Sunday, March 30, 2008

Frittata alla Carbonara

I know, I know. I've already done a frittata, but that was with potatoes. I'd never done one with pasta before, and since we had spaghetti on Friday night and I cooked too many noodles (as usual), I thought I'd use up the leftovers in a frittata. This was inspired by Spaghetti alla Carbonara (yum!) There is always a bag of frozen peas in the freezer, and we always have bacon, eggs, and cheese, so it just couldn't be helped that the spaghetti frittata would end up being a Frittata alla Carbonara.

Frittata alla Carbonara

2 strips of bacon, chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1 cup frozen peas
4 oz uncooked spaghetti or 2 cups cooked spaghetti
6 eggs
¼ cup half-and-half or heavy cream
½ cup mozzarella cheese
¼ cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In an oven-safe pan (cast-iron skillet works), heat bacon over medium heat.
Add the chopped garlic and cook for a minute.
Add frozen peas, salt and pepper and cook till the peas look swollen (about 4-5 minutes) and are heated through.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and cream together.
Add the half of each cheese into the egg mixture.
To the peas and bacon, add the spaghetti and toss till heated through.
Pour the egg mixture over the spaghetti and shake the pan a little to get the egg mix evenly distributed.
Leave the pan on the stove over medium heat for about 3 minutes, or till the bottom sets.
Top with the remaining cheese.
Move the pan into the oven and bake for 13-15 minutes.
Allow the frittata to cool for 5-10 minutes.
Slice and serve. (I'd say this serves 4)
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Muffaletta Sandwich

I've always loved muffaletta (I pronounce it "muh-fuh-LET-ah"), but I was always afraid of screwing up the tapenade. There's a pretty fine line between good tapenade and way-too-salty tapenade. It can't be too bland because it's a big element of the muffaletta, but it can't be too salty because it'll overpower the meats and cheeses. I found (and modified) this recipe for tapenade. It was just right. It was just a little salty, the way good tapenade should be, and the white wine vinegar and parsley gave it a good brightness in flavor. And the best part of this recipe is that it was REALLY easy!


½ cup pimento-stuffed green olives
½ cup black olives
2 cloves garlic
1 handful flat-leaf parsley
3-4 strips roasted red pepper
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a mixture is blended. The tapenade should be coarse, but finer than small-curd cottage cheese.


1 loaf Italian bread cut in half, longwise
½ lb salami
½ lb mortadella (or bologna)
6-8 slices of provolone

Scoop out some of the bread from each half of the Italian bread to make room for your filling. Spread the tapenade on the top half. Place the salami, bologna, and cheese on the other half. Put together and cut into smaller sandwiches.

Options: You may want to use crustier bread. The bread I used was great, but it was soft. You may also just want to toast the bread once it’s been cut in half. In the oven at 400 degrees for about 5-8 minutes before assembling should do it.
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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sesame Tofu and Bok Choy

I found this recipe in Prevention magazine. When I got my first issue, my boyfriend said, why do you have an old-people magazine? I didn't realize that Prevention is mostly for people over 50 until I started looking at the ads inside. Some examples: Women's Ultra Mega 50 plus, vitamins for aging well; Poise Ultra Thins for bladder control; Enablex for reducing bladder leaks. Don't get me wrong - I love people over 50 and I'm happy that they have this fantastic magazine, I just didn't realize it was targeted to this age group. Nonetheless, they have some good recipes in there sometimes, and this one caught my eye (it has been slightly modified):

2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 pkg firm tofu, drained and cut into bite size cubes
4 tbsp sesame oil
1-2 lbs bok choy, cut into 1" pieces (I forgot to do this)
2 tbsp finely chopped (or grated) ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp lower sodium soy sauce

1. Place the sesame seeds in a bowl and roll tofu around to coat the cubes.
2. Heat 2 tsp of sesame oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add tofu and cook, turning occasionally until golden brown on all sides (about 10 min)
3. Heat remaining oil in another skillet over high heat; add bok choy, garlic, and ginger and stir-fry 4 mins. Toss in tofu and soy sauce and heat through.

Serve with steamed rice.

This recipe was really easy and apparently bok choy contains glucosinates which fight cancer. If you can't find bok choy, you can use broccoli or kale.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mushroom and Onion Crostata

I modified a recipe I saw from Ellie Krieger for whole wheat pastry to use for this savory dish. The filling was inspired by an Everyday Italian recipe. I actually like the whole wheat for the pastry because it adds a nutty flavor to the tart and it holds up well against the moisture from the filling. I added Worcestershire because I used only button mushrooms which lack the meatier flavor of other wild mushrooms. If you're using shiitake or portobello and especially morels, you will most likely not need Worcestershire. Thyme is great in this, but if you don't have it, use rosemary.

Whole Wheat Pastry

½ cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ cup AP flour
1/8 tsp salt
6 tbsp cold butter
3-4 tbsp ice cold water

Mix salt and both flours, then in a food processor, pulse the flour with the butter (cut into small cubes) until small “pebbles” form. Remove the dough from the processor and add 3-4 tbsp of cold water. Shape into a large disc, cover in plastic, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Mushroom and Onion Filling

½ medium yellow onion, sliced finely
2 strips of bacon, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter
8 oz button and/or other mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp salt
2 tsp Worcestershire
1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ tsp chopped thyme

1 egg with 1 tsp water for eggwash

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Sautee bacon for about 1 minute; add 1 tbsp butter and cook another minute. Add onion and salt and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute.
Add the remaining butter, melt, then add the mushrooms and Worcestershire. Cook 3-4 minutes, add parsley and thyme and cook another minute.

Roll out the pastry dough into a 12” wide circle. Transfer the dough to a lined baking sheet. Spread the filling out in the center of the pastry, leaving a 2 inch border. Fold up the border over the filling. Top with parmesan cheese and brush the crust with eggwash.

Bake for 25 minutes or till the crust is golden brown. Slice and serve.

Spinach and Feta Rolls

I was one of the hosts for a friend's baby shower this past weekend, and I decided to make some appetizers. I happened to have all the ingredients necessary for a recipe I found in the Better Homes and Gardens Annual Recipes (2005), so I decided these would be the perfect addition to the food at the shower. This recipe has been slightly modified from the original recipe, which is called Easy Florentine Souffle Rolls. It was a Prize Tested Recipes Winner, and it was delicious!

4 green onions

2 cloves garlic

2 tbsp olive oil

2 pkg frozen spinach, thawed

1/4 cup pesto (prepared or store-bought)

1 lb pizza dough (thawed and at room temp)

8 oz feta cheese, crumbled*

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease 24 muffin cups and set aside.

In a large skillet, cook the green onions and garlic in 1 tbsp olive oil until tender. Add spinach and cook over med heat till the spinach has warmed. Drain off excess liquid and set aside.

On a well-floured surface, roll out the pizza dough into about a 24 x 8 inch rectangle.

Brush the dough with 1 tbsp of olive oil.

Spread the pesto to within 1 inch of the edges of the dough.

Spread out the spinach mixture on top of the pesto.

Sprinkle the feta cheese over the spinach.

Starting with one of the long sides, roll the dough into a long spiral.

Slice into 24 pieces.

Place each round into the muffin tins.

Bake for 18-20 minutes; allow the rolls to cool in the muffin tins for 2 minutes. Remove and serve warm.

*For Pete's sake, don't buy crumbled feta! You can crumble it yourself.

Also, don't reheat these. I made the mistake of reheating these in the oven before serving, and some of them came out a little chewy.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Grilled Vegetable Pizza

Frozen pizza dough from Sam's Club is my friend. I can make focaccia, pizza, cinnamon buns, and this spinach appetizer which I'm making for a baby shower I'm hosting today. I'll post that recipe later. But for this post, I'm talking grilled vegetable pizza.

I grilled zucchini, squash, yellow onions, and eggplant on the grill. Super easy - just toss the vegetables, which you'll need to cut long-wise, in olive oil and sprinkle a little bit of salt. Grill on each side for about 8-10 minutes. For the pizza, you can cut them into bite-sized pieces.

The pizza:

1 ball frozen pizza dough (1 lb) - thawed and allowed to rest at room temperature for at least 20 minutes.

Pizza sauce (you can make your own or use prepared)

4-6 oz fresh mozzarella, either cut into large rounds or shredded

2 oz crumbled feta cheese

Grilled vegetables

Roasted red peppers (jarred)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Roll out the pizza dough to desired thickness. Transfer to your pizza rack or cookie sheet, sprinkled with cornmeal to prevent sticking. (You want move your pizza to the cooking vessel before you start topping the pizza. )

Top pizza with sauce, mozzarella, feta, grilled vegetables, and roasted red peppers.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Slice and serve!

If you like, you can top the pizza with fresh herbs. I imagine fresh oregano or basil would be great with this.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Banana Leaf Chicken Tamales

I don't like corn-husk wrapped tamales. Call me crazy, but I was spoiled by the tamal vendor in Atlanta. I don't know who they are, but my mom and sister came back from Atlanta one day with about 30 tamales. They were wrapped in banana-leaves and I have been spoiled ever since. And I might have an affinity for bananas in general, thanks to the tropical childhood we lived. The leaves add a distinct flavor to the masa, and it's delicious!!

Anyway, I had been wanting to make my own, and I had banana leaves in the freezer and tomatillos on the counter. What could I do but make tamales??

Banana leaves (you can find these at the Asian or Mexican market)

2 cups masa harina
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water, lukewarm
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

3 chicken breasts
6 tomatillos
¼ cup vinegar
2 tbsp jarred jalapenos, chopped
2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp chile paste
1 tsp salt

In a large bowl, combine the masa ingredients together.
Using your hands, mix well to incorporate the shortening throughout the mixture.
The masa should be a bit runny at first, but as it sits, the masa harina will soak up the liquid and dry a little.
Cover and set aside while you prepare the filling.

Take the husks off the tomatillos, if there are any, and wash to remove the sticky stuff. Cut into quarters.
In a small food processor, add vinegar and tomatillos and blend until the big chunks are gone.
Pour the mixture into a pot, add jalapenos, cumin, chile paste, salt, and chicken.
Simmer for about 15 minutes, or till the chicken is cooked through.
Remove from heat, remove the chicken from the pot and allow it to rest for at least 5 minutes.
After 5 minutes, cut the chicken into small cubes and, in a large bowl, combine with the tomatillo mixture.

Take your banana leaves and cut them into large pieces, about 8” x 8”.
With the veins of the leaves running from top to bottom, place about 1/3 cup of masa in the center but all the way to the right side so that your masa is all the way to the end of the leaf on the right.
Put about 3 tbsp of the filling in the middle.
Then fold the right side of the leaf over to the middle of the masa, then fold the left side all the way around, making one long pouch.
Fold up the top and bottom of the leaf and wrap with kitchen twine.
This should make 10-12 tamales.

Now to steam them:
Using a steamer in a large pot, you can only cook about 4 tamales at one time.
When I’ve made corn husk tamales, I have rigged up the fryer to steam about 30 at one time. I put a Pyrex casserole dish on the bottom of the large fryer pot, filled the pot with enough water to cover the casserole dish, then placed the fryer basket (the one with holes) on top of the casserole dish. Bring the water to a boil, cover the basket with foil, and steam for about 1 hour. Keep an eye on the water level, and refill as needed.

I also found another method that seems a little less complicated than either doing 3 batches at one hour each batch or rigging up the fryer. You can place a steamer rack on the bottom of a large pot, add enough water to come up just below the steam rack, and line the top of the steam rack with banana leaves. Place all your tamales on top of the banana leaves, and top them with a few more leaves. Cover the pot and steam cook for an hour.
If you end up with 10, each tamal will have 237 cal. 12, and they'll have 197 cal.

So I realize that shortening or lard is the traditional way to make the masa, but there has to be a healthier option to keep the masa moist. I’ve done some research and some people use olive oil while others use margarine or even low-fat ricotta cheese that has been beaten and processed to create a smooth cream. I will try one of these next time I make tamales and let you know if they turn out well.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Pappardelle and Meatballs

I modified a Barefoot Contessa recipe for spaghetti and meatballs to get this version using pappardelle (wide ribbon pasta), turkey and a few different ingredients for the sauce, but the technique is the same. Browning the meatballs gives them a nice flavor, while simmering them helps them stay moist, especially if you're using lean turkey instead of beef.

Pappardelle and Turkey Meatballs

1 lb ground turkey (93/7)
1 lb ground turkey sausage (breakfast sausage)
2 slices sandwich bread
¼ cup Italian breadcrumbs
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
¼ c grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
olive oil

In a food processor, mix the sandwich bread until finely chopped.
In a large bowl, mix in everything except the olive oil. Using your hands is best. Shape the mixture into 1 to 1 ½ inch balls. You will have about 20-24
In a large Dutch oven, heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil. Brown the meatballs – you’ll probably have to do two batches. About 3-4 minutes on each side (top and bottom). Set meatballs aside while you make the sauce.

1 tbsp olive oil
½ cup chopped yellow onions
1 ½ tsp minced garlic
¼ cup red wine
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 ½ tsp kosher sale
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ c grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Using the same Dutch oven in which the meatballs were browned (drain, but don’t clean after browning), add olive oil and cook the onions over med heat till translucent (5-8 min). Add garlic and cook another minute. Add wine and cook on high heat (stirring occasionally) until almost all the liquid has evaporated (3 min). Stir in tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover and simmer on low for about 20-25 minutes. Serve over pasta.

Makes 6 servings.
439.8 cal per serving
19.3g total fat
140.9mg cholesterol

Tips & substitutions:

To add more nutritional value to the meatballs, you could add chopped spinach.

To make this dish entirely vegetarian, you could use firm tofu and egg substitute. You'll probably need more egg substitute and breadcrumbs to make the mixture stick better.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Bacon Potato Frittata

My mom used to make something similar to this; really the only difference was that she would flip the frittata in the pan to cook evenly, whereas in this recipe you finish off the cooking in the oven.

Bacon Potato Frittata

1 Idaho baking potato, diced into small cubes

1/2 cup diced yellow onion

1 bunch green onions

2 tbsp chopped Italian parsley or cilantro (I used cilantro, but parsley is ok too)

2 slices of low-sodium bacon

6 eggs

2 oz cheese (I used cheddar, but I think Gruyere would be delicious!)

olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

In an oven-safe pan, sautee the potatoes and onions in about 1 tbsp of olive oil. It'll take about 12-14 minutes to cook (over med-low heat). Add about 1/2 tsp of salt while cooking.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

While the potatoes and onions are cooking, chop the green onions (green and white parts), cilantro, and garlic. Dice the bacon. When the potatoes and onions are done, add the green onions, cilantro, garlic, and bacon and cook for another 2 minutes.

Beat the eggs in a small bowl and add these to the pan. Shake the pan a little to get the eggs evenly distributed. Leave the pan on the stove for about 2 minutes, or till the bottom begins to set.

Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Remove the pan, top with shredded cheese, and cook for another 2 minutes.

Allow the frittata to cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Tips & substitutions:

Since I don't really have an "oven-safe" pan, I just used my iron skillet. It worked very well.

The nice thing about frittatas is that it's a great way to get rid of some of the vegetables you might have around. Asparagus is great, especially with bacon. You can also substitute smoked sausage for bacon, but you'll want to add just a little more fat (maybe 1/2 tsp of olive oil).

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition info:

268.7 cal per serving

17.2 g total fat

336.3 mg cholesterol

238.0 mg sodium

398.4 mg potassium

12.9g total carbohydrate

15.3 g protein

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Have your cake but not eat it?

In preparation for a baby shower for my friend Mieke (who is due late April), Kim and I made a diaper cake today. I know, right! A cake you can't eat?? What fun is that?? Actually, it was a lot of fun! I got to use a glue gun, something I don't often have a need for. And I got to go buy baby stuff, which is especially fun when it's for a baby whose home is not yours. (Can you tell I'm not ready for babies just yet??)'s the picture of the diaper cake. It's pretty straightforward. Two packs of diapers, some rubber bands, pink ribbon, stuffed animals, some glue-on flair, and some hot glue gun action.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Basil Chicken Fettucine

When I was working at the Mill, a restaurant in Birmingham's Southside, I had two favorite dishes. Well, I liked lots of things there, but if I had to pick just one, I'd go with Basil Chicken Fettucine. I think I ate that dish at least once a week during my first year of working there. I was a basil chicken fettucine eating fool. Anyhow, I was making my menu for the week, and something made me think of this dish, and I decided to try to replicate it. I used a little less fat, so it didn't taste exactly the same, but the elements are there, and I really enjoyed it.


2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more. 2 Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

(Got this recipe from You'll end up with extra pesto.)

Basil Chicken Fettucine

8 oz fettucine, uncooked

2 chicken breasts

6-8 sundried tomatoes (dry or packed in oil, doesn't matter)

basil pesto

salt to taste
Cook fettucine according to package instructions.

Cook chicken breasts in a pan, about 8 minutes on each side. Allow the chicken to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing. Slice into strips.

If using dry sundried tomatoes, soak in warm water for 5 minutes. Slice the tomatoes into small strips. If they seem too dry, you can drizzle some olive oil in a pan and gently sautee for 3-4 minutes.

Combine the cooked pasta, chicken, sundried tomatoes, and basil pesto (about 3 tbsp) and serve. Add enough pesto to flavor all the ingredients, but taste test before adding more.