Weeks ago when I was working on my recipe for Chili Roasted Butternut Squash Farro Salad, the thought occurred to me: why not use this same preparation technique for the squash in a real chili recipe? Oh my what delicious thoughts that conjured!
And so I set about crafting this recipe for Chili Roasted Butternut Squash Chicken Chili.
I started with the butternut squash prepared exactly as I prepared it for my salad, but that is where the similarities ended. I then used my deep cast iron skillet to brown up some lean ground chicken with red onion and a spicy jalapeno for extra heat. Finally, I mixed in some diced tomatoes, tomato paste, cannellini beans, chicken broth, and the roasted butternut squash cubes.
All that was left to do was to reduce the heat to low, cover, and let the chili cook for an hour. This is probably the most torturous part of this cooking adventure as the amazingly delicious smells that waft from the kitchen will leave your mouth watering and your eyes watching the clock. The final slow cook is absolutely essential to a flavorful, thick chili though.
As with any good chili, I like to serve this with a chunk of cornbread. It’s true comfort food on a cool wintry evening.
I’m not sure there’s anything better than spending a cold, rainy Sunday in the kitchen, slowly crafting a masterpiece. As I mentioned last week, I’ve been experimenting a lot with braising, which is perfect for such days. I casually yet deliberately layer in flavor after flavor, slowly cooking the tender meat and vegetables in a sauce that thickens to tasty perfection. The result is a dish of warm, satisfying, comfort food at its best.
For this week’s recipe, I’m taking another trip to Italy with this Red Wine Braised Beef Braciole. I experimented with several cuts of beef when crafting this recipe and I ended up preferring flank steak the best. To keep the portion size in control, I use a 1 pound cut that I pound to about a 1/2″ thickness with a mallet. I then top the beef with tender leaves of fresh baby spinach, a blend of mozzarella, provolone and parmesan cheese, chopped sundried tomatoes, and a bit of sharp garlic. To finish the preparation, I roll the steak up and secure it with kitchen twine. That’s the first layer of flavor.
The rolled, stuffed steak is seared hot and fast in herbs and olive oil.
The next layer of flavor starts by heating olive oil on medium high heat in a dutch oven or deep skillet that can go from stove to oven. I add in some finely minced fresh herbs, basil and rosemary to be exact, letting them lightly crisp and brown in the olive oil to release their unique aromas. That’s the second flavor layer.
Next we add the steak to the herbs and olive oil. The key here is to sear the rolled flank steak hot and fast on all sides. The beef crackles and pops when it hits the hot oil and I use a pair of tongs to roll it in the oil, searing all sides. The meat is then removed from the pan and set aside.
The tender steak and linguine tossed in the rich, red wine braising liquid are ready to be served.
And now we start the fourth layer of flavor, and I think this is my favorite part. Left behind in the pan after removing the beef are little bits of succulent deliciousness crusted and stuck to the bottom of the pan in the now browned oil. With the pan still on medium high heat, I quickly pour in a bit of red wine and a loud hiss of steam erupts. The wine bubbles and boils as I use a wooden spoon to stir it and scrape the bottom of the pan, releasing all these stuck on bits and starting the basis of the sauce.
And now the final flavor layer. The pan is removed from the heat and I add the beef back in with a bit more wine and a small handful of sundried tomatoes. Finally, I cover the pan and move it into the oven on a low heat, just 325F, and bake it for an hour. To get the beef evenly flavored and colored with the wine, I like to turn the stuffed and rolled steak over midway through the cooking process.
A beautiful Beef Braciole sliced and ready to eat.
The resulting beef braciole, slices of meat that are pan-fried or grilled, often in their own juice or in a small amount of light olive oil, is so amazingly tender and full of flavor. And yet, there’s this thick, rich sauce left in the bottom of the pan. Who in their right mind would discard something so full of flavor?
So to finish the dish, given that this is of Italian inspiration, I like to stir some al dente linguine into the sauce and let it soak up the flavors of red wine, beef, olive oil, and sundried tomatoes. I then serve the sliced beef braciole over a mound of the saucy linguine for the perfect rainy Sunday Supper.
This is the time of spring that I enjoy the most. The time when fresh produce like asparagus and leeks begin to pop up at my farmer’s market, and when I start crafting my summer garden. This year I decided to relocate two of my beds to capture a little more sunshine so I hired a guy to come out and till up the new area. Once I dug the bed frames in, I covered them with some organic compost and sat back to plan the layout.
This year I found all of my plants at a local Master Gardener’s organic plant sale. I highly recommend checking for these sorts of sales in your area, it’s a great way to support a great group, the plants are always top quality, and they have an excellent selection of both common and unusual varieties. I find, though, that when I actually go plant shopping my well laid plans always go awry.
That’s right, I am an impulse plant shopper. My eyes are bigger than my garden beds, unfortunately, and once I get my bounty home I’m always searching for pots or space to dig my treasures into.
My plan this year:
8 tomatoes (2 cherry tomato varieties, 2 romas, 2 red brandwine, 1 purple cherokee, and 1 early girl)
2 crookneck squash
2 cucumbers (pickling and lemon)
What I ended up with:
8 tomatoes (3 cherry tomato varieties, 1 roma, 2 red brandywine, 1 purple cherokee, and 1 early girl)
1 spineless beauty zucchini
1 romesco zucchini
1 yellow zucchini
1 crookneck squash
1 patty pan squash
1 delicata squash
1 butternut squash
1 mini “Little Finger” eggplant
2 cucumbers (pickling and lemon)
12 lettuce (because they came in 6 packs and I wanted both a red and green)
Yes, I got a little carried away. You can expect to see lots of recipes featuring tomatoes, summer squash and basil this summer, and lots of fall squash recipes later in the year too. And let’s not even talk about all the salad I’m going to be eating.
What you won’t see in my garden are leeks, and that’s mostly because these harbingers of spring are in season right now so it’s a bit late to plant them. Much milder than their cousin, the onion, leeks are a great add to recipes this time of year. They are superb with creamy, baby potatoes. I mean, is there anything better than a really good leek and potato soup?
I set out to create a gratin type dish incorporating leeks and, not to toot my own horn, but I think I created a real winner with this Creamy Bacon Leek and Potato Skillet. I start by crisping up the bacon, just 2 slices to keep the fat content down, and then I brown the leeks in the bacon grease. That’s really key to the flavor of this dish because the leeks just soak up the bacon flavor.
Instead of the cream and butter traditionally used in a gratin, I use Greek yogurt thinned with an off-dry Riesling wine for additional flavor. I chose an off-dry Riesling because it pairs really well with sharp blue cheese, which is the cheese I chose for this dish. The result is a one-dish wonder that is creamy, deceptively cheesy, tender and absolutely delicious.
What is your favorite vegetable to cook with this time of year?
Salty bacon flavors a one-pan dish of sweet spring leeks and tender gold potatoes that is cheesy and creamy yet still low in fat and calories.
2 slices thick cut bacon
2 fresh leeks, cleaned, trimmed and thinly sliced into the light green part
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
3 oz. crumbled blue cheese (divided)
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
¼ cup off dry Riesling wine
1 lb. fresh gold potatoes, sliced paper thin on a mandolin slicer
¼ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Heat 10" oven-safe skillet on medium heat. Add the bacon (cut in half if necessary to fit in the pan). Cook until the bacon is crispy. Remove and set on paper towels to let the grease dry. Once dry, chop into crumbles and set aside.
Keep skillet on medium heat and leave about 2 tbsp bacon grease in the pan (drain the remainder). Add the leeks and cook until browned, about 10 minutes.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, 2 oz. of the blue cheese crumbles, wine, thyme leaves, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix and set aside.
Remove pan from heat and remove the browned leeks from the pan and set aside. Arrange about ¼ of the potato slices along the bottom of the pan. Top with ⅓ of the browned leeks,1/3 of the yogurt mixture, and ⅓ of the bacon crumbles.
Repeat 2 more times, layering another ¼ of the sliced potatoes, ⅓ of the leeks, ⅓ of the yogurt mixture, and ⅓ of the crumbled bacon with each layer.
End with the last layer of potatoes, so you should have a total of 4 layers of potatoes and 3 layers of the leeks, yogurt mixture and bacon.
Combine the bread crumbs, parsley and remaining 1 oz. of crumbled blue cheese then sprinkle this mixture over the top of the potatoes.
Cover the skillet with foil and bake for 1 hour covered at 375F then remove foil and bake 15 minutes more.
Let sit for 5 minutes before cutting into 4 wedges and serving.
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?
The weather has been nasty across the country this week, so isn’t it fitting that January is National Soup Month? The wind has been howling and the rain pouring down in buckets here in the Portland area, so it’s a perfect time for big pot of hot, delicious soup.
I’ve made tomato soup before, you might recall my Tuscan Tomato Soup that I posted very early on in my blogging career. This one is different though because I’m using fresh tomatoes instead of canned. To add depth of flavor, I decided to slow roast the vegetables for this soup, along with a bulb of garlic. The result is a soup that has complex flavors of smoke and caramel layered with juicy tomatoes and sweet roasted garlic.
This soup is easy to make vegan by simply using a clear vegetable broth instead of the chicken broth that I like to use. I have great tips on making your own homemade broth in my Soups and Stews cookbook, which by the way is recently updated with new recipes.
Where most tomato soups use cream, I didn’t. Instead, I like to add cannellini beans, or white kidney beans. Once pureed you wouldn’t even know they’re there. However, they add a nice pop of protein to the dish while also creating a thick and creamy soup. With each bowl weighing in at under 300 calories, it’s easy to add a side salad and small chunk of hot crusty bread to round out the meal and not blow your calorie budget.
Trim the top off of the bulb of garlic exposing the cloves. Place in a small ovenproof container. Drizzle 1 tsp of olive oil over the exposed cloves. Place the top of the bulb back in place, cover the dish and set aside.
Place the tomatoes, carrots, onion, salt, needles from the rosemary sprigs, and red chili pepper flakes in an ovenproof pot and toss to combine.
Drizzle the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil over the tomato mixture and stir, ensuring everything gets coated with the oil. Place the bay leaf in the center of the pot and cover with the vegetables.
Bake the garlic covered at 375F for 1 hour; remove from oven and set aside.
At the same time, bake the tomatoes covered at 375F for 30 minutes. Stir then place the lid back on so that it's slightly ajar, leaving a crack at the edge. Bake for another 30 minutes. Remove the lid from the tomatoes. Stir. Bake uncovered for 1 more hour, stirring at halfway (30 minutes) into the cooking time.
Move pot to stovetop on medium heat. Remove bay leaf. Deglaze the pan with the red wine and cook until wine reduces by half.
Add the broth, cannellini beans and the cloves of the roasted garlic. Stir to combine.
Puree the soup until smooth.. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
To minimize the sodium content, I used dried cannellini beans that I cooked the day prior. Also, the nutritional value of the red wine has been reduced by half since the wine reduces in the cooking process. Finally, I highly recommend using an immersion blender to puree the soup - they are inexpensive and make the job so easy!
Winter paid an early visit to the Pacific Northwest last week. Various days brought us snow flurries, freezing rain, ice, and temps that dipped down into the low teens. I bundled up in my coat, hat and gloves when outside, and inside I lived in layers of sweats and slippers, but it still seemed as if I would never get warm.
It’s times like this that I crave hot soups or stews with some warm crusty bread. Snuggled under a blanket, watching a good movie on the TV, and spooning warm bites of deliciousness into my mouth, it warms me from the inside out. The best thing about a slow cooker dish is that it’s so effortless to make, especially this dish.
I start by marinating the beef overnight in a full-bodied, dry, red wine. The beef turns a lovely, dark purple.
I start the night before by marinating the lean beef stew meat in red wine. I like to use a full-bodied, dry red wine with beef because of the flavor it adds. I selected a Rosemount Estate 2012 Shiraz from Australia for this particular recipe because of it’s bold, peppery flavor.
I like to load my stew with vegetables for added nutrition and a hearty, chunky texture.
The next morning, I then simply combine the beef, and the wine it marinated in, in the slow cooker with loads of root vegetables: potatoes, carrots, parsnip, onion. I also add mushrooms and a can of diced tomatoes for additional flavor. I like to load my stews up with lots of vegetables to give the stew solid nutritional value while also lending a thick, chunkiness to it. And that’s it – once the slow cooker is done, there’s nothing left to do but serve it up.
But wait, I’m not done.
Stew is best with some warm, fresh crusty bread. Years ago I was in Philadelphia for work and had lunch at the historic City Tavern while there. It started with a tray of assorted house-made breads, each of which was a little slice of heaven. The chef was there that day and I ended up buying a copy of his cookbook, which he signed for me, and taking home those wonderful bread recipes.
Freshly baked Rosemary Bread completes the meal.
I’ve tried many of the bread recipes in here over the years, the cranberry orange quick bread is particularly good on Christmas morning. But the Rosemary Bread, a yeast-based bread, is hands down my absolute favorite. I’ve made my own modifications to it over time: using a blend of whole wheat pastry and white bread flour, using olive oil instead of vegetable oil, and increasing the amount of rosemary (and only using fresh rosemary). I also divide the dough into two pieces and form them into long loaves instead of doing as the book says and rolling out the dough into a rectangle then rolling it up jelly roll style and making one giant loaf. Sometimes I also like to add cloves of roasted garlic to the dough for a different flavor.
You need to have some time on your hands to make homemade, yeast-based bread. The typical process takes 2-3 hours with all the setting and rising that it has to go through. The end result, though, is so worth the effort. Freshly baked bread is, in my humble opinion, far superior to store-bought bread.
Do you bake your own bread? What’s your favorite?
Slow Cooker Red Wine and Beef Stew with Rosemary Bread
From City Tavern Cookbook: "Rosemary was most likely brought to the New World by the French, who prized it for its therapeutic value - it was believed to relieve digestive ills - as well as for its symbolism - it was often used to represent a declaration of love. Rosemary bushes also were used in hedges to ward off garden pests. This recipe introduces the herb's distinctive flavor into a finely textured bread. if you don't have your own rosemary growing in the garden, the fresh herb is available at most supermarkets."
2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (110-115F)
¼ cup + 2 tbsp olive oil (divided)
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp coarse sea salt
2.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2.5 cups bread flour
Place the water in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Let dissolve and stand about 10 minutes, until slightly foamy.
Stir in the ¼ cup olive oil, rosemary and salt. Mix in the flours, 1 cup at a time, to make a soft dough.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 6-8 minutes, until smooth and elastic and adding only enough flour to prevent sticking.
Transfer the dough to a large bowl coated with 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Turn the dough to coat all surfaces with the oil then place in the bottom of the bowl.
Cover the bowl with a slightly damp towel. let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled in size.
Punch down the dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
Knead for 3 more minutes, until smooth, then cover with the towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
Lightly coat a 15 x 10 x 1-inch baking sheet with olive oil.
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Separate the dough into 2 even pieces. Roll and shape each piece into a loaf about 12" long, tapered at the ends and thicker in the middle. Place the loaves on the baking sheet, leaving at least 3" between the loaves.
Cover with a towel and let rise for 30-45 minutes, until almost doubled in size. Brush the top of each loaf with the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden and the bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom.
Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack for 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving.
Each loaf will bake up to about 1.5 lbs equaling a total of 3 lbs., or 48 oz. At a serving size of 2 oz. per person, the total recipe should yield 24 servings.
For my final meal, I am making a hearty, spicy chili. I like to sneak vegetables into my chili to bump up the nutritional value while also making it rich and thick. So in addition to the traditional beans, I packed this chili with tomatoes, carrots and celery. I simply use the leftover can of diced tomatoes from those Black and Blue Chicken Tostadas that I made, as well as carrots and celery leftover from those Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps.
Speaking of beans, I used inexpensive black and kidney beans from the bulk bins. Buying beans in bulk not only saves me money, but it is also better for me because the beans don’t come packed in that salty brine. Anything that is healthier for my body and saves me money is a true win.
Dried beans are a cinch to reconstitute, it just takes a bit of meal planning. Simply bring the beans to a boil in water; the ratio is 1:4, so 1 cup beans per 4 cups water. Once the pot comes to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and cook on medium-low for 45 minutes. Drain the water then add enough fresh water to cover the beans, seal in a container and refrigerate overnight.
For a dish like this that uses 2 kinds of beans, I cook both the black beans and kidney beans together. The kidney beans end up a bit dark, but it doesn’t really matter since they end up darkening in the finished chili anyway. If you want your kidney beans to retain their pink-red color, simply cook them separately from the black beans.
Let’s not forget the salt-free chicken broth we also made from the carcass of this versatile store-bought rotisserie chicken. Broth is essential to a a good chili. How fortunate that we have our own on hand!
I also decided to use a nontraditional source of heat for this chili in the form of the buffalo sauce that I used for those Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps. I figured I already had the bottle so why not? And topping the bowl of chili with a wee bit of crumbled blue cheese makes for a perfect finishing touch on a buffalo infused dish.
To recap, for just under $36, I not only made a work-week’s worth of meals for 1, but I had enough leftovers for dinner for myself on the weekend AND lunches all week long. Plus, I have enough broth leftover for multiple future soups or stews. Now that’s eating healthy on a budget!
I have to admit my mind is wandering a bit this morning. As I sit here writing this out, I really want to tell you about my recipe for Tarragon Chicken Pot Pie Soup. I want to tell you the story of how, on a crisp autumn night, I was inspired to take my Chicken Pot Pie recipe from last year and turn it into an easy and hearty soup. Which I did, and it was delicious. I’m still enjoying leftovers from my freezer.
This soup starts with Mirepoix, the French term for a soup or stew base of onion, celery and carrot.
But my mind is wandering and I’m feeling a need to talk about me. Because this really is about me, right?
After my weight loss, I went on a voyage of self-discovery where I tried lots of different activities to figure out what I like and who I am. Because somewhere in between my bad marriage, raising my kids, and devoting myself to my job, I lost myself. With my new body, it felt like all things were possible and I began to explore.
Adding mushrooms and red potatoes to the soup helps thicken the dish.
Over two years later, I have a fairly solid sense of self, but along the way I discovered certain parts of me – mental and emotional – that I don’t like. Specifically, the low self-confidence and fat girl dialogue that still runs through my head. I know that sounds silly, but when you spend years with a “you’re not good enough” mantra running through your head, it’s difficult to get rid of.
One of the tools to building my self-confidence has been to try and overcome my introverted tendencies. You see, when I get into a group of people I tend to step back and be a complete wallflower. When I go out, I prefer to be with a friend and I typically rely on that person to take the lead. And when it comes to meeting men, I’m totally hopeless.
Combining tarragon vinegar with skim milk not only injects flavor, but it thickens the milk to a buttermilk like consistency without the additional fat and calories of buttermilk. No tarragon vinegar? Use white wine vinegar and a tablespoon of chopped fresh tarragon.
I tend to wait for the man to make the first move, my fear of rejection can be a bit paralyzing. I’m clueless when it comes to flirting, I don’t often recognize when a guy is flirting with me. When I do realize that a guy is flirting with me, I get so nervous that all reason and logic completely escapes me and I do something really stupid, simply see my post from last summer as a classic example. So I’ve been working on being more extroverted.
I began with the IFBC. I was attending the event by myself which was a real test for me. I made a goal for myself to meet as many people and exchange as many business cards as I could. So there I was, by my introverted self. Yet, I walked up to complete strangers, introduced myself, and struck up conversations. I was really nervous at first, but my therapist was right: most people will meet you half way.
I met so many friendly, interesting fellow bloggers, many of whom I still keep in contact with. It was, in a sense, freeing. So I decided to try my luck in my own world.
Just about finished!
I belong to a fantastic wine club through a local bottleshop and bistro, Wine Up, of which one of the perks of membership is a free wine tasting every Friday night. Can you guess how many I’ve missed because I didn’t have someone to go with and didn’t want to go by myself?
A couple of weeks ago, fresh off my solo adventure at IFBC, and with much self-encouragement, I decided to go to a Friday night wine tasting by myself. I arrived, collected my glass, and initially stood timidly sipping my wine in the corner. Then I took a deep breath, stepped forward and inserted myself into a conversation between a nearby group of fellow tasters. And what do you know, they met me half way.
I not only had a great time, but I ended up meeting two really interesting guys, one of whom asked for my number and we ended up going on a date the following night. That’s not going to go anywhere, he was just looking for sex. Don’t get me wrong, sex is great, but I’m looking for something that will develop into a relationship, not a one night stand. I didn’t feel bad about telling this guy to scoot, though, instead I felt really confident in knowing what I was looking for and not settling for less, and proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone.
I love to top this soup with a few homemade croutons. I simply brush a couple of slices of whole wheat artisan bread with olive oil, cube them up and toast them in the oven until crunchy.
So I went back last weekend. And I met more people, including another guy who gave me his number. Then I went back last night, and guess what? That’s right, I met even more people. And I had a very promising flirtation with the cute bartender culminating in the following:
Me: “I think I want something sweet to take home. What do you have?”
Cute bartender: “How about my number?”
Squee! (That was my internal teenage girl squealing.)
The bottom line is, I’m liking my extroverted self and that self-loathing dialogue in my head is beginning to be muffled by more positive feelings of confidence. This is so much better than internet dating. I wish I had done this ages ago!
Chicken pot pie gets leaned down and souped up while still retaining its thick, hearty, and satisfying status as a comfort food staple.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 medium stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
pinch of coarse sea salt
1½ cups sliced crimini (brown) mushrooms
½ lb. red potatoes, chopped
2½ - 3 cups cooked, shredded, boneless, skinless chicken breast
¼ cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
4 cups homemade, salt free chicken broth
1 cup frozen, petite peas
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley
1 tbsp tarragon vinegar
1 cup nonfat (skim) milk
salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.
Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, tarragon, thyme and salt. Stir to coat with the oil and cook until the onions are transparent, about 15 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and potatoes and cook 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender and have released their water.
Stir in the chicken and flour, combining well to coat everything with the flour.
Slowly stir in the broth, using the back of your spoon to loosen up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Add in the peas and parsley. Bring to a boil then reduce to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Pour the vinegar into a measuring cup and add the milk to make 1 cup of liquid total. Let sit for 30 minutes.
Stir the vinegar-milk mixture and pour into the soup, combining well. Let cook for 10 more minutes.
Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.
To make your own shredded chicken breast, simply put 1 lb. of raw, boneless, skinless chicken breast into a pot of water and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 20 minutes until completely tender. Remove the chicken from the water and let cool for 5-10 minutes then shred it with 2 forks. 1 lb. of raw chicken breast yields 2½ - 3 cups of shredded chicken breast.
As much as I love my fresh tomatoes in the summer, I also love butternut squash in the fall. What’s not to love about this squash? It has little pulp and lots of meat, unlike other varietals. The slightly sweet, nutty flavor is delicious. And, it’s extremely versatile — you can bake it, roast it, saute it, puree it — the possibilities seem endless.
I’ve been seeing lots of recipes for butternut squash lasagna popping up on the web, but all of them utilize pureed squash in the filling between layers of pasta. So I thought, why couldn’t you use strips of the squash instead of the noodles? And that’s exactly what I set out to do.
I created a filling with traditional lasagna flavors of ground meat, mushrooms, spinach and creamy cheeses. Of course, I had to change it up a bit, first to lean it down and secondly to better marry the flavors with the butternut squash. To lean the filling down, I used an extra lean ground turkey breast and a skim ricotta. To shake the flavor up a bit, I added gorgonzola cheese, whose sharp, semi-sweet flavor pairs perfectly with this squash. I also used sage instead of the traditional Italian herbs because sage complements the gorgonzola and squash so well.
For a finishing touch, I topped the squash first with what I call my secret ingredient in this dish: nutmeg. That’s right, it’s not just for pumpkin pie. A bit of ground nutmeg enhances the nutty flavor of the squash and, in my opinion, is absolutely essential to this dish.
I then add salty, nutty parmesan cheese, a bit more of that earthy sage, and a sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts across the top. The result is a unique take on lasagna that is both lean and delicious.
Do you like butternut squash? What is your favorite fall vegetable?
Lasagna gets lean and gluten free by substituting strips of sweet, succulent Butternut Squash for pasta, yet retains its cheesy lusciousness with a smart mix of 4 cheeses.
2 tsp olive oil
1 lb ground turkey breast (white ground turkey)
1 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
3 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves
1¾ cup light ricotta cheese
2 oz. crumbled gorgonzola cheese
1 oz. shredded, part skim mozzarella cheese
1 large egg, beaten
2 tbsp chopped fresh sage
pinch of salt
4 lb whole Butternut Squash
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 oz. shredded parmesan cheese
2 tbsp chopped hazelnuts
Heat 1 tsp of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add the ground turkey breast and cook until lightly browned and crumbly.
Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook for about 5 minutes more, or until the mushrooms are tender and have released their water.
Gently stir in the spinach and cook for 1-2 minutes until the spinach has just wilted. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit.
Preheat the oven to 375. Brush the remaining 1 tsp of olive oil over the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan.
Mix together the ricotta, gorgonzola and mozzarella cheeses in a medium mixing bowl. Add the egg, 1 tbsp of the sage, and a pinch of salt and continue mixing. Combine in the cooled turkey-mushroom-spinach mixture and set aside.
Peel the butternut squash by trimming the top and bottom off of the squash then running your knife down the side of the squash to cut off the peel. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds and pulp. Use either a sharp knife or a mandolin slicer to cut the squash into strips lengthwise about ⅛-1/4" thick.
Lay strips of the butternut squash in a single layer across the bottom of the oiled baking dish. Use smaller pieces of the squash to fill in any holes created from the shape of the squash.
Spread half of the meat-cheese mixture across the squash. Lay another layer of squash slices over the top of the meat-cheese mixture, again in a single layer and using smaller pieces of the squash to fill in any holes. Spread the remaining meat-cheese mixture over the squash then arrange another layer of the butternut squash slices on top of the meat-cheese mixture, again in a single layer and using any smaller pieces to fill in the holes.
Sprinkle the nutmeg acoss the top layer of the squash. Then top with the shredded parmesan cheese, remaining 1 tbsp of sage, and hazelnuts over the top of the lasagna.
Cover with foil and bake for 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 minutes more or until the cheese is lightly browned on top. Let sit for 5 minutes before slicing into 6 equal wedges and serving.
One of the biggest revelations of my weight loss journey was portion size. Until I started reading labels and measuring and weighing foods, I had no idea that I was easily consuming 2-3 times the standard serving size with each meal. It’s no wonder I packed on all those pounds! It’s easy to gauge the portion size of pre-prepared or packaged foods, it’s right there on the label. But when I go to serve up some delectable dish that I’ve created in my own kitchen, it’s always a bit of a guess-timate as to what is exactly one serving. Did I cut that into equal portions? And if it’s liquid, does it look like there are still 5 servings left in the pot?
That’s what I love about these cupcakes. There is no guessing, they are individually baked into the perfect portion size.
Lest you think I am talking about some sugary, sweet, frosted creation here, let me assure you that is not the case. This is hearty, rich lasagna baked into cute little cupcake-like packages. Hence, Turkey Lasagna Cupcakes.
I simply wrap a cooked whole wheat lasagna noodle around the cup then fill it with a hearty stuffing of lean ground turkey, shredded zucchini, tomatoes, cottage cheese, mozzarella cheese, and herbs. For an added touch, I “frost” the top with just a pinch of shredded parmesan and a kalamata olive. Buono appetito!
A lean yet rich turkey lasagna with whole wheat noodles takes the pretty shape of a perfectly portioned cupcake. These are great for entertaining or as leftovers in the lunchbox.
1 lb. ground white turkey
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
¼ cup chopped fresh oregano leaves
1 14.5 oz can diced, no salt added tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
pinch sea salt
dash freshly ground black pepper
¾ lb. baby zucchini, shredded
1 cup 2% milkfat cottage cheese
2 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
12 whole wheat lasagna noodles
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
12 large, pitted kalamata olives
Heat a pan over medium heat and coat it lightly with olive oil cooking spray.
Add the ground turkey and garlic, cook until browned and crumbled.
Stir in the basil, oregano, tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and pepper and let cook for about 2 minutes more until the paste has softened up and the mixture is thick.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the zucchini, cottage cheese and mozzarella cheese. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375.
Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse.
Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin/cupcake tin with olive oil spray.
Trim off the bottom 2" of each lasagna noodle. Take the remaining long piece of noodle and wrap it around the side of a muffin cup. Place the 2" cut piece in the center on the bottom of the cup so that it curves up slightly inside the longer noodle forming the wall -- this will keep your filling from falling out. Repeat for all 12 noodles.
Fill the center of each cup with the ground turkey mixture, making sure each is evenly filled.
Top each "cupcake" with a pinch of the parmesan cheese and 1 kalamata olive.
Bake for 20 minutes or until the cupcakes are heated through and the cheese on top is browned and bubbly.