Monday, March 26, 2007

Asparagus - As a Side Dish and In a Main Dish

Roasting Asparagus Really Does Bring Out The Best Flavor

I almost forgot how much I liked asparagus until I ate it recently. It had been a while since I had it last. I think I had been avoiding it because I may have had a few bad cooking experiences with it in the past. Sometimes fresh asparagus can be tough and stringy at the stem. I have learned a few tricks over the years to prevent this from happening. And now I'm passing them on to you!
By the way, asparagus is really good for you too. According to the world's healthiest foods website, it provides a wealth of B vitamins including 157% of the daily value for B3, 99% of the daily value for B6 and 96% of the daily value for folate.

Roasted Asparagus
Parade Magazine April 2006

1 pound medium sized asparagus
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
I didn't use the next 2 ingredients:
1 tablespoon chopped fresh leaf parsley
2 lemons, halved for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a roasting pan, coat the asparagus with oil, salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer, facing the same direction. Cover with foil and roast for 10 minutes. Remove foil and roast for 10 minutes. (I roasted them for 15 minutes at this point). Arrange on a platter, garnish with parsley and lemon halves.

Mixed Salad Annie Quick Tip:
Prepare the asparagus by washing under cold water. Take one asparagus and holding with both hands towards the bottom end, snap the asparagus in half. This is the natural breaking point where you should trim the remainder of the asparagus. Just line them up in a single layer and cut them all at the same point. I also peel the asparagus about 1 inch from the bottom with a vegetable peeler to ensure a tender stem.

Healthy Asparagus Omelet
Mixed Salad Annie

1 large egg and 1 egg white
1 tablespoon skim milk
salt and pepper to taste
5 asparagus spears, cooked and cut into small pieces
1 slice of low-fat, low-sodium swiss cheese (I used Alpine Lace)
1 tablespoon buttery spread (I used Smart Balance)

Heat a small non-stick skillet over medium-low heat. Whisk the eggs, milk and salt and pepper. Add spread to the skillet and then the eggs. Let eggs set for a minute or two, lifting the sides of the egg while tilting the skillet to allow the loose egg to flow under. When the egg is no longer loose on the top, add the asparagus and cheese and fold over one side of the egg on top of the other. Allow to cook for another minute. Flip omelet over and cook for 30 seconds more. Slide onto a heated plate and enjoy.

Mixed Salad Annie Quick Tip:
Once the omelet has been flipped over, take the plate you intend to eat on and place the top over the skillet while the omelet cooks for 30 seconds. This will warm your plate and also help melt the cheese.

Thursday, March 22, 2007



It all starts with canned chicken broth. I know it's not as healthy as cooking your own chicken stock, but when time is an issue-this is a tasty and healthy alternative. Of course, I use low-sodium, low fat chicken broth, fresh vegetables and herbs, so it has to be good!

Quick & Easy Chicken Vegetable Soup

2 cans of low-sodium chicken broth (I like Swanson)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped
1 celery stalk, sliced thin
1 large carrot or 2 medium, sliced thin
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
3/4 cup mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (optional-I had them so I used them.)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper
1/2 - 1 cup cooked chicken breast, diced
1/4 cup pastina (small pasta)

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, zucchini, celery and carrots and cook for another 8 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add in the herbs and stir for about 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth and the diced chicken. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and add the pastina. Cook for about 5 minutes or until pastina is cooked to your liking.
Discard bay leaf and fresh thyme sprigs if added. Serves about 3-4.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

My New Best Friend.

Leeks: Lusciously Lovely.

Yes it's true-I have a new best friend. The Leek. It is a vegetable I was not familiar with until recently and now I can't get enough.

Since it is a cousin to onions, shallots, scallions and garlic, it contains many of the same beneficial compounds found in them. Leeks are, however, much milder and sweeter. And that's why I love them!

I have mostly used them in soups, until now. A friend of mine found this recipe for me and it was phenomenal. Give it a try!

Braised leeks with parmesan and thyme
By Steve Manfredi Good Living Entertainment

For 6 people, clean and wash 6 large, plump leeks, slice each down the center then cut each length in half, giving each person 4 half-cylinders. Preheat the oven to 180C.(350 F.)

Place the leeks - cut side facing up - in a baking dish so they fit snugly. Pour chicken stock in the dish until the leeks are not quite covered. Sprinkle the leek faces with extra virgin olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Distribute a generous amount of grated parmesan on top and finish with a little freshly chopped thyme.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the leeks are tender. Serve straight out of the oven.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

I think I got a bad cut of meat.

This would have been really tasty...

I was really excited about trying this recipe for pork tenderloin that I saw in Cooking Light magazine. I book marked the page and waited for a sale. Bingo, this week it went on sale and I bought my first pork tenderloin. It only weighed about 3/4 pound, but that was plenty since I was only cooking for two.
The recipe seemed great, but the pork just did not come out right. Once cooked, the flesh seemed dark and not white like I've seen everyone else's pork tenderloin turn out. It also was not tender, in fact, it was quite tough to chew. I know I didn't over cook it, because I used my probe thermometer and with the carry over cooking included, it registered 162 degrees. It was a big disappointment. There is no explanation of what happened, so I can only wonder if it was a bad cut of meat.
I will try it again, because the flavor of the seasoning was pretty darn good.

Mustard Herb-Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Recipe by Cooking Light magazine

1 (1/2 ounce) slice white bread (I used wheat since it was all I had)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons grated fresh Romano cheese
2 teaspoons fresh thyme (I used 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 (1 pound) pork tenderloin, trimmed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed (I used finely ground anise seed)
1 garlic clove, minced (I grated mine very fine on my microplane)
Cooking spray (I used non-stick aluminum foil)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Place slice of bread in a food processor, and pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 1/4 cup. Combine the breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, cheese, and 2 teaspoons thyme in a shallow dish. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. Combine Dijon mustard, fennel seeds, and garlic in a small bowl. Rub pork with mustard mixture, and dredge in breadcrumb mixture.

Place pork on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450 degrees for 25 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160 degrees (slightly pink). Let stand for 10 minutes. Cut crosswise into 1/4 inch thick slices. Yield: 4 servings (serving size 3 ounces pork).

I hope yours turns out better than mine! Good Luck!

You CAN Eat Pasta!

Especially this one-It's Really Healthy!

Anyone who is on a diet or even just trying to maintain their weight, is a little leery of eating pasta! We all know by now that consuming massive quantities of carbohydrates is not a good idea if your trying to control your weight.
But there is a way to enjoy your favorite pasta without getting out the fat pants. It's all about portion control. Most pasta recipes recommend cooking a pound of pasta for 6 to 8 servings. That's a lot of macaroni!
The best bet is to measure out the pasta before cooking. I made the following recipe using only one full measuring cup (filled to the top). When you add veggies, beans or chicken, beef, etc., you will have plenty to fill at least 4 to 6 plates. So give it a try, just cut back a bit, you'll never miss it! Trust Me.

Shells with Broccoli Rabe

Adapted recipe by Italian Cooking for Dummies

1 large bunch broccoli rabe,
washed, cleaned, tough stems discarded,
and florets separated from stems
1 1/2 Tablespoons kosher salt
1 full measuring cup medium shells
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 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 and transfer to a small bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta to the boiling water, mix well, and cook until the pasta is al dente.
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 the reserved 1/4 cup of water and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt.
Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet with the broccoli rabe. Stir well to combine. Serve immediately sprinkled with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Pasta and Veggies. What Could Be Better?

How About Baked Pasta and Veggies?

This dish was easy for me to make because I make roasted vegetables every week. In fact, I'm always looking for ways to use up the leftovers. I usually use them in frittatas, calzones and in pasta. But I have never used them in a baked pasta dish. Thanks to my friend Giada DiLaurentiis, now I have, only with my own spin.

Baked Ziti with Roasted Vegetables
Adapted from recipe by Giada DiLaurentiis

1/2 (1 lb) bag baby carrots, halved lengthwise
1 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch rounds
1 large broccoli crown, cut into florets
1/4 to 1/2 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed and cut in half
1 ( 6 ounce) can black olives
1/2 ( 5.75 ounce) jar manzanilla olives, rinsed
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, quartered, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix or herbs de Provence
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 pound penne pasta
3 cups marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated scamorza or smoked mozzarella
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Steam the carrots and green beans until crisp tender, about 8 minutes. (If you don't have a steamer, microwave on high, covered, for about 6 minutes). Steam broccoli for about 4-5 minutes. (Microwave about 3 minutes). You can skip the steaming step if you prefer crisp veggies. On a baking sheet covered with foil, toss all the veggies with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, garlic powder and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain in a colander.

In a large bowl, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.

Pour the pasta into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Top with the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan and butter pieces. Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes.

I actually filled 2 separate baking dishes and froze one (before baking) for future use. I love finding prepared dinners in my freezer when I don't have time to cook.

More Soup Please!

Anyway You Sip It... Soup Is The Ultimate Comfort Food!

The weather has been accomodating my recent soup craving. Or maybe I am craving soup because of the weather. Either way I have really enjoyed the comfort of eating a big bowl of soup for dinner after a long, hard day at work. If I don't feel like stopping for a loaf of Italian bread after work, I usually garnish the top with garlic croutons, which I love. It satisfies my need to crunch.

Turkey and Spinach Soup
Adapted from Sausage and Spinach Soup Recipe by Cooking Light

5 ounces of ground turkey breast
Cooking spray
2 small/med leeks, chopped
2 minced garlic cloves
1/2 cup water
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 (14 ounce) can low sodium chicken broth
1/2 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 tablespoon fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
dash of crushed anise seed
Grated Romano cheese

Heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the leeks and cook over medium heat until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the turkey, stir to crumble, cook until lightly browned. Add the garlic, oregano and anise seed; cook for 1 minute. Stir in 1/2 cup water, beans, tomatoes and broth.
Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover and add the spinach; cook for 10 minutes on low heat.
Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with cheese. Serve with crusty bread or garnish with garlic croutons.

P.S. In my opinion, soup is always better the next day. So you can eat it immediately, but for optimum flavor eat it the next day!

More Yummy Chicken!

Easy Enough To Make On A Busy Weeknight!

I am so excited that I found another easy and delicious chicken recipe. It is very well known, but I had never made the traditional version before. I am so glad I finally did. It was so good. Rich and super tasty, and the best part is that it was so easy to make. It took only minutes to prepare and minutes to cook. This is my kind of recipe!

Chicken Francaise
Recipe by

1 Lb. chicken cutlets, pounded thin
Egg, beaten with salt, pepper & 1/4 c. milk (I used one egg and not quite a 1/4 c. of milk)
1 lemon, halved
Freshly chopped parsley
1 1/2 sticks of butter (You know I didn't use all that butter-I used about 6 Tablespoons total)

Dredge chicken in flour, then dip in egg mixture and again in flour. Put in refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour to set. Chicken will be sticky.

Melt 1 stick butter in large skillet (I melted 4 T.). When it starts to bubble, squeeze 1/2 lemon into butter and quickly add cutlets. Sprinkle with parsley. Turn and brown the other side. Remove to a warm platter. Melt other 1/2 stick butter (I used the other 2 T.) with juice of the other half of lemon. Pour over the top of cutlets and serve immediately.

Enjoy. I know I did!