Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spicy Spaghetti with Fennel and Herbs

Has it really been 2 weeks since my last post? Talk about time flying! Seriously though, I have been pretty busy. Two of our kids were here over last weekend with their families and there is always so much to do...especially with 2 little boys! My husband left for Myrtle Beach last Saturday on his annual golf pilgrimage with a bunch of friends. I set my sights on doing some much needed organizing and enjoyed holding the remote a couple of evenings while I watched some favorite shows. Today reality is back as he will be home in a few hours.
So that has gotten me thinking more about cooking.

I did a detoxification this week....very healthy stuff, lots of fruits and vegetables, no starch, no sugar and lost 7 pounds...YAY! So now that I have gotten a jumpstart, I have to continue as spring is around the corner and so is SUMMER!!! Now my husband loves his Italian food and pasta, in modification, is OK. So I found a recipe in BonApptit that I think he and I will both love, that will be healthy and tasty. I plan to use DeBoles Jerusalem Artichoke Flour Pasta which I consider to be the closest to semolina pasta in flavor once you add your ingredients. So this is going to be tomorrow's dinner...not quite mama's Sunday spaghetti and meatballs, but a bit healthier version of pasta.

Spicy Spaghetti with Fennel and Herbs
1 3-oz pkg pancetta, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 large red jalapeno chiles, seeded, finely chopped (About 1/4 cup)
2 large fennel bulbs, stalks trimmed, cut into thin wedges with some core attached
1-1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
4 Tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley, divided
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1-1/2 tsps. crushed fennel seeds
1 lb. spaghetti
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 cups finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, divided

Saute pancetta in large skillet over medium heat until pancetta is golden. Using slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towels.
Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to drippings in skillet. Add garlic and chiles; saute ovr medium heat 1 minute.
Add fennel; cook until beginning to soften, 5 minutes. Mix in broth, 2 Tbsp parsley, lemon juice, and fennel seeds. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until fennel is very tender, 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and season with salt and pepper.
Cook pasta until tender; drain. Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.
Uncover skillet with fennel mixture and return to high heat. Cook until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 4 minutes.
Add fennel to pasta. Stir in 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1/2 cup cheese and pancetta.
Add cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if dry.
Toss pasta; transferr to serving bowl. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp parsley over and serve with grated cheese.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Roasted Asparagus Salad

We still have snow on the ground here in upstate New York...probably will for several more weeks. Winter does not go away gently for us. Comfort food like mac and cheese, hearty soups and stews tend to make us feel better about being and warm....belly happy and full! BUT....all that comfort food can make your belly grow! I was flipping through the March issue of Southern Living .....yes I am dreaming about better weather, and not growing out of my summer clothes...and found this beautiful salad that I had to try. It is a carnival of color and goodness. (I added some roasted baby yellow squash to this.) I will be making this again and again. What I also loved about the dish is that you can prepare it ahead of time and put it together when you are ready to serve. Also, it looks gorgeous on a platter or would be beautiful served on individual plates for a small dinner party. Happy for your palate and healthy for you, this is a must try.

Roasted Asparagus Salad (Picture from Southern Living)

Serves 8
1-1/2 lb fresh asparagus
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1-1/2 TBSP chopped fresh basil, divided
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 head Bibb lettuce, torn into bite size pieces
1 avocado, sliced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Snap off and discard tough ends of asparagus; remove scales with a vegetable peeler, if desired. Stir together 1 Tbsp. olive oil, 1-1/2 tsp chopped basil, 1/2 tsp lemon pepper, and 1/4 tsp salt in a large bowl.
Add asparagus to olive oil mixture and toss gently to coat. Place asparagus on a lightly greased baking sheet.
Bake asparagus at 425 degrees for 13 to 15 minutes or to desired degree of tenderness. Cool 10 minutes.
Whisk together balsamic vinegar, garlic and remaining 7 Tbsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp basil and 1/4 tsp salt. Toss together tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, and 1Tbsp balsamic vinegar mixture.
Arrange lettuce on platter or individual serving plates. Top with tomato mixture and asparagus. Add avocado just before serving. Drizzle with remaining balsamic vinegar mixture.

  • To make ahead, toss together tomatoes, bell pepper, and onion without dressing. Store these ready-to-use ingredients in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 5 hours. The dressing and asparagus can also be made up to eight hours before serving.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Apple Cake with Rum Sauce

It was a very snow-y day today....and more to follow. LOTS more! A few posts back, I asked what do you do when you are snow-bound? Well, my answer was bake! And that is exactly what I did this evening.

It is especially comforting for me to have the aroma of cinnamon filling the house when it is cold outside. It is a warm and cozy, home-y feeling. I fixed a nice dinner and then we were able to savor the result of the beautiful fragrance that had been wafting around. This is a very simple but elegant dessert. You can substitute rum flavoring for the real thing. If you like the taste of almond, substitute Amaretto or almond flavoring for the rum. I like to add a few golden raisins to the rum sauce while it is cooking. And if you are using Amaretto, sprinkle some toasted sliced almonds on top of the warm sauce. Serve with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla if you want to be more decadent!

Apple Cake with Rum Sauce
Makes 6 servings

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
4 Tbsp butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 cups grated, unpeeled Granny Smith apples

Rum Sauce: 1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup half and half
Dash of ground nutmeg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2-3 Tbsp rum

In small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In large bowl, cream butter, sugar and egg until light and fluffy. Stir in grated apples. Blend in flour mixture. Pour into a greased 8-inch square pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes. May be cooled and stored, covered, in baking pan. Before serving, reheat at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve with Rum Sauce. In top of double boiler, combine butter, sugar and half and half. Cook over boiling water, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes Cool slightly. Add nutmeg, vanilla and rum. Serve warm over heated cake. Makes 1-1/4 cups.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Apricot Puff Pastry Twists

I have often made cheese twists to put out on an appetizer table. They are so savory, as well as being easy finger food! I have made them from scratch and also used puff pastry.

I recently came across Food Network's Robin Miller's recipe for Apricot Puff Pastry Twists. And wow, how easy and good these sound!

We are having a sweets table at work where some coworkers are raising money for the Heart Association. Each Thursday during February, these three women have been baking their little hearts out and raising lots of dough which they will donate to our local event, America's Greatest Heart Run and Walk. This week I am going to donate my baking skills to their selection and make some of these twists, using Sugar Free Apricot Preserves. This will be a calorie friendly treat! Plus they go great with coffee or tea, and if you make these for dessert at home, serve them along with some good vanilla ice cream or low-fat frozen yogurt. I also plan to make some butterscotch chip cookies. They have had some wonderful treats over the past weeks, and I want to help them out so they can maximize their contribution to this very worthy cause.

Robin Miller's Apricot Puff-Pasty Twists
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry dough, thawed according to package directions
1/2 cup apricot preserves
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using rolling pin, roll out puff pastry into rectangle about
17" X 14".
Spread preserves over one-half of dough yo within 1/4" of edges. Fold dough in half over preserves, like a book. Pop this into the freezer for a few minutes for easy cutting. Using sharp knife or pizza wheel, cut dough crosswise into 1/2-in. thick ribbons. Take each ribbon by ends and twist into corkscrew. Arrange corkscrews on large baking sheet and press down the ends against sheet (this prevents them from untwisting during baking). Bake until puffed up and golden brown, about 10 minutes. These twists are super warm or cold.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Orange Creamsicle Pudding Parfait

One of the really yummy treats I found while following the South Beach Diet a few years ago was made with part-skim ricotta cheese, It gave me the feeling that I was being indulgent while dieting. I still love it, and recently I came across a recipe for a delicious citrus-y parfait using ricotta that would make the perfect ending for dinner. What I really like about it is that it uses Greek yogurt and oranges in it, along with the ricotta. Winter in the northeast doesn't provide much in the way of wonderful fruits, and what there is, is usually expensive. However, oranges are plentiful and since they are so good for you in helping to ward off colds, I think this is a perfect way to use some "winter" fruits. Stonyfield recently provided me with some great coupons for their Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is creamier and thicker than regular yogurt and the plain version provides a wonderful base for cool desserts, baking and cooking.
Stonyfield began in 1983 in New Hampshire and if you don't know their story or have ever tried their products, click here
They have exceptional quality products and I am sure you will like them once you try them.

Now as for my special dessert, here is the recipe. Remember those great orange creamsicles you ate as a kid? Well, here is a grown-up version. It is healthy and delicious and a good way to get your Vitamin C and calcium, without adding a lot of calories.

Orange Creamsicle Pudding Parfait
2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
2 pkgs sugar free fat-free white chocolate pudding mix
1/4 cup (1%) milk
1/2 cup (2%) plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 orange
20 drops yellow and 3 drops red liquid food colorings
2 cups thawed frozen fat free whipped topping
Orange slices and mint sprigs to garnish (optional)
In food processor combine 1 cup ricotta, 1 pkg. dry pudding mix, milk, 1/4 cup yogurt and vanilla; process until very smooth. Transfer to bowl; cover. Grate 1 tsp. orange zest and squeeze 1/4 cup juice from orange into food processor. Add food colorings and remaining 1 cup ricotta, 1 pkg. pudding mix and 1/4 cup yogurt; process until very smooth.
Transfer to separate bowl; cover.
Refrigerate both pudding mixes 2 hours or overnight.
When ready to serve, fold 1 cup topping into each pudding mixture. Transfer to separate food storage bags; snip one corner of each. Place both bags, cut corners down, into a large pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe mixture into 6 glasses. If desired, garnish with orange slice and mint. Or, if you are lazy like me...just alternate the layers in your parfait glass!!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Strawberry Cupcake Fame!

Imagine my surprise, a couple of months ago, when I was asked if a recipe that I had posted on my blog, could be used for a big event taking place in our city. The event is called "Makeover My Heart" and this is its second year. It is a day put aside to raise awareness to the number one health issue for women...heart disease. I attended last year's event and this year's was even better. Here is a link where you can see how fun the day was.

It was clear that the organizers did a lot of work to make it an exceptional day. An interesting note is that the day before it was Go Red For Women day, another heart related event. Hence, all the red you see in the pictures at this event!

Click here to visit the Makeover My Heart Blog

Anyway, back to the cupcakes. In her search, the director of the event found my blog and these yummy cupcakes which were the luncheon dessert this year. I am honored and they were a hit. Thank goodness I didn't have to make them all for almost 400 people! But I thank Lisa for this wonderful opportunity and putting on a wonderful day for women. I personally had a hand massage, a chair massage, met some wonderful women and ran into some I haven't seen in a while. It was a great day! As for the cupcakes? Give them a try...easy, delicious and very easy on the calories! This is worth a repost!!

1 box Betty Crocker white cake mix
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup water
3 egg whites
1-1/2 cups fat free strawberry yogurt
3/4 cup Lite Cool Whip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 cupcake tins with paper wrappers.
Remove Cool Whip from freezer to let it thaw.
Mix together the cake mix, 3/4 cup of the yogurt, the applesauce, the water and the egg whites. Beat on medium speed until smooth.
Pour into 24 prepared cupcake tins lined with papper wrappers. Each tin should be about 3/4 full.
Bake for 20-26 minutes ir until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove and let cool.
Mix together the Cool Whip and the remaining 3/4 cup of strawberry yogurt. Spread on the cooled cupcakes.Serve with sliced strawberries on top if desired.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fruit Squares...Easy as Pie

This recipe is as old as the hills for me! It goes back at least 25 years and it is always a hit. It's great for a crowd or a takealong. I pound of butter! But let me tell you, you don't have to cut these in huge squares. They are so delicious and taste just like pie, only without the crust. The best part is that it takes very little time to prepare. You can top this with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream....YUM!

Kuchen Fruit Squares

1 lb. Margarine or butter
6 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 tsps baking powder
2 different canned pie fillings, like strawberry and blueberry, pineapple and blackberry

Melt butter or margarine; mix with other ingredients in a large bowl. Mixture will be slightly crumbly. Using ½ of the mixture, pat half of the mixture for a crust on the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Cover each half of the crust with a different pie filling. Take the remaining mixture and sprinkle over the top of the pie fillings. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. Cool completely and cut into squares.