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!