Friday, September 27, 2013

Hash Brown Casserole

Last weekend I decided to some advance prep so I wouldn't be tempted to hit up Bon Appetit first thing Saturday morning.  I must admit, weekends have presented some challenges on the healthy-diet front.  In my opinion, weekends are for red wine, restaurants, and saying yes to the breadbasket.  Alas, this opinion of mine is not helping me get any closer to fitting into my wedding dress. 

This lightened-up version of one of my favorite breakfast treat's actually may be better than the original.  Best of all, you can prepare everything in advance and just pop it in the oven in the morning.  You can even crawl back to bed and sleep off that second (*cough* third*) glass of wine while it bakes.

Next time I'm going to add in some crispy turkey bacon in the mix!

* 1 (20 oz) bag frozen, shredded hash browns, slightly thawed
* 1 - 1 1/2 c. fat free greek yogurt
* 2 tbsp. minced green onion
* 1/2 c. milk
* 1/2 c. chicken stock
* 1 1/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine hash browns, 1 c. greek yogurt, milk, green onion, chicken stock, and 1/2 c. cheddar cheese in a large bowl.  If the mixture isn't well coated, add the additional 1/2 c. greek yogurt.  Spray a 9X13 casserole dish with cooking spray and add the potato mixture.  Top with the additional cheddar cheese and bake uncovered 45-50 minutes, until cheese is melted and the edges begin to brown.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lisa's Sausage & Peppers

Let me preface this post with a secret fact:  when I made this dish, it was the second time in my life I've ever had sausage and peppers.

Truth be told, I've just never found the concept particularly intriguing.  First and foremost, I absolutely loathe green peppers.  The taste, the texture, the impending heartburn.  I always just assumed sausage and peppers had to be this spicy, green pepper coated monstrosity that only Italian men ate.  Oh, how I was proven wrong!

A few weeks ago we had a carnival day of sorts at work and my coworker, Lisa, brought in this amazing looking dish of sausage and peppers.  The peppers were sautéed with sweet onions, marsala wine, and a touch of tomato paste, until they turned into this sweet goodness that was the perfect compliment to the savory, spicy sausage.  I am officially a sausage and peppers convert, assuming it can always be as good as Lisa's!

* 1 package of sausage (I used Trader Joe's Spicy Italian Chicken Sausage- they don't kid around with the word 'spicy')
* 3 peppers; I used a red, yellow, and orange, thinly sliced
* 1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 2 tsp. basil flakes
* 3 tbsp. olive oil
* 1/2 c. marsala wine
* 1 heaping tbsp. tomato paste

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lightly spray a baking dish with cooking spray and add the sausages.  Bake for an hour, or until sausages are cooked through.  Meanwhile, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the olive oil, onions, and peppers.  Sauté until the vegetables are very soft (about 20 minutes).  Add the garlic and sauté for a minute or so, then add the tomato paste and basil flakes and stir well to combine.  Add the marsala wine and let it reduce until the mixture is thick.  Serve the vegetables over the sausage.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Roasted Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

Roasted Garlic Mashed Cauliflower.  It's a revelation.

Seriously, it's possible that i'm in a low-carb state of delusion, but this recipe was SO good.  When the roasted cauliflower is pureed with the creamy garlic, sweet shallot, and combined with the fresh chives, you'll just barely miss a potato.   The flavor is so strikingly similar to a restaurant style mashed potato.  This cauliflower mash made the perfect accompaniment to my Sunday night filet medallions with sautéed mushrooms and red wine demi-glace.  Yum!

Ingredients (makes about 2 cups):
* 1 head cauliflower, trimmed and roughly chopped
* 1 shallot, peeled
* 5 cloves of garlic, halved
* 2 tbsp. olive oil
* 1/4 c. milk
* 2 tbsp. chives, chopped
* salt, pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.  Lay out a large sheet of aluminum foil atop a cookie sheet and add cauliflower, shallot, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Tightly seal the aluminum package and roast for 1 hour.  After an hour, transfer the cauliflower mixture to a mixing bowl, add milk, and use an immersion blender to puree (if you don't have an immersion blender, blend in a regular blender in batches until smooth; I tried mashing these with a fork first but they weren't fluffy enough for my preference).  Fold in chives.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Grilled Zucchini Lasagna

I finally had some time this weekend to spend cooking and brainstorming some healthful alternatives to some of my favorite foods.  I have to say, I don't even consider this lasagna an alternative.  It's just... it's delicious.  Trust me, you won't miss the carbs in this lightened up, noodle-free version.

Zucchini is naturally filled with lots of water, so it's important to take the extra time to drain off as much as you can.  When the lasagna is done cooking, the sauce will be slightly thin as the zucchini releases more water in the oven, but the big chunks of plum tomato stay in tact so you don't lose any flavor.  

* 2 large zucchini
* 1 c. part skim mozzarella cheese
* cooking spray
* 1 lb. extra lean ground beef
* 1 tbsp. olive oil
* 1/2 onion, chopped
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 tbsp. red wine
* 1 (12 oz) can plum tomatoes with basil
* 1 tsp. dried oregano
* 1 tsp. sugar
* 1 c. low-fat cottage cheese
* 1/4 c. parmesan
* 1 egg
* 1 tbsp. dried parsley

Preheat the oven to 350.  Start by preparing the zucchini.  Using a mandolin, thinly (and carefully!) slice the zucchini lengthwise into 1/4 inch strips. Lay the strips on a paper towel lined cookie sheet and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Set the zucchini aside for 10 minutes or so while the salt works to extract some of the water.

To prepare the filling, combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, start the sauce by adding olive oil to a large pot and heating over medium.  Add the onions and sauté until soft, about five minutes or so.  While the onions are softening, prepare the tomatoes by adding them to a bowl and squeezing them with your hands to break them up.  Once the onions are done cooking, add the garlic to the pan and sauté one minute.  Deglaze the pan with red wine (as the wine bubbles, use a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits in the bottom of the pan), then add the beef to the pan and brown, using a potato masher to break up any large pieces.  When the beef is cooked through, add the tomatoes, oregano, and sugar to the pan.  Reduce heat to low, set aside.

While the sauce is simmering, blot as much water from the zucchini as possible.  Preheat a grill pan to medium heat and spray liberally with cooking spray.  Working in batches, grill each zucchini strip until they have light marks and are softened.  Place the grilled zucchini back on the paper towel lined cookie sheet to drain while the you're cooking the rest.

To assemble the lasagna, spray a 9X12 casserole dish with cooking spray.  Spoon a ladle full of sauce in the bottom and top with a layer of zucchini.  Top zucchini with cheese mixture, more sauce, and then another layer of zucchini.  Repeat these steps, topping the last layer with more zucchini, a small amount of sauce, then mozzarella cheese.  Cover with tin foil and bake for 45 minutes on top of a cookie sheet (mine came close to boiling over, so the cookie sheet is to catch any excess).  Increase the heat to 375, remove foil, and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Let rest a few minutes, then slice and serve.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Let's Talk China..

I have to apologize this week for the lack of a new recipe, however my wedding diet has gotten the best of me.  I'm in a pretty dark place...I may never eat a chicken breast again after I say "I do."

But let's move on to something fun: gifts.  Turns out, when you get married, people buy you lots of gifts, and putting together a registry may be the best part of wedding planning.  It's like anything goes... a full set of le creuset pans?  Why not.  A backyard pizza oven?  Ring it up.  The food processor i've wanted for years but could never bring myself to buy? On the list.  But perhaps what I'm most excited about is fine china.  

I've been waiting to have my own china pattern for as long as I can remember.  I used to love scouring my mother's antique tea cup collection, trying to decide which pattern was my favorite, but as soon as Kate Spade came out with a line of fine china, it had my heart.

I love each of her designs; the metallics, the classic, the modern, the bows, but how is a girl to choose?  The little old lady in me was tormented by this decision, knowing I have my grandmother's china and knowing one day my grandaughter will have mine (here's hoping).

Alas, after months of perusing my options, I made the decision to go with the Larabee Dot (top left).  I think the dots give it enough of a modern flare on a timeless pattern.  Oh I hope I made the right decision.. be back soon with a new recipe!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Hot Crab Dip

I hope everyone had a fantastic Labor Day weekend!
Sadly, I did not make it to the beach even once.  I did, however, have a fun, relaxing weekend at home, caught up on some cleaning, and cooked a big dinner for Mike's parents 40th anniversary.  That's right -  40 years!  What better cause to celebrate?

The dinner was really a team effort.  I made blackberry baked brie, one of Nadine's favorites; and hot bubbly crab dip.  Mike manned the grill and made some fabulous pork tenderloins with a vidalia onion fig sauce, and the rest of the family brought sides.  What a fun dinner!

Crab dip is one of my all-time favorite appetizers.  For year's I've been trying to reproduce Bluewater's crab dip, and I think I've finally mastered it!  Cheesy, crabby goodness that can be fully prepared in advance- what could be better?

* 8 oz. lump crab meat
* 2 tbsp. parmesan cheese
* 1/4 c. sour cream
* 1/4 c. mayonnaise
* 4 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
* 1 tbsp. minced green onion
* 1 tsp. lemon zest
* 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
* 1/4 tsp. paprika
* 2 tsp. lemon juice
* 1/2 c. grated gruyere

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine all ingredients except crab and gruyere in a large bowl and stir well.  Once the ingredients are well combined, gently fold in the crab meat.  If the dip is thicker than you prefer, add another tablespoon of sour cream at a time until you reach the desired consistency.  Spread the dip into a baking dish and top with grated gruyere (if making ahead, refrigerate at this point).  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown.  Serve with grilled flatbread. Enjoy!