Sunday, October 30, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper and Basil Pesto "Pasta"

As I was creating my meal plan for the week, Mr. Max suggested spaghetti squash for tonight's dinner which put me over the moon to have him suggest it rather than me trying to sneak it in to replace pasta. In efforts to create a fun new version, I decided to pair this red pepper and basil pesto recipe with the strands of spaghetti squash and add some diced chicken. This was a great alternative not only for a pasta dish but also for a regular pesto. The bell pepper did wonders to the flavor, adding a slight tang and sweetness, blending beautifully with the basil and the garlic. If you decide to make this with pasta, you could add a little half & half to make your sauce into a creamier consistency to coat the noodles. Spaghetti squash is a "watery" veggie so nothing additional is needed!

This was very quick and easy to make, taking less than 15 minutes, and provided leftovers for the both of us to take for lunch tomorrow.

Grocery List:
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup jarred fire roasted red bell pepper
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 cup of diced rotisserie chicken

Add the garlic and the pine nuts to a food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Add the Parmesan cheese, bell pepper and the basil. Pulse until completely blended.

Slowly add the olive oil, a little at a time, while blending un5il smooth and creamy. 

After microwaving my spaghetti squash for 8 minutes, I let cool as I made the pesto. Cut it open, gut the seeds, then scrape the strands into a bowl for your "pasta". Add the pesto and the chicken, gently toss until well coated.
Spoon into serving bowls, top with some shredded Parmesan cheese, pair with a salad and you have a delicious and nutritious dish!
Tastefully yours, 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Make a Meal: Greek Steak Roulade and Roasted Potatoes with Peppers

This was a fun meal that presented a new challenge yet surprisingly simple to make on a busy week night. I've seen steak pinwheels on display at the meat counter but haven't ever had one. I came across this steak roulade in Cooking Light's 5 Ingredient, 15 Minute Recipes magazine and decided to give it a try. The steak absorbs a lot of flavor from the stuffing, but I would recommend letting it marinate in Worcestershire or Dale's marinade for at least 30 minutes prior to preparing.

Nutritional facts include 320 calories, 28g protein, 4g carbs, 1g fiber, 22g fat and 169mg sodium.

Grocery List:
for Greek Steak Pinwheels
  •  1 lb. flank steak
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • 3/4 cup pine nuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup low-fat feta cheese
for Roasted Potatoes:
  • 4 red potatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

The most time-consuming part of this meal is preparing the potatoes so we are going to start with that. I opted for chunks of onion and red bell pepper that were already cut into thick chops to save some time. Seek this out in your local grocery store, it makes all the difference when you are trying to make a week night meal and looking for that one thing in particular: time. Toss the potatoes, onions and bell peppers in olive oil and then sprinkle with dried thyme, rosemary and parsley.

Place on aluminum foil in a roasting pan or cooking sheet and roast in the oven for 25 minutes.

Once those go in, we start the Greek mixture for the steak. Simple, simple. In a bowl, mix your chopped spinach, minced garlic, feta crumbles and ground pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper.

Using a sharp paring knife, lightly score the flank steak on just one side, going against the grain. These shallow cuts will help allow you to tightly wrap the meat, giving it a little more elasticity. Spoon the mixture across one side and then horizontally roll the steak, as tight as you can, into a log.

For best results when cooking tbis, use kitchen twine to hold the roll together. Did I have kitchen twine? Why yes, I did because I asked the butcher for some when I was buying my meat at the grocery store! I highly recommend you do this, from bamboo skewers for kabobs to twine for meat stuffing, they are always very helpful.

Add this to the oven to join the potatoes for 15-18 minutes and let cook until a meat thermometer reads an internal temperature of 135 for medium rare, 150 for medium, 155 for well-done. Check on the potatoes and remove when their timer goes off, followed by the steak if it has reached the desired inner temperature.

After you remove the twine, slice carefully and serve! These beautiful steak rolls are packed with protein and flavor. The roasted potatoes and peppers are a delicious side for a well-rounded, delicious AND nutritious meal.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Honey-Pecan Pork Chops

It was a crisp October morning, 52 degrees. I walked out the door in tights, riding boots and a new rust colored blouse with a tan wool skirt. It was a good start to the day and the feeling of the Fall season that I love. With November around the corner, I had a hankering for sweet potatoes; when I found this pork recipe on, I had a meal to make.

This is a great week night meal, taking all of 25 minutes to prepare and cook, creating a simple honey-pecan glaze over tender pork chops. Nutrition facts include 470 calories, 25.g fat, 29.4g carbs and 29.9g protein.

Grocery List:
  • 4 boneless, pork loin chops
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a bowl. Dredge the pork in the flour to coat on both sides.

In a skillet, melt the butter over low heat and add the pork. Turn up the heat slightly to medium until the butter bubbles, browning your pork, about 3-4 minutes on each side.

During this time, you will be browning the butter in the pan - careful not to let it burn, you will be using it for the honey-pecan sauce. When the pork is ready, set it on a plate and cover in foil or place in the microwave to stay warm.

Slightly turning up the heat, add the honey, brown sugar and pecans to the browned butter in the skillet. Loosen and incorporate any brown bits from cooking the pork. Stir well and lower the heat.

Spoon the sauce over the pork chops and enjoy!
Served with a baked sweet potato with simple cinnamon butter and sauteed green beans

Monday, October 24, 2011

Lasagna Roll-Ups

At our girls night, I decided to try a lasagna roll-up, allowing me to make two different kinds of lasagna in one dish. What I thought was my way of gratifying an indecisive nature, ended up being a perfect dish in both quantity and taste! The roll-up method can allow you to be slightly health conscious when it comes to a lasagna by using less pasta, sauce and cheese than a traditional layered lasagna.

On my way over to dinner that evening, I had a new stuffing/topping idea pop into my mind. I made a quick detour to the grocery store to pick up a fresh basil pesto and a Tuscan-herb rotisserie chicken, for the sake of this new craving, cooking time and ingredient resources. Later as we were beginning to make our food, I saw the creamy goat cheese and that was the last piece needed for the new rendition. I still wanted to make a roll with a traditional ricotta blend along with the additional toppings I had in mind, so this is a dual recipe for your viewing pleasure.

The ingredient quantity below is for one roll of each type. This was very quick and simple to make, perfect for a weeknight meal, with a very palate-pleasing result!

Grocery List:
for Goat Cheese/Chicken/Pesto lasagna
  • 1 whole wheat lasagna noodle, cooked
  • 1/2 cup shredded rotisserie chicken (I happened to stumble upon a Tuscan Herb version at Central Market)
  • 2-3 tbsp. creamy goat cheese
  • 3 pinches shredded Parmeggiano Reggiano, divided
  • 1/4 cup pesto, divided
  • 2 tbsp. tomato sauce
  • 1 pinch of asiago cheese
for Ricotta/Spinach/Tomato sauce lasagna
  • 1 whole wheat lasagna noodle, cooked
  • 1 tbsp. pancetta
  • 1 tbsp. fresh chopped spinach
  • 2 - 3 tbsp. low fat ricotta cheese
  • 3 pinches shredded Parmeggiano Reggiano, divided
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce, divided
  • 1 pinch asiago cheese
  • 1 pinch low fat, part skim mozzarella cheese

We will start with the goat cheese/chicken/pesto roll-up. Take your cooked noodle and lay it flat and pat dry. In a small mixing bowl, combine the goat cheese and 2 pinches of Parm in a bowl, then add in 1 tbsp. of pesto. Mix well and spread along the noodle.

Next, top with the shredded chicken.

Add the rest of the pesto amount to the bottom of the casserole dish in the area that the noodle will sit. Carefully roll the noodle as tight as you can, then place seam-side down on top of the pesto.
I personally enjoy the mix of pesto with a tangy tomato sauce so I topped the pesto roll with the 2 tbsp. of tomato sauce, followed by the asiago and Parm cheeses. 

In another small bowl, mix your ricotta with one pinch of Parm.

Make sure to pat the noodle dry, especially this one using spinach as it naturally produces moisture as it cooks. Spread the cheese mixture along the noodle, top with the pancetta and chopped spinach. Roll tight into the lasagna roll-up.

After spooning a small amount of your tomato sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish, place the lasagna roll seam-side down.

Top with remaining sauce, the asiago and mozzarella.

Set in the oven on 375 and bake for about 10 minutes, or until cheese is golden and sauce is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 2-3 minutes, then dig in!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Girls Night In - Lasagna Style

After a month of scheduling, the four of us were able to get together again for our girls night in (the kitchen). We've made homemade gnocchi mac n' cheese, hatch-chile enchiladas and this time around, we decided to use our creative powers to make individual lasagnas, tailored to our personal tastes.

Using whole wheat noodles, variety of cheeses and Greer's grandmother's homemade sauce recipe, we each added in our own personal fillings including sauteed mushrooms, asparagus, pancetta, chicken, spinach, basil and pesto. We snacked on roasted asparagus with balsamic tomatoes, poured wine and enjoyed another fun night cooking together. This one was a little bittersweet as we toasted to Greer's new adventures in another city but look forward to road trips for a hill country culinary weekend!

Each of us were different with all version turning out just the way we like it. We have Amy's traditional version with layered noodles, cheese blend of ricotta, asiago, parmesan, feta and mozzarella topped with some sliced chicken and the tomato sauce.

Then we have Meredith's version with layered noodles, cheese blend of ricotta, goat cheese and feta mix, sauteed mushrooms, chopped asparagus, topped with the tomato sauce with ground turkey and asiago cheese.

Here's Greer's version, inspired by something she saw on the food network. She used the sauteed pancetta and asparagus, mixing that into ricotta, fresh chopped spinach, parmesan and chopped basil to create her filling between the layered noodles. She topped with the tomato sauce, asiago, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, with a little basil.

I had to appease my indecisive nature by creating two types in a simple roll-up fashion. On one noodle I spread a creamy goat cheese/parm and pesto mixture, topped with Tuscan herb rotisserie chicken, rolled, then topped with tomato sauce and asiago cheese. On the other noodle, I used a ricotta/parm cheese mix, topped with spinach and pancetta, rolled, then topped with tomato sauce, asiago and a little mozzarella.

Full roll up recipe to come but here is a first glimpse. You can pick up these great little multi-purpose bakers at World Market for $3.99 to have your own individual lasagna or casserole night!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mexican Skillet Meal

Browsing through my trusty sources while meal planning for the week, I came across this link. I liked the zucchini, I liked the bell pepper, I liked the black beans; this was a fantastic start. It reminded me a little bit of our favorite black-bean-casserole-turned-into-enchiladas dish. To make it more of a nutrient power-house, I decided to substitute the rice for quinoa, cut the cheese and add yellow corn.

Grocery List:
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1-1/2 cups sliced zucchini, quartered lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup diced red bell pepper 
  • 1/2 cup sweet yellow corn
  •  3/4 can (15 oz) organic black beans, drained, rinsed
  •  3/4 can (14.5 oz) Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes with Garlic, undrained
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin

Start by sauteing your bell pepper and zucchini in a skillet with the olive oil. Cover and let cook for about 10 minutes, until softened.

Add the black beans and the corn, let cook for about 5 minutes, stirring well.

Add the diced fire-roasted tomatoes - while you aren't using the entire can, you do want to get a good amount of the juice because it contains the garlic flavor and acts as a liquid base to keep the dish from becoming too try once you add in your grains.

Finally, add the quinoa, chili powder and cumin for the finishing touches. 

Mix together well, taste test and add whatever you feel you need: salt, pepper, additional chili powder or cumin.

When ready, dish it out onto a plate and serve with your choice of entree or just make this your meal. With plenty leftover, it was my lunch the remainder of the week.
 Served with a simple baked salsa chicken breast

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