Sunday, March 28, 2010

Three Cheese Tortellini with Basil

I rarely buy pre-made fresh pasta, but one day it was on sale so I bought some and threw the pack in the freezer. I enjoy eating stuffed pasta tossed in olive oil and topped with fresh parmesan, but this time I wanted something more. I decided to defrost 1/4 cup of tomato paste from the freezer and add 2 tablespoons of milk to thin it out and give it a creamier taste. Once the pasta was cooked, I drained and tossed the tortellini with the tomato mixture. I plated just over a cup of the pasta and topped it with some fresh julienned basil and grated parmesan. For being a quick, simple, throw together meal, I liked it. If I were to make it again, I would probably thin it with some more milk. The basil definitely gave it that Italian touch.

Three Cheese Tortellini with Basil
Recipe By Me
Serves 2

1 container of fresh three cheese tortellini pasta (about 9 oz.)
1/4 cup of tomato paste
2 tablespoons of milk
1/4 cup of fresh grated parmesan, plus more for garnish
6 large basil leaves, julienned

1. Add pasta to a pot of boiling water and cook for 7-9 minutes (or according to the directions on the package).

2. While the pasta is cooking, mix the tomato paste with the milk and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds.  Julienne the basil leaves and grate the parmesan.

3. Drain the cooked pasta and add back to the pot.  Toss with the tomato mixture and grated parmesan.  Plate half of the mixture on a plate and garnish with more parmesan and julienned basil.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Lately I've been on a chocolate kick.  I had a bag of Dove milk chocolates at my desk all week a couple of weeks back and finally finished them when I received another bag from my secret prayer partner (who turned out to be Nancy).  So last week I finished that bag.  At least I was smart enough to bring them to bible study and spread the wealth - I still ate too much.  Outside of my Dove milk chocolate obsession, I've also been eating semi-sweet chocolate chips.  I know, I know.  Who on earth eats chocolate chips straight out of the bag to curb their chocolate addiction? Well, me of course.  So, when I stumbled across Martha's Chocolate Chip Cupcakes recipe in my Martha Stewart's Cupcakes cookbook, I couldn't resist.  I ended up bring these cupcakes to Kyle's work and everyone who tried one loved them.  The texture and flavor of these cupcakes remind me of chocolate chip banana bread (minus the banana).  It's a crumbly, bread type consistency.  I prefer a moist, chewy cupcake, but all in all, it was good.

Chocolate Chip Cupcakes
Martha Stewart's Cupcakes, pg. 22

Makes 30

3 1/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
5 large egg whites, room temperature
2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.  Whisk together 3 1/4 cups cake flour, the baking powder, and salt.  Stir the vanilla into the milk to combine.

2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter until smooth.  Adding the sugar in a steady stream, beat until pale and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low.  Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk mixture, and beating until just combined after each.

3. In another bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed (I did medium-high), whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form (do not overmix).  Fold one-third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten. Gently fold in the remaining whites until just combined.  Toss chocolate chips with remaining tablespoon cake flour, and gently fold into batter.

4. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full.  Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in the centers comes out clean and the tops are springy to the touch, about 22 minutes.  Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes.  Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

5. To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting.  Refrigerate up to 3 days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature and, if desired, decorate with sprinkles before serving.

Dark Chocolate Frosting
pg. 302

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water
2 1/4 cups (4 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds best-quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled (see page 323)

Combine cocoa and the boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved.  With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, confectioner's sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy.  Reduce speed to low.  Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Beat in the cocoa mixture.  If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 5 days, or frozen up to 1 month, in an airtight container.  Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth again.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Mango Shrimp Kebabs

Who doesn't love kebabs?! I mean come on.  It's the ideal meal on a nice, sunset afternoon... riiiight?!

Well, I thought so.  After getting home from work last Tuesday I decided to make these kebabs because I saw them in the April issue of Cooking Light and well, they looked, fabulous - and easy.

There are only a handful of ingredients.  Shrimp, red bell peppers, mangoes, red onion, limes, and some s&p.  I told you this recipe is easy.

It's also suprisingly delicous if you like simple flavors.  I love simple flavors.  Shrimp always tastes amazing to me no matter how you prepare it, you get subtle sweetness from the grilled mangoes and bell pepper, and the lime juice on top rounds out the meal nicely.  Did I mention you get two full kebabs for only 277 calories? Awesome.

Mango Shrimp Kebabs
Cooking Light, April Issue, pg. 185

1 1/2 lbs. large peeled and deveined shrimp
1 large red bell peppers, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 mangoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 small red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 limes, cut into wedges

Prepare grill to medium-high heat.  Sprinkle shrimp evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon freshy ground black pepper.  Thread shrimp, bell pepper pieces, mango cubes, and onion pieces alternately onto each of the 8 (12-inch) skewers.  Place skewers on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 2 minutes on each side or until shrimp are done.  Squeeze lime juice from lime wedges over kebabs.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 skewers)

Calories: 277
Fat: 3.3g (sat 0.7g, mono 0.5g, poly 1.2g)
Protein: 35.8g
Carb: 27.1g
Fiber: 4.2g
Chol: 259mg
Iron: 4.5mg
Sodium: 551mg
Calcium: 109mg

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tart & Tangy Bulgar Salad

I found this recipe in the April edition of Cooking Light magazine on page 202.  I always like to take these sort of recipes to work for lunch during the week because they are easy to make and they are the type of recipes that get better the longer they sit in the fridge.

One caveat, you need to enjoy green olives.  If you don't like green olives, I recommend swapping with kalamata olives.  In addition to the green olives, there is lime juice, salt, basil, garlic, red onion, and tomatoes.

This recipe would also be really good with chicken to add some more protein.

Tart and Tangy Bulgar Salad

1 cup uncooked bulgar
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 large basil leaves, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped red onion
12 large olives, sliced (about 3/4 cup)
1 large tomato, chopped
Lime wedges (optional)

1. Combine bulgar and boiling water in a large bowl.  Cover and let stand for 45 minutes.
2. Combine oil and next 4 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk until combined.  Add oil mixture, onion, olives, and tomato to bulgar; toss well.  Garnish with lime wedges, if desired. 

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)

Nutritional Info:

Calories: 210
Fat: 8.7g (sat 1.2g, mono 6g, poly 1.1g)
Protein: 5g
Carb: 31g
Fiber: 7.6g
Chol: 0mg
Iron: 1.5mg
Sodium: 420mg
Calcium: 35mg

If you make this, let me know what you think.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers

This recipe will knock your socks off it's that good.  I found this little gem of a recipe in my bi-monthly Cooking Light magazine in the January/February edition.  I like to try new recipes all time.  Kyle likes to too, but he could eat the same things day in and day out.  Not me.  I like to eat different lunches and dinners throughout the week.  We ate cobb salads and steak salads for two weeks straight and now I don't even want to think about them! 

So back to this recipe.  It's fantastic.  The flavor is so delicious, rich, and sweet all at the same time.  The chicken gets a rub made of salt, crushed fennel seeds, black pepper, garlic powder, and dried oregano.  If you've never had fennel seeds, or fennel before, you need to try it.  It has a licorice flavor and usually I don't care for it, but it suprisingly goes well in this dish.

The bell pepper mixture is also full of flavor.  You saute red and yellow bell peppers, shallots, and rosemary in a skillet over medium high heat.  After 3 minutes you add the chicken stock and simmer for 5 minutes.  After it simmers, kick up the heat to medium high, add the balsamic, remaining salt, and remaining pepper and cook for 3 minutes.  Serve the chicken with 3/4 cup of the bell pepper mixture on top.

The full recipe (with calories) is included below. Enjoy..!

Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Pepper
Cooking Light, January/February, pg. 78

Serves 4

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Cooking Spray
2 cups thinly sliced red bell pepper
1 cup thinly sliced yellow bell pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 1 large)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 450.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Combine 1/2 teaspoon salt, fennel seeds, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, garlic powder, and oregano.  Brush chicken with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil; sprinkle spice rub over chicken.  Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan.  Add chicken; cook 3 minutes or until browned.  Turn chicken over; cook 1 minute.  Arrange chicken in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 450 for 10 minutes or until done.
3. Heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add bell peppers, shallots, and rosemary; saute 3 minutes.  Stir in broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits.  Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Stir in vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Serve bell peppers mixture over chicken.

Serving size: 1 breast half and about 1/2 cup bell pepper mixture

Nutrition Information:
Calories: 282
Fat: 11g (sat 2.1g, mono 6.4g, poly 1.7g)
Protein: 35.9g
Carb: 8.8g
Fiber: 1.9g
Chol: 94mg
Iron: 2mg
Sodium: 644mg
Calcium: 38mg

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pasta Salad with Salmon, Peas, and Herbs

Ok so I know the picture doesn't look that appetizing, but this pasta is really good I assure you.  You have to like salmon though, and whole wheat pasta, oh.. and peas (which I usually hate, but they are suprisingly good in this dish).

I tried this Ellie Krieger recipe out for the first time yesterday.  I needed to bring a salad to the Women's Spring Luncheon at our church and wanted it to be healthy so I opted for this one. 

The dressing is super rich and creamy - it's made with greek yogurt, lemon juice, mayonnaise, lemon zest, dill, and salt and pepper.  It's also super simple (ok, did I really just say super simple? Sandra Lee says that about a bazillion times during her show Semi Homemade and I can't stand it!!!).  I'll just say it's simple, better yet, so easy (you can find this recipe in Ellie Krieger's cookbook, So Easy).  Once the pasta is cooked and cooled, you toss with the dressing, some herbs, the peas, and salmon and you're good to go. 

I will definitely make this pasta salad again and potentially even bring it to work. 

Katrina, thank you for the compliments on this salad.  As promised, here is the recipe:

Pasta Salad with Salmon, Peas, and Herbs
Ellie Krieger, So Easy

Makes 4 Servings

2/3 cup plain Greek-style nonfat yogurt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon minced fresh dill, or 2 teaspoons dried
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (14-ounce) can wild red salmon, drained, skinned and boned, cut into chunks (I suggest buying the salmon in a pouch, if they have that, already skinned and with the bones taken out b/c this took the most time)
1 10-ounce package frozen peas, defrosted
1/2 pound bowtie or corkscrew pasta, cooked according to package directions and cooled (I substituted with organic whole-wheat pasta, farfalle, and it tasted really good - more fiber and better for you)
2 scallions (white and green parts), minced (about 1/4 cup)
8 cups chopped red-leaf lettuce

Combine the yogurt, lemon juice, mayonnaise, lemon zest, dill, salt and pepper in a bowl and whisk to incorporate.  Add the salmon, peas, pasta, and scallions and toss to incorporate.  The pasta salad will keep up to 2 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

To serve, mound 2 cups of the lettuce onto each plate or into to-go containers and scoop about 1 3/4 cups of the pasta salad on top.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sweet Things

Wow it's been forever - good to finally be back!  Although I haven't posted in a while that doesn't mean I haven't been cooking or baking.  I've actually been cooking up a storm.  I try at least 2 or 3 new recipes a week to keep things interesting.  Some recipes I've tried recently are Blue Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast, Garlic Basil Shrimp, Shrimp Fra Diavlo, Shitake and Sweet Pea Risotto, and many others.  This weekend I'm going to try Ellie Krieger's Beef and Taco Salad as well as a Balsamic Chicken with Sauteed Bell Peppers.

On to much sweeter things...

like Stuffed French Toast.  To be quite honest, I wasn't thrilled about the flavor of this dish.  It's a healthy recipe so it doesn't have any syrup. None. Nada. Zilch.  I usually don't like a lot of syrup anyway, but this dish would benefit from a tsp. of pure maple syrup drizzled on top.  The chocolate and strawberry combination was fabulous though (who doesn't love chocolate and strawberries together?!) and I will definitely try this again just with a touch of syrup.

Another recipe I tried was this White Cake Cupcakes with White Chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  A mouthful to say, but so delicious and light and fluffy and yum.  This reminds me somewhat of the cakes you can buy in the store, but there is something to be said about using Swiss Meringue Buttercream instead of an American Buttercream that's much sweeter.  I added a few drops of yellow food coloring to give it a fluffly yellow color and added multi-colored sprinkles for a fun touch.  I served these at a church function at our house (for the junior / senior high school kids) and they loved them.

The last recipe I'm going to include is by far one of my favorites.  It's a Devil's Food Cupcake with Chocolate Ganache glaze. Yum.  I've also made the cupcakes with a chocolate Swiss Meringue Buttercream and those were good as well, a little less chocolatey in flavor.  You definitely need to give this recipe a try.  Sour cream keeps this cupcake super moist and flavorful.  The ganache frosting is time consuming to make so I made a glaze instead and it tasted great.

If you would like any of these recipes just email me at and I will send the info. 

Happy Friday Everyone!