Monday, October 29, 2007

Halloween Dinner

Ben and I won't be celebrating Halloween together this year, so tonight I made a special dinner...Penne with Sausage and Pumpkin Cream Sauce. It was delicious...the pumpkin was a suttle taste and the sage added a hint of woodsyness. The cinnamon and nutmeg gave it a spicy flavor. This made way too much, but luckily Ben has lots of leftover for when I'm out of town this weekend. I'll definitely be making this's such a great way to use pumpkin in the fall season. I wanted to make the Spinach Apple salad that was included with the recipe. For a short cut, pick up the Fall Harvest salad in a bag at the grocery store...the pine nuts and apple cider vinagriatte are and excellent pair with the pasta.

Penne with Sausage and Pumpkin Cream Sauce (Rachel Ray)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, cracked and chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
4 to 6 sprigs sage leaves, cut into chiffonade, about 2 tablespoons
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock, canned or paper container
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup (3 turns around the pan) heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, ground or freshly grated
Coarse salt and black pepper
1 pound penne rigate, cooked to al dente
Romano or Parmigiano, for grating
Pumpernickel or whole grain bread, as an accompaniment
Spinach Salad with Apple and Red Onion, as an accompaniment, recipe follows

Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and brown the sausage in it. Transfer sausage to paper towel lined plate. Drain fat from skillet and return pan to the stove. Add the remaining tablespoon oil, and then the garlic and onion. Saute 3 to 5 minutes until the onions are tender.

Add bay leaf, sage, and wine to the pan. Reduce wine by half, about 2 minutes. Add stock and pumpkin and stir to combine, stirring sauce until it comes to a bubble. Return sausage to pan, reduce heat, and stir in cream. Season the sauce with the cinnamon and nutmeg, and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to thicken sauce.

Return drained pasta to the pot you cooked it in. Remove the bay leaf from sauce and pour the sausage pumpkin sauce over pasta. Combine sauce and pasta and toss over low heat for 1 minute. Garnish the pasta with lots of shaved cheese and sage leaves.

Serve pumpkin sausage pasta with pumpernickel or whole grain bread and Spinach Salad with Apple and Red Onion.

Spinach Salad with Apple and Red Onion:
1 pound triple-washed spinach, de-stemmed
1 small Golden Delicious apple, quartered, cored, and sliced
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons (a couple of splashes) apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon grain mustard 1 tablespoon (a good drizzle) honey
Coarse salt and black pepper

Place spinach, apple, and onion in a salad bowl. Place oil, vinegar, mustard and honey in a small plastic container and fit lid on container. Shake dressing to combine, 1 minute. Pour dressing over salad, toss, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Fall turns me into a baker and I've been dying to make some pumpkin chocolate chip muffins. Last year I made these from scratch and they were awesome, but this October has been unbelievably busy. So I received this recipe from a friend...not only are they quick and easy, but they're very low fat. We especially enjoy these for breakfast or a late night snack after dinner.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 box spice cake mix
1 (15 oz) pure pumpkin
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix spice cake mix, water and pumpkin until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips. Divide mixture among 20 muffins and bake for 20-22 minutes.

Sausage, Peppers and Onions...Oh Goodness

I never thought such a simple dish could be so good. For some reason I had a craving for this. I searched for a recipe and found one from Giada that had 5 stars. It is definitely worth 5 stars. This recipe was super simple to make and has tons of flavor. Leftovers are better the next day and it's incredibly versitle. We served this over rice, but it'd be amazing on subs with some provalone cheese melted over top.

Sausage, Peppers and Onions (Giada De Laurentiis)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage
2 red bell peppers, sliced
2 yellow onions, sliced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup Marsala wine
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
4 to 6 fresh Italian sandwich rolls, optional

Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausages and cook until brown on both sides, about 7 to 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and drain.

Keeping the pan over medium heat, add the peppers, onions, salt, and pepper and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the oregano, basil, and garlic and cook 2 more minutes.
Add the tomato paste and stir. Add the Marsala wine, tomatoes, and chili flakes, if using. Stir to combine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the browned bits. Bring to a simmer.

Cut the sausages into 4 to 6 pieces each, about 1-inch cubes. Add the sausage back to the pan and stir to combine. Cook until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.

Serve in bowls. Or, if serving as a sandwich, split the rolls in half lengthwise. Hollow out the bread from the bottom side of each roll, being careful not to puncture the crust. Fill the bottom half of the roll with sausage mixture. Top and serve sandwiches immediately.

Mac and Cheese with a Twist

The twist to this macaroni and cheese recipe was actually a mistake, but Ben won't let me make it any other way now. The recipe orginially came from a Weight Watchers Comfort Foods cookbook and used plain diced tomatoes and fat free cheese. I can't stand fat free anything, so I always use 2% cheese. On accident I used diced tomatoes with green chilis and it added a little kick to ordinary mac and cheese. Additionally it has a bread crumb topping which adds to its richness. This recipe always makes more than we can eat. By using multigrain or whole wheat pasta it really fills you up. We enjoy this on a Sunday evening with just a salad.

Kicked Up Mac & Cheese
1/2 lb multigrain or whole wheat elbow macaroni (about 2 cups)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 cups fat free milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 (14 1/2 oz can) diced tomatoes with green chilis and their juice
1/4 cup plain dried bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Cook the macaroni according to package directions, omitting the salt if desired.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occassionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the milk. Increase the heat and cook, whisky constantly, until slightly thickened, 3-4 minutes. Whisk in the cheddar cheese, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Cook whisking occassionally, until the cheeses melt, about 1 minute.

Remove the saucepan from the heat; stir in the macaroni and the tomatoes with their juice. Pour mixture into the casserole dish. Melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring constantly, until they are evenly coated, about 1 minute. Sprinkle over the macaroni and bake until bubbly and the top is golden, about 30 minutes.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ben's Italian Chicken Casserole

One Monday night as I was working late, I called Ben to let him he would be making dinner...imagine his shock and surprise that I'd let him in the kitchen and that he had do it. He has been helping out with the cooking lately since I've been working late a lot. I found this recipe in Southern Living and new it'd be awesome. Ben made a few modifications...added more italian seasoning and drained the tomatoes. This also made a ton...perfect for a week of leftovers or freeze it for later.

Italian Chicken Casserole (Southern Living)

2 (3.5-oz.) bags quick-cooking rice
1 pound chicken breast, cut into cubes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 (8-oz.) package sliced fresh mushrooms
1 (10 3/4-oz.) can reduced-fat cream of chicken soup
1/2 (8-oz.) container sour cream
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano, undrained
Cook rice according to package directions.
Sprinkle chicken evenly with salt and pepper. Sauté, in 2 batches, in 2 Tbsp. hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from skillet.
Add remaining 1 Tbsp. oil to skillet, and sauté onion 2 to 3 minutes or until tender. Stir in mushrooms, and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until liquid evaporates. Remove skillet from heat.

Stir together soup, sour cream, and Italian seasoning in a medium bowl until well blended. Stir soup mixture into onion mixture in skillet; stir in rice. Gently stir in tomatoes and chicken just until combined. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish.

Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes.

To make ahead: Line a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with heavy-duty aluminum foil, allowing several inches of foil to extend over sides. Prepare recipe as directed through Step 4; spoon mixture into dish. Freeze 2 hours or until firm. Lift casserole from dish using foil sides; fold foil over casserole. Wrap in additional foil, or place in a large zip-top plastic freezer bag. Freeze up to 3 months. Remove casserole from foil or freezer bag. Place in a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Thaw in refrigerator 24 hours. Bake at 350° for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until bubbly.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Making up for lost time...

It's been a busy few weeks. Between Ben in school, work loads picking up and vacations...I've barely had time to cook. But, it's fall now and we're excited for some new recipes. Plus with all the junk we've been eating the past few weeks you can expect a few recipes that are good for you too.

I'm back in my routine of making a menu for the week. So this week you can expect Better Than Ever Enchiladas and White Bean Chicken Chili.

Tonight I made the Enchiladas. It was featured in the Kraft Food and Family magazine a year ago. It's a lighter recipe that doesn't use oil for the tortillas nor enchilada sauce, but its by far one of my favorite homemade enchilada recipes. It only calls for 1/2 lb ground hambuger, but I always double the filling and stuff them extra and make as many as I can fit in the dish.

Better Than Ever Enchiladas (Kraft Food & Family)

1/2 lb. extra lean ground beef
1/2 cup chopped green peppers
1/2 cup chopped red peppers
2 cups salsa, divided
1 cup 2% Milk Shredded Reduced Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese, divided
2 Tbsp. Light Zesty Italian Reduced Fat Dressing
8 corn tortillas (6 inch)
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook meat and peppers in large nonstick skillet on medium heat until meat is no longer pink, stirring frequently. Add 1 cup of the salsa; simmer 3 to 4 min. or until peppers are tender. Remove from heat; stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese.

Spread 1/4 cup of the salsa onto bottom of 13x9-inch baking dish. Brush dressing lightly over both sides of tortillas. Stack 4 of the tortillas on large sheet of waxed paper; wrap tortillas in waxed paper. Microwave on HIGH 20 to 30 sec. or just until warm. Immediately spoon 1/3 cup meat mixture down center of each warm tortilla; roll up. Place, seam side down, in dish. Repeat with remaining 4 tortillas and remaining meat mixture. Spoon remaining 3/4 cup salsa evenly over filled tortillas; cover with foil.

Bake 20 min. or until heated through. Uncover; top with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Bake an additional 2 to 3 min. or until cheese is melted. Top with cilantro.

An Anniversary Dinner at home

Ben and I celebrated our first anniversary in Disney World enjoying dinner at the French restaurant, Bistro De Paris, overlooking the Lagoon at Epcot. We continued our anniversay on a cruise eating tons of yummy food. When we got back I actually missed cooking dinner for us. My mom had picked up our fresh anniversary cake, so I set out to make a nice dinner. The new Cooking Light is celebrating 20 years and included 20 of its best of each category. I decided on the best Fish & Seafood recipe and it was delicious. The aioli sauce adds a ton of flavor. If I was short on time, I'd make the aioli and serve it with fish sticks. I'm determined it could make them taste gourmet.

Cornflake Crusted Halibut with Chile-Cilantro Aioli (Cooking Light)

2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise
1 serrano chile, seeded and minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup fat-free milk
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
2 cups cornflakes, finely crushed
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 (6-ounce) halibut fillets
Lemon wedges

To prepare aioli, combine first 4 ingredients, stirring well.
To prepare fish, combine milk and egg white in a shallow dish, stirring well with a whisk. Combine cornflakes, flour, salt, and black pepper in a shallow dish.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Dip fish in milk mixture; dredge in cornflake mixture. Add fish to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve with mayonnaise mixture and lemon wedges.

I decorated the table with a centerpeice from our wedding, our aniversary cake, cake topper and our cake cutting set.

Fajita Pizza...

This fajita pizza taste just like the real thing. Using rotisserie chicken, red and green bell peppers, onions and chipotle cheddar was the perfect combination for a mexican inspired pizza.

Speedy Dinners...

This is another Kraft Food & Family recipe and perfect for our busy weeks. It's super quick, but the taste isn't compromised. Add whatever veggies you have on hand as well as either spaghetti, angel hair or vermacelli noodle pasta.

Speedy Chicken Stir Fry (Kraft Food & Family)

8 oz. angel hair pasta (capellini), uncooked
2 cups small broccoli florets
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1/2 cup Asian Toasted Sesame Dressing
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1/4 tsp. each: ground ginger, garlic powder, crushed red pepper
1/3 cup chopped Dry Roasted Peanuts

Cook pasta as directed on package, adding broccoli to the boiling water for the last 3 min. of the pasta cooking time.

Meanwhile, spray large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat on medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 6 to 8 min. or until cooked through, stirring occasionally. Stir in dressing, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and crushed red pepper; cook 1 min., stirring occasionally.

Drain pasta mixture; place in large bowl. Add chicken mixture; mix lightly. Spoon evenly into four serving bowls; sprinkle with the peanuts.

Pizza Experimenting

Lately, we've been experimenting with pizza toppings and using whatever meats, veggies and cheeses we have at home. We were both craving banana peppers, so we added that to leftover bbq chicken, onion and montrery and colby jack cheese. This was delicious!