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Friday, October 30, 2009

Turkey Sausage Ragu

This meal was fantastic.  Easy to prepare ingredients as you went along, very flavorful, and you are left with an almost full bottle of wine to consume - what's not to like?  It has a nice heat from the spicy sausage and crushed red chili pepper flakes, so my husband adored it.  I've decided I'm not the world's biggest kale fan, so I think next time I'll use spinach.  Overall, a lovely dish. 


Turkey Sausage Ragu
Source: Clean Eating Magazine, November/December 2009, page 27, by Chef Nathan Lyons
Serves: 4
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 8 ounces spicy italian turkey sausage, casings discarded
  • 1/4 tsp chile flakes
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • one 14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes in juice
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves, torn
  • 1 large bunch fresh kale, cleaned, stems discarded, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • kosher salt and pepper, to taste
  • 8 ounces whole wheat pappardelle, fettuccini, or tagliatelle pasta
  • 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, for garnish
  • Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, for garnish
  1. Add 1 tbsp oil, onion and thyme to a medium pot over medium heat.  Stir to coat, cover and cook until onion is softened and just beginning to color, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.  Uncover pot, add sausage, chile flakes and garlic, and continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Off the heat, carefully deglaze by adding wine.  Return to heat and reduce for 1 minute.  Add tomatoes, oregano, and kale.  Stir well, cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove cover and continue coking until sauce is reduced and slightly thickened, 10 minutes.  Stir in additional 2 tbsp oil plus vinegar.  Season with salt and black pepper.
  2. When sauce is almost finished cooking, add pasta to large pot filled with boiling salted water and cook until al dente, following package directions.  Drain well and immediately toss with tomato reduction to coat.  Then serve, topped with a drizzle of oil, a sprinkling of parsley and cheese shavings.
Nutritional Information per serving (2.5 ounces pasta and 1 cup sauce)
Calories: 477
Total Fat: 17.5 g
Sat Fat: 3.5g
Cholesterol: 33 mg
Sodium: 474 mg
Carbs 63g
Fiber: 11g
Sugar: 9.5g
Protein: 21g

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

This is another gem from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads.  I don't know how many ways I can express my love for this book, and the recipes therein, but this one has me singing its praises again!  I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the chopped walnuts and pecans (I did a mix of both) worked into the dough.  They add a nice bite to an other wise soft dough. I could see after the fact that I should have used every last bit of the cinnamon/sugar mixture in the swirl, as mine is not terribly pronounced.


I think it ended up being a bit too cold in my house, and the bread didn't rise well after rolling into shape.  I got impatient and just baked it anyway, but I think it would have looked a lot nicer had I let it rise appropriately.  I could also see, after the fact, that I should have used every last bit of the cinnamon/sugar mixture in the swirl, as mine is not terribly pronounced.  Any way you slice it, it tastes fantastic and I can't wait to make it again!

Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Source: Rewritten/Slightly adapted from Whole Grain Breads, by Peter Reinhart
Yield: 1 loaf

Day 1:

170 grams whole wheat flour
3/8 teaspoon (3 grams) salt
170 grams milk or yogurt
170 grams raisins

Mix all ingredients except raisins together in a bowl for about one minute, until all of the flour is hydrated and the ingredients form a ball of dough. Add raisins and knead with wet hands until incorporated.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and leave at room temp for 12 to 24 hours. (If you need more time, place in refrigerator for up to 3 days, but leave at room temp 2 hours before continuing with bread).

170 grams whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) instant yeast
85 grams milk or yogurt, at room temperature (about 70 degrees F)
56.5 grams melted butter or vegetable oil
1 egg (47 grams), slightly beaten

Mix all the biga ingredients together in a bowl to form a ball of dough. With wet hands, knead dough in the bowl for 2 minutes to be sure all ingredients are evenly distributed and the flour is fully hydrated. The dough should be tacky. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead again with wet hands for one minute. The dough will be smoother but still tacky. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.

Day 2:
Remove the biga from the fridge two hours before making the dough.

Final Dough:
All of the Soaker
All of the biga
7 tablespoons (56.5 grams) whole wheat flour
5/8 teaspoon (5 grams) salt
2 1/4 teaspoons (7 grams) instant yeast
28.5 grams honey or agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon (4 grams) plus 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
85 grams chopped pecans or walnuts
3 Tablespoons sugar or sucanat

1. Chop the soaker and biga into 12 smaller pieces (sprinkle flour over pieces to prevent sticking).

2. By hand: combine biga and soaker into a large bowl with flour through honey, plus 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.  Stir vigorously with a mixing spoon or knead with wet hands for about 2 minutes, until all ingredients are evenly integrated. Dough should be soft and slightly sticky, if not, add more flour or water as needed.

By stand mixer: combine biga and soaker with flour through honey, plus 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon into mixer bowl and mix on low speed for one minute with paddle (preferred) or hook. Switch to hook and mix on medium-low speed for 2-3 minutes until dough becomes cohesive and assimilated into each other. Add more flour or water as needed until the dough is soft and slightly sticky.

3. Dust a work surface with flour, the roll the dough in flour to coat. Sprinkle nuts on dough and knead by hand for 3 to 4 minutes, incorporating only as much flour as needed, until the dough feels soft and tacky, but not sticky. Form the dough into a ball and let it rest on the work surface for 5 minutes while you prepare a clean, lightly oiled bowl.

4. Resume kneading for 1 minutes to strengthen the gluten and make any final water/flour adjustments. Dough should have the strength to pass the windowpane test, but still be soft, supple, and very tacky. Form dough into a ball and place in prepared bowl, rolling to coat with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for approximately 45 to 60 minutes, until it is about 1.5 times its original size.

5. Dust work surface with 1 tablespoon of flour.  Transfer dough to work surface without tearing.  Roll into 8"x8" square that is 1/2" thick.  Mix 2 teaspoons cinnamon with 3 tablespoons sugar or sucanat and sprinkle mixture evenly on dough.  Roll dough into a tight loaf.  Place in a greased 4 1/2"x9" pan.  Mist the top of the loaf with cooking spray, then cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 45-60 minutes, until it is about 1.5 times its original size.

6. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees F, remove plastic wrap and place pan in oven on middle rack.  Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan and continue baking 25 to 40 minutes more, until bread is golden brown on all sides and a thermometer inserted registers at least 195 degrees F. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for at least one hour before serving.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Think Pink Sugar Cookies

Last year, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, I sent some close friends and family “Kick Cancer’s Bum” cookies.  They were a big hit and I decided to send cookies again this year (since I sadly could not mail the delicious cheesecakes!).  I kept it simple this time by flooding the cookies with white, thinned royal icing, then following with a piping bag filled with pink, thinned royal icing in the shape of the ribbon. 

I’ve been making this sugar cookie recipe for well over a year and love it.  Fantastic flavor and they bake up like a dream! 

The Most Fabulous Sugar Cookies
Source: As seen on Good Things Catered, by Ashlee
  • 1 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 5 c. flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Powdered sugar, for rolling
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cream butter and sugars in a mixer for 5 minutes.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly.
Add vanilla, almond, and lemon zest.
Sift in flour, baking powder, and salt a little at a time.
Do not over mix, this process should take about one minute.
Chill dough for up to a week in the fridge, or roll out and cut right away.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and bake cookies for 7-8 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom.
Wait until cookies are cooled before icing.

Think Pink Cheesecake

I am blessed to have two very special women in my life - two very special breast cancer surviving women - my grandmother and a very close friend.  For that reason, October has always been a very special month, as it is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Last year, I sent them some fabulous Kick Cancer's Bum cookies, which I had a blast making and (I hope) they had a blast eating!

This year I wanted to participate in Jen's The Power of Pink ChallengeKatie had yet another great idea of making mini cheesecakes with a ribbon swirl made of berry puree.  I originally found a recipe for mini cheesecakes (which helped me with timing and temperature), but later realized that I should probably consult my copy of Baking Illustrated, which as been collecting dust on my bookshelf.  I made some adjustments to the first recipe based on the information in Baking Illustrated. The resulting cheesecake is light, with an almost whipped texture, and absolutely delicious.  The hint of strawberry from the incorporated puree is wonderful.


Think Pink Cheesecake
Adapted from: Fresh from the Oven / Junior's Cheesecake Cookbook: 50 To-Die-For Recipes for New York-Style Cheesecake (Juniors) / Baking Illustrated

Yield: 13 mini cheesecakes

For the crust:
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoon sugar
For the cheesecake:
  • 6 ounces fresh or frozen strawberries
  • two 8-ounce packages Philadelphia Cream Cheese (use either full fat or 1/3 less fat Neufchtel), at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 extra large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  1. Place the strawberries and 1 teaspoon sugar in a bowl and allow berries to macerate for 1-2 hours, then add to a small food processor or blender and process until smooth.  Strain puree to remove seeds.
  2. Preheat over to 350 degrees F.  Line 13 standard muffin cups with silicone, foil, parchment, or paper liners.(You can use Reynold's disposable aluminum foil cups if you don't have 2 pans). 
  3. Prepare crust by combining graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and sugar in a bowl and stirring to combine.  Press 2 teaspoons of crust mixture into the bottom of each lined muffin cup.  Bake 6 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, prepare filling. Put one package of cream cheese and 1/3 cup of sugar in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low until creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl a few times. Blend in the remaining cream cheese and 1/3 cup sugar, then the vanilla. Blend in the eggs and yolk, one at a time, beating well after adding each one. Beat in the sour cream just until it's completely blended.
  5. Add 1/4 cup of strawberry puree to a small bowl.  Add 1/4 cup of cheesecake batter and stir thoroughly, then add the puree blend to a ziplock bag.
  6. Add remaining strawberry puree (about 1/4 cup) to the cheesecake batter and stir thoroughly to blend.
  7. Divide the batter among the 13 muffin cups (fill each one almost up to the top). Cut a very small tip off the corner of the plastic bag containing the puree, and gently pipe ribbon shape with puree in the top of each mini cheesecake.
  8. Place the muffin tin in a large shallow pan and add hot water until it comes about 1 inch up the sides of the tin. Bake the cakes until set and slightly puffy, about 30 minutes.  Remove the cakes from the water bath, transfer the tin to a wire rack, and let cool for 2 hours.*Transfer the cake to a container and chill for at least 4 hours before serving.  If there are any cakes left, cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator or wrap and freeze for up to 1 month.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fun with my Freezer

I decided to finally clean a few things out of my freezer today (making room for bagels, of course) and found some beautiful ice crystals on the inside of a container. 


Thursday, October 22, 2009

BB: Blue Cheese Souffle

I knew this would be in interesting recipe for me. I don't care much for blue cheese or eggy things, but I was certainly intrigued by the thought of finally attempting a souffle. I also knew that it wouldn't come out perfectly for me, as "over-mix" seems to be my middle name in the kitchen. This time, I actually don't think I overmixed, but since I cut the recipe in half and used a smaller ramekin, I wasn't sure how long to bake. I checked at 25 min and it had risen and was golden brown, so I took it out. On the way to the photo area... yeah. Deflation. The taste was good, just a hint of the blue cheese, but the eggy-ness really isn't my thing. Still, this was a fun adventure in cooking something new. See how the other Barefoot Bloggers fared, here.


Blue Cheese Soufflé
Source: Barefoot in Paris on page 50
Chosen by Summer of Sexy Apartment

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing the dish

  • 1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

  • 1 cup scalded milk

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • Pinch cayenne pepper

  • Pinch nutmeg

  • 4 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature

  • 3 ounces good Roquefort cheese, chopped

  • 5 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature

  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

    1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
    2. Butter the inside of an 8-cup souffle dish (7 1/2 inches in diameter and 3 1/4 inches deep) and sprinkle evenly with Parmesan.
    3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. With a wooden spoon, stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the hot milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, the cayenne, and nutmeg. Cook over low heat, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, until smooth and thick.
    4. Off the heat, while still hot, whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time. Stir in the Roquefort and the 1/4 cup of Parmesan and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
    5. Put the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a pinch of salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on low speed for 1 minute, on medium speed for 1 minute, then finally on high speed until they form firm, glossy peaks.
    6. Whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the cheese sauce to lighten and then fold in the rest. Pour into the souffle dish, then smooth the top. Draw a large circle on top with the spatula to help the souffle rise evenly, and place in the middle of the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375 degrees F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (don't peek!) until puffed and brown. Serve immediately.

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Pico de Gallo

    Every once in a while, my husband comes out with a gem from his childhood. Last weekend, he said he wanted to make this fresh salsa that his mom made when he was growing up.  He gave me the ingredients he would need so I could get them at the store - and it sounded like a pico de gallo to me.  I was super excited because I love pico de gallo and anything his mom makes is awesome, so I knew it would be good.  After the first bite, I told him he was absolutely making this every weekend, from now on.  It's absolutely fantastic - and even better the next day!

    Pico de Gallo
    • 5 plum tomatoes, diced
    • 1 12-oz can of pickled jalapenos, diced (seed them if you don't want it too spicy)
    • 1 to 1.5 cups fresh cilantro, chopped
    • 1/2 of a large red onion, diced fine
    • 1 to 2 avocados
    • juice of 4 limes
    Combine all ingredients except avocado and lime juice in a large bowl and refrigerate at least one hour. Dice avocado(s) and add to the bowl, along with the lime juice. Toss together and let sit for 15 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Pumpkin Penne

    For a few years we have enjoyed a pumpkin sauce over pasta and turkey sausage, but I never got around to sharing it on here. Partly, I'm sure, because I have no idea where the recipe came from, and it certainly didn't come from my head. I decided it was about time to put it back on the menu, but when I pulled out the recipe I realized it used a butter/flour mixture to thicken it.

    Certainly there is nothing terribly wrong with a tablespoon or two of butter throughout the dish, but I had recently been reminded of Cara's version using cottage cheese. I decided to give Cara's recipe a try and I'm so glad we did! I didn't miss the butter and the sauce really stuck to the pasta, vegetables, and sausage. I made a few small changes, using kale for the spinach and turkey sausage for the chicken (at least, I think it was turkey sausage... I must remember to label my freezer bags!). This version isn't quite as pumpkin-y as the old one, so next time I might increase the amount of pumpkin and slightly decrease the milk/cottage cheese. Either way, it's a wonderfully delicious fall meal!

    Creamy Pumpkin Penne
    Source: Cara's Cravings

    • 4 oz penne pasta
    • 2 tsp olive oil
    • 1 small onion, thinly sliced (about 75 g)
    • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
    • 2 links cooked chicken sausage, sliced
    • 1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese (1% milk fat)
    • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
    • 1/2 cup nonfat milk
    • pinch of nutmeg
    • 5oz torn spinach, thick stems removed
    • grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, optional
    1. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions and cook gently for about 10-15minutes, until softened and beginning to caramelize. Add garlic, sage, and chicken sausage; continue to saute.

    2. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions.

    3. In a blender, combine combine pumpkin, cottage cheese, and milk. Blend until no lumps are present. Add to sausage mixture in skillet and continue to cook over low heat. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.

    4. Drain pasta and return to pot over low heat. Add sausage mixture and baby spinach, and toss together until the spinach is wilted. Serve with parmesan cheese, if desired.

    Friday, October 16, 2009

    Lemony Almond Spinach Pesto Pasta

    As summer was drawing to a close, I decided it was time to get as much as I could out of our happy little mint plant.   We also had precious little grilling weather left, so that was a must!   Since I was pairing it with grilled chicken and vegetables, I omitted quite a few ingredients, and then substituted pine nuts for the almonds because… well… I felt like it. :-) 
    This is, perhaps, my first time using mint in a savory dish, and it turned out really good.  I tried it once in mint ice cream and found it way too grassy for my taste – so I guess that’s why it works so well here.  The pesto is great, and a nice variation to have on hand for when the basil plant isn’t being quite so fruitful.  Next time I will definitely have to go the tuna and almond route – I can see how that would be a fabulous pairing!
    Lemony Almond Spinach Pesto Pasta
    Source: Clean Eating Magazine, Sept/Oct 2009, page 63
    • 1/2 lb whole-wheat pasta, any shape
    • 3 cups tightly packed baby spinach (3 ounces)
    • 1/2 cup packed fresh mint
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 tbsp Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
    • Zest and juice of one large lemon (2 tsp zest and 1/3 cup juice), divided
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 1/4 cup unsalted toasted almond slivers
    • 1 6-ounce can solid white tuna, packed in water
    • 1 yellow bell pepper, cored seeded and diced small
    • 1 small zucchini, diced small
    • 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans (or 1 15-ounce can low sodium white beans, drained and rinsed)
    • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    1. Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain pasta and rinse with cold water to stop it from cooking further.  Set aside.
    2. Put spinach, mint, garlic, cheese, and lemon zest in a food processor and pulse to form a chunky paste. Combine lemon juice  and oil in a liquid measuring cup. With food processor running (on but not pulsing), add juice-oil mixture through the food chute in a slow drizzle until a thick, smooth pesto forms. Combine pesto with cooked pasta in a large bowl. 
    3. Put almonds in processor and pulse about 10 times, until finely chopped.  Stir almonds into pasta.
    4. Drain tuna and flake with a fork.  Add it to pasta, along with yellow pepper, zucchini and beans. Toss to combine and season with salt and black pepper.

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    Walnut Crusted Chicken with a Cinnamon Sage Sauce


    I came up with this recipe to accompany the risotto and Pumpkin Spice Chardonnay from these lovely people.  We absolutely loved the walnut crusted chicken, and this was the first time I'd done this type of coating.  The sauce turned out great as well, and the hint of sage and cinnamon complemented the other components of the meal so well.



    Walnut Crusted Chicken with Cinnamon Sage Sauce
    Serves: 4
    • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1.5 pounds)
    • 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 egg whites (1/3 cup)
    • 1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs or oat bran
    • 1 cup walnuts, chopped finely
    • 8 leaves of fresh sage, divided
    • 2 Tablespoons minced shallot or onion
    • 1 cinnamon stick
    • 1/4 dry white wine (use low sodium chicken stock here to keep it clean... or say "the hell with it!" and use the wine anyway!)
    • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
    1. Rinse chicken and pat dry.  On a small plate, combine the flour, salt, and pepper.  On a second plate, add the egg whites.  On a third plate, add the walnuts and bread crumbs or oat bran. 
    2. Dredge chicken in the flour, shaking off excess.  Follow with egg white and walnut mixture, pressing to adhere mixture to chicken.  Transfer to a platter.  Repeat with remaining pieces of chicken.  Place chicken in refrigerator for 20 minutes to set the coating.
    3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  When chicken has chilled, heat a large stainless steel oven safe skillet over medium heat.  Add oil once the pan is heat.  When oil is hot, add chicken to pan and cook until browned, about 5 minutes each side.  Place one sage leaf on top of each piece of chicken, then place pan the oven and bake chicken until the internal temperature reached 165 degrees, about 15 minutes.
    4. Transfer chicken from pan to serving platter while returning sage leaves to the pan, cover chicken with foil to keep warm. 
    5. Add shallot and cinnamon stick to pan, saute until shallot is soft. 
    6. Add wine and deglaze the pan, til wine is almost evaporated.
    7. Add chicken broth, simmer until reduced by half.  Strain sauce and serve over chicken.  Garnish with a fresh sage leaf.

    Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Risotto

    One of the best parts about living in the northern suburbs of Chicago is a little gem called Vintner's Cellar Winery of Libertyville.  We have visited them a few times for wine tasting, and have always enjoyed the wines, atmosphere, and employees.  It's a welcoming little place, and from the tasting bar you can peak back towards the rear of the store and see their many different types of wine working away to become... well, wine!

    A few weeks ago, I got an email from them that caught my attention, as it announced the return of Pumpkin Spice Chardonnay. In two years of living here, I don't know how I missed the previous offerings of this delightful sounding wine, but I certainly wasn't going to miss out this year!  I went right over after work and picked up two bottles.


    We enjoyed that first bottle right away - and I made note of the strong clove flavor as I planned a meal go accompany the second bottle.  Eventually I decided on a Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Risotto, and Walnut Crusted Chicken with a Cinnamon Sage Sauce.  I was even able to use the wine in the dishes!  The meal turned out fabulous and was perfectly complemented by the wine!



    Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Risotto

    Serves: 4
    • 1 medium sweet potato (about 8 ounces)
    • 8 ounces pumpkin (not carving pumpkin) or 1 cup pumpkin puree
    • extra virgin olive oil
    • salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth
    • 2 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1/4 cup minced shallot or white onion
    • 1 cup arborio rice
    • 1/2 cup dry white wine
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon fresh sage, minced, or 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
    • pinch ground nutmeg
    • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Meanwhile, cut pumpkin and sweet potato into 3/4" cubes, drizzle with evoo and sprinkle with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, or until very tender.
    2. Meanwhile, bring chicken broth to a simmer in a stockpot.  Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Add shallot and saute until translucent, but not brown. 
    3. Add rice, stir to coat the rice in the oil, then toast rice for about 2 minutes.  Add wine and simmer about 2 minutes, until most of the wine is absorbed.
    4. Add 2 ladles worth of broth, plus sage, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and nutmeg (add pumpkin puree now if you are using it).  Stir frequently for 5-10 minutes until broth is almost absorbed.  Repeat until broth is all used.  Remove from heat and stir in sweet potatoes, pumpkin and parmesan cheese, then serve.

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Chicken Divan

    I've never had Chicken Divan before, but after a quick Google search I discovered that is was basically a baked dish with broccoli, chicken, and commonly, canned creamed soup. The first I heard of it was the May/June 2009 issue of Clean Eating Magazine. Their version sounded delicious, so I decided to give it a try.

    This isn't a quick recipe to make, but the flavors are great. A medley of sauteed leeks and mushrooms, white beans, and chicken broth are blended together to make a very flavorful and healthy substitute for the canned cream soup.


    We loved the flavors in this dish, but I made it in a large corningware dish that was nowhere near 9x13, and I thought there was not enough broccoli and chicken, but too much sauce. Next time I'll keep the corningware dish, but reduce the amount of sauce.


    Chicken Divan
    Source: Clean Eating Magazine, May/June 2009, page 58
    Serves: 4 to 6
    • 2 cups low fat, low sodium chicken broth
    • 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
    • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 leeks, sliced very thin and cleaned
    • 1/2 pound cremini or button mushrooms (8 ounces, about 15), sliced and roughly chopped
    • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
    • 1 pound broccoli, florets and stems cut into bite sized pieces
    • 1 cup cooked cannellini beans, or 1 15-oz can, drained and rinsed
    • 1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese
    • 1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano cheese, freshly grated
    • 2 tbsp fresh chives
    • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
    • 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)
    • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
    • 2 ounces reduced fat cheddar cheese, grated
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. In a wide, medium saucepan with a tightly fitting lid, bring broth to a boil.  Add chicken, cover pan and reduce heat so broth and chicken simmer for 5 minutes.  Then remove pan from heat (do not uncover) and poach chicken in hot broth for 12-15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
    3. While chicken poaches, heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add leeks and mushrooms. Cook stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender and liquid has cooked out, about 10 to 15 minutes.  Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds before removing pan from heat and setting aside.  
    4. When chicken is done, lift from the both and transfer to a cutting board.  Cover saucepan and return broth to a boil.  Cut chicken into 1/2 inch cubes and set aside, keeping warm.  Add broccoli to boiling broth, cover pan again and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook broccoli until it is fork tender, not mushy, about 5 to 7 minutes.  Lift broccoli from broth with a slotted spoon and distribute it onto the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.  Set aside.  Reserve broth. 
    5. Add beans, cottage cheese, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, chives and thyme to a blender or food processor.  Add cooked leeks, mushrooms and garlic.  Carefully pour broth into blender or food processor and puree mixture until very smooth, taking care to avoid escaping steam or hot liquid splashes.
    6. In a bowl, mix lemon juice and pepper together with chicken.  Pour half of puree over chicken and stir to combine.  Spread chicken across broccoli in baking pan and then pour remaining puree over top.  Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and transfer to oven.  Bake for 15 minutes and then, if desired, broil for 5 additional minutes to brown the top of the casserole.
    7. Serve a heaping spoonful of casserole on top of steamed grains, like brown rice or barley pilaf. Be sure to ladle the flavorful juice from the bottom of the pan onto hot cooked grains.  

    Sunday, October 11, 2009

    The Green Monster

    No, I'm not talking about this one:

    I'm talking about this one:
    A delicious, healthy breakfast smoothie that sounds and looks weird, but tastes delicious - just like banana and peanut butter. Try it!

    The Green Monster
    Serves: 1

    1/2 cup skim milk
    1 banana (frozen works great!)
    1-2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
    handful of spinach, well rinsed (about 2 ounces)
    3-4 ice cubes

    Place all ingredients in blender and process until smooth. Pour into tall glass and enjoy.

    Friday, October 9, 2009

    BB: Cheddar Corn Chowder

    Corn chowder was a perfect choice for this week’s Barefoot Bloggers recipe.  The air is just started to get chilly here, and we are primed for soups and chilis alike.   I’ve never made a chowder before, so this was a first for me.  I read some comments from the others barefoot bloggers and decided to cut down the recipe quite a bit.  I also took notes from Debby and added Old Bay seasoning (yum!).  I also decided to cut way down on the fat, because, well…that’s what I do! 


    The chowder turned out really good – hearty and it hit the spot on a cold day.  I’ve listed my version below, but click the name to link to Ina’s version. 

    Cheddar Corn Chowder
    Chosen by: Jill of My Next Life 
    Source: Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook on page 74
    Serves 4

    • 2 Tablespoons good olive oil
    • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (1 large onion)
    • 1/4 cup flour  (I used whole wheat)
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
    • 1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
    • 3 cups chicken stock
    • 3 cups medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (1 pounds)
    • 5 cups corn kernels, fresh (5 ears) or frozen (1.5 pounds)
    • 1/2 cup 2% milk
    • 2 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese, grated


    In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil.  Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

    Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, old bay and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender (it took a lot longer for me, I just let them simmer).  If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.) Add the corn to the soup, then add the milk and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

    Pasta with Goat Cheese and Spinach

    This is a great variation on pasta salad. The cool, creamy goat cheese goes with with the bite from red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, and red onion. The original recipe calls for arugula, but we don't care for it so I used spinach instead. This is a great way to get some nutrient rich spinach into your meal!


    Pasta with Goat Cheese and Spinach
    Adapted from Everyday Food, June 2009
    • Coarse salt and ground pepper
    • 3/4 pound gemelli or other short pasta
    • 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
    • 3/4 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese (3 ounces)
    • 3 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
    • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
    • 1 bunch spinach, rinsed well and torn
    • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced


    1. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente. Drain pasta and rinse under cold water. In a large bowl, toss pasta with beans and goat cheese.
    2. Make dressing: In a bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, and mustard and season with salt and pepper. (To store, refrigerate pasta mixture and dressing separately, up to 1 day.) To serve, toss pasta mixture with dressing, spinach, and onion.

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    Chili Chicken Kabobs

    My husband requested chicken kabobs over the weekend, but while he was imagining these, I was trying to think of what else I could make to avoid the sugar and soy sauce. A quick search led me to this recipe for chili chicken kabobs from the Eat-Clean Diet for Men book... how perfect! I knew the flavor profile was one my husband would love, so I was excited to make them.
    I did cut the amount of oil down by half, and still found the sauce to be thinner than I would like. Perhaps I'm just a really good lime juicer? Either way, the kabobs came out great, not too spicy for me, but great flavor for him.

    Chili Chicken Kabobs

    Source: The Eat-Clean Diet for Men, via Fitness Freak

    • 3 Tbsp best-quality olive oil
    • 1 1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
    • Juice of one fresh lime
    • 1 tsp chili powder
    • 1/2 tsp paprika
    • 1 large onion, chopped into thick pieces
    • 2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
    • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
    • Sea salt, to taste
    • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
    1. In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and lime juice. Season with chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper and pressed garlic.

    2. Place the chicken in a shallow baking dish with the sauce and stir to coat.

    3. Preheat the grill to medium high. Thread the chicken onto the skewers, alternating with chopped onion pieces. Discard the marinade.

    4. Lightly oil the grill grate. Grill the skewers for 10 to 15 minutes or until the chicken juices run clear.

    Monday, October 5, 2009

    Cannellini Beans with Tomatoes, Bulgur and Spinach

    I've been trying to experiment with new grains to keep things interesting in this clean eating lifestyle. So far, I've done well making tasty meals using couscous and quinoa that my husband really enjoys. Next on the list was bulgur, and after seeing it in the bulk food section of my local grocery store, I knew it was time to dive in! A quick google search brought me to this recipe, which was perfect for the leftover beans and spinach I had in the refrigerator.
    The recipe was quite easy to throw together. Saute some vegetables, add the rest of the ingredients and let it simmer away. Add the spinach until wilted and - done! Easy and relatively quick, not to mention delicious. I think this would benefit from a light sprinkling of some grated parmesan cheese, too. The best part is the creamy, risotto-like texture that arises as it cooks down.

    Cannellini Beans with Tomatoes, Bulgur and Spinach
    Slightly adapted from Mark Bittman
    Yield: 4 servings
    • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 1 small zucchini, sliced lengthwise and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
    • 3 cups cooked cannellini or other white beans
    • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
    • 2 cups chopped tomatoes, including juice; canned are fine (see note)
    • 1/2 cup coarse bulgur
    • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 3 cups spinach or other tender green

      1. Put oil in large pot over medium heat; when oil is hot, add onion and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 5 minutes. Add beans with their liquid, tomatoes, bulgur, chili and rosemary and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, over medium-low heat, until tomatoes have broken up and flavors begin to blend, about 12 minutes, adding water to make it as soupy as you like.

      2. Add arugula and continue to cook, just until it wilts. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve.

    Thursday, October 1, 2009

    Pumpkin Banana Oat Muffins

    It's officially October so I figured it was time to break out the pumpkin and let the fun begin! As fall approaches, thoughts of pumpkin bread, ice cream, muffins, spice cake, etc, start to swirl in my head. I love the stuff and thankfully, there has been no shortage of pumpkin puree in my area. Still, this year I am faced with a challenge of a different sort. Then new and improved clean eating me can't bear the thought of making pumpkin-you-name-it and not being able to enjoy it.

    I set out to try and find a clean way to enjoy pumpkin, and found inspiration from Katie at Good Things Catered. She took a pumpkin banana oat muffin recipe from recipeZaar.com and made some substitutions to make it a little more nutritious. Still, her recipe packed plenty of sugar and white flour, and that wasn't going to work for me. I switched out the white flour, whole eggs and sugar with some cleaner ingredients and the results were fabulous! This was my first time working with sucanat as a sweetener, and although I was hesitant to try it - it's great! The molasses flavor is fantastic and really adds to the complexity of the flavors in the muffin. I omitted the nuts this time around because I wasn't sure where I would be with the calorie count, but might throw them in next time now that I know the base recipe is only 100 calories per muffin!

    Pumpkin Banana Oat Muffins
    Adapted from Good Things Catered
    Makes 18 muffins

    1 cup whole wheat flour
    1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
    1/2 cup rolled oats
    1/4 cup oat bran
    2 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/4 tsp salt
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp ground ginger
    1/2 tsp nutmeg
    1.5 large ripe bananas, mashed
    1/2 of a 15 oz. can pumpkin puree
    1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
    4 egg whites
    1 tbsp ground flaxseed
    1/2 cup sucanat

    -Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    -Spray with cooking spray or line muffin tins with paper liners.
    -Combine flours, bran, oats, baking powder, spices, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
    -Using whisk or spoon, stir until well mixed.
    -Combine remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl; beat until smooth.
    -Gradually beat in flour mixture until just combined
    -Spoon into prepared pans or tins.
    -Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the middle of the muffin comes out clean.
    -Remove muffins from pan and cool on wire rack as soon as they come out of the oven.

    Nutritional Information per muffin:
    Calories: 98
    Fat: 0.7 g
    Saturated fat: 0.1 g
    Cholesterol: 0 mg
    Sodium: 150 mg
    Potassium: 83 mg
    Carbohydrate: 20.7 g
    Fiber: 2.9 g
    Sugar: 6.5 g
    Protein: 3.3 g