Saturday, December 22, 2007

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Parmesan Crisps

Sounds Strange, But It's Really Good!

This was the first time I have ever even tried cauliflower soup. And I am pleased to say I like it. I chose two recipes to work from, one from Rachel Ray and the other from Dave Liberman.
I liked certain things from each recipe, so I decided to combine the two.

I used the recipe for the Parmesan Crisps from Dave Liberman and was disappointed. He suggested using foil, but the crisps just stuck to the foil. When I tried to release them from the foil they turned into toasted Parmesan crispies instead. It was still tasty, but I really wanted a crisp that I could place into the bowl for a better presentation. I fixed this problem in the recipe below by recommending the use of parchment paper. Let me know how it works out if you try it.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Parmesan Crisps

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon margarine or butter
1 large head cauliflower
1 rib celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium shallots or 1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons wondra flour, or all-purpose flour
1 quart low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup fat-free evaporated milk, or half-and-half or whole milk
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
Coarse sea salt and coarse black pepper

Parmesan Crisps:
1 cup shredded Parmesan

Remove and discard the leaves and thick core from the cauliflower, coarsely chop cauliflower, and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat and add the shallot, celery and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower florets and thyme and stir. Season again with salt.

Push the vegetables to the side of the pot. Melt the tablespoon of margarine or butter on empty side of pot and add flour to it. Cook for 1 minute, stirring the flour in the margarine/butter. Mix in chicken broth and milk. Bring up to a simmer and cook
until the cauliflower is very soft and falling apart, about 15-20 minutes.

Remove from heat and puree soup using an emersion blender, food processor or blender and return to pot.
Add the Parmesan and stir until smooth. Check seasoning and add salt and black pepper if needed. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, make the Parmesan crisps:
Line a baking sheet with parchment. Spread the shredded cheese over the parchment in 1 even thin layer. Bake about 10 minutes until golden brown and crisps. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Break sheet of crisp cheese into large pieces and garnish each soup bowl with a couple of pieces.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Italian Prune Cookie Recipe

One Of My Favorite Cookies

I have made these cookies many times but have never posted the actual recipe. Well here it is in all it's glory.

Don't put your nose up because it's made with prunes. Prunes have a bad rap, but remember they are just dried plums. They sort of taste like raisins only better. If you have never had an Italian Prune Cookie, I think it's about time you did. Give them a try, besides prunes are really good for you with lots of anti-oxidants and yes of course, fiber!

Italian Prune (Dried Plum) Cookies

4 cups pitted prunes

3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/3 cup sugar
teaspoons orange rind
teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Dough: 4 1/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting board
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup milk (regular or soy)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons orange rind (about 1/2 large orange)
teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla

To Make Filling: Add prunes and water to a medium sauscepan and boil prunes until plump. Remove from heat and add sugar, molasses, corn syrup, salt, orange rind, vanilla and cinnamon. Puree mixture with an immersion blender or in a food processor until smooth. Set fruit mix aside overnight.

To Make the dough: In large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Make a well in the center. Add the eggs, milk, grated orange rind, vanilla and oil and mix to form dough. Knead the dough for a minute or 2, until it gets to the consistency for rolling.

Divide the dough into 3 parts.
Dust a rolling pin and a piece of waxed paper (measured the length of your cookie sheet) with a little flour. Roll each part of dough into a rectangle of 1/8 inch thickness. Put 1/3 of the fruit mix onto the dough rectangle and spread evenly. Lift one side of the waxed paper with the dough lengthwise into the center. Peel away from the waxed paper.
Fold the other side in slightly past center, and press seam lightly. Pinch ends to close. Lift the loaf on the waxed paper and flip onto a parchment lined cookie sheet with seam under.

Bake in 400 degree F (205 degrees C) oven for 15-16 minutes (top should be lightly brown). Allow to cool then cut crosswise slices about 1 inch thick.

To Make Glaze: Use juice of 1 lemon and enough confectioners' sugar to obtain consistency for glazing top of cookie. Drop sprinkles onto glaze and allow glaze to set.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Triple Chocolate Cookies

A "So Called Healthier" Die For!!

When I first saw this recipe on the food network it was touted as a healthier chocolate cookie.
Ellie Krieger, who is a nutritionist, came up with the recipe and made them on her show Healthy Appetite.

At first I believed that they were healthier because she only uses 1/2 stick of butter and replaces the other half with a more heart healthy fat, canola oil. She also replaces half of the all purpose white flour with whole wheat flour, which has more fiber and nutrients. The sugar is reduced slightly as well.

O.k. sounds healthier right? Well it does until you look at the amount of dough and number of cookies it makes. There is only one cup total of flour in the recipe. Most cookie recipes call for at least 2 cups of flour and use one stick of butter. So the ratio of flour to butter is the same, and then she adds more fat with the oil. Hey don't get me wrong, these cookies were absolutely delicious, but healthy, I'm not so sure about that!

I did alter the recipe a bit. First off by doubling it. Who would bother make cookies with one cup of flour? Really. Also, because I didn't have unprocessed cocoa. I'm glad that I noticed that in the original it says to use unsweetened cocoa (not processed dutch). I only had Droste cocoa which is dutch processed and you cannot interchange these two cocoas in recipes.

In researching this on the web I found out that Dutch-Processed cocoa is treated with an alkali to neutralize its acids. Therefore it must be used in recipes calling for baking powder because it is neutral and does not react with baking soda. That is unless there are other acidic ingredients in sufficient quantities used.

I also substituted chocolate chips for the chopped chocolate. I would highly recommend Giardelli bittersweet (60% cocoa) chocolate chips. They are slightly larger than traditional chocolate chips and the flavor is unbelievable. The chocolaty flavor lingers in your mouth long after you've eaten a cookie! I think it made this recipe even better!

Triple Chocolate Cookies
adapted from
Ellie Krieger

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch processed)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
2/3 cup dark chocolate chips (recommended Giardelli
bittersweet~60% cocoa)
2/3 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the oil and egg and beat until creamy. Mix in the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. Stir in the dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and the pecans and mix well. Using a tablespoon, scoop the batter onto an ungreased (parchment lined) cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Roasted Broccoli and Garlic

My New Favorite Way to Cook Broccoli

I love broccoli and have been eating for years. I usually just steam it and dress it with a little olive oil and sometimes vinegar. On occasion I have roasted it, but with mixed results. I finally found the perfect way to get tender broccoli with a great caramelized flavor.

In the past, when roasting broccoli, I would just put it on a baking sheet with oil and roast away. I would get tough stalks and burned florets. The trick is to cover the broccoli with foil for the first 10 minutes or so of cooking in order to ensure a tender stalk. You still get the caramelization without burning the florets. It is so good, you can't help but eat your vegetables.

Roasted Broccoli and Garlic

1 large bunch broccoli 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt Ground black pepper
8 cloves garlic, unpeeled

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Cut broccoli florets away from stems. Peel stalk and cut into 1/2-inch-thick pieces on the bias. Cut crowns into 8 wedges.

Place broccoli and garlic on foil- or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and sugar if using; gently toss to evenly distribute oil and seasonings. Spread into even layer, placing flat sides down.

Cover baking sheet tightly with foil and cook for 10-15 minutes or until bottoms of broccoli pieces are golden and stems are fork tender. Remove sheet from oven, remove foil, and using spatula, carefully flip wedges. Return sheet to oven and continue to roast until broccoli is golden all over, 5-7 minutes longer. Transfer to serving dish, remove skins from garlic and serve immediately.

Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina

Quick and Satisfying

This is another Giada De Laurentiis recipe. It is really easy and quick to prepare. I think it is one of the most unpretentious recipes I've seen her make. Probably because it was on an episode where she was cooking with kids. The hardest part is waiting for it to come out of the oven.

Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina
adapted by Giada De Laurentiis

1 cup pastina pasta (or any small pasta)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup thin sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup cubed chicken breast (1-inch cubes)
1/2 cup diced leek, or onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon butter, plus more for buttering the baking dish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain pasta into a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Saute until soft and liquid starts to evaporate, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the pasta.

Add the chicken to the saute pan and cook for 3 minutes. Add the leeks and garlic, stirring to combine, and cook until the onions are soft and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Put the chicken mixture into the bowl with the cooked pasta. Add the canned tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Stir to combine. Place the mixture in a buttered 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish. In a small bowl mix together the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta mixture. Dot the top with small bits of butter. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Roasted Green Beans with Leeks and Walnuts

My New Candy Fix!!!

I am hooked on these green beans. My inspiration for this recipe came from Cooks Illustrated. They have a recipe for Roasted Green Beans with Red Onion and Walnuts and it sounded really good. So I tried it with leeks (my onion of choice), changed the cooking method slightly(to get softer beans) and now I can't stop making it.

One night I actually ate the whole recipe myself. It is like candy to me. Which is good I guess. It is healthier to eat an entire tray of green beans than a tray of chocolate! Try it, and let me know if you are hooked as well.

Roasted Green Beans with Leeks and Walnuts

Serves 4 (unless you're like me~serves one)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 medium cloves garlic, thin sliced
1 pound green beans, stem ends snapped off
1 large leek, cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
1 tablespoon olive oil

Coarse sea salt and ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (toasted)

1. Combine vinegar, honey, thyme, and garlic in small bowl; set aside.

2. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 450 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil; spread beans and leeks on baking sheet. Drizzle with oil; using hands, toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, toss to coat, and distribute in even layer. Cover with another sheet of aluminum foil and roast 15 minutes or until soft.

3. Remove baking sheet from oven. Using tongs, coat beans and onion evenly with vinegar/honey mixture; redistribute in even layer. Continue roasting until onions and beans are dark golden brown in spots and beans have started to shrivel, 8 to 10 minutes longer.

4. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and toss well to combine. Transfer to serving dish, sprinkle with walnuts, and serve. (Or you can eat them right from the pan, I won't tell if you don't).

Monday, December 03, 2007

Tuna and Artichoke Panini

This was a Yummy Sammy!

I have been thinking about making this sandwich for the longest time. I think I printed the recipe out almost a year ago from the food network (by Giada De Laurentiis, of course). I finally had the opportunity to make it because I actually ran out of chicken or any other meat in the house. It forced me to look into the pantry closet and cabinets to find an alternative. I had a large can of tuna and marinated artichokes so I knew it was the perfect time to make this recipe.

The mayonnaise spread was really tangy and delicious. I only used one clove of garlic as opposed to two as the original recipe stated and I'm glad I did because it was strong enough. I also tried to keep it on the light side and only used 1/8 cup of mayo verses 1/4 cup in Giada's version. The one thing I suggest not changing is using tuna packed in oil. I had a 12 ounce can of water packed tuna which I drained and added one teaspoon of olive oil to. It was good but I know the Italian tuna packed in oil is much tastier. So try it if you have the chance.

Tuna and Artichoke Panini

Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/8 cup mayonnaise
2 (6-oz.) cans tuna in olive oil, drained or one 12 oz. can in water, drained (add one tsp. olive oil)

1 (8 ounce) jar marinated artichokes, drained and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 Portuguese rolls, toasted lightly in the oven for crispiness

1 tomato, diced (optional)

Puree the olives, oil, garlic, and zest in a small bowl with an immersion blender or in a food processor until smooth and spreadable. Blend in the mayonnaise. Toss the tuna, artichokes, lemon juice, and pepper in a medium bowl, keeping the tuna in small chunks. Add one tablespoon of the mayonnaise mixture and mix to combine.

Slice rolls in half horizontally and hollow out the bottom and top halves of the bread. Spread the remaining olive puree over both cut sides of the bread. Spoon the tuna and artichoke mixture onto the bottom half of the bread. Sprinkle the tomatoes over. Cover with the bread top. Cut the sandwich crosswise and serve.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Chocolate Hazelnut Smoochies

I Love The Name of These Cookies!

Giada made these cookies for Halloween and used orange sugar on the tops. I switched it with turbinado sugar and also reduced the amount of white sugar in the recipe. For a little bit of chewiness and crispiness, I added one tablespoon of corn syrup. I really liked them, but I got mixed reviews. Some people loved them and others said they were just so so.

Chocolate Hazelnut Smoochies
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chocolate hazelnut spread (recommended: Nutella)
1/2 cup butter, softened (1 stick)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1 (9-ounce) package of chocolate candy kisses, unwrapped (recommended: Hershey's)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In another medium bowl, place the chocolate hazelnut spread, butter, and both sugars. Using a hand mixer, cream the ingredients together, about 3 minutes. Add the
egg and vanilla and blend until incorporated. Stir in the dry ingredients, just until incorporated.

Shape the cookie dough into walnut-sized balls. Rolls the balls in the orange sprinkles or orange sugar, pressing to adhere. Place the cookies on a heavy cookie sheet about 4 inches apart. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven. Quickly place a chocolate kiss in the middle of each cookie. Return the cookies to the oven and bake for another 3 minutes. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.

The Perfect Quick Dinner for One!

This sandwich rocked.

I love bagels, but who doesn't right? This bagel was a low-carb version which I usually don't care for because the texture tastes more like bread then a bagel. But this one was really good, It was sunflower seed and I got it at a local coffee shop.

And I made the perfect scrambled eggs of all times. I used one whole egg and one egg white, cooked slowly over low heat with smart balance spread, salt, pepper, and a little milk. I took them off the heat just before they looked fully cooked.

"They say" this is the way to get perfectly cooked eggs since they will continue to cook off the heat and will be overdone if you take them off once they are already fully cooked.
I guess it's true because they were perfect!

I placed them over 2 slices of heated Canadian bacon and topped it with 2 slices of American cheese. (OK you know me too well- It was Alpine Lace reduced fat, reduced sodium American cheese). But it was still really good. : )

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Elegant Pumpkin Cheesecake Walnut Pie

One To Serve~Six To Give (or keep!)

This recipe is a cross between a traditional pumpkin pie and a pumpkin cheesecake. Instead of using a cup and a half of milk, you use one 8 ounce package of cream cheese. The original recipe came from a website called and it called for 2 refrigerated pie crusts. One was used for the bottom crust and the other was used to make cut-outs of leaves for decorating the top of the pie. It looked really great, but I was not in the mood to fiddle around with leave cut- outs so I opted to use pre-made graham crusts.

I had a feeling there would be extra pie filling left over once the 9" crust was filled, so I also picked up 6 mini graham pie crusts just in case. I was right (as always ;), and I was able to get all six mini crusts filled. It worked out great because I brought the large pie to Thanksgiving dinner and gave away the mini pies to some very lucky people. Of course, I also kept one for myself (I mean I had to make sure it was edible!)

Elegant Pumpkin Cheesecake Walnut Pie

1 (9 ") graham piecrust (or use larger size to make one pie)
6 mini graham piecrusts
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar, divided
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped and toasted
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (16-ounce) can pumpkin
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/8 cup molasses
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Fat-free cool whip (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 425°.

Combine 1/2 cup light brown sugar, chopped walnuts, butter, and vanilla extract; spread on the bottom of pie crust.

Beat pumpkin, cream cheese, 2 eggs, molasses and remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer. Add flour, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg, beating until blended. Spoon pumpkin mixture over walnut mixture in pie crusts.

Bake at 425° for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350°, and bake 30 more* minutes or until pie is set. Remove pie to a wire rack; cool. Serve warm or chilled decorated with cool whip, if desired.

*Check the mini pies with a toothpick at 20 minutes. Remove if toothpick comes out clean.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Chicken Stuffed with Broccoli Rabe, Olives and Cheese

Something a Little Different, Healthy and Delicious!

If you have never tried broccoli rabe, you should. And this is a really great recipe to try it in. Broccoli rabe is a little on the bitter side, so the garlic and cheese really compliment it here.

Chicken Stuffed with Broccoli Rabe, Olives and Cheese

For Stuffing:

1 large bunch broccoli rabe, washed, cleaned, tough stems discarded, and florets separated from stems
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
7 cloves garlic, sliced
1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted & sliced
Pinch red hot pepper flakes
Salt to taste
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add the broccoli rabe and kosher salt and cook for about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or small sieve, remove the broccoli rabe from the pot, squeeze out excess water and transfer to a small bowl.

Place the olive oil, garlic, olives and red pepper flakes in a large skillet or medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until the garlic turns golden, about 2 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe to the skillet and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the Parmigiano cheese and season with salt. Set aside.

Prepare Chicken:

Cooking spray or butter
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, (butterflied and pounded to 1/4 to 1/8 inch thickness)
1/2 cup low-fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 2 teaspoons water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon gravy master
Optional: 2 tablespoons of herbed butter (Just mix softened butter with your choice of fresh herbs, I used parsley, thyme, rosemary and lemon zest)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Put each breast smooth side down and cover with a spoon full of broccoli rabe mixture and a tablespoon of cheddar cheese and roll up breasts. Place in a lightly buttered or sprayed 8x8x2 baking dish, seam side down. Add 2 tablespoons of the chicken stock. (Since I used skinless chicken breast I spread about 1/2 tablespoon of herbed butter over the top of each breast)

Bake 35-45 minutes or until cooked through. (Half way through the cooking time, I basted the chicken with the broth and butter in the baking dish). Remove chicken from dish, cover and keep warm.

Add the remaining chicken broth to the drippings in the baking sheet and scrape up the brown bits, then add it to a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until reduced by half. Add the cornstarch mixture and cook until thickened. Remove from heat and add in the lemon juice and gravy master. Season with salt and pepper.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Healthy Mac and Cheese

Why is it healthy?

The secret ingredient is what makes this Mac and Cheese so healthful. It may sound weird but, there is a vegetable in this dish. You would never know it however because this mystery veggie blends wonderfully with the color and flavors of the mac and cheese. So what is it you ask? Ok, enough suspence...It's butternut squash!
The inspiration for this dish came from Ellie Krieger's Macaroni and 4 Cheeses. I changed it a little to my specs and was very pleased with the outcome. Actually, this dish was so good, I think I will always make my mac and cheese this way from now on. The cheese sauce can also be used atop of broccoli and cauliflower or whatever veggie you like!

Healthy Shells and Cheese

Cooking spray
1 pound medium size shells, or any other small/medium size pasta
1 1/2 lb.butternut squash, cooked and pureed
2 cups evaporated skim milk
6 ounces 75% low-fat extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup low-fat whipped cottage cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard
pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons unseasoned fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Coat a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the shells and cook until tender but firm, about 8 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Meanwhile, place squash and milk into a large saucepan and warm over a low heat, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the mixture is almost simmering, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the cheddar, cottage cheese, salt, mustard and cayenne pepper. Pour cheese mixture over the macaroni and stir to combine. Transfer the macaroni and cheese to the baking dish.

Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and oil in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, then broil for 3 minutes so the top is crisp and nicely browned.

I'm back!

Sorry about the lack of posts everyone.

I missed you all. I had to attend to some family matters. My mom was sick and I had a lot to do. Not much cooking going on, but I do have a back log of recipes to post, so hold on to your seats...I'm sending them your way! : )

Monday, November 05, 2007

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Low-Fat Bechemel Sauce

My inspiration for this dish was a recent episode of Everyday Italian. Giada was making Butternut Squash Torellini and it looked fantastic. I didn't feel like running out and getting wonton wrappers, however, so I decided to create my own idea with some of her ingredients and flavors.

Another unusual ingredient in her recipe was the addition of amaretti cookies to the butternut squash filling. I love Amaretto so this was a flavor I decided not to leave out. Although I didn't have amaretti cookies on hand either, so I decided to some up with a substitute for it. I added Amaretto liqour to toasted fresh bread crumbs, yum!

She used a brown butter sauce on her tortellini, which looked absolutely delicious, but this would not work with baked shells. I decided to use a bechemel sauce and kept it on the light side by using fat-free half and half. I admit, it wasn't the best bechemel sauce I have ever made but it wasn't "half" bad either. The only thing is that it sort of drys up and forms a skin if you don't use it immediately. If I made it again, I think I would use less flour and possibly try low-fat milk instead.

Speaking of "low-fat", I tried something totally non traditional in the filling. Instead of the usual ricotta filling, I used low-fat "whipped" cottage cheese. Don't cringe. I know it sounds weird but believe me you could not tell the difference here. I promise. The part-skim ricotta, which is what I normally use, had 4 grams of saturated fat per serving. The low-fat cottage cheese had 1.5 grams of saturated fat per serving. I think that is worth looking at, don't you?

Butternut Squash Stuffed Shells with Low-Fat Bechemel Sauce

1 (12-ounce) package jumbo shells pasta
1 butternut squash, approx. 2 pounds, cubed (about 3 cups)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
1 1/2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 bunch scallions, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup low-fat whipped cottage cheese
1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons Amareto liquor
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Low-Fat Bechemel Sauce

1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1/2 tablespoon smart balance spread
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups fat-free half and half (warm)
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

On a foil-lined baking sheet toss together the butternut squash, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, herbs de Provence, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven until soft and golden, about 35 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Cook the scallions and garlic until lightly golden, about 3 minutes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta and set on a oiled baking sheet to cool.

In a small saute pan over low heat, toast the fresh bread crumbs until dry and light brown. Add the Amaretto and stir to coat. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an immersion blender, combine the butternut squash mixture, the scallion mixture, and the cottage cheese and pulse a few times to blend. Add the bread crumb mixture, nutmeg, and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pulse until smooth. The filling can be made one day ahead.

Stuff the shells with about 2 tablespoons of the butternut squash mixture each and place the stuffed shells in a large, baking dish coated with cooking spray or buttered.

Make bechamel sauce:

In a medium pot, melt the butter and spread over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Continue to simmer and whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg and cayenne pepper. Stir until well combined and check for seasoning. Add salt and pepper. Set aside.

Pour the sauce over the shells. Bake until golden on top, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Neopolitan Macaroni & Cheese

Comfort Me Oh Mac and Cheese!

Lidia Bastianich made this recipe recently on Lidia's Italy. It looked amazing and pretty easy, so I looked it up on her website and unfortunately it wasn't posted. This always seems to happen whenever I really want one of her recipes. Luckily, I had it on my DVR and was able to replay it about 300 times in order to get all the details right. I changed it just a bit and some of the amounts may be off by a little, but it turned out great just the same!

I highly recommend making this version of mac 'n cheese. It certainly is not the traditional American style we are all used to, but I think you will be blown away by the flavor!

Neopolitan Macaroni & Cheese
Adapted from Lidia Bastianich

2 cups DeCecco tubetti, or any small tubular pasta (She used ditallini)
1 medium/large shallot, chopped in a large dice (She used onion)
2 slices bacon, chopped in a large dice
1 potato, diced in small cubes (She used more)
1 cup cup provolone cheese, diced (She used more)
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 - 1 cup fresh tomato, chopped
Approx. 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
Sea salt

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a handful of kosher salt. Reduce heat and keep on water simmering.
Add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil to a large saute pan over medium heat. Add in shallot and sea salt; cook for about 1-2 minutes. Move shallot over to the side of the pan and add bacon to the open "hot spot"(as Lidia calls it), in the pan. Cook for about 3 minutes and then mix the shallot and bacon together. Add diced potato and cook for about 3-4 minutes.

Add about 4-5 ladles of boiling water to the potato bacon mixture and stir. Add additional salt at this time. As the mixture simmers, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Add the pasta to the potato mixture and stir to combine.

Turn off the heat and add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, grated cheese, tomatoes, and diced provolone. Stir to combine. Serve immediately.

Note: Lidia suggests the dish to be served immediately, but I found a way around this. If you want to prepare this dish ahead of time, follow the recipe up to the point of adding the pasta to the potato mixture. Let it cool and refrigerate. When ready to serve, re-heat over low/medium heat and add in additional water if dry. Once heated through, add in the remaining ingredients.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

When Giada De Laurentiis Smiles...

There's no mistaking it!

Now that's a women excited about food!

A friend of mine found this random gem on the internet. If you don't watch the food channel then you probably wouldn't know who this is. She hosts Everyday Italian and I DVR it everyday. I often feature her recipes and brag about how great they are, so I figured why not post it.

Have a great weekend! =D

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


My First Pumpkin Carving!

I know what your thinking, that is the first pumpkin you've ever carved? Well, as far as I can remember. It was long over do and I had fun.

I also roasted the pumpkin seeds. I do know that we did roast the seeds at least once when I was a kid. My dad wanted my mom to make pumpkin pie with fresh pumpkin and that is why we had the seeds.

My mom swears she would never do it again with all the mess and not only that but she says that the pie wasn't even good. Ever since, she has stuck to "One-Pie" canned pumpkin. And I have to say, her pie is excellent!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

1 -2 cups of raw pumpkin seeds (goop removed)
Mazola Pure olive oil spray
Course sea salt
Garlic powder(not garlic salt)

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with oil. Add the seeds to the baking sheet and spray lightly with oil. Sprinkle with salt and garlic powder.

Cook for 15 minutes, stir and reduce the heat to 300 degrees. Cook for an additional 30 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally.

Monday, October 29, 2007

My new favorite snack!

Whew!~ That was close...

To think, I almost sold this baby for $5.00 at my yard sale! I don't know what I was thinking. Well actually I do. When I bought this air popper years ago, I had healthy snacking in mind. But being so used to oil popped corn, the texture and flavor was far from what I imagined. The popcorn came out dry and tasteless!

So you must be wondering why I am raving about it now. Well, I guess I never read the instructions and tips for the popper. The instructions are something I rearly study, but since I decided to use this relic after so many years, I wanted to make sure I had the measurements right and so on.

In my reading, I discovered a section on tips for successful popping! It actually said that if you are used to the flavor of oil popped corn, that you could add oil to the popped corn before salting. Ok, I know this isn't rocket science, but I would have never thought of adding oil to the popped corn. Butter, yes but not oil. This was a revelation for me since I try to avoid butter if at all possible.

Plus by adding fresh raw olive oil to the corn after it is popped and not before, it is much healthier. Raw olive oil is great for your heart you know!

I tried a new popcorn too!
Pop's Tiny Popcorn.
This popcorn is really tasty and has a great benefit for those who find the newer varieties and heavier hulls of popcorn hard to digest. When the tiny corn kernel is popped, the hull discinerates. Pretty cool, huh? There is also an interesting story behind this popcorn which you can read on their website.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Mom's Pear Pie

...And I Helped!

Remember that fried chicken commercial from years ago? Well it just popped into my head.

I digress, back to the business of the pie. Mom has a pear tree in her backyard. It had not beared fruit for some years. After a pruning last fall, this year she got some great fruit!
She managed to get just enough pears off the tree at the end of the season to make a pie.

So why did I help? Well, I showed up unannounced at Mom's, in the middle of her making it, threw off her concentration and she put it aside to get back to it later. Well, when later came, she was not in the mood to make it anymore until I insisted I would help. So we both got to it. She finished making her famous crust and I prepared the filling. It was fun, just like old times when I was a kid, trying to help mom.

Mom's Pear Pie

6-8 Pears
Lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons corn starch
1/3 cup sugar or more depending on sweetness of your pears
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Squeeze lemon juice into a large bowl. Peel, slice and core pears, dropping them into the bowl with the lemon juice. Add corn starch, 1/3 cup sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and raisins. Mix well and set aside.

Prepare crust.

Mom's Famous Pie Crust

2 cups flour
2/3 cups Crisco shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar, plus 1/4 teaspoon for top of crust
4-5 tablespoons ice cold water
1 tablespoon milk, set aside in small bowl

In a medium bowl mix all ingredients (except 1/4 tsp. sugar and milk) together with a fork adding additional water if necessary. Form 2 balls, wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator until ready to roll out. About 20 minutes.

In between 2 pieces of wax paper roll out each ball of dough, rotating to create a 11-12 inch circle. Remove top piece of wax paper, flip over and place in a greased pie plate. Remove remaining wax paper. With a fork, lightly indent entire crust.

Pour pear mixture into prepared pie crust. Remove wax paper from the top of the second crust and form slits in the center for steam to escape. Flip over crust and cover pear mixture. Carefully remove remaining wax paper. Seal and crimp edges. Brush the top of the pie crust with milk and sprinkle with a 1/4 teaspoon of sugar.

Place pie on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until crust is golden brown and the juices are slowly bubbling.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Lemon & Rosemary Marinated Grilled Chicken

Bam! Sort of...

I'm not a huge fan of Emeril; I guess he's ok. I've only tried one of his recipes in the past which was the Chicken Marsala and that was pretty good. Since most of his recipes seem to involve pork fat and heavy spices, I tend to stay away. Not there's anything wrong with pork fat or spicy food, it's just that I can't eat it.
I was recently looking for a marinade for grilled chicken and I came across his Lemon and Rosemary Marinated Chicken with Couscous and Sauted Balsamic Cremini Mushrooms. I decided to give it a try, minus some of the spices and I opted to forgo the balsamic cremini mushrooms because I didn't have any on hand. I used tabouli instead of couscous. It was very tasty. Here's my version:

Lemon & Rosemary Marinated Grilled Chicken

1 package of Near East Tabouli, cooked
4 (6-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon Essence, recipe follows
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place the chicken, lemon juice, olive oil, rosemary, and Essence in a re-sealable, 1-gallon plastic bag. Let marinate for 1 hour at room temperature. Preheat a grill pan to high heat. Remove the chicken from the plastic bag, and place on a platter. Season the chicken on both sides with the salt and pepper. Place the chicken, smooth side down, on the grill and cook for 4 minutes, rotate 45 degrees and cook an additional 4 minutes. Turn the chicken over and cook for another 4 minutes on the second side, or until cooked through. You can choose to baste the chicken with the marinade but you need to either: baste the chicken and continue cooking the chicken a little bit longer on each side or you need to bring the marinade up to a boil for at least 5 minutes and then you can baste the chicken.(I didn't bother)
Serve over cooked Tabouli.

Emeril's ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper(I only used 1 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper (I only used 1 teaspoon, if that)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly. Yield: 2/3 cup

Side note: I recently used this same marinade on chicken cutlets. I broiled them on a foil lined bake sheet for about 5 minutes per side. The trick to cooking it perfectly is to lightly pound the chicken to make sure it is of even thickness. This extra step is worth the time and trouble because there will not be some pieces over cooked and other pieces undercooked. (I've learned my lesson)

Friday, October 19, 2007

Baked Squash Gratin

Another amazing recipe from Giada De Laurentiis!

I loved this recipe and so will you. Since butternut squash is a little bland, this recipe appealed to me. It was just enough pesto and just enough cheese to make it work without over powering the butternut squash. The cheese forms a crust on the top and it is delicious!

Baked Squash Gratin

1 (3-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes, (mine was not quite this big, but it made just enough for a small casserole)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup purchased basil pesto
(I used homemade pesto that I previously made and froze in an ice cube tray)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, plus more for greasing

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly butter an 8-inch baking dish and set aside. Fill a large pot with enough water to come 2 inches up the sides of the pot. Set a steamer rack in the pot, cover, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Add the squash and steam over medium heat until the squash is very tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer the squash to a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.(I used my hand held blender and mixed it right in the pan). Season the squash to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon half of the squash evenly over the prepared baking dish. Dollop half of the pesto all over the squash in the dish. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the squash. Repeat layering with the remaining squash, pesto, and cheese. Using a skewer, swirl the pesto decoratively into the squash. Dot the top with butter and bake until the gratin is heated through and golden brown around the edges, about 40 minutes.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Yard Sale with A Sweet Side!

If you have been wondering why I haven't been posting a lot lately, it's because I've been busy making baked goods for a yard sale/bake sale. My friends and I have been planing to have a huge yard sale for a month. Since I love to bake, I decided to add a bake sale to the mix!

This weekends cool crisp air was perfect for all the fall favorites: Pumpkin muffins, Carrot muffins, Cranberry and Orange Muffins. Of course I had to make the all time favorites like brownies and funfetti mini cupcakes. It was a lot of fun. I decorated the brownies with frosting and halloween sprinkles. The muffins were in pumpkin decorated bags and the mini muffins in halloween decorated zip lock bags. So Cute! I got the plastic containers from my local grocery store's bake shop.

Some people didn't even know that the stuff was homemade because it was packaged so professionally! I love it!!

Chicken Cutlets with Roasted Fennel and Cherry Tomato Sauce


This recipe is an adaptation of two recipes. One is MaryAnn Espisito's (Ciao Italia) Roasted Fennel and Cherry Tomato Sauce and the other is Ellie Krieger's Tuscan Roasted Chicken and Vegetables. I changed both recipes and sort of combined them together. It turned out great.

The fennel tomato sauce is very versatile. As Mary Ann suggests, it can be used as a side vegetable dish, over baked fish, or even as a topping for pizza. And according to Mary Ann the exquisite flavor is due to one key ingredient…sugar. I must say I agree!!

Chicken Cutlets with Roasted Fennel and Cherry Tomato Sauce

3/4 pound of penne or short-cut macaroni, cooked al dente
1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes (washed) 1 bulb fennel 3 tablespoons oil, divided 3/4 teaspoons salt, divided
3 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
1 teaspoon sugar
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon lemon zest

1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 chicken breast halves skinless, (cut each breast in half to make 2 cutlets)
Freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small bowl combine 1 tablespoon of oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, the minced garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice. Rub the mixture into the chicken and let marinate for 1/2 hour.

Remove the outermost layer of the fennel bulb and discard. Cut the bulb in half so that each half retains part of the stem end. Cut each half into 8 thin wedges so each wedge is held together by a little piece of stem.

Put the fennel, tomatoes and garlic halves into a large baking pan. Toss them with 2 tablespoons oil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon sugar. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, then give the vegetables a stir and arrange the chicken pieces in the pan with the vegetables.

Cook for about 17 to 20 minutes more until the chicken is done and the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown.

Place chicken on a serving platter. Toss the fennel tomato sauce with the cooked pasta and serve along side the chicken.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Oatmeal Cranberry Pumpkin Cookies

Fall Is Here and I'm Celebrating with Cookies!

One of the best things about fall is baking all the traditional flavors we all know and love...
The warm spices of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger bring out the true essence of autumn. Add pumpkin to the equation and it's a party!!

This is a really easy cookie recipe using Pillsbury Quick Bread and Muffin Mix. With a little doctoring, it really works!

Oatmeal Cranberry Pumpkin Cookies

1 (15.6-oz.) pkg. Pillsbury® Pumpkin Quick Bread & Muffin Mix
2/3 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 butter or margerine, melted
1 tablespoon water
2 eggs (slightly beaten)
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, combine quick bread mix, oats, cranberries, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger; mix well. Add butter, water and eggs; mix well. Add in white chips. Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake at 350°F. for 10 to 12 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown. Remove from cookie sheets.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Mushroom Parmesan

Great Meat Lovers Vegetarian Dinner!

I love portobello mushrooms. They have a great meatiness to them and are very flavorful. Plus they are easier to clean than smaller mushrooms. It makes me laugh when I see the tv chefs cleaning mushrooms. They say cleaning mushrooms is so easy because they are cultivated now and there isn't much dirt on them. They just dust it off and they are done.

Well I don't know where they are getting their mushrooms from but mine are always pretty dirty. It takes me forever to clean a box of them. And of course, they say not to wash them or they will absorb too much water and become soggy and rubbery. I digress.

Anyway portobello mushrooms can be used in any recipe calling for baby bellas or even white in some cases. Just cut them up to the same size as what the smaller mushroom would be.

This recipe is from ("big surprise") Giada DiLaurentiis. What can I say, she makes some good stuff...

Mushroom Parmesan

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing the grill pan
4 to 6 portobello mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill.(Or preheat your broiler).

Drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil over both sides of the mushrooms. Sprinkle the mushrooms with salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil on the grill to prevent the mushrooms from sticking. Grill until the mushrooms are heated through and tender, about 5 minutes per side.(I broiled mine for 5 minutes on each side.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Spread 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce on the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Place the grilled mushrooms on top of the marinara sauce and top with the remaining marinara sauce. Sprinkle with the cheeses and top with the butter pieces. Bake until the cheese melts and the top is golden, about 15 minutes. Serve.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Quick Peach Pie with Crumble Topping

Again the inspiration for this creation was the need to use up pantry items nearing expiration. It's funny how the idea of having to throw out food gets me to come up with some great ideas!

I had a reduced fat prepared graham cracker crust and frozen peaches in dire need of attention. With a little tender loving care, I created a delicious and decadent "semi" homemade pie.

I don't think I've ever made just a plain peach pie before. I've always added blueberries and made my own crust. In this case I figured the prepared graham crust would be a good complement to the peaches and the crumb topping really added an extra richness.

Speaking of richness, this a fairly rich pie. I did however, reduce the fat by using half the amount of butter than in traditional crumbles. I also cut the sugar. Don't worry it was absolutely fabulous! You can cut a lot of extra fat and calories without even noticing the difference in flavor.

Quick Peach Crumble Pie

1 prepared reduced fat graham cracker crust
1 egg white, beaten
1 16 oz. bag frozen peaches or 2 - 2 1/2 cups fresh peaches, sliced 1/4" thick
1/4 cup turbanado sugar, or regular white sugar
1 tablespoon tapioca
1/8 teaspoon sea salt


1/2 cup all purpose unbleached flour
1/4 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup butter (4 tablespoons)
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Brush pie crust with egg white and bake for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

If using frozen sliced peaches, spread them out on a cookie sheet to thaw and cut each slice in half to make them about 1/4" thick.

In a medium bowl, place peaches, 1/4 cup sugar, tapioca and salt. Stir and let stand for 15 minutes.

In the meanwhile prepare the crumble topping. Mix flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, butter, and spices with a fork until it resembles coarse bread crumbs.

Place peaches in the prepared crust and top with the crumb mixture. Place on top of a foil lined bake sheet.

Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for about 50-55 minutes or until topping is golden and peaches are bubbling and tender.

Product Review...the good, the bad and the ugly!

I think I finally found a coffee substitute that really doesn't seem like a coffee substitute. It's called Teeccino and you make it just like coffee. It brews right in the coffee maker or any other way you can make coffee, even in an espresso machine. The company calls it "herbal coffee". And as you probably noticed the symbol above, it's caffeine free.

When I was looking at this at the supermarket, reading the label, I can tell you that I was very skeptical. But I figured, what the heck, I've spent $7.00 on worse things. So I picked up two flavors- the Vanilla Nut and the Maya Caffe, which is organic.

I tried the Vanilla Nut. The description the company gives it is -" The creaminess of organic Mexican vanilla highlights Teeccino's dark, robust body which is accented with golden roasted almonds and tropical nuts including coconut." Sounds good, right?

Well kids, after on sip, my skepticism turned into belief. The stuff is really good. Plus according to the info on the can, it's also good for you. It has a lot of potassium in it, which is good for your heart. It claims to give you a natural energy boost - from nutrients, not stimulants. It is alkaline, which helps reduce acidity and restore alkaline balance. It is also rich in inulin, a soluble fiber in chicory root, that helps improve digestion and elimination plus increases the absorption of calcium and minerals. Leave it to the Californians to come up with a healthy coffee.

The aroma and the flavor reminds me a little of espresso. It is a very deep flavor, but not bitter or over powering. Actually, I didn't even need sugar! That in itself is amazing!!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Crunchy Onion Sesame Chicken

I was going through my cabinets recently, clearing out the old stuff and I came across a can of French's French Fried Onions that I had bought to make their green bean casserole for Easter. Well I obviously didn't make the casserole so I took it out and set it on the counter to figure out what I wanted to do with it.

That same day on the food channel, Rachel Ray was making chicken fingers with sesame seeds and dehydrated onion. Perfect! I decided to concoct my own recipe by combining some of her suggestions and some of French's recipe. It turned out pretty darn good!

Crunchy Onion Sesame Chicken

1 1/3 cups French’s® Original French Fried Onions
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into strips
1 cup low-fat buttermilk

Place chicken and buttermilk in a bowl and let stand for 30 minutes to an hour.

Place French Fried Onions into plastic bag. Lightly crush with hands or with rolling pin. Add the sesame seeds and cheese and mix well to combine.

Remove each chicken piece from buttermilk letting the excess run off and coat with onion crumb mixture, pressing firmly to adhere. Place chicken on baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake at 400°F for 15 minutes or until no longer pink in center. Sprinkle with additional crumbs, if desired.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

Great For Lunch or A Light Dinner

I love portobello mushrooms. They are almost like eating steak, and when they are stuffed, it's just heaven. I looked around online for recipes and sort of picked a little from here and there and came up with this fabulous, delicious, rich but not too fattening recipe.
These mushrooms could also be quartered and served as an appetizer.

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

4 portobello mushrooms
Nonstick cooking spray
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 large shallot or 2 small, minced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup carrot, minced
1/2 cup plain non-fat yogurt, strained*
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespon butter or margarine
1/3 cup bread crumbs, fresh if possible
1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese (2 ounces)
4 strips crisp cooked bacon, crumbled**

1. Clean mushrooms. Remove and discard stems, using a teaspoon, remove the black, fibrous underside of the mushroom caps and discard. Place mushrooms, cap side down, on a baking pan lightly sprayed with cooking spray.

2. In a medium saucepan cook the shallot, carrot, and garlic in butter over medium low until tender. Stir in bread crumbs, yogurt, mayo, cheese, and bacon. Spoon crumb mixture into mushroom caps.

3. Bake until mushrooms are tender and filling is hot, about 12 to 15 minutes.

*Strain yogurt by placing in a colander lined with paper towels for about 30 minutes. **For an easy way to cook the bacon, line a baking sheet with foil and place the bacon evenly on top. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Place bacon strips on paper towel lined plate to dry and absorb excess grease.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Roasted Fennel with Parmesan

It's All Giada, All The Time!

I've been on a Giada DiLaurentiis kick lately. Well, I guess I shouldn't say lately, because I use her recipes more than anyone else. I just like a lot of the things she makes I guess. This has to be one of my favorites though. I could have eaten the whole dish all by my self. I will definately be buying more fennel soon!

Roasted Fennel With Parmesan
Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

4 tablespoons olive oil
4 fennel bulbs, cut horizontally into 1/3-inch thick slices, fronds reserved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup freshly shredded Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Lightly oil the bottom of a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish. Arrange the fennel in the dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then with the Parmesan. Drizzle with the oil. Bake until the fennel is fork-tender and the top is golden brown, about 45 minutes. Chop enough fennel fronds to equal 2 teaspoons, then sprinkle over the roasted fennel and serve.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Grilled Eggplant and Squash with Herb Dressing

So Long Summer, It's Been Great!

I've decided to take advantage of the summer produce as long as I possible can. I picked up some beautiful eggplant, zucchini and summer squash from my local farmers market over the weekend. I wanted to highlight the fresh summer flavors in the simplest way, so I grilled them and made a fresh herb dressing to go over them.

Since I always like to add a little protein to my veggie dishes, I included some cannellini beans and for a little zing, some marianted black and green olives.
I topped it with grated Romano cheese and served it over cous cous, but any medium to small pasta would be fine.

Grilled Eggplant and Squash with Herb Dressing
Herb Dressing
1/4 cup of organic raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey
1 small clove garlic, grated on microplane, or minced
1/4 cup mixed fresh herbs, your choice of basil, parsley, rosemary, oregano and thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper

Add the vinegar, honey, garlic, honey, herbs, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Mix to combine. Add the oil slowly and blend with an emersion blender. (This can also be done in a blender). Blend until oil is combined with vinegar mixture and it becomes slightly thick. Set aside until ready to use.

Grilled Vegetables

2 small/medium sized eggplant, peeled leaving some small stripes for decoration, cut into 1/2" rounds
1 zuccini, peeled leaving some stripes, cut 1/2" thick on the diagonal
1 summer squash, peeled leaving some stripes, cut 1/2" thick on the diagonal
1/4 cup marinated black and green olives, sliced
1/2 cup cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper

Heat grill on medium and spray with non-stick oil spray. Place the eggplant, zucchini and summer squash in a large bowl, add the olive oil and salt and pepper; toss to coat. Place the vegetables on the hot grill and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes on each side or to desired tenderness. Remove from grill and place into a bowl. Add the 1/2 of the herb dressing and toss to coat. Serve over cous cous or other pasta and drizzle with more dressing and grated Romano cheese.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Grilled Eggplant Salad

As Yummy As It Looks!

I've been eating a lot of eggplant lately. I guess because it looks so fresh. This recipe is another from Giada DiLaurentiis. It is hearty enough to eat as a main dish. Just serve it with some crusty Italian bread.

Grilled Eggplant and Goat Cheese Salad

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis
3 tablespoons olive oil
7 Japanese eggplant, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch wide slices, I used two regular eggplants cut into 1/2 to 3/4" thick slices
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled,
I used gorgonzola
1/3 cup basil, thinly sliced, I used 1/2 cup
2 tablespoons chopped mint,
I omitted this
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or preheat a gas or charcoal grill. Drizzle the olive oil over the slices of eggplant and toss to coat. Grill the eggplants until tender and grill marks appear, about 3 to 4 minutes per side.
I used cooked them for about 5-6 minutes per side. Place the eggplants side-by-side on a serving platter. Sprinkle with the pine nuts, goat cheese, basil, and mint. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.