MOW Eggplant Parmesan

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Happy Saturday, everyone!

We are now five days into Hunger Action Month and it has really made me think about all the different ways we can reach out and fight hunger in our communities.

Food pantries are one way that communities can support our neighbors in need, but it’s another food outreach program that has captured my heart… Meals On Wheels (MOW).

Meals On Wheels is a nationwide organization that provides meals to homebound seniors to help them remain independent and stay in the comfort of their own homes for as long as possible. Caring volunteers not only provide a nutritious meal, but also a friendly visit (and conduct a much needed safety check). It is a great organization that is staffed by great people who are passionate about taking care of their neighbors.

During graduate school, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to volunteer at the local Meals On Wheels program. This program was housed in the basement kitchen of a public housing complex, which allowed them to cook all the food they served their MOW clients. It was my first experience in a restaurant-grade kitchen and my first experience working with massive quantities of food. It was AMAZING.

My friends and I were tasked with assembling meal trays for delivery and dividing large batches of salads, desserts, and rolls into single-serve portions (not much cooking) and it really made us focus on our food service and food safety skills. Our reward after a long morning of serving up food was being able try the leftovers on the hot food line. My absolute favorite hot item that they made there was eggplant parmesan. But this was not just any eggplant parmesan… it was eggplant parmesan rounds.

What I love about this version of eggplant parm is that it is super simple (and breading-free), allowing the eggplant to really stand out and shine – the way eggplant parm should be (in my opinion). I never got the official recipe, but this recipe is the closest to that eggplant parm I ate during graduate school at Meals On Wheels.

It all starts with an eggplant that’s been sliced in ½ inch slices.

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Then placed in a colander and salted with some kosher salt – this step seems unnecessary but it really helps the eggplant have a better texture and removes some of the bitterness (yay!). Let the eggplant sit for about fifteen minutes, which is about the time it takes my oven to reach 400 degrees.

When the oven reaches temp, thoroughly rinse off the eggplant, pat it dry, and coat it with some olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Then place it on a greased cookie sheet.

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Pop the eggplant into the oven for 20 minutes, flipping the eggplant rounds over halfway through.

When 20 minutes is up, pull the eggplant out of the oven.

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And spoon on a bit of your favorite marinara sauce – this is some really good jarred stuff.

Then sprinkle on some part-skim mozzarella cheese.

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And then the secret ingredient….

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… some seasoned bread crumbs. Just a small sprinkle (about ¼ teaspoon per slice) does the trick – it adds a little texture and crunch to the dish.

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Now, just pop the eggplant back into the oven for 5-6 minutes until the cheese is melted and turning golden brown.

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Perfection!

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It is a memory of a wonderful volunteer experience (and a fitting dish to enjoy during Hunger Action Month).

 

So, kiddos, what have you been up to during the first four days of September? Anything fun? Let me know!

Your eggplant parm makin’, Meals On Wheels lovin’ friend,

C

MOW Eggplant Parmesan

  • Servings: 4 people
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

1 large eggplant, sliced into ½ inch sliced width-wise

1 teaspoon kosher salt – for salting the eggplant

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon table salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ to ¾ cup marinara sauce

¾ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1 tablespoon seasoned bread crumbs

Red pepper flake and dried oregano for serving

 

Steps:

  1. Salt eggplant slices with kosher salt and place in a colander that is set in a sink. Let the eggplant sit for about 15 minutes to allow for some of the water and bitterness to leave.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a high-sided cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. When the oven reaches temperature, rinse the eggplant under cold water, pat dry, and coat both sides with the olive oil, table salt, and black pepper. Place the slices in one even layer on the cookie sheet (if your slices are big in diameter, you may need a second cookie sheet). Pop the eggplant into the oven and bake for 20 minutes, flipping the eggplant slices over once in the middle of cooking.
  4. After 20 minutes, remove the eggplant from the oven. Spoon about a tablespoon of marinara sauce on each slice and then sprinkle on about 1 tablespoon of shredded mozzarella per slice. Finally, sprinkle over some seasoned bread crumbs – about ¼ teaspoon per slice.
  5. Place the eggplant back into the oven for 5-6 minutes until the cheese is melted and starting to turn golden.

To serve: sprinkle on some red pepper flakes and/or dried oregano as desired.

Enjoy!

 

Nutrition Information (1 serving):

166 calories Ÿ• 16gm carbohydrates Ÿ• 5gm fiber Ÿ• 8gm protein Ÿ• 9gm fat Ÿ• 3gm saturated fat Ÿ• 629mg sodium •Ÿ 11mg cholesterol Ÿ• 1mg iron Ÿ• 183mg calcium

Caprese Pizza

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One of my fondest food memories as a child is homemade-pizza-for-dinner night. My dad would whip up homemade pizza dough, slather it with sauce and cheese, and bake it until the house smelled like a pizzeria. In my opinion, homemade pizza is a million times better than pizza from a pizzeria… you can control what kind of crust you make, what cheese you use, what type of sauce you use, and what toppings make it onto the finished product… which means that you can cater to your family’s likes, dislikes, and preferences (half vegetarian, quarter caramelized onion, quarter sausage please!).

So for my parents’ welcome-home-from-vacation dinner, I decided to combine my two food loves – homemade pizza and pesto sauce – into the ultimate throwback comfort food dinner… Caprese Pizza.

If you have been following along on my food blogging journey, you have come to realize that pesto is pretty much one of my favorite things. It’s delicious, the perfect shade of green, and it can be used in a bunch of different ways (on sandwiches, on quesadillas, on pasta, etc.). So I decided to do a play on a traditional caprese sandwich and make a pesto pizza with a fresh tomato topping. And I think it turned out pretty well!

It starts with my foolproof pizza dough… I shared this recipe a while back but I’m re-posting some updated photos and the original recipe here (so you don’t have to scroll to find it!).

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It starts with dumping some flour, some yeast, olive oil, and salt into the bowl of a standmixer.

Using the dough hook attachment, mix the flour mixture and add in enough warm water (it should be warm, not hot, or else it will kill the yeast) until a slightly sticky dough forms.

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Form the dough into a ball, coat in some vegetable oil, and place in the bottom of a bowl. Cover the bowl with some plastic wrap and a clean tea towel and then set the bowl in a warm, quiet place for a couple of hours to rise.

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A perfect pizza dough ball ready to rise!

After the dough has risen, it’s time to make the pizza.

Spread the dough onto a greased half-sheet pan and set aside to let it rest until the oven has come to temperature.

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In place of the traditional sauce (and to mimic the caprese sandwich), dot the crust with the some pesto sauce. This is homemade, but any really, really good jarred pesto can be used.

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And spread it out into a thin layer.

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Then layer on some grated mozzarella cheese (the second component of a caprese sandwich).

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And bake the pizza at 500 degrees for about 10-11 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the bottom of the pizza is golden brown. Let the pizza rest of a couple of minutes (because it’s very hot!).

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(note – you can eat the pizza just like this if you want, but the next step really does send it over the top!)

Now all that’s left is to whip up the final (and most important) component of the caprese pizza – the fresh tomato topping.

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I chopped up a bunch of Roma (or plum) tomatoes (because they don’t have a lot of liquid seed-ness inside) and dressed them up with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt.

Now that we have all the components, it’s time to eat!!

My dad cut up big wedges of pizza (just like when we were little!) and then I topped it with the fresh tomato salad.

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Yum!

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Just like a caprese sandwich… in a homemade pizza form!

What a wonderful way to celebrate the two foods that I love the most (and to relive some good childhood memories). Enjoy, kiddos!

Your pesto lovin’, homemade pizza makin’ friend,

C

Caprese Pizza

  • Servings: 8 people
  • Difficulty: medium
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Ingredients:

For the dough:

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 packets active dry yeast

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

Warm water

Vegetable oil

For the pizza:

¼ cup pesto

1-lb part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated – can use less if desired

For the fresh tomato salad:

5-6 Roma tomatoes, chopped

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

 

Steps:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, dump in the flour, yeast, olive oil, and salt and mix until combined. With the mixer on, slowly pour in warm water (not hot, or else you will kill the yeast and the bread won’t rise) until a slightly sticky dough ball forms.
  2. Form the dough into a ball, lightly coat in vegetable oil and place it into a bowl. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and cover with a clean tea towel. Set the bowl in a warm, quiet place for 2-3 hours.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees. While the oven is pre-heating, turn out the dough onto a greased half-sheet pan (or a cookie sheet with high sides) and stretch it out/spread it out using your fingers. Set the dough aside to rest until the oven reaches temperature.
  4. When the oven is pre-heated, spread the pizza dough with the pesto, leaving a 1-inch border on the edges. Cover the pizza with the grated cheese. Bake the pizza for 10-11 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Set aside for 1-2 minutes to cool slightly.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt. Toss to combine.
  6. To serve – cut the pizza into wedges and top with some of the tomato mixture. Enjoy!

 

Nutritional Information (1 serving):

478 calories Ÿ• 53gm carbohydrates Ÿ• 3gm fiber Ÿ• 23gm protein Ÿ• 19gm fat Ÿ• 7gm saturated fat Ÿ• 802mg sodium Ÿ• 32mg cholesterol Ÿ• 3mg iron Ÿ• 449mg calcium

Basil Pesto

  • Servings: about 2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced (you can add more or less garlic depending on your preference)

1 cup fresh grated parmesan

½ cup walnuts

5 cups of fresh, washed basil

Salt and pepper to taste

¾ cup of good olive oil

 

Steps:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, throw in the garlic, parmesan cheese, and walnuts. Pulse to combine. Add in the basil and pulse until everything is combined.
  2. With the food processor on, slowly pour in the olive oil until a thick sauce forms. Taste and add in salt and pepper to taste. Pesto sauce can be stored in the fridge for about a week or frozen for 2-3 months.

 

Nutritional Information (1 tablespoon):

119 calories Ÿ• 1gm carbohydrates •Ÿ 0.5gm fiber Ÿ• 4gm protein Ÿ• 11gm fat Ÿ• 2gm saturated fat Ÿ• 186mg sodium •Ÿ 6mg cholesterol Ÿ• 0.5mg iron •Ÿ 128mg calcium

Pesto Pasta Salad with Spinach

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Another summer day, another summer pasta salad… with pesto.

Yes, I know that this is another variation on pasta tossed with pesto on this website, but trust me – this is totally different! Promise.

What I like about this pasta salad is that it has wilted spinach in it. Pesto and spinach are a great flavor combo (trust me!), which makes this a yummy summer dinner option (and you get the added benefit of sneaking some good nutrition into your family!).

Grab yourself a tall-sided skillet and set it over medium heat.

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And sauté some shallots in olive oil. If you like some spice in your food, add in some crushed red pepper flakes.

When the shallots are all soft and translucent, dump in some washed baby spinach.

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I love baby spinach in pasta recipes because it wilts down fast and it doesn’t have as strong a flavor as regular spinach (in my opinion). And despite it being “baby” spinach, it’s still a great source of fiber, iron, folate, and vitamin A!

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Sauté the spinach until it just wilts (the hot pasta will completely wilt it). Set the pan aside until the pasta is finished cooking.

Another veggie that tastes great with pesto is peas! I put frozen sweet peas in a colander and pour the pasta over it – peas get defrosted ASAP and everything is ready to be tossed with the spinach.

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Dinner’s in one skillet! One pot meals, man… they’re a lifesaver!

Add in some pesto.

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This is store-bought pesto. It was good, but not as good (or as green) as freshly made pesto…

And I would have fresh pesto on hand if I had any fresh basil on my newly acquired basil plant…

And I would have fresh basil on my newly acquired basil plant if only a caterpillar wasn’t a stow-away on the planter and munched his way through 60% of the leaves…

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I am devastated.

So no fresh pesto until I figure out how to revive my poor plant (or hit up the farmer’s market this weekend).

Back to the pasta salad.

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I threw in some fresh mozzarella.

Mixed everything together and garnished with some basil leaves that have been cut into ribbons (or chiffonade) and some toasted pine nuts.

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Then we dug in!

Simple, delicious, and easy to whip up on a hot summer night.

 

What are your favorite summer pasta salad dishes (do you love pesto as much as I do)?

Your pesto pasta salad obsessed friend,

C

Pesto Pasta Salad with Spinach

  • Servings: 6 people
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 medium-sized shallots, cut into thin half moons

8oz fresh baby spinach, washed well

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon red pepper flake (optional)

1½ cups frozen sweet peas

¼ cup pesto, store-bought or homemade

1lb fresh mozzarella, cubed

12oz dried pasta, ¾ of a 1lb box

2 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted

6-8 basil leaves, cut into ribbons

 

Steps:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt heavily and add in pasta; cook according to the package directions.
  2. In a high-sided skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in the shallots and cook until they become soft and translucent, about 1-2 minutes; add in the red pepper flake (optional). Add spinach to the pan, tossing to coat in the olive oil and shallots – cook for 1-2 minutes until slightly wilted. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Set aside.
  3. Place peas in a colander. When pasta is cooked, pour the pasta into the colander with the peas. Shake colander to remove as much water from the pasta and peas as possible.
  4. Pour pasta and peas into the skillet with the spinach. Add in pesto and fresh mozzarella cheese – stir to combine. Sprinkle pine nuts and basil over the pasta for garnish.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

 

Nutrition Information (1 serving):

597 calories • 60gm carbohydrates • 6gm fiber • 33gm protein • 25gm fat • 10gm saturated fat • 713mg sodium • 42mg cholesterol • 4mg iron • 637mg calcium

Turkey Bolognese

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It’s E’s big birthday weekend, so I decided to take the train up and help celebrate with her work friends – they are a fun bunch and it was so nice to meet all of them in person! Yesterday, while E was at work, I decided to do a little studying for my RD exam (which I just scheduled… !!!).

It started out great – I had my study guide, blank note cards, my TWO different colored highlighters (because I’m fancy like that), and a boatload of motivation… until 5:00PM when I decided that my mind needed a break and that I really, really wanted to share this awesome turkey bolognese recipe with you.

Hooray for study breaks!

And hooray for easy, one-pot suppers that are on the table in no time and can feed a crowd.

It all starts with two medium-sized onions and five cloves of garlic.

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I believe that all good tomato-based sauce recipes should have a lot of garlic (and this amount isn’t too much), but if you are sensitive to garlic, you can definitely tone it down.

When the onions are soft and translucent, add in one pound of lean ground turkey.

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Break it up with a spoon and allow it to completely brown – be patient… this can take 5-10 minutes! Note: this is a great base for many dishes… if you want, you can let this mixture cool and then freeze it. Then you have endless possibilities for dinner waiting in the freezer (like this awesome chili!).

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Add some crushed red pepper!

And then the big secret ingredient…

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Good jarred marinara sauce! (yes, I’m cheating!)

I doctored up the sauce with some additional salt, pepper, and dried oregano.

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Let the sauce simmer as you prepare your favorite pasta! I decided to use whole wheat spaghetti, but any shape works here.

When the pasta is cooked, taste the sauce a final time and adjust the seasoning to your liking.

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And add in a bunch of freshly chopped basil – if you add it too soon, the basil becomes brown and limp… no one likes brown, limp basil.

Serve the sauce over the pasta and garnish with some grated cheese and more basil.

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Enjoy, kiddos!

Your pasta obsessed, study break needin’ friend,

C

Turkey Bolognese

  • Servings: 5 people
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 medium-sized onions, chopped

4-5 cloves of garlic, minced finely

1 pound lean ground turkey

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flake

¾ of a jar of good marinara sauce – if you like your bolognese with more liquid, add the whole jar!

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 pound dried pasta, prepared according to package instructions

Grated cheese and fresh basil for garnish (optional)

 

Steps:

1. In a large, high-sided skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in onions and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes until soft and translucent.

2. Add ground turkey to skillet, breaking the meat apart with a spoon. Cook the turkey until browned and cooked through, approximately 5-10 minutes.

3. When the turkey is cooked, sprinkle over the crushed red pepper flakes. Pour in the sauce and add the salt, pepper, and dried oregano. Stir thoroughly to combine. Simmer sauce over medium-low heat until the pasta is ready.

4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add salt and one pound dried pasta – cook according to the package instructions. When the pasta is al dente, drain pasta and set aside until sauce is finished.

5. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings, adding more salt, pepper, or hot pepper flake. Add in chopped basil and stir to combine.

To serve, you two options:

Option 1: Dish out pasta into bowls and ladle sauce on top. Garnish with grated cheese and more fresh basil.

Option 2: Add pasta into the skillet with the sauce and toss to combine. Dish out the pasta and garnish with grated cheese and more fresh basil.

Enjoy!

Nutrition Information (1 serving):

577 calories • 77gm carbohydrates • 7gm fiber • 30gm protein • 16gm fat • 4gm saturated fat • 933mg sodium • 67mg cholesterol • 5mg iron • 90mg calcium

Confetti Turkey Chili

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Hi there! How’s it going?

How was your weekend?

My weekend was super fun because I actually got to do Girls Weekend with my mom and sister in E’s new town (while my poor dad was cleaning out my grandma’s apartment…). It was so nice to have quiet time with just the three of us and play tourist in my sister’s new stomping grounds.

E has a pretty rigorous and time-consuming job, so she gets home pretty late at night and doesn’t want to cook (totally get it). So when we go see her, or when E comes home, we usually bring/send back easy meals that are easy to freeze and reheat. Simple suppers are always at hand and we know that she’s eating a nutritious meal at the end of a crazy long day.

Last week, my mom stocked up on ground turkey meat with the intent of making meatballs to bring up to my sister’s place for the weekend. But after a little discussion, we decided that chili would be a better (and more summer-y!) option.

Confetti Turkey Chili starts out with the “confetti” – the bright bits of color that give this chili a solid veggie foundation.

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Bell peppers, celery, onions, and garlic. Simple, but so tasty. Plus, this is also a great way to sneak in some veggie goodness into your family’s meal (always an added bonus).

When the vegetables get soft, toss in two pounds of ground turkey and use a spatula to break up the meat into smaller chunks.

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You want to cook ground meat (especially turkey) very well, so be patient – this step can take 5-10 minutes.

When the meat has been completely browned, add in a large can of whole tomatoes that you have broken down slightly (more confetti for the chili!).

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My mom actually uses kitchen shears to cut up the whole tomatoes in the can, but you can cut them up in the can with a knife or crush them with your hands. Your choice!

All that’s left is to add in herbs and spices that make it chili!

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Chili powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, cumin, dried oregano, salt, and pepper. (sorry for the steamy photo!)

All that’s left is to let the chili simmer a little bit, stir in a can of black beans, and let it simmer some more.

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Yum! And I love that you can still see all the beautiful bits of vegetable! I love pretty food, don’t you?

All that’s left is to dish it up, garnish it, and devour.

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I added some thick wedges of avocado and a couple of tortilla chips, but you can add whatever fixins’ float your boat! A dollop of fat-free sour cream or Greek yogurt, some shredded low fat cheese, some pico de gallo, guacamole, diced onions, jalapeños, cilantro, etc. The options are endless.

I hope you enjoy this easy, quick (and healthy) chili recipe.

Happy Tuesday, kiddos!

C

Confetti Turkey Chili

  • Servings: 8 people
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium-sized bell peppers, diced (preferably red, orange, or yellow)

2 medium-sized onions, diced

4 stalks of celery, cut into half-moons

5 cloves of garlic, minced

2 pounds lean ground turkey

1-28oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes, cut with kitchen shears/knife/crushed with hands

3 tablespoons + ½ teaspoon dark chili powder

1½ teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne powder – if you are sensitive to heat, use half the amount of cayenne

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1-15oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed

Hot sauce to taste

 

Steps:

  1. In a large, high-sided skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in the bell peppers, onions, celery, and garlic. Cook until vegetables become soft and tender, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Move the veggies to the outside of the skillet and add in the ground turkey. Using your spoon/spatula, break the ground turkey into small pieces. Cook until completely browned – this can take a while, about 5-10 minutes (so be patient… it’s all worth it!).
  3. When the turkey is browned, add in the tomatoes and the herbs and spices. NOTE – this recipe yields a spicy chili… if you are sensitive to heat, halve the amount of cayenne pepper (you can always add more heat with hot sauce later!). Stir to combine and then simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Add in the black beans and stir to combine. Taste chili to assess seasoning and spiciness and adjust per your tastes – if you want a spicier chili, add in some hot sauce. Simmer the chili for another 15 minutes to let the flavors meld and the beans to heat through.
  5. Serve with the traditional chili fixins’ like avocado, taco chips, and shredded cheese.

Enjoy!

Baked Crab Cakes

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Being an East coast girl, I am no stranger to crab.

I saw their shells on the beach when I was little, tried world-famous crab cakes in Maryland in my middle school years, and even have a felt crab hat that I wore for Halloween one year. So all in all, I can say that I am a fan.

But my most vivid crab-related memory happened during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. I was attending a career development camp in the Washington DC-area and our counselors took us all out to a boat/restaurant for a “real East coast experience”. It turned out that they took us to a place that put on a traditional Maryland crab boil – boiled crabs served on butcher paper-covered picnic tables with corn on the cob and new potatoes (to be enjoyed with a tall glass of sweet tea and a billion paper towels). It was a wonderful, messy bonding experience (I had never picked crabs before), but working hard for your dinner got old FAST. So what did I do?

I turned to the waiter and asked for crab cakes!

And that’s history – I’ve loved the ease and simplicity of crab cakes ever since.

Crab cakes seem like a spring/summertime dish, so we whipped up a batch a couple of nights ago for dinner. And what makes these crab cakes awesome is that they are baked and not fried – a healthy alternative to the beloved classic. So now you can feel less guilty about devouring that crab cake sandwich!

These cakes start with a simple base mixture.

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Eggs, bell pepper, red onion, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, mustard, sriracha, bread crumbs, and spices. Easy.

Then you add in the star!

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Some good-quality lump crab meat that has been thoroughly picked over to check for shell bits – you don’t want your guests choking on a piece of shell (a surefire way to end a party).

Gently fold everything together.

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And then portion out ¼ cup servings of the mixture, form into cakes, dredge the cakes in a mix of traditional breadcrumbs and Panko (Japanese bread crumbs), and pop them on a parchment-lined baking sheet – make sure the parchment has also been sprayed with cooking spray… this adds to the nice golden-brown crust which tricks your brain into thinking its eating something fried!

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Bake the cakes for 20 minutes, flipping them halfway through!

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Perfectly golden brown and delicious.

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Serve them up as a sandwich or by themselves with some tartar sauce or just a big ole squeeze of lemon.

Enjoy, kiddos!

Your crab cake lovin’ friend,

C

Baked Crab Cakes

  • Servings: 5 (2 cakes per person)
  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

2 eggs

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon lemon juice – approximately the juice of ½ a medium lemon

½ teaspoon Sriracha

½ teaspoon Creole or Old Bay seasoning

¼ teaspoon table salt

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ cup finely diced red bell pepper

½ medium-sized red onion, finely diced

¼ cup seasoned bread crumbs

1 pound lump crab meat, drained and thoroughly picked through to check for shells

Mix of ¼ cup seasoned bread crumbs and ¼ cup Panko bread crumbs

Cooking spray

 

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and lightly spray parchment with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine eggs, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, sriracha, seasoning, salt, pepper, red bell pepper, red onion, and bread crumbs – stir thoroughly to combine. Gently fold in crab meat until well mixed.
  3. Using a ¼ cup measure (or cookie scoop), portion out the crab mixture into your hands. Form the mixture into a patty and dredge in the mixture of bread crumbs and Panko. Shake off the excess and place the crab cake on the baking sheet.
  4. Bake the crab cakes for 10 minutes per side until they become golden brown. Flip them over and bake for another 10 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately as a sandwich or alone with your favorite sides!

Enjoy!

Chicken Faux-sala

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Hi there!

How are you?

Life has gotten insanely busy as I have passed the “Three Weeks Until Graduation” mark this weekend. And when life gets busy, all I want to eat is comfort food.

Nothing says comfort food like Chicken Marsala.

Or Chicken Faux-sala…

It’s faux-sala because this chicken dish actually doesn’t have any marsala wine in it! We had mushrooms and chicken but didn’t have any of the deliciously sweet fortified wine… so we decided to substitute it with some good red wine spiked with simple syrup. It’s not exactly like the original dish but it tastes pretty awesome.

This dish starts with a flour mixture.

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Flour, paprika, garlic powder, dried oregano, cayenne, salt, and pepper. It seems like a lot of ingredients, but this really is the only seasoning this dish has.

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Dredge six boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (that have been pounded thin) in the flour mixture.

And pop them into a pan that has been heating over medium-high heat with some olive oil and butter in it.

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Cook the chicken for 3 minutes per side.

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Or until golden brown. Pull the chicken out of the pan and set aside.

NOTE: the chicken is just brown on the outside AKA IT IS NOT FULLY COOKED.

In the same skillet, add a little more olive oil and toss in the sliced mushrooms.

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Cook them until they are golden brown and delicious. We used cremini mushrooms here but the plain ole button mushrooms work too!

When the mushrooms are brown and yummy, pour in the red wine, simple syrup, and chicken broth.

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Let the mixture come to a boil and reduce to thicken slightly – about 3 minutes. Stir the sauce occasionally too, making sure to scrape up the yummy brown bits from the bottom of the pan.

When the mushroom sauce has reduced, place the chicken breasts back into the pan.

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Cook the chicken for 3-4 minutes per side or until it is completely cooked in the middle.

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Before serving, drizzle in some balsamic vinegar (for flavor) and a corn starch slurry (to thicken the sauce). Then taste everything and add additional salt and pepper if needed.

Then serve it up!

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We served ours over some brown rice but you can go traditional and serve it up over noodles. Whatever you choose, it’ll be divine (and oh so comforting!).

Enjoy, kiddos!

Your insanely busy, Italian comfort food lovin’ friend,

C

Chicken Faux-sala

  • Servings: six people
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, pounded thin

½ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon cayenne powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

3 cups sliced mushrooms, button or cremini works great!

¾ cup dry red wine

1 tablespoon simple syrup

1 cup low sodium chicken stock

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Corn starch slurry – 1 teaspoon corn starch mixed with 1 tablespoon water

 

Steps:

  1. In a plate, combine flour, paprika, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, oregano, salt, and pepper – stir to combine. Lightly dredge the chicken halves in the flour mixture and shake to remove any excess flour.
  2. In a large skillet, heat one tablespoon olive oil and butter over medium-high heat until very hot. Place the chicken halves in the skillet and cook until golden brown on each side – about 3 minutes per side. Remove chicken breasts from the skillet and set aside.
  3. Add in the remaining olive oil and add in the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms become golden brown and release their liquid.
  4. Pour in the wine, simple syrup, and chicken broth and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the sauce reduces and thickens slightly.
  5. Place the chicken breasts back into the sauce and cook until they are cooked through, approximately 3-4 minutes per side.
  6. Add in the balsamic vinegar, any additional salt and pepper, and the cornstarch slurry. Cook until the sauce thickens. Serve immediately!

Enjoy!

 

Mushroom-Lentil Potpie

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I love Pinterest. Seriously, I love, love, love Pinterest. If I could, I would sit around all day and scroll through the millions of crafting ideas, recipes, makeup tips, and exercise regimens.

As much as I would like to do this (preferably in my pj’s with a cup of tea and something sweet), I usually just flip through the Food and Drinks category while watching TV with my family at night. I can see what people are eating (or want to eat) and it gives me inspiration to try different meals outside of my cooking comfort zone.

And nothing says out of my comfort zone like potpie. Gloopy texture, soggy puff pastry, and tasteless filling… not something that inspires me to dig in.

During one of my nightly scrolls, I stumbled upon the most beautiful picture of mushroom-thyme-lentil potpies from Fig & Honey. It was a combination of perfect lentil al dente texture, crisp puff pastry crust, and big Mediterranean flavors. And all I thought was, I want to make that one day. And Sunday was that day. My parents went out to dinner and left me to my own devices.

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It all starts with onions and carrots cooked over medium heat until they begin to soften.

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Next, I tossed in some cremini mushrooms and minced garlic. So far, so good!

When everything became softened and golden brown, I tossed in some cooked green/brown lentils.

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The original recipe calls for puy/beluga lentils… which I didn’t find, despite looking at two different grocery stores. I liked how the green lentils turned out in this recipe but if you have puy/beluga lentils, use them!

To make the sauce, add in some vegetable stock, soy sauce, tomato paste, dried oregano, salt, and pepper.

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And some nice dry red wine. For quality control, sample some of the wine (you don’t want to add bad wine to something you would feed your family and friends, right?).

To thicken up the sauce, I stirred in a little bit of cornstarch mixed with water – the perfect potpie filling!

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Assembly is simple.

In a oven-safe casserole, pour in the filling.

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Top the filling with puff pastry circle, cut a steam vent, brush the top with a beaten eggs and sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper.

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Bake for 20 minutes.

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And then it’s time to eat!

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A perfectly delicious vegetarian take on a comfort food classic. It was a great way to begin Vegetarianism 3.0 Week 2!

Happy Tuesday, everyone.

Your Pinterest obsessed friend,

C

Mushroom-Lentil Potpie

  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons of olive oil

3 small carrots, diced small

1 small onion, chopped finely

1 lb cremini mushrooms, cleaned and quartered

3 cloves of garlic, minced finely

1½ cups green/brown lentils, cooked via package instructions

2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock

1½ tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

¼ cup dry red wine

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons corn starch

1 puff pastry sheet, defrosted for 2-3 hours in the fridge

1 egg, beaten

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to the temperature on the puff pastry box.

2. In a large high-sided sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in carrots and onions and cook until soft, about 2-3 minutes.

3. Add mushrooms and garlic to the carrot-onion mixture and cook until the mushrooms soften, shrink, and begin to turn brown, about 4-5 minutes.

4. When the mushrooms become soft, add in the lentils, stock, tomato paste, soy sauce, wine, oregano, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. While the mixture is heating up, combine cornstarch with a little bit of water to make a slurry. Add the slurry to the potpie filling and continue to heat the filling until it starts to thicken. Once thick, remove the filling from the heat. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper, if needed.

5. Remove the puff pastry from the fridge and unfold it. Carefully flatten the seams, ensuring that they stay together. Using your casserole dish as a guide, cut out a circle that will be used to top your potpie.

6. To assemble the pie: fill the casserole dish with the filling and top with the puff pastry circle. Cut a steam vent in the top to allow steam to escape during baking. Brush the top of the puff pastry with the beaten egg and sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the top is golden brown and puffed. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Recipe slightly adapted from Fig & Honey.

Dolmathes

My mom’s favorite food are the Greek delicacy, dolmathes, AKA stuffed grape leaves. As much as I love the ones that come out of a can, there is really nothing like ones made from scratch. My grandmother, my mom’s mom, makes the best dolmathes … but they are slightly labor-intensive and she doesn’t make them so often.

So my mom got grape leaves and told me that we were going to try to make them ourselves… on a Wednesday, no less.

My mom and I like the meat and rice-stuffed dolmathes, so in a large bowl combine ground beef, finely chopped onion, olive oil, fresh mint, fresh dill, and some salt and pepper.

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Then add the rice!

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My grandmother uses the Italian Arborio rice, but we used plain old white long-grain rice.

And mix with your hands…

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Look how pretty!

The hardest part of the whole dolmathes making process is the rolling. Here is my mama’s way… (PS – excuse the blurry pictures… this was kinda hard to do one-handed).

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On a plate, place a grape leaf that has been cleaned, boiled, and cooled completely. Or a grape leaf that has been cleaned, boiled, cooled, and packed into a jar which you can buy at your local grocery store. Whatever floats your boat.

Place about less than a tablespoon of filling on the bottom of the grape leaf.

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Roll up the bottom of the leaf over the filling.

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And then fold over one side of the leaf over the filling.

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Continue to roll up the leaf over the filling tightly, until you have a ½ inch left at the top.

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Fold over the other side of the leaf.

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Then roll it completely up – it looks like a little burrito!

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Then place them in a steamer – we placed a colander that has feet on the bottom of our large soup pot. Make sure all the dolmathes are close together. This allows them to steam evenly and not unroll.

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My mom used low-sodium chicken broth to steam these babies, but you can use water or vegetable stock if your heart desires. Drizzle the dolmathes with another tablespoon of olive oil and weigh them down with an oven-proof plate. This keeps them from unrolling.

When they are all steamed, pull them out and place them in a pretty dish.

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And smother with avgolemono sauce (a thick, egg-y, lemon-y sauce that is delicious on not only dolmades but everything).

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Perfection!

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My mom and I mastered dolmades… what dish should we tackle next?

 

Your dolmathes makin’ master,

C

Dolmathes

  • Servings: 6 people
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

 

Ingredients:

1lb ground beef, 85% lean

½ onion, diced finely

2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely minced

2 tablespoons fresh dill, finely minced

¼ cup long grain white rice

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 lb jar of grape leaves, drained and placed in between layers of moist paper towel

1-2 cups of low-sodium chicken broth

 

Steps:

  1. In a large bowl, combine beef, onion, mint, dill, rice, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Combine thoroughly. Set aside.
  2. On a plate, place a grape leaf in the center. Cut out the little stem end at the bottom of the leaf. Place a tablespoon of filling on the stem end of the leaf. Roll up the bottom, and fold over one side of the leaf and continue to roll. When almost to the top, fold in the second side and continue to roll into a burrito shape.
  3. In a large soup pot, place a footed strainer in the bottom. Place the rolled grape leaves in the strainer, packing them tightly. When all the dolmathes are in the pot, pour over 1-2 cups of chicken broth and drizzle them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place an oven-proof plate over the dolmathes to weigh them down. Cover and bring to a boil.
  4. When the pot comes to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 40 minutes to 1 hour, or until cooked through.
  5. Serve immediately with avgolemono sauce.

Enjoy!

Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry

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Confession #1: This isn’t my recipe. It’s a photo step-by-step of a recipe that Clinton Kelly did on The Chew. We (AKA my mother and myself) made some minor tweaks, but kept the recipe basically the same. You can find the full recipe here!

 

Confession #2: I am taking a big step and trying to use my camera in the “Manual” mode, which makes me slightly unsure of myself (but the pictures look better?).

 

This recipe starts with the veggie portion of the dish.

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Finely slice up some red bell pepper and some scallions (or green onions… whatever you like to call them!). I know that I call this Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry, but the peppers add not only a little bit of color, but a nice sweetness and some good nutrition!

Then grab yourself some broccoli florets.

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Or, as they are technically called, the trees.

Add the peppers to the broccoli and steam them until they are just starting to become tender.

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While the veggies are steaming, combine a mixture cornstarch, salt, and pepper.

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And dredge the slices of chicken breast in it. When they are all coated, let them hang out while the oil heats.

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When the pan is sufficiently heated, toss in the chicken. This is approximately two large chicken breasts cut into slices, which is pretty much almost overcrowded in this pan.

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But not to worry! This is a stir-fry.

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So grab your tongs and stir the chicken around until they become lightly golden brown.

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When the chicken has slightly browned, pour in the delicious sauce!

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And this is what I love about cornstarch in sauces – look how beautifully glossy everything becomes!

All that’s left is to toss into the veggies.

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And then the scallions.

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And serve over brown rice (or any rice you like).

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Delicious, nutritious, and quick… perfect for your busy school nights!

 

I hope you enjoy this yummy dish and have an absolutely wonderful Labor Day!

C