Sunday, February 28, 2010

No Meat Fridays

Up until Easter many will be observing the Lenten season by abstaining from meat on Fridays. Its our way of relating to Christ during the 40 days and nights before Easter, where Jesus fasted in the desert before His death and ressurection. Growing up this meant a lot of cheese pizza on Friday! That will always be my favorite Lenten meal. In my husband's family it was either cheese pizza or tuna noodle casserole. I liked this combination of Salmon and Alfredo sauce because it felt like a grown up version of "Tuna Noodle."

In other news I hit the 30 week mark this weekend! I'm excited to be in the "home stretch" but I also know how the last 10 weeks seem to creep by so slowly compared to the first 30. If I can continue running through March I will be very happy. So far its not too uncomfortable yet but I'm also expected to grow 1 centimeter and 1 pound per week from here on out... meaning my runs will morph into walks over the next two months! I'm ok with that but would really appreciate some warmer weather come April from Mother Nature!

Thanks to Jen Sanders for the lightened up Alfredo Sauce recipe and therefore the inspiration to put this together! You can also put the sauce with chicken, veggies like broccoli or peas, whatever you want! According to Jen, Chicken and Alfredo is a hit with her little guy.

Salmon with Lightened Up Alfredo Sauce

Rotini pasta (or pasta of your choice!)

1 cup 1% or fat free milk and 1/4 cup whipping cream (or, in Jen's original recipe, 1 cup half and half and 1/2 cup fat free milk - I had no half and half so just made this substitution).

2 tablespoons flour

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

1 to 2 tablespoons butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 to 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano

2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley or 1 tsp dried parsley and fresh basil is yummy too if you have it!

salt and pepper

(1 little boy's head, as pictured, is not necessary :) )

For the salmon:
2 tablespoons white wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
chopped basil leaves
squeeze of lemon juice (pictured above)
salt and pepper
Begin by cooking your pasta and preheating the oven to 400. Mix all the ingredients for salmon marinade and top salmon with it. When oven is ready stick the salmon in for 12 minutes or until it flakes easily with a fork.

In a bowl whisk flour, milk, whipping cream, and nutmeg.
Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium low. Add garlic and saute for a minute or two. Do not let the butter burn! Pour in the milk mixture and stir gently.

Add in the freshly grated parm

Continue to stir gently as sauce thickens (only takes about 3 minutes or so) and then add parsley, I added some basil too. Just a dash of salt and pepper - the parm is naturally very salty so bear that in mind!

Salmon is done! Remove from the oven and let it sit for a bit.

Fold the cooked pasta in with the sauce. Put the salmon on top.

Break the salmon up with a fork and toss it all together!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chicken and Dumplings

I was in the mood for something hot and comforting yesterday after finally getting out for an early morning run for the first time since February 1st! Between now and then I've definitely slowed down but Kate very graciously insisted she didn't mind, even though I know how nice of her it is to meet me at o'dark thirty to run at a slow pace. Thanks Kate :)

It felt awesome to breathe in some cold, fresh crisp air and actually enjoy it, as opposed to the "fresh air" I get from sprinting with the kids from the car to Target or some other errand. The cold is just way better when you can get some blood pumping to go with it.

So back to food, I knew I wanted something warm and cozy for dinner, especially since the weathermen were calling for more snow. This recipe might seem pretty standard to most people. With two military parents our weekly meals were a little unusual growing up. My idea of comfort food is something like Japanese curry. So this was actually out of my box. I fought the urge to throw in a tablespoon of cayenne pepper or curry powder and just let the vegetables stand out on their own. I'm glad I did, it was perfect.

Also I DONT BAKE so these dumplings were so amazing to me.

You throw dough. In some soup. And it cooks into a biscuit. Mind-blowing.

My favorite thing about this recipe is the PARSNIPS!! Please don't leave this out! They have the best lemony flavor. Hope you give this one a try before spring is upon us and these root vegetables are long gone! And of course, its also a great meal to just throw in any veggies you have on hand!

Chicken and Dumplings

chicken tenders (or thighs, or breasts, whatever you have)

4 cups of Chicken Broth (about 1 32 oz carton)

2 -4 tablespoons flour

1 to 2 leeks (I now love leeks, so I did 2), chopped

2 parsnips chopped

4 carrots, chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 cup frozen peas

salt, pepper, 1 bay leaf, and either 2 tsp dried thyme or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme

Heat enough olive oil to coat a pan over medium high heat. Dredge the chicken pieces in flour, salt and pepper and shake off the excess.

Put in pan and brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan.

In that same oil add allllllll your yummy veggies. I even threw the peas in even though I probably should have waited til the end. But aren't they pretty??

Add the 4 cups of chicken broth, put the chicken back in, the bay leaf, the thyme, and some salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer, cover partially and then ignore it for as little as 15 minutes or as long as you want.

About 15 minutes before serving take out the chicken tenders and shred, then add back in (you can avoid all this by chopping chicken into pieces before cooking but I like shredded chicken).

For the Dumplings:
1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
any herbs you want to add like chives or thyme (I didn't)

You're supposed to sift the flour, salt and baking powder, but like I said I don't bake so I just kind of shook it all together. Worked fine. Mix all of the ingredients in a bowl.

Grab about a tablespoonish with a spoon. I like to make mine a little smaller because they get sooo much bigger when they cook.

Just put it in the simmering broth. NOT boiling, because that will make the dumpling break up.

Cover for 15 minutes (or more) and let them cook into big biscuit like things. I know, its so cool.

Serve it in a bowl like soup! So yummy and filling and delicious!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sausage Pasta with Marscapone

I know... just by the title you can already tell how healthy this meal is :) I think anything you make at home yourself is better than anything you'd get while eating out though so I'm okay with it. My friend who cuts my hair and is also my neighbor let me in on this quick and simple recipe. The original recipe calls for canellini beans in place of the peas and mushrooms, but I didn't have any and besides, I like a little green in my meals. Then I can "justify" the mounds of marscapone.

Sausage Pasta with Marscapone

Farfalle Pasta

1 medium onion, chopped

a few cloves garlic, chopped (garlic powder is fine too)

1 cup frozen peas

handful of mushrooms

2 Italian Sausages

8 oz Marscapone cheese

While pasta cooks, remove sausage from casing and brown in a skillet with a tiny bit of olive oil to prevent sticking. Add onions and garlic and let them sweat for a few minutes while sausage browns.

Add peas and mushrooms...

Add 3/4 cup (about 8 oz) of Marscapone cheese. Let it sit and melt a little before you fold it in.

Yummy... add a little pasta water to thin it out if you think its too thick. I thought it was just right!
Add salt to taste and toss with Farfalle Pasta. Here I added some black pepper and crushed red pepper because I felt like it :)

This recipe was definitely a winner in my book - easy, yummy, and the kids even picked at it. This definitely makes enough for 4. Next time I would brown the sausage then remove it and let it drain to omit some fat, saute the onions, garlic, peas, and mushrooms separately and then add the sausage back in.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day Dinner

Oops! Its been a while since I've posted. I have been sick of food and cooking! Over three feet of snow over the past week and a half has meant that there has been a lot of cooking going on over here. With everyone at home, breakfast, lunch and dinner all became a production. Pancakes for breakfast, soups for lunch etc etc. I was so excited to go out Friday night with Kevin for Valentine's Day solely because I didn't have to plan it, buy it, make it, or clean up after it!

To make matters worse, on top of tons of eating I haven't been able to run outside since my last post! I've actually learned to accept the treadmill a little more. There are a few treadmills in our neighborhood clubhouse gym, and we belong to a gym as well. At first it was terrible but I've learned how to zone out long enough to force some decent runs. I still can't wait to go outside though... my body is dying for the cold air in my lungs!

I also have not been posting because I mentioned that my camera died a few weeks ago. What's a food post without pictures? We eat with our eyes after all. Kevin surprised me with a new fancy shmancy camera on Valentine's Day! I'm so excited to learn how to use it... this meal was my first attempt! On actual Valentine's Day I made dinner for the people I love! Kevin, Superman, Batman, Kevin's best friend Troy and my sister Laura. This was so EASY! I liked it because it sounded very fancy but was really not the least bit difficult. Perfect for entertaining.
Pan Seared Scallops over Linguini with Tomato Cream Sauce
You will need:
1 inch piece of ginger or 1 tbl of Gourmet Garden ginger (see pictured)
1 cup dry white wine
juice from 1/2 a lime or lemon
2 shallots (or 1 medium onion and 2 garlic cloves) chopped
2 tbl cream cheese (used this instead of the whipping cream - so ignore that)
2 to 3 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon butter, cut into small pieces
salt and pepper
a few sprigs of cilantro (2 tablespoons)
In a saucepan bring the white wine, shallots, lime juice and ginger to a boil. Let simmer and reduce for about 5 minutes.
Whisk in the cream cheese and butter. The recipe called for whipping cream but I read some reviews that the sauce was too runny. The cream cheese was just right.
Stir in the tomatoes
and the chopped cilantro
When the sauce is ready pour it over the linguini, toss, set aside and keep warm. Heat 1 tbl olive oil in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Sprinkle the scallops with salt and pepper and sear 2-3 minutes on each side or until cooked through.
Serve scallops atop the linguini mixture

Overall it was very yummy! I would recommend lemon next time instead of lime, because the lime was a tad too tangy for me. I'd also play with the herbs and try swapping out basil for cilantro. Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Red Lentil Soup

Ahhh just got inside from the first round of shoveling and playing in the snow. I love this neighborhood because it reminds me so much of where I grew up. All the kids are outside playing right now and all the adults are outside "playing" as well. The boys went out with PJ's under their snow gear and got some energy out before bed. I was disappointed that they wanted to go in after a while! Mom wanted to stay out and play too!

This is when snow is the most beautiful - while its falling. I'm going to hate it 3 days from now when everything has turned to dirty slush and the sidewalks are still covered. But right now... its gorgeous and so fun.

I made this real quick tonight before we went out to play. Couldn't be easier. Perfect for a snowy night. Enjoy being snuggled up with your loved ones this weekend!

Red Lentil Soup

1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
6 cups chicken broth
15 oz crushed tomatoes
1 3/4 cup red lentils
juice from 1 lemon or 1 tbl lemon juice
salt and pepper
6-8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)
couple tablespoons chopped cilantro
greek yogurt (garnish)

Add all ingredients to a soup pan. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let simmer for an hour. Before serving stir in chopped cilantro and then serve with a dollop of plain greek yogurt. Happy Snow Weekend!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010


For whatever reason I'm pretty sure Drew only knows two days of the week. Well he only talks about two days. They are, Tuesday and Fatterday. Clearly he's trying to say Saturday, but the way it comes out is so much better and accurate! I know I have to go for a long run on Saturday mornings because after that, Saturday morphs into Fatterday. I think I'm going to go tomorrow this week since there is expected to be some serious snow accumulation by Saturday morning and I will be doing some equally serious eating given the weather forecast and the Superbowl!

I pulled from my archives for some great, snowy Fatterday food. Perfect for cozying up for the Superbowl this weekend or just to have something smelling good in the house while we get hit with another blizzard.

While I enjoyed this, I would like to say that I did not think the amount of effort was in proportion to the meal. You know what I mean? Sometimes if a recipe is super easy and quick and tastes good-enough, well, then I love it and its going in the rotation. But if it tastes good- enough but was a decent amount of work, then it's just so-so in my mind. There were a few key changes I would make to see that it is better next time and I will share these with you so that hopefully all your hard work pays off at the end!

Also, this dish was even better as leftovers - probably because the memory of making it was long gone and I could enjoy it without having to labor over it first! I had it heated with some tortilla chips like nachos. I know, so healthy. Such is Fatterday!

Chile Con Carne

6 poblano chiles
2 pounds boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 tbl flour
3 cups chopped onion
4 cloves minced garlic
2 cans diced tomatoes (do not drain)
1 cup beef broth
1 tbl dried oregano
1 tbl ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
3 chipotle chiles (canned in adobo sauce) - in the mex section
cilantro and cheddar cheese for toppings

Preheat the broiler to high for poblanos.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Sprinkle the beef with salt and pepper, and then dredge in the 3 tablespoons of flour. Shake off the excess, and then add it to the pan. Sautee 5 minutes or until browned on all sides. You don't need to cook it to death, just brown it - it will cook more in the sauce later! Remove with a slotted spoon and let excess fat drain while you cook onions.

Add onions and garlic to pan and cook for 3 minutes or so before adding beef back in. Stir in the diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano and cumin, and beef broth. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.

While thats simmering, throw the poblanos on a foil lined baking sheet. Put them in your preheated broiler for 8-10 minutes or until charred. When you take them out of the oven put them in a plastic bag and let them steam and soften. Let it stand for 15 minutes before you take them out, peel and chop them.

I thought the peel was a little difficult to remove (probably because I didnt let them good and charred enough) but in any case, I left the peel mostly on and rough chopped them. Add them in after the stew has been simmering for about half an hour, and then let it simmer another half hour (minimum).

After simmering and before serving, add in the 3 chopped chipotles. Scale back if you like less heat, but I thought the recipe lacked big flavor and really needed at least 3 chiles.

Garnish with cilantro and cheddar!

Hope everyone has a great time in the snow and that your superbowl plans are not ruined! I could care less who wins, I'm just celebrating the end of football season and the return of my husband!! :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Some Days its Just Not Happening

Its true with everything... some days the house just isn't getting clean no matter how hard you try. Your kids will terrorize one room while you clean another. Sometimes dinner just isn't happening. Usually it doesn't happen for me on Thursdays. After Sunday-Wednesday of being on top of my meal plans for the week, I'm done on Thursday. And even though I had something planned on the menu I pull out the box of mac n cheese or just skip dinner and go straight to ice cream. Because some days... it is just not happening.

And for me this week, it seems that running/exercise is just not happening. The lovely snow storm has blocked all paths out of my neighborhood. Unless I want to run circles around my street or into headfirst traffic on a busy two lane road at 5 am in the dark, there will be no running outside. Weather is calling for 4 more inches tonight and 18, 18!!!! more this weekend. Damn you groundhog.

This morning I dropped Drew at preschool and then rushed over to Lifetime for the 9:30 spin class I try and do on Tuesdays with my friend Keri. I knew when I was winded from walking up the stairs to the spin room that this was going to be a tough class. Let me just say... spin is freaking hard. I would rather run 10 miles than spin for 1 hour.

So 10 minutes into class my legs still felt like bricks. I told myself that if I still felt that way at 30 minutes then maybe today just wasn't my day. I hate hate hate hate hate quitting. I've felt this way before in class but always stuck it out til the end. But today I just felt defeated. I ended up getting off the bike 35 minutes in to trade off for the treadmill. Its pretty embarrassing to quit... the only way out is right in front of the instructor and everyone in the class has to watch you leave.

I put the treadmill on a low level hill workout and started to run. At about 15 minutes in I feel a tap on my shoulder. A woman I didn't know was standing there.

"Did you know you have a rip in your pants on your butt?"
"Are you kidding me. Is it bad?"
"Umm. I can see your pink underwear?"

Awesome. I ran to the bathroom to check it out and sure enough there was a rather large, very embarrassingly placed hole in the buttocks of my favorite, and only, pair of Capri pants that my fat pregnant butt had now split in two. A hole that had been exposed for 15 minutes to all of Lifetime Fitness and, even better, to the entire spin class and the instructor. A hole that would continue to be exposed to the parents and teachers at preschool when I went to pick up Drew because I didn't have time to go home and change.

Yes, some days it is just not happening. But in the famous words of one of my favorite ladies, Ms. Scarlet O'Hara, tomorrow is another day!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Italian Festa Part I

This past weekend we loaded up the kids and two pounds of fried meatballs for my mom's annual "Italian Festa." For the past few years she has gotten us all together to cook and eat Italian food all day long in honor of her mom's mom and dad (so my great grandparents), Maria and Antonio DiGregorio. Originally from Abruzzi in South Central Italy, Nana's mom and dad came over to Ellis Island to give my Nana, her sister Olga and her two brothers, Nino and Gino, a better life in America.

Here is the whole family and my dad holding up a picture of Mary and Tony:

Even though I was dead tired from a week of getting up early and braving the cold, and then some very long days with the kiddos while Kevin worked late, I knew there was no way I could truly enjoy Festa without a good long run in the morning! Its kind of like Italian Thanksgiving... you just have to fit in a workout in order to lay on your butt for the rest of the day and stuff your face and justify it. I was so happy to run with my two friends Meredith and Becca. They always keep the conversation flowing so it was easy to keep up a good clip for a nice 6+ mile run, all before the snow started falling.

Kevin wanted to get a workout in too so he went to the gym when I got home. By the time we finally got on the road around 11 the snow was COMING DOWN. I think I had one giant contraction the entire way to Winchester. I've never seen so many cars crashed on the side of the road before, and even worse I've never actually seen accidents HAPPEN right infront of my eyes. It is the most helpless feeling!! I prayed pretty much the entire way there that we would arrive safely, as well as every other car on the road, and thankfully we did.

The day was filled with food and family, my two favorite things. I especially love being silly with my sisters, because thats what sisters are for! Laura was responsible for making an app and she made these super tasty Spinach and Prosciutto Cups. They were pretty easy and I love that there was filling leftover, so it could be used in other recipes (stuffed in chicken breast, layered in a lasagna) for later in the week (she did double the recipe below though). I thought these might be something to try if you're going to a Superbowl Party this weekend and wanted to bring something different.

Spinach and Prosciutto Cups
1 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach
8 oz ricotta cheese
1/2 cups freshly grated parm cheese
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 small minced onion (I'd recommend a red onion)
1/4 tsp oregano
1 egg slightly beaten
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
12 thin slices prosciutto (fresh cut from the deli is best because it will be easier to fill the cups)
maybe some PAM
preheat oven to 375 degrees

Fill the cups with a thin layer of prosciutto, enough to cover the bottom and sides. Press it onto the sides so it forms a cup. If you aren't using a sweet baking sheet like this one, then make sure you spray some PAM first.
Cook and drain the spinach according to package directions, and then combine it in a bowl with parmesan, mushrooms, onion, oregano, salt, red pepper flakes and egg.
Fill the cups about 2/3 full with ricotta mixture...
Sprinkle with a touch of extra parm...
Bake 20-25 minutes in a 375 degree oven and then remove from muffin tins. YUM!!
The chef holding her masterpiece (sideways) :)

More recipes to come!