Friday, July 29, 2011

Baked Pasta with Spinach, Lemon, and Cheese

I had pulled this recipe out of a recent Cooking Light magazine and finally tried it out. I have become a fan of dishes that include the vegetable for dinner as well, one less thing to have to prepare and worry about. I had to search a few stores until I found casarecce pasta at Whole Foods, but you can use fusilli, campanelle or radiatore if you can't find it. I altered the original recipe to use whole wheat panko, cut the onions by more than half and then added some lemon juice for extra flavor. With the modifications it gave it more flavor. It was a creamy sauce with the nice crispy crunch from the panko to balance it out. I enjoyed this hearty meal but didn't feel like it was a heavy cream sauce which is a nice change, especially in the hot summer.

Despite having the vegetable in with the meal, this is a rather time consuming dish so be sure to plan this one out. The first thing is to get the pasta water on so it has time to boil. While that was happening I was hands on with the onions and sauce which requires almost constant stirring.

Baked Pasta with Spinach, Lemon, and Cheese
Serves 6

Cooking Time: about 1 1/2 hours

10 ounce casarecce pasta (short twisted spaghetti)

1 (5-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup (4 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind 

1/2 freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Cooking spray

3/4 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), divided - I used whole wheat


1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Cook pasta in boiling water for 8 minutes or until almost al dente, omitting salt and fat. Remove from heat; stir in spinach. Let stand for 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Drain pasta mixture well.

3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; cook 15 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Add flour and garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly with a whisk. Gradually add milk, lemon juice and wine; cook 8 minutes or until sauce boils and thickens, stirring constantly. Stir in 3/4 cup cheese, salt, and rind. Remove from heat; stir in pepper. Add pasta mixture to onion mixture, and toss gently to coat.

4. Spoon the pasta mixture into a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle half of panko breadcrumbs over pasta, and top evenly with remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Sprinkle the remaining half of panko breadcrumbs over cheese. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until browned and bubbly.

Adapted from: Cooking Light March 2011

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe has most things I am a fan of, peanut butter, oatmeal and chocolate. I like to think the cookie is healthier when it has heart healthy oats and peanut butter, but who am I kidding. I am a fan of soft or chewy cookies and these are nice and soft from the creamy peanut butter with a bit of texture from the oats. I tweaked the original recipe to add some more oats, but the main flavor is still peanut butter. And of course you can't forget the sweetness from the chocolate chips.

Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen cookies
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
3/4 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. (I didn't line my baking sheets with paper, but it keeps things clean and easier to remove cookies when they are done.)

2. Whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.

3. On medium speed, cream together the butter, peanut butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat to combine. On low speed, gradually add the flour until just combined. Stir in the oats, and then the chocolate chips.

4. I used a heaping Tablespoon to keep the cookies a consistent size and dropped dough onto prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. 

5. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are lightly golden. Cool completely on the baking sheet and then store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Adapted slightly from  Brown Eyed Baker

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Broccoli-Quinoa Pilaf with Salmon

I have been hearing so many great things about quinoa and finally tried to make it tonight. Quinoa is a great whole grain that is also a complete protein and full of amino acids (like muscle-relaxing magnesium), fiber, and other minerals. It is a great way to mix things up from having rice as a side dish and a lot better for you. I had bought a bag a while ago after seeing it featured in a few blogs and magazines, but it has been sitting in my pantry just waiting to be opened. Tonight I used a recipe that my mom had made for me while home a few weeks ago. I figured that the first thing I try I should know sort of how it is supposed to turn out.  And with it I made some healthy pan seared salmon to round out the healthy meal.

Broccoli-Quinoa Pilaf with Salmon
Serves 4

3 teaspoons olive oil
½ small onion, chopped
kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
2 cups chopped broccoli
½ cup roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
6-ounce pieces salmon
Seafood seasoning (Old Bay or Phillips)

1. Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and season with ¾ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and starting to brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

2. Add the quinoa and 1½ cups water to the saucepan and bring to a boil; reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently until almost all the water has evaporated, 10 to 12 minutes. Fold the broccoli and raisins into the quinoa, cover, and cook until the quinoa and broccoli are tender, 8 to 10 minutes more. Remove from heat and fold in the almonds, scallions, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.

3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Season the salmon with the seafood seasoning and cook until opaque throughout, 3 to 4 minutes per side
 4. Serve with the broccoli-quinoa mixture and enjoy!

Tip: Steaming the broccoli along with the quinoa means one less pot to clean. This technique works with lots of vegetables, including peas, green beans, and carrots.

Nutritional Information:
Calories 464; Fat 16g; Sat Fat 2g; Cholesterol 65mg; Sodium 833mg; Protein 37g; 
Carbohydrate 44g; Sugar 7g; Fiber 6g; Iron 6mg; Calcium 109mg
Adapted from: Real Simple

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lemon Pound Cake

This weekend Jason's sister was in town to visit his Dad. It is always nice to have visitors from back home. We had them over to use our NEW patio furniture and of course grill. We made the Ultimate Grilled Honey-Teriyaki Chicken from a previous post. For dessert Jason put in a request for pound cake and since I know he loves lemon I made a lemon pound cake. this recipe is one that my father uses and I knew was delicious. Of course, knowing how it should taste always puts the pressure on me to get it right. It turned out great and was moist on the inside with a great balance of lemon flavor. Jason event went so far as to say it was the best pound cake he has ever had so I consider this a success!

Lemon Pound Cake
 2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 Tblsp. grated lemon zest plus 2 tsp. lemon juice
4 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Glaze Ingredients:
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 by 5 loaf pan with 1 Tbsp. softened butter, dust with 1 Tbsp. flour and tap out excess.

In medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside.

Melt the butter and stir it up to make sure it's mixed. In a food processor, process sugar and zest until combined. Add lemon juice, eggs, and vanilla until combined. Keep machine running and add melted butter, remove mixture to large bowl. Sift flour mixture over eggs in three batches, mixing just to combine after each step. 

Pour into loaf pan and bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 and bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes more. When toothpick comes out clean, it's ready. Check after 35 minutes, but mine took another 5 minutes longer. Cool for 10 minutes.

Then take it out of the loaf pan and put it onto a wire rack, brush Lemon Glaze onto top and sides with a pastry brush. I added some strawberries for color and fruit when serving.

Lemon glaze: bring sugar and lemon juice to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low, simmer 2 minutes until thick. 

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Healthy Pasta Primavera with Chicken

I recently started watching the Rachel Ray talk show. I had seen her on the FoodNetwork before but never her talk show. She made a lighter version of pasta primavera that didn’t use and cream or milk. I am always looking for healthier versions of meals that can avoid heavy cream sauces and this seemed to fit the bill. It was also full of vegetables and chicken for protein. It was surprisingly flavorful and thick despite no cream. My only complaint is that it used at least 3 pans and unlike her other 30 minute meals this one took a while. Be sure to allow at least an hour. I poached the chicken and started on the sauce to multi task, but to allow the sauce to thicken took me a longer than anticipated. Regardless, this was a hearty and healthy meal I would make again and this time I’d try to remember to put the peas in.

Pasta Primavera with Chicken
Makes 4 Servings


For the chicken:
1 full (2 breasts attached) bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, 2 to 2 1/2 pounds
1 medium onion, cut into quarters
1 small lemon, sliced
1 carrot, cut into quarters
2 ribs celery, cut into quarters
2 large bay leaves
Small bundle parsley, thyme and rosemary

For the Pasta Primavera:
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Tablespoons butter
2 small or 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
1 small zucchini, trimmed and cut into 2-inch matchsticks
1 large or 2 small leek, trimmed, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced on an angle or chopped into matchsticks, washed and dried
3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt and white pepper or finely ground black pepper
3 Tablespoons flour
½ cup dry white wine
2 ½ cups chicken stock (poaching liquid)
1 box frozen peas, defrosted (optional)

1 pound egg tagliatelle (Fettucini)
A handful of parsley, thyme leaves and rosemary, very finely chopped
1 lemon
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

To poach the chicken, place chicken, onion, lemon, carrot, celery, bay and herb bundle in a pot, cover chicken with water and bring to boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer 45 minutes. Strain and reserve poaching liquids, cool chicken to handle. Remove skin and bones then pull meat into thin, bite-sized pieces using a fork.
For the sauce, heat olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add carrots, zucchini, leeks and garlic, season with salt and white pepper, and sauté to tender, 6-7 minutes. 

Sprinkle veggies with flour and stir a minute more so it is not paste like or clumped. Deglaze pan with wine then stir in 2 cups reserved poaching liquid. Thicken to lightly coat spoon, add in chicken and peas, and reduce heat to low. (This took a while for my sauce)

Bring a pot of water to a boil for pasta. Add salt and cook pasta to al dente. Drain and toss with chicken and sauce, adding an additional 1/2 cup poaching liquid if pasta gets too tight. I did not need this since it was pretty thin.

Zest lemon and combine with finely chopped herbs. Juice lemon into pasta and serve in shallow bowls topped with gremolata and some cheese.

Source: Rachel Ray

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fun Summer Day

Today I am venturing out on my blog from just food posts. We had a busy and fun filled day that started with some delicious breakfast. I am a lover of most breakfast foods yet am usually too lazy to make them on my own, especially during the week. This morning I was up early and had some left over challah to use up so figured I would try a different take on the classic French toast. It was simple to make and flavorful. The cinnamon sugar crunch on top was perfect.


Baked French Toast with Blueberries

Butter, for greasing
6 eggs
3 cups whole milk (I used 1%)
3/4 cup maple syrup, plus extra for serving
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, plus 1 Tablespoon for the topping
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 lemon, zested
3 (1-inch thick) slices (8 ounces) day-old challah or sourdough bread, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups (12 ounces) fresh or frozen, thawed, and drained blueberries
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy. Add the milk, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, and lemon zest. Add the bread cubes and mix until coated. Stir in the blueberries. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.

In a small bowl, mix together the remaining cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar over the egg mixture in an even layer. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the top is golden and the filling is set.

Spoon onto serving plates and drizzle with maple syrup.

After breakfast we went to meet my cousin in Delray Beach for lunch and window shopping on Atlantic Avenue. She was our first “visitor” since being in Florid, which was a lot of fun. It was strange to think I have been here a few months and yet am able to show people around and know where to go already. We had to make our way down to the beach so we could all say we have been there.

There were a lot of signs and tape up all along the beach for the turtle nests. I had only read about them so it was cool to see that they do exist.

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