Turkey and Mushroom Bolognese

Eating healthy is hard. Especially when I feel like I’m hard wired to crave chocolate and red meat and salty chip. Indulging sometimes is fine, as long as the portions are under control and I’m not giving into those cravings daily. I know red meat is fatty and cholesterol-y and bad for me in general. When I have recipes that I can swap red meat for something healthier, I do. (Except for steak. I’ll have a steak when I want one, even if it is a small serving.)

Ground turkey can be kind of bland, so it’s important you punch up the flavoring with it as much as possible. I added mushrooms to this because cremini mushrooms will add some texture and earthy flavor that won’t make you miss the red meat portion of this meal. The carrots and onion will add some sweetness. I know that some bolognese sauces now add milk or cream, but I think just using red wine here will give it in enough richness that you don’t need the dairy. If you find this too thick for your tastes, thin out with a little chicken broth.

I made this to serve over spaghetti squash that I roasted in the oven with olive oil, seasoned salt, and pepper.

Turkey and Mushroom Bolognese

  • 1 1/3 lbs lean ground turkey (I used 93/7)
  • 2-3 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 1  1/2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 1 cup finely diced carrot
  • 2 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup red wine (use wine you drink – cooking wine is disgusting)
  • 28 oz can ground, peeled tomatoes (no salt added)
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano

While your spaghetti squash roasts (or your pasta water boils), heat a large wide skillet over medium high heat. Saute your mushrooms until they start to give off liquid, about 5-7 minutes. Add onions and carrots and saute an additional 5 minutes, until the onions are softened but not brown. Add in garlic and stir an additional thirty seconds.

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Add the turkey and cook until no longer pink. Stir in tomato paste, then deglaze the pan with red wine, scraping up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Pour in canned tomatoes and let simmer 15-20 minutes on low heat, longer if you’re not in a rush. If you find the sauce too thin, add another tablespoon of tomato paste. Stir in fresh herbs and simmer another 5 minutes.

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If you are doing Weight Watchers, the sauce is 6 points.

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Egg Cups with Spinach and Cremini Mushrooms

Breakfast during the week is impossible before I leave for work. I’m too busy racing around trying to get everyone dressed and out the door to bother with myself. So breakfast for me is usually whatever I can grab on the way to work (usually a bagel from the coffee shop near where I work) or English muffins with peanut butter that I keep stashed in my desk drawer. If I’m super organized on the weekends, I make mini omelets in muffin tins. We call them egg cups at my house.

It’s not an original idea – I’ve seen tons of recipes for them on Facebook and other food sites I follow. But I try to make them as healthy as possible by skipping the frozen hashbrowns and sausage versions. I usually fill mine up with salsa or sauteed veggies or even just frozen spinach and a little mozzarella. The last few months, I’ve switched from whole eggs to a mixture of egg whites and eggs so they’re a little more healthy.

There’s different ways you can do this: you can put everything in the muffin tin and pour the egg mixture over them or you can whisk everything into the egg mixture and pour it into the muffin tins. I’ve done both. For this recipe, I recommend putting everything in the muffin tins and pouring the egg mixture over it.

Egg Cups with Spinach & Cremini Mushrooms

  • 2 cups egg whites
  • 3 whole eggs
  • Siracha to taste
  • 2-3 cups baby spinach
  • 1 – 1 1/2 jarred roasted red pepper (depends how big the peppers are)
  • 2-3 cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced thin and then chopped
  • half a cup of shredded mozzarella or 3-4 small balls of fresh mozarella
  • 6 strips turkey bacon, sliced and cooked crisp
  • Cooking spray

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray a 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Fill each muffin tin with spinach so that the spinach covers the bottom and sides (about 1/4 cup each if you need a measurement) – remember that spinach cooks down and what looks like a lot will shrink some. Dice up the roasted red pepper and place over the spinach.

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Add the mushrooms, mozzarella, and turkey bacon.

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In a measuring cup, add the egg whites, whole eggs, and siracha. Whisk together, then pour over the spinach mixture in each tin. Do not over fill – you want enough to cover the veggies, but not enough to spill over the top.

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Bake for 15-20 minutes until eggs are set.

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If you are doing Weight Watchers, each egg cup is 2 points.

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Baked Chicken “Cordon Bleu” Roll Ups

Sometimes, I feel like chicken is the scourge of my existence. It’s my main supply of protein and it is endlessly boring. I try to find different ways to cook it, but usually end up with it either stir fried or baked with some kind of seasoning on it.

I had a version of this years ago that I think came from a Weight Watchers cookbook, but I think it used prosciutto and mozzarella. I couldn’t find the recipe again when I wanted it, so I came up with something else. I think the version from before used crush cornflakes instead of breadcrumbs, but that’s actually not very appealing to me. I’ve never like cornflakes unless they have a teaspoon of sugar on them.

I mixed the panko with the regular breadcrumbs, but you could just use one or the other if you have a preference. The chicken I used was already cutlet ready, but you could use regular skinless boneless chicken breasts, just pounded thinner. And the sauce is optional. But I like sauce.

I served this with spaghetti squash that had been roasted in the oven with olive oil and salt and pepper (I also put a little of the sauce over it as well).

Baked Chicken “Cordon Bleu” Roll Ups

  • 1 lb chicken cutlets or boneless skinless chicken breasts pounded 1/2 inch thick
  • 5 slices ham
  • 5 slices swiss cheese
  • 2-3 tbsps dijon mustard, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten with a little water
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cups low sodium chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Set up a breading station with the eggs and breadcrumbs near where you’re working.

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Place a piece of chicken on wax paper and brush with dijon mustard. Layer with a slice of ham, then a slice of swiss. Brush lightly with dijon (I used about a tablespoon for the whole recipe). Roll the chicken, ham, and cheese into a compact cylinder and secure with a toothpick at the seam.

 

 

Dip the chicken roll into the egg wash, then roll in the breadcrumbs. Place on a baking sheet lined with the foil and sprayed with cooking spray.

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Once all the chicken has been rolled and placed on the sheet, drizzle with olive oil. I used the same brush I used with the dijon to spread the olive oil.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

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While the chicken bakes, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Once melted, add the flour and 1-2 tablespoons of dijon mustard. Whisk until combined and the flour is a golden color. Add your chicken stock and continue to whisk (I also added a couple splashes of white wine, but I think sherry would be better here) until the consistency is slightly thicker than gravy.

Serve the sauce over the chicken once it’s out of the oven.

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Baked Orzo with Squash and Mozzarella

I’ve never made anything from the website Smitten Kitchen (http://smittenkitchen.com/) before. But this recipe looked really good. Only problem: I don’t like eggplant and that was the main ingredient. I’m also not a huge fan of tomatoes, which is also an important ingredient. So I thought about the kinds of vegetables you might be able to substitute and which one of those vegetables I like and, more importantly, actually had on hand.

I had summer squash and zucchini available so that’s what I used. And instead of tomatoes I used roasted red peppers. It’s two different tastes, but I like the sweetness of the red peppers. I increased the carrots and celery because I like a veggie heavy casserole and made a couple of very minor tweaks, but other than that I followed the recipe as written.

It was heavenly. Just the right amount of cheesy goodness and the vegetables were tender and sweet. It was definitely a repeat meal for us. We could have eaten the whole tray in one sitting, that’s how good it was.

If you like eggplant, here’s the link to the original recipe: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2012/09/baked-orzo-with-eggplant-and-mozzarella/

Baked Orzo with Squash and Mozzarella

  • 1 to 1 1/2 lbs summer squash and/or zucchini, roughly diced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 medium carrots, diced small
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, diced small
  • 1 medium onion, diced small
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 8 oz orzo, uncooked
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
  • zest of one whole lemon (I also juiced half of it, about 2 tbsp)
  • 3 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
  • 4 oz firm mozzarella, diced small
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more to top the casserole
  • 14 oz jarred roasted red peppers, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, over medium high heat, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the squash and zucchini and fry for eight minutes. I don’t think I heated my oil long enough because the squash and zucchini didn’t get the kind of color I wanted it to. I didn’t want the veggies to get mushy, so I kept a close eye on it.

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Remove the squash and zucchini with a slotted spoon and lay on paper towels to drain. Add the carrots and celery to the remaining oil and cook for 3-5 minutes before adding onion and garlic. Cook for an additional five more minutes, lowering the heat to medium. Stir in the orzo and tomato paste and cook for two more minutes.

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Remove the pan from the burner and stir in the fried squash and zucchini, oregano, mozzarella, parmesan, roasted red peppers, lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper to taste, and vegetable stock. Stir well and transfer to a 9×13 baking dish, prepared with nonstick cooking spray. At this point, I added more parmesan to the top of the casserole.

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Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove foil and bake an additional 20. The top of your pasta will be crunchy, but so delicious. Let rest at least 5 minutes before serving as the vegetable stock will not be completed absorbed when you take it out of the oven. The resting time is crucial for that.

You could serve this as a side, but it’s meant to serve 4 so eat the whole helping and enjoy it.

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Grilled Vegetables with Quinoa

This summer, my oldest is at camp for the first time. It’s not like a sleep away camp – he gets the bus at the local Y to an outdoor Y center in the next town and spends all day there getting disgustingly dirty (seriously – he came home yesterday and I asked him if he just lays down and rolls in the dirt) and having a great time. The program has these so-called Family Fun Nights, where they serve (for a nominal fee) a meal of hot dogs, baby carrots, and watermelon. As an adult, that meal holds zero appeal for me. It didn’t either for a friend of mine who brought a really tasty looking salad made with veggies, black beans, salsa, and brown rice to the last FFN.

I saw her the following weekend at a birthday party and she gave me the recipe (which includes eggplant) and the method (cooking on the grill in a disposable tin). I don’t eat eggplant unless it’s fried and coated in marinara and mozzarella, so that was out immediately. And while her method is super easy and involves almost zero clean up, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to include a vinaigrette when I was working with this, so I didn’t think the grill would work.

I will eventually try the recipe (minus the eggplant) the way it was intended, but I tried it this way and I think it came out pretty well. I love, love, love grilled vegetables. I could eat them every night, happily. They’re great leftover in burritos, eggs, salads – anything really. I liked the way this came out.

This was my first time cooking with quinoa. I wasn’t sure if red or white would be a better choice (still not sure) or if there’s a taste difference. I think quinoa, because it’s kind of bland, is a good fit because it lets the vegetables and the salsa speak for itself. I forgot to rinse the quinoa before I cooked it, but when I made this a second time I remembered and the difference in texture was significant. So rinse your quinoa. The slightly nutty taste of the quinoa and the sweetness of the grilled vegetables was a good match. Next time, I may have my husband grill a couple jalapeno peppers as well to add in – it just needed a little more heat. So if you like spicy, either add chili powder or use a spicier salsa. I used a little bit of olive oil on the veggies so they wouldn’t stick to the grill – you could sprinkle cumin and chili powder on the veggies before you grill them as well, which I may do next time. The second time I made it, I added garlic powder and chili powder to the broth before I added the quinoa. It definitely added some flavor, but I still think it needs some kind of chili pepper or spicier salsa.

I served this as a main meal, but you could certainly serve this as a side with grilled fish or chicken or even steaks.

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Quinoa

Serves 8

  • 1 medium zucchini, sliced thickly lengthwise
  • 1 medium summer squash, sliced thickly lengthwise
  • 1/2 large red onion, sliced in rings, about 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels (I used Trader Joe’s fire roasted)
  • 1 15 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and green parts cut
  • 1 1/2 cups jarred salsa
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
  • salt and pepper to taste

Grill zucchini, squash, and red onion until charred, but not mushy (about 10-15 minutes – should be the same amount of time as your quinoa). Veggies should still be firm. Chop into bite size pieces.

Cook quinoa and chicken broth according to package directions. Stir in frozen corn kernels, black beans, and salsa once quinoa is cooked. Add grilled veggies and salt and pepper.

Serve with a sprinkle of scallions and a squeeze of lime juice.

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This is really good with a cold, summer beer.

Weight Watchers Points: 4

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Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad

My friends Andy and Ans host a pot luck party every year. Because winter was so miserable here in the Northeast, they decided that everyone should bring a vegetable focused dish to celebrate spring. I love vegetables. Lately, I’ve been very into big salads with light Italian dressing. There’s something satisfying about the crunch of fresh vegetables.

But the way I like my vegetables best is roasted. So when I was thinking about what to bring to Andy’s and Ans’ this weekend, I thought about the kinds of salads I like. I didn’t want to just bring a garden salad, but I wanted something that I wouldn’t necessarily need to reheat. You can eat pasta salad warm or cold, depending on your taste.

This borrows a bit from the orzo salad I usually make, but not so much that it’s the same recipe.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad

  • 2 medium red onions, quartered
  • 1 large zucchini, halved and sliced (not thinly)
  • 1 large yellow squash, halved and sliced (not thinly)
  • 1 large red pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 large yellow pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 package frozen artichoke hearts, thawed, drained and dried
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1-2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup baby spinach, cut into ribbons
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup crumbled cheese (feta, goat, or blue)
  • 2-3 tbsp red wine vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked orzo pasta

Preheat oven to 425.

In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together olive oil, thyme & oregano leaves, garlic, lemon zest & juice, and salt and pepper.

Place vegetables in a large mixing bowl or zip lock bag. Pour marinade over veggies and mix well. On a large baking sheet (or two medium ones) lined with aluminium foil and sprayed with non stick cooking spray, spread the vegetables into one layer.

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Roast until vegetables are golden and tender. Usually about 30-45 minutes. Stir once or twice so the vegetables don’t stick to the pan.

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Cook orzo according to package directions and drain well. In a large bowl, combine orzo and spinach. Once vegetables are done, add to orzo and spinach. Whisk together vinegar/juice and olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. Pour over salad. Add cheese and olives. Serve warm, cold or room temperature.

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Shells and Cheese

I wanted to make macaroni and cheese this week because we’re into casseroles right now. It gets harder and harder to eat before 7PM these days so I try to make meals on the weekends that I can refrigerate and then heat up during the week. Shepherd’s pie has been our go to lately because that has everything the kindergartner will eat – red meat, corn, and mashed potatoes. But you can only eat the same thing so many times before it gets boring. And while the kindergartner is happy to eat Shepherd’s pie, pancakes, and blue box mac’n’cheese as often as possible, I need something else.

I googled a couple recipes just to get an idea of what people were doing to make macaroni and cheese and sort of combined a bunch of recipes. The topping didn’t brown as I had hoped – next time, I’ll use melted butter instead of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter spray. This is not in any way, shape, or form good for you, so I was trying to cut down a little bit by not using butter in the topping, but it didn’t brown at all. It still tasted good, but visually it wasn’t as appealing.

You can use whatever shape pasta you want for this, but I liked the mini shells.

You can make this ahead of time and not bake until ready to eat (which is what I did) or you can bake as you make. Either way, you’re getting a dish of hot, bubbly mac and cheese at the end of the day and that’s never a bad thing.

Shells and Cheese

  • 1/2 pound small shells, cooked a couple minutes shy of al dente
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 3 cups of milk (I used 1% and it came out fine)
  • 1 tbsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • salt to taste
  • 12-14 oz shredded cheddar cheese – sharp or mild (I used mild, but I make it sharp next time)
  • 1 cup panko crumbs
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • 2-3 tbsp melted butter (I’m guessing since I didn’t do this part) or I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray

In a pot of salted water, cook pasta a couple of minutes shy of al dente.

(If you are not making ahead, pre-heat your oven to 350)

In a medium sized pot, melt butter. Once butter is melted, add flour, pepper, mustard, and onion powder. Whisk together until golden brown.

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Add in the milk and continue to whisk. The mixture will thicken up, but this will take time, about 10-15 minutes. Once mixture is thickened, add in cheese. Stir until cheese is completely melted. Taste and decide how much salt you want.

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Stir drained pasta into cheese mixture.

Spray casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour shells and cheese into casserole dish. If you are not baking now, refrigerate until ready to use.

 

If you’re baking now, make the topping.

To make the topping: Decadent version: melt butter, stir in panko crumbs. Remove from heat and stir in parmesan. Spread over shells and cheese. Leaner version: mix parm and panko in a bowl, spread over shells and cheese, spray with fake butter spray.

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Place tray in oven and cook about 30 minutes for non-make ahead, about 40 for refrigerated tray.

It’s not figure friendly, so I wouldn’t make this every week, but it’s really good on a really cold night.

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