Saturday, June 30, 2012

And the Winner is...

Thank you to all who participated in my Hodgson Mill giveaway!  There are still more days to VOTE by "liking" my pin on pinterest.

And now for the reveal you've all been waiting for...


# 27 - Dana from Dana's Food for Thought (an AWESOME blog that I love)!  I am thrilled she will be able to try to recreate her favorite pasta dish, penne a la vodka with 100% whole wheat pasta.  I think her (and her readers) are in for a treat!

Congratulations Dana!  Everyone - have a great weekend!  I have a few great posts next week...and can't wait to see you all then!
Friday, June 29, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Shirley Temple Popsicles

*Today is the last day of the Hodgson Mill's Giveaway - $25 worth of Whole Wheat Pasta + MORE - CLICK HERE TO ENTER*And please take a second to vote for me HERE*

Our family is growing, and no, I’m not pregnant.  I just mean that our family of 6 has truly become a big, boisterous family of 9.  I am loving every minute of it but what I love most is how our stories have grown.  Growing up in a family like mine, one that not only prioritized but preferred family time, we have a lot of funny stories.  They all go something like, when we were on vacation… because my family, well, we took a lot of vacations growing up. 

We took lots of road trips, camping adventures, and saw a ton of national parks; at least 2 vacations a year for a long while in there (from about ages 10 – 14 or so).  Hotels, camping, it didn’t matter.  What stands out most now, though, is the fun times we had together.  And those stories are just the fabric of our lives; they stitch us together and embroider our memories.  It’s how we remember where we’ve been together, and where we’re going, together.

This weekend’s bike ride consisted of a new memory, with the whole family.  We’ve been having a lot of those over the past year.  And for the first time, I got to include one in our soiree at the apartment.  K's fiance, E, loves Shirley Temples.  In fact, if we go out, he usually orders one – ignoring the ribbing and jokes from the rest of the family.  So when I saw this great post about Shirley Temple popsicles, I got right on them.  Just a little inside joke.  One more to add to the bank that I know will continue to grow, as we do, as a family.
Shirley Temple Popsicles (adapted from here)
Serves:  8
2 1/3 cups lemon-lime soda (I used 7-Up)
5 tablespoons grenadine
2 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
15 cherries, pitted and roughly chopped

Combine the soda, grenadine, and orange juice.  Fill all popsicle molds by evenly distributing the soda mixture.  Drop in an even amount of cherries.  Freeze at least 4 hours, best overnight, until firm. 

To get cherries throughout the popsicles, I dropped them in on top of each other (like a pyramid) which forced them throughout the pop.

Per Serving, Based on 8 Servings, from
Calories: 55
Carbohydrates: 14g
Fat: 0g
Protein: 0g
Sodium: 10mg
Sugar: 13g

Until the next time my oven is on…
Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Dorm Room Dinner: Grilled Veggie Sandwiches with Cilantro Pesto

*DON'T MISS OUT* I'm also still giving away $25 worth of Hodgson Mill products - Be a GFC Follower and CLICK HERE to enter*ALSO VOTE HERE!*

This week in June is a busy week for my family; my dad’s birthday was on Saturday and he got to pick how to spend his day.  His request was pretty simple, a bike-ride through Central Park with his family.  Doesn’t that sound nice?

Sounding nice and being nice are two completely different things.  First, it was like 85 degrees!  HOT!  Second, we biked for 3 hours.  I wondered throughout this time if Dad wouldn’t have been happier just riding as fast as he could around and around us in circles while we relaxed on the meadow.  Or in an air conditioned bubble.  I’d take either.

Regardless, it was a great time.  If I hadn’t just made these sandwiches for dinner, they would have been the perfect lunch in the park to cap off a great birthday!  The cilantro pesto I made yesterday and this one are completely different – this is a much more traditional pesto but with cilantro instead of basil.  It goes so nicely with the grilled vegetables and best of all – it only takes a grill and a blender.  YEAH!  That is my kind of summer dinner.
Grilled Veggie Sandwiches with Cilantro Pesto (adapted from here)
Serves:  4
Cilantro Pesto:
1 cup packed fresh cilantro sprigs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 red peppers
4 slices peeled eggplant (approximately 1/2 inch thick)
4 hard rolls, split
1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

In a blender, blend cilantro, Parmesan, garlic cloves, water, and pine nuts until well-blended.  Add oil while the mixture is blending.  Remove from blender and store in an airtight container up to 14 days.

Lightly coat the grill with cooking spray.  Grill peppers for about 10 minutes, until skins blister, turning frequently.  Place peppers in a large bowl and cover.  Meanwhile, grill eggplant slices, approximately 5 minutes, turning once. Also grill hard rolls, cut sides down, until lightly browned. 

To make the sandwiches, evenly spread 2 tablespoons of cilantro pesto on both cut sides of each sandwich.  Layer bottom roll with part-skim mozzarella cheese, peppers, and eggplant.  Place top half over the sandwich. Serve sandwiches immediately. 

Per Serving, Based on 4 Servings, from MyFitness
Calories:  359
Carbohydrates:  58g
Fat:  8g
Protein:  12g
Sodium:  547mg
Sugar:  10g
*We used Europa Kaiser rolls which were 280 calories EACH!  Subtract that from the calories above if you are going to use a different kind of roll and add the amount of calories yours has.  

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, June 25, 2012

Weeknight Dinner: Southwest Cilantro Pesto Pasta Salad

*Today is my Grandma's birthday - HAPPY BIRTHDAY AWA!  I'm also still giving away $25 worth of Hodgson Mill products - Be a GFC Follower and CLICK HERE to enter*
Friday was a great way to start out this Hodgson Mill contest, but I wanted to save the best for last!  Like I said last week, Hodgson Mill is family owned and operated and really focuses on making healthy foods.  The past few months with our revamped diets have been hard on both John and I, but in the end I am confident that being healthy today will ensure that we are still here, together, for many tomorrows.

And knowing what Hodgson Mill is all about:  organic, wholesome, naturally healthy foods, I knew they were the perfect companion to our new lifestyle (can we say thank goodness we found healthy pasta to eat?!  I LOVE me some pasta!).  I wanted to make a pasta dish that was good for the summer and good for your body. So I started with re-making the typical barbeque macaroni salad and bumped it up to make it the nutritious main dish.  To kick-up the nutrition factor, I added some black beans, tomatoes, and corn!    Substituting avocados for mayo and a cilantro pesto for the dressing, we were well on our way.

While the lime juice does keep the avocado from browning, I would suggest you serve it within a few hours.  To keep for a little longer (24 hours), store in the fridge with plastic wrap tight against the pasta, so the avocado does not oxidize (the less air we let in there the better).  Barbeques are one of my favorite ways to spend a Sunday and I knew we had a winner when this pasta salad went before the meat!
Southwest Cilantro Pesto Pasta
Serves:  6
1 box of Hodgson Mills Bowties
2-15.5 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups corn kernels
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes (sliced in half, if desired)
2 jalapenos, deseeded and diced
2 garlic cloves
1 bunch of cilantro
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 tablespoon white pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 avocado

Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Add black beans, corn kernels, grape tomatoes, and jalapenos.  Meanwhile, in a blender, blend garlic cloves, cilantro, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper, and pine nuts.  Slowly pour in the canola oil.  Once fully mixed, add the avocado and blend until smooth.  Toss pasta salad with the avocado-cilantro pesto.  Serve immediately. 

Nutrition Information per Serving (based on 6 servings) from MyFitnessPal:
Calories: 380
Carbohydrates: 52g
Fat: 12g
Protein: 14g
Sodium: 602mg
Sugar: 3g

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, June 22, 2012

Stand Out Sides: Mediterranean Pasta Salad + Giveaway

I am thrilled to be participating in Hodgson's Mill's Recipe Contest!  Hodgson Mill is well-known for their healthy products so I thought it was a perfect match that I enter their contest.  They were kind enough to send us 6 boxes of pasta to play with; needless to say, John and I had a great time!  In fact, such a great time that I will be featuring a second dish with their pasta on Monday.

I am in love with this pasta.  It combines the BEST whole wheat pasta, from Hodgson's Mills of course, with some of my favorite summer vegetables.  Eggplants and tomatoes are two things that I love about summer; they just taste of summer to me, and I love that all the vegetables in here can be made on the grill.

There is nothing worse in the summer than heating up the oven, that's for sure!  I don't know how its possible but for the tiny, tiny space our apartment is, it heats up FAST.  We can have all the windows open (we're lucky, we have a whole wall of windows), but the heat is only going in one direction - towards me!  One way to beat the heat is to make the delicious pasta salad.  Refreshing and delicious it just DRIPS summer!

Hodgson's Mills has been kind enough to sponsor a giveaway to coincide with our recipe contest!
THE PRIZE:  $25 worth of Hodgson's Mills goodies!  They will be sent directly from Hodgson's Mills to your door (US only please)

To enter: You must be a GFC follower of The Growing Foodie and write a comment about your favorite pasta recipe that can be transformed by 100% Hodgson's Mills whole wheat pasta.  For an extra entry, you can follow me on Pinterest and comment below; for a third entry, you can follow Hodgson's Mills on Pinterest, and come back to comment below (and while you're there, throw a like and repin my way please)! 
Timing:  All comments must be posted by Friday, June 29th.  I will announce the winner over the weekend.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Serves: 6-8
1 box of Hodgson's Mill Medium Shell Pasta
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 green peppers
1 onion
2 eggplants
2 tomatoes, diced
4 ounces herbed goat cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly cracked black pepper

Cook the pasta according to package directions.   Drain the pasta, toss with olive oil, and set in the refrigerator.  Halve the peppers and thickly slice the onion and eggplants.  Grill the vegetables on a grill over medium heat for 5-10 minutes, pulling each vegetable off as they are soft and slightly charred.  Roughly dice the vegetables, toss with tomato.  Mix the vegetables with chilled pasta, goat cheese, salt, and pepper.  Mix until goat cheese coats the vegetables.  Serve immediately, or store in the refrigerator

Nutrition Information, based on 6 servings, from MyFitnessPal:
Calories:  340
Carbohydrates:  59g
Fat:  5g
Protein:  16g
Sodium:  398mg
Sugar:  9g

Until the next time my oven is on...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Weeknight Dinner: Prosciutto, Arugula, and Lemon Pizza

Now that John is back, Friday night pizza nights are being kept religiously; and, now that it’s summer we’re trying to mix things up.  I love that this pizza can be grilled (per Cooking Light) or quickly baked (per Danielle with no outdoor grill).  And, best of all, it’s eaten at room temperature.  Top the pizza with cheese immediately after it comes out of the oven and the cheese melts all gooey and delicious!

I wish it wasn’t so high in calories because I could have eaten the whole pizza myself!  As it was, John and I took a nice long walk this night to make up for the overindulgence (who can resist that extra slice, I ask you!).  I also could not stop myself from eating the arugula off of almost all the leftover pieces.  It’s a perfect refreshing salad to go with any meal for summer.

The list goes on and on about how good this pizza is.  I loved having it for leftovers; we took it out of the fridge about 10 minutes before we wanted to eat it, and when it hit room temperature, dove right in!  A third of a pound of prosciutto was enough for this recipe and our Basque Chicken from yesterday with only a slice or two left over.  I love finding recipes that I can make in the same week but use the ingredients in new and different ways.  But I can see us recreating this week again and again!
Prosciutto, Arugula, and Lemon Pizza (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves:  4
1 of Mom’s Easy Pizza Dough with 1 clove of minced garlic and 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano kneaded into the dough
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3 cups packed baby arugula
5 ounces shredded fontina cheese
4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto

Make pizza dough (or buy pizza dough, etc.) and roll out into 4 rounds (or make one large pizza).  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Brush half of the olive oil over the tops of the dough.  Bake for about 10 minutes, until crust is lightly golden.  Meanwhile, toss remaining olive oil, black pepper, and lemon juice with arugula in a large bowl.  Set aside.

When the pizza is removed from the oven, top with shredded fontina, prosciutto, and then top with dressed baby arugula.  Slice and serve immediately.

Nutrition Information per Serving (based on 4 servings) from MyFitnessPal:
Calories:  408
Carbohydrates:  37g
Fat:  18g
Protein:  24g
Sodium:  1163mg
Sugar:  4g

Until the next time my oven is on…
Monday, June 18, 2012

Weeknight Dinner: Basque-Style Chicken

I’m having fun playing around with healthy dinners that don’t taste very healthy.  Both today and Wednesday’s recipes feature prosciutto.  Prosciutto, salty, delicious meat that you eat, just knowing, it is clogging your arteries on the way down.  And loving every second of it.  Or at least, I am.  It’s a very rare treat that we get any type of deli meat in our house. 

If it has spicy in the title, I know John will whole-heartedly agree to it (little trick I have learned over the past 2.5 years!), so when I pulled out this recipe he not only enthusiastically agreed, but also offered to HELP!  Wonders never cease.  Adding a small amount of prosciutto on the end makes it taste decadent when in reality, the meal is pretty healthy.  I served it with sautéed spinach and over 1/4 cup of yellow (saffron) rice each. 

The sauce is what really makes this meal.    Try to wait out your hunger and the delicious smells until the sauce is reduced into a chunky delight.  It’s worth it, trust me.  I also think this is the one dinner that John and I didn’t say a single word over except:  Grunt, Good, Grunt, Yum!  I’ll let you infer who said what.  It’s the perfect weeknight meal; easy, filling, healthy, and yes, extremely delicious. 
Spicy Basque-Style Chicken (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves:  2
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 skinless boneless chicken breasts (we used the thin sliced – about 2/3 of a pound)
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons sliced green olives
1 10-ounce can of petite diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup finely chopped prosciutto

Combine paprika and pepper.  Season chicken with the mixture evenly.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add chicken to pan; cook 4 minutes until well browned.  Add garlic to pan, cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).  Turn chicken over.  Add olives and tomatoes to pan; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat slightly and simmer 12-18 minutes, until sauce thickens.  Plate and sprinkle with prosciutto just before serving.

Nutrition Information per Serving based on 2 servings from MyFitnessPal:
Calories: 244
Carbohydrates:  13g
Fat:  10g
Protein:  28g
Sodium:  1405mg
Sugar:  6g

Until the next time my oven is on…
Friday, June 15, 2012

Date Night Dinner: Sausage, Pepper, & Onion Pasta

Even though I’ve let John plan much of each week’s menu, the fact of the matter is, he only gets to choose from my “healthy recipe binder” and I know that sometimes he really craves his old food.  Lets face it.  It’s not easy getting thin, staying thin, or taking care of yourself.  Being in NY with me then is both a blessing and a curse for him; I know he wants to lose the weight but he is human and he craves that delicious greasy food.  Also, who can blame him, I crave it too!  And I count on both of us keeping each other on track. 

Two weeks ago, we went to the food store without a list.  This is like my first cardinal rule:  NEVER go to the food store without a list; but we were already out and I had forgotten it.  And, of course, we passed the aisle of sausages.  The sale sticker caught my eye and I saw it was on the new chicken sausages from Johnsonville.  I let John choose the flavor, while I sorted out what to do with them.

To make the recipe at least somewhat health-friendly.  I used reserved pasta water (rather than a white wine or chicken stock) and lots of peppers and onions.  By the time we were done, my calorie counter estimated that the meal was approximately 520 calories per serving.  I served it with a large salad and it was a filling and satisfying meal.  Best of all?  John admitted the sausage tasted just like the real thing.  Looks like sausage (chicken, that is) can be added to our healthy recipe binder after all!
Chicken Sausage, Pepper, & Onion Pasta (adapted from Rachael Ray)
Serves: 4
4 links of chicken sausage (we used Johnsonville Red Bell Pepper)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper, sliced thin
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons black pepper
8 ounces pasta (1/2 box) (we used Barilla Farfalle)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons basil leaves, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Bake the chicken sausages in a small amount of water, turning once, for 10 minutes, until fully cooked through.  Slice into coins and set aside.  In a skillet, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and garlic and cook about 1 minute, until fragrant.  Then, add green pepper.  Turn the heat to medium and cook about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are all wilted.  Turn to low and add sausage coins.  Stir occasionally.

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add pasta.  Cook according to box directions.  When the pasta is ready, drain all but 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Add the vegetables and sausage from the skillet into the pasta.  Mix to combine.  Add parmesan cheese and basil leaves, stirring well.  Serve immediately.

*NEW BIG NEWS:  I have been using MyFitness Pal for the last 3-ish months in a bid to make my lifestyle healthier.  Even if you don't adhere strictly to their calorie limits EVERY day, it's always helpful to know how much you are eating.  The first month I was shocked at how my portions controlled my calories and how much I actually ate.  On the website, you have the option of making your own recipes and then others can find them on a database.  Starting with THIS recipe, you can search "The Growing Foodie" and my recipes will come up.  The ingredients, directions, and servings are all the same as on here (it stinks that the current website doesn't share others recipes with you, but if you're already there, try some of my recipes for your meal tonight!*  I will try to go back and add my previous posts (all 300+ of them) over time.  But all new recipes will also be located on MyFitness Pal!

Nutrition Info Per Serving From MyFitness Pal:
Calories:  520
Carbs:  53 grams
Fat:  24 grams
Protein:  26 grams
Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Skinny Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Although this recipe is delicious, I cannot take credit for it.  No blogger is an island and in my case, I have made mention many times of my family and their importance to me.  Last week was E's birthday and K, having just had her wedding dress fitted, wanted to make his birthday special.  Special, but also health conscious.

E loves Pineapple Upside-Down Cake but K was shocked by the number of calories in even a small slice.  So she went ahead and made her own.  K is nothing if not tenacious, E is a wonderful complement to her in that way.  She utilized Skinny Taste's Pineapple Bliss Cupcakes to make a version of Pineapple Upside Down Cake that we could all enjoy without the worry. 

It was a good thing she went light on the desserts because we descended on a local barbeque joint for dinner (makes us sound very Southern...not the real case) and ate our full.  Well, maybe everyone didn't but I certainly did.  I probably ate my weight in barbeque.  Healthy eating is great but if you can't have some fun once in a's something I could never fully stick to.  The other benefit is these are going to be the easiest cupcakes you've ever made (and they look gorgeous)!
Skinny Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Serves:  24
*Each cake has 132 calories*
1 yellow cake mix (we used Betty Crocker)
1 20-ounce can crushed pineapple (DO NOT DRAIN)
1 pineapple
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon butter, melted
12 maraschino cherries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Combine cake mix and crushed pineapple with juice.  Divide cake batter evenly into greased cupcake tin.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until fully cooked through.  Let cool.
Meanwhile, remove the skin from the pineapple.  Cut the pineapple into 12 rings and then each ring into 8 chunks.  Combine chunks with brown sugar and butter.  Once the cupcakes are cooled, decorate each cupcake with 4 pieces of pineapple.  Cut each cherry in half and add to the center of each cupcake.  At this point, you can place them under the broiler on HIGH for about 1 minute (no longer) to warm them through.  Or, you can choose to serve them immediately.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, June 11, 2012

Weeknight Dinner: Jerk Chicken and Stuffed Peppers

I feel like Cooking Light has become my cooking bible.  Just today, John and I pulled out the Cooking Light June edition (pizzas!) and set to work picking out recipes for us to make over the next few weeks.  One of the most fun parts of having John living with me now in NYC is picking out what our dinner menu is going to look like.

He probably feels like a 5 year old because I post it on the fridge (mostly so I can remember).  Then in the morning, before I leave for work, any sous chef-y things that he can take care of, I leave him a list of with the recipe.  When I get home dinner is practically made and we can throw everything together and eat immediately.

Even if you don't have a sous chef, this dinner comes together quickly.  Cooking Light says 40 minutes but the actual cooking time is only about 20.  If you make the marinade before (I love when marinades sit overnight), your actual time from fridge to plate is actually more like 30 minutes.  The original recipe also calls for chicken thighs but we had chicken breasts in the freezer.  I sliced 2 breasts into 4 so they would cook faster and we'd get more meals out of them.  It was a great lunch, too!
Jerk Chicken and Stuffed Peppers (adapted from Cooking Light Magazine May 2012)
Serves:  4
1/3 cup shallots, divided
4 garlic cloves
1 serrano chile, stemmed and deseeded
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, divided (about 2 limes)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
2 chicken breasts, sliced horizontally into 4 thin breasts
cooking spray
1/3 cup 1/3 less-fat cream cheese (neufchatel)
2 tablespoons cilantro
2 tablespoons light sour cream
2 bell peppers (one green, one red)

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.  Combine 1/4 cup shallots, garlic, and serrano in mini food processor.  Process until chopped fine.  Add sugar, 2 tablespoons lime juice, oil, and allspice and process until smooth.  Combine half of this mixture with the chicken in a large bowl.  Toss well*.  Coat grill with cooking spray and place chicken on the grill.  Cover and grill 5 minutes.  Brush chicken with remaining onion mixture and turn over, grilling an additional 5 minutes, until fully cooked through.  Combine remaining shallots, lime juice, cheese, cilantro, and sour cream.  Quarter the peppers lengthwise (discard seeds).  Divide cheese mixture evenly among pepper halves.  Place the peppers on the grill for 7 minutes, until peppers are lightly charred.

*Do this ahead of time!  Marinade the chicken overnight for more robust flavors, and a faster meal. 

As you all know, living in NYC means we don't have a place where we can really barbeque, but these came out great even on our little Foreman grill we keep in the kitchen.  It was a crowd pleaser and one we will certainly make again through the summer.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, June 8, 2012

Dorm Room Dinner: Reuben Sandwiches

With work being so busy and John spending most of his time making our house a true home, the only quality time we get to spend together, without interruption, is dinner time.  Our typical night goes something like "Honey, I'm home", "I'm starving".  And on nights I know I'm going to be home later than normal, I've been choosing some healthy sandwiches that John can get started on before I walk through the door.

Cooking Light's magazine (and online recipe trove too) has been our go-to now that we're trying really hard to continue our healthy journey, together.  In the May 2012 magazine, we found "Half the Calorie" recipes; you wouldn't have to be a genius to figure out which John immediately asked to make.  The Reuben Sandwich.

Our dinner time is sacred because we sit at our table (which is currently one large box in the middle of the floor...don't judge us) and talk through our days.  It's the one thing I look forward to most (besides my bed) at the end of a long day. 
Reuben Sandwiches (adapted from Cooking Light Magazine May 2012)
Serves:  4
3 tablespoons canola mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chili sauce
1 tablespoon minced dill pickle
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon grated onion
4 kaiser roll
8 thin slices Swiss Cheese
1/2 pound lower-sodium corned beef, thinly sliced
1 cup organic sauerkraut, drained well

In a small bowl combine all dressing ingredients.  Set aside.  Preheat the broiler.  Place rolls on a heavy baking sheet.  Broil bread until toasted (about 2 minutes).  Divide cheese evenly sprinkling it over lightly toasted bottom roll.  Add Swiss and corned beef to bottom roll and broil an additional 2 minutes, until cheese is melted.  Top with sauerkraut.  On the other half of the roll, spoon dressing over evenly.  Top sandwich and serve immediately.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Weeknight Dinner: Pork Loin with Spicy Red Wine Blackberry Sauce

Ever since I moved, I've kept out my long-held recipe binder frequently flipping through the pages.  This recipe has been in the binder for too long to remember; but how this recipe really started is actually much simpler.  It started with Mom.

Mom is always good for new inspirations.  This time it was courtesy of Mom's super saving skills when she found blackberries on sale at Target for CHEAP!  Immediately, I called one of the huge packages she had knowing that the minute John came home, I would make this.

As life would have it, it wasn't the first dinner I welcomed him home with.  But it was one that we enjoyed soon after his arrival.  The sauce has a complex flavor that I really loved - it was tangy, spicy, and not at all what you'd expect considering its composition.  Take the time to strain the sauce; the blackberries break down and the seeds aren't pleasant to eat alone!
Pork Loin with Spicy Red Wine Blackberry Sauce (adapted from Rachel Ray)
Serves:  4
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 large sprigs thyme
3 cups frozen blackberries
1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 pound pork tenderloins, at room temperature and patted dry
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  In a small pot, heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium heat.  Add the shallot and thyme and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add 2 cups blackberries, wine, balsamic vinegar, honey, and crushed red pepper.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until liquid is reduced by half (about 20-25 minutes).

In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat.  Season pork with the salt and pepper.  Cook all sides until browned, turning frequently (about 10 minutes).  Transfer the skillet to the oven and roast the pork until cooked through (15-25 minutes).  Transfer to a cutting board.  Let rest for 5 minutes and slice thickly.

Strain the blackberry sauce through a strainer.  Discard the solids and return the sauce to the saucepan.  Stir in the remaining berries and warm over low heat.  Divide the pork slices and spoon sauce over each portion.

Until the next time my oven is on...

Monday, June 4, 2012

Weeknight Dinner: Spinach White Pizza

For John's first weekend home, we celebrated with this delicious pizza.  Friday nights are always pizza nights in our house; I like to use whatever is in the refrigerator at the time so it usually consists of sauce, cheese, and random toppings that could range from caramelized onions to a cup of pulled pork.  I made a special trip for this pizza though because I wanted to welcome John home in style.

He loves spinach so it was an easy decision to make white pizza.  Another reason to make white pizza?  I had lots of leftover ricotta from my eggplant parmesan.  It was pre-spiced thanks to my "student", and by that I mean it was filled with red pepper flakes.  I froze it on purpose knowing that John would be all over spicy cheese!

I wasn't wrong.  He walked through the door and his eyes lit up.  You made PIZZA!  Yes, I did make pizza.  And then after one bite, I think he was wondering who his girlfriend had turned into after these last few months.  Did I finally love spices?  Sorry to disappoint, I spilled the real reason for our spicy white pizza but by that point he didn't care.  He was just so happy:  to be done moving, to be home, and to have a spicy dinner waiting for him.  That's my boyfriend; he likes the simple things in life.
Spinach White Pizza
Serves: 4
1 pizza dough
1/3 cup ricotta
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups baby spinach
6 ounces mozzarella, shredded

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Roll out the pizza dough onto a pizza pan.  In a small bowl, combine ricotta, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, and oregano.  Set aside.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil over high heat.  Add garlic and stir constantly, so garlic does not brown.  Add spinach and lower heat to medium-low.  Let the spinach "wilt", tossing frequently.  After about 5 minutes, remove the spinach and evenly distribute over the ricotta.  Top with shredded mozzarella.  Bake 15-20 minutes until the crust is golden brown.  Serve immediately.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, June 1, 2012

Sassy Sweets: Tiramisu

It’s amazing how different my life is when I live alone versus when John finally gets here.  The last few weeks have been a flurry of activity preparing myself and our apartment for his arrival.  In fact, his first words when he arrived home, exhausted yesterday, was wow the apartment looks CLEAN. 

I’m not sure if that’s a testament to how he left it (half moved-in) or my normal cleaning skills (completely possible).  I’m not much of a launderer or cleaner for that matter.  But, we all do know that I can cook!  And I cooked up a storm knowing that his return was imminent.

First on the list was tiramisu, John’s all-time favorite dessert.  I make a quick and easy (yet delicious) version that he loves.  In our never ending healthy quest, I served smaller portions, and reduced fat cream cheese but it’s still an extremely rich dessert.  I like to put chocolate shavings on top for a little hint of chocolate and a beautiful presentation (just like you’d get in our favorite North End restaurant).
Serves:  9 (9x9 pan)
8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese
16 ounces mascarpone cheese
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons amaretto
1 cup of warm coffee, brewed (I like to use French Vanilla)
32 lady fingers (I like Stella Dora Margherite Cookies)

Beat together cream cheese, mascarpone, sugar, and amaretto until well-mixed.  Place a large piece of tinfoil in a 9x9 pan.  Dunk 16 lady fingers in the coffee mixture, 2-3 seconds, and place in the pan next to one another, with no holes.  Top with 1/2 of the mascarpone mixture and cover the cookies.  Dunk the remaining lady fingers in the coffee mixture, 2-3 seconds, and place over the mascarpone mixture (forming a 2nd layer of lady fingers).  Top with remaining mascarpone mixture and smooth.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Top with sifted cocoa powder or chocolate shavings for serving. 

This is best made 1-2 days ahead so the flavors meld and the lady fingers get super soft.  A great make-ahead dessert (and perfect for the summer because it involves ZERO cooking and is served cold). 

Until the next time my oven is on…
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Welcome! I'm Dani (aka the Growing Foodie), just a girl balancing her career and passion for all things edible in NYC. I hope you'll join me in my adventures in life, through food. (Click for More)
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