I have studiously avoided making dishes like this. I mean, a classic macaroni and cheese is supposed to be decadent and creamy. It is difficult to lower the fat and calorie content while still maintaining that moist, creamy, cheesy flavor.
But I have changed that.
It took me several attempts to get this recipe just right. My first idea was to use nonfat, plain Greek yogurt instead of the cream that is found in traditional macaroni and cheese. This was perfect, except that when I tried to omit the butter of traditional macaroni and cheese, the result was a dish that was too dry.
In my early iterations I substituted pureed, roasted butternut squash for the butter to add some creaminess to the dish without the fat. This just didn’t do the trick, though, the macaroni still came out too dry. Then inspiration hit.
Avocados are creamy and higher in fat, albeit healthy fats, and it was the perfect substitute for butter. Plus it added an unexpected twist of flavor, perfect with the roasted poblano and jalapeno peppers. The result is an oven baked macaroni and cheese that feels decadent yet isn’t. Winner!
What’s your favorite trick to “healthify” a recipe?
In searching for a pairing for my Slow Cooker Red Lentil, Sausage and Kale Stew, I wanted a wine that would complement the earthy, spiciness of the stew without overpowering it like some big reds tend to do. This 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from St. Bartholomew is perfect for that. It’s a very easy drinking wine, good on its own or with a dish such as this.
The St Bartholomew Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 is a perfect partner to my Slow Cooker Red Lentil, Sausage and Kale Stew.
St. Bartholomew is actually a label produced by Reininger winery exclusively for their distributor. Reininger is arguably currently one of the hottest wineries in Washington state’s Walla Walla Valley wine region.
Rated an average of 88 points, the St. Bartholomew Cabernet Sauvignon is an excellent budget buy at under $14/bottle. The bouquet is light but on the palate flavors of red fruit and dark chocolate come through. What’s not to like about that?
Click here to buy a bottle. (For those of you local to Portland, check New Seasons, Vinopolis or Avalon Wine)
Click here for the recipe for my Slow Cooker Red Lentil, Sausage and Kale Stew.
As with any part of a healthy lifestyle, always enjoy alcohol responsibly and in moderation.
I know, I know, I too am dreaming of backyard barbecues and fresh garden veggies. But mother nature has other ideas, she likes to take her time in returning the sunshine to my neck of the woods. The temperatures are still chilly, the rain is still falling, and the wind is still blowing. So why not continue putting my slow cooker to work?
I especially love a slow cooker dish that requires almost no prep work, like this creamy, hearty Red Lentil, Sausage and Kale Stew. Literally, all I do is throw some ingredients in the pot, set it to cook, and it’s done. Does cooking get any easier than that?
Are you still using your slow cooker? What is your favorite dish?
Cooking with fresh vegetables and fruit means using what’s in season. I love to craft recipes using the produce that pops up in the farmers market stalls. The only problem is that it’s often gone in a flash, and that’s what happened as I worked to develop this particular recipe.
I started this recipe using a delicata squash, the sweetness of the roasted squash is a perfect foil for the tart pomegranate. When I finally perfected the recipe, though, I went to the store to pick up another delicata to prep for the blog, and was disappointed to find that it had entirely disappeared from every store.
So I had to start over.
I settled on the acorn squash because it too has a lovely sweet flavor as well as a tender thin skin that can be eaten when roasted up. Perfect! Just be sure to try this now when you can still find these sweet squashes on the shelves.
To add some heartiness to the salad and make it a filling entree, I used sorghum. Sorghum is an ancient grain, often found in Indian cooking. It is similar to pearl couscous in appearance and texture but has a little more crunch to it. It’s a great source of fiber and is a good gluten-free alternative.
I love it when I find the absolutely perfect wine to accompany a dish, and they don’t come any more perfect than this 2012 Cotes de Gascogne from Domaine Saint-Lannes.
Domaine Saint-Lannes is located in the Gascogne (aka Gascony) region of France, which is situated in the southwest corner of the country along the border with Spain. Farmed by the Duffour family for more than 50 years, the limestone soils and plateau vineyards of the Domaine create a dry wine that is fresh, fruity and crisp.
A blend of 80% Columbard and 20% Gros-Manseng, it boasts a wonderful bouquet of citrus, peach and flowers. On the palate, flavors of orange zest, peach and herbs mingle perfectly with my Tangerine Ginger Salmon and Vegetables en Papillote. It literally is a match made in heaven.
And the best part? This wonderful wine is less than $10 a bottle! So what are you waiting for? Grab a bottle and give it a try this Wine Wednesday!
I received a promotion at work along with a stellar performance appraisal and a really, really nice bonus. I splurged and bought myself a racy, red, little sports car, my first non-mom car ever. And, drum roll please… I have met someone.
Or maybe re-met someone would be a more accurate statement. Let me explain.
Back in high school, I was friends with, and had a crush on, this guy, we’ll call him J. He was the cool kid, played in a band, and rocked the guy-liner and big hair that the 80s are so famous for. Towards the end of our senior year, we had one hot night in the backseat of my mom’s car. (Sorry Mom!) I’m not sure why we didn’t continue to see each other, but shortly after that I met my now ex-husband and I never saw J again.
Fast forward almost 25 years later and I suddenly get a friend request and private message from J through Facebook. He’s back in town after living in other parts of the country, so we decide to get together for a drink and to catch-up. He came over to my place and we spent almost 4 hours just talking, laughing and drinking. It was like stepping into an old pair of comfortable shoes, I found myself sharing things that I’ve never told anyone else, except maybe my therapist. And if you’ve read my blog posts on my dating adventures you know how awkward I get around guys, so this was huge for me. Perhaps because during that time with J, I wasn’t intentionally flirting or in search of a relationship, it was just two old friends catching up. Completely platonic.
At the end of the night, we promised to stay in touch and J left. Maybe 10-15 minutes later he calls me and says to me, stuttering nervously, something to the following effect:
“I’m kicking myself for not doing this before I left, I was just so nervous around you. But I have to tell you this so I’m pulled over to call and tell you that you’re beautiful and amazing and I want to take you out. I want to date you.”
How sweet is that? His nervousness was just so cute that of course I had to say yes. And then he got giddy, practically giggling on the phone. Cutest. Thing. Ever.
So we’ve been seeing each other for a month now, kind of a tricky feat since J works nights and I work days. I feel like I’ve found my best friend though. We talk for hours on end, sharing every bit of our inner selves, and best of all he loves every inch of me just as I am. That’s right, not more of this or less of that, but just as I am. In fact this week he told me that he has fallen in love with me. I’m not there yet, I’m a little cautious with my heart due to past experience. When I told him that, though, he smiled and told me that’s okay, he’ll wait for me to catch up. I told you he’s cute.
I am so completely happy right now that I just want to shout it from the rooftops. So what better way to share my joy than through my blog?
But you’re probably here for the food right? Okay, okay. Let me shift gears and get back to your regularly scheduled programming.
A tender salmon filet is perched on a nest of carrots and green beans then topped with a glaze of sweet tangerine juice and peppery ginger root. A few sundried tomatoes are then sprinkled on top for additional flavor.
Full of healthy fats and nutrients, salmon is a perfect fit for a healthy lifestyle. If you haven’t tried cooking it in the French “en papillote” style of cooking, you really need to give this a try. It’s an easy way to cook salmon without having to add lots of additional oil. Sometimes I cook it with just a little lemon juice and herbs. The fish and vegetables steam inside the paper packet, creating a sauce that coats the vegetables. Plus, there’s no mess to clean up.
Salmon should be cooked at 400F for 10 minutes per 1-inch of thickness.
For this particular dish, I first create a glaze using sweet tangerine juice and peppery ginger root. I then slather that on the top of the salmon filet, which is nestled atop a bed of carrots and green beans. During the baking process, the glaze combines with the fish and drips down through the vegetables, creating a meal that is out of this world.
With the en papillote style of cooking, the salmon and glaze create a delicious sauce that coats the tender vegetables.
And the best part? This is a super quick dish as well, perfect for a weeknight wonder. The entire meal takes about 20 minutes to prep and cook. Score!
Have you cooked meals en papillote before? What’s your favorite?
Tangerine Ginger Salmon and Vegetables en Papillote
When searching for a wine to steam some lobster tails in for a special Valentine’s Day meal, I immediately thought of a Chardonnay for that great buttery texture that the variety is known for. I chose this Penfolds for the subtle lemon characteristics of the wine that make it such a great match for seafood.
I love Penfolds in general because they consistently deliver good quality wines at affordable prices. This Chardonnay is no exception at about $10 or less per bottle.
The Penfolds Koonunga Hill Chardonnay 2012 is a beautiful pale straw color that swirls prettily in the glass.
While there are several Penfolds Chardonnays to choose from, the Koonunga Hill blend is made from fruit sourced from multiple vineyards in the Penfolds family, all located in Australia. Penfolds has a long history in the land down under, established in 1844 near Adelaide by Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold and his wife Mary. Today the Chief Winemaker is oenologist Peter Gago who has helped to bring Penfolds into every major wine market in the world.
A medium bodied Chardonnay, the Koonunga Hill blend has distinctive fruit characters and a subtle underlay of moderate oak. On the nose, you get a bouquet of nectarine and honey while on the palate flavors of stonefruit and meyer lemon dominate, with that traditional silky, buttery texture of Chardonnay. What could be better with lobster?
The Penfolds Koonunga Hill Chardonnay 2012 is perfect with my Chardonnay Steamed Lobster Tails with Saffron Risotto.
So give this Penfolds Koonunga Hill Chardonnay a try with my Chardonnay Steamed Lobster Tails with Saffron Risotto this Valentine’s Day. It’s not only perfect for steaming the lobster tails in, but it also makes a great partner to the meal in a glass.
I know that New Year’s resolution to get healthy is waning, but don’t let it! Just in time to reinvigorate your resolve, I’ve updated my Healthy Salads cookbook with new recipes. Let me show you how easy it is to eat healthy and keep your resolution without compromising on taste!
Healthy eating is all about balance and moderation. I have a passion for creating recipes that are both nutritionally and calorically smart. In my own personal quest to live a healthy lifestyle, I am always in search of great tasting food that will pack a nutrient-rich punch without blowing my calorie budget. And this is what I am here to share with you in my series of cookbooks.
One of my personal favorites is this beautiful Ensalada Rusa, featuring roasted potatoes and fennel tossed with tuna, arugula, and peas in a roasted garlic tarragon aioli. Divine!
I’ve compiled a collection of my salad recipes, some available on my blog and some not, in this handy e-book. Available for Kindle, Nook, iPad, and other formats, it’s just $1.49. That’s right – for about the price of a cup of coffee you will have a library of recipes for healthy salads at your fingertips. Plus, links to bonus video content make the recipes foolproof for even the novice cook. Who can pass up that great of a deal?
And of course I included my own personal favorite, my Ensalada Rusa. With a piece of warm, crusty bread, this salad is absolutely to die for. So what are you waiting for? Get your copy today!
You’ve probably surmised by now that I like cooking. Kind of a no-brainer.
What you probably don’t know about me is that I love a guy that can cook as well. Call me weird, but there’s something infinitely sexy about a man in the kitchen.
Good food is like sex on a plate. Okay, I’m not unpracticed nor modest enough to claim that food is as good as sex. However, it can be (almost) equally pleasurable. Good food should seduce the eyes and nose, tantalize the taste buds, and leave you desiring more.
Good food should seduce the eyes and nose, tantalize the taste buds, and leave you desiring more.
I created this meal to do just that. What could be more perfect for a lover’s meal this Valentine’s Day?
I start by prepping the lobster tails. Cut down the back of the tail with a sharp pair of scissors then pull the meat out, remove the membrane, rinse the meat and shell in cold water, then season the meat with a bit of salt and pepper before stuffing it back in the shell. I like to run a skewer through the entire tail lengthwise so that it doesn’t curl up when it cooks. But wait – one more finishing touch before I cook it – I place a small pat of unsalted butter, just 1 tsp, in the crevice running down the back of the tail. The butter will melt up during the cooking process and coat the lobster meat with additional flavor.
Use a sharp pair of kitchen shears to cut the shell from front to back, lengthwise, down the top of the tail.
Use your fingers to remove the meat from the tail. Rinse both the meat and shell in cold water then pat dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle the meat with a bit of salt and pepper then insert back into the shell.
Insert a small skewer through the meat, lengthwise, to keep it from curling up during the cooking process.
Break a 1 tsp pat of unsalted butter into pieces and insert into the crevice along the top of the tail.
It’s important that both the lobster and the risotto finish cooking at the same time as both need to be served immediately. So once the tails are prepped, I set them aside and begin cooking the risotto.
The risotto starts with a minced shallot sauteed in olive oil. I add a generous pinch of saffron to the rice once I start adding the broth in, it adds an exotic warmth to the dish that is perfect for an occasion such as this. The secret to a good, creamy risotto is to slowly add in the liquid. I use a salt-free chicken broth for extra flavor. The best method is to add one ladle of broth to the rice, let it absorb and then add another ladle of broth; keep repeating this until the rice is cooked through.It’s important to never let the rice get completely dry, you always want a little bit of liquid in the bottom of the pan.
To bulk up the risotto and add some nutritional value, I like to add in some chopped sundried tomatoes and artichoke hearts. The flavors combine exceedingly well with the saffron. Make sure to add them towards the end of the cooking cycle for risotto, you want the vegetables warmed through but not overcooked. Once the risotto is cooked, I add a bit of chopped Italian parsley for color and some shredded Parmesan cheese for additional creaminess and a slight nutty flavor.
Steaming the lobster over Chardonnay wine and herbs infuses a ton of delicate flavor without adding calories.
Of course, before the risotto is done cooking you also want to cook the lobster tails. I got the idea to steam the lobster over wine from my aunt who prepared some fresh crab in much the same way. Simply place some Chardonnay and herbs in the bottom of a large saucepan; I used some thyme to enhance the slight lemon flavor from the Chardonnay and a bay leaf. Once the mixture comes to a boil, place the tails in a steamer basket about 1″ above the liquid then cover and let steam for 8 minutes. The result is a tender lobster full of flavor, yet no additional calories because it didn’t actually cook in the wine.
How would you thank your honey for making this decadent meal?
I would squeal with delight if my man made me a dish such as this. Let’s hope he does the same when I serve this on Valentine’s Day.
Chardonnay Steamed Lobster Tails with Saffron Risotto
Use a pair of sharp kitchen shears to cut down the top of each lobster tail lengthwise.
Use your fingers to gently pry open the shell and remove the meat from each shell.
Remove the membrane from the lobster. Rinse the meat and shell in cold water.
Season the lobster meat with salt and pepper then place back into the shell.
Place a pat of 1 tsp unsalted butter in the crevice down the back of each tail. Push a short skewer through the tail, lengthwise, to keep it from curling up while cooking. Then set both tails aside for now.
In a small saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil then reduce to a simmer.
Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot to the skillet and saute until lightly browned.
Add the arborio rice to the skillet and stir to coat with the oil. Let cook for 1-2 minutes until very lightly toasted.
Add 1 ladle (about ½ cup) of the chicken broth to the risotto. Stir in the saffron and salt. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the liquid is almost absorbed. Add another ladle of broth, cook and stir until it is absorbed, and repeat until the rice is cooked.
With about 2 ladles of broth left to add to the risotto, you want to start the lobster. Place the chardonnay, a thyme, and bay leaf in the bottom of a large saucepan. Place a steamer basket in the pan so that it sits about 1″ above the liquid.
Bring the chardonnay to a boil. Place the lobster tails in the steamer basket, cover the pot, and steam for 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
When adding the last ladle of broth to the risotto, stir in the sundried tomatoes and artichoke hearts.
Once the rice is cooked through, turn off the heat. Stir in the Italian parsley and parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
Make sure to use dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts that are not packed in oil!
For something like my Roasted Butternut Squash and Wild Mushroom Risotto, which boasts hearty sweet and earthy flavors, I went in search of a light-bodied red wine. I wanted something that would pair well with the earthy tones of the dish without overpowering it. This 2010 Pinot Noir from Red Door Cellars is a slam dunk.
Hailing from Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley, this is a low price entry into the Pinot Noir market that makes for a great everyday drinking wine. With aromas of cherry and a hint of leather and dirt, on the palate the wine is light with a definite red fruit flavor, herbs and a subtle peppery finish. The bright ruby color is spectacular in the glass, evoking dreams of the spring to come.
I loved the bright, lighty fruitiness of the wine with this risotto dish. It makes for the perfect partner without overpowering the food. And isn’t that exactly what I was looking for?