Are You In-Spiralized? We Sure Are!

The nice folks over at Tuttorosso Tomatoes asked if I’d participate in the “Inspiralize the Spring” promotion, which runs through April 15th. They are giving away tons of prizes on their Facebook page, so scoot over there RIGHT NOW and register to win some of the great prizes – including kitchen gadgets, an Inspiralizer, aprons, and copies of the new book “Inspiralized” by Ali Maffucci. Ali’s blog features ways to get creative with all kinds of veggies for super healthy meals – check out www.inspiralized.com.

Here’s the nifty package that arrived via UPS –

Delivery

How about we create a Kitchen Invention with Gnocchi, spiralized Zucchini, Tuttorosso Diced Tomatoes, and green peas, all in a super light Spring-time sauce?

Grab a glass of wine and let’s get started.

Chop Garlic

Simple is best, and that’s what this is all about – don’t have a spiralizer? Use your zester to create ribbons of zucchini.

Spiralized Zucchini

Chop 3 gloves of garlic, add to your pan with olive oil. Sizzle a bit – don’t burn the garlic! – and add the zucchini ribbons. Pretty!

Zucchini in the pan

Next in – the diced tomatoes, some of the tomato juice from the can, and bring to a boil.

Add tomatoes

Turn the heat to low, and add a small can of green peas. Way to amp up our veggies today, right?

Add Peas

Toss in some Italian herbs, maybe a little oregano, and a twist of the pepper grinder – DONE! Dinner is served!

Dinner

Be sure to take a look at the recipes (and sign up to win the Grand Prize) over at www.TuttorossoTomatoes.com/InspiralizeSpring. Good luck!

Posted in Main Dish Inventions, Pasta Creations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Healthy Hearty Muffins – Is This Breakfast or a Snack?

Homemade healthy muffins are a fave around our house. Not just because of the yummy scent that permeates the house in the morning, or that they are hot from the oven, or that cold Greek yogurt tastes SO good on top….or…shall I go on and on? Our muffins are getting cold already!

Muffin Halves Top View

Whole Wheat, Oatmeal, and Raisin Muffins are the perfect breakfast food – whether eaten at home, with yogurt and fruit, or taken “on the run”, these jewels of perfection hit all the right spots.

Single Muffin Close up

Roughly based on this recipe from Cooking Light, we (as expected!) put our own spin on them. Here’s how we changed the recipe around:

  1. Had no wheat bran, so added 1 tablespoon of chia seeds and 1 heaping tablespoon of freshly ground flax seeds.
  2. No pitted dates? No problemo! Subbed golden raisins.
  3. Added Craisins and chopped dried apricots, too – both add pretty color.
  4. Don’t like to add 1/4 cup of oil to YOUR breakfast treats? Neither do we. Easy fix – we used one mashed banana and one small container of apple sauce, with only 1 teaspoon of oil.
  5. Added 3 tablespoons of sunflower seeds and 3 tablespoons of chopped toasted walnuts.
  6. Used less sugar than called for, and did not miss it one single bit.

Muffin Close up

Since we changed around some ingredients, we used a bit less boiling water than called for in that step toward the end of the recipe. Interestingly enough, it is a cool trick learned. It definitely helps to “plump up” the oats and dried fruit.

Muffin Halves

Perfect breakfast, since you can mix the dry ingredients the night before, then just mix and add the wet ones the next morning.

Simply put these babies in the oven to bake. Meanwhile, you prepare for your day, while breakfast cooks itself – just for you!

Muffins Cooked

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Get Your Carrots On For Breakfast!

We will never feel the same about pancakes again. Or how easy it really is to scrape your knuckles on the grater. But that’s another story…back to the pancakes.

Tired of eating the same old – same old for breakfast, it was time to shake things up a bit. Lo and behold, Cooking Light  must have heard our cries for Help!

Do you ever save a recipe (from 2009, no less!) and figure that someday you’ll actually cook that recipe? This is one of those – Carrot Cake Pancakes – Had some extra carrots. Time to cook ’em up.

Closeup

To make it our own, we did not use the honey/butter topping, but opted for a few berries and some fat-free Greek Yogurt — plus an extra dash of cinnamon on top.

Ready to Enjoy

Now, it’s time to enjoy your carrots for breakfast.

Yummy

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Quick Chicken and Veggie Dinner With Farro

Chicken. What can I say? It can be a bit boring, yet is a steady performer, and always in our freezer “just in case”. But this one? Not boring, that’s for sure.

Here’s how we roll:

Cut 2 chicken breasts in half diagonally. Dredge the chicken in flour that is seasoned with a dash of salt and pepper. (Save the flour for later) Cook the chicken in olive oil until lightly browned.

Remove chicken to a plate. Add a bit more oil to the pan, and add diced celery and carrots. Cook over medium heat until tender; remove from pan.

Chop Ingredients

Add sliced mushrooms to the pan and saute until the juices are released.

Cook mushrooms

Add 4 cloves of minced garlic and finely chopped fresh rosemary. Return the cooked carrots and celery to the pan.

Add chopped veggies

BTW, the smell is divine about now….

Sprinkle the remainder of the flour on the cooked veggies, stirring for about a minute to coat them. This step allows you to cook out the raw flour taste.  (Plus, it helps make the sauce thicker.) Add wine (or broth) to deglaze the pan, while stirring for about a minute.

Dump in Add a can of chopped tomatoes (we did not drain them), 1 tablespoon of capers, and some chicken broth (used less than the recipe called for, since we used the tomato juices from the can).

Stir in Stock

Stir in tomatoes

Close up of sauce

Bring to a simmer, return the chicken to the pan, and cook until the sauce gets a bit thickened – about 7 minutes or so – just until the chicken is cooked through completely.

Add chicken to pan

Place a pile of nicely sized helping of farro or rice on a plate, top with a piece of chicken, and top with the saucey goodness.

Ready to Eat

Viola: Add a side salad, and dinner is served.

Verdict: This chicken – Not boring in the least.

Finished Dish

Loosely adapted from EatingWell – Quick Chicken Cacciatore

Posted in Chicken, Main Dish Inventions | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Let’s FINALLY Make that Minestra di Farro Today

So..help me remember……exactly where were we on making our Minestra di Farro? Last time, seems like we got all the way through soaking and cooking our borlotti beans on this post.

Today, let’s get to making that soup, shall we?

Drain the beans, and reserve the liquid for making a different soup tomorrow….but for now, let’s get back to our final product. Measure 1 cup of the reserved liquid to use today.

Beans Soaked and Cooked

Rinse the pot, back on the stove top it goes, and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 4 cloves of chopped garlic. Cook for about 20 seconds – don’t brown it. The recipe also calls for 1 thinly sliced onion, which I can’t eat…so we just sub with more garlic and skip the “cook the onion until soft, then add the garlic” part….. 8 torn mint leaves are also in the recipe, but did not have any on hand. No biggie.

Add 5 cups of stock/water combo (I don’t use all stock, due to the sodium levels – even low sodium is a bit much!) We use a 4 cup low sodium carton.

Add 1/2 cup of the reserved bean water to the stock in the pot. (Save the other 1/2 cup for thinning out the soup later if needed.) Bring to a boil.

Next, go to Italy, and buy 7 ounces of farro. It’s an ancient grain that is becoming readily available in the US, sometimes in bulk bins at supermarkets or specialty stores. I’ll help you shop for it, if you join us on our next trip to Italy!

Slowly add the farro so the stock continues to boil. Stir, reduce heat, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add the borlotti beans, and cook for another 15 minutes or so, until the farro is “al dente”. You can stir occasionally if needed.

Remove from the heat. Use your immersion blender and process until about 1/2 of the mixture is creamy.

Soup Blend

Add 1 cup of grated parmesan, and stir. Now you can now add as much of that 1/2 cup of reserved bean liquid as needed. Up to you, my dears. If you don’t use it all, save it with the rest of the reserved liquid for another day’s soup.

Soup Add Cheese

Ladle your luscious creamy-yet-no-cream hearty soup into a large trough bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with a bit more parmesan cheese.

Soup Bowl Add Oil

Soup Bowl Sprinkle Cheese

(Oh, and see that bread on the pizza pan by the soup? I’ll tell you all about that next time.)

Next, snuggle on the couch with your blankie and dive in! Dinner is served.

Soup To Eat

Posted in Italy Memories, Soups | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Baby, It’s Cold Outside….Not Just A Line From A Song…..

Yep, we were hit with freezing rain, bent-over trees, and icky ice on the roads last week. Then yesterday morning with snow and freezing temps. Luckily, it melted quickly (high around 40 degrees) and we are off the hook until this afternoon and tonight, when again we have a chance of sleet / rain / snow stuff…..Yeah, Baby – It’s Cold Outside!

Icy Close up

Trees with ice

In order to keep warm, we are bundled up, staying indoors, and cooking up our own storm.

Icy Evergreen

For dinner, we both cried out for Minestra di Farro (borlotti bean and farro soup), an all time favorite which helps us recreate the feeling of eating a steaming bowl of soup in Lucca, Italy. The recipe comes from “The Food Of Italy: A Journey For Food Lovers” cookbook, and the book can be found here on Amazon.

Yes, Diane, I thought of you and your bean dilemma from your post here,  as I sorted and then soaked the borlotti beans. They were covered in water overnight, then happily boiled, then simmered on the stove top most of the day. Here’s hoping you’ll try this recipe and let me know your bean thoughts, ok?

Beans Sorted close up

Let’s get started – First, go to Italy and bring back 7 ounces of dried borlotti beans. OK, OK, maybe just purchase some locally….or take the easy, less tasty route and buy canned. If you can’t find borlotti beans, then you can sub cranberry or adzuki beans.

Next, pick through the beans and discard any that look out-of-place (kinda like a rock or stone that is hiding in said beans), any that are really soft feeling, or extremely shriveled.

Cover the beans with water in a large stockpot, cover with a lid, and soak overnight.

Next morning, drain the beans in a colander and rinse out the pot – there could be a bit of grit or dirt on the bottom. Add the beans back to the pot, and cover with about 6-8 cups of water.

Here’s the fun part: if you have fresh rosemary and sage, add it to a square of cheesecloth. If you have dried herbs, then add those instead. Either way, the herbs will impart great flavor to the water and the beans. Add about 6 cloves of garlic that you’ve cut in half (no need to peel). Add some whole black peppercorns. Tie all of this with kitchen twine into a tidy little bundle of flavor love, and add to the pot. NOTE: this little bundle makes it SO much easier to remove it all after cooking the beans. Plus, you won’t have hard black peppercorns in your soup!

Beans Sorted

Now, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 90 minutes. Next, remove the flavor bundle, add about a teaspoon of salt to the bean mixture, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Beans Soaked and Cooked

DONE! Well….at least for the bean soaking-and-cooking part. Next time we meet, we’ll make the soup. Do we have a date? Hope so – see you soon!

Posted in Italy Memories, Soups | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Lamb Chops and A Dear Friend

What a treat for us! Our good friend, Eddie, was in town visiting and came by for Sunday Supper. Any reason to cook, is reason enough for me, right?!? Since our friends, Eddie and Kimberly, moved to New York with their cute kiddos, we miss them tons and look forward to in person “catch up” time whenever possible. And Sunday was one of those times.

Let’s begin with snacks to whet the appetite.

Appetizers Await

Appetizers

How about lamb chops in a fennel-tomato-caper sauce, with garlic rosemary roasted potatoes, and an ice creamy dessert treat for the ending?

Plated Chops

Simple enough – plus it leaves plenty of time to gossip about everyone we know catch up with Eddie on life in the Big Apple, yet still have time to enjoy a tasty meal.

Let’s get going with the  main course, ok? It’s a Cooking Light recipe, from the “Cook Smart, Eat Well” cookbook. With just a few quality ingredients, the dish comes together quickly, plus is a special enough meal for Sunday Supper visitors.

Lightly salt and pepper the lamb chops. Check!

Chops with S & P

Brown the chops in olive oil. Check!

Sear the Chops

Remove the chops from the pan. Check!

Chops Remove From Pan

Add salt, pepper, and garlic to pan; saute. Add crushed fennel seeds, chopped tomatoes, and capers to the pan. Check!

Sauce - Add tomatoes

Sauce - Add the capers

Bring to a boil, and add the chops back in, and reduce heat. Cover and cook – about 6 minutes – remove from pan and plate. Check!

Ready for Dinner

Enjoy. Check and Check!

Since it was Sunday night, we ended around 11 pm, as Eddie had an early work out planned. Too bad, cause I am sure we could have chatted for a few more hours…..Wasn’t there something we forgot to ask him about or tell him that’s news?……always another time, for sure!

Posted in Main Dish Inventions | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Garlicky Goodness – and Good For You!

Thursday night was one of those nights…what to make for dinner? How to make said dinner, so that the fridge was cleaned out of all of those items that were leftover, partially used, and/or ready to toss in a few days (if not used tonight).

Luckily, I had saved a simple recipe from Cooking Light magazine, since we usually have most of the recipe’s ingredients on hand in the pantry and in the fridge. Of course, in using up the leftovers, one must make modifications, right?

Let’s get started….

Ingredients

Linguine with Garlicky Kale and White Beans was born – and morphed into a typical KI. Adding a few mushrooms, a sprig of fresh rosemary, crushed oregano, and some crushed red pepper added a ton of flavor for very little effort. Isn’t there something about rosemary and cannellini beans that is just a match made in kitchen heaven?

Ready to Eat

Since there was a partially used container of ricotta, and some blue cheese, it only seemed appropriate to add those for a creamy saucy finishing touch. Plus, the recipe seemed a bit flavorless without adding some “punch” of herbs and cheesiness.

Blue Cheese

So dive in, clean out your own fridge, and enjoy!

In the bowl for dinner

Posted in Pasta Creations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Red Gold Simple Gourmet Lasagna Party

Party and Lasagna in the same sentence? That’s my kind of night!

The nice folks at Red Gold Tomatoes recently sent me a goodie package, filled with all the right stuff to make lasagna as part of their new ad campaign – “Food Brings People Together”.

Goodie Bag

Goodie Bag

And I could not agree more, fellow Bloggers, that food is more than mere nourishment… food means friendship, caring, happiness, celebration, and love in our house! Food is the reason we all gather around to laugh, talk about our day, and (of course!) drink a bottle or two glass of wine.

So when they asked if I would participate in their Lasagna Party, the answer was “when and where?”  Well, my dear friends, the answer is NOW – at your house. Grab your garlic, chop some mushrooms, and jump over to that saute pan.

Mushroom Close Up

Mushrooms and Garlic

Once the mushrooms are ready, remove from the pan, add a bit of oil, and lightly saute your spinach.

Mushroom Saute

Spinach Saute

Mix together ricotta, egg, pepper, oregano, salt, and some grated parmesan in a bowl. Get out the mozzarella cheese, and let’s layer.

Layer Lasagna

Top it all off with cheese cheese and more cheese…and cover with foil.

Top Layers

Here’s a nifty tip: when you get ready to cover the lasagna with foil, spray the foil with cooking spray, and your top layer of cheese won’t stick to the foil. Then 45 minutes into the cooking time of about an hour, remove the foil and let that baby get brown and bubbly.

Let your lasagna “rest” for about 10 minutes before you cut it. I know I know…hard to resist, but that makes it hold together in layers better.

Cooked

The Red Gold Lasagna party runs from January 13 through February 3 on Facebook, where they have some pretty fancy giveaways, including 750 aprons, plus gourmet party prize packs which include a Le Creuset lasagna pan. Be sure you get more details at the Red Gold Facebook page, as well as checking out Laura’s Lean Beef at their website. Seeing how this was a veggie lasagna, we picked up some of Laura’s Beef for those beef eaters to enjoy “on the side”.

Laura's Beef

But for now, here’s a peak at the Veggie Lasagna that we partied with on Saturday night with our friends, Them Howards, at our house.

Ready to Devour!

Ready to Devour!

Hubby did a great job of showing restraint by NOT eating the subject matter! Proper pics were taken, and THEN he was able to dive in and enjoy.

Lasagna Ready to Eat

Posted in Main Dish Inventions, Pasta Creations | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Oat-Crusted Pecan Pie – What a Twist!

As a lover of traditional ooey gooey pecan pie (especially since Hubby is the maker of said pies), this recipe  offered a pleasant and healthy oat crust option that just begged to be baked.

Baked Crust

Baked Crust

Since it’s the holiday season, and is indeed the toughest time of year to remain true to a healthy eating style, we were excited to give this crust a whirl.

Dry Ingredients Ready to Mix

Dry Ingredients Ready to Mix

Dry & Wet Ingredients - All Blended

Dry & Wet Ingredients – All Blended

Might I mention – we are SO glad we tried this crust recipe! Doubtful we’ll go back to packaged crusts in the future.

Press Into The Pie Plate

Press Into The Pie Plate

(***Since the traditional recipe is one from my childhood days, we actually did not use the one listed with the crust recipe).

Hubby adds dark chocolate chips and a lot of  small splash of Woodford Reserve bourbon for good measure.

Pecan Pie - Bourbon

Pecan Pie - Stirred with Chocolate

Hey, I’m not complaining! Tis the season, right?

Add the Syrup

Add the Syrup

Instead of corn syrup, we use the red labeled Alaga Syrup, which bakes up really dark and rich. We find it at the local Publix supermarket, but it looks like you can order it online as well.

Ready To Bake

Ready To Bake

Next time, we’ll have to try the Cranberry Sauce part of the recipe…but we just couldn’t wait to dive in to this pie, so the Sauce had to wait…..happy eating!

Pecan Pie - To eat

 

Posted in Desserts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments