Tag Archives: entree

Easiest Ever Porkchops and Roasted Butternut Squash.

Around this time last year, my friend Shawn hosted a holiday cooking party.  She invited over a group of friends for wine, appetizers and dinner.  But before the big meal, she channeled her inner Giada and showed us all how quick and easy it was to prepare the super delicious, good for you meal.  Ever since, this meal has graced my table at least twice a month.  You can prepare and cook both the pork chops and the butternut squash at the same time.

Shawn’s Easiest Ever Pork Chops

– 1 Package Boneless Pork Chops, butterflied if preferred

– 1/2 Bottle Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette Dressing

– 1 Pacakage Goat Cheese, crumbled

– 1/4 Bag Trail Mix with Nuts, Seeds and Dried Fruit (I always use Trader Joe’s Oh My Omega Trek Mix)

Preheat oven to 350.  Arrange pork chops in a baking dish and cover with dressing.  Top with goat cheese and trail mix.  Bake for 35-40 minutes.

Shawn’s Roasted Butternut Squash

– 1 Butternut Squash, cubed (I leave the peel on to add extra nutrients, but you could certainly peel it as well)

– Honey (a big drizzle should be enough)

– Cinnamon, to taste

– Nutmeg, to taste

– Cayenne, to taste

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix all ingredients together and pour into a baking dish.  Bake for 35-40, until tender.

Baked Rigatoni with Spinach and Meatballs.

Happy Friday, everyone!  This blog update is actually a two-fer.

A few weeks ago, we had some spaghetti and meatballs that a friend had made.  Turns out, the Fruitaholic really went crazy for the meatballs.  When I asked my friend for the recipe the other day, she kind of laughed and said that they were from Trader Joes!

So, I was all set to run over to TJ’s to stock my freezer when I came across a recipe for a pasta bake with mini meatballs.  BINGO.  I had found tonight’s dinner, and already had most of the ingredients at home.

I tweaked the recipe a bit for both the meatballs and the pasta bake and they came out great. I added an entire bag of baby spinach, which allowed me to “sneak” another vegetable into the Fruitaholic’s diet.  I’m really glad that we decided to split the dish into two small casserole dishes and freeze one so that we have another one waiting for a day when I’m too lazy to cook!  We used all of the meatballs in the pasta bake (except for the 6 or so that the Fruitaholic gobbled down) so I’m going to make another batch for the freezer this weekend.

This recipe can be made even healthier by using whole wheat pasta, adding additional vegetables, and subbing ground turkey or chicken for the ground beef.  It’s super adaptable, which I love!

Baked Meatballs – inspired by The Parsley Thief

– 1 Lb Ground Beef
– 1/2 Cup Panko
– 1/4 Cup Parmesan
– 1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley, Chopped
– 1 Egg, Lightly Beaten
– Generous Splash of Milk
– Generous Splash of Worchestershire
– Salt and Pepper, To Taste

Preheat oven to 425.

Combine all ingredients and mix gently by hand.  Form into balls (size of your choice) and place on a lightly oiled, foil lined baking sheet.  Bake for 12-25 minutes, until browned and cooked through.

Baked Rigatoni with Spinach and Meatballs – inspired by and adapted from The Parsley Thief

– 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
– 1 Onion, Chopped
– 4 Cloves Garlic, Smashed and Sliced
– 1 Can Diced Tomatoes, Drained
– 1 Jar Pasta Sauce
– 1 Box Rigatoni, Cooked Al Dente
– 1 16 oz Bag Baby Spinach, Chopped
– 1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley, Chopped
– 1 Container Ricotta
– 1/4 Cup Parmesan
– 1 Container Baby Mozzarella Balls, Halved
– Baked Meatballs (see above recipe)
– 1 Pinch Nutmeg
– Salt and Pepper, To Taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Warm olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add tomatoes and cook 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to low, add sauce and cook an additional 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl, combine spinach, parsley, ricotta, parmesan and nutmeg.  Add pasta, meatballs and sauce and mix to combine.  Reserve some sauce for serving.

Transfer to baking dish and top with mozzarella.  Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove foil and bake until browned, about 5 minutes.

Secret Ingredient Chili and Cheddar Herb Beer Bread.

After enjoying what was probably our last few days of Indian Summer, it’s been a dreary weekend here in Chicago  It’s dark and rainy just all around blah.  Days like this just kill my motivation to do anything other than sit on the couch and tend to my frontier on Facebook (I know, it’s an unhealthy addiction).  But there I was, standing in front of an empty refrigerator with a hungry family waiting to be fed.  While the Fruitaholic napped (and the Husby played his video game), I dragged myself to the grocery store to pick up a few things to get us through the night.  On these chilly Autumn evenings, nothing hits the spot better than a big bowl of warm chili.

Helping me feed my obsession to any and all flavors of Fall, I added a “secret” ingredient to this batch of chili: Pumpkin.  I say it’s a “secret” because the Husby is starting to put his foot down whenever I mention the word pumpkin in relation to food.  We’ve had Pumpkin Lasagna, Pumpkin Meatloaf Muffins, Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes, Pumpkin bread (from a box mix) and Pumpkin Seeds, and there’s at least one pumpkin dish on my menu for next week.

The Husby’s reaction to the first bite?  “Mmmm, this is really good, what’s in it?”

I’ll never tell…

“Secret Ingredient” Chili

– 1 Lb. Ground Beef or Ground Turkey
– 1 Package Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage, casings removed
– 1 Onion, diced
– 2 Cans Rotel Tomatoes
– 1 Can Pinto Beans, drained and rinsed
– 1 Can Dark Red Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
– 1 Can Canellini Beans, drained and rinsed
– 1 Can Pumpkin Puree
– 16 oz Stout Beer (I used Guinness)
– 1 Tbsp. Chili Powder (or more, to your preferred level of hotness)
– 1 Tbsp. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
– 1 Tsp. Cinnamon
– 1 Tsp. Sugar
– Salt and Pepper, to taste

Brown ground beef over medium high heat until browned, then drain.  Repeat with sweet italian turkey sausage.

Add diced onions to a skillet with 1 tbsp oil, and brown until slightly soft, about 5 minutes.

Combine all ingredients in a large pot and mix well.  Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 90 minutes.

Serve over elbow macaroni and top with sour cream, cilantro and a generous amount of cheddar cheese.

I served this chili with a loaf of Cheddar and Herb Beer Bread.  It was quick, easy and really flavorful.  It was really good for sopping up the chili left at the bottom of the bowl.  The great thing about beer breads is that you can customize them however you want, using whatever herbs, spices and other additions to suit your liking.  I followed this recipe exactly because I still have some rosemary and thyme growing in my backyard.

Cheddar and Herb Beer Bread – from Joelen’s Culinary Adventures

– 3 Cups Flour

– 2 tsp. Baking Powder

– 1 tsp. Salt

– 1/4 Cup Sugar

– 12 oz Beer

– 1 tsp. Chili Powder

– 1 tsp. Chopped Fresh Thyme

– 1 tsp. Chopped Fresh Rosemary

– 1/2 tsp. Black Pepper

– 1 1/2 Cup Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Preheat oven to 375.  Combine all ingredients and pour into a greased loaf pan.  Bake for 50-55 minutes.

Bombay Sloppy Joes and Massaged Kale Salad.

It probably comes as no surprise to most of you that I watch a lot of television.  I tend to fall victim to teen dramas, NBC sitcoms and reality show competitions.  And while I’ll admit that I do watch a lot of crap (as I’m often lovingly reminded so by the Husby), I’m proud to say that I’ve never seen an episode of Jersey Shore.

When the Fruitaholic was first born, we watched a lot of the Food Network.  I’d listen to Rachael Ray rasp at me during feedings, wonder during diaper changes how Paula Deen was still alive as she used pounds of butter in her dishes and get lost in Giada’s teeth when the Fruitaholic woke during the night.  We joked that with the amount of Food Network shows seen throughout his first few months of life, the Little Dude had no choice but to become a chef.  It was then that I started watching the Next Food Network Star.

This past season, Aarti Sequiera was my favorite from the beginning.  She had a great on-camera presence, a likeable personality, and an idea for a show that really hadn’t been done before.  I’ve always been enamored by Indian flavors, but never really thought that a home cook such as myself would be able to recreate those dishes in my kitchen.  Aarti has a great blog that she still keeps up with even though she’s a big star now.

This meal comes from Aarti’s first episode.  I really loved that she took a familiar dish and added her own spin to it.  We served this when we had friends over for dinner and everyone agreed that it was great.  Even the babies gobbled it up!

Bombay Sloppy Joes – created by Aarti Sequiera, as seen on Food Network.

For the Sauce:

– 2 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil

– 1 Tbsp. Fresh Ginger, minced  **TIP: keep extra ginger root in the freezer.  It will keep for months**

– 2 cloves Garlic, minced

– 1/2 Serrano Chile Pepper, seeded and finely minced (save the other half for the turkey)

– 1 tsp. Garam Masala

– 1/2 tsp Paprika

– 1 15 oz Can Tomato Sauce

– 1 Cup Water

For the Turkey:

– 3 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil

– 1/4 Cup Shelled Pistachios

– 1/4 Cup Raisins

– 1 tsp. Cumin Seeds

– 1/2 Large White Onion, Finely Diced

– 1 Red Bell Pepper, Seeds and Membrane Removed, Finely Diced

– 1/2 Serrano Chile Pepper, Seeds Intact (do not chop)

– 1 Lb. Ground Turkey

– 1/2 tsp. Honey

– 1/4 Cup Half and Half

– Salt, to taste

– Small handful Chopped Fresh Cilantro (soft stems included)

– Buns (I used Arnolds 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Thins)

Begin making the sauce.  Over medium heat, warm the oil in a saucepan until it shimmers.  Add ginger, garlic and serrano pepper.  Saute until the ginger and garlic brown a little.  Add garam masala and paprika and saute for 30 seconds.  Stir in tomato sauce and water.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet.  Add pistachios and raisins, and cook until the raisins plump and the pistachios toast slightly.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Return the pan to medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of oil and warm.  Add the cumin seeds and sizzle for 10 seconds.  Stir in the onions and bell pepper, saute until softened and starting to brown, about 8 minutes.  Add serrano pepper and saute for another few minutes, seasoning with salt.  Stir in the turkey, break up any big lumps and cook until opaque, about 5 minutes.

Once the sauce is ready, pour into the skillet with the turkey.  Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the mixture has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

Remove the serrano pepper, add the honey, half and half, pistachios and raisins.  Stir through until well combined.  Before serving, garnish with fresh cilantro.  Toast the buns, fill with the turkey mixture and serve.

Massaged Kale Salad – created by Aarti Sequiera, as seen on Food Network.

– 1 Bunch Kale, stalks removed and discarded, leaves torn or thinly sliced

– 1 lemon, Juiced

– 1/4 Cup Olive Oil, plus extra for drizzling

– 2 tsp. Honey

– 1 Mango, Diced

– Salt and Pepper, to taste

– Small Handful Toasted Pepitas

In a serving bowl, add the kale, half of the lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and salt.  Massage with your hands until the kale starts to soften and wilt, about 2 to 3 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together remaining lemon juice with the honey and lots of freshly ground black pepper.  Stream in the 1/4 cup of oil and whisk until a dressing forms.

Pour the dressing over the kale, and add the mango and pepitas.  Toss and serve.

Pumpkin Meatloaf Muffins with Cranberry Topping and Apple-Potato Pancakes.

again, it's not so pretty. has anyone ever taken a good picture of meatloaf?

By now I think everyone is aware of my obsession with pumpkin, and now that the weather has changed, I’m craving comfort food, and I do love me a good meatloaf.  The grocery store had ground turkey on sale last week for 2/$5 so I took advantage and stocked up.

We’ve recently taken to making meatloaf in muffin form since they’re single size servings, easy for little hands to pick up, and freeze really well.  Plus, they look really cute when you “frost” them with mashed potatoes.

The Husby, Fruitaholic and I all enjoyed these muffins, but thought they were a little on the bland side.  It’s really my fault since I didn’t use any seasoning whatsoever besides sage, salt and pepper.  I’ll definitely make this again, but next time I’ll use a mirepoix (Trader Joes sells a prechopped mix, which is good since I’m time constrained), some garlic, allspice and more sage to add a little bit more flavor.

Pumpkin Meatloaf Muffins with Cranberry Topping – adapted from Veggie by Season.

– 1 lb. Ground Turkey

– 1 Cup Pumpkin Puree

– 1 Egg

– 2/3 Cup Oatmeal

– 1 tsp. Sage

– 1 Tbsp. Worchestershire

– Salt and Pepper, to Taste

– 1 cup Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

Preheat oven to 400.  Lightly coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.

Combine all ingredients except cranberry sauce in a mixing bowl.  Scoop portions into muffin tin, leaving about 1/4 inch at the top of each round.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Heat cranberry sauce until warm.  Spoon on top of each meatloaf muffin.

Apple-Potato Pancakes – from Weight Watchers

– 1 Potato, peeled

– 1 Apple, peeled, cored and quartered

– 4 tsp. Onion Flakes

– 1 Egg

– 1/4 tsp Cinnamon

– Salt and Pepper, to taste

Shred potato and apple using a box grater.  Stir in onion flakes.  Transfer to a strainer and press out as much liquid as you can.  Wait one minute, then press again to drain.  Stir in egg, cinnamon, salt and pepper.

Coat a skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high.  Using a cookie scoop and working in batches, drop potato mixture into skillet and flatten to form a pancake.  Cook until golden, about 3 minutes, then flip and do the same.

Almond Crusted Tilapia with Wilted Tomatoes and Spinach.

I like fish.  Well, at least I want to like fish.  I can eat sushi all day every day and shellfish without a problem, but when it comes to cooked fish, I get a little bit leery.  I don’t like fishy-tasting fish.  I’m afraid to order fish I haven’t had before.  But tilapia?  It’s a nice, mild white fish and it’s both delicious and versatile.

This is one of my go-to meals.  It’s super easy, really yummy, and good for you!

Almond Crusted Tilapia – adapted from All Recipes

– 4 Tilapia Fillets

– 1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese

– 1/2 Cup Ground Almonds (I ground mine using the Magic Bullet)

– 1 tsp. Lemon Pepper

– 1 tsp. Garlic Salt

– 1/4 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper

– 1 Egg (I use 2 egg whites, or the equivalent of 100% Egg Whites)

– Flour, for dusting

– Additional parmesan cheese, for sprinkling

– Fresh Parsley, for serving

– Lemon Rings, for serving

-1 Tbsp. Olive oil

– Cherry Tomatoes

– Spinach

Put a handful of spinach on each serving plate.  In a skillet, heat olive oil.  Add cherry tomatoes and cook until they pop, about 8-10 minutes.  Top spinach with tomatoes and set aside.

Beat eggs with lemon pepper, garlic salt and crushed red pepper.  Set aside in a shallow bowl.  Combine parmesan cheese and ground almonds in another shallow bowl.  Dust tilapia filets with flour, shake off excess.  Dip tilapia in egg, then press each side into the almond-cheese mixture.

Using the same skillet as before, cook tilapia until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.  Reduce heat to medium and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  Cover and cook until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes.

Place the tilapia over the bed of spinach and tomatoes.  The heat from the fish will wilt the spinach.  Top each fillet with a lemon wedge and sprig of parsley.

Pumpkin Lasagna

It might not be pretty, but it is delicious!

Well, there’s no arguing around these parts that it’s Fall.  The cooler weather has taken over and the leaves are changing colors and falling off the trees.  I’ve traded in my tank tops and capris for hoodies and jeans.  It’s my favorite time of year.

Sure, it means Summer is over and Winter and it’s nastiness is right around the corner, but there’s just something about Fall that makes everything seem right in the world.  Fall brings the arrival of Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Bacon and Cheddar Apple Pies (check back soon for the recipe).  Fall is made for family gatherings around the dinner table or at the apple orchard.  It’s the flavors and aromas that I love about Fall… The scent of burning leaves when you step outside, the warmth of the fire from the fireplace, the mugs full of hot chocolate and yummy things baking in the oven.

Once the weather turned, I was chomping at the bit to make this recipe.  I combined two different recipes and added a few things on my own to create just the right flavor I was looking for.  The touch of sweetness was a welcome addition… Not too overwhelming. The Husby claimed it was like “dinner and dessert all in one bite.”  My original plan was to use chicken and apple sausage as the protein but, of course, the grocery store was out.  Luckily, I found a sweet italian turkey sausage that worked just fine.

What is your favorite thing about Fall?

Pumpkin Lasagna – Adapted from Prevention RD and Food Mayhem

– 1 Package No-Boil Lasagna Noodles
– 1 Package Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage, casings removed
– 1 Onion, chopped
– 1 Package Sliced Mushrooms
– 1 Bag Baby Spinach
– 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
– 2 Tbsp. Butter
– 3 Cloves Garlic, minced
– 2 Cans Pumpkin
-1 Cup Half and Half (I used fat free)
– 2 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
– 2 tsp. Maple Syrup
– 1 tsp. Cinnamon
– 1/2 tsp. Nutmeg
– 1 Tbsp Dried Sage
– 15 oz. Ricotta
– 1 bag Shredded Mozzarella
– 1 cup Parmesan
– Salt and Pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375.

Saute mushrooms and onions in the olive oil until tender, about 10 minutes.  Add spinach and cook until wilted.  Set aside.

Brown sausage and set aside.

Melt butter in a saucepan.  Add garlic and stir until golden brown.  Add pumpkin, half and half, sage, brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Stir until warm then set aside.

In a 9×13 baking dish, spread a layer of pumpkin sauce, followed by a layer of noodles.  Add another layer of pumpkin sauce.  Top with half of the vegetable mixture, sausage, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan.  Repeat once then top with remaining noodles and sauce and the remainder of the mozzarella and parmesan.

Cover dish loosely with foil and bake for 45 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.