Sunday, January 28, 2018

Lentil Soup with Baby Spinach and Lemon Juice

I'm heading on vacay soon, so healthy eating is in order. Lentil Soup with Baby Spinach and Lemon Juice is just what the nutritionist ordered.

This turned out really fab. Very light and delicious. The burst of lemon juice at the end is very refreshing.

My grandmother's lentil soup was always very heavy. Made with ham bones, it really made you feel weighted down - despite its deliciousness. My vegetarian lentil soup is a total 180 from my grandmother's tradition, but I do think she would love this, too. Especially when getting ready to hit up Florida on vacay! Spa food right at home.

Lentil Soup with Baby Spinach and Lemon Juice
Makes 8 to 10 servings

2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 dried bay leaves
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 14.5 ounce can chopped tomatoes
1 5 ounce package baby spinach
2 cups lentils, rinsed
6-8 cups vegetable broth
2-4 cups of water
Juice of 1 lemon

In a large soup pan over medium heat, add celery, carrots, onion and bay leaf. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Add garlic and Italian seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for another 3-4 minutes.

Add tomatoes and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil. Cook for 20 minutes.

Check for seasoning. Add lentils. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add water if needed while the lentils cook, one cup at a time. (The lentils absorb a lot of liquid.

Once the lentils are tender. Stir in baby spinach. Let spinach wilt. Turn off heat. Add lemon juice.

Serve with grated parmigiano and a drizzle of olive oil.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Stuffed Peppers with Orzo, Baby Spinach and Chickpeas

This is a perfect dinner for a Meatless Main Night: Stuffed Peppers with Orzo, Baby Spinach and Chickpeas.

Full of flavor, this dish leaves you satisfied without busting a gut. Praise the Lord.

Check it out:

Stuffed Peppers with Orzo, Baby Spinach and Chickpeas
Makes 6 servings

6 bell peppers, any color, tops sliced off and seeded
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup orzo
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, minced
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 cups baby spinach, chopped
2 Tbsp. basil, minced
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
2 cups marinara sauce, warmed
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a small pot of boiling salted water, cook orzo according to package instructions. Drain. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Add spinach. Cook for a minute or two, until wilted. Remove from heat Add chickpeas, basil and orzo. Toss. Add remaining Tbsp olive oil and cheeses. Stir together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Stuff each pepper and stand in a roasting pan large enough to fit all of them. (I used a 12-inch-by-9-inch pan.)

Top each pepper with 1/3 cup marinara sauce.

Pour the chicken broth into the bottom of the roasting pan.

Cover roasting pan with lid, or aluminum if you do not have a lid.

Roast for 45 minutes.

Serve with extra sauce and cheese, if desired.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Spinach and Tomato Three Cheese Calzones

I've been sick since Christmas and have had zero appetite, but I've been itching to get going in the kitchen on SOMETHING! So, I gave these cute Spinach and Tomato Three Cheese Calzones a go.

I think they are much lighter than those found at your average Jersey pizza shop. You can of course serve them with some marinara on the side, but I ate mine sans sauce. The fresh vegetables really shine through, and I think an egg in the cheese mixture helps them not feel so heavy.


Spinach and Tomato Three Cheese Calzones

Makes 4 servings

For the cheese layer:
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/8 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the vegetable layer:
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
2 Tbsp. scallions, finely chopped
3/4 cups baby spinach, chopped
1 Tbsp. basil, finely chopped
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt
Black pepper to taste

1 16 ounce ball of pizza dough

Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, to prepare the baking sheet

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil to brush the calzones

Flour as needed to roll out dough


Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lightly oil your baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil and a paper towel. Set aside.

On a floured surface, divide pizza dough into four equal balls. Roll out each ball into a circle or a square.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl gently combine the egg, ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan, garlic powder and salt and pepper. Set aside.

Next, in a second bowl combine grape tomatoes, scallions, baby spinach, basil, 1 tsp. olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

Evenly divide the cheese mixture among the rolled out dough pieces, covering half of the dough and leaving a 1/4-inch border around the filling.

Evenly divide the vegetable layer on top of the cheese layer, again leaving a border of dough.

Gently fold over the remaining half of the dough to cover the toppings. Fold the edge to seal in the filling, pinching with your fingers.

Place calzones on baking sheet. Brush the calzones with the remaining 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, dividing evenly.

Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

With the Quickness

My Grilled Italian Sausage with Cannellini and Baby Kale comes together in thirty minutes and is totally amazing. I cooked it late night solo while my husband is away. I get all up in the kitchen to clear my mind, but this is a total practical dish. It makes a great weeknight din.


Grilled Italian Sausage with Cannellini and Baby Kale

Makes 4 servings
1 pound hot sausage, cut into our equal links
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 5-ounce package baby kale
1 15-19 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed
1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup water
2 Tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a grill pan over medium-high heat, brown sausage on all sides.

At the same time, heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil and garlic. Saute for a few minutes. Add tomatoes and cannellini. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add white wine and water. Add basil. Bring to a simmer.

Once the sausage is browned nicely, add it to the sauce pan. Cover and allow sauce and sausage to simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Right before serving, toss in kale. Wilt for 2-3 minutes.

Serve topped with parmigiano cheese and crusty bread drizzled with olive oil.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Not So Boring Chicken Soup

I'm so so so glad I made this soup yesterday. My little man has been up all night sick to his stomach, so I'm hoping when the dust settles he will enjoy the comforts of my Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo and Spinach.

This comes together in no time at all. Roast the chicken while you prep the veggies and start the pot. Toss in fresh baby spinach, basil and lemon juice at the end of the cooking time.  The herbs and lemon juice make the broth very layered in flavor.

Here ya go:

Lemon Chicken Soup with Orzo and Spinach
Makes 6-8 servings

2 chicken breasts with skin and on the bone
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive olive oil, divided
1-2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp dried rosemary
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
3/4 cup uncooked orzo
3 Tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
4 cups baby spinach
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper

To serve: Top with your favorite cheese. Shredded mozzarella or grated parmigiano taste fantastico!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place chicken breasts on a baking sheet. Drizzle 1 Tbsp. olive oil divided evenly over each chicken breast and brush to cover each completely. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove skin. Dice chicken into bite-size pieces when cool enough to handle.

Meanwhile, in a large soup pot over medium heat, add remaining Tbsp. of olive oil. Add carrot, celery, onion and bay leaf. Cook until vegetables become tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, thyme and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for another 2 minutes.

Add broth and water. Bring to a boil. Simmer partially covered for 20 minutes.

Add orzo. Cook until tender 10-12 minutes. Check to make sure your orzo and veggies are cooked with a quick taste!

Stir in chicken and the juice and oil from your roasting pan. Heat for another minute or two.

Stir in baby spinach, basil and lemon juice. Stir and turn off heat. Once the spinach wilts and the pot cools down, enjoy! Like Lidia Bastianich, I am a firm believer in letting your soup rest before jumping in.

Tastes great topped with shredded mozzarella or grated parmigiano .

Monday, October 9, 2017

Cajun Chicken Cutlets over Fusilli

This is by no means an original idea: Cajun Chicken Cutlets over Fusilli. Allegedly, Chili's serves something like this, according to the land of Pinterest. But I haven't been to a Chili's since 1999, so don't quote me. I'm sure it has a way catchier name on the Chili's menu.

This was really really good. Eveything works perfectly together. I love the final addition of fresh tomatoes and parsley right before serving. Keeps it light.

Be sure to get your hands on a fab cajun seasoning. Mine is from a wonderful market in my hood called Bagliani's. It is way better than the McCormick seasoning, I would say quite confidantly.

Believe it or not, The Husband cooked me something like this way way way back in the day when he was trying to woo me and I actually agreed to let him do anything in the kitchen.

Here is my way, which is the only way.

Kidding! (Not really).

Cajun chicken cutlets over fusilli
Makes 4-6 servings

2 lbs. thin chicken cutlets
4 Tbsp. cajun seasoning, divided
4 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp. butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2
Pasta water
1/2 lb. to 3/4 lb. fusilli pasta
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
4 plum tomatoes, chopped
Parmiggiano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

In a rectangle glass dish, whisk together 3 Tbsp. cajun seasoning and 3 Tbsp. olive oil. Add chicken cutlets. Massage cajun oil all over chicken cutlets. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.

In a grill pan over medium heat, cook chicken cutlets in batches, about 3 minutes each side. Set aside and keep covered.

In a large pot of salted water, cook fusilli pasta as instructed on the package.

As the pasta cooks, heat a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter. Add garlic and cajun seasoning. Cook for 3-4 minutes. Add a couple of ladles of pasta water, 1/2 and /1/2, lemon zest and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle bubble. Once pasta is cooked, add it directly to the saucepan. Heat through for another minute.  Add more 1/2 and 1/2 or pasta water if you want it saucier. Turn off heat and toss with a handful of cheese.

To serve: Place a spoonful or two of pasta on a plate. Top with one or two pieces of chicken and then top with fresh tomatoes and parsley. Add more cheese if desired.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Late Night Pasta

During the school year, my din din often goes down around 10 p.m. with a glass of vino and some DVR'd trash TV.

Piano teachers get on the clock once the school dismissal bell rings out, so this leads to some interesting eating times.

Me - I like to fine dine when everybody packs up and leaves and my brain is clear of Mozart, scales and phrasing. The kid is in bed. Oh, and the school forms are signed. The school lunch is packed up. The laundry is started. The great room is tidied. The mail is sorted.

I mean really, does it ever end?

So yeah, then I eat dinner.

Here's a perfect recipe for such cirumstances:

Spaghettini with Prosciutto, Peas and Arugula.

It comes together in 20 minutes and is just right for good eats after a working momma finishes her day.

My recipe serves one, but you can easily double or quadruple it for the fam.

Spaghettini with Prosciutto, Peas and Arugula
Serves one

4 ounces spaghettini
Olive oil
1 fat scallion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1-2 thin slices of proscuitto, chopped
1/4 cup frozen peas
2 cups arugula
1/4 cup half and half
Pasta water
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmiggiano to taste, grated

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook your pasta as instructed on the package.

In a large saucepan, add olive oil. Heat over medium heat. Add scallions, garlic, red pepper flakes. After 3-4 minutes, add the prosciutto. Raise heat slightly. Saute for five more minutes. Season with pepper and a little bit of salt. (The prosciutto brings saltiness to the game.)

Add half and half and a ladle of pasta water. Add peas. Cook until peas are heated through and the sauce bubbles a bit.

Add pasta and arugula. Toss. Add another ladle of pasta water. You can add a splash of half and half, too, if you desire.

Turn off the heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil.

Top with parmiggiano.

Enjoy with your fave wine, a mindless show and solitude.