Thursday, January 28, 2010

Goat Cheese & Sun Dried Tomato Bread Bites

I found these on the Pillsbury website (a GREAT resource for appetizers and pick-up party foods that start with yummy Pillsbury breadsticks, pizza crusts, and crescent rolls) to take to a dinner party last night. I thought they were tasty with a good tang to them from the goat cheese. And only 60 calories per appetizer!


Recipe Notes

I would recommend planning on the shorter cooking time if you have a hot oven like mine. These only took about 13-14 minutes.

Nutritional Information (per appetizer - makes 24)

60 calories - 2 g. fat - 2 g. protein - 0 g. fiber


  • 11 oz. can Pillsbury refrigerated breadsticks
  • 4 oz. goat cheese (plain or with basil and garlic), softened
  • 1/2 c. oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, drained and minced (I used bottled minced tomatoes)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • Coarse salt


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Spray cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray or cover with foil. Unroll dough and separate into breadsticks, then divide each breadstick in half. Press each breadstick until 1-1/2 inches wide.

3. Place 1 rounded tsp. goat cheese in the center of a breadstick. Top with 1 tsp. tomatoes. Roll up jelly-roll fashion and place seam-side down on the cookie sheet. Repeat for each breadstick.

4. In a small bowl, combine egg and water well to make an egg wash.

5. Lightly brush egg wash over the top of each appetizer. Sprinkle each with salt.

6. Bake at 375 for 12-17 minutes or until tops are light golden brown. Best served warm.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Baked Pasta with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cheese

This Cooking Light baked pasta is a great weeknight meal that serves a HUGE crowd on command. It is also a good way to help clean up and clean out your pantry - as you will notice in the photo, there are several different sizes of tube-shaped pasta there. I had three almost-empty boxes of rigatoni, penne, and mezze penne, so I just combined the three to get my required 1 lb. of pasta for the recipe.


Recipe Notes
I add a step and drain the sausage and onion mixture after it has finished cooking to drain off a little additional fat. I also add a little extra tomato paste for extra flavor.

Nutritional Information (per serving - serves 8)
413 calories - 11.8 g. fat - 24.1 g. protein - 4.5 g. fiber

  • 1 lb. package uncooked ziti or other tube-shaped pasta
  • 1 lb. hot Italian turkey sausage
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • Two 14.5-oz. cans petite diced tomatoes in juice, undrained
  • 1/4 c. fresh chopped basil
  • 1 c. shredded part-skim mozzarella
  • 1 c. grated fresh Parmesan cheese


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and set aside.

2. Remove sausage from casings. Cook sausage, onion, and garlic over medium heat until browned, stirring to crumble sausage.

3. If desired, drain and return to skillet. Add tomato paste, tomatoes, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer 10 minutes.

4. Combine cooked pasta, sausage and tomato mixture, and basil.

5. Layer half of the pasta mixture into a four-quart glass casserole dish (coated with cooking spray).

6. Sprinkle 1/2 c. mozzarella and 1/2 c. Parmesan over pasta.

7. Layer with remaining pasta mixture and top with remaining cheeses.

8. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 25 minutes or until bubbly.

Sadie's Corner - Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownies

Ok, these brownies from the Betty Crocker Website are a great ideain theory, using boxed mixes and canned frosting for speed of preparation, plus a healthy dose of chocolate. The flavor was truly awesome; however, these still went very very wrong.

I think that the problem lies in the fact that the treat combines two cookie types that require very different individual cooking times: the brownies (for which I tried Ghiradelli - love them!) typically take 30-35 minutes to cook in my oven, while the ready-mix chocolate chip cookies take 12. By the time that my brownie/cookies were 30 minutes in, the chocolate chip cookie portion was getting burned on top, and the top of the brownies looked done, so I assumed we were safe.

However, I found out the next day, when I went to go cut them, that all but the perimeter brownies were basically inedible because they were so undercooked (basically raw). So what's the happy medium? Char the tops of your brownie/cookies so that the whole pan is useable, or leave the center a molten pile of goo and only have the edges to work with? As I mentioned, the flavor was great, but the final product was a big bust.

Sorry little doggie....these are chocolate, and therefore you are not allowed to chow down!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Goat Cheese, Sun-Dried Tomato, & Pesto Torte

I am not able to make this appetizer nearly as pretty as the cookbook photo, but this is a delicious appetizer for any size gathering. This recipe is from the Bride and Groom First & Forever Cookbook, which is one of my favorites. The cookbook is great because many of the recipes are designed to serve two (instead of four or six or even eight, like most recipes). Serve this with toasted baguette or crackers of just about any variety.


Recipe Notes
This appetizer may be made up to two days ahead and refrigerated. If you have any left over, toss with pasta for a light dinner, top on a baked potato, or spread onto focaccia bread and top with grilled vegetables for a second appetizer. I've tried this the day after with pasta and some shrimp, and it was delicious.

  • 4 oz. goat cheese (one small log) at room temperature
  • 8 oz. package cream cheese (I use light) at room temperature
  • Coarse salt & black pepper
  • 3/4 c. oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2/3 c. homemade or bottled pesto
1. Stir together goat cheese and cream cheese in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Combine 1/4 c. cheese mixture with the sun-dried tomatoes, tomato paste, and vinegar in a separate bowl. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

3. Line a two-cup ramekin or small bowl with plastic wrap. Extend plastic over the sides of the container. Spray plastic wrap with cooking spray.

4. Layer 1/2 goat cheese mixture in the bottom of the container, followed by pesto, then tomato-cheese mixture. Top with the remaining goat cheese mixture.

5. Fold plastic wrap over the final cheese layer and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1.5 hours.

6. Invert onto a platter and peel off plastic wrap. Garnish with basil leaves if desired. Serve with crackers and/or toasted baguette.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Orecchiette with Sausage & Roasted Peppers

Found my camera! Corey likes to serve this pasta with spaghetti sauce. This recipe is from Martha Stewart Everyday Food, September 2004 (an original!).


Recipe Notes
You can use any short pasta with this recipe. As you will see when I get my pictures posted, I used "wagon wheel" pasta because Randall's didn't have orecchiette (which I think is Italian for "elephant's ear"?) at the store that day. I skip the oil that you are supposed to use in the skillet with the Italian sausage, because to me the sausage is fatty enough on its own to render out nicely.

  • 2 medium red bell peppers, four flat sides sliced off the core, ribs and seeds discarded
  • 2 medium yellow peppers, same preparation as red peppers
  • Coarse salt & ground pepper
  • 1 lb. orecchiette or other short pasta
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, removed from casings
  • 1 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese


1. Place peppers, skin side up, on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil until charred, approximately 4 inches from heat source (18-20 minutes).

2. Transfer to a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and steam 2-3 minutes.

3. Using a paper towel, rub off pepper skins, reserving juices in bowl. (Somehow, I never have any "juices" that appear, so don't be alarmed if you don't have much liquid in the bowl).

4. Thinly slice peppers crosswise and return to bowl. Set aside.

5. Cook pasta until al dente in a pot of salted water. Drain and reserve 1/2 c. pasta water.

6. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat (or, if you are like me, skip this step).

7. Cook sausage until browned, 7-10 minutes. Add roasted peppers and cook until heated through.

8. Toss pasta, pasta water, sausage, butter, and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Makes six BIG servings!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Greens with Champagne Vinaigrette

I got this recipe out of Real Simple several years ago. I love fresh herbs, so this is a nice pungent salad chock-full of them.


Recipe Notes

The tarragon, chives, and chevril are optional. I recommend including the tarragon and chives, but I leave the chevril out. For the dressing, instead of whisking everything together, I just combine all of the ingredients in a jar and shake - it emulsifies the dressing quite well.


  • 2-1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 c. champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 c. extra-virgin olive oil (I use only 1/2 c.)
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 head Boston or Bibb lettuce, torn
  • 1/3 c. fresh dill, chopped
  • 3/4 c. fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1-1/2 tbsp. fresh tarragon leaves, chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 c. fresh chives, snipped (optional)
  • 1/4 c. fresh whole chevril leaves (optional)


1. In a bowl or jar, combine mustard, vinegar, honey, and 1-1/2 tbsp. water. If combining in a bowl, whisk thoroughly and slowly add oil. If combining in a jar, just add oil. Add chopped shallot and set dressing aside.

2. Combine all other ingredients in a large salad bowl.

3. Toss with dressing or serve dressing on the side. Whisk or shake dressing before serving.

Slow-Cooked Yellow Squash

This Martha Stewart Everyday Food side dish is a good "fix it and forget it" vegetable that is good for you, too.


Recipe Notes

I use a mandoline to make sure that the yellow squash and onions are sliced very thin.

Nutritional Information (per serving - serves 4)

105 calories - 7.2 g. fat - 2.8 g. fiber


  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 yellow squash, thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper


1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium-low heat.

2. Add onion, squash, and 2 tbsp. water. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft (approximately 30-35 minutes).

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Pasta with Roasted Vegetables & Arugula

This is a great dish as we ring in the new year and are trying to eat a little bit healthier. With lots of vegetables (all prepared from fresh) and just 350 calories per serving, this is a great meatless main dish. I made this for myself last night and look forward to leftovers later on this week!


Recipe Notes

My oven didn't take nearly as long to roast the vegetables as the recipe called for - be sure to watch your veggies in the last 10 minutes of cooking.

Nutritional Information (per serving - serves 4)

350 calories - 9.5 g. fat - 10.7 g. protein - 5.2 g. fiber


  • 2 pints grape or cherry tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 shallots, cut into eighths
  • 2 tbsp. fresh or dried thyme leaves
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 oz. rigatoni pasta (1/2 lb. or about 1/2 a typical box)
  • 1/3 c. pitted olives, coarsely chopped
  • 3 c. baby arugula or spinach


1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2. Place tomatoes, garlic, shallots, and thyme on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Toss with oil and season with salt and pepper.

3. Roast until tomatoes burst, shallots are browned, and garlic is soft (approximately 20-25 minutes, or less if you have a hot oven like mine).

4. Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook rigatoni according to package directions. Reserve 1/4 c. pasta water. Drain pasta and return to pot.

5. Mash roasted garlic with the flat side of a chef's knife. Add garlic and roasted vegetables to the pasta pot, along with olives and pasta water.

6. Cook over medium-high heat until sauce begins to thicken, approximately 3 minutes.

7. Let cool slightly and then toss with arugula until wilted.

Lemon Chicken with Capers

This is the main dish that I served with Orzo with Herbs for dinner this week. It is from my new book/cookbook Feed the Belly that my friend Ashley was kind enough to send me when she found out I was pregnant. This dish is really FAST, which is nice on a night when you really don't feel like cooking.


Recipe Notes

When it comes time to make the sauce, the recipe indicates that you should leave the brown bits and leftover oil in the skillet and add the chicken broth and lemon juice to what's already in the skillet. To lighten it up a bit, I wiped the skillet clean and just whisked in a little flour to the chicken broth and lemon juice to thicken up the sauce and keep it a little healthier.

Nutritional Information (per serving - serves 4)

187 calories - 5 g. fat - 27 g. protein - 0.5 g. fiber


  • 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. Herbs de Provence
  • 1 lb. organic chicken breasts (probably two large chicken breast halves), made into cutlets (leave this job to the butcher to save you some time)
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp. capers (drained)


1. Combine flour, salt, pepper, and Herbs de Provence on a plate and mix. Dredge chicken cutlets in flour mixture and transfer to a plate.

2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken cutlets to pan and cook 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Transfer to a clean plate and cover with foil.

3. To the same skillet, add lemon juice, chicken broth, and capers. Scrape any browned bits in the pan to incorporate into sauce. Cook for 3 minutes or until thickened. Pour over chicken and serve.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Orzo with Herbs

I got this recipe from a recent Martha Stewart Everyday Food. It is a nice way to give a little kick to a pasta side. I served this with Lemon Chicken with Capers, which I will hopefully post tomorrow.


Recipe Notes

You can use any combination of fresh herbs. I used dill (because I LOVE fresh dill, especially with lemon) and basil.

Nutritional Information (per serving - serves 4 side dish servings)

169 calories - 0.7 g. fat - 6.4 g. protein - 1.6 g. fiber


  • 1 c. uncooked orzo
  • 3 tbsp. fresh chopped herbs
  • Juice of one small lemon or 1/2 large lemon
  • Salt & pepper to taste


1. Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain and return to pan.

2. Stir in lemon juice, herbs, and salt and pepper. Serve with chicken or fish.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Sausage-Stuffed Manicotti

This Cooking Light recipe takes some time but serves a crowd for less than 300 calories and 12 g. of fat per manicotti. I would recommend 2 manicotti per person with a small salad - they are filling.


Recipe Notes
I have modified this recipe to include less milk....the original recipe calls for 2 c. of milk but then wastes about 1 c. of it that is not used at all.

Nutritional Information (per manicotti)

291 calories - 11.5 g. fat - 19.6 g. protein - 1.4 g. fiber


  • 10 uncooked manicotti
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian turkey sausage (such as Jennie-O)
  • 1-1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1 c. chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • 1 c. fat-free milk
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1-1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 c. tomato basil pasta sauce
  • 1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese


1. Cook manicotti according to package directions. Drain and set aside. (You may want to boil an extra 1-2 manicotti in case any of them split during cooking and cooling.)

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Heat a nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray over medium high heat. Remove casings from sausage and add to pan. Cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Drain sausage and return to pan.

4. Add onion and bell pepper to pan, saute 5 minutes or until tender.

5. Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 c. milk and whisk in flour. Bring pot to a boil when well-combined. Cook 6 minutes or until thickened, stirring constantly with a whisk.

6. Remove from heat and stir in pepper. Add to sausage mixture.

7. Spoon about 1/3 c. sausage mixture into each manicotti and arrange manicotti in a single layer in a 9x13 glass casserole dish coated with cooking spray.

8. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over manicotti. Spread pasta sauce over mozzarella. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
9. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes or until bubbly and browned.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Fiesta Shrimp Packets

I wanted to make these Fiesta Shrimp on Monday night in honor of Corey's horny toads for the Fiesta Bowl, but he informed me that would be dumb and that he wanted Domino's Pizza while he enjoyed the game. Undeterred, I made this Cooking Light recipe last night instead. This takes NO TIME to put together - just throw everything in some foil and either pop it on the grill (Cooking Light's preferred method) or pop it in the oven (my preferred method, since it is hard to get Corey to grill when the temps are in the 30's). With less than 10 g. fat, this one might be a good one for Colin, Shelley!


Recipe Notes

This recipe serves six. It is very easy to cut this recipe in half (which I do routinely to serve 3).

Nutritional Information (serves 6 - per serving, including rice)

391 calories - 8.3 g. fat - 37.6 g. protein - 2.9 g. fiber


  • 2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails off
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. Creole seasoning
  • 1/2 c. preshredded Mexican blend or cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 c. drained, canned Mexicorn (such as Green Giant)
  • One 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 4 c. hot cooked white rice


1. Prepare rice according to package directions. (I use my rice cooker.)

2. Arrange shrimp equally in the center of six large pieces of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 of the Creole seasoning.

3. Top the shrimp with cheese, Mexicorn, cilantro, and black beans, then sprinkle with remaining Creole seasoning.

4. Fold opposite ends of each foil packet together and crimp to seal.

5. Place foil packet on prepared grill and cook 15 minutes until shrimp are done. Alternately, bake in a 375 degree oven for approximately 20 minutes or until shrimp are done.

6. Serve over hot cooked rice with hot sauce or soy sauce.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Braised Lamb Shanks

I promise, this Cooking Light recipe was actually really easy. You just need a lot of time at home to wait for it to braise. (For me, it was a good Sunday night activity.)


Recipe Notes
I cut this recipe in half. I don't see how you can possibly fit four lamb shanks that large in one Dutch oven! Plus, lamb shanks can get expensive at the butcher! Cooking Light suggests serving this over polenta, but I served mine over Yukon gold mashed potatoes and it was fabulous.

Nutritional Information (per 1 shank and 3/4 c. sauce)
254 calories - 11.4 g. fat - 25.9 g. protein - 3.5 g. fiber

  • Four, 12-oz. lamb shanks, trimmed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 c. dry red wine
  • Two, 14.5-oz. cans petite diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley


1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat with cooking spray.

2. Sprinkle lamb with salt & pepper and add to pan. Cook 4 minutes on each side until browned.

3. Remove lamb from pan to a plate. Add minced garlic and saute 15 seconds. Add red wine and cook for 2 minutes, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Stir in tomatoes and cook 2 minutes more.

4. Return lamb to pan. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for one hour on medium-low. Turn lamb over and cook for one additional hour until meat is done and very tender.

5. Place lamb on a plate and cover loosely with foil.

6. Skim fat from surface of sauce (there likely won't be much). Increase heat and bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until thickened.

7. Return lamb to pan and cook 4 minutes or until lamb is thoroughly heated. Stir in parsley and serve.

Even though our dinner was great, we think that Sadie was the big winner last night. We gave her a lamb shank bone to work on after we were finished eating. Below is a picture of her dining on it on her "placemat".

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Black-Eyed Peas

Corey's parents were leaving for a trip, so we invited them over on New Year's Day for steaks and black-eyed peas for good luck in the new year. This is a recipe that my mom found several years ago, and we've used it every year since. It's nice because the peas only have to cook for 30 minutes, and the whole recipe only takes about one hour to prepare, instead of cooking all day like many traditional black-eyed pea recipes.


Recipe Notes
I prefer center-cut bacon for this recipe. I also double this recipe for New Year's, even if I am only serving four have to have bountiful peas for bountiful luck!

  • 8 oz. bacon (I prefer center-cut)
  • One 11-oz. package of fresh black-eyed peas
  • 1 c. canned chicken broth
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp. ketchup
  • 2 tbsp. chopped green onion (for garnish)
  1. Cut bacon into 1/2 inch pieces crosswise. Brown in a large heavy skillet over high heat, stirring constantly, until fat renders out and turns brown. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper-lined dish, discard fat.
  2. In a four-quart saucepan, combine peas, bacon, and remaining ingredients except for green onions. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then turn heat to medium-low.
  3. Cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check liquid sporadically and do not boil peas dry.
  4. Remove to a serving dish and sprinkle with chopped green onions.