Sunday, May 31, 2015

Rebellious lasagna.

   No meat, no tomato sauce, lots of mushrooms and roasted bell peppers - not your usual lasagna! I created this recipe for two reasons: 1) I needed a vegetarian version of a dish that Christopher loves (since he already eats a lot of meat) and 2) I needed to create something different than my previous lasagna (that can be found here). So I used some old (ricotta and spinach) and new (mushroom and roasted bell peppers) tricks and it turned out great. Both of my boys loved it. Actually, all three of my boys loved it, because Christoper decided to share it with Spikey - our dog. He seemed to really enjoy it! The recipe makes a large (and I mean large and deep) baking dish. I shared it with few of my friends, but you can also freeze it and enjoy it later.


* 16oz oven ready lasagna pasta
* 2lb ricotta cheese
* 1lb frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
* 1 16oz jar of roasted bell peppers
* 1 egg
* 32oz mushrooms, chopped
* 1tbsp olive oil
* 3 cups whole milk
* 2 tbsp butter
* 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
* 8oz mozzarella cheese
* salt and pepper


1. Mushroom sauce:
     - In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and saute mushrooms with a little bit of salt until soft and tender (10 minutes). Transfer mushroom into the strainer to drain.
     - In the same skillet, melt butter, add flour and cook for 2-3 minutes constantly mixing.  Slowly add milk (whisking!) and cook the sauce for 5-6 minutes until thick (whisking!).
     - Add drained mushroom, season with salt and pepper.
2. Ricotta mix:
     - In a large bowl combine ricotta cheese, drained spinach and chopped roasted bell peppers.
     - Add 2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, season with salt and pepper and mix everything together.
     - Add egg and mix to combine.
3. Assemble lasagna by layering:
     - 1 spoon of a mushroom sauce on the bottom of the baking dish
     - layer of pasta
     - half of the ricotta cheese
     - pasta
     - half of mushroom sauce (reserve a spoon of sauce), a little bit of mozzarella cheese on the top
     - pasta
     - ricotta mix
     - pasta
     - mushroom sauce
     - pasta
     - top the last layer of pasta with the reserved mushroom sauce (to keep it moist) and cover with mozzarella cheese
4. Bake covered with foil at 400F for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for additional 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

   It's really creamy and flavorful. Lots of veggies, lots of mushrooms, lots of cheese - what not to like?


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bacon is a veggie...

   ...right? No? How about cheese? OK, I get the point, but who said that it can't be a part of a salad?
Recently I am on the mission to create dishes that I can make in bigger quantities and portion for at least two lunches or dinners. It saves time, money and if you are starving right after work, it's there waiting for you when you get home. But it only works if the dish stores well and if it tastes delicious - otherwise who would want to eat it more than once! With that in mind,  I finally made a salad that my husband not only ate, but actually had seconds! What's the trick you ask? Well, I filled the "spaces" between the broccoli with bacon, cheese and almonds.... and yes, I still called it a salad! And guess what, for the first time in a very long time I used a REAL bacon, not the turkey one. You just need to do it once in a while, it's not going to kill you and it will make this dish out of this world delicious! Trust me, I'm a doctor! Here is the recipe:


* 4-5 cups fresh broccoli, cut into small florets
* 4oz of sliced almonds
* 8oz white aged cheddar, finely cubed
* 10oz of bacon
* 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped


* 1 cup mayonnaise
* 2 tbs honey
* 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar


1. Chop the bacon in small pieces, place it in the non-stick skillet and cook until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp. Transfer onto paper towel and let it cool and drain.
2. In a large mixing bowl combine broccoli, cubed cheese, almonds, red onion and cooled bacon.
3. Mix together all ingredients of the dressing and combine with the "salad". Let is cool for 30 minutes before serving.

   It doesn't require any seasoning - bacon, cheese, honey and vinegar are all you need to give this dish its heavenly taste. Salty and sweet, tangy and creamy, with tones of different textures... I am telling you, this is one mean salad! At least we love it!


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Hiding veggies!

   If you are thinking that this post will be about hiding veggies so your kid will eat them, you are wrong! My son loves his veggies, especially broccoli, asparagus and cauliflower - no need to hide anything. But I do have to hide them if I want my husband to eat them! Yes, that's right, I trick a thirty something year old man to eat veggies! He usually knows that they are hidden somewhere in the dish, but because I make it impossible to pick them out or leave out on the plate... all the veggies end up being eaten! Hey, there could be worse things I could be tricking my husband to do, so I absolutely don't feel guilty about this one!
This time I hid broccoli and bunch of herbs in the sauce that covered Justin's beloved chicken, served it over his favorite Basmati rice (to give him some incentive to eat it) and ... he loved it! Winning!


* 2 large chicken breast, cubed
* 1 large onion
* 0.5 bunch of cilantro, large stems removed
* 1 small bunch of fresh dill, large stems removed
* 2 cups of broccoli florets 
* 1 garlic clove
* 1 lime, juice
* 2 tbsp butter
* salt and pepper

* Basmati  rice, cooked


1. In a large skillet, melt butter and sear chicken breast until lightly browned.
2. In the meantime, in the food processor, combine broccoli, onion, garlic, cilantro and dill. Run the processor adding a little bit of water (2-3 tbsp) until the sauce is smooth.
3. Add the sauce to the chicken, season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes.
4. Add lime juice to your liking. Serve over Basmati rice.

   What a vibrant color and an amazing aroma!
   Depending on the amount of water you add, the sauce might be more or less thick, but if you don't like the consistency, either add some more water or cook it for longer to reduce it. If you go overboard with water, add a little bit of cornstarch  and it will nicely thicken it(I know, it's cheating, but sometimes it's unavoidable!).


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Non-Mac and Cheese.

   I kept hearing about the cauliflower "mac & cheese" for years and somehow I felt that it had a bad rep. Every time I would hear/read about it, it was more of a "punishment" or something you had to do when you are on a diet, trying to lose weight. I couldn't really understand why people were so disappointed when they heard that there is no macaroni in the dish. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love all kinds of pasta too, but I also like the cauliflower and I don't see anything wrong with a cauliflower smothered with a creamy, cheese sauce... with some more cheese on the top! Does that sounds like a "punishment" food to you? Exactly!
   So I decided to make my own and see what this whining was all about! Here is the recipe that makes about 6 servings (depending on if you use it as a main dish or a side):


* 2 cauliflower heads, cut into small florets
* 4 cups whole milk
* 4 tbs unsalted butter
* 4 tbs flour
* 3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
* 1 cup fresh parsley
* pinch of nutmeg
* 0.5 cup Panko bread crumbs
* salt and pepper


1. Boil the cauliflower until al dente - no more than 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large sauce pan, melt the butter and add flour - cook for a minute, constantly whisking (very important).
3. Slowly keep adding milk, whisking constantly and cook everything for 4-5 minutes until the sauce thickens. Add parsley, nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. When the sauce is thick, add 2 cups of shredded cheese and mix until melted and combined.
4. Add the cauliflower to the sauce and mix gently to combine.
5. Pour everything into the baking dish, sprinkle with remaining cheese and Panko bread crumbs and bake at 375F for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.

   Holly smokes, that is delicious! Obviously, if you don't want to use a whole milk you can substitute it with skim, or part-fat, it just happens that thanks to my son I have a fridge full of whole milk - so why not use it!
   I made mine very "saucy", so if you don't like a lot of sauce (that is creamy, gooey, cheese and delicious!!!) you may want to reduce the milk/butter/flour amount by 1 measurement.

Enjoy and Happy Mother's Day to all Mamas out there!!!!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Row row row your boat...

   ... oh, how many times did I hear this song? So, when I was planning my meals the other day, thinking about what I want to make that all of us could have for dinner, I heard that song playing again! I looked at the screen, that Christopher was hypnotized by, and the girl in a "cartoon video" was rowing a zucchini boat (the things they come up with to entertain kids these days!!!). So that's how I decided on our dinner: stuffed zucchini! Normally I would probably stuff it with rice and meat, but in order to make it not only different, but also much healthier I substituted rice with quinoa. Here is the recipe, serves 4:


* 4 large zucchinis
* 1 lb lean ground beef
* 1 large onion
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1 15oz can of fired roasted diced tomatoes, drained
* 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
* 1.5 cup dry quinoa
* 2 tbsp olive oil
* salt and pepper

Marinara sauce:

* 2 tbsp olive oil
* 1 onion, finely chopped
* 1 garlic clove
* 1 15oz can tomato sauce
* 1 tbsp dry oregano
* 1 tbsp dry basil
* 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
* 1 tbsp ketchup
* salt


1. Cook quinoa in salted water for 15-20 minutes. Drain the excess water.
2. In a skillet, heat the olive oil and saute onions and garlic until translucent - 6-7 minutes. Add ground beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook for around 10 minutes.
3. When the meat is browned, add drained tomatoes, cook for additional 5-7 minutes.
4. In a large bowl, combine quinoa, meat and half of the Parmesan cheese. Mix well together until combined and season with extra salt and pepper if needed.
5. Cut zucchinis in half lengthwise, scoop out the flash (seeds only) and arrange on a large baking sheet. Fill the halves with the meat/quinoa stuffing, sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese and bake at 380F for 45-50 minutes until zucchini is tender.
6. The marinara sauce: in a saucepan heat the olive oil and saute onions and garlic until soft and translucent. Add tomato sauce, herbs, ketchup and Worcestershire sauce, season with salt and cook for 10 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

   We really like a cold marinara with this dish. Maybe because we love ketchup and it kind of reminds us of it. It's really delicious and healthy dish. Not only it contains about 10 grams of fiber per serving, but it also has 45 grams (!!!) of protein! It can't get any better than that!