic clove (to be removed later)
  • Bread crumbs (I use half panko and half italian bread crumbs. The panko is great for the crunch)
  • Fresh parsley
  • Truffle oil to top it off!
This made 7 ramekins. If you aren’t as lax with your ingredient amounts as I am, check out Ina Garten’s recipe which I modified: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/mac-and-cheese-recipe2/index.html

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Put on a pot of boiling salted water. Add the pasta and cook just short of al dente. I don’t like mushy pasta and remember it will keep cooking after you take it out of the water and put it in the oven.

3. Saute pancetta in olive oil until crispy (not burnt) and set aside. Save the olive oil to wet bread crumbs with later.

4. Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t boil it. Melt the butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring with a whisk. While whisking, add the hot milk and cook for a minute or two more, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, some parmesan and salt & pepper. Add the pasta and stir well. Pour into a casserole dish or the ramekins seen above.

5. Chop fresh parsley and mix together with the breadcrumbs. Pour in the pancetta and olive oil. Combine and sprinkle on top of the mac and cheese. You can always add some melted butter for extra flavor! Instead, I topped it with truffle oil for a luxurious twist. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is browned on the top.

ENJOY!!

The Best Buffalo Chicken Dip

This delicious dip tastes just like wings but with out all the mess and fatty skin! It’s so easy to make and great for a party. Since I started making it, people often ask me to bring it to their house for parties.

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Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • Reduced Fat Cream Cheese
  • Ranch seasoning packet
  • Celery (5-7 stalks- I like to have the nice fresh crunch in there)
  • Scallions (3-5)
  • 3 Chicken breasts
  • Part-skim Mozzarella Cheese and/or Blue Cheese to top (some people don’t like blue cheese, so I put it on half)
  • Franks Buffalo Sauce
  • Whole wheat ritz crackers and/or cut up celery and vegetables to dip.
  • S&P

Instructions

Low boil seasoned chicken in water until cooked through and let cool. (If you prefer you can cook the chicken in a slow cooker with the hot sauce on low for 2-3 hours, or you can buy a rotisserie chicken in the store if that’s easier for you.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Chop up celery and scallions and place into a bowl.

Use 2 forks to pull the chicken apart into small bite sized pieces. Put in the bowl with celery and scallions and add Franks Hot Sauce. (I used about 1/2 the bottle- you can taste the chicken and test the temperature) You have the option to add a tablespoon of melted butter- it sure helps with flavor but not fat 😉

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In your baking dish, mix the cream cheese with ranch seasoning and spread along the bottom of the  dish. Add the chicken mixture over the layer of cream cheese. Top with the mozzarella and/or blue cheese. Sometimes I do half and half to please those who don’t care for blue cheese.

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Cook for 25 minutes or until the cheese is nice and bubbly. I like to add a little more hot sauce at the end on top to bake into the cheese. It looks pretty–that’s all.

Top with more fresh cut scallions for a little color and serve with whole wheat ritz crackers or scoops.

 

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Instead of a dip, use won tons!

Not that this recipe needed changing, but I’ve tried several different versions. We all know how dips can get messy to eat when you’re dressed up and you don’t want to drip gooey cheese or hot sauce on your dress or nice shirt. So, I bought won ton wrappers for the first time. I used mini cupcake pans, put a won ton in each holder, brushed with melted butter, and baked in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes or until browned. Then remove from the oven, take the won tons out of the cupcake holders and place on a baking sheet.

Fill the won tons layering first the cream cheese mixture, then the buffalo chicken and top with mozzarella and blue cheese. Then place them back in the oven until the cheese is melted. Serve these tasty individual bite sized snacks hot! I do recommend trying this at home!! Delicious!

I’ve also stuffed them and closed them and served with ranch dressing (yum!):

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