Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ribollita - Tuscan Minestrone

I love that this is a really healthy version on minestrone that includes a lot of good vegetables. It's an excellent way to "sneak" those in. Since it includes so many fresh veggies, it can be a little pricey if you buy organic. But it makes enough for dinner and then some so that you could have subsequent lunches or frozen leftovers. The unhealthy part: I bought some crostini from the Whole Foods Bakery to dip in the soup. But hey, this minestrone doesn't have pasta so I have to sneak those carbs in somewhere. Also, this is a soup that is meant to be prepared a day ahead so that all the flavors can soak in.

Source: inspired by Sunday Soup


8 oz. Cannellini beans
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup leek (white and light green parts), chopped
1/2 cup carrot, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
14.5 oz. - diced tomato and juices
8 oz. Savoy cabbage or black kale
1 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
8 oz. Yukon potatoes, peeled and diced
8 oz. zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
6 oz. swiss chard, stems removed and leaves chopped
Crostini or Toasted Italian Bread


1. Drain beans and set aside.
2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook leeks, onions, carrot, and celery for 3 minutes.  Add garlic and rosemary. Stir.
3. Add 8 cups of water, beans, tomatoes, cabbage/kale, and the salt. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer, covered for 1 hour.
4. Add chard, potatoes, and zucchini. Simmer, covered for 23 minutes. Cool, cover, and refrigerate.
5. Reheat over medium-high heat. Garnish with parmesan and crostini.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


This stir-fry was good but there are a few changes that I would make for next time. For one, I would add a few more veggies in here like broccoli, mushrooms, or bok choy. I would have also liked the meat to be a little more thinly sliced almost like bulgogi. But even without these changes, I think most stir-fry fans would like this recipe. The original recipe calls for white long grain rice but I used brown basmati rice instead.

Sirloin Stir-Fry
Source: Cuisine At Home

1 1/4 cups brown jasmine rice
8 oz. hoisin sauce
1 cup rice vinegar
6 oz. pineapple juice
1/2 cup honey

1 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ginger, minced
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 lb. top sirloin, trimmed and sliced thin
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 cup red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
1 cup scallions, chopped into 2 in. pieces
1/2 cups frozen shelled edamame

1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
sesame seeds


Cook rice and keep warm.

Combine hoisin sauce, rice vinegar, pineapple juice, honey, garlic, ginger, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to 1 1/2 cups, about 15 minutes.

Toss sirloin with brown sugar, canola oil, and pepper flakes in a bowl to coat. Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat and brown beef for about 3 minutes or until browned.

Add bell peppers, scallions and edamame, and saute for 3 more minutes. Off heat, stir in sesame oil and seeds.

Serve with rice and sauce.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tamale Casserole

You would think I need breaks from eating Mexican food but somehow I just don't. I eat it entirely too often. There are days that I eat Willy's/Chipotle for lunch and then come home and make Mexican food for dinner and I DON'T GET SICK OF IT. So not surprisingly at all, I'm planning to make burrito bowls for dinner tonight after I made this tamale dish last night. It was good but I didn't feel like there was enough spice to the dish. I would try adding in some hotter peppers next time to give it a little more pizazz. that a word people my age even use?

Tamale Casserole

So here's a blurry picture but you get the idea...

 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded and divided
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 lb. grass-fed ground sirloin
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp. red chili powder
1 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped


Preheat oven to 350.

In a pot, boil 1 1/3 cups of water.  In a small bowl, mix the cornmeal with 1/2 cup of cold water and half the salt. Slowly add the mixture to the boiling water. Reduce heat to low and cook until thickened about 7-8 minutes.  While that is cooking, start making the beef mixture.

In a large pan, cook the onion, peppers, beef, and garlic until browned. If you aren't using grass-fed beef, drain fat. Stir the rest of the salt and the chili powder with this mixture.  Then, add the corn, tomatoes, tomato paste, and cilantro. Stir well.

Grease a 2- 2 1/2 qt baking dish with cooking spray. Spread the cornmeal mixture over the bottom. Next, add half of the cheese. Pour the beef mixture over the cheese layer.  Set the remaining cheese aside. Bake, uncovered for 20 minutes. Add the remaining cheese over the top and bake for an additional 5 minutes. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chicken and Shrimp in Tomato-Coconut Sauce

Apparently, this is a Brazilian dish which threw me for a loop even though I'm not any sort of an expert on the Brazilian culture. With the coconut milk, I thought it was an Asian dish. But my assumptions were also based on my previous experiences with Brazilian food which consisted of their steakhouses (churrascaria) or bakeries with meat-filled pastries and wonderful cakes. Which by the way, you must go to the Brazilian Bakery on Powers Ferry in Marietta and try some of those cakes. They are incredible.

This was a nice flavorful dish without a ridiculous amount of prep. I did cheat a little and used canned diced tomatoes (one 14.5 oz. can) instead of fresh ones. But I didn't do this because I'm lazy. I just don't really like cooking fresh chopped tomatoes because the skin always comes off in the pan.

Chicken and Shrimp in Tomato-Coconut Sauce
Serves two.
Source: Cuisine At Home

Basmati or Jasmine rice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breast ( 5-6 oz. each), seasoned with salt and pepper
1 cup onion, diced 
1 cup green bell pepper, diced
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced

 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 cups tomatoes, chopped
1 cup coconut milk
6 shrimp peeled, deveined
1/4 cup scallions, sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
Garnish with:
Chopped fresh cilantro or lime


1) Cook rice according to pkg. directions, keep warm

2) Sauté seasoned chicken in oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until browned on both sides. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic and pepper flakes. Cook covered until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes.

3) Stir in tomatoes and coconut milk, cover and cook until tomatoes begin to break down, 5-6 minutes.
Add shrimp, scallions, cilantro and lime juice, cover and simmer until shrimp are cooked, 2-3 minutes.

4) Spoon rice onto 2 serving plates, then divide chicken and sauce between them. Garnish with cilantro and lime.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Comfort Soup

Okay, I can admit that the picture of this soup doesn't look super appetizing. But it does taste good and feels wonderfully comforting going down. So if you are in the mood for some creamy comfort soup, give this one a try, Hey, and there weren't any disasters with this one. Win! FYI: I left out the fennel seeds and parsley. Also, I found it easier to pick up some already cooked chicken from the rotisserie section at Whole Foods and just take the skin off and chop it up.

Cream of Chicken and Fennel Soup
Makes 4 servings
Source: Sunday Soup


2 medium fennel bulbs
4 cups chicken stock 

1 cup water
1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped
2 cups cooked chicken, diced
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups light cream
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons fennel seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon kosher salt 

1 cup fresh snow peas
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped


1. Cut off stalks from fennel (if attached) and reserve feathery tops for garnish. Halve bulbs lengthwise; cut out and discard tough cores. Chop enough fennel to yield 1 1/2 cups.

2. Bring 4 cups of chicken stock to a simmer in a large pot set over medium-high heat. Add fennel and carrots, and cook until vegetables are tender when pierced with a knife, about 12 minutes.

3. Drain the fennel and carrots, setting aside about 1 1/2 cups of stock. Put the fennel, carrots and diced chicken in a bowl and set aside.

4. Melt butter in a large, heavy saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute or less. Gradually whisk in cream and reserved stock. Whisk until mixture thickens slightly and coats the back of a spoon, for 4 minutes or longer. Stir in lemon juice, fennel seeds and salt. Stir in chicken, fennel and carrots. If the soup is too thick, thin it with additional stock as needed. The soup can be prepared to this point a day ahead; cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat over medium heat.

5. When ready to serve the soup, trim and discard ends from snow peas. Cut the snow peas on the diagonal into thirds. Add them to the soup and cook just until tender, about 2 minutes. Taste soup and season with salt, as needed.

6. To serve, ladle soup into 4 soup bowls. Garnish each with a sprig of fennel or the parsley.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A Dinner Success or Disaster?

I love to cook, I really do. But there are some days that things go wrong and it makes you want to smash all your dishes and and throw your hands up and say "let's just order a damn pizza." But that wouldn't have worked for me since I just made a pizza the other day, right? I decided I wanted to make spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread, roasted brussels sprouts and a chocolately dessert. In the end, everything was wonderful. It just took me awhile to get there.

I started prepping for the meal by making the table and cutting up all the veggies, etc. I put the tomatoes in my blender to puree them for the tomato sauce. But since I was wearing a silk dress, I realized I better put on an apron which was in one of the top kitchen cabinets. I grabbed a chair so that I could climb up and reach it. While standing up there I thought about this perfect dinner I was making and then had a bad thought...I was too smug and I was either going to fall and break something or something from the cabinet would fall and break. I spot my apron and start to pull it down when two huge light bulbs not in packages (I DID NOT PUT THIS IN THERE) came flying out and crashed down along the way. The glass managed to get all over my counters, floors, in my toaster, cabinets, and in some of my cooking utensils. My poor cats were terrified and didn't know what to do. See picture:

After some foot stomping, I carefully picked up and vacuumed all the shards. This also required me to do some kitchen cleaning and delayed my dinner plans. Finally as I get back on track and don my apron, I puree the tomatoes. I go to take the blender apart so I can pour the tomatoes into the pan with the onions and garlic I just sauteed and then the blender BREAKS APART and the tomato sauce goes all over me in my dress and apron and the rest of it all over my just cleaned kitchen. I think I had one of those my life is over moments. But after calming down and cleaning yet again, a grocery store run was made for more tomatoes thus delaying this dinner even more. But luckily after that, everything was back on track and the dinner came out beautifully. I've blogged this spaghetti recipe before but I'm sharing it again since it's so good. I'm linking up the recipes but at least I have some pictures! One tip: Buy San Marzano tomatoes if you can budget it. It really does make a difference! Oh and check your blender before you put them in there...

Spaghetti & Meatballs

I added some freshly grated parm after I took the picture.

Garlic Bread

No picture but the only change I made was to leave out the cheese and parsley.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Aside from the dessert, this was my favorite part of the meal. I know they look burnt but they are not. The charred part was pure deliciousness. The insides were really tender and the charred outside had a similar taste and texture to kale chips. This was the easiest part of the whole meal as well.

Dessert! This was the first time I made this and it was pretty much amazing not to mention so simple. If you need something easy to impress dinner guests, this is it. I did forget to sprinkle the sugar over the top though but cut me slack. It was a rough night!

Chocolate Spiced Cabernet Molten Cakes
My ramekins were about 4 oz. a piece and this recipe made three servings.

 1/2 stick of butter plus extra for greasing
2 oz. Semi-Sweet baking chocolate
1/2 cup confectioners sugar plus extra for garnish 
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp Cabernet Sauvignon
1 egg yolk
1 egg
3 Tbsp flour
very tiny sprinkle of ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon


Use butter to grease ramekin dishes and preheat oven to 425. 

In the microwave, heat butter and chocolate for one minute. Whisk together briefly to blend. Stir in sugar, vanilla, and wine. Then add eggs. Lastly, stir in flour and spices until well blended. 

Divide batter into ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 13 minutes.  Let stand for one minute and then use a knife to loosen the edges. Invert onto a plate and sprinkle with the confectioner's sugar. Serve warm.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Pizza Night On The Fly

Pizza is something that always seems to  be "on the fly" well at least for me. I feel like pizza isn't one of those dinners you really plan but it's more like "I'm craving pizza tonight" or "I'm just going to grab a pizza on the way home." Well, I discovered it's almost as quick to just throw one together at home especially if you have a pizza stone. I've got this one but I can't say I get a ton of use out of it. It was one of those things I felt compelled to purchase at a Pampered Chef party (you can even cook cookies and chicken on it!) Ha...

But seriously the pizza simple. I wanted to make it a "healthy" pizza so I bought whole wheat dough at Trader Joe's. They sell it in a bag in the refrigerated section. And I got shredded mozzarella and pepperoni at Whole Foods. I'm not trying to pretend pepperoni is healthy by any means but I like think this kind was not too too bad since it's free of artificial ingredients and preservatives. Plus, this company uses high standards for animal welfare which is important to me.

To make it, i basically just lightly floured the stone surface and rolled the dough out into a 12 inch diameter circle. Then I spread pizza sauce around it with a spatula and topped with cheese and the other toppings. Lastly, I sprinkled some oregano and red pepper flakes over it. I baked it at 350 for about 15 minutes. Tip: Let the dough sit at room temp for at least 45 minutes despite what the bag says.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Spaghetti Pie?

Spaghetti and pie...those are two words that just don't go together. But I like each separately so I figured why not give it a try. As I prepared it, I kept thinking "this is going to turn out weird, I just know it." But guess was a total hit! The only changes I made to the original recipe were using lean grass-fed sirloin, whole wheat spaghetti, and all low fat cheeses.

Spaghetti Pie
Source: Publix Apron Meals
Prep: 35 mins, Bake: 30 mins, Stand: 15 mins

nonstick cooking spray
4 oz. dried spaghetti
2 eggs
1/3 cup Parmesan, grated
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 12-oz. container of low-fat cottage cheese, drained
8oz. ground sirloin
1 cup fresh sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup red or green bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp garlic, minced
8 oz. tomato sauce (no salt)
1 1/2 tsp Italian Seasoning
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded


1) Preheat oven to 350. To make crust, coat a 9 in pie plate with cooking spray; set aside. Cook the spaghetti according to package directions but omit the salt and oil. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat 1 of the eggs; stir in Parm and olive oil. Drain spaghetti well; add to egg mixture. Toss to coat. Press mixture evenly onto bottom and up sides of prepared pie plate.

2) In a small bowl, beat remaining egg; stir in drained cottage cheese. Spread mixture onto the bottom of spaghetti crust; set aside.

3) In a large pan, cook beef, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and garlic until meat is browned. Drain. Stir in tomato sauce, seasoning, and salt. Spoon meat mixture onto cottage cheese on the crust.

4) Bake uncovered for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with mozzarella and bake an additional 5 minutes. Let sit for about 15 mins before serving. Cut into wedges.