Sunday, December 2, 2012

Easy Baked Pasta

So, the other night I was seriously craving a pasta casserole. I was over the turkey sandwich and yogurt dinners and decided to make something outrageously delicious.  While the recipe I chose didn't knock my socks off, it was good, quick, and easy...which means it goes into the working professionals arsenal of go-to recipes.  Part of the reason I went with this particular version is because it didn't require too many random ingredients I wouldn't typically have around.  I'm also not one for crazy combos and usually prefer simple to the more exotic cuisine.

Modifications: Since I already had a jar of pasta sauce on hand I used it, however I added onions and meat to make it a little heartier (and more palatable to the meat lovers in my family).  I also only added the mozzarella to half of the dish since I'm not a huge fan of melted cheese.  Served with yummy garlic bread, this made the perfect dinner for a chilly (and rainy!) Friday evening.

  • 1 pound rigatoni (or whatever tube shape you have)
  • 1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 jar tomato sauce

  • Instructions
  1. Cook the rigatoni in a pot of boiling, salted water. Cook according to the package directions, but drain when the pasta still has some bite to it, maybe 2 minutes before the end of the cooking time. It is also going to cook in the oven, you do not want your pasta to be overcooked. Reserve a little cooking water.
  2. Mix together the ricotta cheese, garlic, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and 1/4 cup parsley. The rest of the cheese and parsley will be used for the top.
  3. Season well with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the ricotta cheese mixture and half of the tomato sauce to the pot.
  5. Mix until it coats all of the pasta. If it is too thick, add a bit of the pasta water to thin it out.
  6. Spread the pasta evenly into a 9×13 casserole dish.
  7. Spread the rest of the pasta sauce over the top.
  8. Add the mozzarella cheese, remaining Parmesan, and remaining parsley to the top.
  9. Cover with foil and put the baked ziti in the fridge until you are ready to bake it off. Or cook it in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes covered with tin foil. Take the tin foil off and cook for another 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
  10. Let the pan sit for at least 10 minutes before you cut it.

(Be very, very grateful I didn't post the photo of the was a MESS!!!!)

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Veggie Tartlets (otherwise known as veggies and couscous)

From the kitchen of a working professional:

Since January 2012 I've faced the age old dilemma - how to fix fresh, healthy meals meals that don't require hours of prep time. I'm not particularly fond of eating past 6:30, and when one doesn't get home from work until 5:45 that doesn't leave much time to make a scrumptious dinner. Slowly but surely I'm acquiring new recipes for my arsenal, and veggies are a personal favorite.

Tonight I made a variation on a theme. Christina and I made the complete recipe a few years ago and thought the veggies would make a delicious topping on something other than tartlets. I must say, I was pleased with the outcome and by eliminating the tartlets, I cut down on the bake time. And I ate by 6:30. :-)

* Instead of making little tartlets I served the veggie mixture over couscous. I used whole wheat couscous from Trader Joes, and it was ready in about 10 minutes.

* I cheated and used dried basil instead of fresh. Although fresh would have been better, I didn't have any on hand. Dried still provided excellent flavor.

* I'm not a huge fan of eggplant so I only used half of the recommended amount.

* Because I was hungry I baked the veggies for 10 minutes, spooned some out to eat right away, and baked the remaining mixture for another 20 minutes. I'll enjoy the baked portion as leftovers.

* This would also be wonderful served over rice.

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon course salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup ice water

1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 red peppers, stems and seeds removed, cut in 1/4 inch strips
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1 medium squash, thinly sliced
1 Italian eggplant, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, quartered
1 cup dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 cups coarsely chopped Kale
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
6 tablespoons nonfat ricotta cheese

1. Make the crust: pulse flour, cornmeal, sugar, and salt in food processor. Add butter. Process until mixture resembles coarse meal. With machine running, add ice water in a slow steady stream. Process just until dough holds together. Divide dough in half, wrap in plastic, and refridgerate 1 hour (or up to 3 days).

2. Preheat over to 350. On a lightly floured surface roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out six 9-inch rounds, gathering scraps and rerolling dough. Fit into 4 1/2 inch springform tart pans and cut dough flush with tops. Place on a baking sheet and refrigerate 30 minutes.

3. Make the filling: heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add bell peppers and cook until just tender, 4-5 minutes. Add zucchini, squash, eggplant, and onion. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add wine and salt. Season with pepper. Cook, stirring, until liquid has evaporated. Add Kale and cook until wilted, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes, basil, and red pepper flakes.

4. Spoon 1 1/4 cups vegetable mixture into each tart shell. Bake until crust is golden brown, 40-50 minutes. Top each tart with 1 tablespoon ricotta and serve.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Halibut, my favorite fish

Oh halibut, I do believe you are my favorite fish! Mild, warm, buttery, and so not fishy tasting at all. It's too bad you are so expensive! I only buy you for special occasions.

Okay, enough of writing this like a letter to a dead fish. My absolute favorite way to eat halibut is with cilantro. I first had halibut in Cambria for an anniversary a couple of years ago, and it had a nut crust with a cilantro drizzle. Well, I couldn't remember exactly what was in it, but I decided to do a deconstructed sort of version of something like it. Or maybe I just tried to create something yummy on the spot. Either way you look at it, it turned out just as delicious as I hoped it would. If you ever get some halibut, I suggest trying it this way or a recipe with a similar flavor profile.

Halibut with cilantro coconut pesto

12 oz halibut, fresh and on the skin if possible
Kosher salt
Extra virgin olive oil

Drizzle halibut with olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt, then bake at 350 degrees, skin down, until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees, about 24 minutes. Let rest a couple of minutes, then top with pesto or other toppings/drizzles.

Cilantro coconut pesto (amounts are approximate-please taste along the way to find a proportion you like!)

1 small bunch fresh cilantro, leaves only
A handful or two of fresh parsley (opt)
1/3 cup raw pepitas
1/4 flaked unsweetened coconut (also great for making granola!)
1 small clove of garlic
a pinch of salt
about 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of chipotle powder (can sub with cayenne, but you will miss the smokiness)

Toast the pepitas until golden and/or popping. I like to do this in a dry skillet, but a toaster oven works as well. Then toast the coconut. It will go fast, so watch and stir! Reserve a bit of the pepitas and coconut for garnish.

Combine herbs, pepitas, coconut, garlic, and a pinch of salt in a food processor until very fine. Slowly pour in oil while running the machine, pausing to scrape things down as necessary. The more oil you use, the more it will look like sauce. I tend to use restraint with my oil, not only to keep costs down, but also because I like a robust herb flavor.

Place spoonfuls of pesto on the halibut, garnish with pepitas, coconut, and a pinch of chipotle, and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

Servings: 2-3

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Blueberry muffins. I haven't made these in FOREVER. And I mean a very long time. However yesterday afternoon I once again found myself at Sprouts and ran across some delicious looking blueberries. Which sparked the idea, Why don't I make muffins for breakfast! Brilliant. Since I don't have a favorite, go-to recipe I paid Google a visit and ran across the concoction I made this morning, courtesy of Not only do they look pretty but also got passing reviews from the menfolk. Best of all, they're super easy. Enjoy!


  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine


  1. In a mixing bowl, cream sugar and butter. Add egg; mix well. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to the creamed mixture alternately with milk. Stir in vanilla. Fold in blueberries. Fill 12 greased or paper-lined muffin cups two-thirds full. In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour and cinnamon; cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over muffins. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes or until browned.

And now for the best part: photographic proof of their yumminess!

Blueberry Explosion!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Black Bean and Pea Bowl for lunch

In an effort to avoid reaching for a carb, especially wheat, every time I'm hungry, I sometimes have to get creative at lunch time.  Though I love making solid dinners, lunch and breakfast are not my strong suits.  It's not that I don't enjoy making them.  In fact, I recently discovered that I love having people over for lunch or brunch because I get to focus on new kinds of recipes.  But for myself, there's just not enough time for things to get interesting. But move on over, almond butter sandwich!  Here's a yummy, easy lunch that is low on carbs and uses things I happened to find in my house today.  I think it would also be great with a Mexican style cheese (which I didn't have).

1 Tbl fat of your choice (I used bacon fat)
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg, whisked (2 if you love egg)
1 cup frozen peas
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 Tbl frsh oregano, chopped
1 small avocado, sliced
Hot sauce and salt, to taste

Cook onions with a couple pinches of salt in fat over medium high heat until golden. Add garlic and cook a minute more. Turn heat to medium low and add egg, stirring until cooked through (I like it scrambled and well chopped). Add the peas, cook a bit, then add beans until all is heated through.  Stir in oregano and hot sauce. Divide into two bowls, topping each with avocado and pepitas.

Yield: 2

Friday, January 6, 2012

Rustic winter lunch

As I try to live more by the seasons, I find that the narrowing of ingredient choices is better for creativity in the kitchen!  Too many choices can be overwhelming.  I have come to love that I get a CSA box and must work with what I have for the week.

Because it's winter, the main vegetable fair is root vegetables.  Below is a little something I made for lunch today based on roots and the herbs in my garden.  It is easily adaptable to other root vegetables and herbs.  Enjoy!

Roasted winter vegetables with spiced oregano oil

3 tiny potatoes, srcubbed and quartered (or one small cut into one inch chunks)
3 small carrots, scrubbed and cut in half
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced to match potato
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 375 degrees.
Toss veggies in olive oil, then sprinkle generously with salt
Roast for 30-40 minutes, tossing once, or until fork tender.

Oregano oil: Mince and smush about 1/4 cup oregano leaves.  Heat 1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil in a frying pan with a pinch of red pepper flakes and a dash of hot paprika (you want enough to cover the oregano plus more).  Once very warm, pour over oregano leaves (or add leaves to oil, removing from heat).  Let the flavors meld and the oil cool for a few minutes, then drizzle on roasted veggies and a nice slice of bread and perhaps sliced summer sausage.  Or dip.

Yield: 1-2

Friday, December 9, 2011

Pumpkin Orange Cranberry Muffins

Fall and early winter are the ultimate baking times of the year!  I grew up in a family that baked cookies and breads to give away as Christmas presents.  The recipe I've created below is an adaption of my mom's famous "Christmas pumpkin bread."  I don't know the origins of the recipe, but it is truly delicious.

The inspiration for this variation came from not having had enough pumpkin yet this year, a bag cranberries in the freezer leftover from this cake I made for Thanksgiving, and two very special guests coming for lunch all the way from Africa.  Can I say I was giddy when I tasted the batter only to realize that orange and pumpkin are a match made in heaven?


Pumpkin Orange Cranberry Muffins
Note: you can bake this is one standard loaf pan, 1 12 cup muffin pan, or whatever you like.  I chose a jumbo 6 muffin pan.  Who doesn't like an extra large muffin?

1 cup pumpkin puree (half of a 16oz. can)
2 TBL + 2 tsp fresh squeezed orange juice
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup + 1 TBL oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2 TBL whole wheat pastry flour (or all purpose)
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, separated
Turbinado sugar for finishing (or regular if you don't have this)

1.  A little prep: zest your orange, squeeze out the juice, slice each cranberry in half, preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and grease the pan of your choosing.
2. Combine the pumpkin, orange juice and zest, oil, vanilla, and eggs until well combined.
3. Combine dry ingredients and stir into pumpkin mixture until just blended. Fold in 1 cup of the halved cranberries.
4. Pour into prepared pan.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup halved cranberries, then sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar.  Bake until tops spring back in the middle when gently pressed (will vary greatly depending on your pan/loaf size. Use google if you need an estimate).
5. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from pan, and cool on rack.

Yield: 1 standard loaf or 1 dozen muffins or 6 jumbo muffins