Thursday, December 19, 2019

Italian Ricotta Cookies

If you're Italian, this cakey, ricotta cookie may look like the Christmas cookies you grew up with, but it tastes more like the white part of those black and white cookies we love. While the dough is easy to make, I recommend making it the day before you plan to bake the cookies and to keep it chilled, which may mean forming and baking the cookies one cookie sheet at a time. Because baking is an exact science, I've included measurements in weights as well as volume, for those who prefer this.

Yield is 6-7 dozen

For the cookies:

2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
2 cups (425 grams) of granulated sugar
15 oz of ricotta cheese (whole milk)
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
3 teaspoons of good vanilla extract (these can be made with anise flavoring, if you prefer)
2 large eggs
4 cups (480 grams) of all purpose flour
3/4 tsp (4 grams) fine sea salt
2 tsp (10 grams) baking soda.

Using an electric mixer (I use my stand mixer), cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add ricotta, lemon zest, and vanilla and beat well. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Scrape the sides of the bowl down with a rubber spatula, then beat in the flour, salt, and baking soda, combining well. Cover the dough and chill for at least 2 hours, though overnight is better.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line several baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick liners. Shape tablespoons of the chilled dough into balls. Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets--these cookies spread, so be sure cookie sheets are cool and put dough back in refrigerator between rolling out. Bake 15 minutes. Cookies will be pale golden on the bottom and will firm up a bit as they cool. Cool on wire racks while you make the icing.

For the icing:

1 tbs melted butter
4 cups (450 grams) of confectioners (powdered) sugar
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp good vanilla extract
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk, as needed to thin icing a bit-p

colored nonpareils

Melt the butter. Whisk the confectioners sugar to break up any large lumps, then whisk in melted butter, lemon juice, vanilla, and enough milk to make a spreadable icing.

To frost the cookies:

The easiest way to frost the cookies is to quickly dip the cookies and swirl off the excess. Do 6 at a time, then carefully sprinkle with nonpareils. It's best to set wire racks over th parchment covered cookie sheets to contain the excess icing and non-pareils. Let set for at least 20 minutes before serving or packaging.
These cookies disappear very quickly. They are like little clouds of cake, just sweet enough, and wonderful with a glass of milk or a cup of tea. They may look like those dry, crumbly Italian Christmas cookies, but they are a whole other thing.,

Friday, October 11, 2019

Lentil Soup Slow Cooker Style

Lentil Soup Slow Cooker Style

There's a diner about a half hour from home that serves "Bavarian lentil soup." I love this soup and order it whenever we go there. I've been trying for over a year to replicate it and finally came very, very close tonight. The ingredients seem like anything but Bavarian, but the soup is delicious and I will be making it often. I added a potato--because I had one--and thought it was a great addition, but you can leave it out.

Slow Cooker Easy Lentil Soup

Yield:  6 cups


     4 cups (1 quart)  vegetable broth
  • (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • small yellow onion, diced
  • medium carrots, diced
  • medium celery stalk, diced
  • 1 small potato, diced
  • cup lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • tablespoon olive oil
  • cloves garlic, minced
  • teaspoon kosher salt
  • teaspoon tomato paste
  • bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • teaspoons red wine vinegar

Place all the ingredients except the vinegar in a 3 1/2- to 4-quart slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover and cook on the high setting for 4 hours. Turn setting to low and cook for 2 more hours, until lentils are tender.
  1. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the red wine vinegar. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

(Slow Cooker) French Onion Soup

 What can beat a bowl of  rich, beefy broth laden with caramelized onions and topped with a golden crust of cheese?  As much as I love French onion soup au gratin, I seldom order it out. It's a meal in itself for me, not an appetizer. It's also nearly impossible to eat neatly. With a bit of fall in the air, my thoughts turn to soup and I began thinking of this hearty, cheesy meal in a bowl.

A bit of online research yielded any number of recipes, but I was looking for a quick and easy way to put this on the table, one that utilized my slow cooker. I read through quite a few recipes and came up with this amalgam.

I caramelized the onions overnight. They require 12 hours of cooking on low. I finished the soup the next morning.


3 lbs Vidalia (or sweet, yellow) onions, peeled and sliced thinly
2 tbs unsalted butter, melted
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

10 cups lower sodium beef broth
2 tbs Balsamic vinegar
2 tbs brandy

mini toasts (Joan of Arc brand or Divina are good)
shredded Gruyere cheese (1 oz per serving)


Place the sliced onions in a slow cooker. Pour over the melted butter and the oil, add about 1 tsp Kosher salt and pepper to taste and toss together. Cook on low for 12 hours. Do not stir or remove the lid during cooking. In fact, it's best to do it overnight and finish the soup in the morning.

Your onions should be beautifully caramelized after the slow cook in the crockpot. Add the broth, the Balsamic vinegar, and the brandy. Stir together. Cook on low for another 6 hours.


Preheat broiler. Place heated soup in an ovenproof bowl. Place 4 mini toasts on top of soup, then sprinkle shredded cheese over top of toasts. Place soup bowls on a baking sheet. Broil until bubbly and golden, taking care not to burn.

8-10 servings (3 SP for the soup; add 4 SP for 1 oz of Gruyere and 1 SP for 4 mini toasts)
It was hard to sleep with the incredible smells coming from downstairs, but the 12 hours on low gave up a pot of beautiful, mahogany--colored onions. The flavor of the soup was incredibly delicious. The vinegar and the brandy meld perfectly with the sweet onions. I would have liked to dump a half pound of gruyere cheese on top, but all things in moderation. Next time I need carmelized onions for anything, I'm breaking out my slow cooker.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

(Easy) Rigatoni with Sausage and Peppers

Cooking my way through Marlene Koch's Eat What You Love Restaurant Favorites, I have had far more hits than misses. While Ina Garten has been my idol for years, I give kudos to Koch, who can make seriously lightened versions of favorite dishes taste like the originals.  This dish, which can be made totally on the stove if you're pressed for time, is satisfying and delicious. I made a few small changes, none of which affected the nutritional value.

INGREDIENTS - 4 servings

4 ounces dry rigatoni
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 medium green pepper, chopped
8 oz Italian sweet sausage (remove casings)
1 1/2 cups marinara
1/3 cup nonfat half and half
1 tbs reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 tbs grated parmigiana cheese, divided
1/2 cup shredded light mozzarella

Cook the pasta according to package directions for al dente pasta; drain and set aside.

While the pasta cooks, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high meat. Add onions and peppers and cook until they begin to soften (about 5 minutes).. Add sausage and continue to cook, breaking up the meat into pieces with a spoon, until sausage is cooked and peppers are almost tender.

Add marinara to skillet and stir. Add half and half, cream cheese, garlic powder, and 2 tbs of the parmigiana and stir until everything is combined. Add the pasta and stir to combine.

At this point you can transfer to a baking dish, top with the mozzarella and the remaining grated cheese and bake, covered, at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Or, you can add the remaining ingredients to the skillet, cover, and cook on low heat until the cheese melts.
At 8 Smart Points (350 calories) per serving, this is a delicious and filling entree that comes together in the time it took me to make a salad. It was very saucy, but there was enough meat and vegetables to fill out the small amount of pasta per serving. I'm looking forward to eating the leftovers.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Pork Fried (cauliflower) Rice

I've made cauliflower fried rice before, but this recipe from EAT WHAT YOU LOVE RESTAURANT FAVORITES by Marlene Koch yields a fried rice far healthier, but every bit as delicious, as what you'd get at P.F. Chang's. While simple to prepare, there is some prep involved. Have everything at the ready and dinner will be on the table in 15 minutes.

Serves 4 as a side dish, or 2 as an entree (4 SP per 1 cup serving)

2 tsp vegetable oil, divided
1 1/2 cups riced cauliflower (about half a cauliflower)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup diced carrots
1 tsp minced ginger
4 scallions, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped, fresh mushrooms
6 oz lean ground pork
1 (8 oz) can sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 cup cooked rice
2 tbs oyster sauce

Heat 1 tsp oil in a large, nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the cauliflower and let cook for 2 minutes without stirring, until the underside begins to brown. Stir and cook another minute. Push to the edges of the pan and add the beaten egg. Scramble it until mostly cooked, then stir into the cauliflower.

Add carrots, mushrooms, ginger, and scallions and cook for 1 - 2 minutes. Add pork, breaking it into a few clumps. Using a fork, work it into the vegetables, breaking it into crumbles as it cooks. When pork is no longer pink, add water chestnuts and rice.

Add the oyster sauce and toss well. Add the remaining teaspoon of oil then turn rice over so oiled rice is on bottom on pan and cook without stirring for another 2 minutes, or until the underside is nicely browned.

Other recipes I've used  for cauliflower fried rice have not contained any real rice. The addition of 1 cup of white rice made a huge difference in taste. I prefer to start with a fresh cauliflower, but the recipe states that you may use frozen riced cauliflower if you choose. The serving size is generous, even if you eat just one cup, as I did. I chose to eat mine with some Lean Cuisine spring rolls for a still low points dinner.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Carnitas-style Shredded Pork

Marlene Koch's latest cookbook, EAT WHAT YOU LOVE RESTAURANT FAVORITES is quickly becoming my go-to, healthy eating bible. This recipe, though good as written, needed some flavor boosts and some changes in the cooking time. Following is my "new and improved" version. It yields 8 small or 4 regular-size servings. I served it with black beans, yellow rice, and street taco slider-sized soft tortillas. With avocado slices, light sour cream, and salsa, it had everything you need to satisfy a variety of tastes.

2 - 2 1/2 lb boneless pork loin roast
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
6 smashed garlic cloves
3 bay leaves,
8 oz light orange juice
1 tsp garlic salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Slice the roast vertically and horizontally to make 4 even pieces.
Spray a large, ovenproof pot (I used my LeCreuset Dutch oven) with cooking spray and place over high heat. Sear pork on all sides until brown. Remove from pot and set aside. Reduce heat to medium and add 1/2 cup water to deglaze the pot.

Combine the cumin, oregano, onion powder, and black pepper in a small bowl. Coat the pork with the spice mixture, rub in,  and let sit for 15 minutes.

Return the roast to the pot and add the garlic, bay leaf, orange juice, and 1/2 cup water. Cover the pot and place in the oven. Cook 70 minutes (until pork shreds easily with a fork).

Transfer the pork to a cutting board, discard bay leaf, and using 2 forks, shred the meat and spread it on a baking sheet. Simmer and reduce the liquid in the pot until it coats the back of a spoon. Pour 1/2 cup of the liquid over the meat to moisten it, and toss.

Just before serving, turn on the broiler, sprinkle meat with garlic salt, and broil 3-4 minutes until the edges of the meat are browned and slightly crisped.

1/2 cup serving is 2 SP


The first time I made this dish, I knew it was a keeper; but, I also knew it needed some tweaking. Pork loin is a lean meat, so overcooking it can be problematic. The 1 1/2 hour cook time that Koch noted was too long. I reduced that to 70 minutes and it was perfect (don't forget you put it under the broiler, too, so you want it moist to begin). Also, the original recipe called for less spice mix and the juice of half an orange. I've used light OJ in other recipes and substituting a full cup in place of some of the water was a good addition. This is a dish I've made with a fattier cut of pork. Truthfully, I don't mind using the loin at all since the flavor is excellent and the health benefits of reducing the fat are huge.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Orange Chicken (Quicker Than Takeout)

Because I use this blog as a place to store my favorite recipes, I don't speak in superlatives unless a dish is really, really worthy. This quicker-than-takeout orange chicken from Marlene Koch's EAT WHAT YOU LOVE RESTAURANT FAVORITES was the very best Chinese food I've ever cooked (and I've been making Chinese food since I bought my first ethnic cookbook in the early '70's).

If you've eaten orange chicken in a Chinese restaurant, you might be thinking greasy, deep fried, battered chicken swimming in a cornstarch-rich orange sauce. That is NOT what this is. I had to rein it in or I'd have eaten a second portion. While the list of ingredients may seem long, this isn't a difficult recipe. It does require you to prepare the components in a timely fashion, but with a bit of mis en place, you CAN have dinner on the table faster--and far better--than if you got takeout.

1/3 cup light orange juice
3 tbs rice vinegar
3 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs reduced sodium soy sauce
4 packets Stevia (or your favorite no calorie sweetner OR sugar, adjust accordingly)
2 tbs brown sugar
1 1/2 tbs cornstarch
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes (don't omit; it adds just a bit of heat)
1/2 cup water

In a medium saucepan whisk together the sauce ingredient. Place over medium high heat and bring to a low boil. Cook for 1 minute, then keep warm while you finish the dish.

1 1/4 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
1 large egg, beaten
1/4 cup all purpose flour (add more, if needed)
2 tbs canola oil, divided
1 small red, bell pepper, cut into 3/4 inch squares
1 small onion, cut into 3/4 inch squares

Coat cut up chicken breasts with beaten egg and toss with flour to coat. Heat 1 tbs of oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium high heat Add half the chicken and cook 4-5 minutes or until well browned on all sides. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with remaining 1 tbs oil and the rest of the chicken.

Add the red pepper and onio to the skillet and cook 4-6 minutes or until slightly softened. Add the chicken back to the skillet and pour the orange sauce over, tossing to coat. Serve immediately.

I served this with white rice and spicy green beans and it far surpassed my expectations. The recipe serves 4 and is low fat and low calorie (5 SP, if you follow WW). I can't wait for the leftovers.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Chicken and Spinach Rollatine

Chicken and Spinach Rollatine (8 SP each roll)


  • 4 thin chicken cutlets, 4 oz each
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • 6 tablespoons egg whites or egg beaters
  • 5 oz frozen spinach, squeezed dry of any liquid
  • 6 tbsp part skim ricotta cheese
  • 6 oz part skim shredded mozzarella 
  • olive oil non-stick spray
  • 1 cup tomato sauce 
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 450°. Lightly spray a baking dish with non-stick spray.

  1. Wash and dry cutlets, season with salt and pepper.

  2. Combine breadcrumbs and 2 tbsp grated cheese in one bowl and 1/4 cup egg beaters or egg whites in another.

  3. Combine 1.5 oz shredded mozzarella with remaining grated cheese, spinach (make sure you squeeze it dry), 2 tbsp egg beaters, and ricotta cheese.

  4. Lay chicken cutlets down on a working surface and spread 1/4 of spinach-cheese mixture on each cutlet.

  5.  Loosely roll each one and keep seam side down.

  6. Dip chicken in egg mixture, then in breadcrumbs and place seam side down in a baking dish (no toothpicks needed).

  7. Repeat with the remaining chicken. When finished, lightly spray with olive oil. Bake 25 minutes.

  8. Remove from oven, top with sauce then cheese and 
  9. bake until cheese is melted and bubbling, about 3 more minutes.
  10. *************************************
  12. I adapted this recipe to provide for a reasonable portion size. I could have decreased the mozzarella, but decided the extra points were worth it. This was a delicious dish that goes equally well with a side of pasta or a side of sauteed broccoli rabe or escarole. One roll is a perfect serving and the only thing that could make it better would be to use homemade tomato sauce.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Stuffing Crusted Turkey Sheet Pan Supper

Love the tastes and smells of Thanksgiving? Have 20 minutes to prepare a week night supper? Then this is the recipe for you.

Makes 4 servings (10 SP per serving)


1 box Stove Top stuffing mix
1 tbs I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Light
3 tbs low sugar raspberry jam or preserves
2 tbs Dijon mustard
4 turkey cutlets (1 lb total; 1/4 lb each cutlet)


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray foil with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, combine the stuffing mix and butter. Boil 1 2/3 cups of water, pour it over the stuffing mix, and stir lightly to combine. Let sit for 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine jam and mustard.

Place the 4 cutlets on the prepared baking sheet. Spread each piece with 1/4 of the jam mixture. Mound 1/4 of the stuffing on each cutlet. Spray top of each with nonstick spray.

Bake for 17 minutes.

Serve with roasted brussells sprouts and carrots for a filling dinner.

Every time I make this, I marvel at how something so simple can taste so good! I adapted this recipe from Marlene Koch's Eat What You Love:  Quick and Easy, my favorite healthy-eating cookbook.

Monday, January 14, 2019

(The Best Ever) Chicken and Dumplings

Could there be a more perfect comfort food, particularly for these cold weather days, than chicken and dumplings? It's not something I make often since I try to limit carbs and fats. If I do make it, I tend to use a lightened recipe. This time, though, I was looking for the "full Monty" and this recipe, with some slight modifications, delivered.

 I had bought the November issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine and tore this recipe out. I will say I was surprised that it was a poorly written recipe, missing steps and without the usual fine detail of a Martha Stewart recipe. A staff member's name was on it. Below is my version, edited a bit for clarity, but without much change to the ingredients. (OK, I used just a tad less fat and added the parsnips.) I recommend reading through the recipe first so you can do all the chopping at once.


2 1/2 - 3 lbs bone in, chicken thighs
4 cups water
2 tsp Kosher salt

For the broth:
3 tbs butter
1 medium diced onion
3 large carrots, peeled and diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
8 oz red potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1 1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 cup flour
1 cup frozen sweet peas
3 tbs chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

For the dumplings:
1 2/3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 tbs chopped parsley
2 tsp baking powder
4 tbs cold butter
3/4 cup milk


Combine the chicken thighs, the water, and the Kosher salt in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium low and simmer, partially covered, until chicken is cooked--20-30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate, let cool, then discard skin and bones and shred the meat into bite-sized pieces. Strain the broth. You should have 4 cups; if not, add more water.


Melt 4 tbs of butter in the Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, parsnips, potatoes, and thyme. Cook, stirring, until onion is translucent, 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle with the 1/4 cup of flour and cook about 1 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually stir in the reserved 4 cups of strained broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until veggies are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in chicken, peas, parsley, and season with salt and pepper.


While the veggies simmer, whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, baking powder, and parsley. Cut in 4 tbs cold butter. Stir in the milk until the dough holds together. Drop 8 heaping spoonsful of dough on top of the chicken and veggies mixture. Cover and simmer until dumplings are cooked through, 12-15 minutes.


It's a good thing there's a bit of prep involved in this dish, or I'd be making it much more often. At 15-18 Smart Points a srving (that's Weight Watcher talk), it's very close to my daily allocation. But, oh, my, was it ever worth it! The carrots and parsnips rendered a sweet, flavorful broth. The dumpling was swoon worthy. Somewhere between a stew and a soup, this chicken and dumplings is love in a bowl. The entire dish was like being wrapped in a big, fluffy blanket. It was well worth the bit of effort.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Broccoli and Cauliflower Cakes

On a recent episode of The Kitchen, actor Teri Hatcher shared her recipe for broccoli-cauliflower cakes. They sounded good, so I decided to make them as a side dish with center cut pork chops.

Ingredients - Makes 12 small (2") cakes

1 cup grated broccoli florets
1 cup grated cauliflower florets
1/4 cup grated cheese
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste
OPTIONAL:  2 tbs capers


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.

Use a box grater or a food processor (I used the latter), to grate the broccoli and the cauliflower, making sure to get 1 cup of each.

Beat the 2 eggs.

Combine the grated broccoli and cauliflower, grated cheese, breadcrumbs, beaten eggs, and salt and pepper with your hands until it is moist.

Divide the mixture into 12 parts and shape 12 patties, about 2 inches across each.

Place the cakes on the cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes, turn, and bake 15 minutes more on the other side.

Serve as a side dish. I combined several tablespoons of light sour cream with sirracha sauce and put a dab on each cake.

1 SP per cake.


I liked the texture and taste of these cakes. The inside was reminiscent of the inside of a potato pancake. The outside achieved a small degree of crispness (I'll try these in the air fryer next time). I enjoyed 3 with my pork chop for a satisfying meal.