baked pasta with Italian sausage, kale, and red pepper.

December 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

I have been excited to share this dish!  Say hello to my new favorite recipe:

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I first made this recipe at 9pm on a weeknight.  That type of spontaneous cooking never really works out too well for me—suddenly I’m exhausted, mid-way through a recipe, and my kitchen is a mess.  But, this pasta bake came together really quickly and was delicious!  I have re-made it several times since then, and I can already tell it will become a staple recipe in my house.  Also, it’s hearty and has a spicy kick, which means it’s definitely boyfriend approved!  Leftovers keep well in the fridge up to a week and reheat nicely for lunches at work.

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I find I particularly love kale—a super food!—when it’s cooked into a creamy, spicy pasta bake with browned Italian sausage.  We have to get our greens in somehow!

Plus this dish is creamy and decadent, without actually involving any cream or much butter.  Healthy comfort food is where it’s at.

Note: A key ingredient for this recipe is chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.  These peppers can be found in the Mexican section of the grocery store, in a small can.

peppers

I am a wimp when it comes to spice, but found that the called for two peppers in sauce provided just enough heat without being overwhelming.  If you are worried about the spice, use one pepper instead of two.  Taste the sauce first and if you want it to be more spicy, add another pepper.

Adapted from Bev Cooks

What you need:

  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 bunch of kale, chopped
  • 1 box whole grain elbow macaroni (used 13.25 oz. box of Barilla)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 and ½ cups milk (used skim)
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 8 oz. low-fat shredded mozzarella cheese

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

You will want to use your largest skillet for this recipe.  Heat the skillet over medium.  Add your Italian sausage and cook until browned.  Remove sausage from skillet and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.  Return sausage to skillet and add the diced red pepper and chopped kale.  Saute for 3-5 minutes.  Kale will begin to wilt.  Sprinkle with small amount of sea salt.

While the sausage, kale, and red pepper mix is sautéing, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add pasta, and cook per package instructions.

Once pasta is cooked and drained, add the pasta to the sausage, kale, and red pepper mixture.  Toss to combine well.

Let the mixture sit on low heat while you prepare your spicy sauce.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan.  Once butter is melted, add the flour.  Whisk for several minutes, until the flour is completely worked into the butter.  Add the milk and continue to whisk until sauce takes on a creamy consistency—approximately 5 minutes.

Transfer the sauce into a blender.  Add one or two chipotle peppers (do not rinse; keep sauce on the peppers) and pulse.  Now is the time to taste the sauce and decide whether you want it to be more spicy.  If so, add another pepper and continue to blend.

Pour the cream sauce over the pasta, sausage, kale, and red pepper mixture, and toss to combine.

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Transfer the pasta mixture into a baking dish.  I used a 9 by 13 glass dish.  Cover the pasta with the shredded mozzarella.

Bake the pasta for 30 minutes uncovered; cheese should be browning.

Let pasta sit for several minutes before serving.

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So, so yummy.

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roasted harvest veggie bowls with sweet avocado.

December 2, 2013 § 2 Comments

Folks, I have the cure to your “post-Thanksgiving I ate too much” blues.

These bowls are super filling and super savory–plus you get to eat CHEESE and eat your veggies, too.

Roasted harvest veggies–butternut squash, yams, Brussels sprouts–combine with mashed honeyed avocado, dried cranberries, chopped pecans, and bleu cheese.

I made this for the first time a few weeks ago and thought how perfect it’d be for the week after Thanksgiving.  So much color!  Comfort food, but also good for you food!

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Adapted from Half Baked Harvest

What you need:

  • 1/2 a butternut squash, peeled, cubed and seeds removed (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3 yams, chopped
  • 1 to ½ cups raw Brussels sprouts, cut in half, stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup crumbled bleu cheese
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Sea salt and black pepper

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Prep your veggies for roasting.  Peel and chop your yams into 1-inch cubes.  Remove the stems from your Brussels sprouts and slice each sprout in half.  Peel your butternut squash, remove the seeds, and chop into 1-inch cubes.

In a small bowl, mix your olive oil, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and a sprinkling of sea salt and black pepper.  Whisk until blended.

Spread your chopped vegetables out in a single layer on a non-stick baking sheet.  Drizzle the olive oil/maple syrup mixture over the vegetables, then toss them to coat.

Roast for 45 minutes – check on them halfway through and turn them over.  When there is 15 minutes left of cook time, add your chopped pecans.

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While veggies are roasting, make your sweet avocado mash.  Peel and scoop out the avocados, and mash in a small bowl.  Add your lime juice, honey, and a pinch of sea salt and black pepper.  Mix well.  Add more honey if you’d like it to be sweeter.

Put a generous spoonful of veggies in a bowl to serve.  Add a dollop of sweet avocado, a spoonful of bleu cheese, and a handful of dried cranberries.

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I am a steadfast lover of bleu cheese, but if you’re not, you could swap feta or goat cheese and it’d be just as tasty.

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This is deceptively addicting.  Luckily it’s a pretty healthy food obsession to have.

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roasted carrot and parsnip fries with garlic dip.

November 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

I admit, it’s not that rare of an occurrence to find me standing in the kitchen, leaning over a pot on the stove or tray of food fresh from the oven, sampling it (shoveling it into my mouth), exclaiming how amazing it is, as though I’m surprised:  “Oh, wow!  This is really good!  This isn’t bad at all!”  Yeah, I’m still surprised sometimes that I can cook.

But I really wasn’t expecting to have such a strong reaction to these parsnip and carrot fries.  They took such minimal effort—some peeling and slicing, some drizzling with olive oil and sprinkling of sea salt and cracked black pepper, and a 35 minute nap in the oven. That was it.  I daresay they were as satisfying as a true potato French fry.  Parsnips are naturally savory and flavorful, and carrots are sweet.  They are prime for roasting.  My only mistake was not making more—next time, I will definitely make a bigger batch.

I quickly pulled together a garlic dip for…dipping.   It’s the perfect accompaniment to these fries.

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Side note:  Carrots and parsnips come in a variety of sizes—look for ones that are good-sized, not too skinny.

Roasted Carrot and Parsnip Fries with Garlic Dip

What you need:

  • 5-6 carrots
  • 5-6 parsnips
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 C of low-fat sour cream
  • ½ C of reduced fat mayo
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Peel your carrots and parsnips.  Then, slice in thin strips—like cutting potatoes into French fries.

Lay out the sliced carrots and parsnips on a non-stick baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.  Then season with sea salt and black pepper.

Bake the carrot and parsnip fries for 35 minutes, flipping them at least once.

While the fries are baking, make your garlic dip!  Peel and mince 2 cloves of garlic.  In a small bowl, combine your sour cream, mayo, lemon juice, and minced garlic.  Season to taste with additional sea salt and black pepper.

Serve the roasted carrot and parsnip fries with the dip as an appetizer or a snack.  They’d also make a nice side dish for chicken or steak.

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French fries that are good for you—I’m all for it!

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butternut squash soup.

November 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

I have made this butternut squash soup recipe so many times and could still eat it practically every other day.  It just has the best flavor and is so sweet and satisfying, especially in the fall.  I think the sherry is the secret ingredient.  P.S. This soup is totally worth the effort to peel and seed and chop up a large squash.  P.P.S. This soup will make your house smell very, very yummy.

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Recipe adapted from The Italian Dish

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 to 2-1/2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
  • 1/4 cup cooking sherry
  • 4 cups fat-free low-sodium chicken broth
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped and cooked till crisp
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper

What to do:

Heat a large non-stick soup pot over medium heat.  Add your butter and olive oil and heat until butter is melted.  Then add your chopped onions, cooking until soft–about 5 minutes.  Add your garlic and saute for one minute.  Now add your chopped squash cubes.  Saute for 5 minutes, then pour in your broth and sherry.  Add a dash of cayenne pepper.  Bring pot to a boil then cover and simmer on low for 25 minutes.

While your soup is simmering, you can cook your bacon.  Drain the bacon on a paper towel to remove excess grease.

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I can’t resist a photo of simmering bacon bits.  Can you?

Puree the soup by transferring it into a blender or using an immersion blender in the pot.  Stir in the cream after pureeing, and season soup with a dash of sea salt and black pepper.

Soup can be served with or without the bacon bits.  I vote WITH!

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thai chicken enchiladas.

November 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

I know we’re all getting in the spirit of turkeys and sweet potatoes and stuffing.  But I just have to share this recipe for thai chicken enchiladas.  Oh my gosh.  I will be making these again.  And again.  And again.

The combination of flavors just works well–and the sweet and spicy sauce?  I could eat that by the spoonful.

These enchiladas come together very quickly, and only require 20 minutes of baking time, perfect for a weeknight.

Confession:  I ate one in the middle of the afternoon, hot out of the oven.  Could.not.stop.myself.

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Recipe slightly modified from How Sweet Eats

What you need:

  • 8 flour tortillas
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded*
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped/shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped/shredded cabbage
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped + crushed peanuts + more for garnish
  • 2 1/2 cups light coconut milk (I used Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/3 cup + 1/2 cup sweet chili sauce (this will approximately be one 7 oz. bottle of Thai Kitchen Sweet Red Chili Sauce, which I used—very mild spice)

*I lightly seasoned my chicken breasts with a sprinkling of sea salt and black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil, and baked at 325 for 40 minutes.  The breasts were tender and easily shredded.

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What to do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat, then add your olive oil.  Add your thinly sliced onions, your minced garlic, and your shredded carrots and cabbage.  (Pro-tip: For easy prep, get your shredded carrots and cabbage from your grocery’s salad bar.)  Let the vegetables cook for about 8 minutes, until you see them starting to get soft.  Now, add your shredded chicken, sliced green onions, crushed peanuts, and salt and pepper.  Mix thoroughly.  Cook for several minutes, then pour in ¾ C coconut milk and 1/3 C sweet chili sauce.  Again, mix well until combined.  Turn off the heat.

Set out a 9 by 13 baking dish and spray with nonstick spray.  Pour the remaining coconut milk and sweet chili sauce in a bowl, and whisk until thoroughly mixed.

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Pour ½ C of this mixture on the bottom of the baking dish.  Spread with a spatula to coat.

Now it is time to fill your enchiladas!  Place several generous spoonfuls of the chicken mixture in the center of each tortilla.

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Roll each tortilla tightly and place in the dish.  I was able to fit 8 rolled tortillas.  Cover with the remaining coconut milk/chili sauce mixture.

Bake the enchiladas for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and top with additional crushed peanuts.  Spoon sauce from the bottom of the dish over the top of the enchiladas.

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This recipe (again, from How Sweet Eats) is exceptionally good.  Just the right amount of spice and sweetness.

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I am not a big fan of coconut, but I still love the flavor that coconut milk adds to a dish.  It works so well in these enchiladas.

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sweet potato and sausage soup.

November 5, 2013 § 5 Comments

So, I have this problem where I am hungry all the time.  Most days, I could eat my lunch at 10 a.m.  And now that I go to the gym right after work, I’m not eating dinner until 8pm.  This just means I need something hearty and delicious for lunch that will hold me over.

I love soups for lunch.  This sweet potato and sausage soup is a WINNER.  Hearty?  Check.  Delicious?  Check.

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The soup was so steamy, all my photos are slightly foggy.  Foggy with awesomeness.

Recipe from Shutterbean (with minor changes)

What you need:

  • 6C chicken broth
  • 2C water
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage (no casing)
  • 2-3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ¾ C small pasta shells
  • 6C chopped spinach (could use kale or a combination)
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

What to do:

First, prep your ingredients.  Remove the casing from your sausage, if needed.  Peel and chop your onion and sweet potatoes, and mince your garlic.  Chop your spinach, and grate your Parmesan.  Ready?  Here we go!

Heat your olive oil in a large nonstick Dutch oven or soup pot.  Add your onion and garlic, and cook until soft.  Then, add your sausage in small pieces.  Cook until the sausage is browned.

Now, add your chopped sweet potatoes, broth, and water.  Bring the pot to a boil, then add your pasta shells.  Cook for about 8 minutes, then reduce to a simmer.  Toss in your chopped spinach.  Keep simmering until the greens wilt and the pasta is tender.

Top bowls with grated Parmesan!

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A spoonful of goodness!

EDIT:  Something funky happened to this post after I published it on 11/5, and it reverted to a draft.  Re-published on 11/6.  Sorry for weirdness!

roasted acorn squash.

November 4, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’d never had a roasted acorn squash until a few weeks ago.  I have been missing out!  This recipe is so simple–you just have to allow an hour of roasting time for the squash to become tender. It’s as sweet and satisfying as any dessert, in my humble opinion.

Recipe adapted from Eat, Live, Run

What you need:

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 4 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • sea salt

What to do:

Slice your acorn squash in half.  Scoop out the seeds and pulpy flesh.  You may need to slice a tiny bit off the bottom of each halve so that it will sit flat.

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Separate your butter–1 tablespoon per half.  Cut the butter into little pieces.  Put two spoonfuls of brown sugar in each half, then stick in your butter pieces.  Sprinkle with sea salt.

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In a medium-sized glass baking dish, pour enough water to cover the bottom.  Then, place your squash halves in the dish.  Bake at 400 degrees for 60 minutes.

And you will get this!

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Let’s look closer:

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Dig in with your spoon.  Mmm!

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little burritos with Brussels sprouts, refried beans, and mozzarella cheese.

October 30, 2013 § 3 Comments

Let’s talk about Brussels sprouts.

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For a long time, I was convinced that I wanted no part of these little veggies.  But guys, they aren’t so bad!  In fact, when sauteed in a little olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper, they are pretty delicious. That’s exactly how you prepare them for this recipe.   Tasty sauteed sprouts combined with refried beans and mozzarella cheese wrapped in a tortilla = excellent flavor package.

I’m always looking for healthy, but hearty, lunch ideas—particularly something that I can make ahead of time on Sunday for the entire week.  This recipe made 5 little burritos, and I have reheated one each day this week for lunch at work.  You could definitely use full-size burrito tortillas if you like–if so, this recipe will give you 2-3 generous servings.  I just preferred something slightly smaller for my lunch, so I used taco-size shells.

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These little burritos were inspired by a recipe I saw on Big Girls, Small Kitchen (which was inspired by a recipe from Weelicious Lunches) – it’s a big circle of inspiration, guys.

What you need for 5:

  • 8 large Brussels sprouts
  • 5 whole wheat soft taco tortillas
  • 1 can of refried beans (I used vegetarian)
  • 2 cups of low-fat mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • garlic salt (optional)

What to do:

Remove the outer layer of each sprout, and then chop off the bottom stem.  Rinse with cold water and pat dry.  Finely chop the sprouts.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Once hot, add your chopped sprouts.  Season with sea salt and black pepper.  Cook for 5-6 minutes, until the sprouts start to brown.  Remove from heat.

Warm your  refried beans, either in a saucepan or microwave, per package instructions.  I seasoned my beans with a bit of garlic salt.

Time to construct your mini-burritos!

Lay out your tortilla shell.  Spread a spoonful of refried beans in the center of the tortilla.  Top with a spoonful of the sprouts, then a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese.

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Construct your burrito—fold two sides in, then tuck under the ends.

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Because I was saving mine for later, I wrapped each burrito in wax paper for easy reheating at work.

To warm, heat the burrito in the microwave for 45-60 seconds.

roasted veggies with roasted grape sauce.

October 28, 2013 § Leave a comment

Roasted veggies are so easy and so satisfying.  And roasted grapes?  Sweet goodness.  Veggies topped with roasted grape SAUCE?  Amaaazing.

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For this dish, you could roast really any veggies of your choosing—I used diced red potatoes, broccoli, and mushrooms.  I went heavier on the broccoli, because I hear green stuff is good for you…

Recipe adapted from Bev Cooks

Approximately 4 servings

What you need:

  • 3 heads of broccoli florets, chopped into small pieces
  • 4 red potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
  • 8 oz. package of baby bella mushrooms
  • 4 cups of red seedless grapes
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil (as much as you prefer)

What to do:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  While the oven is heating, coat two baking sheets—one large, one small—with non-stick spray.  Chop your broccoli, peel and dice your potatoes, and wash your mushrooms.  Place the broccoli, potatoes, and mushrooms on the large baking sheet.   Toss with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil to coat.

Wash your grapes and remove the stems.  Place your grapes on the small baking sheet.

Put both baking sheets in the oven and roast for 45 minutes, or until tender.  Check on your grapes at the 30-minute mark.  They may be ready before the other  veggies—when they begin to burst, they are done.

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It may be hard not to eat half of the grapes now.  Try to hold yourself back.  Scoop up your roasted grapes and put them into a food processor.  Add two tablespoons of honey and puree into a sauce.

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Serve bowlfuls of the roasted vegetables topped with a heaping spoonful or two of the roasted grape sauce.

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