Monday, September 24, 2012

Welcome Back!

Please accept my apologies for my absence... we've had quite a whirlwind past 10 months... 
In December, this happened: 
 Oh, and this...

 Then in August, this happened :)

Needless to say, we've been very busy here in our home, and I haven't had much time to devote to cooking, let alone, blogging the times when I do.
I'm going to make an attempt to continue, but bear with me as we all adjust to our new lifestyle with our beautiful baby girl!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Easy Pasta Carbonara

Nothing says "I love you" like bacon and comfort food, right? This Valentine's day, here's an easy dish that won't keep you in the kitchen too long. And if you're feeling really loving, you can replace the turkey bacon with the real deal...
Here's the recipe online, but just for saving you time:
You'll need:
1 package of wheat penne pasta
3/4 c soy milk
2 whole eggs
1/2 c Parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp butter
8 slices turkey bacon (cooked until crunchy, then chopped)
red pepper flakes
sprinkle of Pizza/Pasta Magic by Paul Prudhomme (if you have it, otherwise, add some Italian spices)

First, cook the bacon and the pasta.

Next, whisk together all ingredients except the turkey bacon in a large bowl

As soon as the pasta is done, drain it, and immediately place it back into the pot, adding the Parmesan mixture and the chopped turkey (or real) bacon. The heat from the cooked pasta will cook the eggs, but I'm neurotic, so I heated it in the pot again for a couple of minutes (just make sure to stir it).

My husband ate his the way it was, but I had some leftover baked red pepper and zucchini slices that I needed to use so I just added them on top. Feel free to add whatever other vegetables you like, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, real tomatoes...This dish will lend its flavor to a lot.

For Valentine's Day, we are cooking in. I haven't decided on my menu yet, but I know that this Double-Chocolate Pudding will be the definite dessert!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ricotta Stuffed Shells

This one, I completely improvised... and it turned out to be delicious!
You'll need:
Pasta shells
1 carton Ricotta cheese
1-2 egg(s)
1 bag of Italian shredded cheese
ground turkey
other of your favorite Italian spices
tomato sauce (in a jar)

Start by boiling the pasta shells, then I let them cool in the sink (make sure you don't skip this step because you'll burn your fingers when you try and stuff them otherwise)
Preheat your oven to 350.
Next, brown your turkey and add some oregano, S&P, Italian seasoning, or whatever else you like in your Italy dishes
Mix your Ricotta and Italian cheeses (I used about 1/2 c of the shredded stuff), and the egg(s) with more Italian seasoning.
Add the ground turkey
Stuff the shells and arrange in a pan or casserole dish
Cover with sauce and sprinkle more cheese on top.
Bake at 350 for around 30 minutes, and you're done!

Apricot Baked Chicken

Since I am trying to make up for my prolonged holiday hiatus, here is one of a few recipes I can share with you all this week!
I found this recipe in the most recent issue of Cooking Light, and they name it as "Double Plum Baked Chicken". However, my grocery had not yet received plums for the season, so my recipe turned into Apricot Baked Chicken.
You'll need:
1 tbsp olive oil
2 sliced shallots
2 tsp peeled ginger minced
1/2 c white wine (or red, whatever you have in your house)
3/4 c fat-free, low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp chile paste
1 tsp ground mustard
3 or 4 of your favorite sweet fruit (you could sub peaches, plums, apricots, whatever's fresh)
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
salt and pepper

I started by preheating my oven to 425.
Next, I used my saucepan, and heated some olive oil, then added the shallots and ginger and sauteed them until they were fragrant.
I added some white wine (the recipe calls for plum wine, but I didn't waste my time or money trying to find it in the store), and brought all of that to a boil.
I cooked that and let it simmer, then added the broth, chili paste, and mustard, and boiled it.
Cook it until it reduces to about 3/4 of a cup (or more if you like sauce), then stir in your fruit (face down so they absorb the flavor).

I headed my cast-iron skillet and added some olive oil.
While that was working, I sprinkled the chicken with some S&P on both sides.
Next, saute the chicken for a few minutes per side (until it browns).

Next, pour the fruit mixture over the chicken, and bake it for around 6-8 minutes, or until your chicken is cooked.

This made a really easy weeknight meal, and tasted delicious with some mashed sweet potatoes!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Apple and Cornbread Stuffed Pork Loin

I wanted to branch out a little this week, and hadn't had my fill of stuffing over Thanksgiving. So after combing through several recipes, this one sounded best to me. I thought the ingredients were simple, and the steps did not look too intense. It turned out to be relatively easy, with an impressive appearance at the end!

You'll need:
Olive oil
1 chopped onion
Chopped celery
Black pepper
Diced apples (pick your favorite, I used Gala)
1 1/2 c boxed cornbread stuffing
1 1/3 c apple cider
1 large egg
1 boneless pork loin
More apples, if you wish
Corn starch
Chicken broth

1. Preheat the oven to 450
2. The recipe calls to heat cooking oil, but I prefer to cook onion in olive oil. Heat olive oil and add onion, celery, and pepper, then cook for around 10 minutes (or until your onions are see-through)
3. Add the apples to your mixture and cook about a minute more
4. Take the mixture out of the pot, and let it cool for a few minutes. Next, add the stuffing mix, 1/3 c of apple cider, the egg, and whatever spices you choose (I used Italian seasoning).

5. Butterfly the pork (Ok, I bought the bone-in loin, so that was a whole other battle...I started by cutting the bone out, then I started at the thickest side of the pork and cut almost all the way in half...Next, I opened it out, like a book, and did the same thing from the center, outward)
You can read the directions in the recipe link, or watch this video for further instruction
6. Next, place Saran Wrap over the pork, and pound it out so that it's thinner and easier to roll when you're ready.
7. Season the pork with some garlic salt; spread the stuffing mixture over the pork.

8. Roll the pork like a jelly roll, and secure it with kitchen twine, about every inch or two, to ensure it doesn't come apart
9. Spray your broiler pan (see my makeshift one, below) with cooking spray
10. Place the rolled pork on the pan, and bake for 20 minutes (or so, watch it!!), then, without removing the pork, lower the oven to 325.
11. Bake for about 1 hr or 1 hr and 15 minutes depending on how much your pork weighs
12. When the pork is almost done, heat a pot and add 1 c apple cider or apple juice, 1 can of chicken broth, and the cornstarch- heat until it boils, then let it cook until it reduces to about half of what you started with- this makes a great complimentary sauce.

I had some leftover stuffing, so I put it in the oven with the pork for the last few minutes, and served it on the side. The recipe also called to cook the pork over some sliced apples- if you have a functional broiler pan and more apples than I did, then go ahead and place them at the bottom of the pork (and let me know how it turns out!).
I sliced the pork into 1 1/2" (or so) pieces, and served with sauce, and a side of baked sweet potatoes, and it made a great, healthy weeknight meal.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Whole Wheat, Three-Cheese Lasagna

I was bored today, and it was really dreary outside, so I decided to throw together a lasagna. It was easy because I could assemble it, then refrigerate it until we were about an hour away from being ready for dinner (great for guests because of this, too).
If you want, you can use this recipe (I've done it before and it's fabulous), but for mine...

You'll need:
1 1/2 packages whole wheat lasagna noodles (uncooked)
15 oz 1/2 fat ricotta
2 eggs
1 bunch of parsley
Italian seasoning/oregano
1 bag of mozzarella
1 package chicken or turkey sausage
1 medium onion (chopped)
chopped garlic
1 jar tomato sauce

I started by putting into the food processor: ricotta cheese, parsley, basil (about 4-5 leaves), oregano, italian seasoning, and 2 eggs.

My family recipe calls to make your own sauce, but I just wasn't up for it today, so I bought some in a jar.

I sauteed the chopped onion in some olive oil until it was translucent, then added the chicken sausage, garlic, and some more Italian seasoning.

Next, I added the jar of tomato sauce, and a little bit of water to stretch it a little further. I let that simmer for about 10 minutes to let the flavors soak in.

Next, I started layering. I put enough sauce on the bottom to cover the pan, then placed (UNCOOKED) lasagna noodles across in a layer...I know what you're thinking, just trust me, it works.
Then I put the ricotta mixture, added a little goat cheese and mozzarella, and continued with the sauce.

Rinse and repeat.
I topped it off with a little more goat cheese, and some basil leaves. Then I put it into the oven at 425, covered with foil for 45 minutes.
I uncovered it and baked another 15 minutes (until the top was bubbling).
Let it sit for around 10-15 minutes, and it's a great meal with TONS of leftovers!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Holiday Salads

I've been asked to bring an appetizer and some dessert to our Thanksgiving festivities this year, and in going to the grocery, I've begun buying all of the different types of squash that are on sale.
This week I made two different salads, both with fall flavors, and will likely repeat one to bring for the holidays.

For the first salad, I used:
Raw Spinach
1 Sliced Honeycrisp Apple
Feta Cheese
Dressing made from lemon juice and olive oil

Since I made this one for lunch, I added some rotisserie chicken to it, but all of the flavors felt like fall. The celery added some extra crunch, and the spinach was just the right bold flavor to add. Adding some arugula and subtracting the chicken could make this an impressive, colorful side for the holidays.

My next salad stemmed from buying a Acorn Squash and trying to be inventive with it.
For this salad I used:
1 Acorn Squash (peeled)
Brown Sugar
Agave Nectar
Sage Leaves
Canned Beets (use the fresh kind if you have the time)

Since I was making this one as a meal, I added some roasted tofu.

I peeled and sliced the acorn squash, then put it on a baking sheet. I drizzled some Agave nectar, and a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg over the top of the squash. Next, I added the fresh sage leaves and stuck it in the oven at 350 for around 35-40 minutes, until it had softened. (I also put my tofu in with it since I didn't want to dirty another pan).

Once finished, I chopped the squash into cubes, and put it on top of a bed of lettuce with my tofu, beets, feta, craisins, and some snap pea crisps for a little crunch.
If I choose to recreate this one, I'll roast the beets with the squash, and omit the tofu and snap pea crisps, as well as the feta. It turned into a few too many ingredients, but isn't it all trial and error??

Happy cooking, I hope you all enjoy this time with your families!