Tuesday, March 31, 2009

on the spot

A while back I bought a pack of whole wheat oven ready lasagne noodles on sale at Target, and haven't known what to use them for. I don't make lasagne too often since it's a pretty hefty meal, and I didn't want to mess with a classic. And since using whole wheat noodles means the meal is healthy, I thought I'd try to stick to a theme and make a healthier lasagne. And since I've been on a spinach kick, I decided that's where I was going to start. I made a simple bechamel sauce with the spinach and layered with leftover homemade pizza sauce I had in the freezer. And I shredded up a rotisserie chicken, and it was really good. You have to try it! Of course go ahead and use normal oven ready lasagne noodles if you cant find whole wheat ones. But just so you know, I didn't even notice a difference in texture. I was really pleased.

Creamy Spinach Lasagne
1-9x13 inch pan
1 pack whole wheat oven ready lasagne noodles
3 C 1 % milk (or feel free to use full fat or 2% just don't use skim!)
3 T flour
1/2 onion, minced
9 0z spinach leaves
1-1/2 C homemade pizza sauce or other tomato sauce
2 T butter
1/4 t or less of finely grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
2 C mozzarella cheese
1/2 C finely grated Pecorino Romano or Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter and cook the onions until soft and translucent but not browned. Add flour and whisk to combine. Cook the flour for about 30 seconds to get rid of the raw flour taste. Add milk, about 1/2 C at a time, whisking continuously until it's all encorporated and smooth. Stir in the nutmeg.
  2. Add spinach and gently fold into the bechamel until all of the spinach is wilted.
  3. In a 9x13 baking dish, put about 1/4 ~ 1/2 C red sauce in the bottom and place 3 noodles. Then Top with white sauce, mozzarella cheese, and about 1/3 C chicken. Place 3 more noodle sheets, top with red sauce. Repeat layers until you run out of noodles. Add the parmesan or pecorino romano cheese on top.
  4. Cover and bake at 375° for 40 minutes, remove the foil and turn the broiler on and bake for another 5 minutes until cheese is bubbly and browned. Take out of the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


Last week we went to the Cheesecake Factory with our friends, Kerstin and Jared. And I've been dreaming in cheesecake for a week. And so has Kerstin. So we decided we needed to make our own. I have a recipe I'd been meaning to try from one of my favorite cookbooks, The Bride and Groom First and Forever Cookbook, that Blake gave me as a wedding gift. So, we decided it was worth the risk to try. And oh my gosh am I sure glad we made it. Seriously, it was incredible. My only complaint would be the crust. I thought it was a little too soft, not enough crunch, and maybe slightly too sweet. And I might even be so bold as to say it wouldn't hurt to have a whole vanilla bean in the the sour cream topping and the filling instead of 1/2 bean in each. But other than that, it really was pretty perfect.

Thanks to my amazing sister Lisa (yet again) for sending me some vanilla beans. I finally had something I feel was worthwhile enough to use my precious beans for.

Very Vanilla Cheesecake
from The Bride and Groom First and Forever Cookbook
1-1/2 C graham cracker crumbs (from 10-5 x 2.5 inch graham crackers)
1/3 C sugar
4 T unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
pinch of kosher salt

4 eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten
1-1/2 t pure vanilla extract
contents of 1/2 vanilla bean
1/2 t kosher salt
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese at room temperature
1 C sugar

3 C sour cream
1/2 C sugar
1 t vanilla extract
contents of 1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 t kosher salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly spray a 9 inch spring form pan with vegetable oil cooking spray.
  2. To make the crust: Mix the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, butter, and kosher salt in a small bowl. Using your fingers, press the mixture evenly into the bottom and one third of the way u the sides of the prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool, about 15 minutes. Reduce the oven to 325°.
  3. To make the filling:Combine the eggs, vanilla extract, contents of 1/2 vanilla bean, and kosher salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on low speed until creamy, about 1 minute. With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar, then stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue beating until light and creamy, about 30 seconds. With the mixer running, slowly add the egg mixture in three additions, scraping the sides after each addition. Do not overbeat; it too much air is incorporated, the cheesecake will crack. Pour the filling into the cooled crust. Put the pan on a baking sheet and bake until the cheesecake is just barely set in the center (it will still jiggle a little), 45~55 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, make the topping: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, lightly beat the sour cream, sugar, vanilla extract, contents of 1/2 of a vanilla bean, and kosher salt about 1 minutse on low speed until incorporated. Remove cheesecake from the oven. Spread the topping over the cheesecake and bake for 5 minutes. Trasnfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool, then refrigerate for at least 6 hours or preferably overnight before serving.

quick breakfast

Last night we had a sinful dessert (you'll see in the next post) so I decided it was time for a healthy start to our day. So I made a simple frittata and had some whole grain toast on the side, and we were happy. What a great day.

Simple breakfast frittata
serves 2
4 eggs
3~4 T low-fat milk
one small handful of greens (I like spinach or parsley)
1/4 C finely grated pecorino romano cheese
canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat broiler. Using a fork, gently mix together the milk, eggs, salt, and pepper together.
  2. In a small skillet, heat the oil to medium heat until shimmering. Add the eggs, and with a silicone spatula, pull in the sides once in a while. Add spinach and continue.
  3. Once the eggs are set on the bottom but will runny on top, sprinkle the cheese and place the skillet under the broiler for 3~5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and browned and bubbly.
  4. Pull out of the oven and let rest for a couple of minutes. Release from the skillet and cut into wedges to serve.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Have you discovered Rachel's Yogurt? Love it. You have to try it. I found an ad for it on someone's blog, and I was hooked. I was so sad that the grapefruit lychee flavor was sold out today at Target. Can't wait to try that one. But I had plum honey lavendar today, and it was amazing. Perfect end to my dinner.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

regular dinner

This is one of our favorite dinners so I'm surprised I've never posted it before. It's really simple and it's a nice change from the usual pasta, rice, potatoes, or bread for the side. The flavors remind me of Chicken Marsala from Buca Di Beppo. Mmmm.

Braised Chicken with mushrooms and creamy polenta
serves 4
braised chicken and mushrooms
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 6 oz each)
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
2 T olive oil
1 lb white button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced 1/2 inch thick
4 garlic cloves, halved
1/2 C dry white wine
1 C reduce-sodium chicken broth
1/4 C chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish

  1. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat 1 T oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the chicken; cook until lightly broned, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add the remaining tablespoon oil to the hot skillet. Add the mushrooms, garlic, and 1/2 t salt. Cover; cook over medium heat until the mushrooms release their juices, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the lid. Cook over high heat, tossing occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden, 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the wine into the skillet; cook, stirring, until evaporated, 1 minutes. Add the stock and 3 T of parsley; cook over medium-high heat until the mushrooms are tender and the liquid has reduced, 8 to 10 minutes.
  4. Return the chicken to the skillet. Cover; simmer over low heat until the chicken is cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes. Serve the cutlets and and polenta topped with mushrooms and a drizzle of cooking liquid. Garnish with additional fresh parsley.
soft polenta
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
3/4 C yellow cornmeal or polenta (not quick-cooking)
1/4 C finely grated cheese (Parmesan, Asiago, Pecorino Romano, or Cheddar)
1 T butter
2 C milk (you can also make it with 4 C water and omit the milk, if you want)
  1. In a large saucepan, bring 2 C water, 2 C milk, 1-1/4 t salt, and 1/8 t pepper to a boil over high heat. Whisking constantly, very gradually add the cornmeal in a thin stream, whisking until snooth before adding more.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium-low; simmer, whisking often, until thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in the cheese and butter until smooth. Serve immediately.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sunday Dinner

For dinner tonight I decided to make something new. And since chicken and asparagus were both on sale at Meijer this week, I decided to do something with them. I searched through my cookbooks and found a recipe for "garlic marinated chicken" that had grilled chicken, asparagus, and potatoes. I already had some rosemary balsamic vinaigrette that I had made earlier in the week, so I decided to use that as the marinade instead. I added 1 head of garlic (I know what you're thinking, but I was in the mood for GARLIC, and it was really good, I promise), minced, and it was perfect. And the whole meal took me about 20~25 minutes, excluding marinating time. And the potatoes were perfectly the crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, the asparagus was nice and tender but not overcooked, and the chicken was not tough at all! I kept having to check to make sure it was cooked all the way through because it was so tender. And don't worry, it was totally cooked through. Anyway, you have to try this out at home. Most ingredients are really affordable, and the rest were on sale. But you can replace the fresh rosemary for dried (just use about 1/4 t instead of the 1T), and you can totally use a cheaper vegetable like broccoli instead of the asparagus. Like I said, I was just lucky because it was on sale. And feel free to use yukon gold or russet potatoes instead of the baby potatoes. Just make sure and cut them into bite-sized pieces so they will cook quickly.

Garlic Marinated Chicken Dinner
Serve 2~4 (depending on how hungry you are;))
and that is, in fact, steam rising from the potatoes. mmmmmmmm.

2 medium sized chicken breasts, cut into 2 equal pieces horizontally, and pounded flat to make them even and thin.
1 lb aparagus
1 lb small red potatoes

coarse salt
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
olive oil

Rosemary garlic vinaigrette:

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 head of garlic
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt,
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°. In a deep dish, place the chicken breasts , trying not to overlap them. Pour in about 1/2 C of the vinaigrette over them, turn them over to coat. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Cut the potatoes in half, or if they are small ones leave them whole. Place them in a 9x13 baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with 1/2 t salt and 1/4 t pepper, and toss to coat. Place them in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through.
  3. Snap the bottom off of the asparagus and peel the skin off of the last inch or so. Cut on the bias every 1.5~2 inches. Toss with salt, pepper, olive oil, and minced garlic. Place on a cookie sheet and place in the oven with the potatoes during the last 10 minutes.
  4. On a large skillet heated to medium high, pour about 1 T oil. Once the pan is hot, place the chicken breasts on the skillet after shaking off the excess marinade. Don't move them around. Once the bottom is browned, flip them over and cook through (but don't over cook them).
  5. Arrange them all on a large platter and let everyone serve themselves.