White Beans with Fennel

White Beans with Fennel.

White Beans with Fennel.

Since I’ve cut back sharply on the amount of carbohydrates we are eating, I’ve been leaning pretty heavily on vegetables.  We have 2 – 3 veggies at each main meal.  In this dish you get three vegetables all getting cozy together.  So if you are trying to make healthy choices, this dish might be a good thing to incorporate into your menu plan.  It has white beans to provide some protein and complex carbohydrates, fennel for flavor and fiber, and spinach for color, and vitamins.

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Lunch is often the most difficult meal for me to get right.  I wait until I’m starving, then head for the kitchen to grab what ever is quickest to fill that empty hole, and often that’s peanut butter on toast.  ( Oh no, I just revealed my secret vice.)  Oh well, it was bound to come out sometime, so now you know I’m not perfect.  But I could be if I had a bowl of white beans and fennel in my refrigerator to munch on when I get hungry.  Actually a bowl of anything that’s healthy is a very good thing to have on hand when lunch-time hungries strike.   Good, hearty, real food that isn’t scrambled eggs, that you can eat right from the fridge….if you’re into that sort of thing, and aren’t we all?  This tastes as good cold as it does hot!

All I’m saying is,  if you decide to make this dish, make enough so you’ll have some left over for that bowl of real healthy food to munch on whenever hunger strikes.

WHITE BEANS WITH FENNEL

Yield:  Makes about 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 large fennel bulb, cut in half vertically, core removedIMG_9290
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 can Great Northern beans, rinsed and drained (any white bean will do)
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 450*F.  Spray baking sheet with non-stick spray.

2.  Slice fennel into 1/4-inch thick slices.  In a medium bowl, toss with 1 Tbsp. olive oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. pepper, and minced garlic.

 

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Arrange on baking sheet and bake at 450*F. for 15 minutes or until it is beginning to brown.  Stir.  Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and bake for 5 minutes more.

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3.  In a large skillet heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat.  Add the beans and cook for 2 minutes.  Add the fennel and baby spinach, plus 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper.

Sauté beans then add fennel and spinach.

Sauté beans then add fennel and spinach.

Cook 2 minutes to heat through.  Add the splash of lemon juice and stir in.

Ready to serve.

Ready to serve.

 

Serve with salmon or other fillet of fish.  Add a salad and you will have a wonderful meal.

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SOURCE:    Unknown

 

 

Sweet Spinach Smoothie

 

Sweet Spinach Smoothie

Sweet Spinach Smoothie

Looking ahead to spring you may be thinking , as I am, that you’d like to rid yourself of those few pounds that somehow sneaked on when you weren’t looking.  Ah, yes, this has been a winter for comfort foods, and for some reason comfort foods are the ones that put on the pounds.

One way to lose enjoyably(?) is to sip away the pounds.  Juice cleanses are not the best idea, in my opinion, but a healthy nutritious smoothie just may be the best kept secret around.  This blended beverage offers you tons of nutrition as well as protein and fiber to help keep you full from breakfast to lunch, or from lunch till dinner.

I guess I was a latecomer in discovering the goodness and benefits of smoothies.  But now that I’m on board I’ve been having one for breakfast, and one for lunch.  Then a regular meal for dinner, being careful to watch portion size, and with  carefully selected complex carbohydrates.

I’ve been experimenting with a variety of combinations that include both fruits and green vegetables.  Protein, fiber, and calcium make this green smoothie a filling, fat-burning meal.  It’s green color comes from spinach, but it also includes a pear, grapes,  some avocado, and Greek non-fat yogurt.    I must admit, I was hesitant about “drinking spinach”, but it’s really good.  I like this one very much.

SWEET SPINACH SMOOTHIE

Yield: 1 large serving, or 2 smaller onesIMG_9268

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups spinach leaves, chopped
  • 1 ripe pear, cored and seeded, cut into pieces
  • 15 red or green grapes
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped avocado
  • 1 – 2 T. fresh lime juice
  • 6 oz. plain, non-fat Greek yogurt

Directions:

Put all the ingredients into a blender container and liquify on high until smooth and thick.   I put the yogurt in first, as my blender needs something soft to help it get going.

 

Put everything in the blender and whiz to liquify.

Put everything in the blender and whiz to liquify.

This is thick and satisfying.

This is thick and satisfying.

SOURCE:  My own combination

 

Twice Baked Potatoes with Kale

Twice-Baked Potatoes with Kale

Twice-Baked Potatoes with Kale

It’s the weekend after Christmas and we’ve been to three parties plus a family get-together this past week.  I’ve eaten so much rich food, appetizers and dips, cheese this and cheese that, not to mention all the desserts,  that I woke up this morning with the urge to eat pie for breakfast.  Is this where the holiday festivities have brought me?

No, no, and no way.  I will not succumb to any more temptation.  I will overcome the gravitational pull to the wrong foods and make wholesome choices once again.  Yet somewhere along this righteous path to eating kale salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I remembered that kale salad tastes absolutely nothing like pie, cheesecake, or chocolate thumbprint cookies, so that was the end of that.

However, my reasoning tells me that there must be a middle ground here.  By Sunday dinnertime I’d found that middle ground; a happy medium between total submersion in butter, cream and chocolate, and the kind of austerity measures that never quite make it past the 24 hour mark.  I give you the twice-baked potato, restuffed with not only the usual sour cream and cheese, but a whole lot of greens.   Greens make everything healthy,  don’t they?  Of course, we all know that!

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The basis for this recipe came from Healthy Eating food blog, but I ended up veering a bit off the recipe, using less cheese (I know, I can’t believe it either) and sour cream, adding a softly cooked onion, and then, although kale was supposed to be the green used, I actually used a combination of baby kale that I had on hand, and some baby spinach.   What that means is that you, too, can take liberties with this recipe:  any green of your choice such as Swiss chard, or all spinach.  For the cheese you could use parmesan, goat cheese or cream cheese instead of the traditional cheddar.  If you’ve got a surplus of scallions, shallots or leeks you could use them where I used a small onion.

I really hope you make these potatoes, because I can’t emphasis loudly enough how much they hit the spot—toasty and a little decadent, but green enough that I didn’t even feel the need to make a salad on the side.  I served this with sautéd asparagus and it was the perfect light dinner to cap off a week of heavy eating.

TWICE-BAKED POTATOES WITH KALE

Yield:  Serves 6 as a side dish,  3 as a hearty main

Ingredients:IMG_8813

  • 3 russet potatoes ( mine were 8 to 9 oz. each)
  • 1 bundle lacinato kale or swiss chard or spinach
  • coarse salt
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup coarsely grated cheddar,  or 2/3 cup finely grated parmesan, or 1/2 to 2/3 cup cream cheese, or goat cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sour cream

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400*F.  Cook potatoes the first time.  Gently scrub potatoes but do not peel.  Pierce all over with a fork so steam can escape.  Bake about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender when pierced in center with a skewer.  Remove potatoes, but leave oven on.

2.  While potatoes bake, prepare your filling:  Tear kale, chard or spinach leaves from stems.  Plunge into cold water to remove any dirt or grit.  No need to dry them.   Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add greens and a pinch of salt. Cook them in the pan with just the water clinging to the leaves until they wilt and collapse.  Transfer to a colander and when cool enough to handle, wring out any extra moisture in small fistfuls.  On a cutting board, finely chop greens.  You will have about a cup of wrung-out, well chopped greens;  a little more or less won’t matter.

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3.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat; add butter and oil.  Once both are warm, add onion and reduce heat to medium-low.  Cook until softened, stirring occasionally.  Try not to let it brown.  Add chopped greens into the skillet and warm up with the onion, 1 minute.  Transfer mixture to a bowl.

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4.  Prepare the potatoes:  When potatoes are cool enough to handle, halve lengthwise and scoop out all but the last 1/4-inch thickness, so you are leaving a shell inside for stability.

A melon-baller is a good tool for scooping out the potato.

A melon-baller is a good tool for scooping out the potato.

Add potato filling to the bowl with the greens.

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Arrange the potato shells on a baking sheet or shallow baking dish.  Mash potatoes, with onions and greens until smooth.  Stir in sour cream, 3/4 of cheese and more salt and pepper that you think you need.

Potato filling and greens mixed with sour cream and cheese.

Potato filling and greens mixed with sour cream and cheese.

Heap the filling into the potato shells.  Sprinkle with remaining  1/4 of cheese.

Fill potato shells with the filling.

Fill potato shells with the filling.

5.  Bake potatoes a second time:  for 20 to 30 minutes, until bronze and crisp on top.

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A light meal to cap off a week of eating too many rich foods.

A light meal to cap off a week of eating too many rich foods.

 

 

 

Tomato, Tortellini and Spinach Soup

Tomato-Tortilini-Spinach Soup

Tomato-Tortellini-Spinach Soup

Soups are pretty mundane.  They don’t garner all the razzmatazz that entrees do in a fancy restaurant.  Soups sit quietly in the back row, never speaking unless spoken to.  I think of soups as kind of shy.  They mind their own business, but if you seek them out, well then….they love to be noticed, and they can charm you, but quietly.

I made this soup on a day when I needed soup….and on a day when I needed the soup to be easy, but captivating.  This is a soup that shines when you taste it, but not before.

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The savory onions and garlic go from sautéing, into a pot of hot broth, to which diced tomatoes are added and the seasonings.  Add some fresh cheese-filled tortilini,  cook a few minutes till done, add some spinach, and there it is.    The dried basil and oregano are essential.  They are what makes this soup have that wonderful Italian flavor.  The only thing that can make it better is a shaving of Parmesan cheese on top.   Oh, and a loaf of crusty, crunchy bread to soak up the broth.    Listen closely, and  you will hear Andrea Bocelli singing.

SPINACH-TOMATO-TORTELLINI SOUP

Yield:   Serves 4

Ingredients:IMG_8430

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp, dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes with their juice
  • 4 cups chicken broth (vegetarians, use vegetable broth)
  • 9 0z. pkg. refrigerated 3-cheese tortellini
  • 3 cups baby spinach, or 1 box frozen spinach, squeezed dry
  • grated Parmesan for serving

Directions:

1.  Heat the olive oil in a large soup kettle.  Add chopped onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent.

Sautéing the onions and garlic.

Sautéing the onions and garlic.

2.  Add the tomatoes with their liquid, the chicken broth plus 1 cup of water, all the seasonings, the tortellini and salt and pepper to taste.

There's all those lovely seasonings.

There’s all those lovely seasonings.

3.   Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook until the tortellini is tender, about 5 – 6 minutes

4.  Stir in the spinach and cook for 2 – 3 more minutes to heat through.

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5.  Ladle into bowls and serve with  shaved Parmesan cheese as garnish.

Warming, captivating, delicious!!

Warming, captivating, delicious!!

 

SOURCE:   adapted from Cooking Classy

 

Orzo, Spinach and Tomatoes

Orzo with tomatoes, (but not the spinach).

Orzo with tomatoes, (but not the spinach).

Every once in a while you need a dinner that’s especially man-pleasing without going the whole steak and potatoes route.  This is it!

Grilled steak and green  beans with orzo mixture.

Grilled steak and green beans with orzo mixture.

If you’re queen in your kitchen, as I am,  give yourself the smaller steak and load up on the orzo mixture and green beans.  Everyone will be well pleased.  Guaranteed!!   And if there should be any leftover steak,  slice it up and and serve it over the remains of this orzo side dish for the next day’s lunch or a deja-vue dinner.

I’m well-known for making a big pot of something-or-other and eating it (sometimes begrudgingly) for several days.   Usually it’s soups—they’re always good for on-going consumption, especially if you keep adding a little something like an extra pat of butter or a few left over veggies after each reheating.  Soups can get more delicious the longer they last.  Did you know this?

Since Monday is staring us in the face, I thought I’d start off the week with this last-all-week staple.  Something savory and healthy to help us get through the week with a smiley face.    This dish will taste best if the spinach and tomatoes are on sale!!!

 

ORZO, SPINACH AND TOMATOES

Please note:   I decided to make this dish without the spinach this timeIMG_8113

Yield:   Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound orzo, cooked according to package directions
  • 1/2 pound baby spinach, or larger-leafed spinach, torn into smaller pieces
  • 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • fine kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

1.  In a large sauce pan, melt the butter.  Add the shallot and sauté to soften.  Add the tomatoes and continue to sauté them until they start to release their liquid, and they soften.

Saute the shallots and tomatoes till they soften.

Saute the shallots and tomatoes till they soften.

2.  Add the cooked orzo to the pan along with the spinach, and toss to coat and integrate all the ingredients.   Transfer to a large serving bowl.

Add the cooked orzo and stir to combine.

Add the cooked orzo and stir to combine.

3.  In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice and minced garlic, plus salt and pepper to taste.  Pour over the orzo mixture and stir to mix well.  Crumble the feta cheese over the top.

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TIP:   Double the batch of orzo and serve as a cold side dish later in the week.  Just toss with a little additional olive oil before storing in the refrigerator in an airtight container.   Adding some chopped kalamata olives really perks up this dish also.   This is delicious hot or cold.

SOURCE:   Week Night Grilling with the BBQ Queens

Baked Gnocchi with Chicken

Baked Gnocchi with Chicken

Baked Gnocchi with Chicken

Rotisserie chickens are so useful when you want to cook a dish requiring cooked chicken.  Whenever I buy a rotisserie chicken we always have the first meal from it as you would any roast chicken with appropriate side dishes and/or salad.  But the amount of cooked chicken that is left is a sizable quantity–I can usually get two more meals from it.  (Remember there are just two of us here.)  So that gives me plenty of opportunity to search out recipes that use cooked chicken in them.

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Besides making good use of the rotisserie chicken, this recipe also includes gnocchi, those little Italian potato dumplings that I’ve already introduced you to here.  It also includes fresh baby spinach and mushrooms in a very light cream sauce. The casserole is baked and then briefly run under the broiler, so the Parmesan cheese on top gets browned and crusty. As you can see by what’s left, we loved it!

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BAKED GNOCCHI AND CHICKEN

Yield:   Makes 4 servings

Chicken, gnocchi, spinach and mushrooms in a light cream sauce with cheese.

Chicken, gnocchi, spinach and mushrooms in a light cream sauce with cheese.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces white mushrooms, sliced
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1  1/2 cups whole milk ( I used 2% milk.  The added fat in the milk helps to thicken the sauce.)
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 rotisserie chicken, skin removed, meat cut into small pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 1  (16-oz) package potato gnocchi
  • 1  1/2 cups loosely packed baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (about 1 ounce)

Directions:

1.  Position an oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 425*F.

2.  Heat the olive oil in a deep ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to a plate, and reuse the skillet.

Browning the mushrooms.

Browning the mushrooms.

3.  Melt the butter in the skillet over low heat; add the flour and cook, whisking, 3 minutes.  Whisk in the milk and chicken broth until smooth; simmer, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in 1/2 teaspoon salt and the nutmeg.

Making the sauce .

Making the sauce .

4.  Add the chicken, mushrooms, gnocchi and spinach to the sauce and stir until coated and the spinach wilts.

Add chicken and gnocchi.

Add chicken and gnocchi.

Stir in the spinach.

Stir in the spinach.

Sprinkle with the parmesan, transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until bubbling, about 20 minutes.  Turn on the broiler; broil until lightly browned on top, about 3 more minutes.

The cheese topping gets browned and crispy,

The cheese topping gets browned and crispy,

Make a salad to go with it and you've got a meal.

Make a salad to go with it and you’ve got a meal.

SOURCE:   Food Network Magazine

(Lighter) Spinach-Bacon Quiche

Bacon Spinach Quiche

Spinach Bacon Quiche

If brunch is in your plans in the near future, one favorite menu item is quiche.   Quiche, however, can contain lots of hidden calories and fat.  One wedge can contain in the neighborhood of 600 (or more) calories.  Yet we love it, so the dilemma is how to lighten it up, and still get all the creamy goodness that we love.

One way would be to eliminate the crust, but really, who likes a quiche with no flaky crust to support all that eggy, cheesy filling.  This recipe uses a crust made with olive oil instead of the traditional butter or shortening.  The heart healthy olive oil lends a “green”, flavor to the crust.  The filling is bulked up with mushrooms and spinach, adding few calories, but great nutritional value.  A nutty flavored cheese like Gruyère, or Swiss is the perfect compliment to the vegetables, and only 2 ounces go into this quiche.  The egg custard is made using mostly low fat milk (I used skim milk) plus a splash of half-and-half that adds richness but fewer calories and fat than heavy cream.  The quiche is finished off with a sprinkle of crisp bacon on the top, which you taste first, so you get a savory crunch in every bite.  One sixth of this quiche is a 317-calorie slice of heaven.  Vegetarians would find this quiche very satisfying even without the bacon, or could use a substitute.

I tested out this recipe earlier this week, served it for dinner with a side salad, and Mr. D.  loved it,  never suspecting it was a “lighter” version. I thought it was luscious.

This quiche with salad and bread makes a complete meal.

The quiche with salad and bread makes a complete meal.

(LIGHTER) SPINACH-BACON QUICHE

Yield:  Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 5.6 ounces all-purpose flour, about 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons

    Ingredients ready to start cooking.

    Ingredients ready to start cooking.

  • 3/4 kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons ice water
  • cooking spray
  • 3 slices bacon, lean center cut, if possible (vegetarians can omit bacon)
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 (8-ounce) package sliced mushrooms
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach
  • 1 cup 1 % low-fat milk (I used fat-free)
  • 1/3 cup half and half, or light cream
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (swiss cheese, or any good melting cheese may be used instead)

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 425*F.

2.  ** Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cup.  Combine flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and baking powder in a food processor; pulse 2 times to combine.  Combine oil with 3 tablespoons water.  With processor running, slowly add oil mixture through food chute; process until dough comes together.  Turn dough out onto slightly floured surface.  Knead 1 minute.  Press dough into a 5-inch disk; wrap in plastic wrap, and chill 20 minutes.

3.  Roll dough into a 12-inch circle.  Fit into a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate coated with cooking spray.  Line dough with foil;  arrange pie weights or dried beans on foil.  Bake at 425*F. for 12 minutes until edges are golden.  Remove weights and foil; bake an additional 2 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack while you make the filling.

4.  Reduce oven temperature to 350*F.

5.  Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings;  crumble and set aside.  Return pan to medium-high heat.  Add shallots to drippings in pan; sauté 2 minutes.

Bacon crisped, shallots being sautéed

Bacon crisped, shallots being sautéed

Add mushrooms and thyme; cook until tender, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in spinach; cook 2 minutes or until it wilts.  Remove from heat.  Drain any excess liquid.

Mushrooms and spinach added to skillet.

Mushrooms and spinach added to skillet.

6.  Place milk, half-and-half, eggs, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a blender; process until smooth.

Prepare egg custard in a blender.

Prepare egg custard in a blender.

7.  Arrange half of cheese over bottom of crust; top with spinach mixture and remaining half of cheese.

Cheese goes into the crust first.

Cheese goes into the crust first.

Next goes the spinach mustard mixture.

Next goes the spinach mustard mixture.

Cover with remaining cheese.

Cover with remaining cheese.

Carefully pour milk mixture over cheese.  Sprinkle with bacon.

Sprinkle crumbled bacon over all, and pour in milk mixture.

Sprinkle crumbled bacon over all, and pour in milk mixture.

Bake at 350*F for 45 minutes or until filling is set and top begins to brown.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Bacon Spinach Quiche

Bacon Spinach Quiche

**As a time saving step, and if calories in the crust are not a concern, you could use a frozen pie crust.  Bake as directed in step #3, according to package directions.

Serve with salad.

Serve with salad.

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SOURCE:     Cooking Light Magazine

 

Spinach Artichoke Bread

Spinach Artichoke Bread

Spinach Artichoke Bread

In my experience one of the most popular appetizers around is hot spinach dip, or a combination of spinach and artichoke dip.  Hot, cheesy, gooey spinach dip.  Oh yes,  addictively delicious with crackers or chips.

Since we would be sitting at a table with a plate onto which we could place our appetizers, I thought that in place of crackers or chips I would use bread to do two things;  add more substance, and provide a larger surface to carry all that lucious dip.  So this recipe seemed like the perfect solution.

This is great for parties, or could be used as a snack or light lunch, which is what we did with the leftovers.  Wrapped in foil and reheated in a warm oven, they were as good as new.

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 SPINACH ARTICHOKE BREAD

Yield:   12  servings

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened ( low-fat is OK)

    Only low-fat ingredients allowed!  :D

    Only low-fat ingredients allowed! 😀

  • 3/4 cup (6oz.) plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach,  defrosted and well drained
  • 12 oz. can artichoke quarters, in water, drained
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 4 French rolls, or 2 French baguettes

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 375*F

2.  With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Add yogurt, continue mixing until smooth.

3.  Chop artichokes, and squeeze out spinach to remove excess liquid.  Add to cheese-yogurt mixture.  Add onion powder, garlic powder, salt, 1/4 cup mozzarella and Parmesan.  Fold well to incorporate into a uniform mixture.

4.  Cut the French bread in half.  Slightly hollow each half by removing some of the bread from the middle.  Fill with the spinach-artichoke mixture and level the filling.  Sprinkle with the remaining mozzarella.

Breads filled and ready for the oven.

Breads filled and ready for the oven.

5.  Place the loaves on a baking sheet.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until filling is bubbly and the cheese on top is browned slightly.  Allow to cool for several minutes before slicing and serving.

The bread gets toasty, and the filling gets melty and warm.

The bread gets toasty, and the filling gets melty and warm.

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SOURCE:   Happier Holidays Recipe Book

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata

Chicken Piccata

The series of posts Eat Out at Home continues with this recipe for Chicken Piccata, a dish readily found in most any Italian restaurant.  Since I had a package of chicken cutlets to use I was torn between making Chicken Parmesan or Chicken Piccata.  Somehow the Parmesan recipe seemed a little heavy and more suited to cold weather, so this one won out,  since the light lemony sauce of this recipe seems to go with spring.

This recipe is quite simple to make and takes very little time.  It requires only  basic cooking skills, so even if you’re a newcomer in the kitchen, you will be successful.  Preparing the chicken cutlets ahead of time is a time saver. You can pound them out and dredge in flour in advance, then refrigerate them till its time to cook the meal.  Because cutlets are lean and cook in just a few minutes, they produce  very little drippings to use in a sauce, so dredging in flour first, then cooking them will help them to brown and  the flour acts as an emulsifier to slightly thicken the sauce.  The addition of lemon, white wine, chicken broth and capers creates the classic piccata flavors.   Knowing how to make this dish assures you of success when serving guests, since many people know about this entree, but are unaware of how easy it is to make.

A common way to serve chicken piccata is with pasta.  Linguine is a good choice as it will get coated by the sauce.  In my version I added some baby spinach to my nearly cooked pasta in the last minute of cooking,  just so it got a little wilted .  Drain the pasta/spinach combo, place in a large bowl or serving dish and place the chicken cutlets with their sauce poured over the top.   Molto Delicioso!

Chicken with its sauce poured over pasta with spinach.

Chicken with its sauce poured over pasta with spinach.

CHICKEN PICCATA

Makes  4 servings.   Increase all quantities accordingly to make more servings.

Ingredients:

  • 2  boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half length-wise and pounded into cutlets.  (I was able to purchase a package of 4 chicken cutlets ready for use at the supermarket.)
  • salt and pepper

    Chicken cutlets, white wine, lemon, garlic and capers produce the classic flavors of this dish.

    Chicken cutlets, white wine, lemon, garlic and capers produce the classic flavors of this dish.

  • all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. drained capers
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • fresh lemon slices
  • chopped fresh parsley for garnish

1.   Season cutlets with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour.  Add oil to a sauté pan and heat over medium-high heat.

2.  Saute cutlets 2 – 3 minutes on one side.  Turn cutlets oven and cook the other side, covered,  1 – 2 minutes.  Transfer cutlets to a warmed platter and keep warm.  Pour off any fat from the pan.

Browning the cutlets.

Browning the cutlets.

3.  Deglaze the pan with wine and add minced garlic.  Cook until garlic is slightly brown and liquid is nearly evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Deglaze the pan with wine and garlic.

Deglaze the pan with wine and garlic.

4.  Add broth, lemon juice, and capers.  Return cutlets to pan and cook on each side for 1 minute.  Transfer cutlets to serving dish.

5.  Finish sauce with butter and lemons.  Once butter melts, pour sauce over cutlets.

Finishing the sauce with butter and lemons.

Finishing the sauce with butter and lemons.

6.  Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately.

Chicken Piccata served with pasta and spinach.

Chicken Piccata served with pasta and spinach.

SOURCE:    CUISINE at Home

Spinach and Strawberry Salad

A salad of spinach, strawberries, goat cheese and almonds.

A salad of spinach, strawberries, goat cheese and almonds.

Some spring seasons have come and gone when I haven’t devoted much time to utilizing strawberries.  This year for some reason I feel as though I’m on a mission to use them in as many ways as possible.

When I was growing up we lived next door to a farm where every year one large field was planted with strawberries.  When they began to ripen,  several of us teen-agers were hired to help with picking and the berries were sold at a road-side farm stand.  Picking strawberries by hand is an experience not to be missed (or forgotten, either).  The work is hard on the knees and back,  but the opportunity to sample warm, sweet, juicy strawberries, right off the plant more than made up for the aches and pains in the back and knees.

Strawberry Field

Strawberry Field (Photo credit: timtak)

On most days when I got off work, I was sent home with a basket of berries for my folks.  As I recall the only ways my mother served strawberries was as a shortcake or fresh strawberry pie.

We did not have access to California grown strawberries in the supermarkets as we do now.  So when the berries were ripe (usually end of May through to July 4, if the weather was good)  we ate berries often, made jam, and froze some sliced and ready for recipes in the months ahead.  And since they are fruit they were designated as dessert.  Now-a-days we add fruits to main entrees, and salads, and I like the sweetness fruits add to a dish.   The recipe I have for you today is just such a combination;  a spinach salad with strawberries, goat cheese, or feta, and almonds.  The dressing is a balsamic vinaigrette, which really complements the strawberries and helps to bring out their sweetness.  This is very easy and quick to make, and goes with a variety of main dishes.  With all that spinach, its also healthy and good for you, so try this while berries are “in season” where ever you live.

A pretty salad on the plate.

A pretty salad on the plate.

SPINACH AND STRAWBERRY SALAD

SERVINGS:     4

Ingredients:

  • 1  ( 5 – 7 oz. pkg.) Baby Spinach 
  • 2  cups sliced strawberries
  • 1 / 2 cup crumbled goat or feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1 Tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • salt and pepper

1.  Combine spinach and strawberries in a large bowl.

2.  Whisk together the vinegar and oil in a small bowl.  Add the basil and season with salt and pepper.

3.  Add vinaigrette to salad and toss gently to evenly coat.  Divide salad among four plates.  Sprinkle each salad with cheese and almonds.

SOURCE:   TASTE OF HOME