Category Archives: Mediterranean

Farfalle Turkey Bolognese

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Farfalle Turkey Bolognese - Colleen's Kitchen

As I continue to test new recipes, I’m having fun digging back into my archives and making some of my old favorites. This Farfalle Turkey Bolognese is one of my favorites because it’s just so darn easy. I also love that the sauce is made hearty with lots of veggies so I can cut down on the pasta and still feel full.

Farfalle Turkey Bolognese Recipe - Colleen's Kitchen

I tweaked this recipe just slightly from the original. I cooked the onion, carrot and garlic first before adding the ground turkey whereas in my original recipe I cooked them all together. I also used the cheese as a topping on each serving instead of stirring it into the dish. And the recipe was just as good as I remembered it.

Farfalle Turkey Bolognese
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 4 servings
  • Calories: 408.5
  • Fat: 11.7
  • Saturated fat: 4.3
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.1
  • Carbohydrates: 40.4
  • Sugar: 5.4
  • Sodium: 457.9
  • Fiber: 3.3
  • Protein: 32.0
  • Cholesterol: 91.1
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Poultry
A hearty meat and veggie sauce makes this easy, filling, and lean Farfalle Turkey Bolognese a true weeknight wonder.
Ingredients
  • 6 oz. dry farfalle pasta
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 1 lb. lean ground turkey
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp red chili pepper flakes
  • ½ cup red wine
  • 1 can diced, no salt added tomatoes, drained
  • ½ tsp coarse sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 oz. fresh basil, chopped
  • 1.5 oz. shredded peccorino romano cheese
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to pasta directions. Drain and rinse.
  2. Heat a deep skillet over medium heat and lightly coat with olive oil.
  3. Add the onion, carrot and garlic and cook until the onion is transparent.
  4. Add the turkey and continue cooking until the turkey is browned and crumbled.
  5. Stir in the the oregano, red chili pepper flakes, red wine, tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook until the liquid is reduced by half.
  6. Combine the cooked pasta with the sauce and mix well. Stir in the basil. Serve immediately topped with the cheese.
Notes
I have reduced the nutritional value of the wine by half, on the advice of my nutritionist, since it is reduced by half during the cooking process.

 

Grilled Greek Salad

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Grilled Greek Salad Recipe - Colleen's Kitchen

As much as I love grilling in the summer, I also love the bounty of fresh vegetables that come both from my garden and the farmer’s market. It’s the perfect time of year for light meals best enjoyed in the sunshine.

A Greek salad is not exactly unique, you see it on countless restaurant and bistro menus across the country. It typically consists of romaine lettuce, red onion, kalamata olives and feta cheese with the occasional cucumber, chick peas, or whatever else thrown in. But grilling salad? Hmm… That’s a bit different.

Grilled Greek Salad Recipe - Colleen's Kitchen

Slices of red onion, baby peppers, and artichoke hearts are marinated overnight in an intense lemon based mixture then chargrilled over an open flame.

I start by marinating a red onion, artichoke hearts, and whole baby peppers in an intense lemon mixture overnight. Sometimes I also throw in some slices of zucchini just for fun. The marinade of lemon juice, lemon zest and olive oil leaves the vegetables with a fantastic lemon flavor and also helps them grill up well on the barbecue.

Grilled Greek Salad Recipe - Colleen's Kitchen

Drizzle the leftover marinade over the cut side of the romaine hearts and then grill cut side up for about 1 – 1 1/2 minutes.

While the vegetables are grilling, I then drizzle the leftover marinade over the cut side of 2 hearts of romaine. A heart of romaine is essentially the inner part of a head of romaine lettuce. The leaves are tightly folded into each other making it a perfect grilling lettuce. I like to buy a package of organic hearts of romaine, which usually comes with 3 hearts.

Grilled Greek Salad Recipe - Colleen's Kitchen

Then grill the romaine hearts cut side down for another 1 – 1 1/2 minutes.

Once the vegetables are nicely charred, I throw the romaine hearts on the grill, cut side up first. The lettuce is thin and it cooks quickly so I only let it sit on the grill for about 1 – 1 1/2 minutes before flipping it onto the cut side for its final grill.

Grilled Greek Salad Recipe - Colleen's Kitchen

A perfect, light – and vegetarian – summer meal.

And that’s it. This hearty entree Greek salad is that easy. I simply top the grilled romaine hearts with the vegetables, sprinkle a little feta cheese and freshly chopped oregano over it, and then drizzle it with a simple red wine vinaigrette. I only make a very small amount of the vinaigrette because the vegetables and lettuce are already packed with so much flavor. It is a perfect, light – and vegetarian – summer meal.

 

Grilled Greek Salad
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 2
  • Calories: 248.1
  • Fat: 14.8
  • Saturated fat: 2.5
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 2.0
  • Carbohydrates: 23.5
  • Sugar: 8.6
  • Sodium: 450.7
  • Fiber: 9.0
  • Protein: 7.7
  • Cholesterol: 2.5
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
The classic Greek Salad is grilled to perfection and topped with a tart red wine vinaigrette and salty feta cheese.
Ingredients
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (divided)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • ¼ tsp coarse sea salt (divided)
  • 6 baby peppers
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced into ¼" thick slices
  • 1 cup artichoke hearts
  • 2 hearts of romaine lettuce, sliced lengthwise through the core
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped oregano
  • 1 oz. crumbled light feta cheese
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • dash of freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, lemon juice, 1 tbsp of the olive oil, garlic and ⅛ tsp of the salt.
  2. Pour the marinade over the peppers, onion slices, and artichoke hearts in either a shallow dish or resealable plastic bag. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Preheat your propane grill then reduce the flame to low and lightly oil the grill.
  4. Remove the peppers, onion and artichoke hearts from the marinade - save the marinade - and place the vegetables on the grill. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side. Remove the vegetables from the grill and set aside.
  5. Pour the leftover marinade over the cut side of the romaine hearts and place the romaine on the grill cut side up. Grill for 1 - 1½ minutes on each side until the outer leaves are lightly charred.
  6. Remove the lettuce from the grill and place 2 halves on each plate. Top with the grilled vegetables.
  7. Sprinkle each plate with the fresh oregano and feta cheese.
  8. In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 tbsp of olive oil, the red wine vinegar, the remaining ⅛ tsp of sea salt, and the black pepper. Drizzle over the top of each salad and serve immediately.

 

Bellini Chicken Skewers with Basil Lemon Cappellini

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Bellini Chicken Skewers with Basil Lemon Cappellini

Cooking is a true form of art. It is all about combining the right flavors, textures and colors to create a memorable meal, and that requires a good dose of creativity in the kitchen.

As an artist, you never know when or where inspiration will strike. I’m not even precisely sure how I got the idea to do a riff of the infamous Bellini cocktail for this dish, but for some reason grilled skewers incorporating the flavor of juicy grilled peaches – so good! – suddenly appealed to me. And what better flavor to pair them with than a good Italian Prosecco?

What is a Bellni, you ask? Well it’s a cocktail developed at the famous Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. A mixture of bubbly Prosecco and freshly pureed peaches, it’s a delightful aperitif. So why not create a dish inspired by such a delicious drink?

Bellini Chicken Skewers with Basil Lemon Cappellini

Marinate boneless, skinless chicken breast pieces overnight in Prosecco with fresh peach slices.

I start by marinating boneless, skinless chicken breast in a quality Prosecco with some fresh peach slices thrown in for additional flavor. I like to let the chicken marinate overnight for maximum flavor. This also results in meat that is ultra-tender and moist.

Once marinated, I discard the Prosecco and peach slices that the chicken marinated in and thread the pieces onto skewers with some wedges of fresh peach. Have you ever tried grilled peaches? They are absolutely divine, and simply perfect in this dish.

Bellini Chicken Skewers with Basil Lemon Cappellini

I love to serve these skewers over delicate cappellini pasta tossed with basil, lemon juice, and olive oil for a light, refreshing meal.

To finish the meal off, I wanted to tie in the flavor of peppery basil. So I like to serve these skewers over a bed of delicate, thin cappellini (aka angel hair) pasta tossed with chopped basil, lemon juice, olive oil and salt. The result is a super easy and simple meal that is absolutely perfect fora busy weeknight. Yet the flavors and presentation are so unique, that your family will be in awe of your culinary prowess.

Where do you get your kitchen inspiration?

 

 

Bellini Chicken Skewers with Basil Lemon Cappellini
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 2
  • Calories: 434.6
  • Fat: 9.9
  • Saturated fat: 2.2
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1.1
  • Carbohydrates: 52.2
  • Sugar: 8.3
  • Sodium: 260.8
  • Fiber: 5.7
  • Protein: 32.8
  • Cholesterol: 65.0
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Inspired by the Bellini cocktail, Prosecco-marinated chicken and juicy peaches are grilled and served over a scrumptiously light cappellini pasta.
Ingredients
  • ½ lb. raw boneless, skinless chicken breast pieces
  • 1 fresh peach, pitted and sliced
  • 1 cup Prosecco
  • 1 fresh peach, pitted and cut into 8 wedges
  • 4 oz. dry whole wheat cappellini pasta
  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. In a plastic, resealable bag or shallow dish, cover the chicken breast pieces and peach slices with the prosecco. Let marinate in the fridge overnight.
  2. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the prosecco and peach slices. Thread each of 4 small bamboo skewers with 3 pieces of chicken and 2 peach wedges, alternating. (You can substitute 2 large skewers if desired.) Set aside.
  3. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil and stir in the cappellini. Gently boil for about 4-5 minutes until cooked.
  4. Preheat grill pan on medium high, lightly coat with olive oil. Place skewers in pan and grill for about 2 minutes on each side or until the chicken is cooked through.
  5. Drain all but about 2 tbsp of water from the cappellini and reduce heat to medium. Stir in the lemon juice, basil, olive oil, garlic, and salt. Let cook for about 2 minutes and remove from heat.
  6. Serve the chicken skewers over the pasta.
Notes
The nutritional value of the marinade has been reduced by ¾ since the majority of it is discarded.

 

Roasted Butternut Squash and Wild Mushroom Risotto

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Roasted Butternut Squash and Wild Mushroom Risotto

I am riding a wave of happiness this week.

One morning this past week I awoke and I realized that life is pretty darned good right now. As soon as that thought entered my head, I immediately chased it away, sure that in my smugness I would bring some catastrophe down on my head. But then I thought to myself, “No. You deserve this. Enjoy it while you can.” And so I am.

Professionally, my day job is the best it’s been in years. I have a new boss that sincerely appreciates me and in the past 2 weeks I have received a promotion, a glowing performance review, and a really nice bonus. After working my bottom off for almost the past year now to help my organization recover from a very serious situation, it feels really good to be recognized.

And this of course has led to some comfort on the financial side of my life. I’m taking a big trip in September, going from Paris to Rome over 3 weeks, and both the promotion and the bonus will help with that.

But perhaps the most unexpected happiness is in my personal life. An unexpected, completely platonic, encounter with an old friend that I haven’t seen in years has become something more. I’m not yet sure what that more is, this is still very new. But he’s sweet, it’s flattering, and I’m enjoying being romanced. Doesn’t every girl deserve to be wooed?

Of course food makes me happy too.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Wild Mushroom Risotto

One of my favorite dishes is the Italian staple, risotto. Risotto is made from arborio rice, which is a very starchy grain resulting in a thick and creamy dish when made correctly. The secret to a good risotto is to add the liquid in slowly, letting the rice absorb each drink before adding another, and never letting the rice get dry.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Wild Mushroom Risotto

Many risotto recipes call for large amounts of butter, cream and cheese. I use just a small amount olive oil to start the dish, broth to cook the rice in, and then a moderate amount of cheese to finish it off. For this dish, I also stir in roasted, mashed butternut squash, which enhances the creaminess without the fat. Add in some sage and chopped wild mushrooms – I used a mixture of porcini, shiitake, black, and oyster mushrooms – for a fantastic earthy flavor.

Who wouldn’t be happy after eating a plate of this?

 

 

Roasted Butternut Squash and Wild Mushroom Risotto
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 2
  • Calories: 345.4
  • Fat: 8.6
  • Saturated fat: 3.2
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.6
  • Carbohydrates: 51.4
  • Sugar: 1.8
  • Sodium: 353.6
  • Fiber: 5.3
  • Protein: 16.5
  • Cholesterol: 10.2
Recipe type: Entree
Happiness is this creamy, decadent risotto, full of flavors of sweetly roasted butternut squash and earthy wild mushrooms, but still lean and healthy.
Ingredients
  • 4 cups homemade, salt free chicken broth (use a clear vegetable broth to make this a vegetarian dish)
  • ½ oz. dried wild mushrooms (I used a mix of porcini, shiitake, black and oyster)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ½ cup dry, uncooked arborio rice
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
  • Pinch of coarse sea salt
  • 1 cup roasted, mashed butternut squash
  • 1 oz. finely shredded parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a boil and add the dried wild mushrooms.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 1 hour.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet on medium heat. Add the arborio rice and stir well to coat with the oil. Add the chopped fresh sage. Let cook for 1-2 minutes so that the rice is lightly toasted.
  4. Reduce heat on the mushrooms to low and use a skimmer or slotted spoon to remove the mushrooms from the broth and set aside on a plate. Keep the broth simmering - you'll need it for the risotto!
  5. Add the coarse sea salt to the rice. Add one ladle full (about ½ cup) of the mushroom broth to the rice and stir. Let cook, stirring frequently, until the broth is almost absorbed, and add another ladle of broth. Repeat until the rice is cooked through.
  6. Coarsely chop the mushroom and them with the butternut squash to the rice.
  7. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
Notes
While mashed or pureed butternut squash can be found in the freezer section of many grocery stores now, it's very easy to make your own. Preheat the oven to 400F. Slice a butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Brush the cut side - the meat - with a small amount of olive oil. Place on a baking sheet and cook for 45-60 minutes or until the squash pierces easily with a fork. Let cool slightly then scoop the squash out of the shell and mash it up.

 

Roasted Butternut Squash Marinara

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Roasted Butternut Squash Marinara

You can thank my aunt for inspiring this dish. After she sampled my Butternut Squash Lasagna, which doesn’t use any tomatoes, she said that it could also be great with a marinara sauce. I crinkled my nose at her suggestion. Tomatoes with butternut squash? I didn’t like the idea of that flavor combination. “Why not?” My aunt said. And that made me wonder. Why not?

So I started thinking about how I would combine the two together and my busy mind quickly latched onto the idea of a marinara. Something roasted, thick and sweet that blanketed a dish in heavenly goodness. In my first attempts, I tried to keep the marinara fairly traditional by roasting the squash and tomatoes then folding them into a mixture of sauteed onion, garlic and herbs. It just had too much going on, though, and the texture wasn’t right.

Roasted Butternut Squash Marinara

The marinara starts with chunks of butternut squash and sweet cherry tomatoes tossed with olive oil, rosemary, and sea salt. I like to add a bay leaf for additional depth of flavor.

So I ended up simplifying the marinara, no stovetop cooking required. I roasted the squash and cherry tomatoes in a bath of olive oil, rosemary and a pinch of coarse sea salt. I chose to use rosemary in this dish because the sharp, woody, aromatic flavor really brings the earthy butternut squash and sweet cherry tomatoes together. I like to do a slow roast on the vegetables, with a bay leaf for added flavor, to bring out all of the sweet sugars.

Roasted Butternut Squash Marinara

A slow roast brings out the sweet, smoky, caramelized flavors of the tomatoes and squash.

Once roasted, I use a fork to smash the squash and tomatoes and blend them together. It makes for a thicker, chunkier texture than if I pureed it, and I have less dirty dishes to contend with. I then add in some dry red wine, a bit of tomato paste to deepen the tomato flavor, a pinch of crushed red pepper to offset the sweetness of the squash and tomatoes, and some garlic. Admittedly, I will often roast the garlic with the vegetables for a slightly different flavor.

Roasted Butternut Squash Marinara

The penne pasta tubes fill up with delicious marinara.

The result is a marinara that is delicious and versatile. I like to layer it over whole wheat penne pasta because the tubular penne fills up with the delicious marinara. However, it would also be delicious used as the marinara in a traditional lasagna. Lesson learned, Aunt Paula. Thank you for continuing to inspire me!

 

 

Roasted Butternut Squash Marinara over Whole Wheat Penne
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 4
  • Serving size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 334.8
  • Fat: 9.8
  • Saturated fat: 1.9
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.9
  • Carbohydrates: 57.8
  • Sugar: 2.1
  • Sodium: 237.8
  • Fiber: 10.1
  • Protein: 9.7
  • Cholesterol: 3.6
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Sweet butternut squash and cherry tomatoes are roasted for a caramel, smoky flavor addition to a creamy marinara that is out of this world. Try it over some whole wheat penne pasta for your next #MeatlessMonday.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups peeled, seeded and cubed butternut squash (about 1" pieces)
  • 2 cups mixed cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • ¼ tsp coarse sea salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¼ cup dry red wine
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • ¼ tsp red chili pepper flakes (aka crushed red pepper)
  • 8 oz. dry whole wheat penne pasta, cooked according to package directions, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. In a covered baking dish, toss the squash and tomatoes with the oil, rosemary, and half of the salt.
  3. Add the bay leaf, cover the dish and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and bake for 15 more minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and use a fork to smash the squash and tomatoes.
  5. Stir in the red wine, garlic, tomato paste, red chili pepper flakes, and remaining salt.
  6. Serve over the cooked pasta. Top each serving with 1 tbsp of the parmesan cheese.
Notes
Nutritional information for just the marinara, without the penne and parmesan:

 

Farro with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

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Farro with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

I am in love with farro. I realize this grain has been around for centuries, but it seems to just be gaining popularity in the US in the past few months. Farro actually hails from the Mediterranean and is commonly found in Italian food. That’s right, Italians eat more than just pasta.

 

Farro with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

 

I was so excited to run into reps from Bob’s Red Mill at the International Food Blogger’s Conference. I love this business, first because it’s local to me but secondly because they have fantastic, quality products at great prices. I am especially a fan of their unsweetened shredded coconut, the only unsweetened coconut I’ve been able to find. But on this occasion they were giving out samples of their farro and sorghum, which I greedily grabbed up and added to my already overflowing swag bag. The rep invited me out to explore their factory store, which I fully intend to do within the next few weeks.

Farro is a wheat grain that looks very similar to barley when it’s uncooked, but, unlike barley, it retains a crunchy outer texture when cooked. Farro is a whole grain which means that your body has to work harder to digest it, and that benefits your metabolism. It’s very filling so a little farro goes a long way, and the taste is similar to brown rice in that it’s very nutty in flavor. I love to use farro in salads, mixed with vegetables like I have here, or in a stuffing such as my Grilled Caprese Farro Zucchini Boats that I made over the summer.

 

Farro with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

 

One of the many things I love about this dish is that it’s so incredibly simple and I can vary it up easily too. It is one of my favorite Meatless Monday meals because it’s not only delicious, but it is also quick to make after a busy day at the office. I simply roast sweet cherry tomatoes in a bit of olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic and salt then toss the roasted tomatoes with cooked farro, fresh oregano, light feta cheese, salt, pepper, and an additional splash of olive oil and red wine vinegar for extra flavor.

I highly recommend using light feta cheese instead of the fat free crumbled feta cheese you will find in the grocery store. First, the calorie difference is negligible – the fat free feta is only a measly 10 calories less than the light version. But more importantly, the fat free version is filled with chemicals to replace the fat and flavor it’s lacking, leaving  it with a rubbery texture and unpleasant taste. Light feta, on the other hand, is made from skim milk so it’s naturally lower in fat and calories than its whole milk sibling but still has that great brined, feta taste and texture.

 

Farro with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

 

Sometimes I vary this recipe up depending on what’s producing in the garden or what I have in the fridge. For example, I recently roasted some baby eggplant with the tomatoes, subbed basil for the oregano, and traded in the feta for some shredded parmesan cheese. My tastebuds and my waistline thank me for this dish!

 

 

Farro with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 2
  • Calories: 150.9
  • Fat: 10.7
  • Saturated fat: 1.9
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1.1
  • Carbohydrates: 13.1
  • Sugar: 1.2
  • Sodium: 411.8
  • Fiber: 2.3
  • Protein: 4.5
  • Cholesterol: 2.5
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Perfect for #MeatlessMonday, I'm combining nutty farro with sweet, roasted cherry tomatoes for a dish that is filling and delicious.
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup dry farro, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp chopped, fresh oregano
  • 1 oz. light feta cheese, crumbled
  • salt
  • pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 425F
  2. Whisk together 1 tbsp of the olive oil and 1 tbsp of the vinegar.
  3. Add the garlic, a pinch of salt and dash of pepper and whisk again until well combined.
  4. On a baking sheet, toss together the cherry tomatoes and oil-vinegar mixture. Spread the tomatoes in a single layer and bake for 15-20 minutes until roasted.
  5. Combine the roasted tomatoes, farro, oregano, feta, 1 tsp olive oil, and 1 tsp red wine vinegar in a small bowl.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

 

Grilled Caprese Farro Zucchini Boats

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Grilled Caprese Farro Zucchini Boats

If you read last week’s post, you’ll know that the travel bug has been gnawing at me lately. This week, I’ve been able to send him back into hibernation (for the time being) with a visit to family in Napa, California.

My only regret in traveling this time of year is that I have to leave my vegetable garden behind. Right now my garden is practically a jungle of vines and leaves reaching in all directions. Baby vegetables of all varieties nestle in their bowers and I eagerly await the day I can pick them and incorporate them into my own cooking. The zucchini, summer squash and green beans are maturing almost faster than I can pick and eat them.

Grilled Caprese Farro Zucchini Boats

One of my favorite ways to prepare fresh summer zucchini is on the grill. Sometimes I’ll just serve grilled squash as a side to whatever I’m making, sometimes I’ll throw slices of grilled zucchini on a quick summer tartine (a grilled, open-faced sandwich — one of my favorite summer dishes). But for a hearty meal, I like to stuff the zucchini with whatever I might have on hand and serve it as the star of the show.

For this dish, I’ve taken the traditional flavors of an Italian caprese salad — tomato, mozzarella, and basil — and combined them with nutty farro for a vegetarian stuffing that is full of delicious flavor yet is also filling.

Grilled Caprese Farro Zucchini Boats

I like to slice the zucchini in half length-wise and grill them for about 2 minutes cut-side down to cook and soften the interior. This allows me to easily scoop out the interior of the zucchini. I prefer to use my melon-baller for this, it gets the job done quickly and easily.

Grilled Caprese Farro Zucchini Boats

I then stuff the zucchini with my caprese farro mixture, top it with a bit of shredded parmesan cheese, and place it on the top rack of my grill for about 5 minutes with the lid down. The cheese melts, the tomato releases its warm juices, and the resulting flavor combination is divine. It’s the perfect quick fix for meatless Monday.

Grilled Caprese Farro Zucchini Boats

But as much as I love cooking from my garden, I do enjoy traveling. And I love Napa. It’s a quaint, cute small town that bustles with the constant ebb and flow of tourists. The wine is, of course, world-renowned, but some of the best chefs in the world also head here to set up shop. Being a foodie, I enjoy sampling these restaurants for inspiration and ideas for my own creations.

I visit Napa every other month, not for vacation purposes but to give my uncle a regular break from caring for my 93-year old grandmother who has dementia. We have two regular activities when I visit: shopping for whatever necessities she has on her list and taking her in for a pedicure. My Nana tires quickly, so I keep each of these activities brief, stretch them out over two days, and couple each with lunch. Which is a great way to satisfy my desire to sample the various area restaurants.

Kitchen Door Napa

My pick for our first outing on Thursday was Chef Todd Humphries’ Kitchen Door. I had to have the banh mi sandwich with sweet potato fries that all the yelpers were raving about, and it didn’t disappoint. It was sweet, tart, crunchy and savory — absolutely delicious! In fact, on Saturday night, after a long day celebrating my cousin’s bar mitzvah in Oakland, I found myself back at Kitchen Door with a girlfriend visiting from Sacramento. Our wonderful waiter, Cory, indulged us as we chatted nonstop for 4 hours and worked our way through 2 carafes of a chilled albarino, an Asian inspired chilled vegetable and rice noodle salad, and the most amazing chanterelle pizza I’ve had.

My Nana showing off her manicure and pedicure

On Friday, after pedicures and manicures, I took Nana out just past Yountville to Chef Cindy Pawclyn’s Mustards Grill. What I love about this restaurant is that they have their own massive garden, accessible for wandering, that supplies the restaurant. The result is exceedingly fresh dishes that rotate regularly depending on what’s in season.

Mustards Grill

I splurged on this outing – or I should say Nana indulged me – and I ordered the rather overpriced seafood tostada. On this particular day, it was a tender swordfish steak on top of a crispy corn tortilla, topped with a tart jicama slaw and greens, and surrounded by mildly spicy black beans and dusted with crumbly cheese. It was absolutely delicious.

Of course, I can’t wait to get back home and continue my kitchen experiments from my own garden.

 

Grilled Caprese Farro Zucchini Boats
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 2
  • Serving size: Makes 2 servings of 2 "boats" each
  • Calories: 197.8
  • Fat: 7.7
  • Saturated fat: 3.6
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.4
  • Carbohydrates: 20.7
  • Sugar: 0.3
  • Sodium: 383.6
  • Fiber: 2.3
  • Protein: 12.0
  • Cholesterol: 12.2
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
The classic caprese flavors of fresh tomato, mozzarella, and basil combine with nutty farro in a garden fresh, grilled baby zucchini shell for a super easy and delicious Meatless Monday summer meal.
Ingredients
  • 2 large baby zucchini, halved lengthwise
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup dry farro, cooked according to package directions, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup (1 oz.) shredded reduced fat mozzarella cheese
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • ½ cup loosely packed basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • pinch of coarse sea salt
  • dash of freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup (1 oz.) shredded parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat your grill and spray the cooking grate with nonstick spray.
  2. Brush the cut-side of the zucchini with the olive oil.
  3. Grill the zucchini cut-side down for about 2 minutes or until the interior is tender.
  4. Remove the zucchini from the grill and scoop the interior out with a knife, spoon, or (my favorite) melon-baller.
  5. Mix together the farro, mozzarella, tomato, basil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Use the stuffing to fill the hollows in the zucchini. (Don't be afraid to overfill as the mixture will cook down slightly.)
  6. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the tops of the stuffed zucchini.
  7. Place the zucchini boats on the top rack of the grill -- away from the direct flame -- and cook with the lid closed for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the stuffing is warmed through. Serve immediately.
Notes
Tip: to keep your zucchini boats from tipping on the grill, slice off a very thin section of the back (rounded) side of the zucchini halves.

For more preparation tips, check out my video demonstration of this recipe.

 

Turkey Lasagna Cupcakes

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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!


Turkey Lasagna Cupcakes
 
Author: 
Nutrition Information
  • Serves: 12
  • Calories: 186.2
  • Fat: 7.0
  • Saturated fat: 1.0
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.1
  • Carbohydrates: 20.2
  • Sugar: 3.5
  • Sodium: 216.8
  • Fiber: 3.6
  • Protein: 17.7
  • Cholesterol: 4.7
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Poultry
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.
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. Heat a pan over medium heat and coat it lightly with olive oil cooking spray.
  2. Add the ground turkey and garlic, cook until browned and crumbled.
  3. 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.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the zucchini, cottage cheese and mozzarella cheese. Set aside.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375.
  6. Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse.
  7. Lightly coat a 12-cup muffin/cupcake tin with olive oil spray.
  8. 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.
  9. Fill the center of each cup with the ground turkey mixture, making sure each is evenly filled.
  10. Top each "cupcake" with a pinch of the parmesan cheese and 1 kalamata olive.
  11. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cupcakes are heated through and the cheese on top is browned and bubbly.
  12. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

 

Video Demonstration of Turkey Lasagna Cupcakes

Chicken Bruschetta over Whole Wheat Angel Hair Pasta

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Several months ago I invested in an external hard drive for my blog because all of my videos and photos were clogging up my internal hard drive and slowing my laptop down. I moved everything on there, including the intro narration and before and after photos that I use in my videos.

Can you guess what’s coming next?

I sat down yesterday morning, as I do every Saturday morning, to edit and upload this week’s video only to find that the USB cable that connects the external hard drive to my laptop has a kink in it and the two won’t connect. Argh!

I threw on my gym clothes and went for my Saturday morning run on the treadmill at the gym then stopped at Best Buy on my way home to pick up a new cord. I was frustrated to discover that this particular cord is proprietary to the manufacturer and the only place I can buy a new one is from their website. Double argh!!

Oh, and did I mention that the clerk at Best Buy that came over to assist me in my search is a guy that I dated about 2 years ago? And here I am in my gym clothes, no makeup, hair pulled back, smelling of sweat. Yes, it was a bang up morning. I think that deserves a triple argh.

So there is no video this week. I have the footage carefully saved for now and will put it together once I get the new cord, but until then it will live in the internal memory of my laptop. But that can’t stop me from at least sharing the written recipe with you all, right?

This week I present to you an easy, flavorful, and good-for-you dish that has become a staple for busy weeknights in my house. I’ve taken the flavor of Italian bruschetta — tomatoes, basil, garlic and parmesan cheese — added some grilled chicken and served it over a delicate whole wheat angel hair pasta.

First, I marinate boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins in a simple mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, sea salt and pepper. I often start the marinating process before I leave for work in the morning, but 20-30 minutes is sufficient as well.

While the chicken is marinating, I whip up the bruschetta: a mix of fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, and parmesan cheese. I love the pop of color the bruschetta adds to the dish, and of course the flavor combination is divine. I then grill up the chicken in my ridged cast iron grill pan; the tenderloins cook up in just about 2 minutes on each side. Keeping the chicken in the pan, I then smother it with the bruschetta and bake it in the oven at 425F for 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and the tomatoes are slightly soft and warm. The beauty of cast iron is that it moves easily from stovetop to oven.

The finished product is a delicious explosion of flavor on the palate: juicy tomatoes, peppery basil, spicy garlic, tender chicken, nutty pasta. It’s divine and so easy and good for you, how could you not give it a try?

Chicken Bruschetta over Whole Wheat Angel Hair
Recipe by Colleen Fields
Flavors of classic Italian bruschetta — juicy tomatoes, peppery fresh basil, and spicy garlic — combine with tender chicken and nutty whole wheat angel hair pasta for an easy and delicious meal that is perfect for those busy weeknights.

Yield: 4 Servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast tenderloins
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 3 Roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
  • 1 oz. fresh basil (about 2 cups loosely packed), chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 6 oz. whole wheat angel hair (aka cappellini) pasta
  • juice of 1 lemon

Cooking Directions:

  1. Whisk together 1 tbsp of the olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, 1 clove of the garlic, and a pinch of the coarse sea salt and pepper. Toss with the chicken breast tenderloins in a shallow dish or resealable plastic bag and let marinate for 20-30 minutes.
  2. Mix together the tomatoes, basil, parmesan, and remaining 3 cloves of garlic in a medium mixing bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and toss to combine. Set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 425F.
  4. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken tenderloins and cook for about 2 minutes on each side just until cooked through. Turn the burner off and, leaving the chicken in the pan, smother the chicken with the tomato mixture. Move the pan to the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the tomatoes are warm and soft.
  5. While the chicken is in the oven, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for about 4-5 minutes until al dente. Drain the cooked pasta and toss with the remaining 1 tsp of olive oil and the lemon juice.
  6. Serve the pasta topped with pieces of the chicken and bruschetta topping. Serve immediately.
Nutrition Facts
  4 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  Calories 329.6
  Total Fat 8.0 g
  Saturated Fat 1.6 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.6 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 3.8 g
  Cholesterol 58.6 mg
  Sodium 641.2 mg
  Potassium 169.1 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 36.0 g
  Dietary Fiber 5.4 g
  Sugars 1.4 g
  Protein 31.5 g

 

Greek Stuffed Chicken and Zucchini Ribbon Salad

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You know you’re a tomato-aholic when you:

  1. carefully comb all the nurseries looking for just the right variety of heirloom tomatoes;
  2. actually dig up your entire garden and move it with you when you are forced to move unexpectedly in the middle of the summer;
  3. spend hours every day trimming, fertilizing, staking, watering and nurturing your precious plants back to life after a traumatic move;
  4. have every available windowsill lined with green tomatoes once the fall rains hit so that come November you still have homegrown tomatoes on hand; or
  5. all of the above.
Yes, that’s me. My name is Colleen and I am a tomato-aholic.
I have always had a passionate appetite for homegrown vegetables. My mother is an avid gardener and, as a child, we always had large, plentiful vegetable gardens. This is something that I’ve continued in various sizes and stages throughout my adult life, starting with a patio garden when I was younger and could only afford apartments. It has grown from there, particularly as I have added more fresh fruits and vegetables to my diet.
I think my favorite vegetable to grow, though, is the tomato. It is amazing to me how many different sizes, colors, and flavors this one plant type can come in. I particularly love to grow a variety of small, sweet cherry tomatoes, pulpy romas, and juicy, meaty heirlooms. The heirlooms require the most patience as they take longer to mature. I always feel like a kid on Christmas morning when I find my first red brandywine ripe on the vine.
The red brandwines are my favorite. I love to eat them simply sliced and drizzled with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and ribbons of fresh basil. They are also amazing just slightly warmed atop a crispy summer tartine or in a pannini with mozzarella and avocado.
As great as these hearty giants of the garden are, I also adore my cherry tomatoes. These tiny gems make a great afternoon snack and are essential in just about any salad I make during the growing season. I also like to toss them in pasta for a burst of flavor and a pop of color in the dish. And that’s exactly why I added them  to this zucchini ribbon salad.
I love the flavor combination of the sweet cherry tomatoes with the mild zucchini, peppery arugula and basil, and citrus-y white wine vinaigrette. They also add a much needed pop of color to the otherwise very green salad. In my opinion, the appearance of the dish is just as important as the flavor as your eye has to like what it sees first, leaving your tastebuds in delicious anticipation of the pleasure to come.
Recipes of the Week
 
Greek Stuffed Chicken Breast

Ingredients

  • 2 oz. reduced fat feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes (not packed in oil), diced
  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3/4 pound total)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350.

Use a fork to mix together the feta, oregano, garlic and sundried tomatoes. Set aside.

Use a sharp knife to butterfly each chicken breast open. Spread open along the seam and place between two sheets of plasticwrap or in a resealable plastic bag. Use the flat side of a meat mallet to pound the chicken so it is an even 1/4″ thickness across the breast.

Put half of the cheese mixture along the long side of one of the breasts. Roll the breast up and secure the ends with toothpicks. Repeat for the other breast.

Bake covered for 15 minutes then uncover and bake for 15 minutes more or until the chicken is lightly browned and cooked through.

Remove from oven and let sit for 3 minutes then slice into round medallions. Serve immediately.

Serving Size: Makes 4 servings

Nutritional Information: Calories 151.7, Total Fat 3.4g, Cholesterol 62.5mg, Sodium 243.9mg, Total Carbs 4.4g, Dietary Fiber 0.6g, Protein 24.8g
Zucchini Ribbon Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 medium baby zucchini, ends trimmed and sliced into thin slices, about 1/16″ thickness (I use a mandolin on the thinnest setting)
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 3 cups fresh baby arugula
  • 1 cup loosely packed basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp dry white wine (I recommend a sauvignon blanc with citrus notes)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • pinch (1/8 tsp) of coarse sea salt
  • 2 leaves society garlic, chopped (or can sub one small clove garlic minced)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes

Directions
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the zucchini and let boil for 1 minute. Remove the zucchini and plunge immediately into an ice water bath. Let soak for about 5 minutes while you prep the rest of the salad.

Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet on medium heat until just lightly browned. Remove from heat.

Toss the arugula and basil in a salad bowl.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, wine, lemon juice, sea salt, and society garlic. Drain the zucchini ribbons and add to the dressing, tossing to thoroughly coat the zucchini. Spread over the top of the arugula/basil mixture.

Top with the cherry tomatoes and toasted pine nuts. Serve immediately.

Serving Size: Makes 4 servings

Nutritional Information: Calories 112.1, Total Fat 10.3g, Cholesterol 0.0mg, Sodium 63.6mg, Total Carbs 4.3g, Dietary Fiber 1.3g, Protein 1.8g