Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Orzo with Lamb, Olives and Feta

While in Seattle over Labor Day weekend I bought various dried pastas from Papparedelle's at Pike's Place Market.  I bought a Lemon Garlic Orzo that Brady and I have been meaning to make but just haven't come across the perfect recipe.  Last week Brady found a recipe on for Orzo with Lamb, Olives and Feta and we knew we had a winner. 

Last night we made the dish and we both absolutely loved it.  Not only did it taste great, but it was cheap, healthy, and quick to make on a busy work night.  Plus it had olives which some of you may know from earlier posts makes me very happy :) 

Brady and I were both in agreement that this was a great dish for this time of year.  I'm not sure how to describe it, but it just tasted like fall.  I think that it had to do with the incredibly flavorful lamb and the touch of cinnamon.  The dish was filling but not heavy and in my mind seems like perfect comfort food without all the calories.

The Lemon Garlic Orzo that we used was great and I definitely recommend ordering some pasta from Papparedelle's but I think the recipe would be just as good with regular orzo.  Beef could definitely be substituted but I have to say that the lamb had a flavor all of its own that we both really enjoyed.  This isn't an overly meaty dish, but again due to the great flavor, a little goes a long way- which I plan to go back to Whole Foods and tell the butcher because he seemed very skeptical that we could make anything with only 6oz of ground lamb- I think we proved him wrong!!

Orzo with Lamb, Olives and Feta
** from
print recipe

Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4, about 1 1/2 cups each

6 oz. lean ground lamb, or ground beef
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp crumbled dried rosemary, or oregano- I did both
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 14oz can whole tomatoes, undrained
2 T. chopped, pitted black olives
salt and pepper, to taste
12 oz. orzo
crumbled feta to garnish

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

Cook lamb (or beef) in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring, until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Drain any grease and then set aside. 

Heat oil in Dutch oven or a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened 4-5 minutes. Add garlic, cinnamon, rosemary (or oregano) and crushed red pepper.  Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add lamb (or beef).

Puree tomatoes and their juices in a food processor until smooth. Add to the meat mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, about 8-10 minutes.  Meanwhile while meat mixture is thickening cook orzo for about 8 minutes. Once meat mixture is thickened, remove from heat and stir in olives. Season with salt and pepper. Drain cooked orzo and toss with meat mixture. Serve garnished with feta.

Per Serving: 461 Calories, and 9 g Fat

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Healthy Eggplant Parmesan

Most people assume that Eggplant Parmesan is loaded with calories- and in most cases it is.  Typically the eggplant is fried and covered in tons of cheese. Sounds good right?  It is good, but it isn't very good for you.  Luckily there is a way to make this dish healthier and still maintain the flavor of the original dish.  By simply coating the eggplant in breadcrumbs and then baking it, you get the same crispy eggplant as the fried version but with a fraction of the calories and fat.

The ingredient list and preparation directions may look like a lot but the majority of the ingredients you should already have and the dish really isn't challenging to make.  I made the recipe in just under an hour- perfect for a Sunday evening when you have extra time.  The original recipe, which I have provided a link to below, serves 10, which is great for a crowd but since I am just feeding myself this week I halved the recipe and will have leftovers for the next few night.  Luckily this is a dish that I won't get sick of by the 4th night!

Healthy Eggplant Parmesan
** adapted from Cooking Light
printable recipe

Serves: 4-5
Prep Time: 10
Bake Time: 45

1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 T. water
1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/8 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 (1 pound) eggplant, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices
Cooking spray

1/4 cup torn fresh basil
1/8 cup grated fresh Parmesan
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp salt
8 ounces light ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten

Remaining Ingredients
12 ounces pasta sauce- any brand or style
3 slices thinly sliced mozzarella cheese- cut into 4th's
1/4 cup finely grated fontina cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Combine egg and 1 T. of water in a shallow dish. Combine panko and 1/8 cup Parmesan cheese in a second shallow dish. Dip eggplant slices in egg mixture; dredge in panko mixture. Place eggplant 1 inch apart on baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Bake for 12 minutes, flip eggplant over and then bake for an additional 12 minutes on the other side.

To make filling, combine basil and next six ingredients (through egg).

To assemble, spoon 1/4 cup pasta sauce on bottom of 9x9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Layer half of eggplant slices over pasta sauce (my pan had room for 4 large and 1 small eggplant slices). Top each piece of eggplant with a large spoonful of sauce and then use half of the ricotta mixture to cover each piece of eggplant. Place a fourth of a piece of mozzarella on each piece of eggplant and sprinkle with 1/8 cup grated fontina cheese. Repeat layers once and then top each piece of eggplant with a large spoonful of sauce.  Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.  Serve with torn basil and any remaining fontina cheese as a garnish.

** According to Cooking Light one eggplant stack has 318 calories and 15 grams of fat.  Pair with a side salad and you have a healthy and filling dinner!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tomato Soup and Bruschetta Grilled Cheese

I have a guest blogger!! Brady made me a great dinner of tomato soup and bruschetta grilled cheese last week.  It was such a good soup recipe, I can't wait to make it again.  I loved that it had a creamy consistency yet was wasn't filled with butter and heavy cream. And grilled cheese, you really can never go wrong with that! I didn't think it would be fair if I wrote about the process so I asked Brady if he would be a guest blogger and this is what he had to say...

I have been asked to be the first guest blogger (and perhaps the last depending on how this goes) following a successful attempt at cooking dinner for a bona fide food blogger (Noelle) after her busy day.  Needless to say the pressure was on, so my first thought was to order out, and plate the food as if it were my own.  Deciding not to take the easy way out, I began searching for a dish I knew we would both like – soup!  As I was searching different recipes, I couldn’t get the thought out of my head of how much I liked tomato soup and grilled cheese.  I realized however that preparing a dinner with the help of our friends Campbell and Kraft might not wind up as a blogworthy meal.   So I focused on finding a healthy version of homemade tomato soup along with a fun way to make a variation of grilled cheese. 

To my luck, I was able to find a recipe for tomato soup which would be reasonably easy to make and had some really fresh ingredients.  I set out to find a more “adult” version of grilled cheese and found a recipe for grilled cheese bruschetta.  The soup turned out to be really flavorful – only requiring a large pan and a blender.  I really like my soup to have a little kick and by doubling the amount of red pepper, this one definitely had it.  The time consuming part for me was chopping all of the ingredients that were used, however, I assume everyone reading this blog is faster at this than I am so adjust the time as you see fit.  The grilled cheese bruschetta was a perfect complement to the soup.  I simply used wheat bread, and took a pizza cutter and cut out large circles to use for the base.  Topping the bread with the roasted cherry tomatoes and melted mozzarella made for a perfect side-dish to a great bowl of soup. 

As you may be able to tell, my cooking acumen could be described as average.  However these two dishes were relatively easy to make without a lot of time and made for a great cold weather meal.  I mean at the end of the day, who doesn’t enjoy homemade tomato soup and grilled cheese?  Mark me down as a fan of both. 
Everything's Going to Be Alright Tomato Soup
*** from Spoon with Me

Serves 4
Cook Time: 45 minutes

2 pounds ripe, in-season tomatoes, chopped (about 5 cups
1 medium onion, chopped
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small bunch fresh thyme (about 6 sprigs), leaves picked and chopped
1 small bunch fresh oregano, leaves picked and finely chopped (about 1 teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 to 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
Kosher salt to taste
Basil leaves to garnis

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  When hot, add the onions and saute for about 6 minutes until soft.  Add the thyme, garlic, and crushed red pepper.  Saute for an additional minute.  Add the tomatoes, oregano, and salt.  Saute, stirring often for about 10 minutes, allowing some of the moisture to cook down.  Add 2 cups of the broth.  Simmer for 10 minutes.  Blend together with an immersion blender, or allow soup to cool slightly before blending in a standing blender.  Add additional broth if needed to reach the desired consistency.  Garnish with torn basil. 

Mozzarella, Basil and Tomato Bruschetta
Serves 4

4 pieces whole grain bread, crust removed and cut in to circles
one pint cherry tomatoes
4-8 ounces Mozzarella cheese
handful fresh basil, sliced thinly
garlic salt to tastes
black pepper to taste
garlic oil or olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 with rack in the center of oven. Toss cherry tomatoes with olive oil, garlic salt & pepper. Roast tomatoes for about 20 minutes or until the skins have popped and the tomatoes are softened.

Set broiler to low heat. Brush a light later of garlic oil or olive oil on bread. Toast bread about 2 minutes on each side. Remove from oven. Top each toasted bread round with about 6 tomatoes. Press a round of cheese (1-2 ounces) gently on top of the tomatoes. Broil for about 6-8 minutes or until the cheese is melted and lightly browned. Watch carefully towards the end of cook time that your grilled cheese does not burn. 

Top with fresh basil, cracked pepper and garlic salt.


Mom's Oven "Fried" Chicken

Monday night my brother came over for dinner and I made him one of our favorite meals- oven "fried" chicken.  This is a dish that my mom would make for Sunday dinners, birthdays and other special occasions.  There really isn't anything fancy about the dish, the recipe is actually incredibly simple, but the chicken always tastes great and reminds me of home.  Plus a major bonus is that the chicken isn't actually fried and therefore is much better for you!

My mom typically uses Chex or Corn Flakes as the crunchy coating for the chicken.  I didn't have either so I used panko bread crumbs that I had recently purchased.  The panko worked just as well and provided the same crunchy consistency that I was hoping for.  She usually uses a egg wash prior to coating the chicken with Chex- again I didn't have eggs (not very prepared apparently) so I made a marinade of a little Dijon mustard and honey.  Either way works and I have noted instructions for both below.

I served the chicken with basic mashed potatoes and sauteed green beans.  I have to admit that I need to work on my timing on everything, the potatoes may have been a lukewarm by the time the chicken was ready but that's nothing that the microwave couldn't fix :)

Mom's Oven "Fried" Chicken

Serves 4
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 45min-1 hour depending on oven temperature and size of chicken breasts

4 chicken breasts, boneless and skin removed
2 cups panko (chex or corn flakes work too)
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
6 T. flour
1 egg, beaten with 2 T. water (or mix 2 T. Dijon mustard and 1 T. honey)
1 tsp salt
dash of pepper
2 tsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375.  On a large dinner plate mix panko, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper; set aside.  In bowl, mix 1 egg with 2 T. water; set aside.  Put 6 T. flour on another large dinner plate.  Set up assembly line of flour, egg mixture (or mustard/honey mixture) and then bread crumbs.  Take chicken breast, coat in flour mixture, dip in egg, and then roll chicken in bread crumbs; repeat with the remaining chicken.  Place chicken breasts in a glass baking dish sprayed with cooking spray. Drizzle 2 tsp of melted butter over the chicken.  Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until chicken is no longer pink.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thai Red Curry

I discovered my love for curry years ago at Thai Place in Overland Park, Kansas.  Their red curry and panang curry dishes are amazing.  Last year I was searching the web for a similar but healthier version of these dishes and came across a recipe on Whole Foods website.  At the time I didn't realize that Whole Foods website even had recipes, but turns out they have some pretty good ones. 

This dish is great for two reasons, the first being that it's completely adaptable, you can use whatever protein and vegetables that you want.  The other reason why I love making this dish is that besides the protein and the vegetables, every other ingredient is one that you'll buy once (or may already have) and it will last you for awhile- major plus when you want a cheap and quick meal that tastes just as good if not better than take out!

Thai Red Curry
** from Whole Foods website
printable recipe

Serves 2
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

1-2 T. Thai red curry paste, I use Thai Kitchen brand
1 14oz can lite coconut milk
3 T. fish sauce
1/4 c. low sodium chicken or veggie stock
2 T. brown sugar
1 small red bell pepper, cute into bite size pieces
1 small zucchini, cut into bite sized pieces
1 Ib. chicken, beef, pork, seafood, or tofu, cut into strips or chunks
1/4 c. chopped fresh basil
brown rice for serving

In a medium size saucepan over medium heat, combine curry paste and coconut milk, continuously whisking for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, spray a skillet with cooking spray and cook protein over medium high heat till no longer pink, set aside.

To the saucepan, add fish sauce, stock and brown sugar, along with the veggies and simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add protein and simmer until just heated through. Serve over brown rice and top with fresh basil.

** If you aren't sure how hot you want this dish, start off with just 1 T. of the red curry paste.  You can always add more if you don't think it's spicy enough.  Always better to start of mild and then kick it up! 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lobster Mac and Cheese

I came across this recipe for Lobster Mac and Cheese awhile ago and after months of talking about it and speculating how wonderful it would be Brady and I finally made it this past Sunday.  It was everything we had hoped for; it was delicious!  Many of the lobster mac and cheese recipes that I came across used tons of butter, cream and cheese.  This recipe is on the lighter side but is still creamy and loaded with flavor. 

We served our lobster mac and cheese with a black olive and provolone stuffed chicken breast.  Brady found the recipe on and it tasted great. This is a low calorie dish that was easy to throw together while making the mac and cheese.  I will definitely be making this recipe again, with our without the lobster mac and cheese!

Lobster Mac and Cheese
** adapted from Healthy.Delicious
printable recipe

Serves 2-4
Prep/Cook Time: 30 minutes

1/2 lb rotini pasta

1 tsp olive oil
1 leek, cut into half moons
1 T. flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup skim milk
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup fontina, shredded
black pepper to taste
3 lobster tails (about 1.5 pounds), steamed
1/4 cup panko (japenese bread crumbs)

Prepare pasta according to package directions.

Heat oil in a medium skillet. Add leeks and sautee until they begin to soften. Add flour and cook for 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Add milk, and cook until it begins to thicken – about 5 minutes. Add the nutmeg and cayenne and cook another minute or two. Stir in fontina and allow to melt. Set aside.

Remove lobster meat from the shell. Set aside a few nice looking pieces to use as garnish, and roughly chop the rest. Stir chopped lobster into the cheese sauce. Fold pasta into the sauce. Season to taste with black pepper.

Spray the insides of 2-4 ramekins or crocks with cooking spray. Fill with lobster and pasta mixture and top with panko. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, or until panko begins to brown and crisp up. To serve garnish with small pieces of reserved lobster.

** To steam the lobster I used a steamer insert in a medium size saucepan.  I added about a cup of water to the saucepan and then laid the lobster tails down in the steamer.  I steamed on medium high heat for about 5 minutes or until the lobster shells turned red.  To remove the meat I used kitchen scissors to cut open the shell and then pulled the meat out.  I promise this is not as scary or difficult as it sounds!  Having an uncooked lobster tail waived in your face is much more traumatic...

Provolone and Olive Stuffed Chicken Breasts
** adapted from eatingwell
printable recipe

Serves 2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes

1/8 cup shredded provolone cheese

2 T chopped California Ripe Olives
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup panko, Japanese breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly coat a baking sheet with sides with cooking spray.

Combine the provolone, olives and pepper in a small bowl.

Cut a horizontal slit along the thin, long edge of a chicken breast half, nearly through to the opposite side. Open up each breast and place one half of the cheese filling in the center. Close the breast over the filling, pressing the edges firmly together to seal. Repeat with remaining chicken breast and filling. Hold each chicken breast half together and dredge in panko. (Discard leftovers.)

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to the prepared baking sheet, browned-side up, and bake until it is no longer pink in the center or until an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F, about 20 minutes.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Southwest Quinoa Salad

Tonight I made a great side dish with my new favorite grain quinoa.  This is an incredibly easy dish to toss together on a week night and it's healthy and flavorful too.  I served mine with a southwest tilapia fillet from Costco (wish I could say that I had something to do with how great the fish tasted, but I can't take the credit, it was all Costco!) 

Southwest Quinoa Salad
** adapted from Fresh Clean Start
(printable recipe)

Serves 4-6
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Southwest Quinoa Salad

1 cup cooked quinoa (or brown rice)
1 cup or so chickpeas (any bean will do)
1 cup corn kernels (fresh, frozen or canned)
1 avocado, diced
1 roma tomato, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1/2 jalapeno, diced
1/2 red onion, diced
small handful of cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1-2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
pinch of cumin, chile powder, paprika (optional)

Prepare quinoa according to directions.  Meanwhile prepare all other ingredients.  Once quinoa is finished cooking, toss everything together and serve. 

** I refrigerated mine for about 30 minutes and served it as a cold salad.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Lemon Chicken with Mushroom Risotto

I recently came across this recipe on Chaos in the Kitchen's blog.  I love risotto but I have always been a little apprehensive to try making my own.  On Top Chef someone always goes home for messing up their risotto so it has to be hard right? Wrong!  This recipe was quick and easy and tastes like something you would get at a restaurant.  Plus the food looks very impressive so it's a great dish to serve company. 

Lemon Sauced Chicken
** adapted from Chaos in the Kitchen
(printable recipe)

Serves 2
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 15 min

2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp butter, such as Smart Balance
1 tsp oil
salt and pepper
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat, then when hot, add the butter and oil. You may want to spray the pan with a little nonstick spray as well.  Once butter is melted, season chicken with salt and pepper then place in the pan. Cook undisturbed for 4 minutes. Flip chicken with tongs and cook about 4 more minutes on the other side.  Place skillet in the oven and cook an additional 8-10 minutes or until no longer pink. Remove skillet using an oven mitt, skillet handle will be very hot.  Move chicken to a serving plate and keep warm under foil.

Add lemon juice and white wine to the skillet, scraping up all of the browned bits. Add chicken broth and boil until reduced by about half and sauce is slightly thick. Serve chicken drizzled with about 1 to 2 tbsp of sauce.

Basic Mushroom Risotto
Serves 2 - 4
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 20 min

5 cups chicken broth
1 tsp oil
1 tsp butter
8 oz fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced or chopped
1 cup arborio or long grain rice
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
truffle oil or truffle salt (optional)

Boil chicken broth then turn down to a simmer. Heat a pan to medium and add oil and butter. Once butter is melted add mushrooms and saute until beginning to brown. When mushrooms are starting to turn golden, add rice and stir. Toast rice, stirring, until it turns golden. Ladle one cup of hot broth into rice and mushrooms and stir to combine. You do not have to stir constantly but just give it a good stir every now and then.

When most of the liquid is absorbed and the pan is beginning to get dry, stir in another cup of liquid. Continue stirring in hot liquid as it is absorbed until rice is tender and creamy. When rice is done, remove from the heat and stir in parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle individual servings with a small amount of truffle oil of a pinch of truffle salt if desired (we omitted this step and it still tasted great). 

** To time the preparation of the chicken and the risotto correctly I would suggest starting the risotto first. Once you get the mushrooms browned and rice added to the pan you can start cooking the chicken.  The chicken doesn't require much attention so you will be able to concentrate on adding the broth at the appropriate times and stirring occasionally to keep the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Honey Cinnamon Frosting

I love cupcakes.  I love making them, decorating them and of course eating them.  Cupcakes are great because there are so many flavor combination's that your options are pretty much endless.  Recently I saw cupcakes with bacon on them, yes bacon, so I think its safe to say that anything goes with cupcakes.

Cupcakes are perfect for any occasion. I have been known to bring cupcakes to important events- my grandmas 80th birthday party, my best friend Lesley's engagement party and her bachelorette party.  I can't take all of the credit though, my mom loves to make cupcakes as much as I do and the below two pictures are cupcakes she and I made together.  How stinking cute are these?!

Picture from Lesley and Tom's Engagement Party- Devils Food Cake Cupcakes with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting and Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
topped with chocolate hearts and plastic rings

Picture from Lesley's bachelorette party- Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
topped with gingersnap cookies

This week we had a fundraiser bake sale at work and I decided it was the perfect excuse to try out a new cupcake recipe I recently discovered on Carrots N' Cakes' blog.  I like that the cupcake recipe is lightened by using unsweetened applesauce instead of the oil and egg substitute instead of eggs.  While the cupcakes aren't too bad for you the frosting is definitely not healthy- but it's really good and worth the extra calories!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes with Honey Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
** Adapted from Carrots N' Cake
(printable recipe)

Makes 24 cupcakes, or 12 cupcakes and 1 9-inch cake
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 18-20 minutes

1 box spice cake mix
1 15oz. can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
3/4 cup egg substitute
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice- if you can't find this just add in a dash of nutmeg, cloves, and allspice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Paper-line or grease 24 muffin cups. Blend cake mix, pumpkin, egg substitute, applesauce, water, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice until moistened. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour batter into prepared muffin cups, about 3/4 full.

Bake for 18-23 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. After 10 minutes, remove from pans, place on wire racks, and cool completely.

Prepare frosting according to directions and spread evenly on cupcakes.

Honey Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
** Courtesy of Sweet Tooth, Sweet Life

Prep Time: 10 minutes

1/2 cup butter, softened
4 oz. reduced fat cream cheese
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. honey
2-4 cups powdered sugar
1-2 tbsp. milk

Cream butter until light and fluffy. Add the cream cheese and beat for another 2 minutes. Add the honey and cinnamon, and gradually add the powdered sugar one cup at a time. Add the milk and more powdered sugar (if needed) until you get your desired consistency.