Monday, September 28, 2009

Exams begin this week, and I am not going to be able to write as much, but I hope to still post recipes, starting with this squash risotto from Giada. I have been making super large cheese-filled Italian dishes that are not the healthiest, and I need to switch gears and start eating more vegetables and fruits. I have really gotten into making one big dish and having leftovers for the week, even though I was so against leftovers before. So far, both my stuffed shells and baked ziti held up really well, so we will see how the squash risotto holds up.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It seems as though I am on an Italian streak. I have been making so much pasta lately, and one of my favorites is Baked Ziti. But this time, I am going to make it healthy BEFORE I make it. The recipes is as follows:

1 pound dry ziti pasta
1 onion, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
2 (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce
6 ounces provolone cheese, sliced
1 1/2 cups sour cream
6 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add ziti pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes; drain.
In a large skillet, brown onion and ground beef over medium heat. Add spaghetti sauce, and simmer 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish. Layer as follows: 1/2 of the ziti, Provolone cheese, sour cream, 1/2 sauce mixture, remaining ziti, mozzarella cheese and remaining sauce mixture. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.
Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheeses are melted.

My first issue is the sour cream, I probably would skip that all together. In my experience, oil, butter and sour cream can be cut in half, if not taken out entirely. I am not sure how I feel about the ground beef either, aside from the fact that it is almost impossible to buy on campus. So...this may recipe may have to be on hold till I can find a subsitution for the ground beef...I'll think about it...

Later in the week...

I officially have though about it, and I decided I am going to not use any meat at all. I can always have some on the side, or add it in, but my roommate is vegetarian and I need her to help me with leftovers :) The Food Network suggests putting Crushed Red Peppers, and Fresh Basil and Thyme, so I have to remember to put those in. I am making the Ziti tomorrow, so I will post nutrition for my end product then.

Friday, September 18, 2009

I used the recipe calculator from Spark People and it says that my stuffed shells recipe had roughly 1900 calories and 70 g of fat. Assuming that I eat 1/6 of the whole, that is about 315 calories (which is fine) and 12 grams of fat, 6 of those 12 being saturated fat (which is not so fine!).

This is a cause for concern for me, so I thought I would go through and see what is so bad about this recipe. Well, first of all, the biggest calorie contributor is actually the pasta shells. The 12 oz box of shells had 480 calories, but I know that I had at least 10 shells left over, so let's cut that down to 2/3 of that - 320 calories.

Next in line is the parmesan cheese - 332 calories, but no surprises there. I already cut back by not adding a whole cup of cheese to the top.

The crushed tomatoes weighed in at 256 calories, I guess just from shear volume of tomatoes? Not sure how I can help that.

1 1/2 cups of cottage cheese has 244 calories. I only had a cup of cottage cheese, but then again, I didn't have enough filling to make all the shells, so not sure this is a good way to cut back. Plus, its delicious :)
At 239 calories, the olive oil is the last major contributor to calories. Makes me wonder if I could have just used Pam. If you also are wondering about the healthiness of olive oil - read this.

Let's see our total savings:

Pasta - 160 calories (1/3 not used)

Cottage Cheese - 80 calories (1/2 cup removed)

Olive oil - 230 calories (replaced with pam)

470 calories saved

That brings us down to 1430 calories for the whole dish. It would probably bring down some of the fat too without the olive oil and cottage cheese. But I never know how accurate these recipe calculators are anyways because they ask for some foods in grams and some in ounces and some in cups, and that is not always how I originally measured them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

While reading the Food Network magazine for October, scavenging for cute halloween ideas for our October 30th party, I stumbled upon this recipe for Cheesy Stuffed Shells. Well, after being sick for so long, I was craving comfort food, and thought of those jumbo shells that my mom used to fill with tomato and ricotta cheese, so I bought some from the grocery store last weekend. I had to get creative with a few ingredients and I left a few out, but it I think it turned out pretty okay.


Active: 40 min Total: 1 hour, 25 min

Serves 4 to 6


Kosher salt
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup grated zucchini (I didn't have any :( so I left it out)
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Freshly ground pepper


1 12-ounce box jumbo pasta shells
8 ounces silken tofu (skipped the tofu too)
1 10-ounce box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (I used fresh)
1 1/2 cups cottage cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozarella cheese (Too much in my opinion, I left some out)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Cooking spray

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Make the sauce: heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the carrot, zucchini, onion and celery and saute until soft but not brown, 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the basil, oregano, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the shells. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 8 minutes; drain. Mix the tofu, spinach, cottage cheese, parmesan, 1/2 cup mozarella, the egg and garlic in a medium bowl and season with salt and pepper.

3. Mist a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread about 1 cup of the sauce in the dish. Stuff the cheese mixture into the shells and place in the baking dish, open-side up. Pour the remaining sauce over the shells. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup mozarella and bake for 15 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

- First of all, this recipe took a lot longer than an hour and 25 minutes. It took me like two and a half hours to make. Mostly because I have never made anything this complex before.
-The recipe calls for a cup of mozarella cheese to spread on the top, but I think that is an obscene amount of cheese; I just sprinkled some on top
-I didn't have any tofu or zucchini, so those will be absent from the photos. I know the purpose of the recipe is to sneak in protein, but I don't have that problem, so I would probably leave out the tofu in the future.

ALSO, I would like to note, I did have to make a sauce for this recipe and it turned out fine...I think the other recipe (the tuna fish one) didn't use enough liquids.
It seems like I have been sick so long, Halloween is quickly approaching! My roommates and I are planning a "classy" Halloween party to be held on October 30. Something very relaxed, and well-planned with lots of food with which to impress our few select guests. We have to plan out what we need way in advance since it is right around exam time of course. So I thought I would use this space to do some preliminary planning.

1. There must be a punch bowl with jello eyes or a frozen hand (I saw an idea to make and ice cube with a latex glove)

2. There must be some kind of dip - there are so many good ones and we can either make it really healthy with veggies, or go in the opposite direction with chips. (We do have an unhealthy obsession with spinach artichoke dip)
3. Something with pumpkin, be it pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, or pumpkin cookies

4. Caramel apples are a fall classic - our guests can even help make them and add toppings like nuts or sprinkles (Peanut Butter Crunch Caramel Apples)

5. Little cute hor d'ouevres, like little cucumber sandwiches or crostinis or a cheese plate with little cubes of cheese and gourmet crackers
6. Bowls of Candy - Candy Corn, Marshmellow Pumpkins and lots of chocolate!

Monday, September 7, 2009

I came home for part of the labor day weekend, and I thought I would take advantage of the most convenient proximity of an actual grocery store :) While reading Oprah's magazine last night I found an article about cooking for one. It reaffirmed something I already know but I wasn't sure how widespread this belief is - that you are worth cooking for. Just you, by yourself, deserve a good, healthy, satisfying meal. Well, with that in mind, I tried one of the recipes made for one and now want to share it.

Penne with Tuna, Plum Tomatoes, and Black Olives (Oprah Magazine, October 2009)

- Salt
- 3 ounces penne (or fusilli or shell pasta)
- 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
- 1 small onion or fat shallot, thinly slices (about 1/4 cup)
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
- 2 large, ripe plum tomatoes, cut into rough chunks
- 1 Tbsp. white wine
- 2 1/2 to 3 ounces canned tuna in olive oil
- 10 Italian or Greek black olives, pitted and quartered
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1. Cook pasta, add a 1/2 Tbsp. of salt to the boiling water
2. Saute onion 3 to 4 minutes, add garlic and tomatoes and saute for another minute
3. Splash in wine and cook down, about 4 minutes
4. Break up tuna and drop chunks into the pan. Stir in olives. Add at least 1/4 cup of pasta water to the sauce.
5. Drain pasta when al dente and combine with tuna mixture in bowl, scatter parsley on top

I thought the end result was quite delicious, but some how I didn't end up with any thing that slightly resembles sauce. This is probably due to the fact that I don't have any kind of wine around, being under 21 and living in a completely dry house. I am sure adding the wine would have helped. And maybe if I used a taller skillet, not the shallow iron caste skillet I use frequently when I'm home. I did try to add pasta water to the skillet, but I just ended up getting burned when the oil attacked me.

This leads to the question - how does one go about making a sauce from cooking wine and pasta water? Well, I am no expert I don't know the answer, but I think this means I have to learn more about thickening sauces and reducing sauces. I'll let you know what I learn...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I just made pizza, like I said I would. (I don't always follow through on these things, but it helps to already have the ingredients.) On the whole, I learned a lot. Mistake #1 I know that the crust gets less soggy if you cook it a little before, but I left it in for like ten minutes or more, until it was already golden brown. I should have left it in for five minutes and taken it out no matter what my gut told me because the end result was SUPER CRISPY crust. It had a CRUNCH. Mistake #2 The crust is my favorite part, so I didn't cover as much with sauce and ended up with EVEN MORE CRUNCH. Mistake #3 Don't skimp on the cheese. It looked like I ran out of shredded cheese and it barely had that stretchy, gooey-ness I crave from pizza cheese. Mistake #4 I forgot how hot the juices in tomatoes get when you cook them, they definitely need to be thinly sliced if you are going to put some fresh tomatoes with the sauce like I did. Any finally, it's not exactly a mistake, but the more toppings the better. If you are making veggie pizza, the toppings are one of the healthiest parts - load them on!

Don't laugh at my cooking skills - the pizza was more than edible, it was actually pretty tasty. It just doesn't look exactly what a tasty pizza should look like. My roommates are not going to appreciate me skimping on the cheese and thinly spreading the sauce if it means that the pizza looks nothing like what they know and love. Hopefully, I will get a second chance to try again but I definitely learned something!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Classes started yesterday and already I am regressing to a meat and cheese diet! What happened? How did I suddenly forget the wonderfulness of salads and the simplicity of stir-fry? Why does heating a sandwich in the George Foreman make me feel like a chef? Some how I decided our group dinner this week is going to be pizza...PIZZA! And I am so stuck on it too! I am craving it!

There has to be a way to make this college pizza easy and healthy! Maybe use tomatoes instead of sauce?Throw on some mozzarella, sauteed onions, peppers, mushrooms, black can't be too bad, right? Well, it seems like I have been suckered in to the easy, uncreative approach of going to the product website and finding recipes, but I appreciate the fact that the nutrition info is listed, so I am going to have to look through...

The Margherita Pizza looks so gourmet...I even have every ingredient except the all-important basil. They use the pizza dough to make calzones, and they tell you how to make stuffed crust! OOOOoooo...and flatbread! I will have to make my decision and post pictures at the end of this week! I am so glad I decided to be lazy!