Caesar Salad

There are a lot of ways to make caesar dressing and this just happens to be my way. It doesn’t include egg yolks or whole anchovies and it’s not thick and white. My lightened up version is pretty healthy compared to other options (definitely better than store bought) and when you’re just having salad with grilled chicken for dinner, it’s ok to have some calories in the dressing. Plus I don’t use croutons, so throw a little more cheese in there!

This recipe is quick and easy for a healthy weeknight meal. You have to taste test the proportions of ingredients but you’ll get the hang of it. It’s not an exact science. 


Ingredients:

  • Juice of 1-2 lemons 
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • Squeeze of anchovy paste (optional- about 1-2 tsps)
  • Squeeze of brown mustard (about a tablespoon or less)
  • Dash or two of worchestshire sauce
  • Fresh grated parmesan cheese (at least 1 tbsp. Go with 2!)
  • Olive oil, the good stuff
  • Salt and fresh cracked pepper 


Put all ingredients except the cheese and oil into a bowl and mix well with a whisk. Then add your oil and whisk some more. Then add cheese which will add a creamy saltiness to it. Mix well and do a taste test to see if it’s balanced. 


It will take some practice to get it right but once you get it, it’s so good. 


Toss on your romaine, and add grilled chicken on top! I recommend washing and cutting your lettuce, put it in a bowl with paper towels in the fridge while you make the dressing and do other things. It will make your lettuce nice and crisp. 

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Pasta e Fagioli

Soup season is well underway! It’s easy to make, it warms you up, it’s great for leftovers/lunch at work and can be a very healthy meal. Plus you can usually make a great soup with items left in your fridge and a can of beans or lentils.

Pasta e fagioli is one of my favorites, sprinkled with a little parmigiano cheese and you have yourself a comforting well-rounded meal! This soup is packed with veggies and proteins and vegetarians can make it without the sausage.

Ingredients:

  • 1 link, Hot Italian sausage (you can substitute sweet sausage, pancetta, prosciutto or skip the meat all together. But it definitely gives it a nice flavor)
  • Sprinkle of fennel seeds (optional- but I love the flavor it adds to the sausage)
  • 2 garlic cloves (optional)
  • 1/2 of an onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 carrot stalks
  • 2 small sweet red peppers- or one bell pepper
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 can white cannelloni beans
  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 container chicken broth
  • Pasta of your choosing- about 1 cup (I recommend a tiny noodle)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Fresh basil
  • Fresh parmigiano cheese

The nice thing about this soup is you don’t have to include all the veggies or beans I used. It’s all about what you have on hand!

Instructions:

Chop all your veggies and garlic.

Get your large soup pot on medium to high heat, add a little oil and add your sausage. Break it up into tiny pieces with a wooden spoon and brown it.Add in the fennel seeds now if you’re using them. 

Add onions and garlic and saute for 2 minutes. 

Then add the carrots, celery and peppers. Stir and let cook for another 2 minutes. 

Then add zucchini and your can of tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir all the ingredients together.

Add in the beans and turn the heat up on the pot. 

Add in any chicken broth or stock you have on hand. You can also use veggie instead. 

Bring it up to a boil. Then reduce. Let the soup cook with the lid cracked. You then have two options with the pasta.

Either 1)  bring your soup up to a low boil and add the pasta in 10 minutes before you’re ready to eat or 2) boil your pasta separately in hot water and add to each dish based on how much you want.

I tend to prefer option 2 only because the noodles will soak up a lot of your broth otherwise. But sometimes option 1 is just easier. Have extra chicken broth on hand in case your broth gets soaked up.

The soup is really ready at any time because all the ingredients are cooked through, but I like to let it simmer for at least a half hour to let all the flavors meld. Then eat with fresh basil and parmigiano cheese.

Enjoy!

Grilled Mexican Street Corn

Mexican street corn has recently gained popularity and when it started popping up on food shows and then local restaurants I was hooked. It’s a quick and easy recipe to make. When one of our legislators brought bags of fresh corn into the office from his farm, I immediately knew what I was doing with it.


Ingredients:

  • Fresh corn on the cob
  • About 1 tbsp Fresh cilantro, cleaned and chopped
  • 1-2 limes, juiced
  • 1 spoonful of mayo (more to taste)
  • Cotija cheese (You can use feta crumbles as substitute if you can’t find cotija)
  • Dash cayenne pepper
  • Salt & Pepper


Instructions:

  • Grill your corn, rotating it to get black marks on all sides (about 7 minutes or so total). You can choose to rub some olive oil on it before placing on the grill but not necessary.
  • Mix a spoonful of mayo with the juice of 1-2 fresh limes. You want it a little soupy so you can drizzle it over your corn. Add salt & pepper and combine well.
  • Plate your corn, drizzle the mayo and lime juice mixture over the top. Then add cheese crumbles.
  • Top with cilantro and a few dashes of cayenne pepper (more if you like it spicy!)
  • That’s it- it’s that simple. Eat and enjoy. It’s a great side dish to tacos, enchilladas, baked chiles rellenos, fajitas or my oven baked chicken & avocado taquitos (recipe coming soon-photo below). See my Mexican recipes here. 

You can also cut the corn off the cob and use the same ingredients to make a salad. Both ways are delicious! 

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.

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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.

Tuscan Braised Beef Short Ribs

This meal is something you would order in a restaurant and it would come with a hefty price tag. If you make it at home, it’s much less expensive and surprisingly not difficult. The beef short ribs are an inexpensive cut of beef and all you need is time to make it happen! On a snowy Saturday this was a perfect dish to warm us up. Kyle gave this dish rave reviews and said it was in his top 5 meals that I have ever made. The nice thing about this recipe, is if you have leftovers (we did) you can make tacos, grilled cheese, pasta, etc. using the beef and sauce. It’s extremely versatile and downright delicious: the beef falls right off the bone. I served the short ribs over polenta, which I made with salt, fresh cracked pepper and lots of grated parmesan cheese. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Once you get the technique down, you can turn this into a Mexican dish (add chipotle peppers, cilantro, etc) or a sweet/heat Asian dish (fresh ginger, soy sauce, hoison sauce, sriracha, orange zest, scallions, etc.) by mixing up the ingredients.

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Ingredients:

  • 5 pounds bone-in short ribs
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 1 leek, diced (optional, you can use a full onion instead)
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1-2 pieces of fennel, diced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2-3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 bottle red wine (I used San Giovese)
  • 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes and juice
  • 3-4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • Fresh oregano
  • Fresh parsley
  • 1 bay leaves
  • Beef stock
  • Kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper

Directions:

Take your beef out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Pat them with paper towels until their dry and season with salt & pepper. Set your oven to 350 degrees.

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After all your vegetables are chopped, heat 1 tbsp of oil on high. Once your pan is hot, turn the heat down to medium high and add your meat. Be careful not to add to many ribs at a time as you don’t want to crowd the pan. I seared them in 2 batches. If you crowd the pan and the beef starts steaming you won’t get a nice brown crust. Using tongs, turn them on each side, roughly 3 minutes or so per side, or until they are nice and brown.

Since there is a lot of fat on these ribs, you will start to see lots of oil in the pan. I periodically used tongs and soaked up some of the grease with paper towels. Or you can wait until you are done searing and pour out some of the oil. Reserve about 1 tbsp to saute your veggies.

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When you are done searing all your meat put them to the side.

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Add your veggies into the pan and saute for a few minutes. Then create a little well in the middle. Stir the tomato paste with a whisk vigorously for 30 seconds, then add your flour. Mix all the veggies together. They should have a nice thick coating on them which will help thicken your sauce.

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Add your wine, worcestershire sauce, salt & pepper and bring to a boil. Then let the wine simmer and wait for it to reduce by almost half. The sauce will get nice and thick. Then add your can of tomatoes.

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I chose to use an immersion blender in just half of the pan so the sauce thickened a bit more and that way you don’t have a ton of vegetables on your plate. You can skip this step.

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Add in the beef broth until the ribs are almost covered. Add in whatever herbs you like – I chose 2 twigs of fresh oregano and 1 bay leaf. Bring to a boil, cover tight, and put in the oven.

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After about 3 hours, your pan will look like this! The meat was so tender, it fell completely off some of the bones before I even picked one up.

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Serve over your cheesy polenta or a pasta like paparadelle or egg  noodles. Sprinkle some fresh chopped parsley and dig in.

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Baked Chicken Egg Rolls

I love coming up with game time food during football season. Something about the fall and watching sports on Sunday that really makes me want some delicious homemade food. I’ve never met anyone that doesn’t like an egg roll and I figured it was worth trying some out to see if you can make them with out putting them in a deep fryer. Were they as good? No. But they were still crunchy on the outside and full of flavor in the middle. Plus you can use any ingredients you want–an Italian twist, an Asian twist, a Mexican twist… sky is the limit. I had limited ingredients on hand and certainly wish I had some fresh ginger to add but these were good nonetheless. Try ’em out using your favorite flavors!

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Ingredients:

-1 link of organic chicken sausage with casing removed or ground chicken

-1/2 red onion

-Fresh cilantro

-4 Won Ton wrappers

-Chinese cabbage, sliced thin

-1 Red pepper, julienned

For the Sauce:
-Sriracha sauce to taste

-Corn starch (optional)

-Soy sauce

– 1/2 TBSP honey

-Salt & pepper

Instructions:

For the Sauce:
-Combine a few tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tbsp of honey and sriracha (to taste) in a bowl. Mix well. Heat up in sauce pan or in the microwave. Add corn starch to thicken. Set aside for dipping later.

-Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

-Saute chicken and onions until the chicken is browned and onions are softened.

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Cut your cabbage and red pepper in thin strips.

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Place the chicken, cabbage and peppers towards the edge of your won ton. Dip your finger in water and wet the edges of all sides of the won ton. Roll the wrapper and fold in the sides as you continue rolling. Pinch the edges and wet again if necessary to be sure they stick together.

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On a baking sheet, drizzle some olive or vegetable oil (I used both). Roll your egg rolls in the oil so they are covered.

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Place in the oven to bake for roughly 15 minutes or until the egg rolls are golden brown. Dip in sauce and enjoy some football! Pretty simple, no?

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Baked Eggplant, Tomato and Mozzarella Stack

I was somewhat complaining earlier today because all I had in my fridge for dinner was an eggplant and I didn’t feel like going to the store. I ended my night however with a meal that Kyle said was in my top 5 of all time. (Woo hoo!) I was able to pick some tomatoes right out of my aunt’s neighbor’s garden and somehow I came up with a healthy, heavenly, fresh summer dinner.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Eggplant
  • 2 ripe tomatoes
  • Fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped (optional)
  • Fresh chopped parsley (optional)
  • Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • Whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
  • Balsamic glaze
  • Olive oil spray
  • Salt  & pepper

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Instructions:

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.

Cut your eggplant into thick slices.

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Whisk the egg in a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Add your breadcrumb mixture to another shallow bowl. Add fresh chopped garlic and parsley if you have it on hand- if you are using seasoned italian breadcrumbs it’s not necessary.  I also added some salt and pepper.  Then add oil to the breadcrumb mixture to wet it a bit. Since we aren’t frying the eggplant, wetting the breadcrumbs will help them crisp up in the  oven.

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Place each slice of eggplant in the egg mixture and then into the breadcrumbs. Coat it well. Then place on a baking sheet lined with tin foil and sprayed with oil so they don’t stick.

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After about 15 minutes turn the oven to broil so the breadcrumbs start to brown. Then turn the eggplant over and do the same to the other side. Spray with more oil if necessary.

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Slice your tomatoes and mozzarella into thick slices.

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I placed some fresh arugula on the plate (an optional step). Then layer the eggplant, tomato, mozzarella and drizzle some balsamic glaze. Repeat steps until the stack can’t grow anymore.

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Dig in with a knife and fork. It may get messy but don’t let that stop you.

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Portabella Pizza

Want to eat pizza without all the carbs? Instead of using dough, buy some large portabella mushroom caps. They can hold a lot of toppings, they cook well in the toaster oven (or on the grill) and they pair wonderfully with all the traditional pizza ingredients. Tonight’s mushroom pizza was one of my favorites so I thought I would share it. Plus, Kyle loved it, and when he loves something healthy I know I’ve done it right. You can make any kind of pizza toppings and cheeses you can imagine.  While I was making the topping for this pizza I also reserved half to put over whole wheat pasta for lunch the next day. So this recipe can make 4 portabellas or, 2 portabellas and a lunch portion of pasta.

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Ingredients:

-4 large portabella mushrooms

-2 spicy Italian chicken sausages from whole foods

-2 garlic cloves

-1 fresh tomato, diced

-About 1 cup of tomato sauce (you can just use a can of diced tomatoes instead of the combination of fresh and sauce but I didn’t have any)

-1/4 or so of red wine

-Fresh chopped basil

-Mozzarella

-Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Saute your red onions in olive oil in a hot pan until they start to caramelize. Cut your chicken sausage out of the casing and add to the pan. Let it brown on all sides. Using a potato masher will help grind the chicken up in to small pieces. Then add garlic. Let the mixture cook until the sausage is browned and mostly cooked.

Add the red wine and let reduce. Using your spoon, scrape the grits off the bottom of the plan. They have tons of flavor.

Get your toaster oven heating up to about 350 on bake.

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Add the fresh tomatoes, basil and tomato sauce. Let simmer for a few minutes. You want it to be a thicker sauce so it holds well in the mushroom. If it is too thin, add some tomato paste.  I used half of the mixture in the photo below to fill two large mushrooms, and saved the other half for pasta the next day. If you choose this option, add a bit more tomato sauce to the pan so the noodles have liquid to soak up. I recommend cooking the pasta now, adding it to the sauce and then putting it in the fridge for lunch the next day.

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Place your mushrooms on tinfoil and using a spoon scrape out the insides so they are easy to fill. Add the mixture.

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Top with your favorite cheeses! I sprinkled some parmesan, some shredded low fat mozz and I diced up some fresh mozz I had on hand. 20130805-201413.jpg

Cook in the oven until the cheese melts and turns golden brown. The mushrooms will release some liquid which is normal. Use a spatula to take the mushroom off the tinfoil and plate.

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Top with fresh basil and enjoy!!

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Get out your fork and knife and dig in! 🙂20130805-201554.jpg

Turn Zucchini Into Linguine

I bought a new kitchen toy! And I am REALLY excited about it. For $35 you can make pasta out of vegetables, too! This is a great way to eat pasta guilt-free and perhaps for the Moms out there, a great way to hide vegetables from your kids! And if you are gluten free this is a great substitute for pasta–certainly more nutritious AND tasty !

The machine I bought is made of plastic–this isn’t a high quality piece of kitchen machinery. If I’m being 100% honest, it was not the easiest to clean (according to Kyle). I’m sure you can buy a nice stainless steel one for a few hundred bucks. But this one does the job and the results were perfect. I highly recommend it! I can’t wait to try more vegetables and use all the different blades provided! Of course, more reviews and recipes will come 🙂

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So for starters, you are going to have to buy one of these. 

It’s really quite simple. I started by making a quick meat sauce. I have plenty of different pasta sauce recipes you could use for this. A pesto would even go really well!  Something to learn from my experience: we are used to making pasta and having the noodles soak up a lot of the liquid in our sauce. The vegetable will not do this, therefore I recommend making a thicker sauce than you might otherwise.

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Wash your zucchini and cut off the ends.

Insert the zucchini as shown and turn the handle. As you are turning the handle you will have to continually push the handle in so the zucchini stays locked into position. It’s not hard work. I used 4 zucchini, it took me about 10 minutes and it made dinner for two and leftovers for 2.

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As you are turning the handle, the zucchini will come out the side. I actually used kitchen scissors to cut some of the long strands or you would be twirling your fork for hours!

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Then I boiled it in salted water. I also added a dash of oil just in case the veggies wanted to stick together. I cooked it for maybe 3 or 4 minutes and then put in a strainer just as you would pasta.

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I topped with fresh basil and parmesan cheese, of course!

Try it for yourself and let me know how it goes!!

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Ancho Chicken Tacos with Red Cabbage Slaw and Avocado Crema

It’s taco night!! Kyle and I LOVE tacos. We have multiple restaurants nearby that serve fantastic tacos: Bodega in Darien, Molcajetes and Tacos Mexico in Norwalk and in Hartford, my coworkers and I love (almost) weekly trips to the Lucky Taco truck parked on Bushnell Park. Tacos are versatile, incredibly flavorful and the best part, are really not bad for you. (Okay, well if you stuff it with fried fish and lots of cheese, that’s another story).

I’ve made countless kinds of tacos: shrimp, steak, black bean & veggie…I could go on. But this week I was looking for a high protein and low-fat taco to compliment the T25 workout program Kyle and I are doing. So I used a skin less and boneless white meat chicken breast, red cabbage and an avocado crema topping.

I had to leave the house for a meeting before Kyle got home. I left the tacos out for him to eat and he texted me to say, “I ate 3, is that really bad??” I responded “Haha no; I also had 3”. And his response was “I feel like I was really bad…” meaning no way eating 3 tacos was a healthy choice! So, this proves to you they are delicious and don’t compromise on flavor. Now, let me prove to you that they are good for you.

For 3 of these tacos you are looking at roughly 450 calories, good fat from the avocado and a fresh vegetable. And you will be full. Kyle may have went on to eat 4 but who’s counting, and he’s allowed more calories. Dig in and enjoy 🙂

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Ingredients:

  • 2 boneless and skin less chicken breasts
  • 2 jalapenos (add one more if you like it hot!)
  • Fresh cilantro (maybe 1 cup? – just eyeball it people!)
  • 2 limes
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp reduced fat sour cream (optional ingredient)
  • 1/3 of a head of red cabbage
  • 2 tbsp red or white vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 tbsp or so of ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 tbsp lawrys seasoning
  • White corn tacos

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Avocado Crema:

Cut the jalapenos in half, lengthwise and remove the seeds and stems.

Place jalapenos, avocado, sour cream, cilantro, lime juice, garlic and salt and pepper in a blender and puree until smooth.

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Cabbage:

Slice the red cabbage into coleslaw-style strips. Add vinegar and salt and mix.

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Ancho Chicken:

I marinated my chicken overnight with ancho chili powder, lawry’s, pepper and a bit of extra virgin olive oil just to moisten the ingredients. If you use lawry’s you do not need to add more salt. The overnight marinade is an optional step. If you don’t have time, simply season the chicken before you cook it.

Sear the chicken on both sides of a hot pan to get a nice crust. Then add chicken broth or a squeeze of lime juice, place a lid over the pan and let cook on low heat.

When the chicken is close to being finished, remove from the pan and dice in tiny pieces on your cutting board. Then place back in the pan to be sure everything is cooked through.

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Build your tacos with each of the ingredients and enjoy them guilt-free!

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Chicken Sausage, Veggies and Tomato Sauce Over Whole Wheat Pasta

What to do when you are craving pasta but you’re trying to be good? Instead of having the pasta as the feature of your meal, use a portion more equivalent to a side. I had some Whole Foods Italian chicken sausage in my fridge and all I could think about was putting it over a large bowl of pasta and covered in parmesan cheese. With this recipe, you can have your cake and eat it too. I satisfied my craving by using lots of protein and fresh vegetables and didn’t overdo it on the carbs and fat.

This recipe yields 3 servings: Dinner for Kyle and I and lunch for me the next day!

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Ingredients:

  • 2 links Whole Foods Italian Chicken Sausage
  • 2 cups whole wheat pasta (I used rotini)
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Handful of spinach
  • Fresh chopped basil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Tomato Sauce (I used Jerry’s because it’s the only jarred sauce I will buy, it’s simply amazing! You can use your own sauce, or some canned diced tomatoes.)
  • 3 slices, fresh mozzarella

Instructions:

Put a pot of boiling water on, salt it and add your pasta. When your pasta is done, portion it out into the bowls and put a spoonful of sauce on each one so the sauce sticks to the pasta.

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You can choose to saute all of your ingredients in a pan, or grill all of your ingredients. Out of personal preference, I grilled the sausage and peppers and sautéed the onions and garlic in a pan.

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This is not a necessary step but I am funny about sausage. I like it to have a nice crunchy outside so I sliced it up and threw it on a pan to crisp up the edges.

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Do not dice your veggies into small pieces as you might normally would, instead cut them into larger bite sized pieces so they don’t get lost in the pasta. Remember, veggies and protein are the feature of this dish!

Now add your veggies to the pasta.

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Then add an even number of sausage pieces into each bowl. Finally, add some spinach to each bowl–as much as you’d like.

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Add a few more spoonfuls of tomato sauce to each bowl.

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Top with a slice of fresh mozzarella. Since all the ingredients are already warm, put the bowls under the broiler until the cheese turns golden brown and bubbly.

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I cooked two and put the third in the fridge to save for lunch tomorrow. When they come out, top with some fresh chopped basil and enjoy!

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Cod Fish & White Bean Cakes

I want to say up front that the thought of a “fish cake” is really unappealing to me. But don’t let the name of this recipe prevent you from trying it.

We bought some fresh cod at Whole Foods and wanted to make something different than your typical pan-seared fish with lemon and capers. While fried fish and chips or fried fish cakes are delicious, they really aren’t something we should eat on a regular basis. I searched Pinterest for cod fish recipes and countless photos of golden brown, deep-fried fish appeared. The photos of these cod cakes, despite the fact that their name irks me, caught my attention. By substituting white beans for the potatoes and a pan sear instead of a deep fry, we cut a lot of fat and carbs from this dish–but we didn’t lose out on flavor. This recipe is a perfect compliment to a summer night and a glass of wine!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb fresh Cod
  • 1/2 can white cannelini beans
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1/2 sweet onion
  • 2-3 stalks of celery
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 jar sweet pimiento peppers
  • 2 TBSP whole wheat panko bread crumbs
  • 2 TBSP Italian bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • Fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 dashes hot sauce (I used Franks)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Oil to spray on pan (I use a mixture of 75% canola and 25% olive oil)

Instructions:

Put your fish in a pan with about 1/2 inch of water. Put the lid on and cook at a low boil for roughly 5 minutes so the fish turns white. You don’t want to over cook it, just steam it so you don’t have to sear your cakes until the fish cooks through.

 

Chop your ingredients.

Cod

Saute in a pan for 2-3 minutes. (Don’t forget to salt them!)

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Set them aside to cool.

Place your beans and parsley in a food processor to give them a rough chop. You want them to have somewhat of a pasty texture so it holds the mixture together (remember we are substituting for potato).

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Place all of your cooled ingredients in a mixing bowl (fish, beans and vegetables) with the breadcrumbs.

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In a separate bowl, mix the egg with the hot sauce and add to your fish mixture. It’s okay if you leave a little egg in the bottom of the bowl. (I used that later to brush on the cakes before cooking.) Mix gently so not to break the fish up too much. You want to see healthy-sized chunks of fish in there! (Or at least I do).

Form the mixture into patties and place in the refrigerator to let them rest. I suppose you could cook them right away but they may fall apart on you.

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I opted to brush the cakes with leftover egg and hot sauce mixture and sprinkled some extra bread crumbs just to form a nice crust on the outside.

Sear on both sides until you get a nice brown crust. Mine did fall apart a little, I think due to the fact that I didn’t purée the bean mixture well enough.

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Last minute I realized I wanted a dipping sauce of some kind. I took some reduced fat sour cream and threw in some franks red hot sauce and added some cut up chives. It ended up pairing great but whatever sauce you want to use is fine! A tartar sauce would work great, too. Enjoy.

Italian Antipasto Crostini

In search of a new fun appetizer, I spent some time on Pinterest and Food Gawker this week. I was going to a coworker’s house for a BBQ after a 9 hole golf tournament so I needed something I could make in advance and pack in a cooler. I came up with a combination of ingredients that go together seamlessly after seeing many different inspirational dishes online. The key here is your ingredients must be fresh!! You can opt for a store-bought pesto but I don’t think it’s quite the same.

This is a multi-step recipe and a little time consuming (but you can multi-task) so I recommend you make extra of these ingredients. Keep them in the fridge to integrate in other meals throughout the week–especially the caramelized onions and pesto!

Serve to your guests with toasted slices of bread and let them assemble their own crostini masterpiece!

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Ingredients:

  • Fresh Basil
  • 3 bell peppers
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 log of goat cheese
  • 1 container of cherry tomatoes
  • 3 large sweet onions (more if you want extras)
  • 1/4 cup or so of pine nuts
  • Few tablespoons of parmesan cheese
  • Fresh arugula (1/2 cup)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 baguette cut into slices
  • Kosher sea salt & fresh cracked pepper
  • Balsamic glaze (highly recommend purchasing this even if it is pricey, it’s a great finishing sauce for many dishes)

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Roasted Tomatoes and Peppers

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Cut your cherry tomatoes in half and cut your peppers into small strips. Place on a cookie sheet lined with tinfoil (less cleanup) and add olive oil until the vegetables glisten. Add salt & pepper and mix well. Place in the oven for 2 hours. (If you don’t have as much time you can turn your oven to a higher degree like 350 for an hour.) Taste your pepper to make sure it’s soft and sweet. If you bite into a pepper and there is a crunch, they are not ready.

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Caramelized Onions:

Caramelized onions can be made at any time and kept in the fridge for sweet and savory additions to meals throughout the week. Cut your onions into thin strips (for guidance click here). Place in a hot pan with olive oil and season with salt. Cook on medium to high so they brown (be careful not to burn!). You can’t over cook them on low heat-they only get sweeter. About 20-30 minutes is a good time frame for a delicious final product.

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Pesto:

Fill the food processor to the top with fresh basil and then add oil, salt, pepper, pine nuts and a bit of arugula (optional). Turn it on for a few seconds to get most of the mixture combined. Then add cheese and combine again.

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Plating:

Make sure all your ingredients are cooled. Add the roasted tomatoes and peppers to the outside of your dish. If you place a bowl in the center it will help guide you. Then add onions still leaving a place in the middle for your pesto. After you spoon in your pesto mixture (don’t be shy to pile it in there – people looove pesto) then top with your log of goat cheese. I recommend cutting your goat cheese into pieces to make it easier. Serve with toasted bread.

Give your guests a spoon and let them make their own crostini!

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Basil and Pistachio Nut Pesto Grilled Chicken

With the arrival of warm weather, the grills start firing up. Walking around my condo complex I can smell the different meats and marinades-it makes my mouth water! The grill is great for healthy eating and it gives flavor to your proteins and veggies that cannot be substituted on the stove.

While Kyle was out golfing last weekend and the sun was shining, I decided to surprise him with a healthy lunch. My basil plant was overgrown but I didn’t have the traditional pesto ingredients. After looking around my kitchen I came up with a substitute that did the trick.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 onion cut in 4 thick slices
  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 10 or so pistachio nuts
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Juice from 1/2 of 1 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of parmesan cheese (or more if you’d like)

pesto

Place all the ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth.

Brush the pesto on the chicken and onions and place on the grill (just a thin layer).

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When your chicken and veggies are done, immediately smother them in pesto so it really takes on the flavor.
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Serve with a fork and knife.

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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Spinach Stuffed Filet of Sole

This is a very straightforward dish inspired by Italian flavors and made for the fish lover. It’s very easy to make and you can adapt the stuffing ingredients to whatever your heart desires! It’s also very healthy and satisfying.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 4 pieces filet of sole
  • Fresh spinach
  • 1 shallot
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 tbsp of whole wheat bread crumbs (optional)
  • olive oil for sauteing
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Salt & pepper
  • Tomato sauce (2 or so cups of your favorite!)
  • Fresh basil

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Heat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Heat up a pan with olive oil and add red pepper flakes to infuse the oil. Add onions and then garlic until translucent (3-5 minutes).
  • Saute the spinach and add the onion mixture and breadcrumbs. Cook for about 3 minutes and then set aside to cool.

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  • Lay your fish flat and season with salt and pepper. Divide your spinach stuffing into 4 parts (for the 4 pieces of fish) and spoon the mixture on the end of your fish.

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  • Gently roll the fish and place in the baking dish.

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Add your tomato sauce (enough to just cover the fish) and sprinkle with fresh basil.

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  • Cover your pan with tin foil and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes.

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Spicy Italian Baked Zucchini Chips

I often am looking for a salty and crunchy snack in the afternoon or after dinner late night. Sweets don’t do it for me: I need the salt. Given that zucchini is a vegetable and you are baking them (rather than frying) this recipe is a smart alternative to the typical fried potato chip or goldfish (my personal favorite). You can modify these any way you’d like but I opted for a thicker slice so it would be crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside and I added lots of red pepper flakes for a real kick.  This recipe is a hefty snack for 2 people, double it if you are making for a group. It’s also great to make as an appetizer.  As per usual, I didn’t measure when I created this recipe so go with your gut when proportioning out the various ingredients in the bread crumb mixture. Enjoy!

Zucchini Chips

Zucchini Chips

Ingredients:

  • 1 zucchini, washed and sliced roughly 1/4 thick
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 or so tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat panko break crumbs (or whatever kind you have/prefer)
  • hefty sprinkling of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp non fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 egg white
  • salt & pepper
  • Olive oil

breadcrumbs

Instructions:

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees
  • Brush a layer of olive oil or vegetable oil to a cookie sheet
  • Combine egg white and yogurt in a shallow bowl and combine well
  • Combine bread crumbs, salt & pepper, red pepper flakes, cheese, garlic, parsley in a shallow bowl
  • Coat your zucchini slices in the yogurt mixture and then transfer to bread crumbs

yogurt

  • Place the slices on your cookie sheet. Using your misto, spray the slices with olive oil to dampen the bread crumbs.

Ready for oven

  • Bake at 400 until golden brown (about 20 minutes)
  • Serve with your favorite sauce

Italian Baked Zucchini Chips

Shrimp Fried Quinoa

Fried rice is one of my favorite take out items. I can’t imagine it’s that great for you so why not put a healthy quick on it and make it at home. I  made this “fried rice” with quinoa and lots of veggies. Feel free to use any vegetables you like or have on hand. This can also be made with chicken or any other kind of protein. Enjoy!

Shrimp Fried Quinoa

Ingredients:

  • Shrimp, cleaned and deveined, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • Peas
  • Fresh ginger
  • 3 scallions, diced
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 stalks of celery or bok choy, chopped
  • 1-2 tsp sesame oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • salt & pepper
  • A few tbsp soy sauce (to taste)
  • 1/2 tbsp sriracha sauce (more for a spicier kick)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds (optional)

Seasonings are optional. Fresh cilantro would work well. I have a Chinese dried seasoning blend that I use

Veggies
Chopped veggies
Fresh grated ginger
Fresh grated ginger
Shrmp
Cleaned, deveined, and chopped frozen shrimp

Instructions

  • Add sesame and vegetable oil to a wok and turn to high heat
  • Add onion and scallions to the hot pan and saute for 1-2 minutes
  • Add your egg to the middle of the pan, season with salt and pepper

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  •  Add the garlic and the rest of veggies and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the shrimp, season with salt and pepper and fresh ginger. Then immediately add the quinoa. (the shrimp will only need 3-5 minutes to cook)

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  • Add sriracha to taste and mix well.  Then serve!

Shrimp Fried Quinoa

Black Bean Soup

Black bean soup has been on my food bucket list for a while now. (Yes, I have a food bucket list– which includes foods that I have never attempted to make. i.e. crab cakes, sushi, homemade ravioli, etc). Black beans are good for you and I happen to love them. And loving black beans is clearly a pre-requisite for making this soup. It’s easy to make and it’s a low-calorie, healthy anytime meal/snack (Kyle and I calculated a hefty bowl being under 300 calories). If you puree the entire batch (instead of adding ingredients back in for a hearty more chunky soup), it can be used as a delicious sauce on top of chicken or in a burrito. I know the photo doesn’t exactly make you salivate but I promise it’s good, real good. There were two ingredients I didn’t have in my house which I highly recommend adding; fresh lime juice for some acidity and fresh cilantro for a finishing touch.

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INGREDIENTS:
-4 cans organic black beans
-3-4 cloves of garlic
-1 red bell pepper
-1 Spanish onion
-Olive oil (for sauteing)
-1 Anaheim chile pepper (a jalapeño or other hot pepper of your preference is fine)

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-Broth – chicken, vegetable or beef is fine. It’s a matter of preference. I used vegetable because I had it on hand. I used about 1 box.
-Squirt of tomato paste (optional)
-Seasonings: Salt, Pepper, Ancho chili powder, cumin, oregano
-Optional Toppings: reduced fat sour cream, cheese, avocado, cilantro

INSTRUCTIONS:
-In a large soup pan on med-high heat, add chopped onions with salt and pepper. Let cook for about 1-2 minutes. Add in the peppers and garlic. Stir and let cook for another minute.
-Add the strained and rinsed black beans to the pot and mix well (personal preference, not necessary). Season with salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin and oregano. Stir again making sure everything is evenly coated. Let cook for a few minutes.

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-Take about 2/3 of the ingredients out and put in a small bowl to the side.
-Add your broth of choice. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.

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-Using your hand held mixer puree the soup until smooth. If you feel your soup is not thick enough add some tomato paste or if its too thick add more broth. (If you don’t have a hand held mixer, you can pour half of your soup into the blender)

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-Add the mixture you set aside back into the soup bowl and let simmer until you are ready to eat.
-Serve with a small scoop of reduced fat sour cream, a slice of avocado, a sprinkle of Mexican cheese and topped with fresh chopped cilantro. You can use any or all of these toppings. I happen to think the avocado added a creamy and decadent flavor to the soup. 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.

garlic and shallot

Add the broccoli and butter.

broccoli

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)


Squash
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

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken

Sometimes it’s hard to figure out what to do with chicken. It can get boring. One night after staring in my fridge for a few minutes analyzing ingredients I put together this pretty quick meal. It can be varied with different flavors. I went Greek but you can certainly use any kind of cheese you like. The nice thing about this dish it is pretty healthy as feta is better for you than some of the more fattening cheeses.

Ingredients:

  • Thick chicken breasts
  • Spinach
  • Crumbled Feta Cheese
  • Half an onion
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • Kosher Salt & Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Toothpicks

Directions:

  • Saute onions and garlic in a pan with a tbsp of olive oil. Cook until translucent. Add spinach and cook for 1 minute. Add this mixture into a small bowl and combine with the feta cheese. Incorporate all ingredients.

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350.
  • Using a sharp knife, cut a slit in your chicken breasts with out going all the way through. Using a small spoon, add the mixture into the center of the chicken. Really pack it in there and close your chicken with a toothpick.

  • Season your chicken with salt and pepper.
  • Turn a saute pan on medium high with olive oil. Sear both sides of the chicken until brown (about 3 minutes per side).

  • Pour the leftover juices from the pan in the baking dish with the chicken. Add some chicken broth if you have it on hand to give the chicken some juices to cook in. You could also use some white wine.  Cover with tin foil and cook for 30-40 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  • Serve with rice pilaf and enjoy!

French Onion Soup with Truffle-Salted Croutons and Gruyere CheeseS

French onion soup is one of the only soups Kyle will enjoy so it’s a natural go to on a fall or winter day. There are many ways to make this soup and I tried to lighten it up by using half the amount of butter normally used. Substituting with a tablespoon of olive oil is a good way to cut down on some of the fat. It’s obviously not an overall light dish but this recipe won’t make you feel like you ate a pound of butter and cheese when you are done.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 sweet onions and 2 yellow onions (or a mixture of your favorites), thinly sliced
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 2 tbsp or so of olive oil
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Beef stock and chicken stock: 1.5-2 quarts in total (traditionally the soup is made with beef stock but I lighten it up by using half and half)
  • Red wine (roughly a cup or so)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Fresh chopped thyme
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • Sliced and toasted French bread
  • Grated Gruyère cheese, enough to cover the top of your bowl
  • Few sprinkles truffle salt

INSTRUCTIONS

1 In a large saucepan, melt the butter and add olive oil on medium to high heat. Add the onions, salt, pepper, bay leaf and fresh thyme. Sauté the onions until they caramelize, about 30 minutes. Stir the onions occasionally.

2 Add 3/4 cup of red wine and bring to a boil. Then lower heat and let the wine reduce to at least half. You want most of the liquid to be gone. Discard the bay leaf.

3 Add the flour and cook on low heat for 5-10 minutes. Make sure not to burn the flour but you want to cook off the flavor.

4 Add the remaining wine, beef and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce and let simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5 Set your oven to broil. Ladle the soup into bowls. Cover with the toast you previously sprinkled with truffle salt. Top with the cheese. Put under the broiler for 5 minutes or until the cheese bubbles and is slightly browned. For a fresh garnish add chopped chives or parsley. Serve immediately.

Caramelized Onion Tomato Sauce

My friend Sarah participated in a CSA this year that gives her locally grown produce every week. She gave me a bag of tomatoes she couldn’t get through that were absolutely delicious. It’s rare to get a really good tomato anymore so when I do, I will usually just sprinkle salt on it and eat it like an apple! But since I had this big bag of beautiful tomatoes and not much in the fridge, I decided to make a quick sauce for lunch this weekend. It’s fresh from the garden- a little bit sweet and creamy balanced by a dash of spice!

I will apologize in advance for the photo quality as my iPhone camera has taken a turn for the worse. Hopefully this will be remedied soon!

INGREDIENTS:

  • Whole Wheat Penne
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • 1 sweet onion
  • 2-3 cloves, garlic
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • Fresh basil
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tbsp (or so) vodka (could substitute with white wine or red if you take out the balsamic)
  • dash of cream or half and half
  • red pepper flakes (to taste)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Slice your onions very thin and put them in a pan with oil. Cook on medium to high for 30 or so minutes. The longer they cook, the sweeter they will get!

  • Put a pot of boiling water on for the pasta. When it comes to a boil add the penne and cook until al dente. It should take about the same amount of time to finish the sauce.
  • Add your diced tomatoes to the pot. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Grate one carrot into the pan. It will take away the bitterness of the tomatoes and add hearty flavor. (I often throw a whole carrot in my pot of sauce while its cooking and remove it before serving.) Then add the chopped garlic.

  • Pour in vodka and raise the heat, let it come to a boil and then lower to simmer and reduce. Add balsamic vinegar and red pepper flakes. Let cook for a few minutes.

  • Add a spoonful or two of water from the pasta if you need some more liquid in the pan. Put the sauce on low.
  • Pour in a touch of cream and stir.
  • Add in the pasta to the pot of sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and fresh chopped basil.
  • Eat and enjoy!

Potato Salad Two Ways

I love the summertime for all the fresh produce readily accessible. Fairfield county has numerous farmers markets and many of my family members have their own gardens.

This weekend we went to Kyle’s parents house and his mom sent me home with a large shopping bag full of red potatoes, onions, cucumbers, kale and string beans from their garden. My mom also just brought me a large bag of hot peppers from her garden. After seeing all the ingredients at my disposal I decided to make potato salad two ways. The first was a warm Italian style potato salad with roasted hot peppers, string beans and oil and vinegar.  Because Kyle doesn’t like as much heat as I do, I made him the old-fashioned style recipe. The first is warm in temperature and hot in flavor, the other is cold, creamy and crunchy.

Ingredients

Warm Italian Potato Salad:

  • Red Potatoes, boiled until fork tender and cut in large pieces
  • 1/4 Red Onion, sliced thin
  • Hot Peppers
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Olive Oil
  • Dried Oregano
  • Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder
  • String Beans
  • Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • Celery salt

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Place your hot peppers in a baking dish.  Add a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Sprinkle with a fair amount of salt, pepper, garlic powder and oregano.  Mix well, cover with tinfoil and let roast for at least an hour.  You really can’t over cook them.

Set the hot peppers aside. Cut up 3 peppers and add to a large mixing bowl. (Save the extra peppers in your fridge for later use on sandwiches, with eggs, over a nice pork chop, etc.)

Place string beans in the same pan the peppers were in. Mix the string beans in the sauce and add a drop of water. Place in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or you can add them to a saute pan and cook that way.  I like the string beans to be the crunch in the salad so I don’t cook them any further than that.  Pour the entire dish with sauce into the mixing bowl.

Add the potatoes. Then sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder and celery salt.

American Potato Salad:

  • Red Potatoes, boiled until fork tender and cut in large pieces
  • White onion, diced thin (normally I use red onion but I couldn’t turn down these fresh onions!)
  • Salt & Fresh Cracked Pepper
  • 3-4 Celery Stalks
  • Celery Salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Light Mayo
  • 1 tbsp Reduced Fat Sour Cream

Instructions

Chop celery into bite sized pieces. Add to large mixing bowl with the potatoes.

Add mayonnaise, sour cream, salt, pepper, celery salt, parsley and onion. Mix well.

Eggplant Balls

Italians are very familiar with meatballs, it’s part of our vocab from the time we can form words. “Eggplant balls” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. They could really use a new name. But ever since I saw Giada make these I couldn’t get them off my mind. They are crunchy on the outside, tender and packed with fresh flavors from Italy on the inside. I don’t know why I’ve never made these before. My sister (the photographer) and I had a lot of fun making this dish! Wine helps.

I’ve never used a deep fryer before and I try to be healthy, but you can’t beat the color and texture a nice deep fry provides. I will try baking them the next time for a healthier spin, but for a splurge, this recipe was perfect and delicious. Here is the link to Giada’s recipe which I did modify.

Ingredients

2 Eggplants:

  • Olive oil spray
  • Eggplants cut in half, ends trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper

Filling:

  • 1 cup grated pecorino cheese
  • 1 cup Italian plain breadcrumbs, plus extra, as needed
  • Fresh chopped basil leaves
  • 1 large egg
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • A handful or so of fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Small mozzarella balls (optional)

Sauce:

  • 2 cups jarred marinara or tomato sauce (I do not like jarred sauce with one exception. Jerry’s sauce. See the photo below. It’s better than sauces I have in most restaurants.)
  • 3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spray a small baking sheet or baking dish with cooking spray. Place the eggplant, cut-side up, on the prepared baking sheet. Make 1/2-inch-deep slits over the surface of the eggplant halves using a paring knife. Spray with the olive oil and bake until golden and tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes.

For the filling: Scoop out the inside of the eggplant, using a spoon, and place in a food processor. Blend until the eggplant is smooth.

Add the cheese, breadcrumbs, basil, garlic, salt, pepper and parsley to a bowl and mix well.

Add the egg and eggplant. The mixture should be thick enough to form into balls. Add more breadcrumbs as needed. We made 15 balls out of the mixture, but we made them the size of meatballs. If you want these as an appetizer you could make them smaller.

We added an extra twist that Giada didn’t call for in her original recipe. We thought it would be fun to stuff these with a small mozzarella ball so there was a cheesy surprise on the inside.

For the sauce: Bring the marinara and red pepper flakes to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep warm over low heat until ready to serve. This is the amazing sauce I was telling you about. And it is now sold at Whole Foods. It’s worth every penny. Trust me.

Pour oil into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan to fill the pan enough to cover the balls. Heat the oil over medium heat until it starts to roll. (Giada says if you don’t have a thermometer, a cube of bread will brown in about 4 minutes. We just threw a piece of garlic in to see if it was ready) In batches, fry the eggplant balls until golden, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Serve the fried eggplant with marinara sauce and the grated pecorino cheese. We enjoyed them with a nice big plate of pasta! What’s better than spaghetti and fried eggplant balls? We forgot to take a photo of our dinner plates because well, we were too busy stuffing our faces. Enjoy!