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June 2016



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Jun. 6th, 2016


Hot Italian Sausage Pasta with Lemon

It's official!  I'm back living alone, just me and the dog.  The nice thing about living alone is I can literally throw a dish together last minute and not have to worry about someone else's preferences.  I think, mid dish, heh lets add some thyme from the garden and I don't have to explain it to anyone.  The difficultly with living with another person is that I have a very diverse taste buds and I enjoy cooking without a reacipe from a well stocked chicken.  Also...the cost is much lower.  I spent $45 last week in groceries and will likely spend the same this week.  How?  I buy meat in bulk, buy produce from the market, and shop the sales for staples.

This recipe resulted out of having a few bits and bobs that were just short of going bad.  I had about 1/4 pound of spinach a day or so ready to go, 1 cup of cherry tomatoes that were ready to be trashed soon, and some leftover frozen italian sausage.

Hot Italian Sausage Pasta w/Lemon


*  1 lemon
*  2 hot italian sausage links
*  8 oz pasta
*  1/4 pound spinach
*  1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
*  1/2 medium spanish onion, minced
*  1 tbsp minced garlic
*  2 tsp good olive oil
*  cracked black pepper
*  parmesan, grated
*  3 sprigs thyme (optional)
*  1 tbsp chicken base


1.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add pasta.  Cook to al dente.  Drain water, reserving 1.5 cups of pasta water, and set aside pasta.

2.  Meanwhile in a large skillet over medium high heat, bring the olive oil to temperature.  Add spanish onions and cook about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds.

3.  Pop the italian sausage out of its casing and add to pan.  Crumble the italian sauage and cook until throughly browned.

4.  Add cherry tomatoes, thyme and a few grinds of black pepper.  Cook about 5 minutes stirring infrequently.   Add chicken base and 1.5 cups of reserved pasta water.  Bring to a simmer.

5.  Remove thyme from pot.  Add reserved pasta and top with spinach.  Wilt the spinach.  Squeeze a lemon and toss again.  Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.

6.  Serve with a showering of parmesan.

Apr. 5th, 2016


Pan Bagnat

For some reason I thought I posted this months ago...but didn't. Here is one of my favorite sandwiches in the world. It takes a bit of prep time, but it's done the night before and you can make sandwiches for the next two lunches.

Pan Bagnat


*  1/2 loaf crusty French baguette
*  1 tsp minced garlic
*  6 basil leaves
*  1 6oz can tuna, in water (get the good tuna), drained
*  3/4 cup Nicoise (Kalamata also work here), minced
*  1/2 cup red or green bell pepper, sliced thin
*  1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
*  1 small can of artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed, and chopped
*  1 small tomato, sliced thin
*  3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
*  4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (use the really good stuff here)
*  kosher salt
*  fresh black pepper


1.  Slice the loaf of bread in half lengthwise. Remove a little bit of the insides of the bottom half that will fit the filling.  (This is optional).

2.  Mix 1 tbsp of olive oil and garlic together and let sit about 5 minutes.  Then, brush both halves with the olive oil.  Place the basil leaves on the bottom half of the bread, spaced evenly.

3.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the tuna, the remaining olive oil, bell pepper, onion, and artichokes.  Drizzle with the lemon juice and toss to combine.  Season with kosher salt and black pepper.

4.  Layer the tuna mixture on the bottom of the french bread overtop of the basil leaves.  Top with the other side of the french bread and slice the sandwich into two sandwiches.

5.  Then wrap each sandwich very tightly in saran wrap.  Place sandwiches in the fridge with a heavy brick or cast iron overtop the to mush the sandwiches flat.  Refrigerate overnight.

6.  When ready to serve (or in the morning before work)  remove the sandwich from the fridge and devour.

Serves 2 | Calories 604 | Fat 36.8 g | Cholesterol 38 mg | Sodium 1365 mg | Potassium 407 mg | Carbs 47.8 g | Fiber 6.2 g | Sugars 7.4 g | Protein 25.3 g

Apr. 4th, 2016


Chicken Parmesan Asparagus Pasta

Quick update today.  This week I have been helping out two friends while they are away running a marathon in Paris.  In between running to their home to let out their dogs at least three times a day, usualy four, I don't have a lot of time to cook.  When making my grocery list this week I turned to my sister and said "It's going to be quick and easy this week."  And that is how I planned this week.

Chicken Parmesan Asparagus Pasta

*  1 large chicken breast, skinless and boneless, about .75 pounds
*  10 oz medium pasta, penne, penne, or bowtie work great
*  2 cups fresh asparagus, cut to a length of about 3-5 inches long
*  1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
*  water for pasta
*  kosher salt and pepper to taste
*  1/4 cup good olive oil
*  1 tsp italian seasoning
*  1/2 tsp smoked paprika
*  1 tsp garlic powder
*  1 tsp onion powder


1.  Bring a large sauce pan filled with water to a boil.  Salt the water and drop the pasta.  Cook 1 minute less than the directions.

2.  In a skillet on medium high heat, place 1 tbsp of the 1/4 cup olive oil in the pan.  Add chicken breast that has been sliced into about 1 inch cubes.

3.  Cook the chicken until it's almost done, then add the garlic powder, onion powder, italian seasoning, and smoked paprika.  Cook the chicken until is runs clear.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4.  Drain the pasta water once down and place the pasta in a 9x13 pan.

5.  Top the pasta with the chicken breast.  Add the asparagus to the skillet and add about 2 tbsp of water.  Cook the asparagus for 2-3 minutes.

6.  Top the chicken and pasta with asparagus.  Add the remainder of the olive oil and toss to coat.  Top the pasta mixture with the shredded parmesan cheese.

7.  Place under a broiler for 3-5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and slightly toasted.

Serves 4 | Calories 562 | Fat 19.2 g | Saturated Fat 3.4 g | Cholesterol 80 mg | Sodium 780 mg | Potassium 354 mg | Carbs 56.3 g | Fiber 4 g | Sugar 3.8 g | Protein 41.1 g

Mar. 22nd, 2016


Go to Baked Mac and Cheese

I've made several baked mac and cheese dishes, but this is by far the best, my "go to" recipe.  Why is it so good?  Because I hate dry baked mac and cheese so much I've dramatically increased the cheese sauce and reduced the baking time signficiantly.  This recipe ends up being the perfect weekday meal because it cooks in about 40 minutes, 30 if you make the roux in a seperate pot, which I usually don't bother with because I don't have a dishwasher and HATE cleaning extra pots.  Key parts of this recipe:  take the time to make a roux based cheese sauce (an informal mornay sauce), use whole milk, and do not use preshredded cheese (preshredded is coated in cornstarch which will result in lumpy cheese.  Hand grate or use a food processor to grate your own cheese.  Trust me its absolutely worth it.)

Go to Baked Mac and Cheese

*  1 pound elbow macaroni (I like the ribbed elbow for this)
*  5 tbsp unsalted butter
*  5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
*  3 1/2 cups whole milk
*  16 oz grated mild cheddar
*  8 oz grated Monterey cheese
*  1 teaspoon kosher salt
*  1 teaspoon mustard powder
*  1 tsp garlic powder
*  1/2 tsp fresh black pepper
*  olive oil Pam spray
*  1/2 cup panko crumbs or other bread crumbs


1.  Heat the oven to 400°F.  Spray a  9x13-inch baking dish with the Pam.

2.  Bring a large amount of salted water to boil in a large pot. Add the pasta and cook until the pasta is al dente, then drain and set aside in a heat resistant bowl.

3.  Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour and whisk to form a thick, smooth paste without clumps. Cook for a minute or two and then add the mustard powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

4.  Meanwhile place the milk in a microwave safe container and warm about 1 minute in the microwave.  Basically you want the milk to not have the chill of the refrigerator.  Should feel at room termpature.

5.  Slowly begin pouring the warm milk into the roux while whisking.  Keep whisking about 5-6 minutes or until the sauce starts to thicken.

6.  Reduce the heat to medium low and stir the cheese into the sauce one handful at a time.

7.  Transfer the cooked pasta to a big mixing bowl and pour the sauce over the pasta. Stir gently until the pasta is entirely coated.

8.  Add the pasta into the baking dish and smooth the top evenly. Sprinkle the panko crumbs evenly over top.  Spray lightly with Pam.

9.  Bake about 10 to 15 minutes until the Panko starts to become golden and the mac is bubbling.

10.  Serve warm with a small side salad, broccoli, brussel sprouts, or fresh peas.

Serves 10 | Calories 576 | Fat 31.5 g | Saturated Fat 19.3 g | Cholesterol 93 mg | Sodium 735 mg | Potassium 309 mg | Carbs 45.7 g | Fiber 1.9 g | Sugars 6.5 g | Protein 26.8 g

Mar. 14th, 2016


Red Dal

Dal is an Indian type dish that I've been obsessed with for quite some time.  If it's not Chicken (or Paneer) Saag, Chicken Tikka, or Chana Masala, it's some sort of Dal.  I usually prefer Dal Tadka or Dal Palak, but I'll pretty much take any kind.  (FYI - I have seen Dal spelled Dahl on a few occasions).  Dal refers to the pulse that is used to make the dish.  Typically in the west we use Lentils, but I have seen it with peas and with quicker cooking beans.

This isn't a traditional Dal by any stretch, but its easy and quick to make.  I serve Dal with basmati rice and a green like spinach or collards.  But feel free to serve with quinoa, naan, yogurt, or cilantro.  Leftovers are great with this dish and make equally as great lunches for the week.

Red Dal
Adapted from Kiwi and Bean's White Girl Dahl


* 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
*  1 tablespoon olive oil
*  1 large yellow onion, diced
*  2 tsp minced garlic
*  2 tbsp minced ginger
*  2 tablespoons madras curry powder
*  1 tsp cayenne pepper
*  3 cups water
*  13.5 oz can of coconut milk
*  2 tablespoons tomato paste
*  28 oz can of whole tomatoes or one pint fresh cherry tomatoes, diced
* 16 oz (about 2 cups) dried lentils (preferably red, but if not yellow or green will work)
*  Juice of one lemon
*  1 teaspoons garam masala
*  1 tsp kosher salt, to taste


1.  Melt 1 tbsp olive oil to medium high heat in a medium sized stockpot.

2.  Add onions and cook until they start to turn brown.  Add garlic and ginger and cook for another 1 minute or so, making sure the garlic does not burn.
3.  Add madras curry powder and cayenne to pot and cook for about 30 seconds to one minute.  Do not let the spices burn by stirring frequently.  Then add tomato paste and let cook another 30 seconds to one minute.

4. Stir in the lentils and let cook for another 30 seconds to one minute.

5.  Add the water, coconut milk, and the tomatoes to the pot.  If using canned, add the juices to the pot and then with each canned tomato, crush between fingers as you add it to the pot. If using fresh tomatoes, dice them into about once inch pieces and add any juices on the cutting board.  You can also de-seed the tomatoes if you would like, but I usually don't bother.

6.  Bring the mixture to a rolling boil.  Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer until the lentils are very soft and the majority of the liquid has been incorporated. This takes around 40 minutes, but adjust the time based on the lentils you use.  If you are adding black eyed peas with the lentils, add the peas before the lentils and cook them about 10 minutes.  Then add the lentils and cook for an additional 30-40 minutes.

7.  Add in the 1
tablespoon of butter, lemon juice, garam masala and kosher salt.  Adjust for taste.

8.  Serve with rice, naan, or quinoa and with cilantro, yogurt, and vegetables on the side.

Serves 8 | Calories 483 | Fat 24.4 g | Saturated Fat 14.8 g | Cholesterol 4 mg | Sodium 523 mg | Potassium 649 mg | Carbs 49.2 g | Fiber 19.4 g | Sugars 8.1 g | Protein 17.9 g

Mar. 7th, 2016


Spinach Balls

I was looking for a vegetarian side dish to a small salad for lunches this week.  I was thinking falafel but I got sidetracked with these spinach balls that I had pinned a long time ago.  I didn't follow the recipe exactly (when do I ever) but they turned about pretty dang good.  You can serve these as an appetizer with a dip or like I did with a small side salad.  Hummus would be good with these or a remmoudlade.

Spinach Balls
Adapted from Sweetashoney Spinach Balls


*  32 oz frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed of liquid
*  3 large eggs
*  1/2 cup shredded cheese (cheddar would be good here, I used aged goat gouda)
*  1 tsp of kosher salt (optional)
*  1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
*  1 cup panko crumbs
*  1 tsp dried italian spices
*  1 tsp granulated onion


1.  Preheat the oven to 360 F.

2.  Combine spinach, cheese, eggs, salt, pepper, panko crumbs, italian spices, and onion powder in a medium mixing bowl.

3.  Place bowl in the fridge and let chill for about 30 minutes.

4.  Spray two half-sheet baking pans with non stick spray.

5.  Make 24 balls out of the spinach mixture using a spoon or a cookie scooper.

6.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

7.  Serve warm or cold as you wish.

Serves 4 | Calories 227 | Fat 10.8 g | Cholesterol 154 mg | Sodium 372 mg | Potassium 1318 mg | Carbs 19.5 g | Fiber 5.5 g | Sugars 1.7 g | Protein 18.7 g

Pros:  Low in sugar; High in Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, Riboflavin, Selenium, and B6; and Very High in Mangenese, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C.

Cons:  Very High in cholesterol

Feb. 19th, 2016


Cordon Bleu Rolls

This recipe is the perfect one if you are looking for something quick and flavorful.  I love chicken cordon bleu, but generally hate stuffing chicken.  I much prefer a "roll" approach when it come to this dish and am not particularly miffed if some of the cheese melts out onto the baking sheet.  Crispy cheese makes a great snack!

Cordon Bleu Rolls
Adapted from SkinnyTaste's Skinny Chicken Cordon Bleu


·         Pam Olive Oil cooking spray
·         1 pound of thin chicken cutlets, about 4 total (adjust the ham and cheese if more or less)
·         salt and fresh cracked pepper
·         1 large egg
·         1 large egg white
·         1 tbsp water
·         1/2 cup breadcrumbs
·         1 oz parmesan cheese
·         4 slices of thinly lean deli ham (I like the tavern style for this not honey)
·         4 thin slices of white American cheese


1.  Preheat oven to 450 F and spray a large non-stick baking sheet with cooking spray.

2.  Lightly pound out the chicken to make them slightly thinner, then lightly season with kosher salt and black pepper.

3.  Lay the chicken on a working surface and place a slice of ham on top of the chicken, then the cheese and roll, setting them aside seam side down.  You can also “pin” them shut with a toothpick if desired.

4.  In a small bowl, whisk the egg, water, and egg white together.

5.  In another bowl combine breadcrumbs and parmesan.

6.  Dip each chicken roll first into the egg wash, then into the breadcrumbs.

7.  Place chicken onto the baking sheet seam side down.

8.  Spray the top of the chicken with a little cooking spray and bake about 30 minutes.  Check for doneness (time will depend on thickness of chicken).  Serve hot with a veg.

Serves 4 | Calories 400 | Fat 15.3 g | Saturated Fat 5.5 g | Cholestrol 170 mg | Sodium 957 mg | Potassium 487 mg | Carbs 12.9 g | Fiber 1.1 g | Sugars 2.6 g | Protein 51.6 g

Feb. 15th, 2016


Barley Lunch Bowl

I'm always on the look out for something easy and delicious for packed lunches.  Sometimes it involves leftovers (or reinventing leftovers) and unfortunately sometimes it results in take out when a recipe flops or my sister takes the last of the leftover or even more tragic...I completely forgot to make something (whoops!).  My favorite weeks are those where I took the time to sit down and think about what I'm hungry for, how I can store it, and how many days it will last.

I know, not typical exciting thoughts, but there is something soothing about having your week planned out when it comes to meals.  As much as I love the thought of being able to make something at the spur of a moment with a well stocked kitchen, lunches and breakfasts on work days usually aren't the sort of moments where I want to have to to make a spur of the moment decision.  Usually first thing in the morning on a work day I'm already imagining out the clients I'm going to meet, the legal documents I have to draft, and the research I need to do.  I don't have time to have a thought for anything regarding food when my biggest concern is making sure I shower and put together enough to meet with a judge or client.

On days like today, however, when I should be at work but through a scheduled day off (like Presidents day) I am NOT at work, my brain starts to go into overdrive.  I stop working on the Answer to Objections to Interrogatories that I brought home with me and start thinking about lunch.

I have had an obsession with grain bowls for about as long as I can remember.  Before law school for sure, and likely back to when I worked as a "short line cook" at my college cafeteria.  I was always experimenting back then...ok so I'm still experimenting, but I remember vividly putting together hodgepodge wraps and bowls for my lunch or dinner and having people lining up to my station like what I was making was something on the menu.  (Usually the manager was not happy about this because the poor register ladies didn't know what to code my creations as).

In any event, in a break from my typing today I decided to make barley.  And from there this bowl was created.  Bowls are pretty flexible so feel free to change it up.  My recommendation is to follow a cuisine type when mixing it up.  Make it Mexican with chickpeas roasted in adobe and add an avocado.  Make it more Greek with pitted Kalamata olives and seared feta.  The bowl is yours to tamper with.  Let your creativity fly!
Grain Bowl


* 1 cup pearled barley (or any other sort of grain you would like)
*  3 cups water
*  1 tsp kosher salt
*  2 tbsp shredded parmesan cheese
*  4 eggs, poached or soft boiled
*  1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
*  1 cup roasted chickpeas
*  1 tbsp olive oil
*  1/4 cup lemon juice
*  2 tbsp dijion mustard
*  1 cup roasted broccoli


1.  Bring the 3 cups of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add 1/2 tbsp olive oil (reserve the rest) and a pinch of salt to the water.  Add the barley, cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 45 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.

2.  Add the parmesan and cracked pepper to the cooked barley and toss to incorporate.

3.  In a small bowl whisk together the remaining olive oil, the lemon juice, and the dijion mustard together.  Taste and season as needed.

4.  Place 1/4 of the barley in a bowl, top with 1/4 the chickpeas, 1 egg, and 1/4 roasted broccoli.  Serve with the mustard lemon dressing.

Serves 4 | Calories 456 | Fat 18.6 g | Cholesterol 174 mg | Sodium 214 mg | Potassium 610 mg | Carbs 53.4 g | Fiber 13.7 g | Sugars 4.4 g | Protein 22.8 g

Jan. 21st, 2016

Red Dress

Old-School Beef Stew

Since the prediction of massive amounts of snow in my area, I have armed myself with a plan.  Make stew, bake bread.  Sounds like a good plan right?  Really there is nothing more comforting than making a stew when the weather is bad.  Except for making bread when the weather is bad.  This stew though, you have to make.

Old-School Beef Stew


*  2 tbsp olive oil
*  1 tbsp unsalted butter
*  2.5 pounds chuck roast
*  1 tsp kosher salt
*  1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
*  1 spanish onion (medium) diced
*  2 tbsp minced garlic
*  2 tbsp tomato paste
*  4 cups beef stock
*  1 tsp fish sauce (or worcestershire)
*  4 carrots, peeled and diced
*  2 turnips, peeled and diced


1.  Heat oil in large dutch oven over medium high heat.  Salt and pepper the chuck roast.  If the chuck roast cannot fit flat in the dutch oven, cut it in half and brown the meat in two batches.  Brown each side of the chuck roast about 2 minutes each side.  Remove the meat and place to the side.  If needed, brown the second batch of chuck roast in the same manner.

2.  Add the onion and garlic to the dutch oven.  Scrap up all the brown bits at the bottom of the pot, cooking the onion mixture about 3 minutes.  Then add the tomato paste, stirring it into the pot so it coats everything.  Cook another 2 minutes.

3.  Stir in beef stock, and then add the fish sauce.

4.  Dice the beef carefully into 1 inch cubes.  Add the beef back to the pot, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours.

5.  After, add the diced turnips and carrots to the pot.  Place the lid back on and cook for another 30 minutes or so, until the turnips and carrots are soft.  The broth should be thick, but if you like a looser stew, add a bit of water.

6.  Taste the stew and season as needed.  Serve warm with some fresh crusty bread or mashed potatoes.

Serve 6 (or 8 w/sides) | Calories 521 | Fat 22.7 g | Saturated Fat 7.8 g | Cholesterol 196 mg | Sodium 1186 mg | Potassium 935 mg | Carbs 10.4 g | Fiber 2.3 g | Sugars 5.2 g | Protein 65.6 g
Tags: ,

Lentil Curry Stew w/Potatoes

When my sister isn't planning on eating with me, I vascilate between going hog wild (ordering Vietnameze take out or Indian take out) and just making something simple I know I will enjoy that I never would make for my sister.  Yesterday my sister was on a "liquid diet" in preparation for some minor surgery today, so I settled myself in to make something at home...resisting the Indian take out restaurant with everything I had.

This stew is a the result.  It's a fabulous take on a Epicurious recipe that I used as a base.  Go wild with it.  Add carrots, rutabagas, or cilantro.  Change up the curry for a dash of tomatillo sauce.

Lentil Curry Stew with Potatoes
Adapted from Epicurious Lentil Stew with Spinach and Potatoes

*  1 tablespoon olive oil
*  1 tsp garlic cloves, chopped
*  1/2 cup diced spanish onion
*  2 tsp fish sauce
*  1 tbsp tomato paste
*  1 tsp kosher salt
*  1/2 tsp cracked pepper
*  1 tbsp chicken base
*  4 cups water
*  1 tsp red curry paste
*  1/2 cup green lentils, rinsed, picked over
*  4 ounces red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
*  1 tbsp rice vinegar
*  1 cup frozen spinach

1.  Heat olive oil in medium saucepan over medium heat.

2.  Add onion and salt.  Cook for about 7 minutes until starting to turn a golden color.  Add garlic and stir 30 seconds.

3.  Add chicken base, tomato paste, lentils, and curry paste.  Cook for about 2 minutes.

4.  Add water and cover.  Cook for 10 minutes.

5.  Uncover and add potatoes.  Cook uncovered until the potatoes and lentils are tender and cooked through.  This will take about 15 minutes.

6.  Add the vinegar, fish sauce, and spinach.  Cook another 2 minutes or so.

7.  Serve warm with a piece of toast to soak up the juices.  Enjoy.

Serves 2 | Calories 311 | Fat 8.5 g | Saturated Fat 1.4 g | Cholesterol 0 mg | Sodium 3958 mg | Potassium 958 mg | Carbs 44.1 g | Fiber 17.1 g | Sugars 4 g | Protein 15 g

Dec. 29th, 2015


Sausage and Spinach Pasta

This recipe was an attempt at something new. Due to my sister's pickiness and our love for "repeat" dinners, we have been in a funk lately. We needed something new to try that would appeal to my sister and my niece. What I usually do is show my sister pictures of things that I would like to eat and see what her response is. This got an "ok" we could do that.

My sister might have celiacs's disease (she's in the testing phase now) so we are attempting to eat less gluten in our household...hard to do during the cookie frenzy of Christmas.  I subbed gluten free pasta here, which is an easy sub to do with increasing availability of acceptable gluten free products.  I used to make fun of products that were labeled "gluten free" that were naturally gluten free, but learning more about this disease had caused me to stop.  From what I understand celiacs is sort of like a peanut allergy.  While the product itself might be "peanut free" that doesn't mean that it was produced in a peanut free facility or environment.  If you have a severe allergy even the smallest contamination can cause horrible reactions.

Sausage and Spinach Pasta
Adapted from Cooking Light January 2016
"Chicken Sausage and Broccoli Rabe Penne"


*  2 quarts water
*  8 ounces uncooked gluten free penne pasta
*  1 pound spinach
*  1 tablespoon olive oil
*  3 (3-ounce) italian sausages, each diagonally cut into 8 pieces
*  freshly ground black pepper
*  Kosher salt
*  1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
*  2 ounces parmesan cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)


1. Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add pasta; cook 2 minutes less than directed.   Add spinach to pasta pot and cook 1 minute.

2.  Drain pasta mixture, reserving 2/3 cup cooking liquid; keep pasta warm.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add oil to pan and swirl to coat.

4.  Add sausage to pan; cook 6 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally so that it browns beautifully.

5.  Add 2/3 cup reserved pasta water, pasta mixture, and salt and pepper to taste to pan; bring to a boil.

6.  Cook 2 minutes or until slightly reduced. Stir in juice, and sprinkle with cheese.

Serves 4 | Calories 518 | Fat 26.1 g | Saturated Fat 8.5 g | Cholesterol 64 mg | Sodium 700 mg | Potassium 827 mg | Carbs 48.5 g | Fiber 3.5 g | Protein 24.2 g

White Bean and Ham Soup

I make some variation of this soup every year at Christmas and Easter time.  Why?  Because for some reason everyone I know likes to throw out their ham bones.  I beg and plead for those bones, and then lovingly rescue them to a new home...my soup pot.  There is really no wrong way to make this soup.  You can flavor it how you like or add/remove things to the pot.  I like this with kale or cabbage (of which I had none) and seasoned with fresh thyme.

Now this recipe may be odd to some people as I do NOT soak the beans.  I rarely soak beans (quick or long) with the minor exception of kidney beans which need a good hard boil for about 5 minutes.  After which, all the precious liquid the kidney beans boiled in must be pour offed and fresh water added.  This kills me every time, but some kidney beans retain a toxin that can make life very uncomfortable if not dealt with properly.  Other beans, though, are not soaked.  Not from laziness, although there is something to be said about that, but because I don't see the point of wasting all that flavor pulled from the bean during the soaking process.  I know some think that soaking beans reduce their flatulence effect, but I find that science to be faulty.  See the following links if you don't believe me.



And not soaking your beans?  Doesn't really add any time to this soup.  Remember you would have already wasted at least an hour if you had soaked.

White Bean and Ham Soup


*  1 ham bone or knuckle with plenty of leftover meat stuck to it (beg this from family or friends or save it from your own roasting)
*  144 ounces of water (about 18 cups)
*  1 pound white beans (I like great northern, but use your favorite), picked through for stones
*  6 carrots, divided
*  6 celery sticks, divided
*  1 tbsp italian seasoning
*  4 tbsp olive oil, divided
*  1 spanish onion, peel removed and quartered
*  2 cloves garlic
*  1 green pepper, seeds removed and quartered
*  kosher salt to taste
*  fresh cracked pepper to taste


1.  Add 2 tbsp of olive to the bottom of a deep stock pot at medium high heat.  When the oil cracks when you flick water at it, add the ham bone with attached meat to the pot.  Stir infrequently to brown the meat.

2.  Add the water to the pot and loosen the meat/ham bone if stuck.  Add 3 carrot quartered, 3 celery sticks quartered, the remaining olive oil, italian seasoning, the onion, garlic, and green pepper to the pot.  Bring to a boil.

3.  Reduce to a simmer and add the beans to the pot.  Add about 1 tbsp of kosher salt.  Cover and cook at a simmer for 2 hours.

4.  Remove lid and taste several beans for doneness.  They should be plump and their jackets starting to slip.  The bean should have some bite to it, but otherwise soft (sort of like a cooked potato, firm but easy to eat).

5.  Remove the ham bone, carrots, celery sticks, green pepper, garlic, and onion from pot carefully (don't bother to skim the pot just keep it simmering away).

6.  Discard the cooked vegetables and shred the meat from the bone.  Save the bone for another soup pot (you can get about 2-3 uses out of a ham bone).

7.  Add the meat back to the pot and add the remaining carrots and celery (dice the carrots and celery before adding to the pot).

8.  Simmer another 15 minutes or so, or until the celery and carrots reach the desired "doneness" stage.  Season with salt and pepper if needed.

9.  Serve warm with a small hunk of bread.  As leftover you can smash the beans a little more to get a thicker soup.   

Serves 6 | Calories 475 | Fat 17.4 g | Saturated Fat 3.8 g | Cholesterol 45 mg | Sodium 1040 mg | Potassium 1679 mg | Carbs 51.7 g | Fiber 13.2 g | Sugars 3.3 g | Protein 30.5 g
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Dec. 24th, 2015


Cream Cheese Frosting

Here is my "base" cream cheese frosting I use on cinnamon rolls, cupcakes, and cakes.  Its wonderful, but completely modifiable.  My mother uses this base and subs the vanilla extract for almond, which I rarely do.  I have also added shredded coconut to this frosting which is wonderful.

Cream Cheese Frosting

*  8 ounces cream cheese (you can use the lower fat stuff), softened
*  1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
*  1 cup confectioners sugar
*  1 tsp vanilla


1.  Add all four ingredients in a bowl and beat with hand mixer or stand mixer until well combined.

2.  Spread on finished baked goods once they are completely cool (don't attempt even if they have the slightest hint of warmth to them...you'll be sorry if you do).
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Dec. 15th, 2015


Slow Cooker Cheesy Tortellini

Did I mention how much I adore my slow cooker?  No?  Yes?  Ok.  It's self evident, I get it.  For the nights when you have errands to run or the gym to go to, make this delicious and quick cheesy tortellini.  This is a base recipe and all sorts of additions could make it even more lovely.  I recommend browning the meat and sauteeing the onion and garlic, but I didn't bother with the "base" reciepe as I wanted something super simple.  Feel free to go crazy with this one.

Slow Cooker Cheesy Tortellini


*  1 pound ground beef, 88/12
*  1 spanish onion, diced
*  1 tablespoon minced garlic
*  1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
*  1 (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes
*  1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
*  Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
*  1 (9-ounce) package frozen three cheese tortellini
*  1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
*  1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese


1.  Add ground beef, onion, garlic, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and Italian seasoning to Crockpot and set on low for 8-10 hours.

2.  Skim the fat off the top of the tomato mixture and add salt and pepper to taste.

3.  Add frozen tortellini and cook on high for about 20 minutes or until the tortellini are cooked through.

4.  Top the mixture with the cheeses and cover until melted, about another 10 minutes.

5.  Serve warm with crusty bread and a side of spinach.

Serves 6 | Calories 442 | Fat 15.6 g | Saturated Fat 7.1 g | Cholesterol 105 mg | Sodium 668 mg | Potassium 458 mg | Carbs 34 g | Fiber 6.8 g | Sugars 10.9 g | Protein 40.9 g

Dec. 7th, 2015


Split Pea Soup with Ham Steak

I have a confession to make.  I was that child who brought split pea soup (Campell's condesnsed, of course) in a thermos to elementary school.  I unashamedly slurped it down while my classmates were horrified.  I instantly loved that scene in "My Big Fat Wedding" where she ate moussaka...except for the girl's shame at not having wonderbread (yuck so not a wonder).  So it's a little bit surprising that I didn't have a go to from scratch split pea soup receipe.  This is the soup I eat when I'm sick.  Why didn't I have a great homemade version?  Well...look no further.  This is the receipe you need to try...don't be horrified peas are yummy.
Split Pea Soup with Ham Steak

Adapted from Martha Stewart's Split-Pea Soup


*  fresh cracked pepper, to taste
*  kosher salt, to taste
*  3 stalks celery, sliced length-wise in half and diced (include leaves)
*  2 dried bay leaves
*  1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
* 2 medium carrots, quartered length-wise and diced
*  1/2 large spanish onion, minced
*  1 tablespoon minced garlic
*  1 ham steak (7 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch squares
*  1 pound split peas
*  32 oz unsalted or low sodium chicken stock (I used leftover poaching liquid - homemade or canned is fine here)
*  32 oz water, plus more if needed


1.  Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add carrots, celery, and onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 9 minutes.

2.  Add garlic, ham, and 1 teaspoon salt, and cook for 3 minutes.

3.  Add split peas and cook another 2 minutes letting the split peas soak up the flavors.

4.  Add water, stock, and garlic to pot and bring up to a boil.  Add about 1/2 tsp of cracked black pepper.

5.  Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until peas are completely tender and begin to fall apart, about 2 hours. Discard bay leaves.

6.  Taste and season accordingly.  Add some water if you need to loosen the soup up.

7.  To reheat, add about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of water to keep the soup from becoming a loaf.

Serves 4 | Calories 548 | Fat 9.1 g | Cholesterol 28 mg | Carbs 78.2 g | Fiber 31 g | Sugars 13.6 g | Protein 40.8 g
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Dec. 3rd, 2015

Red Dress

Baked Ziti

While I wouldn't exactly say that Baked Ziti is a Northern USA thing, I think of this dish that way.  Growing up in Florida I had never heard of such a thing.  Spaghetti, Lasagna, Fettuccine, yes, yes, yes.  Baked Ziti?  Nope.  Here is an easy ziti that takes a little more time than some, but still something that is perfectly suited for weekday dinners.  Make sure to save some for lunch tomorrow!


*  1 (16 oz.) package ziti pasta
*  16 oz ful fat riccotta cheese, divided
*  4 oz shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
*  ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
*  1 egg
*  2 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
*  1 large spanish onion, chopped
*  3 garlic cloves, minced
*  1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes with juice
*  1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
*  2 tbsp dried basil
*  kosher salt, to taste
* freshly ground pepper, to taste


1.  Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add ziti pasta, and cook according to package directions two minutes short of al dente.

2.  Drain and set aside ziti.

3.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.

4.  Add diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, dried basil, salt and pepper to taste.

5.  Let the sauce simmer on low for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile bring the oven up to 375 degree.  Once the noodles are done remove from heat and let cool.

6.  Spray with cooking spray a 9X13-inch baking dish and set aside.

7.  In a large bowl, mix together 1 cup of ricotta cheese, ½ cup of mozzarella cheese, ¼ cup of Parmesan cheese along with an egg. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in about 1½ cups of the sauce, reserving the rest. Pour the pasta into the bowl with the cheese mixture and toss to coat.

8.  To assemble the dish, add half of the coated pasta to a baking dish, then spread lightly the surface with ½ cup of ricotta cheese and top with 1/2 of the reserved sauce.

9.  Add the rest of the pasta and sauce on top. Top with dollops of the remaining ricotta cheese and sprinkle on top with the remaining mozzarella and Parmesan cheese.

10.  Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 6 | Calories 505 | Fat 19.6 g | Saturated Fat 8.7 g | Cholesterol 128 mg | Sodium 344 mg | Potassium 605 mg | Carbs 54.8 g | Fiber 2.2 g | Sugars 5.0 g | Protein 28.9 g
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Dec. 1st, 2015

Red Dress

Veggie Lentil Soup

I'm on kind of a lentil kick and lentils do fabulously in quick soups. I like that they add bulk to a vegetable soup and cook extremely fast. If you aren't able to find a great lentil selection in your area, dried split peas make an excellent sub as they cook about the same amount of time as lentils.

Veggie Lentil Soup


* 1 tablespoon good extra–virgin olive oil
* 1 cup chopped Spanish onions
* 3 stalks chopped celery stalks, including leaves
* 1 cup chopped carrots
* 2 garlic cloves, minced
* 128 oz of chicken or vegetable stock (I used a gallon of homemade chicken stock that I had previously frozen)
* 1 cup chopped green bell pepper (about 1 small or 1/2 large)
* 16 oz cups yellow lentils, rinsed and drained
* 14oz canned peeled, diced tomatoes, in juice
* Balsamic vinegar, to taste (add a tsp at a time into each bowl until satisfied with taste)
* kosher salt, to taste
* cracked black pepper, to taste


1. Heat oil in medium stockpot over medium–high heat.

2. Add onions, celery, green pepper, carrots, and garlic and sauté until vegetables begin to brown, about 10 minutes.

3. Add broth, lentils, and tomatoes with juice and bring to boil.

4. Reduce heat to medium–low, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.

5. Season with salt, pepper, and a splash of vinegar. Serve warm.

Serves 4 generously | Calories 325 | Fat 4.5 g | Saturated Fat 0.6 g | Carbs 44 g | Fiber 15.7 g | Sugars 10.4 g | Protein 25.9 g

NOTE: Sodium and potassium is not included because of the homemade broth. Calculate your own sodium based on what type of broth you include.

Nov. 26th, 2015


Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes

  Ordinarily I would scoff at such a recipe...slow cooker mashed potatoes?  Why waste your slow cooker on a side dish?  Well I was singing a different tune at Thanksgiving.  This recipe and three others we used for Thanksgiving were life savers by removing heat from the kitchen and freeing up burners/oven space.  While I wouldn't use this recipe on a daily or even monthly basis, I will keep it in my back pocket for large dinner occassions.

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes
Adapted from The Kitchn's How to Make Mashed Potatoes in the Crockpot


*  5 pounds yukon gold potatoes
* 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, plus more to taste
*  Freshly ground black pepper
*  3 to 3 1/2 cups milk
*  1/2 cup unsalted butter


1.  Peel and chop the potatoes into about 1 inch pieces.

2.  Lightly grease the slow cooker insert with butter or cooking spray.  Use a large slow cooker at least 5 qts.  Transfer the potatoes to the slow cooker.

3. Stir in the salt and a generous quantity of black pepper.

4.  Pour in 3 cups milk and stir the potatoes once.

5.  Cover the slow cooker and cook 4 to 5 hours on HIGH or until the potatoes are very tender and soft.

6.  Reduce the heat WARM and add the butter to the crockpot and cover.

7.  Once the butter is melted whip the potatoes adding milk if needed.

8. Taste and season with additional salt or pepper if desired.

9.  Leave in the covered slow cooker on the WARM setting until service, but no longer than 3 hours.

Nov. 25th, 2015


Brussel Sprout Gratin

Here is an amazing vegetable side dish that, well, is not great for you. I love brussel sprouts pretty much in any form, but I have always preferred them pan seared or roasted. They become sweeter, the more bitter tastes soften. And well...most things are better a little toasted. While I have a special affection for the leaves that fall off during the roasting process and become little brussel sprout "chips" this recipe adapted from the Homesick Texan website is something else entirely. Coated in cheese, flavor magnified by the jalapenos, and then broiled briefly under the oven element. Basically it's magical.


*  3 quarts of Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed (if especially large cut the sprouts in half)
*  1 tablespoon kosher salt
*  2 tablespoons unsalted butter
*  2 jalapeños, seeded and diced
*  4 cloves garlic, minced
*  3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
*  2 cups milk (I used 2%)
*  fresh cracked pepper
*  3 cups shredded cheddar (about 12 oz)
*  6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled


1.  On high heat, bring a 4-quart pot of water to a boil. When the pot of water is boiling, add the salt and the Brussels sprouts to the pot and cook for about 4 minutes.

2.  Drain the Brussels sprouts in a colander and let sit under running cold water to shock the vegetables and stop the cooking process.
3.  Preheat the broiler and place a rack 6 inches away from the heat.

4.   In a cast iron skillet, melt the butter on medium heat and add the jalapenos softening them for about 3 minutes, stirring infrequently.  Add garlic and cook for another half a minute or so making sure that the garlic does not burn.

5.  Whisk in the flour and cook it out about 1-2 minutes.  You want the flour to have a light to medium caramel color.  (If you need to freeze the cooking process for timing reasons, now is the time to do it.  Pull the flour mixture off the heat and let sit.  Bring the mixture up to temperature before proceeding).

6.  Pour in the milk and whisk until everything is well combined. Do not let the milk do more than simmer.  The goal is to avoid a rapid boil.  The milk should thicken in about 5 minutes.  Be sure to stir frequently to prevent scorching of the milk.
7.  Turn off the heat and stir 2/3rds of the cheese into the sauce until it’s melted.  Taste and adjust seasonings, adding black pepper and salt to taste.

8.  Stir in the Brussels sprouts and crumbled bacon until well combined.

9.  Evenly top the sprouts with the remaining cheese and place under the broiler for 1 1/2 to 3 minutes or until the top is browned.
10.  Allow the gratin to rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm.

Serves 6 | Calories 300 | Fat 12.8 g | Saturated Fat 7 g | Cholesterol 36 mg | Sodium 1766 mg | Potassium 817 mg | Carbs 24.8 g | Fiber 6.8 g | Sugars 7.8 g | Protein 25.4 g

Nov. 16th, 2015


Beef Lasagna

Cooking for a picky eater takes an adjustment.  Everyday cooking style must be explained and recipes that you adore have to be adapted or put on a shelf for when that picky eater isn’t eating with you.  About half of what I like to eat, the picky eater in my household won’t eat (curries I’m looking at you, stroganoff you also are a no go), but other things that I enjoy can be adjusted so that we both can enjoy.  Whether that is serving some things on the side (like mushrooms), pulling servings out before “finishing” a dish, or changing the ingredients, adjustments while not easy, can be made to make all parties satisfied.  I’m thankful that my picky eater isn’t vegan.

In this recipe, I changed what I usually do for a lasagna the following ways:

            1)  I changed 1 pound of mild sausage and 1 pound of 85/15 ground beef to 1.75 pound   ground beef
            2)  I removed the fennel
            3)  I used canned sauce instead of homemade (mostly to shorten time)
            4)  I upped the mozzarella cheese from ¾ cup to 1.5 cups

Please note that while this recipe is very easy to make, it does take time and has a lot of steps.  If you layer it differently that listed below, that's fine it'll still be yummy.  I recommend taking the full time to reduce the sauce with the beef.  The flavor will pay out of this.  If you wish to make this for dinner, I recommend this on a weekend or you will have a late dinner after work.  This recipe takes approximately 2.5 hours to make as written, but the vast majority of that time is hands off.

Beef Lasagna


*  1.75 pound 85% ground beef
*  1 yellow onion, minced
*  5 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
*  1 tbsp tomato paste
*  48 oz Classico tomato and basil
*  ½ cup water
*  1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
*  2 tsp kosher salt
*  1 teaspoon ground black pepper
*  12 lasagna noodles
*  16 ounces ricotta cheese
*  1 egg
*  1.5 pound mozzarella cheese (shredded or sliced your choice)
*  3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1.  In a stock pot or dutch oven (use one that is not cast iron here, unless your cast iron is coated in ceramic) bring 1 tbsp of olive oil to medium high heat.  Add the onion reduce the heat to medium.  Cook the onion, stirring infrequently for 6-7 minutes.

2.  Add garlic and cook for an additional minute, then add the tomato paste.  Break up the tomato paste so the onion become brick red.  Cook for about 1-2 minutes.

3.  Add beef and brown, breaking the beef down into a fine mince.  Drain the fat at least once, preferably twice.

4.  Once the meat is fully browned (no pink showing) add the tomato sauce.  I listed the one I used in this recipe, but feel free to use your favorite.  This recipe used two glass jars.  I loosened the sauce that sticks to the jar with ¼ cup water per jar and added the watery sauce mixture of both jars to the pot.  Salt and pepper the mixture.  Add the Italian seasoning.

5.  Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot partially.  The lid should be crooked and facing away from the kitchen to allow the steam to leave the pot and the sauce to reduce a bit.  Cook the sauce for at least 20 minutes, preferably longer (about 40 minutes is ideal).

6.  Remove the sauce from the pot and reserve in a large bowl.  Rinse the pot out and add about 3-4 qts water.  Salt the water with about 2 tsps salt (not in the ingredient list).  Bring to a boil.

7.  Meanwhile, heat the oven to 375 F.  My oven takes about 15 minutes to come up to temperature.  Start your oven earlier if yours takes longer.

8.  When the water boils add the first 6 noodles.  Cook the noodles as directed (mine took 8 minutes).  Meanwhile prepare the ricotta by placing the ricotta in a small bowl and adding the egg.  Whip the mixture together until the egg is well incorporated.

9.  Also assemble your ingredients in an easy fashion so that it makes putting together the lasagna a snap.

10.  Place 1 cup of the beef mixture on the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan and spread till smooth.  Add the six cooked noodles to the pan so that they overlap well.

11.  Bring the pot to a boiling and add the remaining six noodles.  Cook the second batch as directed again.

12.  Layer ½ of the ricotta mixture on the noodles in the pan, spreading so that the mixture is fairly smooth.

13.  Add 1/3 of the mozzarella on top of the ricotta.  Cover the mozzarella with about 1.5 cups of the beef mixture.  Top the beef mixture with 1/2 of the parmesan.

14.  Remove the second batch of cooked noodles from the pot and layer on top of the parmesan.

15.  Add remainder of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles.  Add ½ of the remaining mozzarella and the remainder of the beef mixture.  Cover with remaining mozzarella and the remaining parmesan.

16.  Grease the inside of some foil and cover the lasagna.  Bake for 25 minutes covered and then remove the foil and bake an additional 25 minutes.

17.  Pull the lasagna and let rest about 15 minutes prior to cutting.  This keeps the lasagna together when you cut.  Don’t worry, it’ll stay plenty warm during the resting period.

18.  Slice width wide into five strips and length wise into three strips.  Makes about 15 servings (unless you have seconds).  Serve with a small side salad and a slice of garlic bread if you wish.  Leftovers of this are divine.  Eat this for lunch with some fruit.

Serves 15 | Calories 504 | Fat 21.6 g | Saturated Fat 10.5 g | Cholesterol 105 mg | Sodium 955 mg | Potassium 69 mg | Carbs 37.6 g | Fiber 1.0 g | Sugars 4.2 g | Protein 39.9 g 

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