Thursday, March 10, 2011

Blog Slacker and Kale

So I have failed miserably at updating the blog lately. I sincerely apologize. I have been distracted by other things and haven't made time.

I did make an exciting food discovery this week: Kale!

I have never eaten kale before so this was kind of going on a whim. I had heard of people using it in soups and things like that but I recently found a recipe for crispy kale chips... I was intrigued. So after reading a few recipes this is what I came up with:

Crispy Kale Chips
3 Stalks of Kale
Olive Oil Cooking Spray

Wash and dry the kale. It is important to get as much water off as possible!!! Do not put wet kale in the oven.

After drying, pull leaves off the stalk into bite size-ish pieces and spread them on a baking sheet. Spray a few times with cooking spray and bake in a 350 degree oven for 6-10 minutes.

Check them at about 6 minutes, if the leaves are starting to turn brown, they can become bitter. Chips are done when they crush easily (think dried fall leaf crushing).

Remove from the oven, dust lightly with salt. (For the third batch I made this week, I put Tony Cachere's Creole Seasoning on them.... it was kind of awesome!)

And now, enjoy! I can totally eat a whole pan of this by myself and if you don't go overboard with the spray, they are 0 points plus value! Hooray!

Ooooh! Just a side note, Chris and Dad both really liked them too!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Nom nom nom

This week has been an excellent week in food. I am going to do a restaurant blurb some time this week of the place Chris and I went for our Valentine's meal. It was delightful. In the meantime, here is the week in review....

Baked Ziti was awesome! I couldn't find Ziti in a Smart Taste or whole grain variety so I used Penne Rigati instead. Here is a pic.

Chris didn't even mind the spinach that much.

The Zucchini Casserole was amazing! The pork chops were really good too. I don't really like pork chops that much, but this recipe is a keeper!

One thing I did learn: While I was grating the zucchini for the casserole, it went everywhere. I even had zucchini in my hair. So I decided when the recipe said grated onion, I needed protective eye-wear.

Here is the finished product. It was delightful even cold the next day as leftovers.

The rest of the week I do not have pictures for but I will say this. The chicken cordon bleu was highly acceptable. I did make one tiny substitution. I don't really like swiss cheese so I used a slice of 2% Pepperjack cheese instead. It was delightful! I also used pepperjack on the Chili Mac for Friday and it gave it a nice kick. Hope you enjoy and try some of these amazing recipes.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Product Spotlight

I have been thinking about my blog and while I think the food is good, I think I need a little something else. I have decided to occasionally do some product spotlights.

My first product spotlight is the Williams-Sonoma Swissmar Peelers

These bad boys are awesome! I received this set for Christmas after using a serrated peeler over the Thanksgiving break and falling in love. The set comes with traditional straight edge peeler, a julienne peeler, and a serrated peeler. Also, not pictured, they come with hand-dandy covers for each one so you don't risk slicing your finger reaching for them in the drawer.

I don't know about any of you, but I hate peeling potatoes with a traditional peeler. I find I am more likely to slice my fingers open than remove skin from the potato. A serrated edge peeler is the answer to this!! It makes quick work of potatoes... even sweet potatoes. I have also used it to peel Butternut squash (if you have ever peeled one of these, one know this is miraculous). I have attached the blurb off the WS website about these peelers and even though my use is not exactly consistent with their description, I think we should think outside of the manufacturers box. I must say, well worth the $15 investment.

"Reduce prep time with the help of our Swiss-made peelers. Their extremely sharp blades zip over all sorts of fresh produce and other foods with ease.
Set of three includes a straight, serrated and julienne peelers.

Straight-edge peeler removes skins from root vegetable and firm fruits.
Serrated peeler is ideal for delicate produce like tomatoes, kiwis and mangoes.
Julienne peeler creates fine strips of anything from carrots to firm cheese.
Peelers have side cutters for removing potato eyes or blemishes.
For right- or left-handed use.
Surgical-grade stainless-steel blades.
Dishwasher safe.
A Williams-Sonoma exclusive."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Menu for the week of February 14th

Day late and a dollar short is the story of my life. Here is this weeks menu (starting with today)

Tuesday- Baked Ziti with Spinach

Wednesday- Pork Chops with Zuchinni Casserole

Thursday- Chicken Cordon Bleu and Broccoli and Cheddar Potato skins

Friday- Chili Mac

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Pasta Fagioli

Ok, I will say this at the beginning. This first blurb is not about food. If you just want the recipe, skip to the bottom.

Pasta Fagioli (I wish I could insert a phonetics guide for "Fagioli" but I am not sure how to emulate that sound with letters)

This dish is terribly nostalgic for me.(Insert jokes about me being my father's daughter here) Whenever I think about Pasta Fagioli, I always think of my great-grandmother. The crazy thing about it is, I really only my met my great-granmother once that I actually remember and she didn't even make Pasta Fagioli that visit. Lucky for me, my Dad is a master of the lost art of Oral Tradition. So here is a tidbit about Gramma Tessa's story.

My great-grandmother, Antoinetta Menadio, was actually born in America to Italian parents. When Gramma was very young, they moved back to Italy, where she grew up. Well, as frequently happened around the turn of the 20th century, the village where Gramma grew up received a letter from one of the young men from their town who was living and working in America. Apparently this young man (Grampa Menadio and yes, they had the same last name before they were married) had been married and had a young daughter and sadly his wife had passed away. He found himself in a bind with having no one to care for his daughter and his work visa was going to expire. He needed to marry someone who was hopefully an American citizen and it would be nice if she was from his hometown. Gramma, being one to seize an opportunity and an American citizen, said she would go. So she came back to America and married Grampa. Now Grampa Menadio was a railway worker and they didn't have a lot of money. Pasta Fagioli is a poor man's meal and they ate it alot because of it's simple and inexpensive ingredients. I think this is why I think of her. Sadly, Grampa Menadio was killed in a work related accident(if I am not mistaken). So, Gramma remarried another Italian man: Grampa Gambatessa (Hints: Gramma Tessa... no little kid could say all that). My Gramma was a very independent woman who loved to cook, loved her family, and never missed Church even when it was mid winter in Cleveland. Up until only a short time before her death, she lived by herself in an old Italian neighborhood. Most of these stories are because I have been told by my Father but here is what I remember.

The one visit that I remember to her house, my fondest memory was of her kitchen. It was very small but everyone crammed around her tiny linoleum table while she cooked. You couldn't escape without eating. Even if you told her you had just eaten, she would put her hand on your "pancia" and command "Eat, eat!" I think this was my first encounter with Calamari and she made the best homemade tomato sauce. We ate and ate and ate.

Enough nostalgia... here are the goods ;) Courtesy of

Pasta Fagioli (Pasta and Beans)
Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes
Servings: 5 large bowls • Serving Size: about 2 cups • Old Points: 5 pts • Points+: 6 pts
Calories: 254.5 • Fat: 3.4 g • Protein: 10.3 g • Carb: 47.5 g • Fiber: 6.8 g
1 tbs olive oil
1/2 onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 15 oz can cannellini beans
15 oz can tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1 large bay leaf
1 tbsp basil
1 tbsp parsley
1 tsp oregano
2 (14 oz each) cans fat free chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegetarians)
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
1-1/2 cups (6 oz) dry Ditalini pasta or other small pasta
Grated Parmigiano or Romano (optional)
In a deep pot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat.

Blend the can of beans with one can water in electric blender until almost smooth.

Add blended beans to pan then add the can of tomato sauce, celery, carrots, chicken broth, basil, bay leaf, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Add 1 cup water and bring to slow boil. Let simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Add pasta and cook uncovered until pasta is al dente, according to pasta directions.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with grated cheese (extra pts).

I am not sure how authentic it is, but this recipe is very good and brings back good memories.

Wednesday Night Tacos

Yummo! I love tacos! These were way up there on the list of "Love it" recipes.
The inspiration recipe, for lack of better terminology, is a Rachel Ray recipe featured in the February 2011 edition of her magazine, "Every Day with Rachel Ray." The recipe is called "Smoky Poblano-and-Portobella Tacos" so if you want to look up the original recipe, I am pretty sure it can be found on her website. What you will find here is my adaptation to make it a bit more figure friendly.

Here goes:

4 Poblano Chile Peppers
3 Sprays of Cooking spray
3 medium Portobella mushroom caps, thinly sliced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp of Cumin (or more... I tend to add a lot since I love Cumin!)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 roasted red pepper, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of Beer*
Corn tortillas
Cheese, sour cream, lime wedges, and cilantro for topping the tacos

Char the poblanos on a grill or under the broiler until blackened all over. Place the peppers in a bowl and cover until cool enough to handle. Wipe off the charred skin, seed, and slice.

(Make sure the peppers get fully blackened or you will have a really hard time getting all the skin off)

In a large skillet, heat the cooking spray over medium to medium high heat (I used a cast iron skillet so I went with medium). Add the mushrooms and cook until darkened and softened, 7-8 minutes. Add onion, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, and pepper and cook for 10 minutes longer. Deglaze the pan with beer and stir in the poblanos and red peppers.

According to the original recipe this should make 12 tacos so divide it up evenly. I guesstimate on points a bit and by my calculations one taco with 1 tablespoon of cheese was 5 PointsPlus.

For the black beans I went the easy route this week.

1 can of black beans
1 can of Rotel
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 1/2 tsp Cumin

Add all ingredients to a pan, heat through.
3 Points Plus per approx. 1/2 cup serving.

Now... the rockin' guacamole... I cannot tell you how hard it was not to eat this whole bowl... the only thing holding me back was the points. This is from the site... so good!

Gina's Weight Watcher Recipes
Servings: 6 • Size: 1/6th • Calories: 149.4 • Points: 3 ww pts
Fat: 13.3 g • Fiber: 6.1 g • Carbs: 8.8 g • Protein: 1.8 g
3 medium hass avocados, halved
1 lime, juiced
1/3 cup red onion, minced
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
kosher salt and fresh pepper
Place the pulp from the avocados in a medium bowl and slightly mash with a fork or a potato masher leaving some large chunks. Add lime juice, salt, pepper, cilantro and red onion and mix thoroughly.

This was a very pointalicious meal. I could have cut it back to a more manageable PointPlus value by skipping the guacamole... but I love guac! Here is my plate... heaven help me... 19 Points Plus total. However, if you are willing to do it... its worth every weekly point. ;) (They would probably kick me out of a Weight Watchers meeting for saying that)

Menu for the week of February.... whatever this week was

I have been a total slacker this week. I have sat down several times to try to blog and couldn't muster the motivation. Well, better late than never I guess.

My menu didn't quite work out this week so this is what we had for dinner:

Monday- Chili Cheese Dogs and Butternut Squash Fries

I used Oscar Mayer 98% fat free hot dogs (still only 1POINTSPlus), the generic version of Sara Lee Light and Delightful hot dogs buns, and a homemade veggie chili. For cheese I used Kraft 2% Mexican Blend.

Butternut Squash Fries
3 spray(s) olive oil cooking spray
1 pound(s) butternut squash, peeled, seeded, long “neck” cut into sixteen 3/4-inch-thick sticks*
1 tsp table salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp chili powder, or to taste (optional)
• Preheat oven to 450ºF. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
• Arrange squash fries on prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and chili powder; liberally coat with cooking spray.
• Roast, turning once, until desired crispness, about 14 to 18 minutes. Yields 4 fries per serving.

This is a Weight Watchers Recipe but it was short so I just put it in instead of the link. Oh, and their Points Plus... just 1 teeny weeny point!!

Tuesday- Not what I planned but it was $2 burrito night at Moe's... so we had $2 burritos

Wednesday- Veggie Tacos, Guacamole, and Black Beans

I am going to write a separate entry for this so check the list.

Thursday- Chris ate Pasta Fagioli and I ate Creamy Spinach Penne

This probably seems ridiculous, but Chris really doesn't enjoy spinach and I love it. So I conceded and made 2 dishes. I am going to make a separate entry for the Pasta Fagioli but here is the recipe for the Penne (courtesy of, 9 points plus per serving).

Creamy Spinach Penne
3/4 lb. fresh spinach leaves, stemmed
4 cups penne pasta, uncooked
1 clove garlic
1 cup BREAKSTONE'S or KNUDSEN 2% Milkfat Low Fat Cottage Cheese
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup KRAFT Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tsp. dried basil leaves, crushed
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 jar (12 oz.) roasted red peppers, drained, chopped
make it

ADD spinach to large pot of boiling water; cook 1 min. Remove spinach with slotted spoon, reserving water in pot for cooking pasta. Rinse spinach with cold water; drain well. Chop spinach; set aside.

RETURN water to boil. Add pasta; cook 10 min. or just until tender. Meanwhile, blend garlic in blender until minced. Add spinach, cottage cheese and milk to blender; blend until smooth. Blend in Parmesan and seasonings.

DRAIN pasta; place in large bowl. Add spinach mixture and red peppers; mix lightly.

I left out the red peppers because I didn't feel like making a huge mess, it was just as good.