Friday, November 26, 2010

Savory Ricotta Basil Corn Pudding

Another fabulous holiday recipe that I can thank Ina Garten for---I've been making it for years now and this savory corn pudding has become a family tradition and makes an appearance at Thanksgiving. Of course, I have adapted it to make it somewhat lower in fat--all Ina's recipes are terrific--the same way restaurants recipes are terrific. Mainly, because all the recipes have a ton of butter and cream--haha! Even with the tweaking, this dish is still very good--I hope you enjoy it.


1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter (I use 1/2-3/4 stick LIGHT butter)
5 cups fresh yellow corn kernels cut off the cob (6 to 8 ears) (or frozen or canned--I'm not cutting corn from a cob!!)
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
4 extra-large eggs (or 5 large eggs) 
1 cup milk (skim) 
1 cup half-and-half (fat-free) 
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup ricotta cheese (part-skim)
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil leaves
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup (6 ounces) grated extra-sharp cheddar, plus extra to sprinkle on top

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease the inside of an 8 to 10-cup baking dish.

Melt the butter in a very large saute pan and saute the corn and onion over medium-high heat for 4 minutes. Cool slightly.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, and half-and-half in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal and then the ricotta. Add the basil, sugar, salt, and pepper. Add the cooked corn mixture and grated cheddar, and then pour into the baking dish. Sprinkle the top with more grated cheddar.

Place the dish in a larger pan and fill the pan 1/2 way up the sides of the dish with hot tap water. (I have SKIPPED this step and it turned out just fine) Bake the pudding for 40 to 45 minutes until the top begins to brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve warm.

Serves 8-10 people.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Recipe I've Made the Most Often for 7 Years: Harvest Apple Crisp

Which is probably part of the reason why I never lost those first year 'happy newlywed' pounds :) I'm not a big pie fan....unless it's a graham cracker crust with a chocolate filling...but, I LOVE baked fruit desserts--especially crumbs/crips. This is the most amazing homey apple crisp recipe--by far the best apple crisp I've ever had. I prefer to use salted butter and yes, I have huge success using light butter. I've probably made it 15-20 times over the last 7 years. No joke.

In order to really appreciate this dessert...there's no denying it, you MUST MUST MUST serve it with vanilla bean ice-cream. Edy's makes a fantastic reduced fat version.....thank you to the Corpening sisters for one of my favorite recipes EVER! Sometimes, the best recipes are the traditional ones....

adapted from Bride and Groom First and Forever Cookbook, by Mary Corpening Barber and Sara Corpening Whiteford

Serves about 6-8

5 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch pieces (I substituted a couple Honey Crisp)
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
contents ot 1 vanilla bean, or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg, preferably freshly grated
½ tsp. kosher salt

Streusel Topping:
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened or melted
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup rolled oats or quick-cooking oats

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine the apples, granulated sugar, lemon juice, contents of 1 vanilla bean, cinnamon, nutmeg and kosher salt in an 8-inch square glass baking dish and mix well. Set aside.

Mix the melted butter with the brown sugar and kosher salt. Add the flour and oatmeal and stir until just incorporated. Do not overwork. Crumble the mixture evenly over the apple filling.

Put the baking dish on a baking sheet and bake until the topping is golden brown and the filling is bubbling, 50 to 60 minutes.

Let cool for about 10 minutes and serve with a scoop of vanilla bean ice-cream.

Twirl-Me-Around-For-Joy Tortellini Soup

I think I need to start adding an 'easy, fast, and healthy'  tag....because even though this is pasta, it's really not that bad for you. Again, think eating in moderation. This is the Sommerville house tortellini soup and it is absolutely delicious. This soup is perfect for those cold evenings in between holidays when you're tired of cooking but still want a home-cooked meal.

I have often added shredded carrots to it (during the garlic cooking process)--just to squeeze in some extra veggies. I'm sure you could add celery if you'd like too. The original recipe calls for cheese tortellini, but I have had great success with mushroom tortellini too (and even considered adding mushrooms to the soup--maybe next time). I'm guessing that chicken tortellini would be great too. Anyway, it's comfort food--my husband's loves this soup.

Serves 6-8

1 Tbsp. butter (or olive oil)
4 garlic cloves, minced
*2 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth (or vegetarian 'chicken' broth such as McKay's mixed with water)
1 (9 oz) pkg. or container of tortellini (preferrably cheese, but mushroom, spinach, chicken should be find)
1 can stewed tomatoes (un-drained)
1/4 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese + more for topping on soup
6 tsp. fresh chopped basil or 1 tsp. dried basil
1 (9 oz) bag of fresh (washed) spinach leaves

Melt butter and add garlic. Saute for 2 minutes. Stir in broth and tortellini. Bring to a SLOW boil (if you boil to fast, the filling can escape the tortellini). Reduce heat and mix in 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper--if your chicken broth is not low-sodium, you may not need to add salt--taste and adjust seasonings.

Simmer (GENTLY) until tortellini is tender--about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, spinach, and basil.

*NOTE: I often add about 2 more cups of broth or water as the pasta seems to absorb so much of the liquid in the soup.

Simmer for 2 more minutes. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with a little bit more freshly grated Parmesan cheese (if desired).

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Redneck Gourmet--Baked (Barbeque) Potato Chip Crusted Fish

I came up with this 'lighter' version of potato chip crusted fish one night when going through my pantry and freezer. The best kind of potato chip encrusted fish uses 'kettle chips'--but kettle chips are quite rich from excess frying. I think you still get a crispy coating from baked potato chips--and WAY less calories, fat, and guilt.

Frozen fillets work great in this recipe too--it may just take another 5-10 minutes to cook. I used cilantro and parsley as part of the marinade, but you can use thyme, rosemary, or dill instead. Any potato chip flavor will do, but I particularly like the cilantro/barbeque combination. I hope your family enjoys it--the recipe doubles easy to serve 4.

This fish makes a particularly delicious meal when served with a tex-mex salad (lettuce, corn, tomato, black beans, avocado, cheddar cheese, fresh cilantro, etc.--a good dressing would be to mix some light ranch dressing with barbeque sauce).

Serves 2

~2 Tbsp. light mayo or light sour cream or light butter
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Juice of one lemon OR lime (zest can be added for punch of flavor--but this is optional)
A dash of garlic powder
Handful of freshly chopped cilantro and/or parsley (or 1/4 tsp each dried--or you can use dill or thyme)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 (approximately 1 1/8 oz size) bag baked barbeque potato chips (crushed in bag--I used 'Lay's' brand)

2 fillets of white flaky fish (we used orange roughy, but tilapia, flounder, or halibut would work just as well)
Whisk/mix all ingredients up to the fish together. Or, process all ingredients in a mini-food processor (my favorite method).

Line a baking dish of your choosing with aluminum foil. Spray the aluminum foil with Pam (cooking spray) and add the fish fillets on the foil. Drizzle the above-made marinade on top of the fish fillets. Then, evenly divide the crushed potato chips on top of the fish. (Or alternatively, you can dip fish in the above made dressing and then coat (using your hands) in the crushed potato chips.)

Bake for about 20-25 minutes at about 425--or until fish is flaky when pierced with fork.

Garnish with lemon or lime wedges.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Herbed Buttermilk Popcorn--WORTH the change from the microwave bags!

My husband and I belong to two camps...his camp believes in microwave popcorn. Mine believes in the old-fashioned popper popcorn. Growing up, my dad would make bowls of it that we would consume plain. Lately, I've found a middle ground: Herbed Buttermilk Popcorn. It's very delicious & the pre-made buttermilk spice mix would make a great hostess gift if given together with kernel corn.

I came across the recipe in the Bride & Groom, First & Forever cookbook, but have modified it to include Brewer's yeast (or nutrional yeast--bulk section, Whole Foods-tons of B vitamins)--my friend, Jessica Korzynowski, introduced me to this--what a find! Thanks Jessica! Below is the original version & and, what I consider, an easier way (if you have a popcorn maker). I skip the corn oil & butter and end up using canola flavored cooking spray (butter flavored) and I Can't Believe It's Nut Butter spray--this is my (alternatively) healthier approach and I think it coats the popcorn better--no, no measuring, but I still think it ends up being less decadent that with the oil & butter. But you can do whichever version you want!!!


**1 Tbsp. tablespoon powdered buttermilk
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. lemon pepper
1/2 tsp. dried dill weed
1/2 tsp. powdered chicken bouillon or kosher salt

*1 Tbsp. corn oil
*2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup popcorn kernels

Combine the buttermilk, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon pepper, dill weed, and chicken bouillon in a small bowl.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the popcorn and cover with a lid (it's probably best to leave a small little crack in the lid to let a bit of hot air out and prevent condensation in the pot). Shake the pan frequently. Remove from the heat when the poppin subsides.

Pour the popcorn into a bowl. Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel. Melt the butter in the pan. Pour the butter over the popcorn, tossing to distribute evenly. Sprinkle with the flavoring mixture and toss to coat.

Makes 8 cups; serves 4-(yeah right!-that's what the book says, though)

*MY VERSION--aka, THE LAZY COOK'S WAY-yet, with 2 more ingredients

1 Tbsp. tablespoon powdered buttermilk
1 tsp. powdered Parmesan cheese (yes, I am finally allowing you to pull out the Kraft version)
1 tsp. nutrional yeast (NOT the baking yeast that comes in packets)
1 tsp.garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. lemon pepper
1/2 tsp. dried dill weed
1/2 tsp. powdered chicken bouillon or kosher salt

1/3 cup popcorn kernels
I Can't Believe it's Not Butter Spray
Butter-flavored cooking spray (canola oil based-read the benefits by clicking on it)

Mix the ingredients for the buttermilk seasoning spread.

Then, using an outdated popcorn maker (ha!)-someone told me they had a hard time tracking one down these days--maybe online or garage sales?--pop your kernels into popcorn.

When finished popping, evenly spray with the two sprays shown above (mix with your hands if necessary) and sprinkle with the herbed buttermilk seasoning mix. Use your hands to continue to cover the ingredients evenly across the popcorn.

For the record, I make several recipes of the buttermilk seasoning mix and keep in a jar for later uses. I don't like to measure it out each time.

When we make this popcorn, I end up doubling or tripling the recipe. I think you will really like it! I caught my 18 month old sneaking some while I tried to take a picture...

**(And for those wondering where to find buttermilk powder...ask your grocer--some stores carry it. Check the health food section. But Whole Foods definately carries it--I've seen a couple different brands--Saco is shown below).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What's For Dinner? Foil Packets!

Foil packets can be made as simple or as gourmet as you'd like to make them. They're not just for camping! All you do is use aluminum foil and pile your chicken, vegetables, and potatoes/rice OR just potatoes/rice and vegetables for a vegetarian option. The chicken and potatoes/rice and vegetables all cook together by steaming. It's really a healthy way to eat dinner. (I've never made them with uncooked rice--only cooked rice. But, I have made them with uncooked potatoes and raw chicken--worked great.)

Making foil packets is one of the BEST and EASIEST ways to entertain and a fantastic way to use what you have in the fridge for dinner. It's a do-it-yourself kind of meal. For enertaining: set up a bar-type area with all the ingredients and everyone assembles their own meal. Just have a marker handy so everyone can add their names or initials to each packet for easy identification when the packets come out of the oven.

During the summer, you can place your packets on the grill so you don't heat up your the winter, you can throw them in the oven. Foil pockets minimal clean-up--it's wonderful not to have to do dishes! And you can try a new version each time you make this meal!

There are no off-limits ingredients--it's just whatever you like or have in the fridge. Below are some ideas for ingredients to use--it's just a start. You can make Asian, Italian, Indian, Mexican, Greek, or Barbeque versions depening on sauces, cheeses or ingredients you use.

For the fastest version, use cooked potatoes and chicken. For a slower version, you can use all raw chicken and uncooked potatoes. Either way, keep the vegetables raw because they will cook fast.

ANY of these ingredients listed below can be used to make foil pack chicken (be sure to cut up your ingredients)--you pick & choose:
  • Cream of mushroom soup (for a creamy sauce)-but I'm sure cream cheese or sour cream would work too-you can skip any sauce though
  • Mushrooms (sauteed or fresh)
  • Onions or green onions
  • Garlic
  • Red bell peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Cooked rice
  • Green beans
  • Zucchini or squash
  • Brocoli and/or cauliflower
  • Cheese--any kind or several different kinds (Parmesan, cheddar, feta, goat, mexican blend, etc.)
  • Beans
  • Olives
  • Artichokes
  • Spinach
  • Celery or carrots
  • Pine nuts
  • Jalapenos
  • Tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes
  • Chicken
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Hot sauce
  • Salsa
  • Seasonings of your choice (taco, italian, steak, etc.)
  • Soy sauce
  • Lemon juice
  • White wine
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Barbeque sauce

To prevent sticking, spray each piece of foil with Pam or some type of cooking spray. Then layer all your desired ingredients and close up each foil packet leaving just a little bit of space for steam (basically, don't wrap it extremely tight).

Bake at 400 degrees for about 30-35 minutes if your chicken is raw. If it is not, your packet may be ready in 20 minutes. If they are on the grill with high heat, they will probably be ready in about 25 minutes--and even less so if your potatoes and chicken are cooked or you are making a purely vegetarian version.

If I use raw chicken, I will often open the packet and broil for another 5-10 minutes to get a crispy top--keep your eye on it to prevent burning.

When they are done, everyone can either eat the meal out of the packets or spill the contents onto a plate. BE CAREFUL OPENING THE PACKETS!!!! Steam will escape and it can be easy to get burned.

Good luck & just to assure you, everyone loves these and it's really hard to screw this up :)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mini Pumpkin Sage Balls with Creme Fraiche

I think any recipe with the word 'ball' in it tends to be good. Everybody likes bite-sized food, right? I came across this recipe when I was looking for a new appetizer to bring to a dinner party....everyone seemed to enjoy it. And it was really easy. I suggest doubling the recipe. They were good even without the dipping sauce (which if you can't find creme fraiche-you can make your own-recipe below). I skipped the fried sage leaves on top--didn't miss it.

adapted from

Makes about 16 pumpkin balls

3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup finely diced onion
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Topping: (Optional, in my opinion)
2 cups vegetable oil for frying
1 sprig fresh sage leaves

Sauce: (Also optional, in my opinion)
1/4 cup sour cream (light is fine)
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (I used fat-free half and half)
1 teaspoon white sugar (I used maple syrup)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (a raspberry or citrus one will do too)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a baking sheet.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook 2 minutes until softened, then stir in the chopped sage, and cook 2 more minutes. Scrape into a large bowl, and stir in the pumpkin puree, bread crumbs, eggs, salt, and black pepper until combined. Roll the mixture into 1 1/2 inch balls, and place onto the greased baking sheet.

Bake in preheated oven until firm and hot, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the frying oil to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C), and add the sage leaves. Fry until the bubbles begin to subside and the leaves are crispy. Remove the leaves, and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Prepare the dipping sauce by stirring together the sour cream, whipping cream, sugar, and balsamic vinegar until smooth.

To serve, sprinkle the pumpkin balls with fried sage leaves and serve with the dipping sauce on the side.

Best Fresh Spiced Citrus Cranberry Sauce

I don't know why anyone who is serious about Thanksgiving turns to a can for cranberry's almost blasphemous. This..coming from the girl who didn't really have all the real 'fixins' growing up. But now that I'm married to an honest-to-goodness-nothing-is-better-than-Thanksgiving-food man...well, there's just no going back.

So, I came up with this one on my own because I wanted something to taste really fresh...the key is the spiced cider. Spiced cider is made with mulling spices. I particularly love the Williams-Sonoma brand--or try the Trader Joe's brand, but you can make your own spices too. So if you make any spiced cider this a cup or so to make this cranberry sauce. You won't be sorry.

By the way, the apple adds 'pectin' which helps thicken the cranberry sauce.


  •        1 package fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
  •        Zest of one orange
  •        Approximately 1/3 apple, peeled and grated
  •        4 Tbsp. raw sugar (preferably Turbinado), or more if you prefer sweeter
  •        Approximately 1 cup spiced apple cider 

Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cranberries will begin to 'pop'--this is a fun noise--if your kids are watching the pot, please be aware that the cranberries don't explode and burn anyone.

Lower heat and let the sauce simmer for a few minutes---stirring every so often, to partially break up cranberries.

Turn off heat. Mixture will start to thicken and continue to do so slightly after the heat is off.

Let cool and serve alongside turkey and sides.

Makes about 1 ½ cups sauce.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Let's Party Pecans

The holidays will soon be upon know, those days of celebration where we all get together with our friends and families, tell stories, actually do our hair and makeup, let the little ones get away with just a teensy bit more, and get fat. But at least we'll have fun doing it. In our family, we all stand around the kitchen (despite what else is highlighted or going on in other parts of the house), talking, drinking, and munching--all while watching the women of the house prepare the big meals.

But, even while waiting for the special holiday food to appear, we seem to crave something delightfully special and different. These pecans are PERFECT alongside some bubbly or sweet juice punches that are often served during the holidays. They are salty, smoky, sweet, and slightly spicy all at once (let's see how many adjectives that start with 's' can I come up with?!)

There are dozens of recipes online for mixed nuts, and this one was inspired by another great cookbook that I received at my wedding--The Bride and Groom First & Forever Cookbook by the Corpening sisters. One of the best things about party pecans is that they will taste fresh just as flavorful, even weeks after they were made--if they last that long.

Below, I am including the original recipe and my version. Suit yourself on which one you'd like to try--or find a combination of the two for yourself...; yes, I was embarrassed by my 'secret' ingredient--until I tasted them. It will knock your socks off--yes, that good.

The authors note that their friends go absolutely "nuts" for these nuts and that over the years, they have become a holiday gift-giving tradition for them. So, if you are a handmade Christmas gift kind of person....this may be a recipe for you!

Makes 2 cups

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp. liquid smoke
2 cups (6 ounces) pecan halves
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. seasoning salt (such as Lawry's)
1 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil to allow for easier cleanup.

Combine the Worcestershire sauce, butter, and liquid smoke in a medium bowl. Add the pecans and stir to coat. In a small bowl, combine the onion powder, garlic powder, seasoning salt, sugar, and cayenne. Sprinkle half the spice mixture over the nuts and stir well. Add the remaining spice mixture and stir again.

Spread the nuts in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the nuts are dry and toasted, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.

Makes 3 cups

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. LIGHT unsalted butter, melted
1/2 Tbsp. chili-flavored olive oil
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. smoked salt (if you can find it--if not, use 1/2 tsp. liquid salt and 1/2 tsp. seasoning salt)
*1/2-1 tsp. mixed spices of your choice (like any from the Weber seasonings line)-
1 Tbsp.. agave nectar
Secret ingredient: 2-3 Tbsp. taco sauce (or about 3 packets of Taco Bell mild sauce--yup, for real)
3 cups pecan halves

*Note: if your spices include salt in the ingredients, lessen the amount of salt or eliminate it all together.
Preheat oven to 250 degrees and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil to allow for easier cleanup.

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl (with the exception of the pecans)--it will be sauce-like (see picture below).

Add the pecans to the baking sheet and drizzle this  sauce on them. Using your clean hands, combine the nuts with the seasoning sauce until the nuts are evenly coated.

Spread the nuts in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the nuts are dry and toasted, 30 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Zucchini Alfredo--SO Simple & SO Good

You may remember that I discussed my handy dandy veggie shredder tool in this post. Well, I have pulled it out again...If you don't have a vegetable shredder, I think you can cut the zucchini lengthwise until it is spaghetti-thickness (it'll just take you a bit longer time).

I ran across this recipe while perusing (AMAZING website when trying to figure out what to make for dinner with what you have; especially good for us lazier/impulsive cooks who don't schedule all our meals in advance--more power to you if you do though!!!). I have modified it somewhat to make it more healthy (less fatty), but it is still very delicious.

Serves 2-4 (depending on how many sides you have)

2 zucchini
1 tsp. olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2-3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. light sour cream

Wash the zucchini well and pat dry with paper towels. I mean, wash it WELL--an amazing amount of grit can sit on the surface. Slice the zucchini into evenly sized spaghetti like strips--using a vegetable shredder--or cut if you are skilled.

Heat the olive oil and garlic in a large saute pan. Saute for a min or two. Add the sour cream, Parmesan, and oregano. Warm through.

Add the zucchini and continue to saute until it is just tender. (The zucchini will leave some liquid behind--this is normal since this vegetable is made up of so much water).

This shredded, creamy zucchini is a great side dish to chicken, rice, and sliced tomatoes. Next time, I may serve it the way my favorite restaurant (Al Di La) serves it: halibut on shredded zucchini with black lentils on the side--simply amazing!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Black Bean Hummus

Hummus is a MUST in my world. I always like to have some on hand. It's great with pita chips and raw vegetable sticks. But, recently, I needed some variety and remembered a black bean hummus my husband and I first had at Barley's Taproom & Pizzeria in Knoxville--in the Old City.

If you like regular hummus, you will absolutely love this! Everyone who has tried it has loved it. 

The reason I believe hummus tastes so good, is tahini--a sesame seed paste that can be found in health food stores like Whole Foods or ethnic grocery stores (Middleastern). You could probably add some chili powder and serve it as a dip with tortilla chips. I skipped the cayenne pepper and drizzled a little chili-flavored olive oil on top.

If taking this to a party, make sure to make a double recipe.

adapted from

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans; drain and reserve liquid
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. tahini (sesame paste)
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

For garnish:

  • Olive oil
  • Paprika (a few dashes--'smoked' preferably))
  • Olives-optional (Greek/Kalamata, preferred)

In the bowl of a food processor, add garlic, black beans, 2 tablespoons reserved liquid, lemon juice, tahini, cumin, teaspoon salt, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed--and continuing to add reserved liquid until the consistency is satisfactory to YOU.

Taste and add additional seasoning (if necessary).

Garnish with olive oil, paprika, and Greek olives (if using). Serve with pita chips and/or vegetables.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sunday Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs With Caprese Multigrain Toasts

I meant to post this earlier this week (like Sunday), but then I got the flu. Anyway, you can plan ahead for this weekend and surprise your loved one--this is crazy easy (especially if you can get another family member to make the eggs). This breakfast is for those of us that want just a little something special on the weekends when all family members happen to be home....or if you have company over....or if you want to clean out your fridge. Or if you want a reason to eat Italian for breakfast...enjoy....all you need is some hot coffee and orange juice.


Serves 2-3

For Eggs:
2-3 eggs
2 egg whites (I use Eggbeaters)
1 Tbsp. plain yogurt (Greek-style, preferred) or sour cream (dairy adds a fluffier texture to the eggs)
Salt & pepper, to taste
Seasonings of your choice (optional-but you can use oregano, dill, basil, hot sauce, garlic salt, chives, etc.)

For Toasts:
Multigrain bread (1-2 slices per person), toasted
2-3 tsp. basil pesto
1 big tomato, diced
2-3 ounces of fresh buffalo mozzarella, diced (if you get a log already sliced, it's about 2-3 slices)
A splash of balsamic vinegar
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper, to taste
(If you're feeling extra special, you may add a few sprinkles of freshly grated Parmesan cheese--oohh!)

Whisk the eggs, yogurt or sour cream, and seasonings in bowl until the all ingredients are incorporated together.

In a medium saute pan, heat oil (of your choice) on medium-low heat. Then pour in the egg mixture. I looked this up so I could properly explain: After a minute or 2, when the bottom and edges have begun to cook and solidify, scrape and lift the edges with a spatula and allow the uncooked part to run under the part lifted. Fold cooked parts towards the center. Repeat the scraping, lifting, and folding until the egg has formed curds. (Something I have learned: More stirring will make small curds and less will make larger, fluffier curds. Duh, right?-took a long time for me to get that. Ha!)

When the curds are firm but still moist, remove to plates or serving dish. Apparently, I read that they will continue cooking after they leave the pan. News to me since I fear runny eggs--I just cook them to death until most people consider them too dry. Then again, I don't like my steak cooked rare either. To each his own. But, I digress....

So, in a separate bowl (if you are brave and talented--you can step away from the stove while the eggs cook and yet continue to break them up while you do this), mix together your tomato, cheese, pesto, olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper.

Add a piece (or two) of bread to each plate (you should be able to serve 2-3 people easily). Top each piece of bread with caprese mixture and serve alongside the scrambled eggs.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cheesy Chicken Spaghetti (Or What To Do With Leftover Pasta)

Here's an easy weeknight dish that can be prepared ahead of time or doubled and shared with a friend. It was inspired by something I saw in Southern Living a while back (you just can't go wrong with SL!). I did not use the broccoli, but I did use the mushrooms. We are hard-core mushroom lovers in this family.

Serve this casserole with a salad (or roasted green beans, as was our case) and some rolls and you are set.

You can cover and refrigerate the casserole overnight, and sprinkle with cheese before baking. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes until bubbly.
1/2 package of uncooked spaghetti (yes, you may go whole-grain)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
2 cups sliced mushrooms (optional)
1-2 cups broccoli, cooked (optional)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced or stewed tomatoes, un-drained (and chopped if using stewed)
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded reduced-fat Cheddar cheese, divided (I used a blend of Parmesan, Asiago, Mozzarella, and a small amount of Cheddar)
3 cups chopped cooked chicken (frozen is fine as long as you thaw it)

Preheat oven to 350º.

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.

Coat a nonstick skillet with cooking spray; place over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion and garlic (and mushrooms, if using); sauté 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, seasoning, and salt; bring to a boil.

Reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 10 minutes--adding broccoli during the last 2-3 minutes, if using. Stir in 1 cup cheese, cooked spaghetti, and chicken. Continue to cook until heated through.

Spoon into a 3-quart casserole coated with cooking spray (I used an 8x8 dish).

Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup cheese.

Bake at 350º for 15 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.

Friday, November 5, 2010

No Knead Heart-Healthy Refrigerator Rolls

I have had this recipe for a long time and I'm not sure from where--it's pretty similar to the soft whole wheat bread recipe that I made recently (from Nancy/Kelly)--but I don't have them side by side to compare; however, I think these rolls end up having a bit of a fluffier texture due to the addiotion of the egg whites.

These are great rolls for sandwiches. They come out a bit flatter and perfect for turkey, cheese, and avocado sandwiches or pimiento cheese sandwiches. But, you can also devour them out of the oven. I sometimes bake and then freeze the rolls.

Things to know: 1) These rolls are super easy---again, due to no kneading! 2) You can keep the dough in the fridge for several days & pull the dough out to shape the rolls a few hours before you need them.


Serving Size : 36 small rolls or approximately 7 big rolls for sandwiches or burgers

2 egg whites -- slightly beaten (I use eggbeaters)
1/2 cup oil, such as canola or safflower (I use olive oil)
1/4 cup sugar (I used Agave nectar-but you can also use honey)
1 package yeast -- not instant
1 tsp. salt
4 cups flour (I use 2 cups all purpose flour & 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour)
Approximately ¼ cup wheat germ

Sprinkle yeast into 1/4 cup warm water. Let stand 5-10 minutes to soften.

Using a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites slightly and add the oil and sugar; blend. Add yeast, salt and 1 cup warm water. Add wheat germ. Stir in flour gradually, using a wooden spoon to mix well.

Refrigerate dough at least overnight, but it may be left in refrigerator for several days. This is what it will look like:

Shape dough into 36 balls or into shape you prefer. Place on a lightly floured surface and let rise for 2 hours.

These are what mine looked like this last time--I will be honest and tell you that this time they didn't rise as much as my previous efforts & that is because I replaced some of my regular flour with brown rice flour, but it didn't affect the taste and it actually made it easier to eat as far as sandwiches were concerned. Yours will probably not be as flat as mine were if you do them with all purpose flour or with half all-purpose and half whole wheat flour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake rolls for 10 minutes (longer if you have made larger rolls). Serve immediately.

Oh, and if you haven't tried this 'butter' yet--please do so. I don't think you can tell it's vegan. But, it's delicious. I served it to a die-hard meat eater one time (he was afraid to try it), but was so surprised at how good it was.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Brown Rice (Crispies) Espresso Nut Power Bars

This is another fantastic recipe of Heidi Swanson's that I have been dying to make for over a year. A rainy day finally allowed me to choose making these over running errands. Good call because they are FANTASTIC tasting. Heidi calls them 'Big Sur Power Bars'--here is her post. You can also see her soothing video. I love the use of the brown rice syrup--it was my first time making something with it. Cool idea for a sweetener.

Heidi also says that if you can't find the crisp brown rice cereal, it's fine to use regular rice cereal (for ex: Rice Crispies - just stay clear of "puffed" rice cereal, it will throw the recipe off). Apparently, you can feel free to substitute other types of nuts, seeds, or whatever little goodies you can dream up. But, I made them pretty much exactly as her recipe, except my espresso beans are chocolate covered. Of course they are. And yes, I doubled the recipe for a 9X13 inch pan since we like thicker bars and I have a sneaking suspicion they bind better when they are thicker.

Here's what you'll need (the only thing missing from my picture is the pecans-sorry, forgot to include):


1 tablespoon coconut oil (or regular butter)
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 cup slivered almonds
2/3 cup (unsweetened) shredded coconut
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups unsweetened crisp brown rice cereal
1 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup natural cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
2 tablespoons ground espresso beans (I used chocolate-covered espresso beans-yum!)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a rimmed baking sheet, toast the pecans, almonds, and coconut for about 7 minutes, or until the coconut is deeply golden. Toss once or twice along the way.

Meanwhile, grease a baking pan with the coconut oil. If you like thick power bars, opt for an 8 by 8-inch pan; for thinner bars, use a 9 by 13-inch pan.

Mix the toasted nuts, oats, coconut, and brown rice cereal together in a large bowl and set aside.

Combine the brown rice syrup, sugar, salt, espresso, and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly as it comes to a boil and thickens just a bit, about 4 minutes. Pour the syrup over the oat/nut/cereal mixture and stir until it is evenly incorporated.

Spread this mixture into the prepared pan and cool to room temperature before cutting into whatever size bars you desire.

Makes approximately 16 to 24 bars.

*I have noticed that these bars do better if they are stored in waxed or parchment paper in a tupperware container in the fridge. The cold keeps the bars together since they do not have any fat besides what is in the nuts.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rustic Potato Cabbage Bean Soup

Fast, Simple, Healthy & Good. Inspired by of my favorite food websites due to Heidi's love of natural foods. I LOVE this soup....but cabbage was eaten often while growing up in my home, so it's not a stretch. This soup is very mild tasting and filling due to the addition of beans. It would be really delicious served with a hearty wheat bread or a sandwich for lunch. If I could use one word to describe this soup, it would be 'cozy'--perfect for a rainy day. If you omit the cheese, it can be made into a vegan soup.

You can use any bean you like--Heidi's recipe called for white beans (I only had garbanzos). She also called for less broth, but for some reason I needed more. I used a vegetarian 'chicken' broth without MSG. In recipes that are as simple as this, the quality of your ingredients is essential. Use good quality extra virgin olive oil and a really good quality grated hard cheese (like Romano, Parmesan, or Grano Padano). Enjoy!


1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4-1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 potatoes, skin on (or off-as in my case due to bad skins), cut 1/4-inch pieces (approximately)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, sliced or diced
7 cups stock (approximately, original recipe called for 5 cups)
1 can of beans, drained & rinsed well (your choice-I would have preferred cannellini or navy beans, but only had garbanzos on hand)
1/2 of a cabbage, cored and sliced into (approximate) 1/4-inch ribbons (of course I didn't measure!)

For serving:
A bit more good-quality extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Warm the olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the salt and potatoes. Cover and cook until they are a bit tender and starting to brown a bit, about 5 minutes - it's o.k. to uncover to stir a couple times (and add a bit of stock if the potatoes stick to the pan).

Stir in the garlic and onion and cook for another minute or two. Add the stock and the beans and bring the pot to a simmer. Stir in the cabbage and cook for a couple more minutes, until the cabbage softens up a bit.

Now adjust the seasoning - Heidi says that getting the seasoning right is important or your soup will taste flat and uninteresting. Taste and add more salt if needed, the amount of salt you will need to add will depend on how salty your stock is (varying widely between brands, homemade, etc)...

Serve drizzled with a bit of olive oil and a generous dusting of cheese (I mixed in a handful of cheese at the last minute into the whole pot so that is why my pictures lack a cheese topping).

Makes about 6 servings.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

If McDonald's Made A Healthier Egg McMuffin

This is what I imagine it would be:

Thank you to my sweet friend Erinn for serving us french press coffee, pumpkin muffins, and these egg sandwiches on our recent visit to Charlotte, NC. I really like being a spoiled houseguest....


For every sandwich, you will need:
1 fried egg
1 english muffin (we used regular, but you can go on with your healthy self and try whole wheat)
1 slice of cheese (Havarti was particularly delicious)
1 handful of spinach
1 tomato slice
salt & pepper
1 veggie sausage pattie, like Morningstar Farms brand (optional)
*Condiments of your choice

Toast the english muffins while you are frying the eggs.(Buttering the english muffins is up to you) Assemble the sandwiches to your liking and dress with mayo, mustard, barbeque sauce, etc.

*For something different, try one of my favorite condiments:
Equal amounts of (Vegennaise) mayo, mustard and pesto. --I HIGHLY recommend trying this condiment either as a dipping sauce with chicken tenders (especially the vegetarian ones like Morningstar brand) or as a spread on sandwiches-like the one above.

And this is the glee that comes from getting to eat a 'lunch'-type food for breakfast....

Monday, November 1, 2010

Soft Whole Wheat Bread--Easy & Good

Want a really easy and good bread? Try this one. It's easy if you have a stand mixer to do the kneading for you. I haven't used all whole wheat flour yet, but I did like the half & half ratio to start with (half white, half wheat). Some of you have asked: I like using whole wheat pastry flour because it tends to give a tender, crumb-like result when baking. But, I believe that Nancy (where I got the recipe-thanks girl!) used just regular whole wheat flour with excellent results. Here's her post.

To turn this dough into dinner rolls, just break the dough into pieces and put them next to each other in bread pans. To make pizza dough, divide it in half and roll it out. Here's the recipe for the pizza dough that I posted on a few months ago.

-recipe via Nancy Simmons, via Kelly at

6 cups flour (I used half bread flour and half whole wheat pastry flour-but you can use just all purpose flour or half whole wheat flour and half regular all-purpose flour to start out with)
2 1/4 cups water (recipe states temperature should be about 110-115 degrees--but I didn't test mine)
1/3 cup oil (I used extra virgin olive oil, but you can use safflower or canola)
1/3 cup honey
1 Tbsp. yeast
2 tsp. salt

If you have a good mixer-you don't have to knead it by hand. Just combine the water, oil, honey, and salt into the mixer. Mix until well blended. Next, add half of the flour. Mix until just blended. Add the yeast, mix again until just blended. Add remaining flour and mix until just blended.

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Then, knead the dough, by machine or by hand, for 6 minutes.

Put it into greased loaf pans (I used two) and let it rise in a warm oven (about 170 degrees), covered, for 45 minutes or so.

Remove covers. Turn oven up to 350 degrees, and bake for 25 minutes or so (until the bottoms are golden brown).

To cool, loosen with a butter knife and place on cooling rack on their sides.

Yield: 2 loaves (well for me anyway--ended up freezing one of them). It makes really great sandwich bread.

NOTE: If you want a nice soft crust (I did not): Use a pastry brush to brush a little butter over the tops.