Apple Cheddar Squash Soup

Alright people, it’s officially soup season!  It’s chilly out in Philadelphia, so I’m ready to start taking advantage and make some yummy soups.  Believe it or not, the recipe I’m sharing with you today was a recipe that Dave, my husband, made for me!  I was so impressed.  I had flagged the recipe and bought all the ingredients, and by the time I was home from work, he had already almost finished making it!  I was so happy 🙂

This soup was really delicious, and the apple and squash go so well together.   Continue reading

Veggie Marinara Bake

This is what happens when you let a girl like me loose in a grocery store.  I just go wild.

I have been a very good girl lately with my food shopping excursions- always having a plan for the week including a list and a budget.  This past week, I was feeling rather uninspired and only had one dinner pre-planned.  When I got to the market and saw all of the bright, fresh produce… I finally got the inspiration I needed.  I decided that I wanted to take the idea of baked ziti (not sure why but I had a bad craving for it) and put it together using veggies instead of pasta.

I went through the different areas of the produce section picking out what looked to be the best local veggies I could find.  I went home and threw it together and this is what I came up with:

Veggie Marinara Bake

Makes 4 Large Servings

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon chopped Garlic 

1/2 Vidalia Onion, diced

2 small Zucchinis, sliced into thin circles

1 large Yellow Squash (or 2 small), sliced into thin half-moons or circles

1 Baby Eggplant, cut into small chunks

3/4 cup Shredded Carrots

1/2 Red Bell Pepper, diced

1 small can Sliced Black Olives

Italian Seasoning, Salt, Pepper, Crushed Red Pepper

1 28oz can Crushed Tomatoes

1 package Hot Turkey or Chicken Sausage (I used Wegman’s brand, it came with 4 patties)

1/4 cup Fat Free Ricotta Cheese

1/4 cup Shaved Parmesan (divided, optional)

1/4 cup Grated Parmesan 

1/8 cup Italian Seasoned Bread Crumbs

Directions:

1.  Wash and cut all of the veggies.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions and garlic.  Saute for a few minutes.  Add the rest of the veggies and saute, stirring occasionally to re-distribute.  Stir in Italian Seasoning blend of your choice or just some Salt, Pepper, and Crushed Red Pepper.  Once the squash and eggplant are soft, add the can of crushed tomatoes (reserve some if you’d like to dip).  Simmer over medium-low heat.

2.  In a separate pan, cook the sausage over medium heat and chop.  Stir and chop and cook until the sausage is cooked through and browned.  Put aside.

3.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Prepare a baking dish with cooking spray.  Add a layer of the veggie/tomato mixture to the baking dish.  Place half of the chopped sausage ontop.  Using a spoon, dollop little sections of the ricotta cheese onto the top.  Add the rest of the veggies, then the sausage, then more dollops of ricotta.  Top with half of the shaved parmesan if using.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs evenly ontop, following with the grated parmesan.  

4.  Pop in the oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes or until the top is browning just a bit.  

*Note: Serve carefully- since there is no cheese or egg throughout the dish, it will not hold shape like a baked ziti or lasagna will.  Just scoop and serve… it’s delicious, trust me.

Before: So pretty :)

Before: So pretty 🙂

The after:  Not so pretty... but it's going to be pretty tasty!

The after: Not so pretty… but it’s going to be pretty tasty!

After it's done baking

After it’s done baking

P1020133

Served with a side of garlic bread... nom nom

Served with a side of garlic bread… nom nom

Even good for lunch while I'm working at home!

Even good for lunch while I’m working at home!

At first I was disappointed that my faux-baked ziti did not turn out very pretty.  But then I started thinking about it, and who really cares what it looks like?  This was just a dinner for Dave and I to sit in front of the TV and watch the Eagles game.  I’d much rather have a healthier meal than have it look pretty.  Because this recipe is chock full of fresh veggies, we were able to only divide it by FOUR and still have the total calorie count under 300 (depending on whatever type of sausage/meat you choose).  Amazing.  Don’t you just love pigging out on food when you  know it won’t do any damage!?

What’s great about this recipe is that it’s something different from your typical same-old.  Try it with whatever veggies you have or whatever veggies you prefer.  You can also go crazy and take out the sausage to make it vegetarian! Oh, and the leftovers?  I’m eating them right now for lunch… they are even better!!

 

Posted Last year:  Lunchtime Tuesday

Other recipes you may enjoy:

Spinach-Artichoke Lasagna

Spinach-Artichoke Lasagna

"New" Chicken Parmesan

“New” Chicken Parmesan

Mom's Baked Tomatoes

Mom’s Baked Tomatoes

Butternut Squash Tacos

We’re back with Meatless Monday!

I can’t believe I was able to wait until today to share this surprisingly awesome meatless recipe with you.  It was so yummy.  It’s meals like this that I’m reminded how fun it can be to cook without a recipe.

This dinner came about last week when I was at the apartment alone and very bored.  I decided to roast the cut butternut squash I picked up from the market earlier, but had nothing to do with it.

I started off by spreading the squash out on a foil-lined baking sheet sprayed with Pam.  I didn’t know how to season it, so I went with some sea salt and a little bit of black pepper.  I looked up several roasted BS recipes and added a sprinkle of cinnamon onto the squash without realizing that ALL of the recipes included some kind of sweetener… not the type of thing I wanted.  UGH.  I’m stuck with cinnamon and now I have no idea what to do!

I decided to run with it.  Cinnamon could be good on savory squash, right?  Next, I sprinkled some red pepper flakes for good measure.  I can’t make anything anymore without some type of spicy.  Sigh.

After roasting the squash in the oven, I tasted it.  YUMMMM YUM YUM!  It was just a little caramelized on the edges but the inside was soft and creamy.  So good.  The next question became, now what?!

I could have easily stopped there and eaten the entire sheet of squash.  But there was dinner to be made and a hungry boyfriend coming home soon.  Here’s what we ended up with:

Butternut Squash Tacos with Chili Oil Sauteed Spinach

Recipe by:  It’s Good to be the Cook

Ingredients:

Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash (recipe below)

1 teaspoon Olive Oil + another teaspoon for Tortillas

Sea Salt, Black Pepper

1-2 Dried Chili Peppers (you could use red pepper flakes)

1 bag Baby Spinach

4-6 Small Corn Tortillas

Shredded Cheese (I used Red Fat Mozzarella)

Cilantro

Directions:

1.  Heat 1 teaspoon Olive Oil in a skillet.  Add chopped Chili Pepper or Red Pepper Flakes and heat, swirling the peppers around, for maybe a minute or two.  Add spinach and pinches of salt & pepper.  Mix together until spinach wilts but does not brown.  Remove from heat and drain.

2.  Add the 2nd teaspoon of Olive Oil to the pan and place on the stove over medium heat.  Using 2 Tortillas at a time, fry the tortillas in the olive oil, flipping once or twice to get both sides.  Season with just a touch of salt.  Remove onto a paper towel and repeat with the remaining tortillas.

3.  Assemble Tacos!  I used the Cheese first, then the Spinach, Butternut Squash, and topped it off with some Cilantro and Black Pepper.  

*Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash*

Take 1 container of pre-cut Butternut Squash and spread over a foil-lined baking sheet prepared with Pam Spray.  Drizzle or spray with Olive Oil.  Season with Sea Salt, Black Pepper, and Cinnamon.  Lightly stir to spread seasoning.  Bake in a pre-heated oven of 400 degrees and cook for about 15 minutes.  Take the baking sheet out and stir the squash, spreading out again before putting back in the oven.  Mine cooked for another 15-2o minutes, but you can test doneness just like a potato, by sticking a fork in it.  

Just a little preview of our kitchen!  It's so big :)  Stelly is getting settled in.

Just a little preview of our kitchen! It’s so big 🙂 Stelly is getting settled in.

photo 1 (84)

Squash Tacos

SO, after totally throwing some stuff together, I ended up with a blog-worthy meal!  I ate mine right away and heated up a few later for Dave who loved it too (he was just as surprised as I was)!

The spinach really only had a tiny little kick to it, it was by no means SPICY… which worked exceptionally well with the sweetness of the cinnamon butternut squash.  Oh, and if you haven’t realized, I am now deeply involved in a love affair with corn tortillas. MMM…

Check out these other Meatless Monday Recipes from It’s Good to be the Cook:

Sunflower Seed Purple Pesto

Sunflower Seed Purple Pesto

Portobello Burger w/ Balsamic Glaze

Portobello Burger w/ Balsamic Glaze

And look at Allie from www.allieatfood.com ‘s

Meatless Monday Quinoa!:Allie's Meatless Monday Quinoa

 

 

Friendsgiving

This weekend marked our FIRST appearance at Donny’s annual “Friendsgiving (formally known as Pre-Thanksgiving)” dinner and celebration.  Friendsgiving is a potluck dinner where everyone signed up to bring a different Thanksgiving themed dish or dessert.  All the perks of a Thanksgiving dinner without all the family drama… what a great idea, right?

Donny had Dave and I over all weekend and we got to help him prepare his dishes, have his help with the mashed potatoes I signed up to bring, and the best part of course was our trip to the Farmers Market in Baltimore and our 4-mile walk around the Harbor.

Donny is amaaaaaaaaaazing at cooking, and I had the best time ever learning from him and getting to use all of his fancy kitchen tools- including an infrared thermometer which is just about the most fun thing ever.

We got to try so many recipes… Turkey, Stuffing, Sweet Potato & Apple Soup, Mashed Potatoes, Corn, Brussels Sprouts, Pies, Cookies, Cupcakes, and SOOOO MUCH MORE!  Check it out:

Sat night dinner… leftovers from Donny’s DELICIOUS Cassoulet… amazing

Retro Potato Ricer… so much fun… sooo messy!

Super yummy and easy recipe for Cranberry Sauce from Donny’s family

Our Mashed Potato-Butternut Squash Swirl w/ Sage Butter

Working hard!

So much yummy produce at the Farmers Market

Where else would you split a Falafel at 8:30am?!

The stuffing went so fast!

 

Heidi and Donny carving the turkey

What a spread!! (and that’s only half of it!!)

 

MMMM!!!

What are you making for your family’s Thanksgiving this year?

Ratatouille

I guess it was my recent trip to Disney that inspired me this week to make Ratatouille.  Apparently it’s not just Disney movie about an adorable mouse-chef… it’s a yummy and very healthy dish!

I based my recipe off of this “One Pan Ratatouille” Recipe from Sunset magazine.  The recipe is very simple and really quick.  The longest time you’ll spend on this is cutting up all of the veggies, so if you have anyone hangin’ around waiting for dinner… get them to help stir while you cut!

Ratatouille

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil (separated)

1 Onion

1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic

2 (14.5 oz) cans Diced Tomatoes, no salt added

1 Baby Eggplant

½ teaspoon Salt

¼ teaspoon Fresh Ground Pepper

1 lb Red Bell Peppers (or other colors if they are on sale!)

1  Zucchini

1 Yellow Squash

¾ cup Fresh Basil Leaves

Directions:

  1. Dice onion.  Heat 1.5 Tablespoons oil over medium-high heat in a giant frying pan or a 5-6 qt pan.  Add onion and garlic and stir often for about 5 minutes until the onion softens up a bit.
  2. Add both cans of diced tomatoes, with the liquid.  Dice the eggplant.  Add the eggplant, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper, and ½ cup Water.  Bring the mixture to a simmer.  Cover and reduce heat, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes.  Test the eggplant after 10 minutes- it should be soft when stuck with a fork.
3.      Meanwhile, dice the bell peppers, zucchini, and squash.  After the eggplant is soft, add the last 3 veggies and return to a simmer.  Cover and cook until the squash is now soft when pierced with a fork.  This took me about 15 minutes.
4.      Chop the fresh basil and add into the mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste and the remaining 1 ½ Tablespoons of olive oil.

Ratatouille

This dish was so colorful and pretty!  I served ours over whole wheat elbow shaped pasta and added just a touch of red pepper flakes for some spice (duh!!).  I usually don’t make dinners without any type of meat but the Ratatouille was hearty and filling enough to exclude it.

Heart-Healthy Menu

It’s time to take care of your heart!  With Valentine’s Day less than a month away, I figured the end of January was the perfect time to create an entire heart healthy menu for you. If your family has a history of Heart Disease or high blood pressure, it might be a good idea to start paying attention to what you’re eating.

How to eat “Heart Healthy:

Avoid:  Saturated Fat, Trans Fats, Sodium, Cholesterol, and Caffeine.

Eat More:  Healthy Fats (Raw Nuts, Olive Oil, Fish Oils, Avocadoes), Omega 3 & Protein (Fish, Shellfish, Poultry), Low-Fat Dairy (Skim Milk, Yogurt), Potassium (Avocados, Potatoes, Spinach, Tomatoes, Bananas)

Today’s Heart-Healthy Menu:

Red Pepper & Bean Dip w/ Toasted Pita

Roasted Zucchini & Squash

Rosemary Roasted Red Potatoes

Pan-Grilled Strawberry Balsamic Chicken & Sautéed Spinach

Apricot, Banana, & BerrySmush over Vanilla Frozen Yogurt

Everything in this menu creates a well-rounded, low-fat, low-sodium, high-fiber and potassium loaded heart-healthy meal.  You may also even be able to find most of the ingredients already in your kitchen!

First, start with the Bean Dip.  When my family cooks, we like to have a healthy snack available for us to munch on, instead of taking snitches of what we’re making.  It’s probably the only way I can make dinner after work without starving myself to death!

This bean dip makes 8-1/4 Cup Servings, with one serving totaling only 63 calories,3.5 gramsof fat, 272mg of sodium, and1.5 gramsof fiber.

Roasted Red Pepper & Cannellini Bean Dip

(Cooking Light, January 2007)

¼ cup Fresh Basil, chopped

1 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar

1 (16oz) can Cannellini Beans, rinsed and drained

1 (7oz) bottle Roasted Red Peppers, rinsed and drained

1 Garlic Clove

2 Tablespoons EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

Whole Wheat Pita, sliced & toasted

Place first 5 ingredients in a food processor and let it rip!  Process until smooth.  Slowly add the oil through the chute with the processor still on.  Once well combined, stop the processor and stir in the salt and pepper.  Serve with toasted Whole Wheat Pita (I recommendSahara’s small Whole Wheat Pitas, they are 70 calories/piece) or carrots & celery.

What a simple appetizer! The roasted Red Pepper & Basil flavors really stood out in this amazing dip!

Since I was going to have the oven going for the veggies already, Roasted Potatoes seemed like a wonderful addition to this meal.  The Red Potato has such a high level of Vitamin C and Potassium!  They also are a great source of fiber & protein, with 4g of protein in just one medium potato.  Pretty impressive!

Rosemary Roasted Red Potatoes

1lb Baby Red Potatoes

1 Tablespoon EVOO

1 teaspoon Garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon Fresh Rosemary, chopped

1 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

1 teaspoon Sea Salt

These babies are ready for some roastin'

Preheat the oven to 400.  Scrub the potatoes and pat dry with a paper towel.  If you have an Olive Oil sprayer, place the potatoes in a baking dish coated in Cooking Spray and thoroughly spray the potatoes with the Olive Oil.  If you don’t have one of these handy gadgets, you can just toss the potatoes in a bowl with 1 Tablespoon of EVOO.  Evenly sprinkle the potatoes in the baking dish with garlic, rosemary, pepper, and sea salt.  Mix well.  Bake in the oven for about an hour, or until you can easily remove a fork from one of the larger potatoes.

I chose Zucchini for this meal, not only because it’s one of my favorite veggies, but because of its’ high nutritional value.  Zukes & Squash provide a great source of Vitamin C & Potassium- a key word for heart-healthy cooking!

Roasted Zucchini & Squash

2 Zucchini

2 Yellow Squash

1 Tablespoon EVOO

1 teaspoon Paprika

1 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

Sea Salt

Your oven should already be heated to 400 to be roasting your potatoes.  You should put the veggies in after the potatoes have been cooking for about 20 minutes.  Slice the veggies in ½ inch thick circles.  I cut the larger circles of Yellow Squash in half circles too.  Toss in a bowl with Olive Oil and seasonings.  Place veggies in a baking dish coated in Cooking Spray.  Bake in the oven for around until they are fully cooked and the potatoes are done, stirring occasionally.

Now that you have your potatoes and squash in the oven, it’s time to start making the chicken.  I like to buy thinly sliced chicken because the fat is already cut off and it cooks much faster than normal chicken breasts.  If you have normal large chicken breasts, I would slice them thinner if possible.

Once the potatoes have been in the oven for about 30 minutes, you can start the sauce for the chicken.  This recipe can also be made with plain Balsamic Vinegar or add some cut Strawberries into plain Balsamic.

Strawberry Balsamic Reduction

½ cup Strawberry Balsamic Vinegar

¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar

½ cup Ketchup

1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar

1 Tablespoon HoneyDijonMustard

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon Pepper

Put all ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat.  Stir often with a whisk while the sauce simmers.  Simmer and stir for about 15-20 minutes or until it becomes thicker and about 1/3 of the original size.  Keep the sauce on low, stirring occasionally. (and don’t forget to check your roasting potatoes and veggies!!)

Next, you’re going to start to heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.  Take one piece of chicken and slather just a little bit of the Balsamic on one side with a silicone pastry brush, then place the sauce side down on the grill pan.  Brush a little of the sauce on the top side of the chicken and repeat.  Cook each side for about 3-4 minutes or until cooked all the way through.  Now, pour a ladel-full of sauce ontop of the chicken and let it cook for a minute.  The chicken is done!

Remove the chicken and place in aluminum foil to keep warm.  Dump an entire bag of fresh spinach into the same grill pan with the leftover balsamic in it.  Stir after about 2 minutes, and the spinach will be done a minute after that.  Spinach is one of the best foods you can eat!  Click here to read about this antioxidant rich food!

Here, I plated the chicken over the sautéed spinach, with potatoes and roasted zucchini & squash on the side.  Everything was unbelievable.  I cooked the potatoes for about an hour and the veggies for about 45 minutes total.  They were perfect!  The Balsamic sauce on the chicken was unbelievable, it was tangy and sweet and so different than anything else I have ever cooked.

The finished products:

No amazing meal would be complete without dessert, right?  Well here is your super heart-healthy dessert!  Complete with 3 Potassium rich fruits!

Banana Frozen Yogurt Smush

1 Cup (or a little more) Fat Free Vanilla Frozen Yogurt

1 Banana, sliced thin

¼ Cup Polaner’s All Fruit with Fiber – Blackberry

6 Dried Apricots, sliced/diced

1 pinch Cinnamon

In a glass dish, microwave the banana and All Fruit for 2 minutes, stirring/smushing the banana after one minute.  When it’s finished, spoon over the Frozen Yogurt and top with Apricots and a little sprinkle of cinnamon.  MMM!!

Tastes so good! I love smashing it all together and making the Fro-Yo melt.

I found a ton of information on Heart-Healthy eating and dieting on the CDC’s website for Heart Disease Info, as well as Livestrong’s Food & Drink Website.  You can find them here!

http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_heart_disease.htm

http://www.livestrong.com/article/243231-what-are-the-benefits-of-squash-zucchini/

http://www.livestrong.com/article/385187-what-are-the-health-benefits-of-red-potatoes/