Monday, March 23, 2015

Asparagus Noodle Skillet Lasagna

Asparagus Noodle Skillet Lasagna

 Guys, I have such a fun post for you today!  Over the past few months, I've been loving zucchini noodles, and have been quite taken with my spiralizer.  I've even begun to branch out -- cucumber noodles are great in salads, sweet potato noodles make yummy curly fries… and beet noodles, anyone?

A few weeks ago I had planned to make skillet lasagna using zucchini noodles, but as I was buying groceries, I had the idea to use shaved asparagus instead.  It was a bit of a gamble, but it turned out to be one of the best meals I've cooked in a while!  The noodles were perfectly tender, without being mushy, and they imparted a wonderful mild and fresh flavor to the dish.  The texture was closer to that of fresh pasta than any veggie noodle I've had previously, and my kids absolutely devoured it.

I've been a bit hesitant to share recipes using the spiralizer here, since they do require a specialty kitchen tool.  But all you need for the asparagus noodles is a veggie peeler!  I was so excited by the success of this recipe, that I've been dreaming up other asparagus noodle ideas.  I never thought I'd be so excited about a vegetable, but with asparagus coming into season, get ready to see a lot of it around here!

Asparagus Noodle Skillet Lasagna

Asparagus Noodle Skillet Lasagna
heavily adapted from Inspiralized, by Ali Maffucci
serves 4

  • 1 lb asparagus
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 4 oz tomato sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups baby spinach
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

To prepare the shaved asparagus, Lay each spear flat on the cutting board and hold by the woodsy end.  Moving from the base of the stalk to the tip, shave thin slices using a vegetable peeler.  It's okay if they are different thicknesses. 

Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick, oven safe skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallot and cook until it's just softened, 3 minutes.  Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, and oregano, and cook until fragrant, stirring constantly, about 1 minute.

Increase the heat to medium-high and stir in the tomatoes plus their juices and the tomato sauce.  Season generously with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir in the basil.

Meanwhile, make the filling.  In a medium bowl, combine the parmesan cheese, ricotta, 1/4 cup mozzarella, and the egg.  Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine.

Remove half the sauce from the pan, and set it aside in a small bowl.  Stir the spinach into the remaining sauce, and cook over low heat until it is wilted.  Spread the sauce evenly on the bottom of the skillet.  Pile the shaved asparagus over the sauce, then pour the remaining sauce over the asparagus. Drop large spoonfuls of the filling over the top, then sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on top.

Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the noodles are soft and cheese is melted.  Serve.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Chicken with Orange-Feta Salsa


This dinner perfectly epitomizes the way I have been eating lately -- it's light, healthy, filling, and really pretty!  Don't you just love pretty food?  A super simple strategy for putting together a healthy and flavorful dinner is just pairing a lean protein with a quick salsa or relish.  Here, I paired seared chicken breast with a simple salsa of oranges, scallions, and feta cheese.  It's seemingly basic and simple, but it is SO bright and flavorful.  The combination of the sweet and sunny oranges pairs really well with the salty feta, and the scallions give it just enough bite to keep it interesting.  I think this salsa would be wonderful over any fish, shrimp, or even pork tenderloin.

I kept it simple when I made this chicken, and served it with roasted asparagus, but I think any green vegetable would be great.  The salsa was really tasty over the asparagus as well!  This dinner was a big hit all around, and we practically licked our plates clean.

As we're transitioning from winter to spring, we also transition to lighter, brighter meals, and this one is definitely a winner!

Chicken with Orange-Feta Salsa

Chicken with Orange-Feta Salsa
adapted from ATK's Healthy Family Cookbook
serves 4

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 (6-oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to an even thickness
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbs canola oil
  • 4 oranges
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs water
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup crumbled feat cheese
  • 3 scallions, sliced thin

Spread the flour into an even layer in a pie plate or shallow dish.  Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and season generously with salt and pepper.  Lightly dredge the chicken in the flour, and shake off the excess.

Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and cook 6 minutes, then flip.  Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until the chicken is cooked through (160-165 degrees), another 5 to 7 minutes.  Transfer the chicken to a platter and tent loosely with aluminum foil.  Remove the skillet from the heat, but don't wash yet!

For the relish:  

Slice the top and bottom off of the orange, then cut away the peel and the pith (the white part) with a paring knife.  Quarter the peeled orange, the slice each quarter cross-wise into 1 inch pieces.

Return the skillet to medium heat, and add the garlic.  Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then stir in the oranges and water.  Scrape up any browned bits with a wooden spoon, then cook until th eoranges are just softened, 1 to 2 minutes.  

Remove the orange salsa from the pan into a medium bowl, then stir in the feta and scallions.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the chicken on a platter, then top with the salsa.  Serve.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Smoky Pork, Sweet Potato, and Black Eyed Pea Chili (Crockpot)

Smoky Pork, Sweet Potato, and Black-Eyed Pea Chili (Crokpot)

Chili recipes are like margarita recipes:  you can never have too many variations.  This particular combination is a little different than a standard chili, but I am totally smitten with it.  Lean pork loin country-style ribs are the meat of choice, and the chili is bulked up by the addition of sweet potatoes and black eyed peas.  I absolutely love black eyed peas, so I knew this would be a big hit -- kind of a southern-style chili almost.  Fragrant spices like chili powder, cumin, and just a pinch of cinnamon give it a nice smoky background, and there's just enough heat to keep things interesting from chipotle chiles.

This chili is also super filling, and pretty healthy.  I know that we're moving into spring and warm weather, but there's always one surprise and unwelcome cold snap before we get there for good.  For that day:  make this chili!

Smoky Pork, Sweet Potato, and Black-Eyed Pea Chili (Crokpot) 

Smoky Pork, Sweet Potato, and Black Eyed Pea Chili
adapted from The Healthy Slow Cooker Revolution
serves 6 to 8

  • 2 onions, chopped fine
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbs chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, minced (seeds optional)
  • 3 (15-oz) cans black eyed peas, rinsed and drained (divided)
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless country-style ribs, trimmed of visible fat
  • 1 1/2 lbs sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbs minced fresh cilantro
To serve:  diced red onions, cilantro, jalapeƱos, queso fresco cheese, avocado, etc

In a large microwave-safe bowl, stir together the onions, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, tomato paste, oil, and chipotle.  Microwave for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened.  Scrape into the slow cooker.

In a food processor or blender, puree one can of the black eyed peas with 1 cup of the broth until smooth.  Transfer to the slow cooker.  Stir in the remaining 2 cups of broth and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Season the pork with salt and pepper and nestle it into the mixture.

Make a foil packet for the sweet potatoes:  Place the sweet potatoes on one side of a large piece of aluminum foil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Fold the other half of the foil over the vegetables and crimp the 3 open edges to seal.  

Carefully place the packet on top of the stew.

Cover and cook until the pork is tender and can easily be shredded with a fork, 6 to 8 hours on low or 4 to 6 hours on high.  

Transfer the foil packet to a plate and carefully open it, watching for steam.  Use tongs to remove the ribs from the slow cooker and shred them using 2 forks.  Stir the potatoes, shredded pork, cilantro, and the remaining 2 cans of black beans into the slow cooker.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  

Serve with any toppings or garnishes you'd like!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Shrimp-Stuffed Shells

Shrimp-Stuffed Shells

Stuffed shells have long-been one of my favorite dinners, but I typically keep it pretty traditional, with a standard sausage-ricottoa-spinach filling.  However, I absolutely love seafood pastas, so the minute I saw this shrimp-stuffed shells recipe, I knew it would be a winner.  What I didn't expect though, was how MUCH of a winner it would be.  Caroline ate an obscene number of these, and Smith had almost as many.  Henry and Tucker have entered "the picky era" of their lives, and they even ate these shells with reckless abandon.  Which, as I'm sure you can imagine, means, sauce and shrimp flying all over the place and making a giant mess, as only two year olds know how.

Shrimp-Stuffed Shells 

The idea of shrimp in a baked pasta dish may seem kind of .. odd.. but the shrimp cook right in the shells, and there's no overcooked, rubbery seafood to be found.  The filling is cheesy and creamy, and the rich tomato sauce is a great contrast to that.  Of course, no baked pasta dish is complete without a blanket of mozzarella and parmesan, so of course we've got you covered there too.

As we hunker down for another winter storm, I am all about comfort food, and baked pasta definitely fits the bill.  And as a bonus, this is actually pretty light.  Four shells, which I found to be a very generous serving, is just under 500 calories, making this a really great healthy meal.

Shrimp-Stuffed Shells 

Shrimp-Stuffed Shells
adapted from Cooking Light, January 2012
serves 5 to 6

  • 20 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
  • 1  Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 cup diced shallots
  • 2 Tbs minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup (4 oz) reduced fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 pound medium shrimp; peeled, deveined, and cut into thirds
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • cooking spray
  • 2-3 cups marinara sauce
  • 1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 Tbs freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400° F.  Lightly spray a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 teaspoons  of kosher salt.  Cook pasta 7 to 9 minutes or until just al dente.  Drain and set aside.

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add shallots and cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and red pepper flakes; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Whisk in the cream cheese and milk and cook until cheese melts, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in basil. Place shrimp in a bowl. Sprinkle with the corn starch and toss well to coat. Add cream cheese mixture to shrimp.  Mix well to combine.

Divide shrimp mixture evenly among pasta shells.  Spread 1 cup marinara over bottom of dish. Arrange the shells in a single layer in the prepared dish; top with remaining 1-2 cups marinara. Sprinkle shells evenly with the mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Cover  Bake at 400° for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the shrimp are cooked through.  Serve.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples, Cranberries and Aged Gouda

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples, Cranberries, and Aged Gouda


I've made it abundantly clear that I loathe winter and love summer for a multitude of reasons, one being my preference for summer produce over winter.  However, this year I'm trying not to be such a whiner, and I'm embracing the produce of the season.  This year that has meant that I'm all about brussels sprouts.  We enjoy them roasted at least once a week, as a side to our main dish.  I roast them and top with a runny egg for breakfast.  I throw them on the best chopped salad in the world.  I shred them, along with potatoes, and make hash for brunch (again, topped with a runny egg.  And steak).  And now, I shred them and eat them raw as a salad.

Normally when they are eaten raw, brussels sprouts can be bitter, bracing, and hard to chew.  But after a quick marinade in a lemony dressing, they are softened, well-seasoned, and super addictive.  I used this technique for the base of the salad, then added some shredded apples, dried cranberries, and aged Gouda to the mix.  I think that pecans, hazelnuts, or walnuts would be a great addition as well.

I eat salad a lot as a side, especially when we have a heavier dinner, such as pasta.  So the brussels sprouts salad was a nice change of pace to the normal spinach or romaine salad.  And as a bonus, it is super hearty, thus it keeps really well in the refrigerator.  I ate the leftovers for lunch for a few days afterward, and it was just as good as the first day!

I loved the flavor profile here, but this salad is open to innumerable combinations - try it with some cherry tomatoes, bacon, and goat cheese; or simply shaved onions and parmesan cheese; maybe try shredded carrots and feta… the options are endless!

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples, Cranberries, and Aged Gouda 

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Apples, Cranberries, and Aged Gouda
adapted from Cook's Country
serves 8
  • 2 lbs brussels sprouts
  • 3 Tbs lemon juice
  • 2 Tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup shredded aged gouda, or extra sharp cheddar
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and shredded 
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
Trim off the stem of each brussels sprout, then shred.  Either use a food processor with the slicing attachment, or slice very thinly with a knife.

In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Slowly whisk in the oil until it's incorporated.  Add the shredded brussels sprouts and toss to coat well.  Let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours.

Fold in the shredded apples, gouda, and dried cranberries.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.  Serve.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Middle Eastern-Spiced Turkey & Zucchini Sliders (or lettuce wraps!)

Middle Eastern-Spiced Turkey and Zucchini Sliders with Creamy Sumac Sauce

Every so often we have a meal that absolutely blows us away.  These little sliders may look humble and unassuming, but don't be fooled:  this has been unanimously voted to be the best meal we've had all year!  I believe it was Caroline who loudly proclaimed "best dinner EVER" as we finished up.  I try not to be overly-effusive about every meal I share with you guys, so trust me when I tell you that these are absolutely fan-freaking-tastic!

These little patties are made up of ground turkey, zucchini, lots of fresh herbs, and cumin.  And then you serve them with a tangy and creamy sumac sauce.  They can also be served any number of ways:  Joey ate his as sliders, Caroline ate hers as-is, dipping them in the sauce, and I made lettuce wraps out of mine.  I chopped up the leftover patties and ate them on a salad with tons of veggies, and thinned out the sumac sauce to use as a dressing -- also highly recommend this vehicle!    The burgers are super flavorful from the zucchini and fresh herbs, with a nice smokiness and spice from the cumin and cayenne.  It's been almost a month since we ate these, and my mouth still waters when I think about that dinner.

I served these sliders with root veggie fries, and we all loved dipping them in the sauce as well.  Really, this sauce should become a staple condiment, one that you keep on hand for pretty much everything!

Sadly, my local Williams-Sonoma closed in January, and I was lucky enough to snag a copy of Ottolenghi's Jerusalem for an absolute steal.  This was the first recipe I've made from it, but I have a ton flagged and saved to make soon.  And if any of them are half as good as these burgers, then I'm definitely in for a treat.  Now go make these sliders!

Middle Eastern-Spiced Turkey and Zucchini Lettuce Wraps with Creamy Sumac Sauce

Middle Eastern-Spiced Turkey and Zucchini Sliders
adapted from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem
makes 16-18 burgers

  • 1 large zucchini, shredded on the large holes of a cheese grater (about 2 cups of grated zucchini)
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 3 green onions, minced
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh mint
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 Tbs canola oil
First, make the sauce (recipe below) by whisking al the ingredients together in a small bowl.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside or refrigerate until ready to serve.

To make the burgers, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Wrap the zucchini in  a lint-free kitchen towel and squeeze over the sink to remove as much moisture as possible.

Combine all of the ingredients (up to the oil) in a large bowl.  Mix with your hands or a fork.  Shape into about 18 burgers, each weighing about 1.5 oz/45 g (this is really easy if you have a kitchen scale).  At this point, the patties can be chilled for several hours in the refrigerator, or you can proceed with the recipe.

Add 2 tablespoons of the oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat.  Carefully add about half the patties to the pan, and cook about 2 minutes per side.  Repeat with the remaining oil and patties.

As you finish cooking the patties on the stovetop, transfer them to the prepared baking sheet, and arrange in a single layer.  Cook the patties for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they are cooked through.  

Serve with the sauce, either as sliders, lettuce wraps, or as-is.

Sumac-Sour Cream Sauce
  • scant 1/2 cup sour cream (low-fat is fine, but avoid fat-free)
  • scant 2/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs sumac

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Hearty Vegetable Chowder

Hearty Vegetable Chowder

It's really freaking cold outside, and I live in the south.  You northerners have my respect because this cold weather is breaking me.  Especially since various illnesses have been passed around among my kids, and we're pretty much quarantined for at least one week out of ever month.  So needless to say, comfort food has been in great demand around these parts.

This chowder is definitely comforting, and it's reasonably healthy and quite filling and nourishing as well.  It's packed with veggies:  leeks, onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes.  The chowder is finished with a splash of half-and-half for a little richness, and some chives and lemon juice for freshness.  The vegetables are definitely the star here, with the half-and-half and finishing garnishes playing supporting roles.  The end result is supremely satisfying and comforting, and the leftovers reheat wonderfully, giving you a lunch to look forward to!

This is a pretty filling and substantial soup on it's own, but serving it with a nice light salad and flaky buttermilk biscuits makes a great meal out of it.  Here's to staying warm, healthy, and eating good soup!

Hearty Vegetable Chowder

Hearty Vegetable Chowder
adapted from Cook's Country
serves 4 to 6
  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts only; halved lengthwise, sliced thin, and rinsed thoroughly
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (about 1/2 large onion)
  • 4 carrots, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 celery ribs, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh chives, plus more for serving
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
Cook the bacon in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon is crispy, 7 to 9 minutes.  Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate, leaving the fat in the pot.  

Stir in the leeks, onion, carrots, celery, 1/2 teaspoon of pepper, and 1 teaspoon of salt.  Cook until the leeks are translucent and the vegetables are beginning to soften, about 8 minutes.  Add the potatoes and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook 30 seconds.

Add the broth and the bay leaf and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and and simmer until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.

Discard the bay leaf.  Transfer 2 cups of the liquid to a blender, and use a slotted spoon to transfer 1 cup of the vegetables to the blender as well.  Puree until smooth, about 1 minute (be sure to open the vent on your blender and cover it with a towel, to prevent explosions!).  

Stir the processed soup back into the pot, and then stir in the half-and-half, chives, and lemon juice.  Season with salt and pepper.  Top each portion with a sprinkle of chives and the reserved bacon, and serve.