Sunday, May 31, 2009

Grilled Steak Sandwiches with Chimichurri

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. When you restrict your beef intake to a once a month thing (as I do), you'd better make that once a month experience really worthwhile. Here is an excellent and easy recipe that certainly accomplishes this. It's absolutely brimming with intense flavor, and is so satisfying you won't believe it. Yes, it's that good.

Chimichurri is Argentina's answer to pesto, and I have to say, I think it wins. Pesto is fabulous too (and will be featured later this week), but chimichurri is simply incredible. It's spicy and herby, and with good quality extra virgin olive oil, it's a heavenly sauce to dollop on grilled meat or veggies. And it's super cheap to make!

So here it is, grilled steak with bell peppers and chimichurri, placed inside a beautiful crusty roll. Friends, meet dinner.

Grilled Steak Sandwiches with Chimichurri
adapted from Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook
serves 2


1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/4 teapsoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons quality EVOO
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 bell pepper, seeded, cut into 3/4-inch strips
10 ounce rib-eye steak (3/4 to 1 inch thick)
2 crusty rolls, warmed


1. In a food processor, process the parsley, cilantro, vinegar, garlic, red pepper, and 1/3 cup EVOO until almost, but not quite, smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

2. Preheat grill pan (or outdoor grill) over medium-high heat. Brush the steak and bell pepper strips on both sides with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill the peppers for about 4 minutes on each side, until just tender. Grill steak about 5-6 minutes on each side for medium-rare, or to desired doneness. Set aside and let the steak rest a few minutes.

3. Slice the steak thinly. Assemble sandwich as follows: steak slices on bottom bun, topped with chimichurri sauce (up to 1/4 cup per sandwich), then peppers, then put on the top bun. Serve immediately.

Be warned that you might get messy eating this. But it is sooo worth it. Enjoy!

Friday, May 29, 2009

South of France Tomato Soup

It's not quite tomato season yet, but we can give ourselves a sneak preview with good quality canned tomatoes. If you prefer to hold off on making this until you can get some beautiful fresh tomatoes, by all means, please be my guest!

This is another variation on tomato soup, that oh-so-varied meal. This one is more brothy and elegant than your typical tomato soup. It features a delightful mix of dried herbs, so hit up your storecupboard for this recipe. Normally I'm not a huge fan of dried herbs, but it's important that you use them here, however tempted you may be to go to your herb garden instead. Trust me.

Serve this alongside a grown-up version of grilled cheese with a mild but interesting cheese of your choice - I went with Manchego, which is far from French, but it worked nicely.

South of France Tomato Soup
adapted from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper
serves 3


1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 medium onion, finely chopped
salt and fresh-ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons dry white wine
14 oz. can of whole tomatoes with their liquid, crushed
12 oz. low sodium vegetable or chicken broth + 4 oz. water
pinch of ground cinnamon


1. In a small bowl, combine basil, fennel, oregano, and thyme, and crush them together until fragrant. Set aside.

2. Film the bottom of a soup pot or Dutch oven with EVOO and heat over medium-high heat. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the dried herb mixture and garlic, and cook about 30 seconds, until fragrant.

3. Stir in tomato paste, then add wine and tomatoes. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Pour in broth and water, and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat to a bare simmer, and put a tight lid on the pot. Cook for 18 minutes. Stir in cinnamon, test for seasoning, and serve.

Nothing fancy, but it's wholesome and just different enough to keep things interesting. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Israeli Couscous with Sauteed Onions and Parsley

Sometimes you want a side dish that is a little bit different from the norm. This is one that might take you outside of your comfort zone, but only slightly. If you've never had Israeli (or pearl) couscous before, it's about time you tried it. It's the bigger, better cousin of regular couscous. A tiny pearl of pasta, big enough that you actually bite into it but small enough that it still feels delicate.

This side dish comes together in just a few minutes. It's easy, versatile, and can be served hot, warm, room temperature, or even cold as a salad. It features the ever-delicious flat leaf parsley, a hint of lemon, and tasty sauteed onions. Other than the Israeli couscous, you probably already have all the ingredients on hand. So what are you waiting for?

We're going to have ours on a bed of arugula, alongside sliced sauteed chicken sausages. I can't wait!

Israeli Couscous with Sauteed Onions and Parsley
adapted from Everyday Food Magazine
serves 2 as a side dish


coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup Israeli couscous
1/2 tablespoon EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice


1. In a medium pot of boiling salted water, cook couscous until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a bowl.

2. While the couscous is cooking, heat EVOO in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened and browned, about 4 minutes. Add to bowl with couscous. Add parsley and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve at the temperature of your choosing, and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mini Pasta with Mini Chicken Meatballs

You don't have to live with a kid to want to eat kid-inspired food once in a while. And you can always add a slightly grown-up twist to it, just to make it feel slightly less kid-ish. This recipe is from Giada's latest book, and she intended for it to appeal to kids. I added a vital ingredient to make it a bit more interesting for adults - spiciness. As well as a few other tweaks.

The meal is just fun - mini pasta with mini meatballs, not to mention the mini mozzarella balls and the mini tomatoes. Before it gets too cute, I'd better give you the recipe. But first, let me just say that these meatballs are fabulous. They could definitely be featured in other venues, too - like on the ends of toothpicks as appetizers, or in a sandwich. Yum.

Mini Pasta with Mini Chicken Meatballs
adapted from Giada's Kitchen
serves 3


1/3 pound small pasta, such as farfalline or orecchiette
3 tablespoons panko bread crumbs (or plain bread crumbs)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tablespoon skim or low-fat milk
1/2 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan, divided
salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 pound ground chicken breast
2 tablespoons EVOO
1/3 cup low sodium chicken broth
a dozen or so cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 oz. bocconcini (small mozzarella balls), halved
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves


1. Bring a salted pot of water to a boil, and cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Drain.

2. While water is coming to a boil, in a large bowl stir together bread crumbs, parsley, egg, milk, ketchup, 1/4 cup parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste. Add chicken and combine well.

3. Heat the EVOO in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Using a melon baller or cookie scoop, scoop up approximately teaspoon sized balls of the mixture to make the meatballs. Plop them into the heated skillet, making sure not to overcrowd the pan (work in batches if necessary). Do not move them for about 2 minutes so that they get brown; then turn them over to brown the other side for another 2 minutes.

4. Add chicken broth and tomatoes to the skillet and bring to a boil, using a wooden spoon to scrape up the brown bits in the bottom of the pan. Stir in red pepper flakes. Reduce heat to low and simmer until tomatoes are soft and meatballs are cooked through, about 4-5 minutes.

5. After pasta is drained and while the sauce is simmering, put the pasta in a serving bowl and toss with remaining 1/4 cup parmesan, basil, and mozzarella. Add the meatball and tomato mixture and toss to combine. If there is more liquid than you would like, feel free to discard some of it. Serve hot.

The mozzarella will be gooey and melty, the meatballs will be browned and flavorful, and the sauce will be slightly spicy. A wonderful grown-up version of a kid's meal! Enjoy.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Raspberry Almond Blondies

We went to a really fun BBQ yesterday, and I (or I should say we, but I commandeered it immediately) was appointed to make dessert. That is always my favorite thing to contribute - generally speaking, people are easy to please when it comes to dessert! I wanted to do something that incorporated fruit, but was still decadent and delicious. I found what I was looking for in this Martha Stewart recipe.

Blondies are fabulous. I used to steer away from them, as they were always described as "brownies without chocolate" - and I thought, what's the point? But really blondies are not brownies at all. They are more like cookie bars. They are always made with lots of brown sugar (no white sugar at all) and butter. Can we say yum? Top it off with almonds and raspberries and you have a relatively sophisticated dessert that is still BBQ friendly, as you can hold it in your hand if you so desire.

These are sweet, delectable, and beautiful to look at. Definitely recommended!

Raspberry Almond Blondies
adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies
makes 16


9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 2/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour OR all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sliced almonds
2 2/3 cups of fresh raspberries, rinsed and gently dried


1. Preheat oven to 325. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line with parchment, letting it hang over two of the sides by an inch or two; then butter the parchment. Set aside.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.

3. Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until fluffy and pale, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Mix in 3/4 cup almonds.

4. Pour batter into prepared dish, spreading somewhat evenly and smoothing the top. Scatter berries and remaining 1/4 cup almonds on top. Bake until a cake tester comes out with moist crumbs, 55 to 60 minutes. It will look underdone on top but the bottom will be done - this is how you want it, so don't be alarmed if it's still a bit wet on top (that's because of the raspberries).

5. Let cool 15 minutes, then transfer to a wrie rack to cool completely. Cut into 2-inch squares. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Soo yummy! Enjoy!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Arugula Salad with Chicken and Apricots

If anyone ever accused salad of being boring, they obviously hadn't tried yesterday's or today's recipes. This is another fantastic salad with slightly unusual combinations of flavor that just works. Peppery arugula, tangy sweet apricots, and well-seasoned grilled chicken work together in concert for a fantastic meal. This is a salad for serving to company. Add in some yummy bread and you have a great dinner.

This one doesn't require much more commentary than that. It's healthy, flavorful, and delicious - the holy trinity of salads.

Arugula Salad with Chicken and Apricots
adapted from Cooking Light
serves 4


2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper
cooking spray
3 tablespoons EVOO
4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
3 cups loosely packed baby arugula
4 cups loosely packed mixed salad greens
3 apricots, pitted and thinly sliced


1. Preheat grill pan over medium-high heat. Pound chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap to about 1/2-inch thickness. Season both sides with salt, pepper, and parsley. Spray pan with cooking spray and cook chicken, about 4-5 minutes per side, until done. Set aside to cool slightly, then cut cross-wise into thin slices.

2. Whisk together oil, vinegar, a pinch of salt and pepper in a small bowl.

3. Combine arugula, greens, and apricot slices in a large bowl. Pour vinaigrette over the mixture and toss well to coat. Divide evenly among four plates. Top with the chicken slices and serve immediately.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Updated Waldorf Salad

My hands are bright pink again. You know what that means, people - beets! This is a fantastic salad, incredibly crisp and refreshing, with flavor to spare. None of the ingredients are "typical," and the dressing is unusual and delicious. This is an updated version of the Waldorf salad, but it is almost unrecognizable when you look at it as a whole.

Imagine it: tart Granny Smith apple, savory-sweet beets, crunchy toasted walnuts, and crisp savoy cabbage, all topped with a fabulous lemon-ginger olive oil dressing - I'm salivating at the thought, and I just ate it!

Updated Waldorf Salad
adapted from Stonewall Kitchen Favorites
serves 2


3/4 pounds beets (size and color of your choice)
1/2 head savoy cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons EVOO
salt and freshly ground pepper
pinch of sugar


1. Preheat oven or toaster oven to 400. Wrap the beets in foil and bake for 45 minutes, or until just tender and easily pierced with a sharp knife. Unwrap and let cool. Peel and thinly slice. Refrigerate until ready to use.

2. Make the vinaigrette: in a small bowl, whisk together the ginger, lemon zest, lemon juice, and oil. Add salt, pepper, and sugar to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

3. Assemble the salad: Make a bed of cabbage on two plates. Top each with the beets. Drizzle with about 1/3 of the vinaigrette each. Top with apple slices and sprinkle with walnut pieces. Drizzle with remaining vinaigrette and serve.

I am so excited about this salad I can barely contain myself. Try it as soon as you can! Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Chicken Noodle Soup

I am recovering from that oh-so-lovely early summer cold that seems to be making the rounds. I think I just made it over the peak yesterday, and now it's all downhill from here. What better way to speed along my recovery than to whip up some chicken noodle soup? Not the slaving-over-a-hot-stove-all-afternoon variety; after all, I have to make a living. This is a sort of cheater's version. And it tasted just like the "real" thing.

I know there is a lot of debate out there about stock-in-a-box vs. home made stock. Yes, home made is better. But we don't always have time for it, do we? And we're not always forward-thinking enough to make a big huge pot of it and freeze it in conveniently sized portions, are we? And really, how often do you have a chicken carcass laying around? Maybe I don't want to know.

The bottom line is, a good organic low sodium chicken stock in a box is pretty hard to beat in a pinch. Try out a few different brands until you find a reliable one. Personally, I like Imagine brand and Whole Foods' 365 brand.

The other bottom line is, this is some lovely soup that is as home made as chicken noodle can get without making the stock yourself. It is light years ahead of something out of a can. And that's what we need when we're trying to get well, isn't it?

Chicken Noodle Soup
adapted from The Williams-Sonoma Cookbook
serves 2


3 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 chicken breast tenders
1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
1 carrot, peeled, halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
2 handfuls of rotini or other short spiral pasta
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
salt and freshly ground pepper


1. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, bring the chicken broth to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breast tenders and cook at a simmer (do not boil!) for 8-10 minutes, or until just cooked through. Shut off the heat and let the chicken cool in the broth for a few minutes. Remove chicken and put on a cutting board; cut into small cubes.

2. Return the broth to heat and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery. Cook for about 4 minutes and then add the pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pasta is almost al dente. Stir in the cubed chicken, most of the parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.

3. As soon as the pasta is al dente and chicken is warmed through, turn off the heat and serve sprinkled with remaining parsley.

Easy peasy. And good for the soul. Enjoy!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pasta with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Spinach

Well hello, flavor. Nice to see you again.

Tonight's meal more than makes up for last night's comparatively bland product. This is another Italian dish, from a British chef, with a tomato-based sauce. But it is a world apart from yesterday's fare. Yesterday wasn't all bad, but this one is incredibly spicy and flavorful. It's also incredibly easy to put together, and you can have it on the table in about twenty minutes.

One can never have too many tomato sauce recipes. This is definitely one to add the collection. And feel free to use the pasta of your choice, but make sure it's a tough one that can stand up to a chunky tomato sauce. No delicate angel hair here, people.

Pasta with Spicy Tomato Sauce and Spinach
adapted from Jamie Oliver's The Naked Chef Takes Off
serves 2


1 tablespoon EVOO
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 14-oz can whole plum tomatoes
red wine vinegar, to taste
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. whole wheat pasta of your choice
2 handfuls fresh baby spinach
4 oz. bocconcini (fresh mozzarella balls)


1. Heat the EVOO in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, leaving whole, and cook for about 5 minutes. Carefully crush the tomatoes with a potato masher or fork, and reduce to simmer. When sauce is thick and chunky, after about 5 more minutes, remove from heat and season to taste with red wine vinegar, salt and pepper.

2. Cook the pasta in a medium pot of boiling salted water until al dente. When the pasta still has about 2-3 minutes to go, place a colander over the pot with the spinach in it to steam it. If you like your spinach less wilted, only do this for about 1 minute.

3. Drain pasta and stir into the sauce. Serve topped with spinach and mozzarella.

Keep a glass of water handy, as this is one spicy dish. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pollo alla Cacciatora

I didn't want my 100th post to be a recipe that I am kind of lukewarm about, but unfortunately it has worked out that way. A twist of fate, I suppose - the blog can't be entirely successful. But I shouldn't denigrate this recipe too much. It was comforting, and it smelled fantastic. There was nothing really wrong with it. It just didn't have the intense flavor that its smell advertised.

I've changed the recipe a bit from the way I made it in the hopes that this will make it more flavorful - namely by adding an extra garlic clove and some red pepper flakes. I do recommend giving it a try, as it makes a lovely simple Sunday supper that is surprisingly quick to make. Also, serve it with something yummy, like creamy polenta or cornbread. We had ours with some French bread and I think it could have used a better partner.

So here it is, the 100th recipe I've shared with you, and only the second (if I remember correctly) that I don't wholeheartedly endorse. I suppose that's a pretty good track record.

Pollo Alla Cacciatora
adapted from Nigella Express
serves 2


1/2 tablespoon EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 strip of bacon, chopped
3 scallions, finely sliced
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 pound chicken breast tenders, cut into bite-size pieces
pinch celery salt
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 14-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed


1. Warm the EVOO over medium-high heat in a large skillet. When it's hot, add the garlic, bacon, scallions, and rosemary. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes.

2. Add the chicken pieces and celery salt and stir. Cook for about 1 minute.

3. Pour in the wine and let it come to a bubble before adding the tomatoes, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes. Put the lid on and let the pan simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Stir in the cannellini beans and warm through, about 1 minute. Serve.

I hope someone does give this a try, perhaps with his or her own spin on it, and lets me know how it turns out! If you do, enjoy!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Soba-Vegetable Salad

Cold soba noodle salads make great suppers for warm summer (or pre-summer) days. This one is no exception. Filled with great Asian flavors and fresh crunchy vegetables, it makes a satisfying and refreshing light meal.

Feel free to add in any other crunchy vegetables you might have on hand - sugar snap peas would be great in this salad, as would celery and cucumber. Also, I'll give a warning that the raw shallot was a little too intense for our taste, so if you're not a fan of raw onion you might substitute scallions or chives, or leave out the allium family altogether.

Soba-Vegetable Salad
adapted from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave
serves 2


2 oz. soba noodles
1/2 small shallot, very thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
2 or 3 leaves of fresh basil, torn
4 or 5 leaves of fresh mint, torn
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon canola oil
a few drops toasted sesame oil
pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
juice of 1/2 line
salt to taste
a couple of handfuls chopped romaine lettuce


1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Cook soba noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to cool.

2. In a medium to large bowl, combine noodles with shallot, carrot, bell pepper, basil and mint.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, sugar, canola oil, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, lime zest and juice, and salt. Add to the noodle salad and toss lightly to coat. Serve over bed of romaine leaves.

Save this one for a day when all you want is something healthy and full of flavor. (Isn't that every day?) Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Spinach Fettuccine Primavera

Now it's time for another variation on pasta dinner. The opportunities are endless, folks. Here is a pasta that is flavored to begin with, so you know you're heading for good things - spinach fettuccine. In fact, the one I bought at Trader Joe's was actually spinach and chive fettuccine. So so good. Add fresh veggies, par-boiled in the pasta water, and a lovely wine sauce. What could make it any better, you ask? How about some parmesan and fresh basil?

That's right. Loads of flavor, and loads of veggie goodness. Time to make this one as soon as possible!

Spinach Fettuccine Primavera
adapted from Rachael Ray's Big Orange Book
serves 3


1/2 pound spinach fettuccine
1 carrot, peeled
1 small zucchini
a few spears of asparagus, sliced in 1-inch pieces
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/2 cup white wine
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
a few leaves of fresh basil, slice into chiffonade


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente.

2. While water is coming to a boil, use a vegetable peeler to slice the carrot and zucchini into ribbons. When the pasta still has about a minute or two to go, toss the carrot, zucchini, and asparagus into the boiling pasta water. Drain when the pasta is done.

3. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat with the EVOO and butter. When butter melts, add shallot and garlic to the pan. Cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add wine and cook for about a minute. Add drained pasta and veggies and toss with the sauce. Season with salt and pepper, and toss with cheese and basil. Serve.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Sausage with Peppers and Onions

When you grow up in a British family, you eat bangers. You just do. If you don't, you're missing out. You eat them with mashed potatoes and gravy, or in a sandwich with grilled onions. You eat them slathered with HP sauce. You eat them however you can get them.

I can only imagine that if you grow up in an Italian-American family, the same is true of Italian sausage (only perhaps without the HP sauce). I have long heard about the quintessential Italian sausage + peppers + onions combination. Tonight I decided to try my hand at making it (only with shallots instead of onions). I bought some lovely crusty rolls to make it into a sandwich.

It was really good. I didn't see stars, but I could definitely see why this is a tradition of sorts. The sweetness of the peppers, the spiciness of the sausage, and the occasional crunch of sweet grilled shallot, all gathered together in a freshly baked roll - it definitely gets the job done.

And yes, I did put HP sauce on mine (not pictured). Couldn't resist.

Sausage with Peppers and Onions
inspired by Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything
serves 2


Cooking spray
2 links of hot Italian sausage (preferably turkey sausage)
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1 bell pepper (any color), cored and sliced into strips
salt and pepper to taste


1. Heat up a small skillet over medium heat. Spray with cooking spray. Puncture the sausages a few times with the tip of a sharp knife and cook, browning on all sides. Add a few tablespoons of water to the skillet after the sausages have browned and cover with a lid. This will steam the sausages so they cook faster. (I learned this from Rachael Ray). Cook until done, about 10 to 15 minutes.

2. While sausages are steaming, heat EVOO in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add shallot and cook for a 4-5 minutes, until just starting to brown. Add the peppers and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook all the veggies together, tossing around occasionally, until tender, about 5 more minutes.

3. Transfer the sausages from the watery skillet to join the peppers and onions, just to brown them up a bit more. Serve.

Easy. Tasty. Good. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Savory Vegetarian Bread and Butter Pudding

I am a huge fan of bread and butter pudding. Huge. There are so many variations, both savory and sweet. This one is more like a breakfast casserole. I made it for our mother's day brunch on Saturday, and it went over very well. Best of all, it was so easy!

The idea is to use stale bread, though I'll admit I actually bought a loaf of bread with this recipe in mind. I made sure to buy it a few days in advance so I'd feel less guilty about "wasting" fresh bread on a bread and butter pudding - but once you taste this, any concern about waste will be right out the window. It's tangy and gorgeous. Make it for your next brunch!

You can put in just about any vegetable, or even add meat and make it non-vegetarian (crumbled bacon, anyone?). No matter what you put in, it will be delicious. Promise.

And a note - the reason I put 8-14 as the range for servings is because it all depends on whether this is one of many brunch offerings, as it was for us, or if it is your entire meal. Plan accordingly!

Savory Vegetarian Bread and Butter Pudding
adapted from
The Pioneer Woman Cooks
serves 8-14


9 large eggs
1 cup skim milk

1 cup plan low fat yogurt

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

salt and pepper
6+ slices of whole wheat bread, cut into quarters
2 fresh tomatoes, sliced

1 bunch of baby spinach

2 scallions, finely chopped


1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and yogurt. Stir in the cheese, dijon, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk until smooth.

2. Coat a large baking pan (preferably pyrex or similar) with cooking spray. Put in a single layer of bread quarters, making sure there are no gaps and the entire base of your baking pan is covered. Overlapping is okay. Evenly distribute the tomato slices and then the spinach. Pour in the egg mixture, making sure all the surface area is covered. Sprinkle with scallions.

3. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the eggs are set and don't wiggle too much when you move the pan. Serve hot.

Enjoy, and happy mother's day!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Tale of Two Muffins

We had a brunch party at our home today for mother's day (a day early). I made two types of muffins, and each was delicious in its own special way. Both are fairly healthy, as muffins go. And both involve beautiful fruit combinations that are perfect for spring.

My personal preference was for the banana-blueberry, which was incredibly flavorful and delicious, like blueberry-studded banana bread in a portable format. Completely gorgeous. But the strawberry-orange was nothing to ignore, with its slightly salty almond topping and the incredible moistness from the strawberries.

In short, both recipes are worth a try and therefore we have, for the first time, a twofer.

Muffin the First:

Banana-Blueberry Muffins
adapted from Everyday Food Magazine
makes 12+


1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp (I used Smart Balance)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 ripe bananas
1/3 cup skim milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup frozen blueberries


1. Preheat oven to 375. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with liners. In a bowl, whisk together flour, wheat germ, baking soda and salt.

2. In a standing mixer with the paddle blade attachment (or in a large bowl with an electric mixer), beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. In another bowl, mash bananas and stir in milk and vanilla.

3. With mixer on low, alternate adding flour mixture and banana mixture to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Mix just until combined, and gently stir in blueberries.

4. Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick passes the doneness test, about 28 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes, then cool on a rack.

Muffin the Second:

Strawberry-Orange Muffins
adapted from Eating Well Magazine
makes 12


3 tablespoons dry roasted unsalted almonds
2 tablespoons plus 1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons freshly grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup skim buttermilk
1/4 cup orange juice
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh strawberries


1. Preheat oven to 400. Spray 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray.

2. In a food processor, process almonds, 2 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 teaspoon orange zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt until finely ground. Transfer to a small bowl, drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and stir to combine.

3. Whisk the remaining 1 3/4 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Whisk the remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons orange zest and 1/4 cup oil in a medium bowl with buttermilk, orange juice, egg and vanilla until well combined. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients; stir until just combined. Stir in strawberries.

4. Divide batter among the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle with the almond topping, gently pressing into the batter. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick passes the test, about 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then cool on a rack.

Go ahead and have a muffin party, it's fun! And these are some different twists on your typical muffin. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Chicken Scaloppine with Snap Pea Asparagus Salad

This recipe takes advantage of some beautiful seasonal flavors. It's another for the easy and healthy file. I don't think it requires a lot of comment, other than an incredibly strong recommendation that you do NOT skip the mint in the dressing. It makes the dish much more exotic and interesting than a simple chicken-and-veg. Make this on a weeknight in a matter of about 20 minutes, and do your family and yourself some good.

Chicken Scaloppine with Snap Pea Asparagus Salad
adapted from Cooking Light
serves 2


1 cup trimmed sugar snap peas
1 cup (1-inch) slices asparagus
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast, butterflied & halved
salt and freshly ground pepper
cooking spray
1/3 cup low sodium chicken broth
splash of white wine
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon (+) chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons EVOO
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
juice of 1/2 lemon


1. Steam the peas and asparagus slices for 3 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Rinse with cold water, drain, and put in the refrigerator.

2. Pound the chicken breast cutlets (under wax paper or plastic wrap) with a meat mallet or heavy skillet until about 1/4-inch thick. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Heat a medium non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat with cooking spray and then cook the chicken breasts, about 2-3 minutes each side, until cooked through.

3. Remove chicken from pan. Pour in broth and wine, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Cook for about 3 minutes, until sauce is reduced by about half. Stir in the butter until melted. Return chicken to the pan and coat in the sauce. Turn off the heat.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the mint, EVOO, zest, and lemon juice with a pinch of salt. Drizzle evenly over the chilled veggie mixture. Serve the salad with the chicken and sauce. Garnish with lemon wedges if desired.

This is almost as easy as lather, rinse, repeat. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Potato and Arugula Torta

I went a few days there without cooking anything blog-worthy, so you'll have to accept my apology. It comes in the form of a delicious vegetarian meal that is so cheap to make and so fun to eat that you'll be sure to forgive me. This meal is bound to become a staple at family gatherings - it just screams "pot luck" and "Thanksgiving" and "mmmm, potato!"

This meal does require a bit of work, but nothing too difficult to manage. Turn on some good music, or the Food Network (my personal choice) while you make it, and the time will go by before you know it. While the torta is baking, you can make a side salad to go with it - we had a baby spinach and strawberry salad with a home made balsamic dressing.

We had company for dinner tonight, and I'm proud to say that this is the "after" shot of the torta:

We should have people over more often!

Potato and Arugula Torta
adapted from Cooking Light
serves 6


1 1/2 lbs. small Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed
1 tablespoon EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
2 large or 3 small garlic cloves, minced or pressed
one bag of baby arugula, washed (about 5 cups packed)
1/2 cup skim milk
3/4 cup shredded fontina cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
cooking spray
3 tablespoons panko (or other dry) bread crumbs


1. If potatoes are not uniform in size, cut the bigger ones so that all pieces are relatively even. Put in a medium pot with a generous amount of salt and fill with water up to about an inch over the tops of the potatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

2. Heat EVOO in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for two minutes. Add arugula and toss with tongs to coat with the oil and garlic. Cook, tossing frequently, for about 1 minute, until leaves are wilted down. Turn off the heat and give the wilted arugula a rough chop.

3. Turn on oven to preheat to 375. Press the cooked potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl, discarding the peels. Stir in the greens, milk, about 1/2 cup of the fontina, and eggs until combined.

4. Coat a 9-inch pie plate or cake pan with cooking spray; dust with breadcrumbs. Add potato mixture. Top with remaining fontina and bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Eat up and enjoy!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Turkey Sausage and Zucchini Rice

This meal is what I like to think of as regular-people food. It's tasty and interesting enough, and it's even kind of pretty. But it's nothing fancy or special occasion-esque. It has meat, it has a vegetable, it has brown rice. But it also has a lovely brothy sauce, toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley just to make it a bit more elegant.

I am underselling it a bit, I know. But a meal doesn't have to be exotic or high-brow to be worth cooking and serving to your loved ones. This is a great example of simple, wholesome home cooking that you can get done in under an hour. I'm a big fan of Italian sausage, as it brings a huge amount of flavor with minimal effort. It is showcased yet again by this recipe.

Turkey Sausage and Zucchini Rice
adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray
serves 3


2 teaspoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons EVOO
1/2 large onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper
3/4 cups long grain brown rice, rinsed and drained
2 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 links turkey hot Italian sausage, casings removed
2 baby zucchini, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted


1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and EVOO over medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in rice and 2 1/4 cups broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low and cover. Cook until rice is tender and most of the broth is absorbed, about 40 minutes.

2. When the rice has about 15 minutes to go, cook sausage in a medium skillet, breaking it up, overr medium heat until no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer sausage to a plate. Add zucchini to the skillet and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Return sausage to the skillet along with remaining 1/4 cup broth and 1/4 cup water. Cook, stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes.

3. When rice is done, add the sausage and zucchini mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the parmesan and parsley. Serve topped with pine nuts.