Tuesday, August 13, 2013

My New Favorite Pasta

It is no surprise I love pasta. In fact, if I could only eat one thing for dinner for the rest of my life, pasta would probably be it. It's even better when it is smothered in a creamy Alfredo sauce. For anyone who disagrees, I dare you to tell me one time butter or cream didn't make something taste more delicious. Yeah, think about that for a second. As much as I love this type of sauce, I know it's not the healthiest option, and certainly not something I can feel okay making on a regular basis. 

Anyway, let's move on...

Last night called for comfort food. Whenever hubby works late (but not late enough to completely blow off making dinner), I make pasta. Somehow, pasta is the one food I will happily start cooking at 8:00pm after the tiny is in bed. I don't know what it is. It may be the fact that it always involves olive oil and garlic in a saute pan (read: one of the top 5 smells in the whole wide world), or maybe it's because I drink Chardonnay while I cook it. Either way, it makes the long day totally worth it. I wanted to make a white sauce, but knew that I had a container of ricotta that was about to expire. (I also didn't feel like having a triple bypass after the stick of butter and cup of heavy cream I'd have typically preferred to use.) So I googled "using ricotta in a cream sauce" and this link caught my eye. It inspired me to branch out from my normal heavy white sauce I would have made had the Internet not existed. Not only did this new culinary revelation save me from hundreds of calories, it was simply delicious.

Here was the end result:  


Here's what you'll need to serve 2: 

- 2 to 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, chopped
- small container cherry tomatoes, cut in half 
- salt and pepper to taste
- 6 to 8 oz low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
- 6 oz of ricotta
- Red pepper flakes to taste
- Variety of dried herbs to taste (I used thyme and oregano)
- 2.5 cups of your favorite short pasta (I used Farfalle)
- Parmesan cheese for serving


- Pour yourself a glass of wine (optional, but highly recommended)
- Bring a pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to package while prepping everything else
- Heat olive oil in pan, add garlic, and saute for 1-2 minutes over medium heat
- Add tomatoes and broth and season with a little salt and a good amount of pepper; bring to a low boil
- Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer until tomatoes are soft (about 10-15 minutes)
- Once tomatoes are soft, sprinkle in some of your favorite dried herbs (I used thyme and oregano)
- When pasta is cooked, drain and return pasta to pot
- Stir ricotta and pasta together
- Add ricotta/pasta to the simmering tomato pan, and mix all together until it is well combined, hot,   everything looks creamy and scrumptious. 
- Place pasta on plate, and top with Parmesan cheese
- Pour another glass of wine, and enjoy! :) 

I served this pasta with a simple arugula salad, dressed in my go-to: Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and black pepper. I also quickly broiled a piece of buttered Italian bread, because -- quite frankly -- I wanted it and I didn't care if it added 20 grams of carbs before bedtime. It made my whole night. 

Happy Cooking! 

Monday, May 20, 2013

No More Lunchmeat

Lunch is such a hard meal for me. I prefer to save my splurges for dinnertime so I feel compelled to have simple lunches...and nothing's more simple than a sandwich. A slice of whole wheat bread, some low fat protein and a half of an avocado and I've got a pretty healthy, yet substantial, main lunch item. Over the past several weeks, I've been getting my lunch ingredients from Whole Foods. They roast whole turkey breasts, so getting a convenient and healthy option is pretty easy. It's almost perfect, though I have three complaints:

1) It ranges from $12.99-$14.99 a pound
2) It's not organic
3) The rating of Whole Foods Animal Welfare Standard isn't displayed. I know any meat bought at Whole Foods is probably better than most other places, but I still like to know exactly what I am eating. (I try to stick with Step 3 or higher, when at all possible).

Then the lightbulb turned on...

Before my weekly Whole Foods trip, my good friend, Julia, asked me to pick up a turkey breast from the meat department so she could make sandwiches. (Genius! Why have I never considered this?)

After playing 20 questions with the butcher (thanks, nice guy!), I ended up with a pound of bone in/skin on turkey breast. 

Now, here comes the really complicated part - finding 3 whole minutes of active kitchen time to get things going. 

Here's the method/recipe:

- Preheat oven to 325
- Coat turkey breast with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and dried thyme
- Insert meat thermometer into the thickest portion
- Place in a roasting pan and put in the oven


- Walk away, and come back in about 1.5 hours or once its reached 175 -180 degrees.  

Here's what you'll get at the end: 

Now, all that's left is carving off the meat, and - Voila - here is my first homemade roasted turkey breast sandwich: 

To make this sandwich, just toast one slice of whole wheat bread and spread the best mustard in all the land onto the bread. Then, slice half an avocado on one side, and add a couple ounces of turkey on the other. Finally, add a beautiful piece of red-leaf lettuce. Serve with a nice piece of fruit and "the best pickle in the whole world" (this is a quote from someone at Whole Foods...and it is completely true). 

Now that I've experienced both store bought lunchmeat, as well as homemade, here are the reasons I'll continue to make my own:

- It wasn't that hard or time consuming...and now I have lunch for a few more days, too. 
- It's organic
- It's rated Step 3, according to Whole Foods
- I know exactly what salt and seasons are on the turkey, because I put them there
- It cost $7.99 per pound - almost half the price of the slightly more convenient stuff
- It was fun! 

Enjoy! :) 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Healthy Comfort Food

- Grass fed beef 
- Strained Tomatoes
- Garlic 
- Onion
-Cayenne Pepper
-Chili Powder
-Celery Powder
-Sea Salt
-White Onion
-Pinto Beans
-Kidney Beans
-Cheddar cheese (milk, salt, enzymes, and annatto).
-Whole Wheat Bread (not listing every ingredient - the only thing with more than a couple individual ingredients. I promise it was the "healthiest" bun I could find at Whole Foods)
-Yellow Mustard (Sorry, no individual ingredients here either. I had a choice - to walk to the kitchen for the umpteenth time or write this blog entry.)

Hey, look at that. You can read and pronounce every ingredient. This must be the start to a really healthy meal that tastes not very satisfying healthy, as well.

So here's what I made with these ingredients...

Are you ready?

Is the suspense killing you?

Okay, here it is:

A glorious, delicious chili dog

I paired it with a simple Kale salad and the whole meal was less than 600 calories...and I was so full! 

Here are the recipes: 

Chili Dog (serves 6)


- 1/2 chili recipe (I used a variation of this recipe by The Pioneer Woman; basically, I omitted the corn flour and just cut all other ingredients in half.)
- 6 hot dogs, boiled or grilled (I love this brand - organic, and made from humanely raised cows.)
- 6 whole wheat hot dog buns (or get the white ones if you want to live a little...I wish I had), warmed
- 6 oz of cheddar cheese, shredded
- 1/2 medium white onion, chopped
- yellow mustard

Method (also known as, the perfect assembly): 

- Take heated bun and douse with mustard (it's the only way)
- Place HOT hot dog in bun 
- Sprinkle on onions
- Smother with chili
- Top with cheese (I prefer my cheddar unmelted; if you think I am nuts, put it under the chili)
- Take a bite and marvel at the fact that this chili dog is less than 430 calories

Kale Strawberry Salad (serves 2, plus a picky toddler)


- 1 bunch Dino Kale
- 5 strawberries
- 2 tbsp EVOO
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp dijon mustard
- salt to taste


- remove kale leaves from ribs and chop to desired thickness
- slice strawberries
- whisk together EVOO, vinegar, dijon mustard and salt
- pour over kale and toss to coat all kale
- add strawberries and gently combine

Isn't she a beauty? 

If this meal teaches anything, it's that comfort food can be healthy, healthy food can be yummy, and it's all about portion control. I used nothing low fat, reduced fat, or sugar free. I used real ingredients that my granny would've recognized (except, I am not quite sure how often she ate kale...thanks trendy food of the day). Oh well - you catch my drift, right? 

Until next time, bon appetit! 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Roasted Green Chiles

I love green chiles. They are one of my favorite ingredients. You know what I don't love? Canned green chiles. It's no surprise how I feel about cans. Admittedly, I have a can of green chiles in the cupboard right now. And I cannot get myself to cook with it. If you are anything like me, the reason to not make something from scratch falls into one of the following categories: 

- it's too time consuming
- the can is right there, why do extra work?
- it takes a little confidence to delve into making something from scratch

Luckily, homemade roasted green chiles are not very time consuming (at least not in the hands-on sense) and they are not complicated or difficult to make in the slightest. In fact, you can make the equivalent to a can in less than 45 minutes (with only 10-15 minutes of hands-on time...depending on the number of chiles you are using).

Here's what you'll need:

- 3-4 green chile peppers (makes the equivalent to one four ounce can; need more, add more chiles)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- baking dish


(Part 1)
- preheat oven to 425 degrees
- coat each pepper with a little olive oil and place on baking sheet, place in oven
- set timer for 30 minutes 
- turn peppers every 10-15 minutes

When they are done, they'll look like this: 

(Part 2)
- remove peppers to plate and let cool enough to handle 
- if the outside layer isn't already breaking, cut a small slit in each pepper
- remove this layer (sometimes it helps to cut off the stem and a bit off the top)
- once peeled, cut open and scoop out seeds
- chop/dice the peppers


You now have a delicious ingredient to use that isn't riddled with BPA. :) 

Here's my final product (and, yes, that's a Pioneer Woman cookbook in the background. I owe countless meals to this fabulous lady.) 


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ridiculously Easy Crock Pot Chicken Parmesan

It's hard to find meals that are both ridiculously easy and still healthy. Usually, it's a trade-off between health and convenience. Today, I knew that I would be making dinner for just Alex and myself. On nights like these, I like really easy meals. On nights like these, I usually don't get to cleaning up until well after my guy is in bed. There is nothing worse than being exhausted AND walking into a kitchen that looks like a small tornado passed through to say hello. On nights like these, I am extra thankful for my crock pot. I recently discovered I can pretty much cook anything in a crock pot. Today, I was craving Italian food...but I couldn't see myself juggling 3 pans and chopping fresh herbs while Alex complained in the background. Enter my recipe for Ridiculously Easy Crock Pot Chicken Parmesan. 

To be fair, it's not breaded and fried (YUM!)...and I used a jar of sauce instead of homemade. This meal wasn't meant to be gourmet and fabulous; it was meant to be easy and healthy. It literally took 5 minutes to prep everything. My crock pot did the rest. Here's what I used: 

Yes, that's string cheese. Forgive me, but my fancy mozzarella cheese looked a little sad. Thank goodness I am a mom of a toddler. String cheese is a household staple and saved this dinner. Also, pretend there is parmesan cheese in this picture. You'll need it. 

Method: Put chicken in crock pot; sprinkle with 3 cloves chopped garlic; cover with sauce; set crock pot to low and cook until tender. Thighs will cook in 3-4 hours, breasts will take a little longer - about 5-6 hours. When chicken is tender, cover chicken with string cheese pieces (I broke each string cheese into a few pieces) and cook until melted, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Serve with: 

- pasta and sauce from crock pot
- caesar salad

I wish I had a picture to show the final product, but Alex was hungry, and...who am I kidding? I totally forgot. 


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Family Beef Enchiladas...And Some Extras

What do you get when you combine a busy mom/wife, husband who often works late, a picky toddler, and grocery list that tries to be as organic as possible? Very complicated dinnertimes. I think it's gotten worse since Alex started eating more of our meals and less baby food. He no longer wants grilled chicken and carrots. No, no. He wants sauces, rich flavors, and pretty much anything we are eating...except eggs. I can't get this kid to eat eggs for the life of me. Oh, well. That's another issue all together.

Yesterday, I was craving enchiladas. I like mine spicy, with lots of red pepper flakes and roasted green chiles, and other spiciness - hardly a dinner that Alex's newly developing toddler pallet can handle. I also like when they are a little on the creamy side. (This is when the lightbulb went on inside my noggin). I knew that if I used some homemade cream of chicken soup, it would not only mix well with the adult enchiladas, but it would also help make toddler enchiladas, as well. I have my own cream of chicken concoction on my blog, but I was more of a newbie cook when I made it, and I like this soup recipe much better.

Looking through my ingredients, I had a whole pound of grass-fed organic beef (Trader Joe's is the best deal in town ($6.99 lb), a whole package of flour tortillas, and 4 pounds of cheese (don't judge me). Another lightbulb went on. I was going to make as much food as possible, and freeze what we didn't have for dinner so that another dinner another week would be ridiculously low maintenance.

Here are the ingredients I used:

- 1 lb grass-fed ground beef (divided -  approx 3/4 lb for the adult dinner, 1/4 lb for toddler dinner)
- salt, pepper, and red chili flakes to taste
- 1/2 can green chiles (couldn't find any to roast myself, so sad I had to use a can)
- 1/2 yellow onion
- approximately 1 lb total freshly grated cheddar and jack cheeses, divided (you may use less if you aren't as enthusiastic about cheese as I am)
- 1 batch homemade cream of chicen soup (see above link)
- 1 12oz bottle Trader Joe's enchilada sauce
- Burrito sized flour tortillas (at least 10)
- green onions to garnish (optional)


Get out two frying pans - one big, one small (or use one pan and cook meat two separate times...I used two)

- brown the smaller amount of beef in the small pan and the rest of the beef with the chopped onions in the largerpan; after the meat starts browning, add salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to the large pan. Cook both until completely done (no pink, please).

- drain fat from each portion of meat; set aside the little portion to use in a bit

Time to get the adult enchiladas assembled...

- Mix about 8 oz/one cup of enchilada sauce with cream of chicken soup (put as much in as you would like. I like mine more on the enchilada sauce side of things, so I only put in 4-5 oz of soup...add more if you'd like it less spicy/more creamy. This is your finished enchilada sauce.

- Add approx. 4 tbsp of enchilada sauce to beef

- Add approx. 1/2 cup of each type of cheese to beef

- Add 1/2 can green chiles to beef

- Combine, combine, combine...

- Fill each tortilla with mixture, and roll closed (I cut mine in half after rolled so they fit nicely in the baking dish

Here's where I split them into two dishes - one night's dinner included 6 enchilada halves/3 whole enchilada (this left me with enough for a leftover serving the next day), and the other dish had 4 halves/2 whole...this will be a freezer dinner for another night

- Top with sauce and remaining cheese

- Bake at 375, covered, for 20 min; remove cover and bake about 10 minutes more, or until heated through (top with chopped green onions before serving if that's your things...it certainly is mine)

- Cover your freezer portion with foil and place in a large ziploc bag (or use your preferred method for storing food in the freezer). Now you have dinner for another night! :) Defrost and bake according to the above direction, or bake frozen for 1 hour, 15 min; or until heated through.

Now, onto the toddler servings...

- Add 2 tbsp of the soup and a little cheese to the beef, and combine

- Fill one tortilla with mixture (I cut this in half...making two servings...one for dinner, one for the next night's leftovers) and place in separate baking dish

-Top with soup and cheese

- Bake along with adult enchiladas, but these will only need about 20-25 min total

At this point, I had leftover beef and cheese, so I just added the beef mixture to a few more tortillas, added some cheese, and cut them into mini quesadillas to freeze for another time (I ended up with 4 more toddler servings). Wrap each serving in foil (and place in freezer bag), and you have dinner ready for those nights you go on a date and you have no clue what to feed your tiny person. :) These portions can easily be heated (from frozen) in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.

After all this food, I still had sauce and soup left, so I just combined it in a freezer safe plastic container and now I have an enchilada sauce for another meal waiting. :)

Here is all the food I am hoarding had for dinner for two nights, plus leftovers, plus toddler quesadillas, plus sauce:

Well, that was my longest blog post in history; but in my defense, it made 2.5 adult meals, and 6 toddler servings...not bad at all. And to add icing to the cake (mmm...cake), all of this cost under $25. Yes, please. This meal took about 1.5 hours to put together (including washing all the dishes), but had I had soup made already, I could've cut the time by 20-30 minutes. Which reminds me - if you decide to make your own soup, make a double batch, and freeze portions similar to a can of soup. This way, you'll have the convenience of the can with the health benefits of homemade. :) It is a great base for lots of recipes or that sad little chicken breast we don't know what to do with.

Phew...I am tired now. I need a nap.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Store-Bought Condiments - Raising the Bar

I have a love-hate relationship with store-bought condiments - with the emphasis not on the love. I don't know what it is. Very few are actually delicious. Sure, a restaurant usually has good sauces and dips, but who the heck knows what they are made of?! (I am guessing - if I knew - I wouldn't eat them very often.) Now, I still haven't cracked the code on store-bought ranch dressing. As far as I am concerned it doesn't exist. (Anyone want to prove me wrong?)

However, thanks to "Bone Suckin'" (funny name, phenomenal taste), I am one step closer to finding peace with store-bought condiments. I haven't tried everything Bone Suckin' makes, though I can say the three I've tried are wonderful. Here are may favorite ways to use these sauces:

- Sweet Hot Mustard: on a homemade turkey and/or salami sandwich; or on a hot dog (grass-fed beef only, please). 

- BBQ: slow cooked with chicken - makes the most delicious shredded chicken sandwich. Check out the Pioneer Woman's recipe here.

- Habanero Sauce: I've only tasted the sauce individually, but I plan to use it as a dip for the polish sausage I am having tonight. 

Bone Suckin' Sauces can be purchased at Whole Foods, though they can also be purchased online. Do yourself a favor, and try this brand.