But Sugar is Sweeter

Main Dish

Peanut, Chicken & Soba Noodle Salad

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This meal has been John’s favorite for a long time.  That’s right,   I said John’s favorite – Despite the fact that it has a weird looking buckwheat noodle, and is just about as far from a hamburger as you can get, John still loves this dinner.  If that isn’t reason enough to make it, I really like it too.  The first time I made it, I remember thinking, I have no idea how this is going to be – little did I know it would turn into a house favorite!  I’m not usually  a huge fan of ultra-healthy “hippie” food (no offense to the hippies out there), and soba noodles for some reason had that ultra-healthy sound to them.   Take quinoa, for example.  I know its uber healthy but every time I make it, I’m slightly disappointed.  I still keep trying, but I usually end of thinking, “This recipe would’ve been better without the quinoa”, and then the leftovers sit in the fridge, untouched.   This meal is not like that, at all.  The soba noodles really add depth and a slight nuttiness to the meal.  I made this once with spaghetti instead (because I didn’t have any soba noodles), and while it’s still good, it lacks the uniqueness and dimension that the soba noodles bring.  So that’s my rant about soba noodles.  You can find them in the Asian section of most grocery stores (I got mine at Kroger).

While this meal isn’t the quickest and easiest meal in my repertoire, it’s also not that involved, especially if you have the chicken left over or cooked in advance.  I usually end up boiling the chicken because it’s the fastest way I know, but when summer comes, I’m going to marinate the chicken in some lime juice, and then grill it because I I think the grill marks on the chicken would be pretty in this salad.  Oh and about that word – salad.  I didn’t really know what to call this.  It’s not really a salad – it doesn’t involve any lettuce and is more like spaghetti texture, but it’s a salad in the fact that you can eat it cold if you’d like.  I actually prefer it refrigerated, but John likes to heat his up – so it’s just personal preference.  I think this would be a great “salad” for a picnic lunch though (can you tell I have summer on the mind :-))!

Peanut, Chicken & Soba Noodle Salad

Makes about 6 Servings

For the Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter*
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 2 T. honey
  • 3 T. soy sauce
  • 2 T. ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or more if you like it spicy)

Stir all ingredients together until somewhat smooth.  If sauce is still to thick, add another 1-2 T. of water, but also remember that the cooked soba noodles will likely add some liquid to the sauce.

*I like natural peanut butter here because I think it gives a stronger peanut flavor.

For the Salad

  • 1 package (~10.58 oz) Soba noodles
  • 5 carrots
  • 5 celery stalks
  • 3 green onion
  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • Sliced limes and Chopped peanuts for garnish (optional)

1. Begin by cooking the chicken – I usually simmer chicken in a pot of water at medium for 15 minutes.  You can also wrap in foil and roast in the oven at 450° for 15 minutes, or marinate in lime juice for an hour, and grill. (Lime, and citrus in general, helps to keep chicken tender). Shred or chop the chicken into bite-size pieces.

2. Prep the Veggies. Peel the carrots, and slice very thin or shave with the peeler.  (I got a julienne peeler at TJ Maxx, and it works great for this).  Wash the celery, and slice on a diagonal to create large slices.  Slice the green onions.
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3. Cook the Noodles. Boil a pot of water, and cook the soba noodles for 4-minutes.  Do not overcook (they cook a lot faster than pasta).
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4. Assemble.  If you want to serve the meal warm, quickly toss the sauce, soba noodles, chicken, and about 3/4 of the vegetables together in a large bowl and top with remaining vegetables to serve.  If you want to serve the meal cold, rinse the soba noodles under cold water, toss with the sauce,  chicken and 3/4 of the vegetables, and refrigerate for 10-20 minutes.  Then top with the remaining vegetables before serving.  A final sprinkling of lime juice and peanuts gives a lot of extra flavor to this meal.

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Inspired by Cooking Light


Chipotle Almond Chicken Mole

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If you’re looking for a change from your ordinary weeknight menus – look no further!  When I first saw this recipe, I knew I wanted to make it because it would really add a lot of interest to our normal weeknight menu rotation.  While being very unique, it doesn’t call for a bunch of crazy ingredients – you could find everything at Walmart if you wanted.   I was a little worried John wouldn’t like this since it’s not your typical American fare, but to my surprise I think he liked it even more than me!  It has a smokey flavor, and yet is a little bit creamy because of the ground almonds used in the sauce.

When planning meals for the week, I put  Spicy Bean Burritos on the menu, because they also call for chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, and that way I knew the can I bought wouldn’t go to waste.  If you like your dinner on the spicy side, then use the entire chipotle pepper.   Personally, I like just a hint of heat, so I removed the seeds from the 2 peppers I used, which really cuts down on the spice.  I also happened to have some corn tortillas left over from Chicken Enchiladas , so that helped to cut down on ingredients to buy (corn tortillas last forever, or so it seems).

The recipe makes a lot of sauce, so it could really accomodate anywhere from 2 – 4 large chicken breasts.  If you don’t want to make the whole batch, just freeze the sauce and use it over some leftover chicken at a later point in time.  We ate it plain, but I’m planning on serving the leftovers over some cilantro-lime rice, yummmm.

Chipotle Almond Chicken Mole

  • 2/3 cup roasted almonds (salted is fine)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can  fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, roughly chopped
  • 1  tablespoon  sugar
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/8  teaspoon  ground cloves
  • 2  (6-inch) corn tortillas, torn into small pieces
  • 1  (14 1/2-ounce) can vegetable broth
  • 1  tablespoon vinegar
  • 2 – 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, trimmed of all fat

To prepare the chicken:

Preheat oven to 450°.  Sprinkle chicken with salt &  pepper and wrap, individually, in tin foil to keep the chicken moist while baking.   Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 25 minutes. Slice into strips.   *This can be done up to a day ahead of time.  As an alternative, you could poach the chicken breast in water for 15 minutes, or use leftover chicken breast from another meal.
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For the Sauce:

Place the almonds in a food processor and process for 2-3 minutes or until smooth (it takes a little bit of time, but should end up looking like peanut butter). Keep in the food processor.
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In a large skillet heat oil on medium heat.  Add the chopped onion and garlic cloves.  Sauté for 3-4 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients through broth: tomatoes, chipotle peppers, sugar, cumin, salt, cloves, tortillas, vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the tomato mixture to the food processor with the almonds.  Also add 1 T. vinegar.  Puree mixture until smooth.  Return mixture to pan and add the chicken to heat through. Serve over rice if desired.

Adapted from Cooking Light


Potato, Corn & Leek Chowder

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A couple weeks ago, I thought the soup making weather for the year was over – clearly I was wrong.  I guess a good way to embrace  the cold, is to look at it as one last opportunity to make a warm wintery soup!  When I was planning the grocery/menu list this week, I asked John what soup he would want for a (fingers crossed) last soup of winter meal, secretly hoping he would pick this soup.  Without any coaching from me, he said, “How about the potato one you make?”, so that sealed the deal – it went on the menu.  It also happens to be a quick meal (chopping is the only kitchen time), and a one pot deal (less clean up)!

What I like about this soup is that it’s a potato soup, with more than just potatoes and cream.  It has has a lot of vegetables in it, so it really feels like a balanced meal.  It does use some whole milk, but just enough to give it that creamy texture, while still keeping it healthy and relatively low fat.  I do realize that just before this I posted a recipe primarily made of butter and sugar – but what can I say, I like my sweets sinful and my meals, well the opposite.   This soup is pretty filling, and this recipe makes a lot – so if you’re not feeding a crowd, you might want to try halving it.  However, this is one of the few meals where I think the leftovers actually taste just as good or better than the original meal.  This is a rare finding for me, so I don’t mind making the whole thing and eating it later in the week.  I’ve never tried freezing it, but if you try it – let me know how it turns out!
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Potato, Corn & Leek Chowder

Servings: about 8 bowls         Prep Time: 20 minutes (for the chopping)       Stove time: 25 minutes

  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped  leeks (about 2 leeks)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red pepper
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 3 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 2 pounds yukon gold potatoes (about 8), peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups corn (frozen or fresh)
  • Dash of Salt & Pepper
  • Scallions/Chives/Parsley for topping

Melt butter in a large dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the leeks, celery and red pepper and stir until tender (3-4 minutes).
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Slowly add the flour and milk to the pan, stirring constantly.  Once mixed, add the rest of the ingredients (chicken broth, potatoes, corn, salt & pepper).  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Then cover, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes (or as long as you want – the starch from the potatoes will continue to thicken the soup).

Serve by topping with your choice of parsley, scallions, chives, or a mix.

Slightly adapted from Cooking Light


Twice Baked Potatoes

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In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I figured what would be better than a POTATO with the colors of the Irish flag!   I made mine with  broccoli, scallions, and cheddar, so I could get the green, white and orange effect.   I hope this brings a little St. Patrick’s Day spirit to your day!

My better half is interviewing people this week,  so it’s just me here until tomorrow.   Cooking for 1 can be tricky, but I think this recipe fits the bill – It’s quick, easy, and I had all the ingredients on hand.  The recipe is for 4 potatoes, but can easily be adapted to make just 1, or 8.  I often forget how great a good baked potato can be.  In college, my friend Christine, once had a “Baked Potato Party” in which she baked a bunch of potatoes, and then had all kinds of fun toppings for us to put on them.  It was such an easy and creative idea, and I have been wanting to do it ever since – maybe this will inspire you to host your own.  Whatever you put on your baked potato, it can be a hearty, and filling meal that’s easy and cheap to make.  I also included some suggestions for alternate stuffed baked potatoes , which I am now dying to try!

Twice Baked Potatoes

  • 4 russet potatoes – scrubbed and patted dry
  • Olive Oil and Salt
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 cup chopped broccoli, steamed
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions

Preheat oven to 400°.  Rub potatoes with a small amount of oil and sprinkle with salt.  Place potatoes directly on rack and cook for 45-60 minutes.  Do not wrap potatoes in foil because this will make the skins soft and it will be difficult to scoop the filling out later.

In a large bowl combine 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, sour cream, milk, garlic powder, broccoli, and 1/4 cup scallions.

Remove potatoes from oven and let cool slightly.  Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Using a soup spoon, scrape out as much potato as you can while leaving the skin intact – leaving about 1/8 inch.  The potatoes taste better when there is less plain flesh left in them.  Add the flesh to the large bowl with sour cream mixture.  Mash the flesh until combined.

Spoon the flesh back into the potato shells.  Place filled shells on a baking sheet coated with aluminum foil.  Sprinkle remaining cheddar cheese over the tops of the potatoes.

Return potatoes to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted and starting to brown.

To serve, top with remaining scallions.


Variation 1: Blue Cheese, Onion and Mushroom Potatoes

  • Substitute 1 cup crumbled blue cheese for the cheddar, and 1 cup sautéed mushrooms and onions for the broccoli.

Variation 2: Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Stuffed Potatoes

  • Substitute 1 cup of herbed goat cheese for the cheddar, and 3/4 cup caramelized onions for the broccoli.

Variations inspired by America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook


Panko Crusted Salmon

 
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Back on the homefront, I’m trying to make the best out of my last 3 days of my last spring break…ever!  Because THE BOARDS are looming over our heads, I’m not really sure if I’ll be able to make it home for a visit before July – so my Mom decided to make the trek here to visit! Unfortunately, the weather was really awful in Cleveland (so much for spring), but my Mom’s a brave lady, and she tackled the snow to make the drive to Toledo.  I’m really glad she did because we had a lovely day “fliting” around, and of course I wanted to make a special dinner for the evening.

This dinner exceeded my expectations.  I knew I wanted to make salmon – but salmon is such a hearty fish that I have trouble deciding what to do to make it special without overpowering its great flavor.  While visiting my favorite “club” – Costco – I was flipping through Ina Garten’s new book, and saw a recipe using Panko with Salmon.  Because I have also really been wanting to use Panko, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try it.  I didn’t buy the book, so this is my own adaptation.

It turned out to be really easy but it tasted, and looked gourmet (win-win!)  I loved the lemon zest in the crumb coating, and you definitely shouldn’t skimp on it. I also think that salmon is one of the fish that you need to be careful to buy “Wild Caught”.   It’s a little more expensive than the farm raised, but it’s a lot healthier and has a better flavor.  For some fish – it doesn’t really matter, but salmon is not one of those fish. Panko crumbs can be found in any local grocery store, usually near the Asian food.

Panko Crusted Salmon

Serves 4-5

  • 1 lb Wild Caught Salmon filets
  • 3/4 cup Panko
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped parlsey
  • zest of 1 large lemon (or 2 small)
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon Mayonaise
  • Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small bowl combine the Panko, parsley, lemon zest and olive oil.  Stir until well blended and Panko is evenly coated with olive oil. In an even smaller bowl, mix together 1 T. each of Dijon mustard and mayonaise.

Place salmon filets on a baking sheet coated with aluminum foil.  Sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.  Spread the Mayonaise and Dijon mixture evenly over the filet.  Sprinkle the Panko crumb mixture evenly over the fish.  The mustard mixture should help the coating to stick, but press to adhere.

Bake the salmon for 10-15 minutes (Using a 1 inch filet 15 minutes was good for me).

Serve with lemon wedges.  Also good with rice pilaf and roasted asparagus.

 

Inspired by How Easy Is That? by Ina Garten.


Stuffed Green Pepper Soup

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If you start taking pictures of the food that you cook at home, it doesn’t take long to realize that a lot of homemade meals are just not that photogenic.  Unfortunately, we don’t eat cookies, cupcakes and sushi all the time .  But I don’t want to fall into the rut of only posting things that turn out pretty – because, well that would mean I’d be making (and eating) an awful lot of baked goods.  Plus, I wanted this blog to be a mix of everything that is good to eat.  Hopefully, if my photography skills improve, I’ll be able to make even “un-photogenic” foods look as delicious as they are.  But for now, you’ll just have to trust me.

This soup doesn’t look like much, but I really love it.  This week is “test week”, so I can pretty much assure you that If I get around to posting anything,   it will be easy to make.  I like to use cooking as a break from sitting, all alone, in the room that John and I like to call “The Dungeon”.  But during a really busy week, being away from my books for more than an hour starts to stress me out.  So sometimes, I just bring my books with me, to the kitchen, or the gym, or the couch… But seriously, this dinner takes about 15 minutes of prep and packs a lot of flavor.  It’s a lot less work than actually stuffing green peppers, but it’s very hearty and will warm you up on a cold winter night.   Really it’s not a “soup” in the sense that you could probably eat it with a fork if you’d like, but there was really not another word to use to describe it.

Stuffed Green Pepper Soup

Makes about 4 servings

  • 1/2 lb. lean ground beef
  • 2 green peppers, seeded and chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 a large onion)
  • A dash of crushed red pepper & a Pinch of black pepper
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can (10.75 oz)condensed tomato soup, undiluted
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) of low sodium beef broth
  • Hot white rice (I usually make 3-4cups of rice – it’s cheap and I’d rather have more than enough)

In a dutch oven, over medium heat, cook the ground beef for 3-5 minutes, or until brown and crumbly.  Add the green pepper and chopped onion and cook for about 8 minutes or until slightly softened.  Add a dash of crushed red pepper (or more if you like spice) and a pinch of black pepper.  Pour in the can of tomatoes, tomato soup and beef broth.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes.  Serve over hot white rice.

Barely adapted from Cooking Light


Red Beans & Rice

There are 3 reasons why I really wanted to make this dish: First, although I really thought spring was on its way (and was planning dinner accordingly),  I was quickly thrown back to reality when I found my  car crystalized in 2 inch thick ice. After finally digging my car out from under the snow/ice mix, I decided that a warm, hearty, wintery meal was in order.  Second, Mardi Gras is fast approaching, and it really makes me miss Louisiana and the friends I made there.  Louisiana is probably the most cultural place in America, and they sure know how to cook.  And third, my friend Maggie, just bought a crockpot and I promised her a good “Crock Pot” recipe.

Likely your reasons for making this dinner are going to be different than mine, but I think you should find your own reasons, and make this.  This isn’t one of those crockpot meals where you have to cook everything before you put it into the crock pot (I never got the point of that), so it’s quite simple to make. In fact, when I had the cutting board out for dinner the night before, I just cut up the ingredients,  and then John threw them in the crockpot this morning.  But just because it’s simple doesn’t change the fact that it’s delicious.  You know what would make this dinner even more delcious?  King Cake! If you live in Louisiana, please go eat a king cake for me, and then tell me all about it (preferably one with cream cheese and strawberry filling).  Oh how I miss you Louisiana and your sweet, sweet food and drink and people.

Red Beans and Rice

  • 1 pound Dried Red Beans, rinsed and drained
  • 7 cups Water
  • 1 whole Green Bell Pepper, Chopped
  • 1 whole Onion, Chopped
  • 3 stalks Celery, Chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Finely Chopped
  • ½ pound Turkey Polska Kielbasa, sliced (or Andouille Sausage)*
  • 3 Tablespoons “Tony’s” or other Creole Seasoning
  • Hot Cooked Rice

* If you want the real thing, you should go with the real sausage.  I happen to like turkey sausage, but it’s not going to give you quite as thick of a sauce.

Rinse and drain the red beans. Place all the ingredients into a large Crock Pot, except for the rice.

Cook, covered, at HIGH for 7 hours or until beans are tender.  Don’t peak.

Serve over hot white rice.  I also made this cornbread to serve with it.  (Krusteaz didn’t pay for me for this or anything,  but I just thought it was a really good box mix, and it was only $1)

Adapted from  Tasty Kitchen


Chicken Enchiladas Verdes

To be honest, I’ve been eating the “verde” version of enchiladas for so long, that I kind of forgot there was any other kind. But that’s perfectly fine with me, because I love this dinner.  Its great because so many different cuisines are made using a red tomato base, so this really adds some variety to the dinner table. I made a similar version for the first time back in college (Friday night dinner parties!), and I’ve been adapting it ever since.  At this point I’m even afraid to order enchiladas at a Mexican restaurant, for fear that they won’t live up to this version.

I thought about making the  verde sauce from scratch,  but I couldn’t find tomatillos at the store. (Probably had something to do with being the middle of the winter in Ohio). But it’s probably better that I didn’t because this dish is great just the way it is, and I have enough other things to keep me busy.  For the cheese topping,  this time I happened to use  queso fresco, but I have made it before using Monterey Jack, and I like both.  It just depends on what I find at the store and what happens to be on sale.

Chicken Enchiladas Verdes

– Makes about 8 enchiladas

  • 1 can (10 oz) green enchilada sauce
  • 1 bottle (14 oz) salsa verde (or about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 an medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1  large (12 oz) chicken breast (or 2 smaller) – pounded to an even thickness
  • 1/2 block (4 oz) reduced fat  cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 8 corn tortillas (about 6 inch)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco or Monterey Jack cheese

Add the canned enchilada sauce, salsa verde, minced onion, and garlic to a saucepan over medium heat.   Add the 1 or 2 chicken breasts to the saucepan, cover pan, and cook for 20 minutes. Cut the chicken in half to ensure it is cooked through, and if not, continue cooking until it is no longer pink.

Turn off heat, and remove chicken from the pan.  After cooling slightly, shred chicken into small pieces.  In a small bowl combine the chicken, cream cheese, 2/3 cup of enchilada sauce and cilantro.

The salsa mixture should still be warm at this point.  Working with one tortilla at a time, dip the corn tortilla into the salsa mixture for about 10 seconds and remove with tongs.  This is just to make the tortilla more pliable, so it doesn’t crack when rolling.  Then place the tortilla on a plate and spread 1/3 cup of chicken mixture down the tortilla.  Roll up and place, seam side down, in a 11 x 7 baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Pour a heaping cup of remaining salsa mixture on top of the tortillas.  (I usually have some left over, but I prefer this to using 1/2 a can of enchilada sauce. If you want to double this recipe, I would just use an extra jar of salsa and skip the canned sauce). Top with crumbled queso fresco or shredded Monterey jack (or both).

Bake at 425° for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese melts and enchiladas are heated through.


Spinach Lasagna

The worst part about the first 2 years of medical school is that most of your time is spent studying alone. Despite the fun pictures on Facebook, we don’t actually get to hang out together that much.   To try to remedy this situation, John and I decided to have a little “Lasagna Party”.  It was a good excuse to get together with all of our friends, including the newest “member”- Baby Zoe!  We have some diverse tastes in our group, so we had quite a lasagna selection: Spinach Lasagna, Lasagna with a a beef and sausage sauce, and Lasagna made with chicken sausage.  It was quite a feast!

Of all the lasagna choices, this spinach lasagna was probably the healthiest. (Not quite sure I can call it healthy – it’s still lasagna after all).  But in general, the cream sauce used in spinach lasagna usually makes it much more fat and calorie laden than it’s meat and tomato counterpart.  However, I found a recipe that didn’t use cream, and used non-fat ricotta, to make this a healthier and much reduced fat version.  At first I was skeptical that this lasagna would just taste like a lowfat version of the real thing, but I was very pleasantly surprised.  I don’t think anyone would’ve guessed that this was “reduced fat”, and it was really quite easy to put together (it does take some time though).

Spinach Lasagna

– Makes a 13 x9 dish to feed 8-10 people.

  • 2 cups nonfat ricotta (16 oz)
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella (about 10 oz)
  • 1 grated parmesan cheese (2 oz)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 5 cups 1% milk (I used skim milk and substituted  about 1/4 cup cream)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3o ounces (3 packages)  frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 12 lasagna noodles

1. Heat a large pot of water over high heat.  Season with salt and olive oil.  Add lasagna noodles to water and cook for about 9 minutes. (It’s better to undercook the noodles slightly.).  Drain,  and lay noodles onto paper towels to dry separately.

2. Combine ricotta cheese, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, 1/2 cup parmesan, slightly beaten egg and salt and pepper in a bowl.  Stir to combine, then set aside or refrigerate for later assembly.

3. Heat 2 T. oil in a large skillet over medium. Add onion and cook to soften (about 5 minutes).  Add garlic and stir until just fragrant (30 seconds).  Add flour and cook for about a minute (cook it just enough to eliminate the raw flour taste, but do not brown.)

4. Slowly whisk in all 5 cups of milk and 2 bay leaves.  Simmer, while stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.  The sauce should thicken slightly.

5. Remove from heat, and remove bay leaves.  Stir in spinach, nutmeg, and remaining (1/2 cup) parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 13×9 inch pan with cooking spray.

7. To assemble: Place a heaping cup of spinach sauce on the botton of the 13×9 inch pan.  Layer 4 noodles, overlapping, on the bottom of the pan.  Spread about 1 cup of ricotta mixture over the noodles.  Top with a heaping cup of spinach sauce.  Repeat 2 more times, ending with ricotta and spinach sauce.  The top layer should have 2-3 cups of spinach sauce poured over top.  Top with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.

8.  Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.  To avoid spills you can place the lasagna dish on a large baking sheet lined with foil (I didn’t do this because I didn’t have space in the oven). After 40 minutes, remove foil and continue to bake for 20 minutes.  Cool slightly before serving.

Recipe adapted from America’a Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook.

*In the ATK recipe, they actually suggested making 4 layers of lasagna, using 16 noodles but the same amount of filling.  If you really like pasta this might be a good option for you!


Cincinnati Chili

Growing up in Ohio, Cincinnati Chili was always a go-to meal for my family, so I have very fond memories of it.   Because of this I might not be the best critic,  but I have to say that I LOVE this dinner.  If you haven’t had Cincinnati Style chili, you really must try it!  It’s often called 5 way chili, because you serve: 1) the uniquely flavored chili, 2) over pasta, 3) with cheese, 4) with beans, 5) with onion, and then I like to add a little bit of sour cream.  It is NOT a spicy chili.  It’s actually more on the savory/sweet side.  In fact,  it even has chocolate in the recipe, which is probably why I love it so much.

I think one of the reasons that we often had this as kids was because there is a fancy little seasoning packet you can buy that makes this dinner super easy.  Being up in Toledo,  I couldn’t find it at our store and I really had a craving for it,  so I decided that I would make this chili from scratch.  I know – “way to complicate things again, Jacqueline,” but sometimes I just feel like you can taste the work that went into the food, and I like the taste of effort.  I have since found a place that sells the seasoning, but I don’t think I will ever go back – I like this recipe too much!  I was a little intimidated when I found it, because the ingredient list looked really long, but once I actually went through it I realized the only things I had to buy at the store were the turkey & sirloin, onions, and a can of tomato puree!  (I do have a large collection of spices). This dinner is quite easy to throw together, and just remember, this isn’t baking – you definitely don’t really need to measure exactly.   I just eyeballed it using a regular old silverware,  and it goes a lot quicker.

Cincinnati Chili

– Prep/Active Time: 20 minutes           Cooking time: 45 minutes.
– Serves 5-6
  • 1  pound  ground turkey
  • 1/2  pound  ground sirloin
  • 2  cups  chopped onion (about 1 very large onion)
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  cup  water
  • 2  Tablespoons  brown sugar
  • 3  Tablespoons  spicy barbecue sauce (ketchup would probably substitute fine)
  • 4  teaspoons  white vinegar
  • 2  Tablespoons  chili powder
  • 3/4  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 3/4  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground allspice
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground coriander
  • 1/2  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2  ounce  unsweetened chocolate, chopped (I used chocolate chips this time but it was better when I used the unsweetenend chocolate.  You could also substitue cocoa powder if need be.)
  • 1  (10 3/4-ounce) can tomato puree (I could only find a 28 oz can, so I just used half of it)

For Serving:

  • Hot Cooked spaghetti
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Kidney beans (rinsed, drained & warmed)
  • Chopped Onion
  • Light Sour Cream
  • Oyster crackers (if desired)

1. Coat a large dutch oven with cooking spray and heat over medium-high.

2. Brown the turkey and sirloin in the dutch oven. (About 5 minutes)

3. Add the onions & garlic to the pan and cook until tender (Again about 5 minutes).

4. Add the rest of the ingredients (water, brown sugar, bbq sauce, spices, chocolate, tomato puree) and bring to a boil.

5. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 45 minutes (or longer).

6. To serve: Place a scoop of spaghetti on each plate, top with a ladle of chili.  Add  cheese, kidney beans, onions, sour cream and crackers as desired.

Originally from Cooking Light


Latin Inspired Falafel

If you’ve got glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency*,  or if you generally just don’t like falafel, you might still enjoy this dish!  Traditional falafel is made out of fava beans and deep fried,  and personally I’m not a huge fan of fava beans or deep frying things.  So when I found this recipe for a healthy version of falafel made out of pinto beans, I knew I’d be in love.   Plus this gave me another excuse to make my own pita bread, and it came out so much better the second time!  Watching pita bread puff up in the oven is one of the coolest baking experiences EVER!

I had made this once before, and I wanted to make it again since I’ve been on such a “bean kick” lately.  Unfortunately, I tried using a cast iron skillet this time and the patties really stuck to the pan.  Because of the small amount of oil used to cook these, you really need a non-stick skillet.  Using the right pan, these patties are a cinch to throw together, and another easy weeknight meal.  I almost didn’t post this because I had a lot of trouble taking a picture of it that looked appetizing. But I couldn’t bare not sharing it with you  because I think it’s such a unique dish!  It really adds some variety to the weekly menu, and seems fancy while actually being really easy!  I hope you try it, despite the bad pictures.

*G-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase deficiency is a common x-linked disorder, in which affected persons can have attacks of hemolytic anemia brought on by fava beans (as well as infections and certain medications).  Sorry for being a dork, just trying to be educational around here.

Latin Falafel Patties

– Makes enough for about 4 pita halves.

  • 1  (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2  cup  shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/4  cup  crushed tortilla chips
  • 2  tablespoons  finely chopped green onions
  • 1  tablespoon  finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1  large egg white
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

For the Avocado Spread:

  • 1 avocado, peeled and mashed
  • 1/2 of a medium tomato, finely chopped
  • 1-2  tablespoons  chopped red onion
  • 2  tablespoons  light sour cream
  • Squeeze of fresh lime juice
  • Sprinkling of salt

For Serving:

  • 2  (6-inch) pitas, each cut in half crosswise (For updated pictures and my recipe see: Pita Bread)
  • Toppings such as lettuce, red onion, peppers (if desired)

1. First make the avocado spread by mixing all ingredients in a small serving dish.

2. To make the patties, combine all patty ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

3.  Preheat oil a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.

4. Combine mashed pinto beans, Monterey jack cheese, crushed tortilla chips,  cilantro, green onion, cumin and egg white in a mixing bowl.

5. Form the pinto bean mixture into patties and place them in the oil in the large skillet.

6. Cook patties for 3 minutes on each side, or until brown and heated through.

7. To serve, place 2-3 patties in a pita half, and top with avocado spread and any other desired vegetables.

Adapted from “Falafel with Avocado Spread” from Cooking Light


“Doctored Up” Bean Burritos

I’m done with cookies for a while…back to some healthy meals!  This is a super easy and healthy, but surprisingly delicious meal!  I know you might be thinking, “Bean Burritos”, do you even need a recipe for that?  Well I have made bean burritos by just warming up a can of beans, and I think that this recipe is much better.  Adding a few ingredients really makes this meal go from  simple to exciting!  You can always add more or less spice, I tend to like my food a little on the less spicy side.

Usually have a problem eating a meal without a serious source of protein – usually meat – but I’ve found that both John and I will find a meal with beans satisfying.  It’s just a plus that they are also cheap, easy and healthy!  Plus, I’ve found I’m much more likely to eat the leftovers of a meatless meal, because unlike meat, beans don’t really taste all that much different a day later.   I think I am going to start buying black beans in bulk from my new favorite store, Costco.

Easy Bean Burritos

– Makes 4-6 burritos depending on the size.

For the Beans:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  teaspoon  chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce*
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/3  cup  water (or vegetable broth)
  • 1  (15-ounce) can  black beans, drained
  • 1  (15-ounce) can  pinto beans, drained
  • 3  tablespoons  salsa

For the Burritos:

  • Tortillas
  • Mexican blend cheese
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Shredded romaine lettuce
  • sliced green onions
  • light sour cream

*These come in a small can in the “Mexican” aisle of almost any grocery store.

1. Heat oil at medium high in a large skillet.

2. Add garlic, and 1 teaspoon of each chile powder, cumin and chipotle peppers to the oil.

3. Stir for about 45 seconds, or just until fragrant.

3. Add the 2 cans of drained beans, salt and water.  Bring the mixture to a boil.

4. Turn down the heat to medium-low and let simmer, without a lid, for about 10 minutes. (You can use this time to cut up the tomatoes, lettuce and green onions for the topping)

5. Remove from heat and stir in the salsa.

To serve: Spread the bean mixture down the tortilla, and top with your choice of toppings.

Recipe found at Pink Parsley, and originally from Cooking Light.


Chicken “Tender” Parmesan & Marinara Sauce

I never have been one to order chicken parmesan at an Italian restaurant, but I happen to really like this meal!   The idea of a chicken tender, instead of a whole chicken breast, for some reason makes this meal a lot more appealing to me.  Plus, this is actually  pretty healthy, which is something I generally don’t associate with chicken parmesan from restaurants.  In fact, I like this version so much that it has been one of my “go to” dinners for a couple years.

It’s pretty simple to make, and since I’ve had the hang of it for a while now, I decided to re-complicate it for myself  and make my own sauce . The sauce making process wasn’t very difficult, but making it at the same time as the chicken made for a lot of dirty pots and pans, as well as tomato splatters all over the kitchen.  So as a note to myself, the next time I make this I’m going to make the sauce ahead of time (or remember to thaw out the leftover sauce I have frozen).  I figure that will make this a really easy weeknight meal.

Chicken “Tender” Parmesan

– enough for 3-4 servings

  • 1 lb chicken tenders
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley (if you have it)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 2 cups marinara sauce***
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese

***Before I decided to complicate this recipe by making my own sauce, I used  bottled tomato-basil or sundried tomato sauce and add a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to it.  This worked fine, and made this recipe really easy.

1. Combine the bread crumbs, grated parmesan, basil, parsley, and salt and pepper in a shallow dish.

2. Lightly beat the egg white in a small bowl.

3. Dip each chicken tender into egg white and then into the breadcrumb mixture, so each is coated.

4. Heat the oil or butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. At the same time preheat the broiler in the oven.

5. Add the coated chicken tenders to the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.

6. Warm up the tomato sauce in the microwave (especially if it’s been in the fridge because it’s not in the oven that long to get hot), and then pour over the chicken in the skillet.

7. Top with mozzarella cheese.

8. Place the skillet in the oven, and broil for 2-3 minutes to melt cheese.

Serve alone or over pasta (I like angel hair or thin spaghetti). Also works great with broccoli or a salad.

Marinara Sauce

I’m not really sure what the definition of marinara is… and since I changed this recipe a lot, I’m not even sure if you can still call it a marinara.  But any who, this is a pretty basic pasta sauce and it worked great with this chicken!

  • 2 – 28 oz cans whole tomatoes, drained but juices reserved.
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Sugar (a few teaspoons)
  • Salt & pepper

1. Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium high heat.

2. Add the chopped onion and cook 5-7 minutes, until lightly browned.

3. Add garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper to the onion and stir for 30 seconds.

4. Add tomatoes to pan, but reserve 4-5 tomatoes (these will be added later to give extra texture to the sauce).

5. Cook tomato mixture for 10-15 minutes, allowing it to thicken.

6. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir for about 1 minute.

7. Add the reserved tomato juice to the pan, stir, and simmer for 10 minutes.

8. Add sugar, salt and pepper to the sauce.

9. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and add the reserved tomatoes.

10. Pulse 15-20 times until almost smooth.

– Can be refrigerated for 5 days or  frozen in an airtight container for 2-3 months.

Adapted from ATK Healthy Family Cookbook



Tomato-Basil Soup

Sometimes I think that I missed a few key pieces of information in childhood.  One of them being the definition of a consonant –  I’m pretty sure I missed that day in first grade, and didn’t figure it out until much later.  And the other being that grilled cheese is enjoyed by many people with tomato soup.  One day when I was a little older,  I remember my mom ordering tomato soup and thinking how odd it was for anyone to enjoy a soup that was made entirely of pureed vegetables.  And then I was almost disgusted when  she told me that she used to have grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner all the time as a kid.

Since my husband loves ALL kid foods (chicken fingers, macaroni, hot dogs…etc), he also loves grilled cheese and tomato soup.  I can’t say I’m a huge fan, but at least eating an entirely vegetable soup makes me feel a little better about eating a cheese sandwich.  I thought this soup would be a great alternative to Campbell’s and it made enough that I could easily freeze some for later (making it just as easy as opening a can next time)!  I used a food processor to blend the soup, but I think this recipe would be great to try a food mill with if you have one.

Make Ahead Tip: This soup is really easy but there are 2 steps that have to cook for 45 minutes each.  Therefore, if you roast the tomatoes the day before, all you really have to do to get this ready is throw everything into a pot, let it simmer for 45 minutes and then blend it in a food processor.  Also, like most soups it tastes better after it has been sitting for a while, so you could make the whole shebang ahead of time – easy peasy!

Tomato-Basil Soup

3 lbs Tomatoes

4 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

2 cups chopped onion

6 cloves garlic, minced

Crushed red pepper (to taste)

1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, undrained

2 cups fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon thyme

3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the centers.  Place them in a bowl and add 3 Tablespoons olive oil, tossing to coat.  Then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cover a baking sheet with foil, place the tomatoes on the sheet and roast in the oven for 45 minutes.

In a dutch oven, over medium heat, sauté the onions, garlic & red pepper flakes with 1 Tablespoon olive oil  for 8 minutes or until the onions start to caramelize. Add the canned tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 45 min.

Process small amounts of the soup in the food processor  until it seems very smooth. (Remember not to fill past that “liquid fill line”).  Serve hot or cold (or freeze for later).

Adapted from Annie’s Eats.


Spinach and Ricotta Pizza

I am on a huge pizza kick lately!  Ever since I started making my own pizza dough, it seems like we have homemade pizza for dinner about once a week.  I love knowing exactly what goes into the pizza, and it’s really not much more work than ordering!!!  I’ll post a tutorial on making your own pizza dough soon, but for now substitute any pizza like dough or crust you’d like!

John even likes this pizza, despite the fact that it has a lot of vegetables!    The recipe for the sauce calls for fresh basil, which can be hard to find and really expensive.  Thanks to Monnette’s Market, I was able to buy a bunch of it for several recipes this week, right here in cold, wintery Toledo. A little hint with fresh basil is to roll up several leaves into a “cigar” shape, and then thinly slice them.  This is how they get the basil to look so fresh and not wilted in restaurants.   But if you can’t find fresh basil, substituting dried would probably be okay.  Also the sauce recipe makes enough for 2 pizzas – but it freezes well.  I usually make one pizza and freeze the other half of the sauce for pizza another week.

New York Style Pizza Sauce

1 (14.5 oz) can petite-cut tomatoes, undrained

1 (6 oz) can tomato paste

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons sugar

1  1/2 Tablespoons olive oil

7  Tablespoons water

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir with a wisk.

Spinach and Ricotta Pizza

2 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves

1 teaspoon (about 2 cloves) minced garlic

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/3 cup part-skim mozarella

2 Roma tomatos – sliced very thin

1/2 of the above recipe for New York Style Pizza Sauce

Pizza Dough

Olive Oil

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  If you have a pizza stone (which is an awesome investment because it makes the pizza crisp on the bottom), preheat it as well in the oven.  Roll your choice of pizza dough into a circle or square. Lightly brush the outer crust with olive oil.  Evenly spread the pizza sauce over the pizza, leaving a thin border for the crust. Top with the Parmesan cheese, garlic, and spinach leaves.

Then sprinkle mozzarella over the spinach, and top with small spoonfuls of Ricotta.

Bake in the oven for 10-13 minutes or until the crust looks golden brown.  Carefully remove from oven and top immediately with sliced tomatos.

Slightly adapated from Cooking Light