Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Legacy Recipe: Pumpkin Pie

I don't normally like to post recipes for foods that have been well established unless there is some factor about the particular recipe that makes it unique. This post is for a classic seasonal recipe, pumpkin pie. However, this recipe not only has unique methodology, but its also dear to my heart because it comes from my maternal grandmother, who was not only a fabulous cook but a classy, warm-hearted lady. I'm happy to be able to document her recipe here and hope it brings you as much joy to prepare and eat as it has me.

I decided to make my grandmother's (MaMa's) silky-sweet pumpkin pie recipe for an early Thanksgiving party with my biology grad student friends. I even made an all-butter crust from scratch as well. I found a great recipe at with only 4 ingredients. I whipped up three crusts in my food processor the night before preparing the pies. There's something so rewarding about making your own pastry. Even though this crust recipe is indulgent, I highly suggest you not use those pre-packaged pie doughs because 1) they taste terrible, in my opinion, and putting delicious pie filling with a bad crust will lead to a mediocre pie and 2) they're full of preservatives.

The next day I made the filling, and here is the unique part: instead of just dumping the naked ingredients into the raw pie crust, you cook them on the stove until thickened as if you were preparing a custard. This is what makes the filling silky smooth instead of firm like so many other pumpkin pie recipes I've eaten. To tell you the truth, this is the only pumpkin pie recipe I like. Other than that, I think the recipe has a higher proportion of milk-to-pumpkin, so it has less of a vegetable flavor. The original recipe is so adorable because my grandma's proportions of ingredients were for things like "two or three eggs"...something I kept chuckling about. This was probably before eggs were graded into sizes, so I just used 4 standard large eggs because I doubled the recipe to make 3 pies. I also know from my MaMa's recipes that she loved cloves, and this recipe is no different. It may seem odd to measure out individual spices when the recipe calls for a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice on top. The individual spices are in the perfect ratio; you don't know the ratio of spices in pumpkin pie spice, which is why it's not predominantly used.

I used dough scraps to  make cinnamon sugar pinwheels, like my mom used to make. You can see the pastry recipe I used resulted in a light, flaky dough.

I free-form cut autumn decorations from pie dough scraps. This was supposed to be a maple leaf.

An acorn to decorate the top of one pie

Add caption
All 3 pies. The one in the back looks burnt, but it's not...I just got over zealous with the pumpkin pie spice garnish...

Please make this for your holidays this year; you won't be sorry. This can be made in stages and in advance because the pies last well in the refrigerator. P.S. if you use Cool Whip on this pie, that would be fine as long as you don't tell me about it ;) (honestly, if you're going as far to make your own pie, you might as well whip your own cream for a little dollop on each will look like a kitchen rockstar).

Legacy Recipe: Pumpkin Pie
Printable Recipe

4 large eggs
1 28-oz can pure pumpkin puree
3 1/2 cups evaporated milk
2 cups sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla
pumpkin pie spice

1. Whisk the eggs and add them to a large saucepan, then pour in all the remaining ingredients except vanilla and pumpkin pie spice.
2. Cook the filling over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the custard becomes so thick that it coats the back of a spoon and if you draw your finger down the back of the spoon, it makes a line. Fold in the vanilla.
3. Pour the filling into the prepared crusts. Sprinkle over some pumpkin pie spice. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 1-1 1/4 hour, or until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out relatively clean.
This recipe makes enough filling for 3 8-9-inch pies. Halve this recipe for 1 pie.

  • For 1/24 of  the pie filling recipe, without the crust (because nutritional value will vary depending on the crust recipe):
  • Calories: 138
  • Fat: 3.7 g
  • Saturated fat: 2 g
  • Cholesterol: 46 mg
  • Sodium: 149 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 23.1 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Sugar: 21.5 g
  • Protein: 3.9 g

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Balsamic and Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potatoes, and Onions

 One of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables is to roast them because the vegetables caramelize, which adds another dimension of flavor. This preparation method is particularly useful for vegetables that are highly disliked, such as Brussels sprouts. The cruciferous flavor of the sprout melts away in the roasting process, and makes them sprouts taste almost like popcorn to me. I paired the sprouts with sweet potatoes, which always roast beautifully because they get crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside. I added onions per my mom's request, because she likes how sweet they get and the red onions add a fantastic color contrast between the green sprouts and orange potatoes. I seasoned the vegetables with balsamic vinegar because I like a sour edge with any vegetable in the cabbage family and because balsamic vinegar gets sweet as it cooks, which was the perfect match for the sweet potatoes. Of course, balsamic tastes especially great on caramelized onions.

One of the special tricks I use to reduce the amount of oil needed when roasting vegetables is to toss the vegetables in a small amount of oil and then also spray the pan. I would need to toss the vegetables in more oil otherwise in order to prevent them from sticking. This method helps cut the amount of oil down by about half. I also always line the pan with aluminum foil for easy clean-up, which is especially great around the holidays because it seems like we are cooking more than during the rest of the year. This recipe would be great for Thanksgiving because you can combine two requisite side dishes into one: the sweet potatoes and the vegetables.

Before: beautiful colors

After: roasted caramelized deliciousness

Balsamic and Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Sweet Potatoes, and Onions
Printable Recipe
1 lb Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed, rough leaves removed, and cut in half from top to bottom
3 small or 2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into small chunks (about 3/4"x3/4")
1 medium red onion, cut into slivers and leaves separated
6 whole cloves garlic, peel left on
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste
non-stick cooking spray

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
2) Toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl and arrange in as close to a single layer as possible on a sprayed baking tray.
3) Roast for 35-40 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft and all the vegetables are very caramelized.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 215
  • Fat: 7.3 g
  • Saturated fat: 1 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 37 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 35.1 g
  • Fiber: 7.9 g
  • Sugar: 4.1 g
  • Protein: 5.6 g

Orzo with Sausage, Peppers, and Tomatoes

I'm visiting my family for Thanksgiving and I'm so glad to be back in Indiana. I have a huge surprise to tell you about. On the day I flew out, I got a huge package in the mail from Hickory Farms via Foodbuzz's Tastemaker Program.  Hickory Farms is a company that sells things like sausages and cheeses and are pretty popular around the holidays. This box had 3 kinds of sausage, 2 kinds of mustard, 5 kinds of cheese, crackers and candy. I couldn't dive into it before my flight, but I can't wait to share it with my friends once I get back to Georgia.

Another exciting thing to tell you is that I've been asked to become a contributor at, a great site to check out for new recipes. I hope you check out the site and consider joining.

Now, onto one of the latest things I prepared from my family. I love coming home because I get to cook dinner for my family like I did when I was in high school. It's a nice stress reliever for my family to have me prepare dinner and I enjoy doing it, so everyone wins. I prepared a recipe from Giada de Laurentiis, one of my favorite Food Network chefs. Her recipes consistently turn out well for me, which is another reason why I like to prepare them. This recipe was from her old show, Everyday Italian, which I wish was still airing, but her new show Giada at Home is enjoyable. My mom loves orzo pasta and we had some turkey Italian sausage in the freezer, so Giada's recipe for Orzo with Sausage, Peppers, and Tomatoes was perfect. The only alterations to the recipe I made was to add more garlic and swap out the ricotta salata because there wasn't any at the store. My family liked this recipe a lot. The orzo was creamy and even though it was a pasta dish, it was very light. I seldom roast my own bell peppers and instead opt for the jarred roasted peppers, but I might change my ways. The peppers I roasted had more flavor because it wasn't leached into the brine jarred peppers are typically stored in. They were sweeter and more meaty and silky than their jarred counterparts, which become a little softer as they sit in their brine.                                                                                                                                                                                                                
Orzo with Sausage, Peppers, and Tomatoes
Printable Recipe

1 red bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 lb orzo pasta
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 sweet Italian turkey sausages (about 7 oz), casings removed
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Roast the bell peppers by holding them in tongs and placing them in the open flame of your oven's gas flame until the skin turns black. Or, you can do as I did and place the peppers on a foil-line baking tray and place them under the broiler, rotating them until the skin is charred all the way around. Place them in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 20 minutes, or until the skin peels easily and they aren't too hot to handle. I used the foil on my baking tray to make a foil packet instead of using the bowl and plastic wrap.
2. Peel the charred peppers, however resist the urge to put them under running water because all the flavorful juices will go down the drain. Remove the stem, seeds, and ribs; slice into 1/4-inch strips and set aside.
3. In a medium saucepan, bring the broth and water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions.
4. In a medium skillet over medium-high heat, add the oil. Add the turkey and cook through, about four minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more before adding the tomatoes and peppers; season with salt and pepper. Cook until the tomatoes are soft.
5. Before draining the orzo, reserve 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Return the drained orzo to the saucepan it was cooked in and toss with the parsley, cheese, and cooked vegetable and sausage mixture. Serve immediately.

  • Servings per recipe: 6
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 347
  • Fat: 8.4 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.8 g
  • Cholesterol: 85 mg
  • Sodium: 394 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 47.4 g
  • Fiber: 1.4 g
  • Sugar: 2.8 g
  • Protein: 19.6 g

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

This is my first recipe prepared from Jillian Michaels' Master Your Metabolism Cookbook. I prepared these in response to the fact that I was getting sick of my usual egg white breakfasts and because I found canned pumpkin in my grocery store after months of not seeing it and greedily purchased four cans of it.

First, I'll write a little review of the cookbook. It starts off with a section on foods powerful for your body followed by specific foods that can "remove, restore, and rebalance" your body. This includes removing foods such as hydrogenated fat, refined grains, and high fructose corn syrup. Foods to restore are those in their whole state, such as legumes, vegetables, and organic lean means and dairy. Finally, to balance, Jillian suggests eating breakfast regularly and not skipping meals, eating every four hours, and not eating carbs after 7 pm. She goes through a list of how to improve common ailments through eating. Example include keeping your heart healthy by choosing foods to lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, and garlic. The next section was my favorite because she listed different foods and how eating them can benefit our bodies. I found out one of my favorite vegetables, eggplant, is good for "mastering brain power" because it contains a phytonutrient called nasunin, an antioxidant that can protect fats in the brain cell membranes (did you know your brain is composed of a lot of fat!?). The following recipes each have little helpful tidbits of information, such as suggestions for the safest cookware---ones that don't leach BPA from plastic into your food (which is linked to cancer). This is more than just a cookbook; I could sit down and go page by page through all these cool facts.

Finally, to get to the recipe. Honestly, I have made several of Jillian's muffin recipes from other sources and I have never had one turn out well. They are usually dry, hard, heavy...all the things muffins are not supposed to be! I was wary, but forged ahead and tried this recipe. I'm so glad I did, because though it has a strange concoction of ingredients (olive oil and coconut milk in a muffin?!) they were super creamy in the middle and very satisfying. I think she did better on this recipe to balance the leavening agents with the heavy whole wheat flour. These muffins were even more tender than the white flour ones I ate growing up. The day after I made these it dawned on me that these are vegan as well! I really hope you try this recipe, it's really worth it...and may I suggest adding some honey or agave nectar to each one? It really makes the flavors pop.

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins
Printable Recipe

Olive oil non-stick cooking spray, or paper liners
1 15-oz can pure pumpkin puree
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup light olive oil (not extra virgin)
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tbsp aluminum-free baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
2 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly spray with cooking spray or line each muffin cup of a 12-cup muffin tin.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, maple syrup, olive oil, coconut milk, and vanilla until well combined.
3. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined; fold in cranberries.
4. Spoon the mixture into the muffin tin, mounding each muffin cup up and smoothing over; sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.
5. Place the tin in the oven; immediately drop the oven temperature to 375 degrees 5. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into one muffin comes out clean. Let stand in the muffin tin 5 minutes before removing. Serve warm.

  • Servings per recipe: 12
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 249.3
  • Fat: 12 g
  • Sodium: 328.2 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 33.5 g
  • Protein: 4.4 g

Ratatouille with Creamy Parmesan Polenta

 Lately I can't get my fill of vegetables. I think my body is in need of restoration from all the work I did on my thesis, and it's making me direct my attention to healthy foods. This week at the market, there were gorgeous, glossy eggplant, and it instantly made me crave ratatouille, a classic southern French vegetable stew. It's hearty but not as heavy as meat-based stews. Though I can't guarantee my version in 100% authentic, it's nonetheless delicious and full of the vegetables traditionally used in ratatouille. Leftovers of the ratatouille were really delicious tossed with pasta and topped with Parmesan cheese!

I also made some polenta to serve with this because I have had polenta on the brain ever since making the Venetian Lasagna that was so hearty and delicious. I compromised on the creamy factor by using mostly broth and a little whole milk. I have started using a small splash of whole milk in my coffee lately. I dislike how watery skim and 1% milk are, but I don't like using the low-fat creamers that have high fructose corn syrup in them. I thought about using coconut milk like Jillian Michaels does, but I haven't taken the plunge. But I is my Ratatouille with Creamy Parmesan Polenta recipe:

Ratatouille with Creamy Parmesan Polenta
Printable Recipe

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
1 1-lb eggplant, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium yellow summer squash, diced
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried basil
1 13.5-oz can petite diced tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 cup whole milk
3-3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (use the whole cup of milk, then supplement the rest with broth according to your package directions)
1 cup instant polenta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Add the oil to a soup pot or large sauce pan; drop the garlic in the pool of oil. Bring the heat to medium-high and cook until the garlic begins to sizzle and becomes fragrant. Add the onion, eggplant, zucchini, and yellow squash and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
2. Add the rosemary, basil, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, water, sugar, and vinegar and stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium, partially cover the pot with a lid and simmer 30-40 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft.
3. In the last few minutes of cooking the ratatouille, combine the milk and broth in a saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Add the polenta, slowly, stirring into the spot where you are sprinkling the polenta in so that it doesn't clump up. Cook the polenta according to the time on the package and stir in the Parmesan once it's done cooking.
4. Serve the polenta as a base for the ratatouille.

  • Servings per recipe: 6
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 234
  • Fat: 6.3 g
  • Saturated fat: 2.1 g
  • Cholesterol: 8 mg
  • Sodium: 574 mg
    Carbohydrates: 35.8 g
  • Fiber: 5.4 g
  • Sugar: 9.6 g
  • Protein: 10.4 g

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Beef Fajita Quinoa Pilaf

 Since I passed my defense, I have been indulging myself in a lot of cooking. Needless to say, that also means a lot of washing dishes, and I have no dish washer so it's a big hassle. For dinner the other night, I knew I wanted to cook something delicious, but I was in no mood for any big dishes washing production. Therefore, I made a one-skillet dish with all the flavors of beef fajitas. The fajita flavor was vectored by quinoa, a slightly crunchy seed that has been incorrectly dubbed a grain by many people. It's high in protein, so its a good options for low-carb eaters. It has a lot of fiber, so it sticks to your ribs. Also, it's gluten-free. I used my favorite wake-me-up spices, including cumin, my absolute favorite spice. I used leaf top sirloin for this steak, cut into small pieces against the grain; it stayed tender even though it was cooked through. Chicken would be a fine substitute.

Leftovers of this would be great wrapped in a tortilla for a burrito. Add some eggs for a protein-rich breakfast burrito.

Beef Fajita Rice
Printable Recipe

1 lb lean beef steak, such as top sirloin, cubed
1 small onion, diced
1 bell pepper, any color, diced (or use one half of two different colored peppers for more color variegation)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp dried oregano
1 cup canned beans, drained and rinsed (kidney, pinto, or black beans are good choices)
1/2 cup prepared salsa
2 cups low sodium beef or chicken broth
1 cup quinoa
non-stick cooking spray

1. Spray a large, lidded skillet or saucepan with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. When warm, add beef, season with salt and pepper, and lightly brown before adding the onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook until the vegetables are tender, then season with cumin, chili powder, coriander, and oregano. Cook about 30 seconds, or until the spices are fragrant.
2. Add the beans and salsa and stir to combine.
3. Add the broth and bring the temperature to high. Allow the liquids to boil, then add the quinoa. Lower the heat to medium-low and place on the lid. Steam the quinoa 10-15 minutes or until tender. Serve warm with your favorite fajita toppings, if desired.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 423
  • Fat: 10.8 g
  • Saturated fat: 3.3 g
  • Cholesterol: 101 mg
  • Sodium: 667 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 35.3 g
  • Fiber: 5.3 g
  • Sugar: 3.6 g
  • Protein: 44.4 g

Friday, November 12, 2010

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Frizzled Brussels Sprouts

 Anne Burrell, host of Food Network's Secrets of a Restaurant Chef, has become one of my new favorites to watch. Her enthusiasm for food to contagious, and her ease of explaining was seems complex dishes makes even the most timid home chef feel competent. Being Mario Batali's sous chef on Iron Chef America, you already get the idea that her recipes walk the tight wire between rustic and elegant.

One of her recent shows featured unique side dish of crispy brussels sprout leaves folded into strands of roasted butternut squash. I love roasted brussesl sprouts because those charred edges taste almost popcorn-like, plus they have the crisp factor. I love, love, love spaghetti squash because it tastes just like a regular white potato! Sort of like eating hash browns (btw, leftovers of this recipe was great with eggs for breakfast).

I have to confess, I made the recipe a little easier on myself by basically cheating. You're supposed to pull off every leaf of the sprout and then crisp them in a pan. Well, I got about 5 or 6 leaves into each sprout, which is where pulling the leaves apart becomes more tedious and I got super impatient. I decided to julienne the core section of each sprout just so I could get through prepping them a little faster. I think the julienned pieces got even more crispy than the whole leaves, but the whole leaves looked so pretty that it became a nice compromise between ease of preparation and aesthetics. 

With Thanksgiving coming up, this would be a great addition to the spread. You might even allow this to double up as your starch and vegetable for less trouble for yourself!

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Frizzled Brussels Sprouts
Printable Recipe

1 3-to-3 1/2 lb spaghetti squash
4 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 pint Brussels sprouts
3 garlic cloves, smashed
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Split the squash in half lengthwise and brush the cut side with 1 tsp of the oil. Season the cut side with salt and pepper. Place the squash cut-side down onto a baking sheet. Line the sheet with foil for easy cleanup. Bake the squash for 1 hour or until it is tender all the way through.
3. Meanwhile, pull the leaves from the sprouts; cut the tough center into julienned strips if the leaves won't come apart.
4. Heat a large skillet add the remaining oil and the garlic. Bring the heat to medium-high and cook the garlic until it's golden; discard. Add the sprout leaves and saute until they are frizzled and golden brown on the edges.
5. Scrape the flesh from the squash and fold it into the sprout leaves, seasoning with salt and pepper.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 168
  • Fat:
  • Saturated fat: 6.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 69 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 28.2 g
  • Fiber: 1.7 g
  • Sugar: 1 g
  • Protein: 3.8 g

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Venetian Carrot Cake

 In continuation of my dinner party description from the previous post, I made a Venetian-themed dessert as well. It was a carrot cake recipe was featured on Nigella Lawson's show Nigella Kitchen. Again, it happened to be gluten free because instead of wheat flour, it used almond flour. I couldn't find almond flour at my store, so I just ground 2 1/2 cups blanched almonds in my food processor to get an equivalent volume of almond flour. This is carrot cake to the nth degree because it combines the classic flavors with rum, raisins, and lemons. The resulting cake, which has a nubbly texture, was so rich we could only eat small pieces.

I did alter the recipe of the frosting. I initially followed the recipe exactly, but gave it a little taste and was like, "hello booze!" There was way too much rum for my taste, so I added the juice of the remaining lemon half as well as more powdered sugar, then used only half of my newfangled frosting. Even my friends who don't like frosting seemed to like this one because it's actually not too sweet and it doesn't have that crunchy sugar crystal texture some frostings have. It was creamy and nearly a cross between a glaze and a frosting.

The exciting thing about this meal, between the lasagna and the cake is that you can eat a delicious Italian meal even if you are on a gluten-free diet. Add a salad and some wine and you are good to go.

Venetian Carrot Cake
Printable Recipe


1/4 cup rum
1/2 cup golden raisins (aka: sultanas)
2 medium carrots
1/2 cup light olive oil (not extra virgin)
3/4 cup unbleached sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups almond meal/flour
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
juice and zest of half a small lemon
3 tbsp pine nuts
non-stick cooking spray

Mascarpone Cream:

4 oz mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
1 tbsp rum
1/2 cup powdered sugar
juice of the other half of the lemon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9-inch round cake pan or spring form pan with cooking spray and line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment paper; set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the 1/4 cup rum with the raisins and bring to boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and simmer 3 minutes; set aside.
3. Coarsely grate the carrot by hand or the food processor and place on a double layer of paper towel or a clean kitchen towel so excess moisture will drain away.
4. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, blend the oil and sugar until lighter in color and slightly airy, then fold in the eggs and vanilla.
5. In a large bowl, add the almond flour and nutmeg; fold in the egg mixture, the raisins including the rum, the carrots, lemon juice and zest. Pour into the prepared cake pan and bake, 30-40 min, or until the outer edges are lightly browned and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting with the mascarpone cream.
6. To make the mascarpone cream, by hand or in the food processor, combine the mascarpone, rum, sugar, and lemon juice and pulse until creamy.
7. Finally, add the pine nuts to a dry pan and toast them over medium heat, keeping an eye on them the whole time because they burn quickly.
8. Frost the top of the cooled cake with the cream, allowing it to run down the sides. Garnish with the pine nuts.

  • Servings per recipe: 12
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 346
  • Fat: 22.7 g
  • Saturated fat: 3.2 g
  • Cholesterol: 51 mg
  • Sodium: 32 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 28.5 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Sugar: 22.5 g
  • Protein: 7.2 g

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Venetian Lasagna

I'm back with new recipes, thanks to the fact that I PASSED MY DEFENSE! Yay! So that means I get to graduate with my master's and I have more time on my hands to cook. I just need to edit my thesis a bit, but still I will be able to relax more, because all the big challenges are behind me.

What better way is there to celebrate my triumph than to make a delicious dinner for my friends and myself? I decided to do a Venetian-themed feast thanks to my family heritage and also because I've lately been inspired by some of Nigella Lawson's new recipes. She has a new show on Food Network called Nigella Kitchen and I'm in love with it. She was also on the Today Show three days in a row last week, preparing some main course dishes. One of them was a Venetian Lasagna, named so because it used polenta instead of pasta, because polenta is used more prevalently in Northern Italy. Because of the use of polenta, this happens to be a gluten-free version of lasagna. For dinner tonight, I decided to give this a try. Because I knew I'd be teaching late, I assembled this on Sunday and let it sit in the refrigerator until I was ready to bake it.

As Nigella said on the show, you can use whatever ingredients available to make the sauce. I couldn't find dried mushrooms, so I used fresh, then didn't use the water required to reconstitute the dried mushrooms.  I also added more herbs than she did because my mom used a lot of different herbs in her pasta sauce, so I got used to a strong herb flavor. I left all the veggies in a course dice, which made for a nice texture against the creamy polenta. I wish I had assembled two lasagnas, because between my five friends and I, we devoured the whole thing. This recipe received overwhelmingly positive reviews from my friends. As my honey said, this was the best thing I've cooked since the last time I cooked, lol.

Venetian Lasagna
Printable Recipe

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
8 oz cremini mushrooms, diced
1 lb extra lean ground beef
3/4 cup low-sodium beef broth, red wine, or marsala
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 13.5-oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
2 cups instant polenta
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth, or enough to cook your polenta according to package directions (can also be made with chicken bouillon and water)
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large saucepan, add the oil and the garlic. Turn the heat to medium and cook the garlic until it becomes fragrant. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and mushrooms and cook until they are softened.
2. Add the beef to the cooked vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Let the meat brown, breaking it up with a wooden spoon or fork.
3. Add the beef broth, wine, or marsala and scrape up any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Add the tomato paste and diced tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, basil, and oregano; season with salt and pepper.
4. Allow to simmer 45 min-1 hour.
5. Meanwhile, prepare 3 pans for the polenta layers: in 3 13x9x2-inch pans, dampen them with water (one of these pans will be the one you bake the lasagna in)
6. Prepare the polenta according to package directions, adding the butter and 3/4 Parmesan cheese once the polenta is finished cooking. Divide the polenta amongst the pans and allow to cool completely until the polenta congeals into a sheet.
7. In the pan you are baking the lasagna in, add half the meat sauce over top the bottom polenta layer. Peel off one of the polenta sheets and add it on top. Add the remaining meat sauce, then the final polenta layer. Finish with the remaining cheese.
8. Bake in a preheated 400 degree F oven for 40 minutes. This lasagna can be prepared ahead of time. Allow 1 hour of baking time for a cold lasagna.

  • Servings per recipe: 8
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 410
  • Fat: 12.8 g
  • Saturated fat: 6.1 g
  • Cholesterol: 63 mg
  • Sodium: 424 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 39.5 g
  • Fiber: 2.6 g
  • Sugar: 4.2 g
  • Protein: 28.7 g

Monday, November 1, 2010

Gluten-Free Parmesan-Almond Chicken Fingers + Baked French Fries

I hope you all had a great Halloween. I went to a party, which was a great treat after working so hard on my school work. Here's me in my costume. Can you tell who I am?...or, perhaps "you can't read my poker face", lol.

The busyness has continued, but I at least finished my thesis last week and had my exit seminar, which went really well. Now I just have my defense to go, which is November 5th. Then it's graduation, which is one fun aspect of finishing my master's.

I have not been cooking anything too involved lately as I have no time to both cook and do the dishes. Therefore, eating has been simple, mainly salads and sandwiches. I did treat myself to this meal, however, which was not only delicious but an adventure into gluten-free cooking, which has lately become one of my interests. As a person who tries to live a healthy lifestyle, I love re-making guilty pleasure foods, and here is a creation meant to be not only healthy, but gluten-free. This is a version of chicken fingers, which is beloved by kids and adults. This recipe is much healthier because I baked these instead of frying them. Instead of using a breading that has gluten, I created a breading with almonds and Parmesan and a little bit of brown rice flour, which is a new ingredient to my repertoire. Not only are these gluten-free, if you are watching your carbs these are a great choice for you too.

Gluten-Free Parmesan-Almond Chicken Fingers
Cheese and almond crumbs to bread the chicken with.
Printable Recipe

12 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 2 chicken breasts)
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (I break chunks off a block of cheese with a knife)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried parsley
1/4 cup brown rice flour
2 egg whites
2 tbsp water
salt and pepper, to taste
non-stick cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Coat a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside
3. Cut each chicken breast into thin strips of uniform width. Set aside.
4. Combine the almonds, cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, parsley, and some salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the mixture to start, then allow it to grind to fine rubble.
5. Add the almond mixture to a dish and toss with the flour.
6. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites with water and season with salt and pepper.
7. Coat each piece of chicken with egg white, then coat with the almond mixture. Set the chicken on the prepared baking sheet.
8. Bake the chicken for about 10 minutes or until opaque, then flip and allow the second side to become crunchy, about 5 more minutes.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories: 278
  • Fat: 12.3 g
  • Saturated fat: 3.4 g
  • Cholesterol: 174 mg
  • Sodium: 300 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 11.3 g
  • Fiber: 2.1 g
  • Sugar: 0.9 g
  • Protein: 30.2 g

An easy, tasty low-fat alternative to fried french fries:

Baked French Fries
Printable Recipe

4 medium potatoes (any variety, about 3-4 oz each)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
non-stick cooking spray
salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Spray the baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
3. Cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch sticks.
4. Toss the potatoes with the oil and some salt and pepper.
5. Bake for a total of 25 minutes, tossing in between. If making the fries with the chicken fingers, allow the fries to bake 10 minutes, then put the chicken in the oven. At that time, toss the fries. When you flip the chicken, toss the fries again.

  • Servings per recipe: 4
  • Per serving:
  • Calories:177
  • Fat: 3.6 g
  • Saturated fat: 0.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 0 mg
  • Sodium: 160 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 33.5 g
  • Fiber: 5.1 g
  • Sugar: 2.5 g
  • Protein: 3.6 g
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