Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pasta with Fresh Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Arugula, and Pine Nuts

Easy dinner. Fantastic tasting. Almost like you don't even know it's healthy (used whole wheat pasta, but you can use what you like--multigrain pasta is good too). Came up with this dish last night while in a hurry to make something for dinner. We loved it! Definitely use summer's best tomatoes (heirloom tomatoes if you can get them)--this dish is much better in the summer with fresh tomatoes--not the mealy ones of the winter-grocery variety. In the winter, consider sauteing 1-2 cans of diced tomatoes in with the garlic for a few minutes for this dish. I certainly will.

We had leftover lemon basil chicken from this recipe I made (and adapted) earlier this week. It was very good!

The chicken was great with the pasta. But, I bet the pasta would also be very good with some white (cannellini) beans (instead of the chicken) for a vegetarian meal. Next time, I'm going to try it that way and maybe even replace the fresh mozzarella with feta cheese for variety. By the way, arugula is wonderful in pasta dishes!


Serves 6

  • 16 oz. pasta (farfalle (bowtie), penne, fusilli/rotini, cavatelli shapes are good options)
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4-1/3 cup pine nuts (pignoli)
  • ~1 tsp. sea salt
  • ~1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper (or to taste)
  • 8-10 ounces fresh mozzarella, chopped
  • 5 oz. baby arugula (this is ~6 cups)
  • ~4 cooked chicken breasts, chopped (optional)
  • Parmesan cheese, (optional)

Cook pasta according to package directions. While that cooks, heat olive oil up with the garlic and cook slightly without browning. When garlic starts to brown, turn off the heat. Let cool until pasta finishes cooking. Combine the tomatoes, pine nuts, salt and pepper with the fresh mozzarella, and arugula. Add the cooled olive oil and garlic.

Drain pasta and combine toss with the tomato-arugula-cheese-nut mixture. Add cooked chicken, if using.

Serve immediately. For extra pizzazz--serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese over each serving. Doesn't this look delicious? It really was. Hope you enjoy it.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Summer in My Mouth: Strawberry Pineapple Quick Bread

Quick Breads: More matter with less art.--Anonymous

Fun fact: Quick breads originated in the 1850's.

Summer in a bread.....sweet, moist, simply wonderful! This recipe is amazing--I found it on, read all the lengthy reviews, and deemed it capable of handling healthy changes. The reviews proved that to be true. Here is the original recipe--it uses frozen strawberries and canned pineapple (that is not acceptable to me when it's cheaper to buy the fresh during this season). This quick bread is intensely flavorful!

My version is below--I wanted less sugar, less cinnamon taste (so the fruit flavors would be more discernible), some whole grain flour, and half the fat. The only thing I would do differently next time is to use even less sugar! It was a little too sweet to me--but still very good. This recipe makes TWO loaves--so keep in mind that if you don't freeze one, you will probably have to share with your coworkers, friends, and/or neighbors--and then you will probably have to share the recipe too (or so say the reviewers). (Each loaf has about 10 slices-give or take--more like take!)

I found it super easy and was surprised by how fast it came together. I might be making this again at the holidays--can't imagine it would compete with any fruitcake I've had. 

Adapted from
Makes 2 loaves

  • 1 2/3 cups sugar (definitely decreasing this further next time by another 1/3 cup)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup applesauce (heaping)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1.5 cups white whole wheat flour (good, but will use whole wheat pastry flour next time)
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped pineapple--packed and drained
  • 1 cup sliced strawberries--packed
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional--but I liked the crunch)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F). Lightly grease two 5x9 inch loaf pans.

In a medium-large bowl, mix the eggs, applesauce, oil, vanilla extract, and sugar. Then mix in the strawberries and pineapple.

In a separate (smaller) bowl, sift together the flour(s), baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. (In all honestly, I'm not a big 'sifter' and therefore skipped this step. I don't think we suffered too much because of it. Or at all.) 

Mix the flour mixture into the bowl with the fruit until evenly moist. Fold in walnuts. Divide the batter between the prepared loaf pans.

Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a loaf comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.

A dreamy treat with coffee or tea...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Calabacita Squash with Corn, Tomato & Onion

During my first month at home with a new baby, someone gave me a copy of an Oprah magazine. I was intrigued by an article featuring Jennifer Anniston's celebrity chefs. They cook healthy meals--now, as much as I enjoy time in the kitchen (it's stress relief to me), to have a celebrity chef prepare healthy meals for my family and not to have to worry about dishes or clean up is the thing dreams are made of...well, I clipped Jill Elmore's favorite recipe on preparing squash and finally got to make it. What a wonderful way to use up summer's bounty--it's a delicious side dish! So, so, good!

You don't feel like you're eating healthy in a frustrated can use whatever cheese you have around--I used Swiss and enjoyed it. It's a flexible recipe--I used 3 large zucchini and a bag of frozen corn with good results. And because I was in a hurry, I didn't drain the zucchini. I think it would make a difference so I definitely will not skip that step next time. This vegetable recipe would make a great side dish or something different to bring to a potluck dinner.

You might be asking what calabacita/calabasita is. And I have seen it spelled both with a 'c' and with an 's'. It means 'little squash' in Spanish. It's a lighter skinned, shorter (squattier), summer squash used in Mexican and Hispanic cooking. I have read that it has a less bitter skin. I used this kind of zucchini squash. It was labeled as 'calabacita' in my Hispanic grocery store, but you can find it in regular grocery stores too. I imagine that any zucchini would work, really. Not really sure which is the proper way....but in any case, at last you can eat like Jennifer Anniston with this dish (ha).

Adapted from The Family Chef by Jewels and Jill Elmore
Serves 5
  • 4 small zucchini, diced
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 ears corn, kernels sliced off
  • 2 plum (Roma) tomatoes, diced
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella or feta (optional)

Place diced zucchini in a colander set over a bowl. Sprinkle with salt; toss and let stand 20 minutes. (This draws the excess liquid out of the zucchini.)

Transfer zucchini to a kitchen towel and pat dry. (This step is optional but worth the time: Drying zucchini prior to sautéing it keeps it from becoming watery, and Jill think this step removes its occasional bitterness.)

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté 3 to 5 minutes until soft. Do not brown. Add zucchini and corn kernels. Saute 6 to 7 minutes until vegetables are almost tender. Add diced tomato; sauté 2 to 3 minutes until softened and zucchini is tender.

Remove from heat and stir in cheese if desired.

Per serving: 143 cal, 4 g pro, 21 g car, 4 g fiber, 7 g fat (1 g sat fat), 0 mg chol, 602 mg sod

Jill's Tip: She says she loves adding leftover calibasita to scrambled eggs in the morning for a breakfast burrito. Add a dash of hot sauce, roll it up in a tortilla and hit the road!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Savory Zucchini Dill Corn Muffins

I've been making these savory dinner muffins for a long time and I just love them!. They are a great accompaniment to chili in the winter--particularly spicy chilies. But, in the summer, these muffins also fare well alongside grilled vegetables and meats because zucchini are so readily available and cheap in this season. So during hot months, I just make try to make them early on in the morning.

These muffins do not rise as much as regular breakfast muffins, but they are moist and tender. I have actually noticed that they are even more delicious when you use organic or stone-ground cornmeal. If you don't like feta, use goat cheese. And dried dill works fine if you can't locate fresh dill. I've always wondered how good they would be with some fresh corn kernels thrown in....Serve these muffins at room temperature or warmed a bit, with butter. 


Makes one dozen savory dinner muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4-5 Tbsp. butter, melted (half a stick or 1 Tbsp. more)
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill (or about 1/2 tsp. dried dill)
  • 2 zucchini, grated (~2-2 1/2 cups)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup grated or crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese OR regular crumbled goat chese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease or spray a muffin pan with Pam or other cooking spray or line muffin pan with paper cups. Set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the melted butter and buttermilk. Then whisk in the egg, egg white, and dill. Using a spatula, mix in the shredded zucchini and cheese.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and gently mix until a batter is formed.

Fill muffin cups with batter and bake for about 25 minutes or until tops are golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Yield: 12 muffins

(Note: if using paper liners, in order to prevent muffins from sticking to the liners, wait to peel them after they have nearly cooled).

Friday, July 8, 2011

Snappy Red Sauce

I have a dirty little secret. I know we all have those--whether we want to admit it or not. I'm almost too ashamed to admit it. Pause. But, here goes. I watch a bad show. It helps me realize I'm really not crazy. That there are other people out there who absolutely define crazy. People out there who put their lives front and center so that we, as viewers, can watch with shame and horror and then feel downright normal. Who are these people? They are The Real Housewives of New Jersey.

I know some of you may be take a higher road and don't watch reality tv. Or own a tv. Well, more power to you. Can someone come and take mine away? Because this really is like watching a train wreck. Do I recommend this show? No. Do I have a problem because I continue to watch it? Most likely. I always feel like I need an emotional shower and the need to pray after this show. Yet, I continue to watch it and then say to myself....'See, you're fine!' It's totally ok that you apologize before any new thing you serve to friends and family before they taste it. It's totally ok to have to physically force and rip open your tupperware drawer because everything in there is jammed in unorganized. It's totally ok to refuse to wear hosiery from February to November. It's totally ok to think the Mr. Clean magic eraser is really magical. And it's ok to be Dharma to your Greg.

Anyway, I digress. My point is that on this crazy show, the mother of all that is crazy is a character named Teresa. Who has an obnoxious life. And an obnoxious house. And an obnoxious husband. And seeminly obnoxious children. But, my goodness! It looks like her cooking is to die for! She has written two cookbooks so far (watch out Giada!). The first was 'Skinny Italian' and the second is 'Fabulicious' (because everything in her life is 'fabulous'--and you know, I think her attitude is awesome! I think we should all go around saying our lives are fabulous--whether we wear animal print and have a gold bathroom or not). Anyway, after an internet search of some of her recipes, I'm convinced that she may know what she's talking about. Her recipes make one salivate in anticipation. And they don't look that complicated! So, as a warning, I will be trying a few here and there.

Below is Teresa's 'snappy red sauce'. A basic (slightly spicy) red sauce that is a staple in her Italian family's home and the basis of many of her recipes. I tried it and really like it. And what's strange is that 2 year old ate it up by spoonfuls. It really is a fast and basic red sauce that is delicious on pasta. I'm considering using it on pizza dough. The recipe is a great jumping-off point for other additions. But it's very balanced and uses ingredients you would not have a hard time finding in your home or grocery store.

Adapted from Fabulicious by Teresa Giudice

  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes in thick puree
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and salt. (Teresa says that a little salt brings out the onion flavor.) Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic and red pepper flakes and stir until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes with their puree and parsley and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook at a brisk simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Serve hot as a pasta sauce.

Makes 3 1/2 cups (enough for 1 pound of pasta)

*For my tastes, I prefer to add a little more salt and stir in about a teaspoon of olive oil at the end. Also, if I'm not serving it with a dish already using these same herbs, I would add some basil or oregano in with the parsley.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Super Succotash

My child and I have a love for lima beans. And now succotash. I recently learned that this dish came about during the Great Depression because of widely available and inexpensive ingredients. This is my version below. It makes for an awesome summer lunch. Flavorful, fresh, and resplendent with grilled meats and potatoes. Another example of how a vegetarian dish can be full of flavor. Also, it makes a great meal to pack for work.

Keep in mind that the version below is a bit fresher than traditional succotashes which saute the onions and bell pepper--feel free to do so and toss with the corn and beans if you prefer. Also, if you really want to 'kick it up a notch' (as our friend, Emeril, says)--add about 3-4 pieces of crumbled cooked bacon (we use turkey bacon). Feel free to add more butter--it really makes for a better taste with the creaminess of the lima beans and sweetness of the corn. We love this--hope you do too!


Serves 4-6

  • 1 (10 oz) package frozen lima beans
  • 1 big red bell pepper, diced
  • 3-4 green onions, chopped--white and green parts
  • 3-4 ears of cooked corn--kernels cut off OR 2 cups of corn from either cans (drained) or cooked from frozen
  • 2 Tbsp. of sesame seeds (heaping)
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. light butter (melted) or extra virgin olive oil (can use Earth Balance spread for vegans)
  • Juice of half a lemon or lime (optional)
  • Salt & pepper to taste (a bit heavier on the pepper)
Cook lima beans according to package directions (either on the stovetop or in the microwave). While still warm, toss the onions and bell peppers with the lima beans--this softens the 'bite' of the onion. Add the corn and sesame seeds and garlic powder. Pour the melted butter (or oil), citrus juice (if using) over the ingredients and gently mix it all together. Season with salt and pepper--taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Happy Belated Birthday, America!

Hope everyone had a spectacular 4th of July! This post is way too late (been kinda busy), but below is what I made for Independence Day (4th of July).

Every single time I have made this cake, I make it with Ina Garten's recipe (Barefoot Contessa). I highly recommend you guys bookmark her recipe to make for next year. This year, I wanted to simplify my life and used a cake mix (white 18.25 ounce). Then, decided to make it healthier and modified the cake mix directions by omitting the water and replacing it with some applesauce and butternut squash puree (added extra vanilla extract). So then surely, I had to reduce the fat in the frosting. This recipe was my inspiration in lightening the cake. I was surprised that the cake was still good. Even so, with all my more health-conscious alterations, you should still make Ina's cake at some point--it's very, very good. HERE is her recipe. It's also WAY prettier!

By the way, Ina's original frosting recipe is a bit scary if you're trying to eat healthier. So this year, for the frosting--instead of using FOUR sticks of butter and 24 ounces of cream cheese, I used 1 stick of LIGHT butter, and 16 ounces of REDUCED FAT cream cheese (that's two 8-ounce packages of cream cheese). And yeah, it was still quite good! Just something to consider.