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.