Sunday, November 30, 2008

Stuffed Zucchini and Bell Peppers

Hearty and Satisfying!

If you like meatloaf and you like stuffed peppers, than you will love this recipe. It is very different from the stuffed peppers that I was brought up eating. My mom used to make stuffed peppers with ground beef (or sometimes ground turkey), onion, garlic, rice and tomato sauce. And of course I followed suit, making them pretty much the same way.

In this recipe you actually make a meatloaf filling and stuff the peppers and zucchini with it. No rice at all. It is really good. The other thing I like about this recipe is that if someone in the family doesn't like peppers, they can eat the stuffed zucchini instead. The only thing I might change the next time I make them is to lightly saute the shallots (or in the original recipe, onion) before adding it to the meat mixture. It had a little bit of a raw bite to it. But other than that, I enjoyed them thoroughly.

Stuffed Zucchini and Bell Peppers

adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

1 tablespoons olive oil
1 large shallot, grated
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 large egg
3 tablespoons ketchup
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1/4 cup dried seasoned bread crumbs
1 1/4 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat
2 zucchini, ends removed, halved lengthwise and crosswise
2 short bell peppers (any color), halved and seeded
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Carefully scrape out the seeds and inner flesh from the zucchini with a melon baller or spoon, leaving 1/8-inch-thick shells, making sure not to cut through the skin.

Lightly drizzle the olive oil into a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish. Whisk the shallot, parsley, egg, ketchup, garlic, salt, pepper, cheese and bread crumbs in a large bowl to blend. Mix in the turkey and combine with your hands.

Fill the zucchini and pepper halves with the turkey mixture, dividing equally and mounding slightly. Arrange the stuffed vegetables in the baking dish. Pour the marinara sauce over the stuffed vegetables.

Bake uncovered until the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown and a thermometer inserted into the filling registers 165 degrees F, about 40-50 minutes. Transfer the stuffed vegetables to a platter and serve.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Cream Cheese Cookies

Candy Corn, Bleh.
Candy Corn on a Cream Cheese Cookie...
Yes In Deedy!!

I could take or leave candy corn. I have never really cared for it too much. But I feel compelled to buy it every fall for some reason. It just seems like the right thing to do. I kind of liken it to buying lemonade in the summer. It just wouldn't be summer without a lemonade. Although I really like lemonade... but I don't really like candy corn. Well you get the point. At least I hope so! ;0)

So anyway I had left over candy corn and needed to find a palatable way to eat it. So I decided to make cream cheese cookies. Makes sense to me. I would eat just about anything if cream cheese was involved. But in keeping with my "healthy" eating theme, I had to find a way to cut the fat and calories without cutting out the flavor...

I think I succeeded! These cookies were simply delicious. And if you don't have candy corn, no worries, they work well with a variety of toppings and or additions. I also made some with chocolate chips and almonds, even better!

By the way, I owed a friend of mine a thank you for a favor, so I wrapped up a few of these cookies (as pictured above) and they were a hit!

I think these cookies would be perfect on a festive plate set out for Santa, so I sent the recipe over to Susan at Food Blogga who is hosting a Food Blog(ga) event called Eat Christmas Cookies, Season 2. So if you're thinking about making cookies for Christmas, check it out. You'll find some great recipes of Christmas Cookies From Around The World!

Cream Cheese Cookies

by Mixed Salad Annie

8 oz. pkg 1/3 less fat cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup tub margarine or butter, softened
1/8 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon fat-free creamer or milk
1 1/2 tablespoons pure almond extract
1 cup sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/3 cup candy corn, chocolate chips or almond slices

Heat oven to 350 F

Blend cream cheese, butter, oil and milk with an electric mixer until smooth. Add sugar and almond extract; mix well.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder & salt. Add to cream cheese mixture; stir until blended and smooth.

Drop dough from a tablespoon or cookie scoop onto parchment lined cookie sheets. Top with candy corn, chocolate chips or sliced almonds.

Bake 10 to 11 minutes or until set but not brown. Cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet and transfer to wire rack.

Savory Butternut Squash Lasagna

A Whole New Way to Look at Butternut Squash!

Lately I have been into winter squash. Especially pumpkin and as of late, butternut squash. When most people think of butternut squash they usually think of a sweet dish that's made with sugar and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. For me, I prefer sweetened squash as a dessert not as a meal.
I recently made a delicious baked squash gratin by Giada DiLaurentiis that I haven't made since last year. It is layers of butternut squash, basil pesto and grated cheese. In my opinion it takes butternut squash to a whole new dimension. Giada also makes a Butternut Squash Lasagna with similar flavors. It was the inspiration for my Savory Butternut Squash Lasagna. I made mine low-fat and it was absolutely delicious. So I can imagine what the full fat version would taste like. This would make a perfect side dish for Thanksgiving dinner, or even the main entree if you are a vegetarian.Savory Butternut Squash Lasagna (Reduced Fat)
by Mixed Salad Annie

1 (1 1/2 to 2-pound) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into small cubes
1 large leek, halved lengthwise, sliced, washed and dried or large onion halved and sliced, both are optional
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup fat-free or reduced-fat ricotta, I recommend Calabro brand which is all natural and contains nothing but cheese and starters
1/4 teaspoon, plus a pinch nutmeg, divided
2 whole garlic cloves, smashed with the back of your knife
1/4 cup butter, don't substitute here it really makes the whole dish work!
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups fat-free creamer or skim milk
1/3 cup pesto sauce
14 no-boil lasagna noodles
1 1/4 cups shredded reduced-fat Italian four cheese blend or mozzarella cheese
1 1/4 cups cup grated Parmesan

Preheat to 375 degrees F. and adjust the rack to the center of the oven.

Toss leeks, olive oil and salt and pepper in a bowl. Place leeks on a foil lined bake sheet and bake for about 15 minutes until softened and lightly browned, stirring half way through. Set aside.

Set a steamer basket in a large pot and fill with a small amount of water making sure not to touch the bottom of the basket. Add the squash and steam over medium high heat until the squash is very tender, about 20 minutes*. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, dash of pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg and ricotta cheese. Transfer the squash mixture to a food processor (let cool slightly) and blend until smooth and creamy or use a hand held blender and blend right in the same pan.
Add the butter and garlic to a large saucepan over low heat. Cook for about 3 minutes until garlic is very fragrant. Add the flour and whisk for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the creamer/milk, turn the heat up to medium/high and continue whisking until smooth and mixture comes to a boil. Continue whisking, reduce the heat to medium/low and allow the sauce to simmer and slightly thicken, about 5 minutes. Season with 3/4 teaspoon salt, dash of pepper and pinch of nutmeg. Strain out garlic and set aside.

Spray a 13 by 9 by 2-inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 3/4 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the baking dish. Place 3 1/2 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Spread 1/3 of the squash mixture over the lasagna noodles. Spread 1/3 of the pesto over the squash mixture and sprinkle 1/3 of the leeks over the top. Add 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese and 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese. Drizzle 1/2 cup of sauce over the top and arrange the next layer of noodles. Add another 1/3 of the squash mixture, 1/3 of the pesto, 1/3 of the leeks and 1/4 of each cheese. Add 1/2 cup of the sauce over the top of the noodles and repeat layering 1 more time. Top the last layer of noodles with the remaining sauce, 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and 1/2 cup of parmesan.

Cover the baking dish with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking until the sauce bubbles and the top is browned, about 15-20 minutes longer. Let the lasagna rest for 20-30 minutes before serving.

*You could also roast the butternut squash along with the leeks/onions, just add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a bit more sea salt and pepper and bake; mix a few times until soft and light brown, approx. 45 minutes.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Dipalicous Chocolate-Caramel Covered Apples

It's Apple Time!

What could be better than a nice crisp apple in Autumn?
A chocolate covered crisp apple, that's what! If you have never tried one, make sure you put it on your things to do before you die list. Hahahha! Seriously though, these things are fabulous. And they make great gifts too. I made these for my brother's and my nieces and nephew's birthdays. They also make great hostess gifts for Halloween parties and Thanksgiving.

Gourmet apples of this caliber ;) usually sell anywhere from $10 to $20 bucks in a gourmet shop. And I guess I can see why. Not that they are hard to make, but it is very time consuming and a little messy. You gotta love doing it. Which I do. So for me, it is so worth the trouble! YUM...

I made these once last year and I used Granny Smith apples which is what most recipes call for. This time I used Mutzu apples because I saw a show on the food network that talked about how this variety was the best to use for dipping. It is not supposed to turn brown when it is cut. I haven't tried one myself so I can't tell you if it is true. When my brother eats his I will have to get the verdict from him and I'll let you all know. Either that or I will have to cut into one that's in my fridge if I don't end up giving it away. We'll see how strong my will power is. :P

Here is the recipe.