Vegetable Ricotta Stuffed Shells

IMG_0972Hello friends! I’m back to the grind after two amazing days off from work. Back to work also means back to my weekly Wednesday night volunteering. Because of this, my Wednesday night dinner usually consists of an easy meal I can reheat once I get home. I’m pleased to announce that tonight was a different story! On my Tuesday off I was able to prep a wonderful meal that Paul easily popped into the oven…with some detailed instructions of course.

Let me tell you, these vegetable stuffed shells are the perfect combination of healthy eating and Yum! They came out absolutely fantastic. I made this recipe for 2 people, but definitely double it up if it suits you!

Vegetable Ricotta Stuffed Shells

  • 1/2 cup diced green zucchini
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow zucchini
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 tbl olive oil
  • 12 jumbo shells
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 clove garlic; minced
  • Spaghetti sauce (I used about a cup)
  • Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cook pasta shells according to package. I cooked them until al dente; about 10 minutes. When cooked, drain and set aside.photo 1

Dice onion, green zucchini, yellow zucchini and shred carrot. Heat a pan over medium heat with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Saute veggies for about 10 minutes on a medium-low heat, until everything is soft. *If you need more oil use a little at a time but I sometimes just add a little water. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to the veggies.

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While veggies are cooking, mince garlic. Then whisk egg. Incorporate parmesan cheese, egg and garlic into ricotta cheese. Set aside.

When veggies are cooked, incorporate them into the ricotta mixture.

Spoon a thin layer of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of a glass baking dish. Fill each shell with ricotta mixture and place into dish. Continue filling and placing the remaining shells in the dish. When all the shells are filled, pour sauce sparingly over the shells. I also topped with mozzarella cheese because I had it.

IMG_0970Cover dish with tin foil and cook for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove foil and cook for another 10-15 minutes.

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Portobello Mushroom Bruschetta

Portobello mushrooms kind of used to repulse me. Mostly just the look of them. Scraping them out still kind of irks me. However….that being said, I will WILLING scrape any number of mushrooms to reap the delicious benefits of these Portobello Mushroom Bruschettas! They are hearty, tasty and combine all the wonderful Italian flavors I love. I was so disappointed with my final pictures, but I promise the taste is better than my photography skills!

Portobello Mushroom Bruschetta

  • 4 portobello mushroom
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (no salt added)
  • 1/3 cup onion; chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic; minced
  • 1 tbl fresh oregano; chopped
  • Fresh basil (about 10 leaves); chopped
  • Fresh mozzarella
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

IMG_0951Remove stem and gills from mushrooms. I use a spoon to scrape the bottom, then rinse and pat them dry. Place on a baking sheet.

Chop onion and garlic. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil in a pan and heat to medium. Add garlic and onions and sauté until translucent.IMG_0953Add diced tomatoes and about half the juice from the can. Add oregano, 5 basil leaves , salt and pepper. Simmer mixture at a medium heat for about 8 minutes, or until juices evaporate.

Sprinkle a small amount of salt and pepper over mushrooms. Spoon tomato mixture evenly into each mushroom. Sprinkle each mushroom with remaining basil leaves. Drizzle a small amount of balsamic vinegar over each.IMG_0954Place one slice of mozzarella on each mushroom. (I got a little overzealous cheese-wise as you can see from my pictures!)

Drizzle olive oil over mushrooms and finish with a pinch of salt.

Pop into the oven for 10 minutes. Finish by broiling for 2-3 minutes. Enjoy!IMG_0959My pictures don’t do these justice!

*Want some delicious Foccacia Bread (or any bread) in the Boston area? Clear Flour Bread is our new hot spot!

Portobello Mushroom & Carmelized Mushroom Pizza

How many times is it possible to go to the grocery store in one week? I wish I had an answer for that. I could go everyday and I think have this week. Woops! Saturday was totally unintentional. I had already done my grocery shopping for the week and was prepared to make something from all the great fresh ingredients I had bought. But all the meals I planned on making just didn’t seem fun enough for a Saturday night.

Let me explain. As a kid growing up, Saturday night was always take-out or go out to eat night. My mom never cooked on Saturdays, it was her much deserved night off. This was the one night a week I could drink a soda and eat fast food. It just felt fun to break out of the weekday routine. To this day, I make it a point to jazz up our Saturday evenings in. Unfortunately, on such a tight budget, Paul and I can’t afford to indulge in weekly take-out or dinner reservations so we have to get creative. How do we do that? Pizza! Portobello Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Pizza to be exact! Check it out:

Portobello Mushroom & Caramelized Onion Pizza

  • premade pizza dough (I use Whole Food Multigrain dough, it’s awesome!)
  • flour
  • cornmeal
  • 1 tbl butter
  • 1/2 can of pizza sauce
  • 1/2 onion sliced
  • 1 portobello mushroom sliced
  • 1/2 cup spinach
  • mozzarella cheese (shredded, fresh or both!)

I use a pizza stone because it gives the pizza a wonderfully crunchy crust. Place pizza stone in the oven before turning on the oven. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Allow stone to sit in 500 degree oven for 30 minutes.

IMG_0928Heat butter in a non-stick pan on medium heat. Add onions and cook for about 5 minutes. Onions should be somewhat translucent. Add portobello mushroom to the pan and continue to cook. Cook until mushrooms have softened a little and onions are golden.
IMG_0927Lightly flour surface and roll out pizza dough with rolling pin. Sprinkle a little cornmeal under the dough so it doesn’t stick to the surface. Remove pizza stone from the oven. BE CAREFUL! I’ve burned myself before and still have the scars to show. Lightly sprinkle more cornmeal onto the pizza stone.
IMG_0930Transer dough onto the pizza stone by either sliding it off a pizza board or rolling it onto a rolling pin, then rolling it off onto the stone. Lightly coat dough with a layer of sauce. I only ever end up using half a can but if you want more. by all means, add more! Distribute spinach, onions and mushrooms over sauce and top with cheese. We used about a 1/2 cup shredded, then sliced fresh mozzarella to top it off.

Bake in oven for 10-12 minutes at 500 degrees. Allow pizza to cool and set for at least 5 minutes. (Although we never do!)

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Homemade Whole Wheat Pasta

I have had a box of whole wheat rotini sitting on my shelf for years. Years! Seriously. I’m sure it’s expired. It kind of just hangs out next to my quinoa and all my other pasta. I know, whole wheat is better for you and I do almost always opt for the healthier option, but for some reason when I’m grabbing a box of pasta it’s the good old white stuff. Maybe it’s the Italian in me?

Anywho, something about that boxed whole wheat pasta is super unappealing to me, but these Homemade Whole Wheat noodles are anything but unappealing. This recipe is great, so give it a try!

IMG_1269Homemade Whole Wheat Pasta

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup water

The first time I made homemade pasta it was a disaster! I was swearing and covered in flour and cursing Paul for asking me to make it. He woke up and found me in the kitchen yelling at the dough, with the pastry brush stuck in the KitchenAid pasta attachment. (Yea, that happened) Things have changed since then.

In a bowl mix together the flours and salt. Make a well. Whisk together the eggs and water, and pour into the well and begin to mix well until a ball is formed. Turn out onto a floured board and knead for 20 turns. OR Throw it all into your standing mixer and mix until incorporated. Attach dough hook and allow to knead for about 5 minutes.
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IMG_1288If the dough is too dry sprinkle it with water, a little at a time. I also added about a 1/2 tsp of olive oil.

Form dough into a ball and allow to rest for about 30 minutes.

Now you’re ready to make your pasta! Roll it out thin and cut your pasta, either by hand or with your mixer attachments.
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IMG_1290When your noodles are cut, coat lightly with flour. Place small bundles of noodles on a cookie sheet and pop into the freezer for a few minutes. Once slightly hardened pop into tupperware and back into the freezer until you’re ready to use.

*Remember homemade noodles often take less time to cook, so make sure you watch them carefully!
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Spinach Ice Cubes (For Smoothies!)

IMG_0905I love smoothies. I also really love adding everything and anything healthy into my food. So, when I found out you could tuck away some spinach into a smoothie without even tasting it I was pumped! However, here is the problem…mooshy gooshy spinach. I can NEVER seem to get through a bag of spinach without it going all mooshy goosh on me. I rarely buy it because Paul doesn’t care for it and I can rarely eat enough of it before it goes bad, BUT I love it in smoothies! So what is a girl to do? Spinach Ice Cubes!

A co-worker told me she saw a pin on Pinterest for these and knew I would be interested. Does she know me well or what? Obviously as soon as I had a free minute I researched these and made them. I found a pretty simple tutorial that I used but I also tried a much simplier version as well. I will give you the deets on both!

IMG_0906Pureed Spinach Ice Cubes

  • Water
  • Spinach

Use as much spinach as you want and put it into your food processor or blender. Add enough water for it to blend. Blend it enough so that you can pour it into an ice cube tray. Freeze.

Easy peasy! But I also did an even simpler method that I think I like much better.

Unpureed Spinach Ice Cubes

  • Water
  • Spinach

Literally cram a few leaves of spinach into each empty ice cube spot. I used baby spinach so this process was pretty easy. If you have bigger leaves, just tear them up and pop into the tray. Pour enough water to cover the spinach. Freeze!
IMG_0907Doesn’t get any easier than that right? I figured, why blend up the spinach when it will end up being blended in the smoothie anyways? Not to mention it was much less messy and I didn’t lose any of the spinach to the blender or food processor in the process. Let me know what way you like best!
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Banana-Carrot Smoothie

So I impulse bophoto 3-2ught some resistance bands and they finally arrived yesterday. A pretty bizarre impulse buy, but I got a killer deal on Amazon. Obviously, I have no clue how to use them. I woke up this morning and Googled some YouTube videos and completed various workouts to compose one very choppy workout of my own. I finished and kind of felt like I hadn’t done enough. I’m hoping I’ll be proved wrong tomorrow morning and wake up with a little of that tell-tale soreness!

After my workout I decided to make this awesome Banana-Carrot Smoothie. Now I know what you’re thinking, but as my mom would say, “Before you stick your nose up at it, give it a try!” It’s true. This smoothie is sweet and creamy and incredibly good for you. The pictures actually make it look repulsive, so I apologize for that, but I swear it’s better than it looks. (How many times have you heard that in your life? This time it’s true!) So if you’re feeling bold give this a try and I am sure you won’t regret it!

Banana-Carrot Smoothie

1 large frozen banana
1/2 cup 100% carrot juice
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/2 cup (or more!) of fresh spinach
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp flax meal (optional)
1 tsp hemp seeds (optional)

photo 4-1Add all the ingredients and blend! If it’s too thick or not blending well add more liquid. I added a little more carrot juice to mine, but mostly in a effort to make it more aesthetically¬† pleasing. It didn’t work. ha!

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Bacon & Brussel Sprout Pasta

IMG_1269Traffic. It will take you from the best of moods to the very worst. Driving in Boston is literally painful. I was heading home after a long day working at my first job, followed by my extra side job with my stomach grumbling. I could not wait to get home and make this Bacon & Brussel Sprout Pasta when BAM! Red light after red light, brake lights and more brake lights. AH! I’m sorry to all the people I would have offended if they heard me swearing in my car. Perhaps an overreaction offset by hunger, but hey, it happens…right? The only thing to pull me out of my hunger related funk? Pasta! I hope this recipe can turn even the worst of your frowns upside down!

Bacon & Brussel Sprout Pasta

  • 1/2 a box pasta; spaghetti, linguini or fettuccine
  • 1/2 an onion; sliced or chopped
  • 8 brussel sprouts; halved, and sliced
  • 4 slices of bacon; cooked and crumbled¬† (*Turkey bacon is a wonderful substitute which I often use)
  • 2 tbl olive oil
  • 1/4 cup seasoned oil or olive oil (I use Wegmans basting oil with garlic & herbs)
  • salt & pepper

*Note: If you chose to use regular olive oil instead of a seasoned oil, I recommend adding a variety of spices to this dish, such as more salt and pepper, as well as garlic, basil or even parsley. Be creative!

Cook bacon according to package. Set aside on paper towels to cool. Crumble when cooled.

Cook pasta according to directions, strain and set aside. I used homemade, frozen fettuccine noodles, pictured above.
IMG_1270In a non-stick pan heat 2 tablespoons olive oil at medium heat. Saute onions and brussel sprouts until tender. Onions should be translucent and brussel sprouts should have wilted down. Sprinkle with a small amount of salt and pepper.
IMG_1272Add noodles to hot pan and add seasoned oil, a little at a time. Use your best judgement when adding oil. The warm pasta will soak up some of the oil, but you don’t want your noodles sitting in a pool of oil. Once heated through add bacon and toss around. Give it a nibble and add salt and pepper to taste.
IMG_1273Pour into a bowl and top with grated cheese and get ready to feel a whole lot better than you did before you ate!

Sweet Potato, Bean & Chicken Chili

The heat wave has finally broke, hallelujah! In a last ditch effort on Saturday night, we spent the night at my boyfriends parents house for some heat-related relief. We went out for some drinks, woke up in the morning and were pleasantly surprised to wake up to a beautiful Sunday morning, still hot but definitely doable. We came back to our apartment, (of course only after completing our three loads of laundry…for free!) and I was actually able to do a little cleaning and dinner preparation for the coming week.

After doing a lot of Pinterest searching, clean eating reading, and surveying our pantry I decided to string together a few different recipes and try my hand at my very own slow cooker chili. I created this wonderful sweet potato, chicken, bean and corn chili extravaganza that I prepared Sunday and cooked today while I was at work. I’ve been trying to investigate this whole “clean eating” thing and I could be wrong, but I think this recipe is mostly “clean!”

Sweet Potato, Bean, Chicken Chili

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 4-oz can diced green chilies
  • 1 8-oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 TBL chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Serves: 4

photo 1-2 Place chicken breast on the bottom of your crock pot. Add onion, garlic, corn, sweet potato, black beans, kidney beans, and chilies

photo 3-1Pour tomato sauce and chicken stock over the top. Add chili powder and salt. Mix all ingredients well, leaving the chicken breasts on the bottom. Cook on low for 7 hours.

IMG_1264Once cooked, turn off crock pot and use two forks to shred chicken. Incorporate shredded chicken into the chili and serve. We enjoyed this with some delicious bread from a local bakery and topped it with cheese and chives. Enjoy!

Products I Love: Proper Hydration

I feel like it is my duty to share this wonderful product that I have absolutely love with all of you! As I have mentioned before, I ran my first half marathon in 2010 and I struggled, despite a lot of training. However, I learned that in order for your body to succeed you need to fuel it properly, and I was absolutely not doing that. After I completed the race and swore to never run again, my sister informed me of this wonderful product she learned about in her training group. These Nuun Active Hydration Tablets are a godsend!Image Once I purchased my beloved hydration pack, I started popping half a tablet into one water bottle on shorter run days (Between 6-8 miles) and a full one on longer day runs. (9-13 miles). I immediately felt in a difference while I was running, as well as after I was done.

Generally speaking, I only drink Nuun when running, but they have been on my mind a lot due to the heat wave. Last week I was experiencing nausea, headaches and a lot of stomach cramping despite all the water I drink throughout the day. After making a comment about it to a co-worker she suggested I drink some Gatorade as I could be dehydrated. Well duh! That made sense. Of course, I will probably never drink Gatorade ever again after using the Nuun tablets. These tablets definitely trump the syrupy, sweet Gatorade beverage and come in all sorts of great flavors that you can dilute at your own will. My favorite are Pink Lemonade and Tri-Berry. I am sure you can guess, that as the heat wave has continued in full force I stand by my Nuun. I have been drinking one tablet a day in 16 ounces of water and feel a hell of a lot better. If I feel like I’m getting a heat-related headache or feeling unnaturally fatigued I’ve been popping a Nuun tablet, and doing so guilelessly, because at only 8 calories and 1g of sugar you really cant go wrong. Try them!!!

Tuna Noodle Salad

20130719-183354.jpgI am so apprehensive to post this recipe as I am afraid of the scrutiny. The scrutiny? Yes! Because I am embarrassed to admit this is yet another mayo-based recipe! Ah, the horror! I swear I cook with other ingredients normally, but the heat is slowly withering me and the less stove/oven use the better. Unfortunately a lot of summer meals depend on mayo, so mayo I will eat!

However, as I have mentioned in other posts, non-fat, plain greek yogurt goes a long way in substituting, so I definitely used a little to offset the high fat content of the mayonnaise.

When I asked my boyfriend what he thought of “tuna noodle” for dinner his immediate reaction was “Blech!” But once he realized it wasn’t his moms hot, cheesy tuna casserole he came around, and I think you will too!

 

Tuna Noodle Salad

1 cup elbow macaroni, uncooked
1 can tuna, drained
1/2 cup peas
1/4 cup diced onion
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons plain non-fat greek yogurt
1/4 tsp pepper
Pinch of salt

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and allow to cool in refrigerator for at least two hours. I often make the pasta a day before and allow it to sit in the refrigerator over night.
*Note: The colder the pasta is, the less mayo it will absorb, meaning the less you have to use. (And the less fat you’re consuming!)

20130719-182326.jpgOnce pasta is cooled add tuna, onion, peas, mayo, greek yogurt, salt and pepper. Incorporate ingredients well. Serve cold on a hot day!

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