Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Turkey Sausage, Escarole, and White Bean Stew

Want something on the table in under 30 minutes that's heathy, delicious, and tastes like it simmered for hours? I've got just the thing.

Serves 4
1 lb sweet (or hot) Italian turkey sausage
1 bunch escarole (about 1 lb), washed and cut into 1-inch thick pieces
1 (14 1/2 oz) can seasoned chicken broth with roasted vegetables and herbs
1 (15 1/2 oz) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped basil
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
Optional:  freshly grated cheese (I used Asiago)

Spray a large Dutch oven with nonstick olive oil spray and set over medium-low heat. Add the sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until browned and cooked through (about 12 minutes). Transfer to a cutting board; slice when cool enough to handle.

Return sausage to the same Dutch oven; add the escarole, broth, beans, and water. Bring the stew to a boil, then lower heat and simmer about 10 minutes, until escarole is tender. Stir in the basil and pepper. Serve at once with grated cheese, if desired. Looking forward to leftovers!

Per serving (1 1/2 cups):  234 cal; 10 g fat; 3 g sat fat; 16 g carb; 6 g fiber; 19 g prot (6 PP)
While "stew" may be a misnomer, the heartiness of this dish made it particularly welcome on a blustery day. If I hadn't had to sample some cookies I'd baked that morning, I'd have served it with some garlic bread. It was, however, a points-friendly dinner with great flavor.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Taking an ecumenical approach to the holidays, I've often included rugelach in my Christmas baking. I thought I needed some balance to this year's Christmas dessert tray, so I made some apricot rugelach and some raspberry.

Yield:  4 dozen

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 lb unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 9 tbs granulated sugar
1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for rolling out)
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 tsp Saigon cinnamon
3/4 cup raisins
1 cup hazelnuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup apricot preserves, at room temperature
1/4 cup raspberry preserves, at room temperature
1 egg beaten with 1 tbs milk, for egg wash

Cream the cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, the salt, and vanilla. With the mixer on low, add the flour, mixing just until combined. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and pat it into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for one hour.

Combine 6 tbs of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, 2 tsp cinnamon, the raisins, and the hazelnuts.

To make the rugelach:

On a well-floured board, roll each ball of dough into a 9 inch circle. Spread the dough with 2 tbs of preserves, then sprinkle with 1/2 cup of the filling, pressing the filling lightly into the dough. Cut the circle into 12 equal wedges (first cut into quarters, then divide each quarter into 3 equal parts).Starting at the wide end, carefully roll up each wedge.

Place the rugelach, points tucked under, on baking sheets lined with silicone mats. CHILL FOR 30 MINUTES. Do not omit this step.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Brush each cookie with the egg wash. Combine 3 tbs granulated sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon and sprinkle over the cookies. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned (they'll firm up more as they cool). Remove to a wire rack to cool.
The hardest part of making the rugelach is waiting for the dough to chill before assembling and again before baking. Well, maybe that's the second hardest part--the first is not eating them in one sitting. These are the perfect bite. The pastry dough nicely balances the sweetness of the filling and the cinnamon adds just a touch of spice. I think the rugelach, the espresso bites, the cannoli "chip and dip," and the peanut butter-oatmeal cookies will be just enough dessert to counteract Christmas dinner.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Peanut Butter Kisses

For the past several years, I've been baking cookies at Christmas to deliver to seniors who participate in a program for which I volunteer. This year I was surprised to discover that our numbers were up significantly (don't know why I was surprised since I'm the volunteer who does the intakes on the neighbors we help). I needed to find a cookies that would be delicious, but would not require too many hours in the kitchen. This recipe on the Skippy peanut butter website was perfect. I made 4 batches, which yielded 26 dozen cookies.

Yield:  6 dozen

2 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup Skippy creamy peanut butter
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
72 Hershey's kisses, unwrapped (soooo tedious, I know; why doesn't Hershey's make unwrapped ones for baking?)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In medium bowl, combine oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; mix well.

In a stand mixer, beat together peanut butter and butter on medium speed until smooth. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla and mix until blended. By hand, beat in flour mixture until completely blended.

On ungreased baking sheets, drop dough by level tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart. Bake 13 minutes (until golden). Immediately press a Kiss firmly in center of each cookie. Remove cookies to wire rack to cool completely.
These are so much better than the cookies made from the recipe on the bag of Kisses. Those have shortening in them and no taste. These are like a combination of a peanut butter and oatmeal cookie with a hit of chocolate. They are yummy and the only way to keep them safe was to wrap them tightly and put them in the downstairs fridge until I delivered them.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Butternut Tortilla Soup with Ground Turkey

Nothing beats a hearty bowl of soup when the weather outside is "frightful." I have a lot of favorites (wedding soup, pasta e fagiola, split pea, to name a few), but I'm always on the lookout for something new and delicious. There are countless recipes for tortilla soup, but most of them are thin broths. I had bookmarked this squash and corn tortilla soup a while back and decided to give it a try. As usual, I made a few changes to suit the pantry and my own tastes. There's a bit of prep involved, but the recipe yields a good quantity of soup (12 cups; recommended serving for 8 being 1 1/2 cups per serving).

1 butternut squash (about 1 1/2 lbs)
1 tbs olive oil
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup coarsely chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tbs seeded, chopped jalapenos 
2 tbs canola oil
3 corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch squares
2 cups seeded, chopped Roma tomatoes
2 tbs tomato paste
1 tbs ground cumin
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 lb ground turkey
1 bag (about 6 oz) fresh baby spinach
1 can white hominy, drained

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel and seed butternut squash; cut into 1 inch cubes. Spread on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 30 minutes.

Mince the corn, onion, garlic cloves, and jalapeno in a food processor.

Heat canola oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add tortillas and saute until slightly crisp. Stir in corn mixture, tomatoes, tomato paste, and cumin. Cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Stir in broth and half the squash. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Blend soup with an immersion blender (or in small batches in the food processor) until smooth.

Brown turkey in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up any large chunks with a wooden spoon. Stir in spinach and cook until wilted.

Add remaining butternut squash, turkey mixture, and hominy to soup. Simmer 5 minutes. Season with pepper, if desired.

N.I. per serving:  258 cal.; 6 g fat; 33 g carb; 6g fiber; 24g protein
Squash and corn have always been a good match. They used to be planted in the same fields, so eating them together is only natural. With 3 kinds of corn in the soup--pureed kernels provide sweetness, corn tortillas help thicken the soup, and whole hominy gives it texture--the soup is delicious and healthy. The addition of chunks of squash and ground turkey make it more like a stew. The jalapenos provided just a small amount of heat and the spinach added color and more texture. I loved this soup! Served with a kale Caesar salad, it was the perfect antidote to a day when the mercury never got above freezing.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sweet and Sour Potted Meatballs

A few years ago I read Alex Witchel's All Gone: A Memoir of My Mother's Dementia. With Refreshments. It was a poignant love letter to her mother who suffered from this heart-breaking disease. Included along with the story of her mother's descent into this lonely world were a number of recipes, one of which was for sweet and sour potted meatballs. It was noted that the recipe was adapted from Arthur Schwartz's Jewish Home Cooking:  Yiddish Recipes Revisited.  I remember making the meatballs and loving them, but for some reason they never made it onto my blog or onto our dinner rotation. It was only during a recent "purge" of the stacks and folders of clippings that I collect, meaning to try out new recipes, that I rediscovered this recipe and set about correcting that omission. I've made some small changes to the original recipe.

Serves 4-6 (or 2 with lots of leftovers for another night or two)

For the sweet and sour sauce:

2 tbs olive oil
1 medium Vidalia onion, minced
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tbs)
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

For the meatballs:

2 lbs ground beef chuck (85% lean)
2 eggs, beaten
1//3 cup long-grain white rice, parboiled for 3 minutes
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 medium Vidalia onion, grated on the coarse side of a box grater
2 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

1. Prepare the sauce:  In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil, then saute the minced onion over medium heat until tender and golden, 8 - 10 minutes. Add the tomato sauce then rinse out the can with another 1/2 cup of water and add to pot. Stir in the lemon juice and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer, uncovered, over medium heat. Remove from the heat and set aside.

2.  Make the meatballs:  Put the ground meat in a large bowl and push it to one side. Add the eggs, rice, bread crumbs, onion, salt, and pepper to the other side of the bowl and combine with a large fork. Work in the meat, handful by handful, until everything is thoroughly blended. Return the sauce to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to shape the meatballs. You should have 12 - 14. Drop them gently into the sauce. Cover and simmer slowly for 30 minutes, gently rotating and pushing the meatballs around halfway through the cooking so that they are thoroughly coated in sauce after about 15 minutes. Correct seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve very hot.
I was very happy to find this recipe because these meatballs are something special. They remind me a bit of the filling for stuffed cabbage. In fact, I like this sauce better than the one I usually use for my stuffed cabbage and will substitute it next time I make that dish. I served the meatballs with mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, and roasted brussels sprouts. Two of the meatballs makes a very generous serving. I'm looking forward to leftovers tomorrow night and will probably freeze any that we don't eat then. I can also envision using these for an appetizer (smaller versions, of course) in the future. Aside from the copious weeping when I grated the onion (I forgot to leave my contact lenses in for the job), these go together quickly and require just 30 minutes to cook, making them a good week-night meal.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Death by Chocolate

With the impending shortage of chocolate recently making the news, I thought I'd better share one of my favorite ways to indulge in that food of the gods. This recipe was given to me by a parent whose children attended my school. Celie had brought this decadent treat to a PTA function and I knew I had to make it again (and again).

What you'll need:

7 Hershey Skor bars
1 (9X13) pan of brownies (go ahead and use a mix if you want to)
1/2 cup Kaluha
3 boxes of chocolate mousse
2 pints whipping cream


Bake the brownies. Cool, then poke holes in the brownies with a fork and pour Kaluha over them and set aside. Cut into 1 inch squares before assembling.

Prepare mousse according to package instructions.

Hammer the Skor bars while they're still in the wrapper. Set aside 1 for the topping. Empty the rest of the packages into a bowl.

To assemble:

Use a trifle bowl or a large glass bowl (5 quart works best) to layer 1/3 brownies, 1/3 mousse, 1/3 Skor pieces, 1/3 whipped cream. Repeat. Top with the last Skor bar. Refrigerate for several hours before serving for best results.
In addition to looking beautiful, this simple-to-prepare dessert is truly decadent. The little bit of Kaluha accentuates the chocolatey goodness. In a pinch, I've made this with the kind of chocolate pudding cakes they sell in supermarkets. I even made it with chocolate pudding instead of the mousse one time. It's a great dessert to bring to a potluck or a celebration. In the shot above, I used a 5 quart plastic bowl I bought in a party store so I didn't have to worry the hostess about returning my glass bowl. Another advantage is it serves a lot of people. Thank you, Celie!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's Time to Make the Stollen

I thought I didn't like stollen until I tasted it at a CIA class I took a few years ago. Since then, I've been a convert. Nothing is better with a cup of hot tea than a slice of homemade stollen dusted with confectioners' sugar. I posted the recipe quite a while back, so I thought it was time for a reminder to those of you who are gearing up for your holiday baking. My only problem with making stollen is my intentions are always good--I MEAN to let it sit long enough for the rum to develop the flavors and I MEAN to give most of it away. But it's so darned good. Make some, and judge for yourself!

Here's the link to my original post; you'll find the recipe there.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Creamy Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

Nothing says fall better than delicious root vegetables. Butternut squash soup shows up frequently on the rotation this time of year and, much as I love it, I was looking for something different. This creamy carrot and sweet potato soup fit the bill.

Serves 6-8

3 tbs unsalted butter, divided
1 cup sweet onion, chopped
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmet
5 cups peeled, cubed sweet potatoes (about 3 very large ones)
1 1/2 cups water
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 cups peeled, chopped carrots (about 4 very large ones)
1/4 cup half and half
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs chopped fresh thyme

Melt 1 tbs butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion and cook 5-7 minutes, or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg and cook 1 minute more, stirring.

Move onion mixture to side of pan and add remaining 2 tbs butter to open space in Dutch oven. Increase heat to medium-high and cook about 1 minute, until butter begins to brown. Add sweet potatoes, water, broth, and carrots and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer 35-40 minutes until vegetables are tender.

Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth (or do in batches in a food processor or blender, being careful to vent steam and avoid splatters).

Add the half and half and salt and pepper; stir well. Top each serving with a touch of chopped thyme.
This was a very thick and creamy soup with just the right notes of sweetness and spice. The intense orange color is beautiful. In retrospect, I'd have liked to top it with toasted pignoli nuts. This soup would make a great starter for your Thanksgiving meal, but is easy enough to make any night of the week.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Pierogi and Kielbasa Bake

I've been using Hillshire Farms turkey kielbasa for many years and find the taste and texture to be far better than other brands that I've tried. While I enjoy regular kielbasa on occasion, it is too high in fat to be eaten on a regular basis. I generally steam it and serve it with sweet and sour red cabbage and pierogies, but this one dish bake sounded like it would be more flavorful, so I tweaked it to lower the fat and calories. It went together very quickly and offered generous servings plus leftovers.

Serves 6
2 tsp olive oil
13 oz Hillshire Farms turkey kielbasa, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 packages Mrs. T's mini pierogies (any flavor)
12 oz red cabbage (about 1/4 small cabbage), cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup hard or regular apple cider
1 cup drained sauerkraut
2 tbs whole grain mustard
6 oz extra sharp, reduced fat cheddar (I prefer Sargento's)

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the kielbasa and brown on one side (3-5 minutes). Stir in the onion and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until tender (6-7 minutes).

While the onions are cooking, cook the mini pierogi according to package instructions; drain.

Add the cabbage and cider to the onions and kielbasa and cook uncovered, tossing occasionally until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes. Stir in the sauerkraut and mustard.

Spray an 8X8 inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Arrange one-third of the pierogi on the bottom of the dish and top with a third of the cabbage mixture and top with a third of the cheese. Repeat twice.

Bake until the cheese melts, about 8 - 10 minutes.

(WW - 12 PP per serving)
What a wonderful one-dish meal to serve on a chilly night! The sweet and sour flavors melded well with the pierogi and the sauteed kielbasa slices with the melted cheese between each layer gave a variety of textures and tastes. The only thing missing was an iced cold beer. I'll have to remember that next time. This dish comes together very quickly and can be held for a while before cooking.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Turkey, Sweet Potato, and Black Bean Chili

Having dipped my foot in the chili pool with a version of Jamie Deen's beef and sausage chili, I was intrigued by a recipe I found on Skinnytaste billed as a "no bean" chili. Since I love beans, I decided to try my own version of this, adding black beans and punching up the spices. Here's my version:

Serves 4-6 (PP value 7-10 pts depending on serving size)

  • non stick cooking spray
  • 20 oz 93% lean ground turkey
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 10 oz can Rotel mild tomatoes with green chilies
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 bay leafI
  • 2 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1/2-inch cubes
  • optional:  serve with sour cream and salsa

Spray a large non-stick skillet with non-stick cooking spray and brown the ground turkey, breaking it up as it browns. Add the onion, garlic, and salt and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the Rotel, tomato sauce, chicken broth, cumin, chili powder, paprika, bay leaf, and sweet potato. Stir to mix evenly, then bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes, adding more chicken broth, if needed.
Given how little time it took to put this dinner together, the flavors were really there. I would increase the cumin and chili powder even more next time and add a bit of hot sauce to spice it up. I also think it would be equally good with butternut squash. A cup-sized serving over half a cup of rice was very filling and leftovers will make a hearty lunch on a cold, fall day.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Easy Chicken and Cheese Enchiladas

Don't judge a book by its cover. This admittedly "brown" dinner, was delicious. I've made a lot of different versions of chicken enchiladas, all of them tasty, but not all of them suited to a quick and easy dinner. These are the ones you want when you want dinner on the table ASAP. This is a no- brainer recipe using a can of soup. Your husband or significant other could make it with no problem.

Yield:  8 enchiladas

1 can Campbell's Healthy Choice cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup of sour cream (I used Daisy light)
1 cup Pace medium picante sauce
2 tsp chili powder
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped (I baked a 1 lb breast, but you can use rotisserie)
1/2 cup shredded Mexican blend reduced fat cheese
8 (6 inch) flour tortillas (I like Chi Chi's)
OPTIONAL:  1 small tomato, chopped
                      1 green onion, diced

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Stir soup, sour cream, picante sauce, and chili powder in a medium bowl.

Remove 1 cup of the soup mixture and add the chicken and cheese to it; mix well.

Divide chicken evenly among the 8 tortillas; roll each tightly.

Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray and place the tortillas seam side down in the dish. Pour the remaining soup mixture over filled tortillas. Cover baking dish with foil.

Bake 40 minutes or until enchiladas are hot and bubbling. Top with tomato and onion, if desired.

6 PP values per enchilada
Let me say up front that these are not authentic chicken enchiladas. That said, they are very good and, did I mention, very easy and quick. I like to serve them with a side of black beans or fat free refried beans. They will never replace my chicken enchilada casserole, but I make them from time to time when I want the taste of Mexican without all the fuss and calories. Another bonus is they are child friendly because they are not too spicy.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Palm Beach Brownies: Not Your Grandmother's Brownies

I have worshipped at the altar of Maida Heatter since I became serious about cooking and baking. One of the first grown up cookbooks I purchased was her Book of Great Desserts (1967). Her instructions might seem a tad controlling, but they are essential contributors to the PBB's incredibly fudgy goodness. These are brownies that must be made the day before they are enjoyed and they are brownies that need no embellishments (though a scoop of vanilla ice cream never hurt anything). I'm guessing the name is a nod to the luxurious playground for the rich--and these brownies are rich. The instructions are very complete, but the brownies are easy to make.

Yield- 2 dozen of the most incredible brownies you'll ever eat
(adapted from Maida Heatter's recipe)

1 cup unsalted butter plus 2 tbs for the pan
8 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
5 eggs
1 tbs vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbs dry instant espresso powder
3 3/4 cups sugar
1 2/3 cups flour
8 oz walnut halves, roughly chopped

Adjust oven rack one-third up from the bottom and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Invert a 9 X 13 inch baking pan and drape it with a piece of aluminum foil, shiny side down, long enough to cover the pan's sides. Use your hands to carefully press down on the foil around the sides and the corners, shaping it to create a foil liner. Remove foil, turn pan right side up, place foil liner in pan and carefully press into place. Place 2 tbs butter into prepared pan and place in oven for 1 to 2 minutes to melt butter. Brush melted butter evenly across bottom and up sides of foil lined pan.

In a double boiler (or in a microwave oven), combine the chocolate with the remaining 1 cup of butter, stirring occasionally until chocolate and butter habve melted and are thoroughly combined and smooth. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer on low speed, beat eggs, vanilla and almond extract, salt, espresso powder, and sugar for 1 minute. Increase speed to medium high and beat for 9 additional minutes. Scrape bottom and sides of bowl, reduce speed to medium, add cooled chocolate-butter mixture, and mix until combined. Reduce speed to low, add flour mixture, and mix until just combined. Stir in nuts.

Scrape batter evenly into prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 16 minutes, then rotate the pan halfway. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and continue baking another 16 minutes. At this point, the brownies should be pulling away from the pan's edges and the top should have developed a few cracks. If you insert a toothpick, it will come out wet. That is okay. If no cracks have appeared, remove foil and bake an additional minute up to 3 minutes, checking after each minute. Do NOT overbake.

Remove from oven, transfer pan to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. At this point, cover with aluminum foil and freeze overnight.

When ready to serve, thaw brownies. Cover with a wire rack or cookie sheet and invert, removing the pan and peeling away the layer of foil. Cover with a cutting board and use a serrated knife to cut brownies into 24 pieces. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Store leftovers by wrapping individually in plastic wrap or storing in an airtight container.

There are no adjectives to describe adequately the exquisite texture of these brownies. If I didn't know how to make them, I would guess the ingredients included cream because the texture is somewhat like a ganache. The top is crusty and the brownie is simultaneously sturdy, yet gooey. I defy you to eat one and not utter OMG!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Turkey, Spinach, and Mushroom Lasagna

Lasagna can be one of the most calorie-laden pleasures of life, a reason why I used to reserve it for the holidays. I will freely admit that my favorite lasagna is made with homemade spinach noodles, bechamel, and a long-simmered Bolognese sauce. My second favorite lasagna is the way my mother and my grandmother made it--filled with full fat ricotta cheese and mozzarella and served with meatballs, sausage, bracciola and preceded by a huge antipasto. And did I mention the garlic bread?

Well, of course you can't eat that kind of a meal on a weeknight. First of all, you'd need to get up in the wee hours of the morning to start the sauce. More importantly, eating that kind of (delicious, I love it) rich food is definitely not part of a healthy eating plan. So, for nights when I want lasagna, I turn to a quick, leaner version. I use bottled sauce because it's quick and because it has way fewer calories.

I have several versions that I've posted over the years I've been doing this blog (Quick and Easy Turkey Lasagna; Mushroom Lasagna).  Here's another.

Serves 8
1 lb ground turkey breast
2 tsp olive oil
1 (10 oz) pkg cremini mushrooms (sliced)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (10 oz) bag spinach, trimmed
salt and pepper to taste
4 cups light marinara (Ragu has a good one)
1 (8oz) box no-boil lasagna noodles (I like Barilla)
1 (15oz) container fat free ricotta (store brands are fine; hey, it's fat free)
1 1/2 cups shredded part skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a 9 X 13 inch baking dish with nonstick spray.

Spray a large nonstick skillet with nonstick spray and set over medium-high heat. Add the turkey and cook, stirring frequently, until no longer pink (about 5 minutes). Add the oil and reduce heat to medium. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened (about 5 minutes). Add the mushrooms and garlic and continue stirring, cooking another 5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper, stir, then add the spinach and cook, stirring, until it's wilted (about 3 minutes). Remove from heat. Drain away any extra liquid from the mushrooms and spinach.

To assemble, spread 1 cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Cover with 4 lasagna noodles, overlapping them if needed. Cover with half the turkey mixture, dot with half the ricotta, sprinkle with a handful of the mozzarella, and top with another 1 cup of marinara. Add another layer of 4 noodles and cover with remaining turkey mixture, remaining ricotta, another handful of mozzarella, and 1 cup of the marinara sauce. Add 4 more lasagna sheets, then spread the remaining 1 cup of marinara sauce on top and sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella cheese.

Spray a sheet of foil with nonstick spray; cover dish with foil, sprayed side down, and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 20 minutes, until mozzarella is starting to brown and noodles are very tender. Let cool 15 minutes before cutting into 8 equal portions. DO NOT CUT until the lasagna has cooled for 15 minutes and set up. Pass the grated cheese (and add those extra points).

9 WW PP per serving
I usually don't use fat free ricotta nor do I bulk up my lasagna with veggies, but I must say that this lasagna surpassed my expectations. It was really, really good (so good I'd have loved a second piece). I will say that next time I make this I intend to saute the mushrooms and spinach separately with lots of thinly sliced garlic. That way, instead of being a "filler," the vegetables will really bring something to the table, so to speak. Spreading the mozzarella through the layers instead of just putting it on top gives you that wonderful stretchy-melty cheese throughout. Of course, I had to add grated cheese at the table. All in all, I'm looking forward to the leftovers.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Beef and Vegetable Ragu

I love Bolognese sauce, but let's be real-- it's a weekend kind of sauce because it needs a bit of tending. I've made quick ragus before and they're acceptable, but I try to keep my weekday eating as healthy as possible and the calories can add up quickly when you're making a ragu. What to do? Incorporate veggies to stretch the meat, reduce the fat and calories, and save time.

Serves 6  (Sauces 1 pound of pasta)

3/4 lb very lean ground beef
1 small onion, finely chopped
8 oz white mushrooms, finely chopped (use a food processor for uniformly chopped pieces)
1 small eggplant, peeled and diced (1 inch dice)
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can San Marzano peeled whole plum tomatoes (I like to put them through a food mill, but you can just chop them)
1 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Spray a nonstick skillet with nonstick spray and set over medium heat. Add the ground beef and onions and cook, stirring, until the beef is browned (5-10 minutes). Add the mushrooms, eggplant, garlic, and oregano and cook another 5 minutes, stirring, until eggplant begins to loose its raw look. Add the vinegar and salt and pepper, cooking about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook 15 minutes longer.

Serve over your favorite pasta (I served this over gemilli; penne or cavatelli would be other good choices).

1 1/4 cup sauce = 5 Weight Watchers PP values
I've made other ragus that contain veggies, but they were too obviously vegetable-based for my tastes. What I liked about this ragu was that the mushrooms, chopped as finely as they were, weren't distinguishable from the beef. The vegetables lent a sweetness to the sauce that made it seem as if it had cooked longer. I think the next time I make this sauce I will roast the eggplant first to add another dimension--smokiness. I served my 1 1/4 cup portion over a cup and a half of pasta (3 oz dry) and it was more than enough along with a tossed salad.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Baked French Toast

Lately I've found that I am far more satisfied with meals prepared at home. Not only do I control the portion size, I know exactly what ingredients go into each dish. Eating breakfast out may be faster, but the calories--often empty ones--can add up quickly and for someone who is health conscious, this gets the day off to a poor start (not to mention the difficulty of squeezing in lunch, dinner, and a snack without going off the charts). While I usually opt for a savory breakfast, given the success of my pancake squares, I decided to venture into the land of French toast.

I've made other versions of French toast that require preparing the mixture the night before, then baking off in the morning, but none had this souffle-like texture and streusel topping.

Serves 6 (8 PP values per serving)

12 slices reduced-calorie whole wheat bread (I recommend Sara Lee wheat)
2 cups nonfat milk or 1% milk (I used nonfat)
1 1/2 cups fat-free egg substitute
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1 packet Stevia
pinch salt

topping:  2 tbs light stick butter, at room temperature
              1/2 cup packed brown sugar

Spray an 8 inch square baking dish with nonstick spray (I like the butter flavored).

Arrange bread in 4 equal stacks in the baking dish; it will be very tight. Whisk together the milk, egg substitute, vanilla, cinnamon, Stevia, and salt. Slowly pour this mixture over the bread. Use a spatula to lightly press bread and make certain that the egg mixture is equally distributed over the bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to one day.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

With a fork, mix together the brown sugar and butter in a small bowl until smooth. Spread this mixture evenly over the bread. Bake for 1 hour or until a knife inserted one inch from the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes. Cut into 6 portions. I served mine with heated sugar free syrup (love Mrs. Butterworth's) with a half cup of blueberries.

This was so good I'd have loved to eat more than one piece. I was surprised at how high it rose. It looked like a souffle! Ir did fall a bit when it was taken out of the oven. It was by far the best baked French toast I've ever tried, sort of a cross between a bread pudding and French toast. I'm certain it would be a delicious dessert served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

In the future, I would add a few points to this by placing additional streusel between the bread slices before it bakes. While it won't crisp, that yummy buttery-cinnamon flavor throughout will be delicious.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pancake Squares

As much as I love to cook and bake, I've never enjoyed making pancakes. I could blame it on the electric stove, which makes using any kind of griddle hit or miss. I could blame it on the fact that you either have to eat them as you make them or hold them in a warm oven, which never keeps the pancakes the same as those fresh off the grill. And while I don't mind standing at the frying pan with potato pancakes, somehow standing there flipping pancakes has never been as rewarding. Enter King Arthur. No, not the sword-wielding Knight of the Round Table, but the King Arthur Flour Blog, which has the most incredible recipes and ideas. It was there that I read about pancake squares. (Like probably everyone else who saw that post, I slapped myself up along the side of the head and said, "Now, why didn't I think of that?") So, while I'm late to the party, I decided to give the idea a try.

You could certainly use a pancake mix, but why bother when making them from scratch is just as easy and tastes better. This is enough batter for this recipe:

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
3 tbs melted butter

Mix well. Pour into a very well greased 9 X 13 inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes, until  a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.  The batter will brown around the edges, but the top will not be golden brown. You could add berries or chips or other add in's before you bake. I chose to bake mine plain and top with blueberries and syrup warmed together. You could even make a simple confectioners' sugar glaze. Any way you top them, they are ready in under a half hour and you can sit and sip your coffee while they bake.

In addition to the wonderful smell of pancakes that will waft through your home, if  you close your eyes while you eat these pancake squares, you won't even know they haven't been cooked on a griddle. An added bonus is leftovers can be frozen and reheated for a weekday breakfast. I seldom eat pancakes,but that may change.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Chicken and Beef Fajitas

These were so good that I never got a chance to take a photo. Making your own fajita seasoning is easy--you may want to make a big batch and keep it in a sealed container. This is simple enough for a weeknight dinner, but makes a great addition to a party or picnic as well.

Serves: 8-10 with side dishes

2 tbs chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 cup Wishbone Italian dressing
4 skinned and boned chicken breast halves
2 lbs flank steak

2 green and 2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips
2 large vidalia onions, sliced thinly
oil for frying

20 small flour tortillas, warmed

Toppings:  sour cream, guacamole, shredded lettuce, tomatoes

Combine the first 7 ingredients with the dressing and stir well. Pour half of the marinade into a large, heavy-duty ziploc plastic bag and add the chicken and seal. Pour the other half into a second bag and add the beef and seal. Place both bags in a bowl and refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.

Fry the peppers and onions in a small amount of oil to desired doneness.

To Grill:
Remove meats from the marinade. Grill the chicken 15 minutes on each side until cooked through. Grill the beef to medium rare (about 6 minutes per side, then rest for 10 minutes).

To Serve:
Slice chicken and beef into strips. Serve with tortillas, peppers and onions, and toppings.
Why buy a packaged fajita seasoning mix when you can make your own so inexpensively and easily, not to mention more flavorfully? I made these for a family BBQ since not everyone loves hot dogs and hamburgers. Most of the prep work can be done ahead of time and leftovers taste just as good the next day.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Moros y Cristianos (black beans and rice)

 Moros y Cristianos (also called Arroz Moro), is a very popular dish of black beans and rice. The name recalls Spanish history: the black beans symbolize Muslim Moors and the white rice stands in for Christian Spain. Simmered together,Moros y Cristianos soak up vibrant flavor from an array of herbs and vegetables. 

Serves: 8-10
3 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped (about ¾ cup)
½ cup green bell pepper, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 packet of Sazon
2 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. oregano
2 cans (15 oz) black beans
2 bay leaves
2 cups white rice (extra long grain)
2 tsp white distilled vinegar


1.Heat 2 tsp. oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and peppers; cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, Sazon, sugar and oregano, cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
2.Transfer liquid from can black beans to measuring cup; add enough water to measure 4 cups. Add liquid and bay leaves to pot; bring liquid to boil. Stir in black beans and rice. Bring rice mixture to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, until rice absorbs water, about 25 minutes. Add vinegar; stir to combine.
3.Remove rice from heat; let sit until rice is tender, about 5 minutes more.



This Cuban-inspired take on rice and beans is my favorite. I like cooking the beans with the rice since it imbues the rice with more flavor than simply serving the beans atop the rice. As an accompaniment to chicken and beef fajitas, the dish was a big hit.

Check out my new blog:  http://arlene-onestitchovertheline.blogspot.com

Monday, July 21, 2014

Come Check out My New Blog

I've often posted about my quilting on The Food of Love, but I decided that this pursuit, which takes up so much of my time, deserves its own space.

Please come visit me at One Stitch over the Line.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Chocolate - Hazelnut Ice Box Cake

My mother was a great cook. When she baked, she baked well, but she definitely preferred cooking. One dessert she did make frequently was ice box cake. It was quick and easy and inexpensive. While I enjoyed her chocolate and vanilla pudding layered with graham crackers, this icebox cake takes the concept to another level. Remember that icebox cakes taste better after the cookies have had a full day to soften.

Serves 8 - 10
1 3/4 cups cold heavy cream
1 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup chocolate-hazelnut spread (I prefer Nutella)
20 whole chocolate graham crackers

Beat 1 cup heavy cream, 3/4 cup mascarpone, the confectioners' sugar, and vanilla until combined, then increase speed and beat until stiff peaks form (1-2 minutes) --I used my stand mixer, but you can use a hand mixer as well.

In another bowl, combine 3/4 cup heavy cream, 3/4 cup mascarpone, and the Nutella until combined, then increase speed and beat until stiff peaks form (1-2 minutes).

Line the bottom of an 8 inch springform pan with about 4 graham crackers in a single layer, breaking them into pieces to fit any fill any gaps (seriously, this is the hardest part). Spread half the vanilla whipped cream over the graham crackers, then top with another layer of graham crackers. Spread half the chocolate-hazelnut whipped cream over those grahams then repeat with another layer of grahams, another layer of vanilla, another layer of grahams, and finish up with the other half of the chocolate-hazelnut whipped cream.

Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.

Uncover the cake and run a thin knife around the edge to loosen. Remove the springform ring and smooth the sides of the cake using an offset spatula (the second hardest part). Put the remaining grahams in a large resealable bag and crush them into fine crumbs. Press the crumbs around the sides of the cake and sprinkle the remains over the top.

Oh, my, how can I get across just how incredibly delicious this simple dessert tastes? I don't often "lick the bowl" or the beaters, but I could not resist after tasting the creams. I've already decided that the next time I make this--and there WILL be a next time--I'm going to replace the vanilla layer with an espresso one for a tiramisu and hazelnut icebox cake. I'm sure the cake would be equally delicious made with the Famous chocolate cookies.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Shrimp and Corn Fritters

A month ago I tested a new recipe, one for shrimp and corn fritters. While they tasted good, they would not hold their shape and they were nowhere near as good as the fritters I normally make. I decided to try again, this time using my tried and true recipe from the Good Housekeeping cookbook, the first real cookbook I ever bought. I simply added the shrimp to my usual recipe, as follows:

Yield:  18 fritters
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp vegetable oil (more for frying)
1 (11 0z) can Green Giant yellow corn niblets, well drained)
1/2 lb shelled, deveined shrimp, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt. Beat the eggs; add the milk and vegetable oil. Stir in the flour, then the corn, then the shrimp.  Heat enough oil to cover bottom of a frying pan and fry by heaping tablespoonsful into hot oil ( use a 1/8 cup measure for each fritter). Fry 3-5 minutes, turning once. Drain on paper towels. Keep warm in a 250 degree oven. Serve plain or with a remoulade sauce.

What a world of difference using my usual fritter recipe made! While the recipe I tried sounded good--it used yellow corn meal--the batter was too wet and didn't hold together. These fritters were light and crispy on the outside. They could be the star of the show or they could serve as a very substantial side to a grilled London broil, which is how I served them. I know I would love them with crab instead of shrimp and that will be the next round.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

One of the blogs that I've followed for some time is Barbara Bakes (www.barbarabakes.com). As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it. Intended for my guild meeting, I must confess that a few cookies "fell off the tray." They are ooey goeey right out of the oven, but equally delicious when they cool off.  Check out Barbara's site for a photo as well as other great recipes.


2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 (10 oz) pkg peanut butter chips
3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line cookie sheets with parchment or silpat liners.
  2. In large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla and mix until well blended.
  4. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just blended. Stir in peanut butter chips and chocolate chips.
  5. Using a small cookie scoop, drop by rounded spoonfuls on to cookie sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until edges are set but the center is still be soft.
  6. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.