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Archive for June, 2010

…can be so hard to cook for!  Anymore, everyone is either vegetarian, allergic, or just plain picky.  Luckily, with practice, cooking for guests gets much easier.  For example, one of my dearest friends from college came for a stay a little while ago, and cooking for her was no problem, despite the fact that we’d already planned our menus.  Magzi will not go anywhere near anything pork, and luckily, we were already fixing Rocco’s recipe for penne with broccoli rabe and turkey sausage.  No problem!

For Rocco’s pasta makeover you need:

  • 6 oz. whole-wheat penne
  • 9 cups chopped broccoli rabe
  • 1 1/2 links Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 2/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-reggiano
  • salt and pepper

We actually doubled our recipe–what other recipes call for half a box of pasta???

Boil some water, salt it, and cook the pasta to al dente.  During the last couple of minutes, throw in the broccoli rabe to cook for a bit.

Meanwhile, heat a nonstick skillet over medium and cook the sausage in it, crumbling the meat as it cooks.  Let it brown for about 5 minutes, then drain it off and set it aside.

Return the pan to medium-low.  Add in the grated garlic and cook it for just a minute, then throw in the pepper and chicken broth.  Bring the liquid to a simmer, then add in the pasta and roccoli rabe.  Let this mixture simmer for a few minutes, thickening the sauce.  Season it with a bit of pepper and mix in the cheese.

Serve up a plate of pasta with some crusty bread on the side.

Turkey sausage is delicious, as is this pasta in general.  Rocco takes the calorie count from 1,261 to 314.  Amazing!!!  Give turkey sausage a try with this dish–it’s a definite win.

*sc

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…is one of the most delicious things on this planet, period.  RR made a delicious dinner with almondine tilapia last week, and it is absolutely fantastic!

For this tasty fish dinner you need:

  • 1 stick butter, divided
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup thin spaghetti, broken into small pieces about 1 inch long
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 4 tilapia fillets, patted dry
  • salt and pepper
  • old bay seasoning
  • flour, for dusting fish
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon

Begin by making some delicious homemade rice pilaf.  Melt 3 tbsp. of butter in a medium saucepan; then, toast the spaghetti in the butter until it is golden.  Add in the rice and let it cook for a minute, then pour in the stock and bring it to a boil.

Knock back the heat to a simmer and put a lid on the pot, letting the rice cook for about 20 minutes.  Fluff it with a fork, and voila!  You have an incredibly delicious pilaf!

While the rice is cooking, put the almonds in the food processor and get them finely chopped.  Then, mix them with the breadcrumbs,  thyme, and lemon zest.  In a separate shallow bowl, pour some flour; in another bowl, beat the eggs.  Season the fish with Old Bay, then dredge them in flour.  Proceed to coat the fillets in egg, then finish with the breadcrumb/nut mixture.

Heat some oil and the rest of the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Cook the fillets until crisp and golden, about 3 minutes on each side.

While the fish is going, bring some water to a boil and cook some asparagus for a few minutes.

Serve up a plate of fish with the rice pilaf and asparagus alongside.  Tasty!!!

Words do not describe how delicious this fish dinner is!!  Do yourself a favor and try it.  You won’t be disappointed!

*sc

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Tuna salad…

…is one of my favorite lunch options because there are so many different ways to make it!  It’s almost always a quick fix, and, as with this recipe, it can be pretty nutritious–tuna is wonderful for you!  The idea for this salad was inspired by a pasta salad in my family cookbook.  I took out shrimp and pasta and subbed in tuna.  Delicious!

You need:

  • 24 oz. canned tuna, packed in water
  • 1/4 lb. asparagus, trimmed to 1″ pieces
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • oregano, to taste
  • pepper
  • Italian dressing, to taste

This could not be simpler!  Simply drain your tuna, then mix it with the vegetables.  Add in oregano and cracked black pepper to taste, then mix in Italian dressing.  I probably used less than 1/2 cup, but do it to your liking.  Finish up by adding in the zest of a lemon.

You could eat the salad by itself, but we stuffed it into some whole-grain pitas.

This salad is a keeper!  It is absolutely delicious.  Try it for lunch next week!

*sc

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…is one of Schatzi’s absolute favorite foods, as I think I’ve said before.  The man could seriously live off it!  Whenever we eat at an Italian restaurant, he barely has to look at the menu!  I completely understand his passion for this dish–who doesn’t love a plate of cheesy chicken goodness??  However, chicken parm  is pretty darn bad for you–the chicken is usually breaded and fried, then smothered in salty marinara sauce and a pile of cheese.  Well, not to worry–Rocco’s got us covered again!

For Rocco’s grilled chicken parmigiano you need:

  • olive oil cooking spray
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut in half)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups low-fat marinara sauce
  • 1 can drained whole tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella
  • 6 tbsp. Parmigiano-reggiano
  • 1/2 cup Panko

Preheat the oven to 400 and spray a 9×13 with the cooking spray.

Heat a grill pan over medium and season the chicken with salt and pepper, then spray it lightly with the cooking spray.  Grill until the chicken is cooked through.

Spread a bit of the marinara sauce in the 9×13.  Place the grilled chicken in the dish and spoon the rest of the marinara over the meat.  Then, scatter the tomatoes, half the basil, and both cheeses on top.  Bake the chicken for about 10 minutes, until the cheese melts.  In the last few minutes of cooking, spread the breadcrumbs and the rest of the basil on top of the chicken.

Serve this tasty chicken with a big salad alongside and enjoy!

Our menu schedule for the week changed a bit, so we were bad and ate an entire piece of chicken each!  However, if you have the proper portion, the nutrition facts are ridiculous:

fat before: 49g    fat after: 9g

calories before: 1,090    calories after: 332

Even though we doubled our servings, the calorie count wasn’t astronomical!  And, believe me, this chicken parm is the way to go–it is full of flavor and you actually feel pretty darn good after eating it!

*sc

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…is something we have been wanting to try for months.  However, we did not think we had the right equipment to make our own noodles, so needless to say, we put the idea on hold.  But, this weekend I was looking through one of my Pampered Chef cookbooks and found a recipe for homemade herbed fettuccine and vegetables.  It included making your own fettuccine, with no special equipment required!  I think we could have rolled our pasta dough a bit thinner, but the dish came out incredibly well, nonetheless.

For some homemade pasta you need:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/4 pound asparagus, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 small yellow squash, diced
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced
  • 1/4 cup Parmigianno-reggiano
  • 1/2 tsp. lemon zest
  • pepper

Start by making the noodles.  This takes a bit of time!  Place the flour in a bowl with a lid and make a well in the center of it.  In another bowl, combine the eggs, oil, salt, garlic, and parsley (we actually used cilantro because it was what was in our fridge.  Still delicious!)  Pour the egg mixture into the flour well and mix until it forms a ball of dough.  Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface (the dough is suppppper sticky!) and knead it for a couple of minutes, until the dough becomes very smooth.  You may need to add flour as you go in order to make a firm dough.  Cover the ball of dough and let it rest for at least 3o minutes.

After resting, divide the dough into 4 balls.  Roll each ball out as thinly as possible (until it is slightly translucent) into a large rectangle.

Then, use a pizza cutter to slice the dough into thin strips for fettuccine noodles.  Let the pasta dry for a minimum of 30 minutes before cooking.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.  Then, blanch the asparagus for a couple of minutes.  Add the noodles to the boiling water and let them cook to al dente, 4 minutes max.  While you’re waiting for the water to boil, melt the butter in a skillet and add the peas, squash, and zucchini.

Saute the veggies for a few minutes, until they start to become tender, then add in the asparagus and half of the cheese.  Allow everything to heat through, then toss in the cooked noodles.  Serve up a plate of pasta and veggies and garnish it with pepper, the lemon zest, and a bit more cheese.

This pasta is a lot of fun to make, and it feels good to eat a pasta dinner made completely from scratch!  As an added bonus, it’s a vegetarian-friendly meal that anyone can enjoy. Try it.  It’s delicious!

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…took a few tries to get just right.  However, these ginger pancakes by RR are spicy, sweet, and downright delicious!  Ginger is truly one of the best spices you can cook with–it packs a nutritious punch with a boatload of antioxidants.  These pancakes are delicious anytime, but are a real treat during allergy season–the ginger clears up a sore throat in no time!

For these spicy pancakes you need:

  • 2 tablespoons dried ground ginger, tightly packed
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • maple syrup, for serving

Whisk together the flour, salt, ginger, soda, and cornmeal.  In a separate bowl, combine the melted butter, honey, egg, and milk.  Add the liquids to the dry ingredients, stirring just until everything is combined.

Heat a greased skillet over medium heat and cook about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake.  Cook until the cake bubbles all over, then flip to crisp and brown the other side for a few minutes.  Drizzle a bit of maple syrup on your stack and that’s it!

Make sure you use enough batter for each pancake; if you don’t, they have a consistency not unlike a crepe.  Still delicious, but we wanted a pancake!  This is a great recipe to break the monotony of plain old pancakes (which there is nothing wrong with, I might add!).  They have a bit of heat and nice, crispy edges.  Try them out, especially if allergies are not allowing you to enjoy the start of summer!

*sc

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Tilapia…

…is my go-to fish.  We try to eat a lot of fish, whether it is tuna, salmon, or tilapia.  This recipe by RR actually calls for halibut, but I cheated and used tilapia instead.  It is quite a bit more brittle than a halibut fillet, but tastes fantastic (and is nutritious!) nonetheless.

For green onion *white fish* with BBQ bacon tomato sauce and honey-mustard polenta you need:

  • 1 pint grape tomatoes
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 4 white fish fillets (halibut, tilapia, or flounder)
  • zest of 1 lime
  • 6 scallions, very finely chopped
  • 2 slices bacon, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar, packed
  • 2 tsp. hot sauce
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 3 tbsp. dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 400 and coat the tomatoes in some oil.  Place them in a rimmed baking sheet and roast them for about 15 minutes, or until  they start to burst.

Season up the fish with the lime zest and some salt and pepper.  Coat the fillets in some olive oil, then roll them in the chopped scallions.

Heat a skillet with a drizzle of oil and crisp up the bacon.  When it is almost completely done, throw in the garlic and onion and cook until they are soft.

Then, add the vinegar, brown sugar, and hot sauce.  Mix in the roasted tomatoes, mashing them with a potato masher and add a splash of water.  Keep the sauce at a simmer while you cook the fish.

Heat another drizzle of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high.  Also, start bringing 2 cups of water and the milk to a boil in a saucepan.  Add the fillets to the skillet and cook until the skin is browned and crispy and the insides are white and cooked through.  If you use halibut, it takes about 5 minutes a side.  If you use a thinner fish, like the tilapia, it only takes about 3 minutes a side.  As the fish is cooking, squeeze some lime juice over the fillets.

The last step is to throw together the polenta.  Whisk the polenta into the boiling liquids and cook until it begins to thicken (it takes no time at all).  Then, mix in the butter, honey, and mustard.

Serve up a fish fillet topped with some of the BBQ bacon sauce and the delicious polenta on the side.

I have to admit, I was not terribly excited to make this meal–it looked great when we chose it, but by the time it rolled around, I was not thrilled to try it for some odd reason.  However, I should have been!  Every single bite of this meal is wonderful, from the smoky bacon in the sauce, to the tanginess of the lime zest on the fish, to the slightly-sweet polenta!  Try it out–the flavors are perfect for summer!

*sc

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