Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cherry Trifle

We all have fond memories that we associate with the holidays.  And I would venture a guess that I'm not the only one whose fond memories are packed with food.  (Anyone? Anyone?)   One of those desserts that I associate with home, family, and holidays, namely Christmas, is trifle. 

My mother has her own way of making trifle that is a little bit different from the traditional recipes I've seen, but it means that to me, this is traditional.  If I go with the lady fingers and the custard then suddenly it's not really trifle for me anymore.  British food scholars, if such a thing exists, will disagree with me.  But when they try this easy and delicious version that my mother concocted, I think they might change their ways. 

There are three major elements to this trifle that will determine how easy or hard this recipe will be - the cake, the cream, and the pudding.  If you choose to buy all three, this is one of the easiest desserts you will ever make.  In my case, I chose to make just one - the whipped cream (by whipping together 1 cup heavy cream, 2 teaspoons sugar, and half a teaspoon of vanilla until thick) - because I couldn't face the hydrogenated oils and whatnot that are in pre-made whipped cream.  If you want to make the pound cake from scratch, there are a lot of easy recipes out there.  Same for the pudding.  But I'll be honest with you - if you use an Entenmann's pound cake and Jell-O pudding mix, no one will judge you.

So this is how the Williams family makes trifle (with varying fruit selections - I chose to go with all cherries).  See what you think.

Cherry Trifle
serves 6-8


3 cups frozen cherries (not thawed)
1 loaf of pound cake, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 cup cherry preserves (the good stuff)
1 ounce dry sherry
1 1/2 cups whipped cream (more or less is fine)
1 1/2 cups vanilla pudding, not quite set yet


1.  In a large glass bowl (preferably a trifle bowl as picture above, but any glass bowl will do), assemble the trifle in layers.  First, put in about a third of the cherries in the bottom.  Top with a single layer of pound cake slices, each slice spread with jam.  Drizzle half the sherry over the pound cake.

2.  Repeat with another third of the cherries, another layer of cake spread with jam, and drizzle with the sherry.  (You may have some pound cake left over - don't force it in there, you just want two single layers - though a bit of overlap is okay.)  Top with the last of the cherries.

3.  Spread a layer of whipped cream (homemade is best - see headnotes) over the top layer of cherries.  When vanilla pudding is starting to set, but not completely set yet, carefully pour it over the whipped cream to create a top layer. 

4.  Note:  if you made the pudding on the stove top try to let it cool most of the way before doing this, or the whipped cream will get melty and peek up through the pudding.  This is what happened to me - oops.  But it still tasted fantastic.

5.  Refrigerate until ready to serve, at least an hour.   Serve cold.

Enjoy a Williams family tradition!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Roasted Kale

I've said it before and I'll say it again - almost any vegetable is made tastier by roasting.  I could get all Alton Brown on you and explain caramelization, if I really understood the science of it myself.  But what I do know is that veggies get browned and yummy in the oven, and therefore I want to try roasting as many of them as I can get my hands on.

Today I tried it with kale.  (And radicchio, as you can see above, but the radicchio did not fare so well, so please disregard it - consider it a mere addition for Christmas colors.)  The kale was crunchy and yet chewy - sweet and yet savory - delicious and yet...just delicious. 

This is a side dish that will go with just about any main course.  Try it out and see for yourself.

Roasted Kale
serves 2


1 bunch of kale, tough stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper


1.  Preheat oven to 375. 

2.  Spread out kale on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Toss everything together.

3.  Bake for about 10 minutes, tossing everything around about halfway through, until kale is starting to brown at the edges and get crispy.  Serve.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Stir Fried Chicken with Baby Bok Choy

It seems almost ridiculous to share a recipe for a stir fry.  Stir fries, by their very nature, don't really require a recipe.  But this is one that is particularly easy, quick, and delicious, so I thought I ought to share.

I think we all can agree that the only hard part about a stir fry is all the chopping that has to be done before the heat comes on.  Well, in this one, there is barely any chopping at all.  If you have a garlic press and a microplane, then the only chopping you have to do is to the cut the stem bottoms off the bok choy.  And you can use kitchen shears to cut up the chicken.   This is the lazy man's stir fry, my friends.  And it tastes pretty great.

Serve over steamed brown rice, or go crazy and make some yummy noodles.

Stir Fried Chicken with Baby Bok Choy
serves 2


1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce (or other Asian chile sauce)
1/2 pound baby bok choy
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 small boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces


1.  Mix together the sherry, soy sauce, and Sriracha, and set aside.  Chop the stem bottoms off the bok choy and separate the leaves.

2.  Heat one teaspoon of oil in a wok over high heat.  When it's hot, add the bok choy and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until just wilted and still crisp tender.  Remove from wok and set aside in a bowl.

3.  Add remaining teaspoon of oil to the wok and heat over high heat.  When hot, add the garlic and ginger and cook for only about 10 seconds, stirring, before adding the chicken.   Stir fry until chicken is browned and nearly done.  Add the sauce and bok choy to the wok and toss everything together, cooking about one additional minute.  Serve.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Toasted Ravioli with Red Pepper Sauce

I'll admit I was a little skeptical about how this recipe would turn out.  Even right up to the point of plating it, I was not so sure.  My husband called and asked what I was making, and I said I'd have to get back to him.

Well, my doubts were unfounded.  This is a slightly messy, extremely delicious meal.  I'm glad I stuck it through to the end to see how it would end up, instead of taking it in a completely other direction.  These are fresh ravioli, coated with seasoned bread crumbs and pan-fried in olive oil.  Not exciting enough already?  Then how about adding a gorgeous roasted red pepper dipping sauce?

We had ours over a bed of arugula, but these could easily be finger food, dunked into the sauce instead of slathered in it.  Decide for yourself.  The bottom line is that this is an easy meal that comes together quickly and has a fantastic reward waiting for you at the end.

Toasted Ravioli with Red Pepper Sauce
adapted from Rachael Ray's Book of 10
serves 2


2 eggs
a splash of milk
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
a handful of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
12 large fresh ravioli (I used 4-cheese; spinach would work)
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
a pinch of red pepper flakes
3 roasted red peppers, drained
1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce


1.  Beat eggs and the splash of milk in a shallow bowl.  Season with salt and pepper.  Combine bread crumbs with cheese and parsley in a second dish.  Dip the ravioli into the eggs, then coat with bread crumbs (you may find they don't stick too well - just do your best to make sure some kind of coating happens).

2.  Heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat in a large skillet, and toast the ravioli until deep golden, about 4 minutes per side.

3.  In a small saucepan, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil with the garlic and red pepper flakes over medium-low heat.  Grind the roasted red peppers in a food processor and add them to the pot after cooking the garlic for a couple of minutes (be careful not to burn it).  Stir in the tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper.  Heat through.

4.  Serve toasted ravioli with the dipping sauce, either on the side or on top.


Friday, December 18, 2009

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

I have baked many a banana bread in my lifetime, and it's safe to say that this is the best one yet.  The crust is crisp, the innards are soft and tender.  It's loaded with natural banana flavor without being overly intense.  It is, in a word, perfection.

I do a lot of baking with whole wheat flour - in fact, all my baking these days is with whole wheat flour.  My two personal favorites are King Arthur Flour's white whole wheat and their whole wheat pastry flour.  I took a regular white-flour recipe for banana bread and decided to try using half white whole wheat, and half whole wheat pastry flour.  It came out absolutely magnificent.  Now, I'm sure it would be just as good with all of one or the other, so if you don't feel like investing in two different types of whole wheat flour, fear not.

This is a banana bread you can feel pretty good about eating - low fat, whole grains, loads of bananas.  But I promise that if you give it to someone, they won't taste it and say "Oh is this some fancy healthy kind of banana bread?"  It's got that same down-home goodness of traditional banana bread, only even tastier.  It is the mecca of banana bread, people.  Please try it and enjoy.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread
adapted from Cooking Light Complete Cookbook
makes one loaf


1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
3 medium sized ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1/3 cup low-fat plain yogurt or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cooking spray


1.  Preheat oven to 350.

2.  Whisk together flours, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

3.  In a stand mixer or large bowl, beat sugar and butter at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute).  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add banana, yogurt, and vanilla; beat until blended.  Add flour mixture and beat at low speed until just moist.

4.  Spoon batter into a loaf pan coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 350 for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack, then remove from pan and cool completely on the wire rack.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sirloin with Grainy Mustard Sauce and Steak Fries

This is a hearty, rib-sticking meal.  And yet you don't feel like you need to be rolled home afterward.  It's that typical Ellie Krieger magic.  She takes what should be heavy and heartburn-inducing and somehow makes it refreshing.  Who knew such a thing was possible?

All you need to know is that this is a delicious meal.  Beautiful sirloin steak topped with a spicy, tangy sauce, and accompanied by crisp-on-the-outside-fluffy-on-the-inside fries.  I don't think I need to say any more.

Sirloin with Grainy Mustard Sauce and Steak Fries
adapted from Ellie Krieger's So Easy
serves 2


The Fries
Cooking spray
1 russet potato, scrubbed
1 1/2 teaspoons canola oil

The Steak
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup low-sodium veggie or chicken broth
1 boneless sirloin steak, about 3/4 pound
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard


1.  Start the fries first.  Preheat toaster oven to 450.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Cut the potato into wedges and toss with oil.  Lay out on the baking sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until browned and crispy on the outside.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.

2.  In a small saucepan, heat 1 teaspoon of oil over medium heat.  Add shallot and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes.  Stir in flour and cook for 30 seconds.  Stir in broth, bring to a boil, and cook until reduced by half, about 10 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, cook the steak.  Pat dry with paper towels and sprinkle both sides lightly with salt and pepper.  Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the steak and cook, turning only once, about 5 minutes per side or to desired doneness.  Set aside to rest and tent with foil.

4.  Add the shallot sauce to the skillet where you cooked the steak, and bring to a simmer over low heat.  Stir and scrape up the browned bits from the pan.  Stir in mustard, and season to taste with salt.

5.  Thinly slice the steak and serve topped with the sauce, alongside the fries.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Carrot Leek Soup

Cool weather = soup weather.  It's a pretty simple equation.  This soup is a particularly tasty and hearty one - a smooth mixture of carrot, potato, and leek, with just a hint of yummy spice and zesty lemon juice to push it over the top into fantastic territory. 

Grab a hunk of bread, whip up this budget-friendly meal, and tuck in.

And a word to the wise - when attempting to thinly slice multiple carrots, the slicer blade on your food processor is your best friend.

Carrot Leek Soup
adapted from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper
serves 3-4


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
pinch of nutmeg
1/2 pound carrots, thinly sliced
2 small or 1 medium potato of your choice, peeled and cubed
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon


1.  Film the bottom of a soup pot or Dutch oven with the oil and heat over medium heat.  Add leeks, garlic, and nutmeg, and cook, stirring often, until soft.  Try not to brown the leeks and garlic.  (Reduce heat if necessary).

2.  Stir in carrots, potato, and broth.  Top up with water to just cover all the veggies.  Bring to a boil, then partially cover the pot and let simmer for 15 minutes, or until veggies are fork tender. 

3.  Puree the soup with an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender or food processor, until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in the lemon juice.  Serve.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Chocolate Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies

Every year my office has a holiday party.  There are many avid bakers in our office, so each year we have a potluck dessert situation.  The past couple of years, it has been declared a "bake-off celebration"  (read:  competitive and intimidating).  Still, I have participated each time, without trying too hard to knock anyone's socks off.  I make simple and yummy things that I think people will eat but not necessarily vote for.

Well this year, I might have broken that tradition.  Yes, they're cookies, and not a big fancy cake or cheesecake or giant cupcake.  But they are special. You see, they feature nutella.  They also feature quality cocoa and chopped hazelnuts.  They are decadent and delicious and beautiful.

Still, I won't hold my breath for a win.  There are some veteran bakers in our office and I wouldn't presume that I'm even in their league.  Either way, these are wonderful little holiday treats and they made our house smell terrific.

Chocolate Hazelnut Thumbprint Cookies
adapted from Cooking Light Magazine
makes 28 cookies


1 cup (lightly spooned into cup) whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon instant coffee
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup finely chopped hazelnuts
1/3 cup Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread)


1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment or silpat liners.

2. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl and whisk.

3.  Place butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes).  Whisk egg yolks with instant coffee and add to the butter along with vanilla.  Beat well.   Add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat at low speed until just combined.  The batter will have a thick, fudgy texture.

4.  Turn dough out onto a sheet of wax paper.  Knead a few times until smooth and shiny.  Shape dough into 28 1-inch balls.  Roll sides of balls in the chopped hazelnuts, pressing gently.  (Not a lot of nuts will stick - don't stress over it).

5.  Arrange balls 1 inch apart on baking sheets.  Press thumb into center of each cookie, leaving an indentation.  (The indentations will be less intense after baking - you might need to recreate them with the back of a spoon while cookies are still hot).  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.  Remove cookies from pans and cool completely on wire racks.

6.  Spoon a scant 1/2 teaspoon of Nutella into the center of each cookie.  Use a toothpick to swirl the Nutella into a pretty pattern (see picture above). 


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Broccoli & Cheddar Stuffed Potato Skins (CEIMB)

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to order in restaurants were potato skins.  Of course I'm sure I had no idea just how decadent and evil they were - the skins were probably fried, and I can't even imagine what was piled on top of them.  This week's Craving Ellie in My Belly pick is a fantastic healthy variation on my childhood favorite.

I decided to upgrade this to a full-sized Russett potato rather than small Idaho potatoes, to make this a meal-sized dish rather than a more appetizer-sized one.  Or maybe it was just my excuse to eat more.

These came out so well.  They taste incredible, with the salty crispy skin and the zesty creamy avocado topping.  Make mini ones for your upcoming holiday guests, or just horde them for yourself like I did.  These are way too good.

Broccoli & Cheddar Stuffed Potato Skins with Avocado Cream
adapted from Healthy Appetite with Ellie Krieger
serves 2


2 large Russett potatoes, scrubbed and dried
cooking spray
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 head of broccoli, coarsely chopped (about 2-3 cups)
2 pieces Canadian bacon, finely diced
1/2 cup grated extra sharp cheddar
1 small avocado
2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1 small clove garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt


1.  Pierce potatoes several times with a fork, wrap in paper towels, and microwave on high for about 15 minutes, or until cooked through.  Set aside until cool enough to handle.

2.  Preheat toaster oven (or full-sized oven, if you must) to 450.  Line a baking sheet with foil.  Cut the potatoes in half and scoop out all but 1/8 inch of the inside flesh, leaving skin intact.  Reserve scooped potato flesh for another use (see me attempt knishes later this week, unless they are disastrous and I decide not to post them).

3.  Spray inside and outside of potatoes lightly with cooking spray, and sprinkle with salt.  Place on the baking sheet, skin-side down, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until skins are crisp and edges are browned.

4.  In the meantime, prepare filling.  Steam broccoli until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray and preheat over medium-high.  Add Canadian bacon and cook until crisp, stirring often, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Reserve.

5.  To make avocado cream, combine avocado, sour cream, lime juice, cilantro, garlic and salt in a food processor and process until smooth.

6.  Fill potato skins with broccoli and cheese.  Reduce oven temperature to 400 and return the skins to the oven, cooking until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes.  Serve topped with avocado cream and bacon bits.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Broccoli Rabe and Couscous

Sometimes you come home from a long day at work (or jury duty, as the case may be) and you really don't have the energy to spend more than about 15 minutes making dinner.  There is definitely a temptation to reach for the phone and call for some takeout, but if you have a few ingredients on hand you can probably make something much healthier and more rewarding for yourself.

Case in point.  This is a meal with very few ingredients, yet it has complex flavors and is incredibly satisfying.  One non-pedestrian vegetable, one fluffy little grain, and an optional salty meat component - plus a few basic pantry staples - and you're set.   I say the meat is optional because it is there more for extra flavor than anything else.  This can easily be converted into a vegetarian dish.

Feel free to downgrade this to a side dish, but if you heap it into a bowl and plop down with a fork, you won't need anything else. 

Broccoli Rabe and Couscous
adapted from Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express
serves 2


1 cup low sodium vegetable (or chicken) broth
3/4 cup couscous
1 bunch broccoli rabe, stems trimmed
2 tablespoons diced prosciutto (optional)
freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon


1.  In a small pot, bring the broth to a boil.  Stir in the couscous, turn off the heat, and cover.  Let sit for 5-10 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

2.  Meanwhile, bring a larger pot of water to a boil.  Salt it and add the broccoli rabe.  Blanch for about 2 minutes, just until crisp tender, then drain.  Chop the broccoli rabe into bite-sized pieces.

3.  While the couscous is cooking, also heat the diced prosciutto in a small skillet over medium heat, if using, until sizzling and slightly browned.

4.  Stir the broccoli rabe and prosciutto into the couscous.  Add salt and pepper to taste, olive oil, and lemon juice, and stir everything together.  Serve.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Crunchy Pear & Celery Salad

This is a fabulous late fall salad.  It's filled with fantastic texture and flavor contrasts.  You have salty cheddar, the slightly sweet and nutty pecans, the crunchy celery and pear all on a backdrop of peppery arugula coated with a tangy-sweet dressing.  Yum.

If you're looking for a salad that is more interesting than the usual, and is easy to throw together in a pinch, look no further.

Crunchy Pear & Celery Salad
adapted from Eating Well in Season
serves 2


1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
pinch of salt
2 stalks celery, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 Asian pear (or other pear of choice), seeded and diced
2 cups baby arugula
1/2 cup finely diced sharp cheddar cheese
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
freshly ground pepper to taste


Whisk together vinegar, honey and salt in the bottom of a large bowl.  Gently toss the celery and pear in the dressing to coat.  Then add arugula, cheddar, and pecans, and toss everything together.  Season with pepper.


Friday, December 4, 2009

Tuscan Potato-Kale Stew

Today I did something questionable in the kitchen, and it actually turned out pretty great.  I took a fairly elegant soup recipe and turned it into a chunky, hearty stew.  It doesn't look gorgeous, admittedly, but it tasted wonderful, and it was a remarkably satisfying bowl of yumminess.

This is a healthy, easy way to get a load of flavor into a bowl.  Potatoes, kale, and sausage are the three musketeers of soup, and everything that is good about them joins together to form a wonderful meal.  A little spicy, a little creamy, with earthy dark greens throughout - this is a winner.  And perfect for a cold evening.

Tuscan Potato-Kale Stew
adapted from Cooking Light Magazine
serves 3


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 hot Italian turkey sausage links, casings removed
handful of sage leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/4 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1-inch pieces
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan
1 bunch of kale, stems removed, coarsely chopped


1.  Heat oil in a medium-large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat.  Add sausage and sage leaves, and use a wooden implement to break up the sausage as it cooks.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until sausage browns and sage leaves get slightly crispy, about 4 minutes.  Scoop out the sausage and sage with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2.  Add onion and garlic to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until onion softens and garlic becomes fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add potatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Saute for about 2 minutes, then add chicken broth.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.

3.  Puree the mixture carefully, using a food mill or immersion blender, or your preferred method.  Be sure to leave a good deal of texture - we don't want completely whipped potatoes here.   The mixture will be quite thick.  Return to low heat and stir in the milk and parmesan.

4.  Bring a separate pot of water to a boil and blanch the kale until bright green and somewhat tender, about 2 minutes.  Drain well, reserving about 1/4 cup of the cooking water.  Add the kale to the soup pot and stir.  If the soup is too thick, add the reserved kale cooking water.  Stir in reserved sausage and sage, and serve.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tomato-Basil Chicken over Polenta

This is a similar concept to a recipe I posted fairly recently, but trust me.  It's quite different.  My love affair with polenta continues, and I went back to making it the old-fashioned way just for kicks.  If you want to make it the brilliant oven-baked way (see link above), please be my guest. 

This is a simple, comforting and tasty meal that should please just about any palate.  Traditional Italian flavors of tomato, basil, and garlic rest atop a slightly spicy chicken breast, on a bed of creamy polenta.  What's not to love?

Also, a note - when I say two chicken breast cutlets, I mean one large chicken breast butterflied through the middle and then cut into two pieces, creating two thinner pieces of chicken breast.  I just want to be clear, here.

Tomato-Basil Chicken over Polenta
adapted from Rachael Ray's Book of 10
serves 2


2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup polenta (coarse ground cornmeal)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 chicken breast cutlets
salt and pepper
pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 pint red grape tomatoes
handful fresh basil, coarsely chopped


1.  In a small pot, whisk together 1 1/2 cups broth with the polenta and butter.  Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, whisking occasionally.  Reduce heat to a bare simmer and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes, whisking occasionally, until polenta is a thick porridge-y texture.   Season with salt and pepper just before serving.

2.  Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet.  Season chicken cutlets with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.   Add to skillet and cook for about 2 minutes each side, until lightly browned.  Add onion and garlic to pan and cook for about 2 more minutes, until onions are lightly browned.

3.  Add remaining chicken broth to the skillet and cook until reduced by about half, approximately 3 minutes.  Turn the chicken occasionally.   Add tomatoes and cook about one minutes, or until they are heated through and just starting to burst.  Stir in basil, and serve chicken with tomatoes and sauce over a bed of polenta.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera is a generic sort of term for pasta with fresh vegetables.  This variation fits that definition, but is anything but generic.  It's a light and yet hearty meal full of vibrant colors and flavors, with a delicate sauce and a ton of nutrients.  In short, it's a great recovering-from-Thanksgiving meal.

The original recipe called for button mushrooms to be added to the mix, and if you like mushrooms, I'd recommend including them.  We are a mushroom-free household due to my husband's preference, so I left them out.  Either way, this is anything but your standard old pasta and veggies.

So get out your good knife and before you know it, dinner will be on the table.

Pasta Primavera
adapted from Ellie Krieger's So Easy
serves 2-3


1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti or linguine
1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into strips
1 bunch thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon white whole wheat (or all-purpose) flour
1/2 cup low sodium chicken (or veggie) broth
1/4 cup nonfat milk
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 small carrot, sliced into thin strips with a peeler
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup chopped chives


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

2.  Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high.  Add garlic and cook, stirring, for one minute.  Add bell peppers and cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes.  Add asparagus and tomatoes, and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.

3.  Stir flour into the veggies and cook for one minute.  Add broth, milk, salt and pepper and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until liquid has thickened slightly (it won't get super thick), about 5 minutes.  Stir in the carrots.

4.  Add cooked pasta to the veggies and toss everything together.  Serve garnished with parmesan and chives.