because what is life without good food?

Posts tagged “Parmesan

Eggplant Parmesan Layer Dip

Eggplant Parmesan Dip

I had a big beautiful purple eggplant that was starting to fade, so I had to find a good use for it fast. I decided to make it into a dip … at first I was going to make some more baba ghanoush, but then I thought perhaps I could make something different with it … perhaps something with the flavors of Eggplant Parmesan … except creamier. Something you could spread on little toasts and munch on with a good glass of wine.

Eggplant Parmesan Dip

We finished the A-Z Health Challenge on facebook on Saturday … I still need to make my way through all the Zucchini recipes everyone shared, but I was busy with my Mom and Dad’s Anniversary party this weekend. The party turned out well, but I’m exhausted. I need a day off. How nice that we have a holiday today so I have a day just to rest. Although I won’t really be resting. We’ll be harvesting tomatoes and other garden bounty, packing and driving and unpacking, assembling my new chairs that my aunt and uncle brought up for me.

Eggplant Parmesan Dip

Eggplant Parmesan Layer Dip

  • 2 1/2 cups roasted eggplant (I used 1 large globe + 1 small Japanese eggplant)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
  • 6 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup fat free greek yogurt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Your favorite marinara or pasta sauce (I used my crock pot garden marinara sauce)
  • Shredded asiago (or parmesan) and mozzarella cheese (maybe a cup of the two cheeses, mixed? I didn’t measure the cheese … use enough to cover the sauce)
  • Fresh garden tomato, chopped fine
  • Fresh herbs for garnish
  • Thin slices of toasted ciabatta or french bread

Directions:

  1. To roast the eggplant on the grill, poke the pretty purple fruit all around with a fork, then grill on a hot grill until the outside is black and charred and the eggplant is sagging a LOT … that means it’s fully cooked.
  2. Pull off the peel and discard, then chop the pulp roughly and measure it. You will need about 2 1/2 cups for this dip (or you can scale down the other ingredients to match the amount of eggplant you have). Put the eggplant, garlic, herbs, and cream cheese in a food processor or handi chopper and blend till smooth. I had to do this in batches because my handi chopper wasn’t big enough to hold it all! Pour the creamy mixture into a bowl and stir in the greek yogurt, then add salt to taste.
  3. You can serve the dip in individual ramekins or in a larger pie or tart pan. Smear a good thick layer of the creamy eggplant mixture on the bottom of the dish, cover with a layer of marinara or pasta sauce, then top with shredded cheese and some chopped tomato on top. Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve with thinly sliced toasted ciabatta or french bread.

Eggplant Parmesan Dip

This recipe was shared at Weekend PotluckMelt in your Mouth Monday, Manic MondayTalent Show TuesdayTrick or Treat Tuesday, Newlyweds Recipe Linky, Cast Party WednesdayThursday’s Treasures and Fit & Fabulous Friday.


Caramelized Onion & Garlic Foccaccia

{guest post from Simply Gourmet Photography}

Caramelized Onion & Garlic Foccaccia

Hello everyone! I’m off on vacation … so today Sherron from Simply Gourmet Photography has volunteered to “blog-sit” on Sumptuous Spoonfuls. Sherron is an incredibly talented photographer and an amazing cook (as I’m guessing you can tell from the photo …). Sherron has inspired me in so many ways. Her dark chocolate peanut butter granola  was one of my favorite posts … but now I think I have a new favorite. This gorgeous foccaccia.

Take it away, Sherron!

~~~~~~~

I am so excited to be sharing my recipe for focaccia bread with Sumptuous Spoonfuls.  Ann is wonderful and she has always been so supportive of my blog and photography.

It will be one year in June when I started my blog, Simply Gourmet Photography.  I have been taking pictures for a long time and just happened to be asked to work with some amazing companies as a food photographer.  I recently moved to MD and was needing a change, so I started the blog with the hope that new opportunities would come my way and they have.  I am now a writer for one of our local magazines and I enjoy it very much.  I still get to take pictures, develop recipes and write.

One thing that I love about Ann’s recipes is that they are fresh.  I love her salads the most!  She has inspired me on more than one occasion to create a fun salad and dressing.  What better accompaniment to a salad than a fresh loaf of bread.

I love bread and I make bread a lot for my family.  I have the easy one hour recipes and then I have the all day, double rise, let sit over night recipes.  I enjoy them all. I love the way the dough feels in my hands after it has risen, so soft and airy.  I find the process of making bread creative.  There are so many types of breads, toppings, flours and styles. You could never get bored with making bread.

This recipe for focaccia has been made numerous times for my family.  I especially like to make it for sandwiches and big parties.  It makes two loaves and the options for toppings are endless.  This flavor of the caramelized onion and grilled garlic is my favorite.  I will make this focaccia and use the bread for French Dips.  It holds up great for a sandwich and the onion/garlic combination compliments the beef well.

I look forward to hearing how you have enjoyed it.

Caramelized Onion & Garlic Foccaccia

Caramelized Onion and Garlic Focaccia

Makes 2 loaves

To make the caramelized onions you will need:

1 large red onion, sliced
1 T. of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Splash of red wine

In a large sauté pan, add oil.  Add the sliced onion and cook over medium heat.  The onions will start to turn a light brown and then gradually become darker.  If you need to add a bit more oil go ahead.  You don’t want them to get dry.  When the onions are dark brown, add your splash of red wine.  This step is optional but it does add a deep rich flavor to the onion.  Continue cooking until the onions are dark, not burnt.  The process takes about 25 minutes depending on how many onions you have.  If you only use half of the
onion, the cook time may be shorter.

To make the grilled garlic:

1-2 bulbs of garlic
1/3 cup of olive oil

Cut the ends off of each garlic bulb.  Brush the ends with the olive oil. On your BBQ, set your grill to 350 and grill the garlic until browned on both sides. This can also be done in your oven, but you will miss the grill flavor. They should be done at around 15 minutes.  I try to do a bunch at this time and then store the extra’s in the fridge.  When they are cooked, I remove the cloves and smash into a small bowl with 4 T. of olive oil, this will be used on the focaccia bread.

To make the loaves of focaccia:

2 cups of warm water
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
4-5 cups of flour, start with the smallest amount and add as needed
5 T. of olive oil

Toppings for focaccia:

coarse salt
pepper
fresh herbs or dried (optional)
Parmesan cheese (optional)
olive oil
grilled garlic (recipe above)
caramelized onions (recipe above)

Prepare the yeast by adding the water, yeast and sugar to a small bowl.  Set aside for 5 minutes until it starts to bubble.  If your yeast does not create a foam/bubbly top then you may need to start over.

In your Kitchen Aid mixer with the paddle, add the salt, 3 cups of flour and 2 T. of olive oil.  Start to mix together and add yeast mixture.  Mix well. Let rest 10 minutes.

Change from the paddle to your bread hook.  On medium speed, add a 1/4 cup of flour at a time until the dough forms a ball and no longer sticks to the bottom of the bowl.  Because my humidity is so high I usually end up adding more than 5 cups-just add it in 1/4 cup increments and you won’t add too much.

Knead in your mixer for 7 minutes. Move dough to an oiled glass bowl and let rise until double.

When the dough has doubled, turn onto a floured surface and knead for one minute.  Cut dough in half.

Preheat your oven to 400.

Prepare your cookie sheet.  Spray or oil the sheet then sprinkle some cornmeal across the cookie sheet.

The two focaccia loaves should fit side by side on your cookie sheet.  With your hands pull and push the dough into a small rectangle to fit on half of the cookie sheet.  Leave an inch in between the two loaves.  It will be uneven, this is okay.  It should look like little hills and valleys over the top of each loaf.

Take a pastry brush and brush the olive oil and grilled garlic over the top of both loaves.  It will pool and look like a lot, this is okay as it all cooks into the focaccia.  Let sit for 15 minutes.

Next, add the caramelized onions.

The final step is adding your herbs and coarse salt.  I used dried herbs in this recipe.  I sometimes use fresh and I love that too.  I usually use an Italian spice blend or you can use oregano, rosemary, basil and thyme.

Bake the loaves for 20 minutes.  The focaccia bread should be golden brown. We slice ours into 1 inch chunks.

I will often serve the focaccia with a dipping mixture of: extra virgin olive oil, parmesan cheese, Italian herbs and salt.  My guests love it!

Caramelized Onion & Garlic Foccaccia

Take a moment to go like Sherron on facebook or Pinterest. You’ll be glad you did!


Asparagus Pesto Rotini with Shrimp & ‘Shrooms

Asparagus Pesto Rotini with Shrimp & Mushrooms

So of course I had to make some pasta with my new love: Asparagus White Bean Pesto! I tossed in some fresh shelf mushrooms my dad gave me, but you can use any mushrooms of your choosing. I chose Rotini because the ridges in the little swirly pasta will “catch” the pesto nicely, so it won’t all slide off of the noodles.  It is a tasty, healthy meal that is fancy enough to  serve to company, but quick enough to have any weeknight.

Asparagus Pesto Rotini with Shrimp & Mushrooms

Asparagus Pesto Rotini with Shrimp & ‘Shrooms

If you have the pesto pre-made, this meal takes about 15-20 minutes to put together. If you don’t, it might take another 15 minutes to make the pesto. This makes two servings.

  • 2 servings (about 7 oz.) rotini pasta (I recommend using whole grain or high fiber pasta of some kind … it will keep you energized longer.)
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups chopped asparagus
  • 1/2 – 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 heaping cup of shrimp (I used frozen pre-cooked shrimp, but fresh is even better)
  • 1/2 cup Asparagus White Bean Pesto (recipe here)
  • For the top: Freshly shredded parmesan, toasted Pine nuts, and fresh basil

Directions:

  1. Boil the water and cook the pasta. While the water is heating, chop the asparagus, mushrooms, and garlic.
  2. When the water begins to boil, add the pasta and heat a frying pan up for sauteeing the shrimp & vegies. Spray the pan with cooking spray, and when it’s hot, put in the asparagus, mushrooms, and garlic and sautee just a couple minutes, then add 1/4 cup of the wine. Cook a few minutes or until the asparagus is starting to look a little cooked (but still bright green), then add the shrimp and the rest of the wine and cook a few minutes longer or until the shrimp is cooked and the asparagus is crisp-tender. (It only takes a few minutes.)
  3. By now the pasta should be about done. Test it to see if it is. If it’s not, remove the shrimp/asparagus mixture from heat, and wait a minute or two. When the pasta is done, strain out the water, then return the pasta to the pan. Add the pesto and asparagus/shrimp mixture and stir until everything is mixed up well.
  4. Serve topped with a few toasted pine nuts, a bit of freshly shredded parmesan, and basil leaves for garnish.

Asparagus Pesto Rotini with Shrimp & Mushrooms

This is a #pastalove post!

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to see all the other great #pastalove dishes!

This recipe was also shared at Mealtime MondayTuesday Talent Show, Delicious Dish TuesdayTotally Tasty Tuesdays, Cast Party Wednesdays, and Fit & Fabulous Fridays.


Asparagus White Bean Pesto

Asparagus White Bean Pesto

I love pesto. Love love love love it! And Asparagus! Oh I can’t wait for spring every year so I can have asparagus … so last week I ran across this intriguing idea for Kale, Apsaragus & Chickpea pesto from Munchin with Munchkin and I just couldn’t put it down. Asparagus in pesto? and beans? … what a concept …

My pesto isn’t really very much like hers. I mean, I really couldn’t abandon my beloved basil. Or the parmesan … oh please, no, I must have my cheese! And while I love olive oil, I thought if you added asparagus and white beans, well, that would eliminate the need for having so much oil in the pesto. You could reduce the oil and still have a wonderful flavor that would stick to your pasta.

And what do you know? It worked! Beautifully. So get this: in one fell swoop, I upped the nutrition, protein, fiber, AND the flavor and lowered the fat and calories in the pesto. It’s such a wonderful thing! It’s sort of like a cross between pesto and hummus. Not only does it go well on pasta, it’s a great dip, a fantastic spread for a sandwich or wrap … or, um, well anything you could think of that you might do with pesto OR hummus.

Now how about them beans?

Asparagus White Bean Pesto

Asparagus White Bean Pesto

  • 1 cup raw asparagus, chopped (I used the stem ends of the asparagus, saving the “pretty top parts” for later …)
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup freshly shredded parmesan
  • 1 cup cooked white beans, drained (save the juice though!)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 cup pinons
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil

Place all ingredients in a handi chopper or food processor and blend till smooth. If you need a little more liquid to get everything to blend nicely, add a bit of the liquid from the beans.

Asparagus White Bean Pesto

This recipe was shared at Mealtime MondayTuesday Talent ShowTotally Tasty Tuesdays, Cast Party Wednesdays, Tastetastic Thursdays, and Fit & Fabulous Fridays.


Chive Flower, Mushroom, White Bean & Walnut Salad

Chive Flower, Mushroom, White Bean & Walnut Salad

My chives are growing like crazy right now and they’re in full bloom with big, beautiful purple flowers. They’ve taken over a big chunk of my raised bed already … Mom warned me that they would, but I’ve never had anything grow like that here . Perhaps it’s because the deer eat everything … except for the daffodils and the chives.

Their loss! I love them. Besides that they are gorgeous, I think chives taste marvelous. And chive flowers even moreso. While chives add sort of a subtle onion taste to a dish, chive flowers are more intense, little bursts of flavor.

And Dad gave me some beautiful fresh shelf mushrooms he found … I thought they’d go perfect with the chive flowers.

Chive flower, mushroom, white bean and walnut salad

Chive Flower, Mushroom, White Bean & Walnut Salad

  • Mixed greens
  • Cooked white beans
  • Fresh mushrooms, sliced or torn into chunks
  • Fresh cut “shards” of parmesan cheese (thinly cut slices)
  • Toasted walnuts
  • Chive flowers
  • Avocado ranch salad dressing (recipe here)

Fill your bowl most of the way with greens, then toss on some beans, fresh mushrooms, parmesan, and walnuts. Tuck in the chive flowers and drizzle with avocado ranch.

Before you eat the salad, make sure you take a moment to savor the beauty of these flowers. Then dive into the taste of them … You might want to pull them apart and scatter them all over your salad.

Chive flower, mushroom, white bean and walnut salad

This recipe was shared at  Tastetastic ThursdaysFit & Fabulous Fridays, Weekend Potluck, and Manic Mondays.


Italian Garlic Pizza Crusts

Boboli Style Pizza Crust

This is another one of those recipes I’ve been making for years. It’s a Boboli-style pizza crust that is delicious plain … or topped with just about anything you like to put on a pizza. My son loves to eat this garlicky Italian “flatbread” plain, with no toppings. Sometimes my daughter and I will slice one into wedges and dip it in olive oil. I like to have a few in the freezer ready to top whenever we need a quick meal. This time I made them for my daughter’s birthday party. We thought the girls would enjoy making their own pizzas. It was a great hit, and so fun to see what each girl put on her pizza. One girl took a big sniff of the crust, exclaimed she could eat a whole one just like this, and took a few bites out of it before she put the toppings on her pizza. It was really cute.

Here’s the party setup with all the toppings set out. There’s just one problem with this setup: not enough meat. I use so many vegies on my pizzas and just a tiny bit of meat, I forget how much meat other people like on their pizza. We ran out of sausage and pepperoni. (Luckily I had some more in the freezer!)

Pizza Party

Italian Garlic (Boboli-Style) Pizza Crust

Adapted from Food.com. Makes 3 normal-size crusts or 6 individual-size crusts.

  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped fine
  • 2 Tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water (plus extra if needed)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

  1. Put the ingredients in the bread machine in the order listed. (It doesn’t have to be in exact order, just make sure to bury the garlic under the flour.)
  2. Put the bread machine on the dough setting and press start. A few minutes after starting, check the dough. If it’s not sticking together properly, add a little extra water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough starts to form into a ball.
  3. When the dough cycle is complete, divide the dough into several equal parts. I’m making individual crusts for a teenage birthday party, so I divided mine into 6 parts. This makes a pretty good-sized individual crust. For smaller ones, divide into 8 pieces. For normal-sized pizza, divide into 3 parts.
  4. Shape each piece of dough into a disc shape, cover and let rest for a few minutes.
  5. One at a time (keeping the rest of the pieces covered) on a clean surface dusted with cornmeal, with a rolling pin, roll each piece of the dough into a circle. Mine turned out to be about 8 inches in diameter.
  6. If you have a pizza stone, set each round on a flat surface dusted with cornmeal that will allow you to easily slide the crust onto the stone. I used the back of my cookie sheets and a couple cutting boards. If not, put the pizza crusts on cookie sheets or pizza pans. Spray the crusts with cooking spray, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise until the crusts are as thick as you want them. I wasn’t sure how thick the girls would want their crusts so I went for a medium rise; I think it took about 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 425, prick the crusts with a fork to keep them from puffing up in awkward spots, and bake until the crusts are golden brown. You can put these crusts in a bag and freeze them for future meals. They will keep well for a month or two.

Boboli Style Pizza Crust

This recipe was shared at Totally Tasty TuesdaysFrugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Thursday’s Treasures, and Katherine Martinelli’s Bread Bloghop.


Shrimp, Chicken & Asparagus Cellentani Pasta

in a Lowfat Garlic Parmesan Cream Sauce

Shrimp & Chicken Asparagus Mushroom Pasta with Lowfat Garlic Cream Sauce

This is how I lighten up Fettucini Alfredo … except without the fettucini … because I just adore the swirly, curly shape of this cellentani.

This pasta dish is a delicious & elegant meal, a great way to use leftover chicken, and if you take a few minutes to get everything prepped and have the meat pre-cooked, it comes together in about 30 to 45 minutes. Just make the lowfat creamy sauce, sautee some lovely vegetables and throw it all together with the cooked shrimp and chicken.

The chicken breast was one I had marinated in a garlic-buttermilk mixture, then cooked on the grill the other night. Use any leftover chicken … or just skip the chicken and add more shrimp (or vice versa)!  The shrimp were just some frozen little shrimps I had in my freezer. Bigger shrimp would of course be more fancy shmancy if you’re serving this to company.

Shrimp & Chicken Asparagus Mushroom Pasta with Lowfat Garlic Cream Sauce

Shrimp, Chicken & Asparagus Cellentani in a Lowfat Garlic Parmesan Cream Sauce

Makes 2 to 4 servings, depending on how hefty your eaters are.

  • 1 cup dry uncooked cellentani or cavatappi pasta (about 4 oz. … or use another shape … fettucine, linguini, ziti, or penne would all work too …)
  • 1 1/4 cups asparagus
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 – 2  Tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 4 oz. shrimp, pre-cooked
  • 1 cooked chicken breast, chopped
  • for garnish: freshly shredded parmesan, snipped chives and/or green onion and fresh basil leaves

Directions:

  1. First, make the garlic cream sauce (see below). You can make the sauce ahead of time to save steps at dinnertime –just keep it in the fridge in a covered container till you’re ready to use it.
  2. Start the water boiling to cook the pasta. While it’s heating up, chop and prep the vegetables, chicken and herbs and shred the cheese.
  3. When the water starts to boil, add the cellantani (or whatever pasta you are using).
  4. Heat a sautee pan over medium heat, spray with cooking spray, and add the asparagus, mushrooms, garlic and rosemary. Sautee just briefly, then add the wine. Sprinkle with Red Robin Seasoning (or your favorite seasoning mix–or just salt and pepper.) Cook for about 5 – 7 minutes or until the liquid from the wine and mushrooms has mostly evaporated, the mushrooms are tender and the asparagus is crisp tender.
  5. By this point, the pasta should be almost done. When it’s done, put it in a colander to drain out the water.
  6. To the sautee pan, add the sauce, shrimp, chicken, basil and tomato, then pour in the creamy sauce and the pasta. (You may not need all the sauce.) Stir everything together and cook until everything is hot and bubbly.
  7. Serve immediately, garnished with a bit of shredded parmesan, some basil leaves and snipped green onion and/or chives (I used both). A nice salad and some garlic toast on the side would be marvelous.

Lowfat Garlic Cream Sauce (Alfredo-ish)

  • 1/2 Tablespoon butter
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup low fat or skim milk
  • 1/4 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a skillet or cast iron pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter, then add the chopped garlic and sautee just for a minute or two to cook the garlic. Add the flour and stir to make a paste (or roux). Add the milk, lower the heat to medium, and whisk until the roux is dissolved in the milk and the sauce begins to thicken. Toss in the shredded parmesan, basil and nutmeg and stir, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Shrimp & Chicken Asparagus Mushroom Pasta with Lowfat Garlic Cream Sauce

This recipe was shared at Tastetastic ThursdaysFit & Fabulous Fridays, Weekend Potluck, Everyday Mom’s Meals and Mealtime Mondays.


Green Grilled Cheese Sandwich

From the Full Belly Sisters

Green Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The truth is, ever since I saw this green grilled cheese sandwich from Full Belly Sisters, I wanted it … bad. But circumstances did not avail themselves to fulfilling my desires … until tonight.

My daughter was out with her dad. My son was busy with his game downstairs. I was pretty much left alone for the evening … and it was a gorgeous spring night … perfect for a light dinner and a glass of wine on the patio, and then a walk in the forest.

And since I had some luscious green creamy paste left from the little green toasts that I had for lunch, I looked up the recipe and noticed mine wasn’t too far from the mark. All I needed was a little cheese. I didn’t have any gouda on hand, so I used havarti. That did the trick.

My sandwiches were little because my bread is just a small baguette … and so I served my mini-grilled cheese sandwiches (to myself) with a glass of my dad’s wine and a little dish of honeydew melon (keeping with the “green” theme …) … oh it was SO good!

Green Grilled Cheese Sandwich (Avocado, Spinach, & Havarti)

I am going to send you over there for the recipe. Really, mine wasn’t much different than hers. I added some garlic. And a little parmesan and shredded Havarti cheese in place of the Gouda.

This is really a grilled cheese sandwich experience you don’t want to miss. Look at all that gooey green deliciousness.

Green Grilled Cheese Sandwich


Asparagus on Green Garlic Crostini

Asparagus on Green Garlic Crostini

It’s spring! Everything is turning green … that means it’s time for my favorite spring vegetables. Like asparagus. And spinach. I’m in heaven whenever I can have fresh asparagus and spinach from the garden.

And this year I have one more wonderful thing to harvest from the “garden” … garlic. I snagged a couple clumps of garlic from my mom and dad’s garden and planted them in a pot to bring home. Now I have a big mess of delicious fresh garlic ready anytime I want them. I love that. I love garlic.

Asparagus on Green Garlic Crostini

And I really, really love these little green toasts. Aren’t they pretty?

Asparagus on Green Garlic Crostini

Asparagus on Green Garlic Crostini

Inspired by the Full Belly Sisters’ Green Grilled Cheese Sandwich

  • 15 – 20 fresh asparagus spears
  • 6 fresh cloves of garlic (the whole plant … complete with scapes … if you don’t have fresh garlic, you can substitute garlic cloves
  • 2 cups packed full of fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 avocado, peeled and pitted
  • 1 oz light cream cheese
  • French bread slices
  • Freshly shredded parmesan cheese
  • Pinon nuts (pine nuts)

Directions:

  1. Wash the asparagus and set it on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Roast in the oven at 450 for about 5 – 7 minutes or until the asparagus is barely crisp tender (and still bright green). Chop into about 1 to 2 inch slices. Set aside.
  2. Clean the garlic, chop off the roots and any bad peel, and toss it into a handi chopper or food processor with the fresh spinach leaves. Whir until it’s all chopped fine.
  3. Mash the avocado in a bowl, then cream in the cream cheese to make a smooth blend.
  4. Stir the chopped spinach & garlic into the avocado/cream cheese to make a wonderful luscious green paste.
  5. Lightly toast the french bread slices, then spread each toast with a liberal amount of the pretty green creamy paste.
  6. Arrange the asparagus on the toasts (I arranged them in a fan shape … not that you can really tell …), then sprinkle lightly with parmesan and a few pinon nuts.
  7. Put the toasts on a baking sheet and bake at 450 for about 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the pinons are lightly toasted.
  8. Serve immediately.

Asparagus on Green Garlic Crostini

This recipe was shared at Newlyweds Recipe LinkyTastetastic Thursdays, and Fit & Fabulous Fridays.


Asparagus Cellantani Carbonara

Asparagus Cellantani Carbonara

I know carbonara is supposed to be made with spaghetti, but I was just dying to use my cellentani … I have to admit … I bought this pasta because I thought they were beautiful. I mean look at those wild swirls! And I loved the name. Cellantani. Isn’t that a romantic name? It makes me dream of wild, romantic nights in Italia. I wanted these gorgeous corkscrew pasta shapes on my table, and imagined what I might pair them with.

Asparagus Cellantani Carbonara

Asparagus Cellantani Carbonara

Adapted from the Foodie Physician.

Makes about 2 servings.

  • 1 cup dry cellantani pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh asparagus
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic + the garlic scapes, snipped
  • 1/2 cup chopped cooked lean ham (or canadian bacon, something salty like bacon, but leaner)
  • 1/2 of a medium tomato
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan + a little extra to sprinkle on top
  • Fresh basil & oregano leaves
  • Freshly ground pepper & sea salt

Directions:

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil. While the water is heating, wash the asparagus and set it on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle with Red Robin (or Red Magic) seasoning … or your favorite seasoning mix …  and spray with cooking spray. Roast the asparagus in a 400 degree oven for about 8 minutes or until crisp tender. Tend to the other things, but when the asparagus is done, take it out of the oven and set it aside.
  2. When the water is boiling, add the pasta to cook.
  3. Now, while they are cooking, peel and chop the garlic, then chop the tomato and ham.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese.
  5. When the pasta is nearly done, skim off 1/4 cup of the hot pasta water. Add about a tablespoon of the hot water to the egg mixture and whisk.
  6. Strain the hot cooked pasta in a colander.
  7. Take the hot pan you cooked the pasta in and over medium high heat, add the oil, chopped garlic, and ham and sautee for just a couple minutes, then add the tomato and asparagus and sautee briefly to cook out the juices from the tomato. Add the hot cooked pasta and the egg/cheese mixture. Remove from heat and stir. The egg should finish cooking from the heat of the pasta and make a nice light creamy sauce. If the sauce needs more liquid, add a little of the hot pasta water you saved.
  8. Sprinkle with herbs, more parmesan and the reserved garlic scapes, season with salt & freshly ground pepper, and serve immediately.

Asparagus Cellantani Carbonara

This recipe was shared at Totally Tasty Tuesdays, Full Plate ThursdaysTastetastic Thursdays and Fit & Fabulous Fridays.


Sunflower Spinach Parmesan Peasant Bread

Sunflower Spinach Parmesan Bread

Is that bread … green? Yes. Yes, it is. I know it might look a little odd, but I wanted to try making a green bread for St. Patrick’s Day. Well, the color of the bread after it’s cooked isn’t quite as bright green as I might like, but it is still green. More importantly, it’s delicious. I ate about half of one of the loaves last night by myself. The slight crunch of the sunflowers with the subtle cheese and spinach taste play together so marvelously in this bread. I think this would be the perfect bread for garlic toast, bruschetta, sandwiches, toasted or just plain (like I was eating it last night). It’s tasty enough to munch on with no butter or anything added at all.

Sunflower Spinach Parmesan Bread

You could make this bread really fancy pretty by making the spinach-cheese into a swirl in the bread instead of incorporating the spinach right into the dough, like I did with my French Bread with Basil & Gruyere.

Sunflower Spinach Parmesan Peasant Bread

Inspired by Ally’s Kitchen’s Buttermilk Cranberry Walnut Bread. If you don’t have a bread machine, see Ally’s recipe.

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 1 cup frozen spinach, thawed, with the extra liquid squeezed out, and then chopped fine … reserve any liquid to use as “water”
  • 1/4 cup water (or spinach juice)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ cup oatmeal
  • 3 cups bread flour (add a little more if needed)
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup freshly shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 – 2 Tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds

Dump all the ingredients except the sunflower seeds into your bread machine and start it on the dough cycle. Check the dough a few minutes after you start it while it’s “processing” to see if the dough is sticking together properly and making a nice ball of dough. If it seems like there is too much flour, add a bit of water. If it seems like the dough is too sticky, add some bread flour.

About 25 minutes into the dough cycle (when it is near to done), throw in the sunflower seeds. I actually tossed mine in after the dough cycle was done and then I had to go back and knead them in myself.  I think it would be easier to toss them in just a bit earlier, so the bread machine doesn’t break them to bits, but incorporates the seeds into the dough.

Cut the dough in two and shape it as you like. I shaped half of the dough into a round loaf and the other half into a long, skinny french-bread-style loaf. They both turned out to be pretty big … I was kind of amazed to get that much bread from just 4 cups of flour.

Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This only took about 30 – 45 minutes for me.

Bake at 375 for 35 – 50 minutes or until the top is browned and the bread sounds hollow when tapped.

Remove from oven and let it rest for 5 – 10 minutes before cutting with a good bread knife. I like to spray my loaves with cooking spray to soften the crust and make it all pretty and shiny, but if you want a chewier crust, don’t do that.

Sunflower Spinach Parmesan Bread

Here’s my big old round loaf. I’m going to freeze it and take it along when I visit my sister this weekend. I think she’s gonna love it.

This post is a #greenslove post, powered by Linky Tools.

Click here to see the other great #greenslove posts.

This recipe was shared at Fit & Fabulous Fridays.


“It’s Good to be Home” Cheesy Cajun Popcorn

Cheesy Cajun Popcorn

I don’t know if this is really a recipe, but I have to tell you  I am so happy to be back in my own home with my own kitchen where I can walk in and make funky popcorn anytime I want. And I have all my spices! YES! … so I can season things like I like them …

I was only gone for two days. And I do love to travel. Really, this should not be a big deal. But I’ve grown sooo attached to my kitchen. Perhaps I need a portable spice suitcase. And hotels to actually deliver what they promise. This was supposed to be a “suite” … with 2 beds, a microwave, mini-fridge, sofa bed … it wasn’t. It was a bed, a desk, and a chair. No microwave, no fridge, no sofa at all. And they overcharged me. But they let us check in early, which was handy because my girl needed to get ready for her dance competition. So I’m not REALLY complaining.

I’m just glad to be home. With my popcorn popper. My kitchen. My spices. My cheese drawer. Real wine glasses. My bed. My cats. My plants. My pillow. My trees.  I love it here.

Cheesy Cajun Popcorn

“It’s good to be home” Cheesy Cajun Popcorn

  • A large bowl full of air-popped popcorn (about 10 cups or so? something like that … it fills my mixing bowl)
  • 1 to  1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
  • Cajun seasoning mix
  • Cheesy popcorn seasoning (I found this at our local Natural Foods Coop … if you have some, use it, if not, the popcorn will still be delicious …)
  • Salt
  • Cayenne (if you want it hotter)
  • Freshly shredded parmesan (about 1/2 cup)

Melt the butter. Drizzle the butter over the popcorn as it pops, and sprinkle with the cajun seasoning mix, the popcorn seasoning, the cayenne (if desired) and the salt. Add the parmesan in there too if you can manage it … if you can’t, just sprinkle it on top. It will sink as you eat the popcorn anyway. Grab bunches of it with your fingers as you eat the popcorn. It’s so good that way.

Cheesy Cajun Popcorn

This recipe was shared on Midnight Maniac Meatless MondaysTotally Tasty Tuesdays and Trick or Treat Tuesdays.


Layered Spinach, Swiss, Bacon & Basil-Flower “Pie”

Layered Swiss, Spinach, Bacon & Basil Flower Pie

This isn’t really a pie. Nor is it a quiche. Perhaps it’s more like a “breakfast bake”, but in a much smaller sort of way. It didn’t happen in a huge pan for a big crowd, like breakfast bakes normally do. It was just a way to use up the end of a loaf of bread and some basil flowers and make a nice lunch for myself in the process. Actually, it wasn’t just a lunch. It was my lunch, mid-afternoon snack and dinner, all in one bowl. I just kept happily munching on this all afternoon and evening.

Growing basil indoors in the winter is a wonderful experience … you can have fresh herbs all winter long, and pretty little purple flowers will grace your life right there in the middle of all that winter white and gray-ness. The trick to keeping your basil going all winter is to water it well, and cut off the flowers. If you don’t cut the flowers, the basil plant thinks it is “done” and dies off. The super lucky thing about having to cut off basil flowers is they are VERY pretty, and very edible, and very delicious.

Flowers from my basil plant

Layered Spinach, Swiss, Bacon & Basil-Flower Pie

  • Several fresh sprigs of basil, with flowers (if you have flowers. if you don’t have flowers, don’t worry, basil leaves will work just fine … or if you must, you can substitute dried basil)
  • 2 very thin slices of bread
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons of bacon crumbles (bacon, fried till crisp, then drained well on a clean towel and crumbled into bits)
  • About 1/2 cup of shredded swiss cheese
  • About 1/4 cup of freshly shredded parmesan and/or romano cheese (I used a mix of both)
  • About 1/2 cup of frozen spinach, thawed, use a towel to “sponge” out the excess moisture and chop it into pieces
  • 1 small potato, peeled and diced, then cooked
  • Chopped green onion
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white
  • 3/4 cup of low-fat milk
  • Red robin seasoning (or your favorite seasoned salt)
  • Freshly ground pepper

What I did here was take the last slice of my Speckled Pepperoni Cheese Bread and cut it into two thin slices. I sprayed an oven-safe bowl with cooking spray, put one of the thin slices in the bottom of the bowl and sprinkled it with bacon and basil flowers.

Layered Swiss, Spinach, Bacon & Basil Flower Pie Step 1

Then I topped it with about 1/2 of the spinach, some potato and cheese, and some more basil flowers / leaves.

Layered Swiss, Spinach, Bacon & Basil Flower Pie Step 2

Then I topped it with the other slice of bread and repeat the whole layering process (spinach, potato, cheese, basil flowers) and on the top I added a bit of chopped green onion.

Layered Swiss, Spinach, Bacon & Basil Flower Pie Step 3

Now in a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, egg white, and milk, then sprinkle liberally with Red Robin Seasoining and lots of freshly ground pepper. Mix it all up well, then pour it carefully into the bowl, pouring sort of around the edge so the bowl fills in with the egg mixture.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or so or until the egg is set. Touch the egg lightly, it should spring back when you touch it.  If there’s any liquid oozing out, let it bake a little longer.

Layered Swiss, Spinach, Bacon & Basil Flower Pie

I wanted you to see the layers of this delicious and very lovely “pie” …

Layers of the Swiss, Spinach, Bacon, & Basil Flower Pie

This recipe was shared at Fit & Fabulous Fridays.


Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich

on Speckled Pepperoni Cheese Bread

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Four Cheeses

Every once in a while I get a craving for pepperoni. The thin, thin sliced pepperoni that gets a tad crispy when you put it on top of a pizza? I love that. I don’t like the grease, though, and usually pepperoni pizzas are swimming in grease.

I thought pepperoni would be fantastic on a grilled cheese sandwich and oooh that was a good thought. The first time I made one, I was so hungry that I rushed to take the photos, then gobbled it up. The photos seemed good when I took them, but when I opened them up on my computer, they were all blurry! That just wasn’t going to cut it. I needed good photos to do justice to a sandwich this good. BUT that sandwich was also the last of the loaf of bread I had. So I had to make bread before I could make the sandwich again!

I have tortured my foodie friends for days talking about this sandwich …

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Four Cheeses on Pepperoni Cheese Bread

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I know, grilled cheese sandwiches are typically in the “not healthy” category … but I did take a few steps to lighten this one up and cut down the grease factor from the pepperoni.

To make this sandwich you will need:

  • Pepperoni Cheese Bread (recipe is here … or use another really good bread that you love)
  • Light butter
  • 4 kinds of cheeses: Parmesan, Romano, Part-Skim Mozzarella, and Gouda
  • Thinly Sliced Pepperoni (9 slices per sandwich)
  • Finely chopped bell pepper and onion
  • Fresh Basil and Oregano

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich Ingredients

First, prep your ingredients and shred the cheese. I don’t know exactly what proportions I used. Shred just a little of the parmesan and romano to give it that extra kick of flavor, then go heavier on the gouda and mozzarella for the melt factor. Gouda has a very soft melt, mozzarella is more stringy, so mixing the two makes your grilled cheese just right. Mix all the shredded cheeses together in a bowl.

Heat the pepperoni briefly and then place them on a clean towel (or paper towel if you prefer), cover, and press so that the towel absorbs all the extra grease from the pepperoni.

Now, take your bread and spread a very thin layer of light butter on the outside of the bread. If you’re a purist, you can use real butter, but I prefer the light butter myself.

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich Step 1

Flip the bread over and on one side of the bread, add a layer of the shredded cheeses.

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich Step 2

Make a layer of pepperoni on top of that:

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich Step 3

Now sprinkle lightly with onion and bell pepper:

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich Step 4

Place the beautiful herbs on top of that:

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich Step 5

And cover it all up with a second layer of shredded cheeses:

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich Step 6

Place the other side of the bread on top (buttered side OUT) and now you’re ready to grill your sandwich! Heat up a frying pan on medium low heat, place the sandwich in there and cover. After a few minutes, check the bottom of the sandwich by lifting up the edge with your spatula. When it’s golden brown it’s time to flip it. Cover and let the other side cook till it’s golden brown too and the cheese is all hot and melty.

Then you can cut up your beautilicious sandwich (or leave it whole if you prefer!) … and eat it.

Herbed Pepperoni Grilled Cheese Sandwich on Pepperoni Cheese Bread

I recommend a salad with this to balance out all that bread and cheese and meat. I did a simple salad of mixed organic greens with bell pepper, onion, and a balsamic vinaigrette. And I discovered the vinaigrette on the plate was a nice “dipping sauce” for the crusts of the sandwich that weren’t quite cheese-ified.

I know, cheese-ified probably isn’t really a word. That’s the beauty of being a food blogger; you get to make up fun words like beautilicious and cheese-ified. I think those two words fit this sandwich very well.

This recipe was shared at Weekend PotluckCast Party Wednesday and Newlyweds Recipe Linky.


White Wine Mushroom Cream Sauce on Angel Hair

with fresh parmesan and basil leaves (and shhhh! … it’s kind of even  … almost … healthy)

White Wine Mushroom Cream Sauce over Angel Hair Pasta with Parmesan and Fresh Basil

There is a bit of a funny story surrounding this dish … we like to joke around a lot in my office. Normally this doesn’t extend to our clients, but today something came across the email trail and our client jokingly said “10 lashings for Mike” … which my boss responded to with “with a wet noodle … al dente”. I was sooo tempted to respond with “and a white wine mushroom cream sauce”.

Because I wasn’t sure how the client would react, I held my tongue and just went into the kitchen and made this. It’s a very quick dish to prepare …  You could have it for lunch or dinner just like this as an elegant vegetarian meal … and it is so amazing just like that! … maybe with a salad on the side? I didn’t have the patience to do that today … I was SO hungry. If you are a meat eater, I think it would be lovely to add chicken, shrimp, or a luscious grilled hunk of salmon … or some broccoli or asparagus or maybe a bit of chopped tomato.

I honestly could not think or wait to eat this for even a moment longer. It was SO hard to refrain from inhaling this while I took the pictures …

White Wine Mushroom Cream Sauce over Angel Hair Pasta (low fat, healthy!)

White Wine Mushroom Cream Sauce on Angel Hair Pasta

Serves one hungry person or perhaps as a side dish for two … multiply the recipe for the number of mouths you have to feed!

  • 1 serving of angel hair pasta (I recommend using whole wheat pasta or something like Smart Taste that has more fiber in it … )
  • 1 heaping cup of sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup of chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • Bruschetta seasoning and Red Robin seasoning (recipe here)
  • 1 oz. light cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup of fat free half and half
  • 1/3 cup shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese (or a mix of both)
  • Fresh basil leaves, sliced (or not)

Directions:

  1. Start the water for your angel hair pasta heating.
  2. Spray the pan with cooking spray, then add mushrooms, onion, & garlic. Sautee briefly, then add the white wine and sprinkle on some of the seasonings. Sautee for a while and adjust the seasonings to taste.
  3. When the water starts boiling, throw your pasta into the water. The rest of this isn’t going to take long …
  4. To the pan with the mushrooms, add the light cream cheese and the fat free half and half. Cook and stir on medium to medium-low heat until the sauce starts to thicken a bit, then add most of the shredded cheese (saving a bit for the top).
  5. Check if the pasta is done. Throw it in the strainer.
  6. Once the cheese is melted and the sauce is thickened to the consistency you want, put the pasta on a plate, pour the creamy mushroom sauce all over it, then sprinkle with your fresh basil leaves.
  7. Try to slow down and savor it … I really wouldn’t recommend the inhalation method I used …

White Wine Mushroom Cream Sauce over Angel Hair Pasta ... a lower-fat, healthified recipe ...

This recipe was shared on Talent Show TuesdaysCast Party Wednesdays, Newlyweds Recipe LinkyTastetastic Thursday and Full Plate Thursday, {Fusion Friday}, Weekend Potluck, Meatless Mondays and Katherine Martinelli’s Pasta Blog Hop.

This recipe was FEATURED on Midnight Maniac Meatless Mondays.


Herbed Kumquat Honey Merlot Salad Dressing

and how the turnips ended up in the Merlot …

Kumquat Honey Merlot Salad Dressing

So my sister and I were having a glass of Merlot together as I was preparing the salad for dinner on Christmas Eve. I love making salad-scapes so the task of making the salad often falls to me …

I was cutting up a turnip from Dad’s garden to put in the salad and I noticed as I held the turnip slices up to the light, there was a beautiful pattern of lines there. I remarked on that to my sister, who said we should try soaking one in wine because that would bring out the gorgeous pattern in the turnip. She grabbed a slice from my pile of turnip bits and dunked it in her wine, pulling it out after a moment and yes, indeed the lines were more pronounced and the turnip had changed to a lovely purplish tone.

So I said to her that we should soak the turnips in wine for the salad … she said “are you serious?” … and in the wild sweet mood I am in that day, yes, of course I was. So we soaked half the turnips in a small cup of wine. The picture didn’t turn out all that well, but you can see the pattern of lines in the turnip … isn’t that just gorgeous?

Merlot-soaked Turnips

And then we turned to a discussion of salad dressing. I asked if we should do the tahini yogurt dressing again, but my sis wanted something different … A vinaigrette, she said. I didn’t want the same old boring vinaigrette, though, and that’s when she got the idea to use Kumquat juice in the salad dressing.

Now I have not ever had a Kumquat before, but apparently my aunt who lives in Florida had sent Mom and Dad a bag full of kumquats from her tree. My sister had already been experimenting with them before I got here. She told me the way to juice these tart little Kumquats is to roll the little fruit in your hands first, then slice off the top and the juice comes pouring out. She juiced three Kumquats for me and then we went to work finding things to put in the dressing. This is what we ended up with. We were really quite delighted with ourselves.

Herbed Kumquat Honey Merlot Salad Dressing

  • Juice of 3 kumquats
  • A small spoonful of honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • About 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • About 1/8 cup Merlot or other dry red wine
  • About 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • About 1 Tablespoon fresh sage and rosemary, chopped fine
  • About 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the kumquat juice, honey, garlic, vinegar, and Merlot till thoroughly mixed.
  2. Whilst whisking the juice mixture, add the olive oil in a thin stream to combine with the juices.
  3. Stir in herbs, salt and pepper.

We served this dressing with a salad of fresh spinach leaves sprinkled with Merlot-soaked turnips, tomato, avocado, shards of fresh Parmesan cheese, and thin slices of Kumquat. It was a delicious and decidedly unique salad. We had spiral-sliced ham and scalloped potatoes as well, but if you were to ask me, I would say the salad stole the show.

Herbed Kumquat Honey Merlot Salad Dressing

This recipe was shared at Melt in your Mouth MondaysRecipe of the Week: Healthy/Low Cal Recipes, KM’s Honey Bloghop and Katherine Martinelli’s Citrus Bloghop.


Pomegranate Walnut Salad with Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette

Pomegranate Walnut Salad with dried cranberries, apricots, mixed cheeses and Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette

Pomegranates are so beautiful. I’ve been entranced with them since I studied Greek mythology way back in junior high school.

Then when we lived in California, our neighbors had a pomegranate tree … one long branch of the tree stretched into our yard and that one branch always gave us plenty of pomegranates. Not that it really mattered, because the neighbors let us go into their yard and pick pomegranates whenever we wanted. My kids used to sell pomegranates like some kids sell lemonade. The neighbors loved it.

When you open up a pomegranate, it is full of all these gorgeous little jewels; it looks like a treasure chest to me. And the taste of the little jewels when you bite into one … oh my.

If you want to make this salad, you will first need to make the Cranberry Raspberry Vinegar, and that takes about a week … just giving you fair warning. You could do some clever substitutions, perhaps, but the jewel-toned vinegar with the little pomegranate jewels in the salad is really quite nice.

Pomegranate Walnut Salad with Mixed Cheeses and Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette

Pomegranate Walnut Salad with Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette

with Dried Cranberries, Apricots and Mixed Cheeses

  • Organic Herb Mix (or mixed greens)
  • Pomegranate Seeds
  • Shards of Parmesan Cheese (cut very thin slices off the edge of a hunk of parmesan)
  • Toasted Walnuts, chopped roughly
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Chopped dried Apricots
  • Blue cheese crumbles

First make the dressing and let it set to mix the flavors while you prepare the salad.

Fill the salad bowl 3/4 full with the organic herb mix, and sprinkle with remaining ingredients as you please. Drizzle with Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette.

Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

  • 3/4 cup cranberry raspberry vinegar (recipe here)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon strawberry or raspberry jam
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon, Spicy Brown or other fancy mustard (I used garlic peppercorn mustard)
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mustard seed
  • A couple of basil leaves, a small sprig of rosemary, and several sprigs of fresh dill weed

Mix all ingredients together in a handi chopper and whir until the herbs and garlic are well chopped and everything is mixed well. Refrigerate any of the remaining dressing.

Pomegranate Walnut Salad with dried cranberries, apricots, mixed cheeses and Maple Cranberry Vinaigrette

This recipe was shared at Midnight Maniac Meatless MondaysTotally Tasty Tuesdays, and Full Plate Thursdays.


Thanksgiving Aftermath & Parmesan Cornmeal Biscuits

Our Thanksgiving Table

We had a festive Thanksgiving this year.  The table was all decked out with autumn colors, pumpkins and leaves. My dad and sister cooked up one of his wild turkeys. Of course we had all the fixings too: stuffing and mashed potatoes, beer-braised brussels sprouts with bacon, mashed vanilla sweet potatoes, maple walnut cranberry sauce, a big beautiful salad with tahini yogurt dressing, dinner rolls, and lots of wine and pie.

The next day I had to work, but I am fortunate that my boss lets me work from my parents’ house. We munched a lot that day. I had pie and chai tea for breakfast. We didn’t really have lunch–we just munched on leftovers and things. My sister made turkey nachos. I spooned some of the cranberry sauce over a block of cream cheese.

Cream Cheese and Cranberries with Crackers

We discovered yes, it is even better with a slice of jalapeno.

Cream Cheese and Cranberries with Crackers & Jalapenos

… and then for dinner, my sister made turkey soup with homemade noodles, and I made up some of my parmesan cornmeal biscuits. My boss called while I was mixing up the biscuits, and I forgot to put in the egg. I was so disappointed–I have made these biscuits so many times and they should be light and tender, with a beautiful contrasting crunch from the cornmeal. I was arguing with everyone that the biscuits sucked because I know how they are supposed to taste, but everyone else insisted that they were great. They were okay I guess … just promise me when you make them that you won’t forget to put in the egg. Even if it’s the day after Thanksgiving, there are people and dogs everywhere, and your boss calls while you’re mixing up the batter.

Parmesan Cornmeal Biscuits

Parmesan Cornmeal Biscuits

I made half with jalapenos, half without. The adults all loved the jalapeno version, but my kids wanted the “plain” ones. Try other cheeses in place of the parmesan.

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 5 tablespoons chilled butter
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup plain low-fat or nonfat yogurt
  • Finely chopped jalapenos or green chile (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Mix first 7 ingredients (flour through baking soda) in a large bowl.
  3. Cut butter into small bits and mix in with a pastry cutter, 2 knives or use your fingers to blend until butter is blended in and mixture is a coarse meal. I like to use my fingers because I love the feel of the crumbly flour and butter on my hands.
  4. Add parmesan cheese and mix until blended.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk egg and yogurt until smooth.
  6. Add the egg/yogurt mixture to flour mixture. Stir well to mix into a moist, thick batter.
  7. Turn the batter onto a well-floured surface and sprinkle with flour.
  8. Roll to 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick and cut into shapes.
  9. Bake at 400 for 15 – 20 minutes or until nicely browned on top.

Parmesan Cornmeal Biscuits


“Got the Blues” Beefy Mushroom Pizza

My Beefy Mushroom Pizza's Got the Blues

I know my pizza doesn’t look very blue … but it is. The cheery colors are misleading … down deep, it is blue. Meaty. Creamy. Blue cheese intense.

I feel blue today too. It’s one of  those nagging, something-is-bothering-me-but-I-don’t-quite-know-what-it-is kinda feelings. The kind where you wonder what the heck you are so worried about … because really my life is so good. Oh yes, there are issues to deal with. Always there are those little curve balls life throws at you. But nothing major. Nothing really worth stewing about.

Most days I tend to focus on the pluses. Smell the roses. Watch the beauty of the world around me. Feel the warmth of the sun on my face. Enjoy the company of my children and my friends.

But once in a while you gotta grumble. Roar. Sing the blues. I know it’s temporary but when these kind of blues come around, I need to embrace the feeling and go with it.

Tomorrow I will (probably) be sunshine again. Today I am blue.

A good bluesy pizza is so awesome for these kinds of days … and a little wine … and yeah, I’m playing some blues too.

Blue Cheese Beef & Mushroom Pizza

“Got the Blues” Beefy Mushroom Pizza

Ingredients:

  • Your favorite pizza crust (I pulled one of my homemade crusts from the freezer)
  • Bluesy Autumn Pizza Spread (Recipe below–includes blue cheese, asiago, parmesan, cream cheese, and squash)
  • Cooked roast beef, venison, or steak, warmed and sliced or shredded (I used the meat from my French Dips, but feel free to use whatever meat you have on hand — or leave off the meat and just enjoy the cheese & mushroom sensation)
  • Mushrooms, sliced (Chardonnay mushrooms go well on this pizza too)
  • Bell pepper, chopped
  • Onion, chopped
  • Shredded Italian Blend of Cheeses
  • Blue cheese crumbles
  • Fresh tomatoes or cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • Just a few fresh basil leaves (if you have them)

Directions:

  1. If your pizza crust is frozen, warm it just a bit in the oven.
  2. Spread the warmed crust with a layer of the Bluesy Autumn Pizza Spread.
  3. Top with the rest of the ingredients. I started with meat, mushrooms, onion, bell pepper, then added the cheeses and topped it with the tomatoes, a few more bell peppers and onions.
  4. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 10 – 15 minutes or until the cheese on top is good and melty and bubbly.
  5. Sprinkle with basil leaves if you have some.

Blue cheese, beef, & mushroom pizza

Bluesy Autumn Pizza Spread

I took the cheesy mixture I used on my Spinach & Mushroom Grilled Cheese sandwich and mixed it with an equal amount of cooked cushaw (we THINK that’s what it is anyway!) squash. I think you could use butternut squash, cushaw, acorn, or pumpkin … each would give it a little different flavor, but they would all be goooood.)

This cheese mixture is the same one used in my Spinach & Mushroom Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

  • 3 oz. light cream cheese
  • 1 – 2 T.  freshly grated asiago cheese
  • 1 – 2 T. freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 – 2 T. blue cheese crumbles

Mix the above ingredients until well blended.

  • Cooked squash or canned pumpkin

Once you have the cheese mixture made, take a bit of the cheesy mixture — just 2-3 tablespoons–and mix it with an equal amount of cooked squash or canned pumpkin. Save the rest of the cheese mixture for sandwiches or crackers.

"Got the Blues" Blue Cheese, Mushroom, Beefy Pizza

Even though I don’t feel like warm connections today, this is part of my series of 31 Days of Warmer Connections. Every day in October, I am blogging about connections through food. I still love you all. I just need a moment to myself today …

This recipe was shared at Miz Helen’s Full Plate Thursdays and Recipe of the Week: Superbowl Snacks.


Finally! the Perfect Spinach & Artichoke Dip … with Chardonnay Mushrooms

The Perfect Spinach Artichoke Dip

There are some recipes that just come to you in a sudden flash and the first time you make them they are absolutely fantabulous the very first time you make them.

There are others that take a lot of work, several iterations, sometimes months or even years to perfect. Your tasters get tired of tasting and you get tired of trying to find ways to reuse the “failures”. My Philly Cheesesteak French Dip recipe was one of those. I don’t know how many pounds of meat I went through before I got that one right! Each version was certainly edible, but not quite up to the flavor-filled goodness I wanted.

This dip recipe was another one of THOSE. I know there are plenty of spinach artichoke dips out there–and yes, I had one that I REALLY liked, but still it was laden with fat from all the cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise.  ( I tried some of the “light” versions and they just didn’t have the right creamy cheese-ilicious taste.) In fact, the health experts tell you that Spinach Artichoke Dip is one of the foods to AVOID at holiday parties because it’s one of the most fattening (and misleading!) appetizers that people serve at parties.

You don’t have to avoid this one. I admit, it still does have fat from the cheese, but I used small amounts of good strong flavorful cheeses, so you get the cheesey taste without as much fat.  And I added some cannellini beans–they add creaminess, protein, fiber, and flavor. I skipped the sour cream and used fat free greek yogurt instead. Oh, and I included the Chardonnay Mushrooms. They were just begging to join in the party.

And yes, they fit right in.

The Perfect Spinach Artichoke Dip

The Perfect Spinach Artichoke Dip (with Chardonnay Mushrooms)

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 of a medium-sized onion
  • 1/3 c. Chardonnay mushrooms (recipe is here)
  • 1/2 of a 15-oz. can of canellini beans, drained (reserve the juice in case you need it for blending)
  • 1 c. cooked spinach (roughly … you can add more if you like!)
  • 3 oz. light cream cheese, softened
  • 6 oz. fat-free greek yogurt
  • 1/2 of a 15-oz. container of artichokes, chopped with a knife into small pieces
  • 1 T. loose blue cheese crumbles
  • 1/4 c. freshly shredded asiago cheese
  • 1/4 c. freshly shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 – 2 oz. goat cheese crumbles
  • 1/4 c. light mayonnaise
For the top:
  • A bit of part-skim mozzarella cheese and a few chopped cherry tomatoes
Directions:
  1. Toss the garlic, onion, and mushrooms in your handi chopper or food processor and process till they are just little pieces. Take them out and put them in the mixing bowl where you’ll be whooshing together your dip.
  2. Next take your spinach, put it in the processor to chop it up fine, then blot out the extra moisture with a clean towel. Add it to the bowl
  3. Now take the cannellini beans and process them in your food processor until they are a smooth soft paste. Add some liquid from the can if you need to. Pour the beans in your handy dandy mixing bowl.
  4. Now add all the other ingredients and mix them up with a spoon in the bowl until everything is nicely mixed.
  5. Pour your dip into a baking dish or casserole, top with a bit of shredded cheese and tomatoes to make it look pretty, then bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until it’s all hot and bubbly.
  6. Serve with bread, toasted tortillas, bagel chips, or vegies for dipping. Ordinary tortilla chips are not quite strong enough to stand up to this dish.

Another pretty way to serve this dip is in a bread bowl. Heat the dip, then pour into a hollowed out bread bowl with the chunks of bread for dipping. When I serve it this way, the entire thing usually gets eaten up, bowl and all!

The Realistic Nutritionist reminded me this morning that this dip also makes a great pizza!

This dip is totally addicting! If you bring it to a party, all your friends will totally love you … even more than they already do. Yes, really. Just make sure if you’re going to kiss any of them that they eat the dip too. ;)

The Perfect Spinach Artichoke Dip

This is part of my series of 31 Days of Warmer Connections. Every day in October, I am blogging about connections through food.

This recipe was featured at Totally Tasty Tuesdays and shared at Katherine Martinelli’s Game Day Blog Hop and Fit & Fabulous Fridays: Superbowl Edition and Katherine Martinelli’s Skinny Bloghop.

Totally Tasty Tuesdays


Reinventing your Old Food and a Spinach & Mushroom Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Spinach Mushroom Grilled Cheese

It’s Blog Action Day today and since it coincides with World Food Day this year, they’ve chosen the topic of food.

I want to talk about one little thing I think most of us don’t think about too much in our fast-food, disposable society: Reuse. We recycle, and that’s good, but we should also be doing a lot more reuse.

In America, we buy a lot of food that we never eat. So much of it gets thrown in the trash, encased in a plastic bag that won’t break down, then buried in a landfill. The convenience food we buy gets overpackaged in plastic and cardboard. We even buy packaged water, which isn’t any better tasting, cleaner, or more pure than the water that comes out of the tap.

I want to challenge you to do three simple things:

  1. Buy less pre-packaged food. Opt for foods that aren’t packaged at all as much as you can. All that packaging hurts our environment.
  2. Drink out of reusable containers. Make your own bottled water with a reusable water bottle and the water that comes out of your tap. If you must have filtered water, get a water filter. Skip the plastic bottles. Bring your own travel mug to the coffee shop or ask them to put your coffee in a REAL mug. They all have real mugs, but look around at the coffee shop and notice how many people are drinking out of real mugs and how many people are drinking out of disposable containers? Why do you have to ASK for a REAL mug?
  3. Really use the food you buy.

Let’s talk more about #3. I know, leftovers can get boring, but they don’t have to be!

I don’t know if you noticed that a lot of the recipes on my blog are interconnected. The leftover Baked Herb Lemon Garlic Chicken got turned into a Pesto Chicken Bacon Pizza, the waffles my kids didn’t eat at breakfast were tossed into a delicious chocolate raspberry pudding. Leftover tzatziki and hummus became a gorgeous Greek Layer Dip. The other thing you can do is simply freeze your leftovers so you have a quick meal when you need something fast (a much better kind of “fast food” than the drive through at McDonald’s).

I use “old” bread to make breadcrumbs for breading fish, topping casseroles or stuffing (whir the bread in a food processor or handi chopper until it’s fine crumbs, then freeze them for quick use whenever you need breadcrumbs). You don’t have to buy “panko” or breadcrumbs–just use the ends of the bread you have!

“Old” bread is also lovely for making french toast or bread pizza, and it also makes a killer grilled cheese sandwich. The toasting makes it taste fresh all over again.

Instead of going out and buying MORE food to make things, try to think of different ways to reuse what you’ve got. Get creative. You will be saving money, eating more interesting, delicious meals, AND you’ll be making a difference in the world. That’s something you can feel good about.

Which leads me to this sandwich. This is a reinvention of the Chardonnay Mushrooms and the Rustic Rosemary Bread. The bread and mushrooms are really two great ingredients that can be used SO many ways. What’s better than that?

Spinach & Mushroom Grilled Cheese

This is an amazing blend of tastes in one little sandwich. It’s a simple sandwich to make — and if you keep some of the cheese mixture and mushrooms pre-made in the fridge, you can whip up a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich in no time. The cheese, by the way, is also a really nice spread for crackers or on celery sticks. The mushrooms are great on a steak or chicken or pizza. Since spinach freezes so well, just pull out what you will use for your sandwich and put the rest back in the freezer for another use.

Before you can make this delicious sandwich, you need to make Chardonnay Mushrooms, so if you don’t have any on hand, go pop over and make those first. Here’s the recipe. It won’t take you long.  (If you don’t have all the ingredients on hand, improvise a bit! Try another wine + your favorite seasoning blends!)

Spinach, Pesto & Mushroom Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Spinach, Pesto, and Chardonnay Mushroom Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

  • Pesto (You can use store-bought or make your own! Here’s my recipe for pesto.)
  • Chardonnay mushrooms (Recipe here!)
  • Fresh spinach leaves or frozen spinach, thawed, warmed, and blotted with a towel to take out the extra liquid
  • Reduced-fat trans-fat-free buttery spread of your choice — or butter — whatever you like to use!
  • Your favorite rustic or french bread, sliced (I used the Rustic Rosemary bread.)

Cheese mixture

  • 3 oz. light cream cheese
  • 1 – 2 T.  freshly grated asiago cheese
  • 1 – 2 T. freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 – 2 T. blue cheese crumbles

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese with the other cheeses till they are well blended. You can vary the cheeses according to your preferences, but I recommend intensely flavored cheeses. Once you’ve mixed them well, warm the cheese briefly in the microwave (not more than 30 seconds).
  2. If you have fresh spinach, make sure it’s washed and dried well. I used frozen, so I heated in the microwave, then pressed a clean towel over it to remove the excess juices.
  3. Spread a very thin layer of buttery spread on the outside of the bread slices.
    Butter the outside of the bread slices first
  4. Flip over the slices. On one slice of bread for each sandwich, spread a thin layer of pesto. On the other side, spread with a thicker layer of the warm cheese mixture.
    Spread the inside of the slices: one with pesto, one with cheese mixture
  5. On top of the pesto side, arrange several spinach leaves or cooked spinach, then top with the Chardonnay Mushrooms.
    Top with spinach and mushrooms
  6. Put the cheesy slice on top of the sandwich.
  7. Heat a saucepan to med-high heat. Place each sandwich in the pan and cover for a few minutes. When the first side is golden brown and toasty, flip the sandwich to toast the other side.
  8. Slice and enjoy!
Spinach & Chardonnay Mushroom Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
This is part of my series of 31 Days of Warmer Connections. Every day in October, I am blogging about connections through food.
This recipe was featured at Midnight Maniac Meatless Mondays.

Lovely Italian Bread Soup

Italian Bread Soup

This is day 5 of my challenge to blog every day in October about connections through food. Starting a food blog was simply a way to share my cooking creativity … and when I started I had no idea what wonderful places and fantastic friends this blog would open up to me. Now the friends I’ve made mean more than the food. I look forward to talking to them every morning, and often we say goodnight to each other before we go to bed. Some I talk to every day, some only once in a while, but I really really love them all.

They are an endless source of inspiration, support and love. Some of them, I don’t even know their real names. But it doesn’t matter. We party together in cyberspace and share stories, struggles, encouragement and food.

This recipe is from one of my favorite foodie friends: A Little Bit Crunchy A Little Bit Rock and Roll. She serves it with a remembering of her visit to Italy, which brings up memories for me of my trip to Italy over 20 years ago.

She says of this soup:  “As stunning and memorable as those places were, I’ll never forget the soup my father ordered at an outdoor cafe almost nineteen years ago:  Bread Soup.”

I had to make it.

Italian Bread Soup

This is her recipe, copied verbatim. When I made it, I altered it a little, made about half the amount, didn’t soak the beans overnight (actually I used my sister’s trick for cooking beans), used chicken broth instead of vegetable broth, and couldn’t locate my red pepper flakes.  I had no leek , and I used frozen spinach and my mom’s canned tomatoes.

Italian Bread Soup

From A Little Bit Crunchy A Little Bit Rock and Roll

1 1/2 cups dried cannellini beans that have been soaked overnight

6 cups organic, low sodium vegetable broth
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried red pepper flakes
2 medium onions, diced (divided)
1/2 teaspoon thyme

1-2 diced carrots
1 leek, sliced and rinsed well
1-2 medium red potatoes, diced

3-4 cups (or more) roughly chopped fresh baby spinach
1 (28 oz.) unsalted, whole canned tomatoes (including juice, break the tomatoes with your hands)
handful of fresh basil, minced
salt and pepper to taste
day old italian bread

Drain soaked beans.  Add to a large stock pot along with 1 diced onion, thyme, and the 6 cups broth. Simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour or until the beans are tender.

Saute leek and onion in the olive oil until the onions become slightly translucent. Add the garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, carrots, potato, and can of tomatoes.  Add to the cooked beans.  (Add more water to cover the veggies, if needed.)

Continue simmering until the carrots and potatoes are tender.

Meanwhile, chop the stale bread into cubes, coat in olive oil and toast in a skillet.

When the potatoes or tender, add the chopped spinach, bread cubes, and basil.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Allow the bread to soak in the soup until it breaks down.

Keep some in the fridge so you have a lovely, healthy tasty meal when you are in a rush.

Italian Bread Soup

This recipe was shared at It’s a Keeper Thursdays.


Ravioli Salad with Bacon, Herbs & Basil Vinaigrette

Mini Ravioli Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

My kids both love ravioli. Usually I buy it frozen for them … my son makes what he calls “ravioli sushi” … one beef ravioli on the bottom, one cheese ravioli on top, then dips the “sushi” in his favorite pasta sauce. My daughter eats them plain, but she only likes the cheese ravioli.

I wish I could say we make ravioli from scratch all the time (we HAVE done that and they were SO good … someday we shall do it again and next time I will share it with you my foodie friends!), but our busy lives don’t often allow for big projects like ravioli, so yes, I buy it frozen most of the time. It makes for a quick and pretty healthy meal many a night when we’ve been out at the kids’ activities.

Alas, last time I was at the store they were out of the ravioli I normally buy. BUT they had these adorable mini-ravioli that I thought my daughter would just love. And she did love them … she thought they were SO cute! … until she tasted them. Then she said they just didn’t taste good to her. I tasted them and they tasted just fine to me. She is really congested this week, has a cold, so I’m thinking maybe her taste buds are just off?

Anyway, that left me with a bunch of adorable little cooked ravioli that nobody wanted. And I can’t let good ravioli go to waste.

So I made it into a salad for lunch today. I’ve done this before with tortellini and it is really good. Well, okay, when I did this with tortellini I did it as a layered salad with ranch dressing. I didn’t have any ranch dressing made today, so I used my basil vinaigrette which was really lovely with the cheesy pasta.

Mini Ravioli Salad with Bacon, Herbs, and Basil Vinaigrette

Ravioli Salad with Bacon, Herbs and Basil Vinaigrette

Of course you can always adjust the vegetables in the salad to whatever you have on hand. Play! It’s fun to try new combinations of flavors.

For each salad you will need:

  • A dinner-sized salad bowl filled almost full of mixed salad greens
  • A handful of cheese mini-raviolis or tortellinis, cooked and drained
  • Cucumber shards (that is, sliced cucumbers and if they are overly seeded like mine was, cut out the seedy part to make “shards”)
  • Chopped tomato or halved cherry tomatoes
  • Thinly sliced vidalia or red onion
  • Shards of Parmesan or Romano cheese (Thinly slice little “shards” of the cheese from the block … or you can use shredded if you prefer)
  • 1 strip of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • Fresh oregano and/or basil leaves
  • Basil Vinaigrette (scroll to the bottom of this post for the dressing recipe–it IS there, I promise!)

Directions:

  1. Fill the bowl(s) almost full with greens.
  2. Take the cooked ravioli and toss it with a tablespoon or two of the basil vinaigrette. Add the ravioli and dressing to the salad with about half the cucumber shards, onion and tomato.
  3. Top with the remaining ingredients and add more dressing to taste.

I think a little bit of a drizzle of  light ranch dressing would be nice on top of this salad … combined with the basil vinaigrette? Wouldn’t that be good?

Ravioli Salad with Bacon, Herbs, and Basil Vinaigrette

But then after all those lovely greens I needed some chocolate. I had a little bit of a Black and Tan Brownie to finish off my meal. What a FINE lunch! :)


Mmmm … Moussaka

Moussaka

When I was young, my dad did all the cooking. Mom was a registered dietician and she worked all day with food, so when she came home from work, the last thing she wanted to do was cook.

We always had a big garden and in the fall when the eggplant and zucchini came in, my dad would make Moussaka. The first time he made it, he made it with eggplant. This was back in the days before I liked eggplant, and I remember complaining about the eggplant, but then starting to eat the dish … and I found the cinnamon-spiced meat sauce and that creamy cheesy bechamel sauce on top was sooo lovely … I just ate AROUND the eggplant. One time, Dad made it with zucchini instead of eggplant … oh that was GOOD! So my sisters and I would always beg Dad to make Moussaka. He would whine a little about how much work it was to make Moussaka, but we would persist until he finally broke down and made it for us.

Moussaka is a layered Greek dish (can’t quite describe it as “lasagna”, but that’s the closest thing I can think of to it …) and I have seen it prepared many ways. Some include potatoes, some don’t, but they all involve the preparation of TWO sauces: a tomato-meat sauce and a white bechamel sauce. (I am going to show you an ingenious way to skip the work of making the second sauce which incidentally makes the whole dish much healthier as well.) And yes, Moussaka includes eggplant, but if you don’t like eggplant (or don’t have any), substitute zucchini. It will still be delicious.

So this recipe is for my dad, who taught me so much about cooking and still thinks he knows a better way to do everything in the kitchen. We are constantly “arguing” in the kitchen, but it’s not really a fight. It’s sort of like sparring in the kitchen. Sometimes one of us wins the other over to our own way of thinking, sometimes I just tell him to go away and let me do it my way! It always comes out tasting good, no matter whose method we follow … I regret I didn’t get to fight with him this day, but I am sure we will be cooking together again soon.

Moussaka

Moussaka

Meat Sauce:

  • 1 t. olive oil
  • 1 lb. of lean ground beef, lamb, or venison (I used a mix of beef and venison I had left over from my Gyro burgers)–if you like intensely flavored dishes, spice the meat as if you were making Gyro burgers before cooking it
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. ginger
  • 1/4 t. allspice
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 5 – 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 c. red wine (optional)
  • 1 large can of tomatoes including the juices, all whirred in a blender or food processor to break up the tomatoes
  • salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the filling:
  • 1 medium sized eggplant, peeled
  • 1 large potato (I used several small purple potatoes from my Dad’s garden), peeled
  • about 3/4 c. whole wheat bread crumbs
For the “Bechamel Sauce”:
  • 2 c. of plain lowfat yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 1/4  t. salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
And to top it all off:
  • About 3/4 c. freshly grated parmesan or romano cheese
  • Some of the breadcrumbs reserved from earlier

Spray a large flat pan with sides (or saucepan) with cooking spray, then add olive oil. Heat the oil over medium heat till the pan is hot, then add the spices and stir, allowing them to “toast” briefly in the pan. Add the meat and cook until brown.

Pour the meat into a strainer in the sink and allow the juices/fat from the meat to drain off. There should be just an ultra-thin coating of oil left in the pan from the meat. Next, put the onion, garlic and bell pepper in the pan and sautee over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and translucent. If you are using the wine, add the wine in and let it cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the wine is evaporated, about 10 – 15 minutes.

Moussaka - making the meat sauce

Add the meat mixture back into the pan, and then add in about 3 cups of the processed tomatoes. Cook uncovered over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced to a thick meaty tomato sauce, about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

moussaka- making the meat sauce

Now, while the sauce is cooking, thinly slice the eggplant (I usually slice it vertically) and potato. The eggplant should be no more than 1/4 inch thick. The potato slices can be even thinner. I have to show you the lovely purple-ness of these potatoes! Look at that color …

moussaka- potatoes & eggplant slices

Spray a cookie sheet with cooking oil and place the eggplant in a single layer on the sheet. Spray the eggplant with cooking spray and sprinkle lightly with salt. Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 5 minutes or until just lightly golden brown on top, then flip and cook for about 5 minutes on the other side, until the eggplant is soft. If you have room you can cook the potatoes this way as well … I just threw my potatoes in a bowl, sprayed with cooking spray and cooked them in the microwave.

moussaka- roasting the eggplant

Once the meat sauce and the eggplant is done, you are ready to assemble the layers!

You can make this in a large flat casserole dish like I did or a rectangular baking pan. Spray your baking pan or casserole with cooking spray, then cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of breadcrumbs. Make this layer very thin — save some breadcrumbs to sprinkle on the top!

Top with a thin layer of the meat sauce.

moussaka- a thin layer of meat sauce

Then a layer of eggplant.

moussaka- layering on the eggplant slices

And the potato slices!

Now pour on the rest of the meat sauce and spread it flat.

moussaka- the 2nd layer of meat sauce

Okay now you can whisk together the “bechamel sauce”. Just pour the plain yogurt in a bowl and whisk together with the eggs, nutmeg and salt. (Use a fork if you don’t have a whisk.)

moussaka- making the Bechamel Sauce (the easy way)

Pour the bechamel sauce on top of the meat sauce, then sprinkle on the shredded parmesan cheese.

moussaka- topped with bechamel and cheese

And then sprinkle on the rest of the breadcrumbs.

Now bake it in a 400 degree F. oven for 45 – 50 minutes or until the top is golden brown and “set” (that is, not runny, but springs back a little when you touch it). Let it rest for about 15 – 20 minutes before serving.

moussaka- all done-and-ready-to-serve

Now comes the best part!

moussaka on a fork - YUMMMM! :)

This recipe was shared at Gooseberry Patch Trip Around the World and Katherine Martinelli’s Family Recipes.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 571 other followers