February 21, 2015

Quick and Easy: Rigatoni with White Beans, Roasted Tomatoes, Baby Spinach and Parmesan

It's snowing!! ...again.

Yes, we are in the middle of the latest storm, and all I really want to do is curl up with a bowl of pasta in my pj's and watch a good movie. So, that's what we are doing!

To ensure the most couch time tonight, this meal is super quick and easy-  and made primarily with pantry staples.

Rigatoni with White Beans, Roasted Tomatoes, Baby Spinach and Parmesan
Serves 4

8 oz. uncooked rigatoni
1 14.5 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz. can roasted diced tomatoes
1 tsp. basil leaves
1 tsp. dried oregano
4 handfuls baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup pasta water
approx. 4 tbsp grated parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to box directions. Drain and rinse cannellini beans, allowing them to stay in bottom of strainer. When pasta is al dente, drain in strainer over beans. Add diced tomatoes to empty pasta pot over medium heat. Add pasta water, basil and oregano to tomatoes and stir. Return beans and pasta to pot; stir in cheese and spinach leaves. Salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring until spinach is wilted. Enjoy!

I hope everyone is staying safe and warm tonight- let it snow!

February 18, 2015

Cauliflower Chowder

Ever end up with an ingredient sitting in your refrigerator because the menu you had planned didn't happen and this odd-ball ingredient just doesn't fit in anywhere else? Happens to me all. the. time.

Even though I'm a pretty meticulous menu planner- life happens. This time, life happened, and a head of cauliflower ended up in my refrigerator for almost 2 weeks, begging to be used for something...

Today when I sat down to plan our menu for the coming week, I was determined to use that cauliflower... and to find a delicious way to do so. Then, my hubby came home sick, and I knew what I had to do: soup. (it heals everything!)

I have made cauliflower soup before, but wanted to try something new. (My last foray into cauliflower soup resulted in a puree that reminded me of very well seasoned baby food and ended up turning me off when it came to eating the leftovers...)

Today, while looking for inspiration, I found a recipe for this Cauliflower Chowder, and immediately decided it was worth a shot. My hubby loves milk/cream based soups, and I love that this recipe incorporates milk without making it heavy or unhealthy. The cauliflower and veggies are still the stars!

I was very pleased with the end result! I dressed my bowl up with some toasted Panko breadcrumbs, and a sprinkle of cheddar cheese. YUM! It is definitely simple, hearty, and comforting and I can't wait to have the leftovers!

Cauliflower Chowder

Serves 6
Adapted from recipe found on damndelicious

2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup reduced fat milk
1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste

Melt butter in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, carrots and celery. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in cauliflower and bay leaf. Cook until tender, stirring occasionally. Whisk in flour until lightly browned- about 1 minute. Gradually whisk in chicken broth and milk. Cook, whisking continuously, until broth slightly thickened, (about 3-4 minutes). Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until cauliflower are tender, about 12-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer about 1/2 of the soup to a blender and puree; stir puree mixture back into soup. Dish into your favorite bowl; top with toppings of your choice, (green onions, cheddar cheese, crumbled bacon, toasted panko, and whatever else you can imagine!), and enjoy!!

February 13, 2015

Sweets for My Sweets: Nut- Free "Nutella"

Happy Valentine's Day!! ...I have to admit that it is far from my favorite holiday, but there's nothing wrong with a holiday that's celebrated with chocolate and champagne, right?? What is more Valentine's Day-ish than chocolate covered strawberries?? Or, maybe some Nutella and strawberries?!? I would LOVE some Nutella!

I have the perfect strawberries, but our house is nut-free. What to do?? 

I found a recipe online a while ago for Nut-Free Nutella and set it aside, knowing that one day my Nutella craving would get the best of me, and I'd have to try it out. (When we found out that our oldest boy had a nut allergy, my husband and I both mourned the loss of Nutella... it has been about 2 years since the creamy, chocolatey spread has crossed my lips... but who's counting?)

Today I decided to make a batch as a sweet valentine surprise for my sweethearts. I am a happy lady! Not only is it delicious, it's much healthier. The nut-free version is also surprisingly a little nuttier! The toasted sunflower seeds have a great nutty quality about them which makes it really special. Happily, it is not overly sweet, but definitely satisfies my sweet tooth and chocolate craving!

This will definitely be regularly stocked in my refrigerator. 

Nut Free Nutella
Makes about 2 cups/ 16 servings of 2 tbsp 
Recipe from Momables

2 cups raw sunflower seeds
1 1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup, plus 3 tbsp light agave*
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp coconut oil*
1/2 cup milk

Toast sunflower seeds in large non-stick pan over medium-high heat; stir frequently to prevent burning. (Seeds will be done when they are fragrant and begin to turn golden brown). 

Transfer to bowl and allow to cool to room temperature before using. 

When cool, transfer seeds to food processor and process, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl, until thick and very fine; takes about 2-3 minutes. 

Add in remaining ingredients and blend until creamy. Store in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 30 days. Enjoy with fruit, graham crackers, or on its own!

*Per the original recipe, may sub agave for either maple syrup or honey. I chose agave because it is the most flavor-neutral. I mis-read the original recipe which called for 2-3 tsp. for oil, and used 2 tbsp instead... oops! It is still delicious, and is smooth.. the nutritional information below reflects the recipe as I made it, using 2 tbsp of coconut oil. 

OK, now for the fine print... The nutritional information! Time to see how it compares to Nutella. 

Nutella (per 2 tbsp serving): 200 calories; 12g fat; 4g sat fat; 15mg sodium; 21g carbs; 1g fiber; 21g sugar; 2g protein

 "Nut-free Nutella" (per 2 tbsp serving): 130 calories; 8g fat; 3g sat fat; 33mg sodium; 12g carbs; 2g fiber; 8g sugar; 4g protein*

Pretty awesome!  The nut-free version results in 70 fewer calories, 4g less fat, 9g fewer carbs, 2g more protein, and 13g less sugar! The best part?? It is delicious. 

*Nutritional information for nut-free version obtained by entering recipe/individual ingredients into myfitnesspal.com.

February 05, 2015

Pan- Simmered Tilapia

I noticed the other day that I have hardly shared any seafood recipes! I have to admit that we don't eat nearly enough seafood in this house... We go through phases, I guess.

Tilapia is my son's favorite because it's nice and mild; I love it for it's versatility and ease to prepare. (and affordability!) I have fried it, broiled it, baked it, and this time I tried something new! I created a simple and flavorful broth, then added the tilapia fillets and allowed them to simmer in the broth to cook gently. The end result was a tender and flavorful fillet, worthy of a special occasion (or just a delicious family meal!)

Pan- Simmered Tilapia
Serves 4

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 tilapia fillets
1 large shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
about 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup dry white wine
pinch crushed red pepper (optional)

Pat tilapia fillets dry, sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika; set aside. Add oil to pan over medium heat. Add shallots and garlic, saute until shallots are translucent. Add tomatoes- crush slightly with back of spatula-, broth and wine. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer. Add tilapia fillets; simmer for 3-4 minutes. Turn fish over, and continue to simmer over low heat for another 3-4 minutes, or until fish is cooked through. (Flakes easily with fork.)

Serve with quinoa, or rice and vegetable... Enjoy!!