Saturday, November 2, 2013

Baked Macaroni and Cheese With Spinach and Butternut Squash

November is inexplicably a favorite month of mine.  The air is clear and dry, a few brightly hued leaves cling to the mostly skeletal trees,  and its truly running weather.  But, it is also the best time to cook comfortable warm casseroles, baked in the oven, until the kitchen is aromatic and inviting.  I have been craving just such a dish and a lazy Saturday afternoon is just the time to create a fairly healthy baked macaroni and cheese.

Ingredients

Comfort Food Feeds the Body and Soul
 
1 Medium sized butternut squash
1 large sweet onion
1 half bag of baby spinach
1 half box of whole wheat macaroni
1 block of neuchatel cheese
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup of skim milk
1/2 tsp, of sircha sauce
1 tsp. butter
1 tbs. olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste

And here we go... Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and cube the butternut squash, cut sweet onion into 1 inch cubes and toss with 1 tbs. of olive oil.  Roast the squash and onions for forty minutes or so until softened and beginning to brown.  While the vegetables are roasting, cook the macaroni and set aside.  On the stove top melt cubed neuchatel with the tsp. of butter and the cup of parmesan cheese, adding the milk slowly, whisking the cheese sauce until smooth. Whisk in the siracha sauce.  Salt and pepper to taste.  When the vegetables are done, stir together the cooked pasta, cheese sauce ,roasted vegetables and spinach.Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Bake the pasta mixture for 30 minutes foil covered. Enjoy with a sauvignon blanc, as I did, with thoughts of crackling fires and thanksgiving plans, which is right around the corner.

A couple of green tomatoes were still dangling hopefully in the garden.  I picked them, breaded them in a panko, flour mixture and fried them in some olive oil as a side dish. The last produce of a growing season come and gone did not go to waste.
Make it, eat it , love it. I know you will.
Sue
 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Golden Tomato Jam, Preserving Summer

Sweet Yellow Cherry Tomatoes
I have endless access to a multitude of tomato varieties come late August, thanks to a generous neighbor with a green thumb! I know how very fortunate I am and I absolutely hate to let the "tomato days" slip by without taking full advantage. I have been kicking around the idea of making a tomato jam to be used on grilled sandwiches or dolloped on goat cheese atop crostini for a pre-meal snack. A showery humid labor day weekend gave me the perfect excuse to abandon the gardens
 and stay inside and experiment.
My mother always told me, that pectin isn't really always necessary for making jam. So, I opted to omit it and just cook up some simple ingredients.

Golden Tomato Jam

5 Cups golden cherry tomatoes
2 plum tomatoes roughly chopped
2 1/2 cups white sugar
1 tbs. lime juice
2 teaspoons diced fresh rosemary

Into a sturdy stock pot, add the stemmed whole cherry tomatoes, the roughly chopped plum tomatoes, sugar and lime juice.  Simmer over medium heat for a half hour or so stirring from time to time.  The tomatoes will break down and their juices will begin to cook down.  Break up the tomato pieces with a wooden spoon or potato masher. During the last five minutes of cooking, add the rosemary. When the mixture is appropriately thickened, pour into clean dry jam jars following manufacturer's directions to seal. (That said, I wash my jars and screw them shut tightly, storing my jam in the refrigerator) The final product was so delicious and I can't wait to slather it on a gourmet grilled
cheese!
Enjoy, Happy Labor Day Weekend, Sue
Summer Sunshine in a jar!


 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Lunch Box Treats- Creamy Apple Dip

On a run last evening, I spotted the first tell tale sign fall is creeping ever closer here in southern New England, a couple of brightly colored leaves strewn across my path! With fall, comes the challenge of packing nutritious, appealing lunches for school aged children and of course all of the brown bagging leagues of adults out there in a quest for pleasing seasonal treats.  I had the challenge of teaching some cooking classes at the summer day camp I worked at this season and one of the simpler recipes, I prepared with the children was popular and I believe worthy of sharing with an eye on the lunch box set. Creamy apple dip is a protein packed treat that can accompany the lunch box power house, the apple! I like the dip served with the crisp, tart granny smith apple.
Creamy Apple Dip

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Yield: about 2 cups
Ingredients

  • 8 oz. light cream cheese
  • 1 cup Greek Vanilla Yogurt , fat free
  • 2 tbs. of  honey
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar
Instructions

  1. Using a mixer, combine cream cheese, yogurt, cinnamon, honey and sugar until smooth.
Serve with apple slices that have been tossed in lemon juice to prevent browning.
Happy Lunch Box Packing, Sue

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Healthy Summer Kale Pesto

We are back! After a bit of a Pinterest obsessed hiatus. A weekend of kale led to the creation of this tasty healthy treat. Our garden has an abundance of kale and we are always looking for new ways to use it. This is a kitchen work horse! This pesto can be used as a dip, with pasta or hard cooked eggs, as a sandwich spread or even in mashed potatoes. It's your traditional pesto, but healthier.
Also, this is great for friends with nut allergies. This makes your kitchen smell wonderful. I snacked on it all afternoon with sweet cherry tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden!
Enjoy,
Hannah

Ingredients
1/2 cup raw shelled sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons flax seeds (optional)
1 small garlic clove
2 cups (packed) fresh kale 
1 cup (packed) fresh cilantro
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt


Preparation
First, I soaked raw shelled sunflower seeds overnight at room temperature. This helps create the ultimate creamy texture. I also added some flax seeds as a bonus health kick! You can skip this step if you are in a rush.
Prepare the rest of the ingredients. Make sure you cut the ribs off of the kale so it is not too bitter. The great thing about cilantro is you can use it as is, stems and all, unlike most herbs!
Then you combine all ingredients in a food processor or my favorite kitchen tool, my Vitamix (pictured above) and puree. Season with salt. If it is too thick, add a splash of water.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Golden Israeli Cous Cous Salad

Golden Isreali Cous Cous Salad
      I purchased a bag of Israeli cous cous in a great little neighborhood market in Boston's north end a couple months back and have been waiting for the proper inspiration to use it.  Israeli cous cous is bigger rounder version of the commonly known cous cous that has become a staple in many kitchens today.With a weekend day to myself, I conjured up a recipe that would use ingredients that I had in the house and satisfy my craving for something slightly exotic.  I decided on a chilled salad featuring roasted sweet onion and butternut squash as well as dried apricots.
      I cooked the cous cous according to the directions on the package, ending up with about four cups cooked. I halved, peeled and deseeded the butternut squash.  Next I diced half of the squash and a half of a sweet onion tossing all in a bit of olive oil and roasting the mixture at 350 degrees for about forty minutes until caramelized and softened. I proceeded to dice about a cup and a half of dried apricots. To add a bit more interest to the salad, I toasted about a half cup of pine nuts. Once the roasted vegetables had cooled a bit I mixed all of the ingredients together.
      I finished the salad off with a orange curry vinaigrette. I whisked together a half cup of olive oil, a quarter cup of orange juice, salt and pepper with about a teaspoon of curry powder until emulsified. I dressed the salad and had a bit left over.  After chilling, I served the salad in some colorful pottery bowls.  The flavor the next day was even better, as the dressing soaked into the cous cous.  Make it, Eat it, Love it.  I know you will.
Sue

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Touch O' Green Stuffed Mushrooms

      Saint Patrick's day always poses a culinary challenge for me , as I we do not eat corned beef, the classic holiday meal.  While I am not Irish, my husband is, so I like to acknowledge the holiday in some way!   After a shopping trip to one of my favorite local markets,Stew Leonard's, I picked up some baby bella mushrooms, which I believe are far superior in flavor and texture to white button mushrooms. I used the entire package of about twenty mushrooms to make stuffed mushrooms with a touch of green as a side dish and they went quickly!
       To make these tasty gems, saute about two tablespoons each of chopped green pepper and chopped onion, preferably vidalia in two tablespoons of butter.  Remove the stems from the mushrooms, brushing off any soil. (Never wash mushrooms with water).  Chop about five stems, adding them to the green pepper mixture, continuing to saute.  Add a cup of unflavored bread crumbs, a teaspoon of sea salt, black pepper to taste, a generous splash of white wine and enough vegetable broth to moisten the stuffing.  Lastly,  I added a tablespoon each of chopped fresh chives, from my garden and chopped fresh cilantro, which I had purchased for another recipe.  Certainly, you can be flexible with your fresh herbs, depending on what you have on hand.  I stuffed the peppers using the small pampered chef scoop. I used pampered chef's deep dish baking stone to bake the mushrooms for about a half hour at 350 degrees.  While baking, I basted the mushrooms with a touch of vegetable broth, to keep them a bit moist.  Before serving, I squeezed some fresh lemon juice over the top and sprinkled the mushrooms with dried parsley to add  more green!
      These mushrooms have  a spring flare as opposed to the mushrooms you may make during the winter holidays.  I imagine they would make a lovely appetizer for Easter dinner as well.  The key is the herbs which impart that fresh "spring" flavor.  Make it, eat it, love it!  I know you will!
Sue

Touch O" Green Stuffed Mushrooms

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Super Bowl Clam Dip, It's all about the Chips and Dip!

Ok, so we ate a few veggies too!
      I will admit upfront that the super bowl for me is more about the snacks, the advertisements and the half time show than the actual game, but this year is Giants vs. Patriots, a match made in heaven for those from the northeast!  My husband Tom, daughter Hannah and I all prepared something to nosh on during the big game.  I made an old school clam dip because it was always a favorite of mine at childhood celebrations.  
      The dip is easy!  Mix together a can of snows minced clams including about half of the clam juice from the can with a block and a half of neuchatel cheese.  To this mixture add a half teaspoon of sriracha hot sauce (or more if you want some heat), a half teaspoon to a teaspoon of lemon juice and a teaspoon of old bay seasoning, mixing well.  That's it!
      If you haven't made clam dip in a while, whip some up!  Go Pats, Go Giants!  I don't really care who wins. I just want an excuse to eat some clam dip!  Make it, eat it ,love it!  I know you will!
Sue