Category Archives: In the Kitchen

Barcelona Style Cannelloni- Canalones a la Barcelonesa

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Barcelona Style Cannelloni- Canalones a la Barcelonesa

This is originally an Italian dish, but when migrants brought it to Spain, Barcelona adopted and adapted it.  I experienced this dish several years ago in Sabadell, a smaller city just 12 miles from Barcelona.  Choirs sang when I took that first bite.  This is my latest attempt to hear those choirs again.  The Recipe is from The Food of Spain- a journey for food lovers by Vicky Harris.  My changes are in red.  

Barcelona Style Cannelloni

2 tbsp olive oil

125 g (4 1/2 oz) ground beef

125 g (4 1/2 oz) ground pork

200g (7 oz) chicken livers, chopped

I know, I’m a disgrace.  I skipped the chicken livers (I’m not a chef!  I don’t know what to do with them!)

and I just used about a pound of ground chicken and a pound of ground pork.

1 brown onion, diced

1 leek, white part only, halved lengthwise and chopped (get a leek if you can!  They are the BEST!)

2 1/2 tbsp fino sherry (I used vinegar)

1 tbsp chopped thyme

400 g (14 oz) canned chopped tomatoes

4 tbsp chopped flat leaf (italian) parsley

75 g (2 2/3 oz) butter

60 g (1/2 cup) all purpose flour (I used white whole wheat flour)

1 litre (4 cups) milk

pinch of nutmeg (I used more than a pinch)

250 g (9oz) package dried cannelloni tubes

(I went to two Italian import stores- no cannelloni tubes!  I ended up using manicotti tubes, but they are much thicker.  Next time I think I’ll try making my own.)

100 ml (3 1/2 fl oz) pureed tomato

100 g (1 cup) grated Manchego or parmesan cheese

(we splurged and got the Manchego- Mmmmmm!)

 

PREHEAT the oven to 180 degrees C or 350 degrees F.  Heat the olive oil in a large heavy- based frying pan over medium heat.  Cook the beef, pork, chicken livers, onion and leek for 10 minutes, or until well browned, breaking up any lumps with the back of a wooden spoon.  Add the sherry, thyme, tomato and half the parsley and cook for 3 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Season and leave to cool.

 

TO MAKE the white sauce, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the flour and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 1-2 minutes, or until pale yellow.  Remove from the heat and add the milk gradually, stirring constantly until blended.  Return to the heat and slowly bring the mixture to a boil, whisking for 15 minutes, or until thickened.  Season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.

 

FILL the cannelloni with the meat mixture using a wide-tip piping (icing) bag or a spoon.  Put the filled cannelloni side by side in a buttered ovenproof dish.  Pour the white sauce over the top and dot with the pureed tomato.  Top with the grated cheese and bake 40-45 minutes.  Garnish with the remaining chopped parsley.

 

Sooooo Yummy!  Let me know what it’s like with chopped chicken livers!

 

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Chicken and Spinach Pesto Lasagna

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Chicken and Spinach Pesto Lasagna

Chicken Spinach Pesto Lasagna 2

 

A few people have asked about this recipe so here it is!  Even my 1 year old likes it, and that’s saying something.  The original recipe is from a mozzarella cheese wrapper and the first time I made it, I followed the recipe exactly.  It was a bit boring- not incredibly flavorful or special.  The pesto flavor got lost in the noodles and cheese and was never found….  So I tried the recipe again recently and made a few key changes. The difference was astounding!  My changes are in red….

Chicken Spinach Pesto Lasagna 

12 uncooked lasagna noodles (I used whole wheat noodles)

3 Tbsp olive oil

1 cup onions, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 packages (12oz each) frozen chopped spinach (I used one package spinach and a bunch of kale I had on hand)

1/2 c prepared pesto sauce plus 2 tbsp (you can find my easy pesto recipe here)

3/4 c grated parmesan cheese (I excluded this- I just didn’t have any!)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

3 cups cooked diced chicken (I used canned chicken…. it’s just easier!)

1/2 tsp salt (or a bit more- I try to season at every step)

1/2 tsp pepper

(2 cups ricotta cheese I used a package of soft herbed goat cheese- this was the game changer!)

1 large egg

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Spray 13×9 in casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.  Partially cook lasagna noodles according to the package.  Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook and stir onions and garlic until transparent.  Add spinach (and kale); cook and stir about 5 min. Add chicken and stir about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, mix together ricotta cheese (goat cheese), egg, pesto, and parmesan cheese until thoroughly blended.  Add chicken and spinach mixture to bowl and stir to combine.  Spread extra 2 tbsp of pesto in bottom of pan.  Layer 4 noodles, slightly overlapping.  Top with 1/3 of spinach/ricotta mixture and 1/3 mozzarella cheese.  Repeat layers twice.  Bake 35-40 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

 

The goat cheese really is the star in my version- so if you don’t have pesto on hand just chop up some basil leaves or your favorite italian spices.  If you don’t have goat cheese- maybe add more pesto- and season every step! 

Tilapia with Escarole and Lemon-Pepper Sauce

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Tilapia final

“Mmmmmm!  I love this dinner! It’s so easy and tasty.  Wait, I should post this on the blog!  Rats, I don’t have a picture!”  Those were my thoughts this evening, in the middle of dinner, after most everyone had finished.  So, yeah, that’s my excuse for the terrible picture.  You’ll notice though that my 4 year old has already finished her fish.  It’s that good!  Don’t worry, I’ll post a better photo when I make this dish again, in about a month.  In the meantime, you can visit the original recipe at Food Network and see their lovely picture.

There are so many reasons I love this dish.  It’s healthy, it’s easy, it takes only one dish, and it’s delicious!  The fish turns out so tender and flakey and the lemon-pepper oil adds just the right finishing touch.  I have made a few changes to the original recipe, mostly because I don’t like a lot of oil in my food and because I have a hungry 12 year old to feed!  Here it is with my changes.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Click below to open a printable pdf of the recipe

Tilapia with Escarole

Busy Getting Healthy

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One of the newbies. So sweet! Photography by yours truly.

I guess you’ve probably noticed that it’s been awhile since any of us posted.  Well, we’ve all been pretty busy these last couple of months.  The biggest news is the arrival of three new babies!  Congrats to my three sisters!  Babies and mothers are doing well.

I myself have been working on a website for my photography and getting a real business going.  More on that later.

What I really wanted to talk about today was my little family’s very recent and earth shattering goal to GET HEALTHY.   I really don’t want to call it a “diet” because there’s a lot of connotations associated with that word.  Let’s call it a lifestyle change.  It all started 4 or 5 months ago when my husband decided to write an argumentative research paper for English class about health in the U.S.  It started out being about the obesity epidemic and it turned into an expose of the entire food industry and the government’s involvement.  Wow.  Needless to say, we both got pretty passionate about the whole thing.  So then I found this book called The Blood Sugar Solution.

Now, for the past few years I’ve been getting more and more concerned about the health of my growing family.  And what with all the corruption and marketing targeting my children, I really wanted to be able to make smart decisions in the grocery store and keep the really bad stuff out of my house.  But I’ve always been a big believer in “moderation” and the older I’ve gotten, the less inclined I am to be an “extremist”.  So I just did the basic things.  We cut way down on soda- we maybe bought it once a month.  I only bought the whole wheat bread and tortillas and our breakfast cereal had to have at least 3 grams of fiber and contain whole grains (unless there was a sale on Captain Crunch- Yum!)  We had salads daily (complete with ranch) and we cut back on our ice cream and candy intake- but we did splurge regularly.  I also had a habit of keeping processed food around for those 3 or 4 nights a week when I just didn’t feel like cooking.  And we ate a lot of sandwiches.

Sounds pretty normal, right?  It’s not like we ate fast food all the time.  In fact, we avoided it like the plague.  So why did I feel like a skinny fat person with constant sugar cravings and why was my husband 80 lbs overweight?  He also had symptoms that pointed to a possible food sensitivity and inflammation and a family history of dementia and diabetes. I knew I had to do something more and I didn’t want to wait around until my husband was diagnosed with pre-diabetes or worse, hit with a heart attack!  And so I got this book from the library on CD so my husband and I could listen to it together because I knew nothing would happen unless we were completely united.

The first half of the book described exactly what we had found when my husband wrote his research paper- why heart disease is the leading cause of death and why there is a growing plague of type 2 diabetes.  The 2nd half of the book describes basic health needs and nutrition and includes quizzes to help you determine areas in which you may have problems.  The back of the book has recipes and meal planning for two weeks.  That was really what made the entire process realistic to me.

The thing I love about Blood Sugar Solution is that it just makes sense.  It’s almost intuitive.  It’s also very personal.  There are no gimmicks, no special weight loss pills or shakes, no severe calorie cutting- no calorie counting at all, in fact.  It’s all about eating whole, real foods, moderate exercise, and relaxation.  A good multivitamin is recommended but that’s nothing unusual these days.  The healthy eating at first seemed strict and restrictive, but since we made the change we’re eating a greater variety of delicious food than we ever have before!  It’s a pretty simple program to follow when you’re really committed.  We quit eating all processed food.  If it had more than four ingredients or any latin named compounds, we threw it out.  We stopped eating sweet things.  High fructose corn syrup especially, but also sugar and any type of sweetener.  The idea is to break the “sweets” addiction (it really was an addiction for me).  The exception to this was a square of 70% dark chocolate a day and the occasional serving of honey.  We also stopped eating red meat- beef and pork mainly.  We also cut out dairy and gluten for 6 weeks to see if we had sensitivities to either of them. We also avoid flour of any kind- it is quickly absorbed and can drive up your blood sugar.

So what do we eat, you may ask?  Vegetables and fruit– we do avoid citrus and potatoes but everything else is fair game!  Beans beans beans!  I love beans.  Meat! Chicken, wild caught fish, turkey, lamb.  Rice! Brown, wild, or black.  Nuts! Lots of nuts and seeds. With fruit.  Whole grains– quinoa, millet, flax….  And lots of spices and seasonings– basil, parsley, oregano, olive oil, vinegars, sea salt, etc.

The results?  We feel great!  Our digestive systems have never worked so well! We have more consistent energy and we sleep more soundly.  and my husband’s dry, ichy skin on his hands has virtually disappeared!  We eat until we are full and carb and sugar cravings have no power over us!  Oh, and did I mention our clothes don’t fit anymore? I lost 10 lbs and my husband lost 30 lbs.  It’s nice to know that our weight loss is sustainable and healthy and that it won’t just skyrocket back up because we’ve made the change and we’re sticking to it.

Sorry this post is so long- if you made it to the end, congratulations!

Future posts: Photography, Weight loss- before and after, healthy recipes, and my latest craftiness

How is your family being healthy?  I’d love to swap recipes if anyone has some healthy favorites!

Valentine Treats

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Happy Valentine’s Day!  I just thought I’d share a few of the treats I made this year!

My husband loves Oreos.  But you know what’s even better than Oreos?  HOMEMADE Oreos!

Here’s the recipe I used:

1 box devils food cake mix

1/3 cup oil

1/2 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

mix together, roll into cherry sized balls and bake at 375 for 6-8 minutes

Do not over cook! Cookies should look soft and moist.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

1/4 cup butter

1 8 0z package cream cheese- softened

4 cups powdered sugar

Cream together butter and cream cheese- add powdered sugar as mixing

frost cookies with frosting and top with another cookie.

These are delicious!  If you want to shake things up, use different flavors of cake mix and frosting!  To make mine a Valentine cookie, I used a heart cookie cutter on the cookies right after they came out of the oven.

I had lots of frosting left over, so for my second treat, I simply put the cream cheese frosting on nila wafers and topped it with a slice of strawberry.  Very easy, but it tastes like a little strawberry shortcake.

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Enjoy!

Dinner in a Pumpkin

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Looking for something special to serve at your Halloween Party?  This is one of my favorite festive meals.  I got this recipe from my friend Bonnie, but I’m sure there are lots of different versions out there.

Ingredients:

1 medium pumpkin (make sure it will fit in your oven)

1- 1.5 lbs sausage

1 small chopped green and/or red pepper

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

1 large can mushrooms

2 cans cream of chicken soup

1/2 cup water

1 cup sliced olives

1/2 cup slivered almonds or water chestnuts

1 garlic clove (chopped)

2 cups cooked rice

1 tsp oregano (and/or other spices of your choice)

pepper

Directions:

cut top off of pumpkin (make sure to do it at an angle so the top can be replaced to cook)

scoop out the insides- make sure it’s nice and clean!

rub salt on the inside of the pumpkin

saute the sausage, onion, pepper, and celery until sausage is completely cooked; drain fat

add the remaining ingredients, mix, and put mixture in pumpkin

replace top; put pumpkin on baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2- 2 hours
The best thing about this recipe is that it is very forgiving.  If you’re missing one or two ingredients, no problem! Just substitute something else, or leave them out altogether.  And it’s not even necessary to actually measure out all the ingredients.  Just throw them together and bake!  And season it however you want- be creative!

Happy Halloween!

Pesto Presto!

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Here’s another garden favorite- hopefully you’re all still harvesting!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book and can also be found on their website here.  It is super yummy and although I haven’t figured out exactly how much it costs, I’m sure it’s cheaper than buying pesto, especially if you grow your own basil.  Here’s the recipe with my own comments in parenthesis.

Homemade Pesto

1/4 cup olive oil or cooking oil

1/2 cup chopped walnuts and/or pine nuts

2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (or you could leave the cheese out like I did.  Still yummy.)

4 cloves garlic, peeled and quartered

1/4 teaspoon salt

Black pepper

In a food processor bowl or blender container combine oil, nuts, basil, cheese, garlic, and salt. Cover and process or blend until nearly smooth, stopping and scraping sides as necessary.  Add pepper to taste.  If you’re not serving the pesto immediately, divide it into 3 portions. Place each portion in a small airtight container and chill for 1 to 2 days or freeze for up to three months.

Super yummy and super fast! Pesto is great on pasta, bread with cheese and tomato slices, baked potatoes, or stirred into mayonnaise for a stellar chicken or pasta salad.  I love that it can be frozen so I can enjoy that basil taste any time of year!

Homemade pesto on baguette slices topped with mozzarella cheese and garden tomatoes

 

Garden Tomato Gazpacho

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It’s harvesting time!  My corn and peppers this year are a little sparse, but the tomatoes and  zucchini are producing in abundance.  I thought I’d share a few of my favorite summertime recipes that will use a lot of that fresh garden veg.  Can’t let it go bad!

Today’s comes from an amazing cookbook called The Food of Spain I picked up from Borders a few years ago.  It not only has great recipes, but it’s full of the history of regional Spanish cuisine and beautiful photographs.  I don’t cook from it very often, but I do love sitting down and looking at the pictures from time to time.

Gazpacho is a Spanish chilled tomato soup- it’s easy to make and very refreshing.  A must have on a hot summer’s day!  Here’s a classic recipe with my own comments on the side.

Ingredients:

2 slices day-old white crusty bread, broken into pieces (I used fresh wheat bread.)

2 lbs 4 oz vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled*, seeded and chopped

1 red pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 small green chili, chopped (optional)

1 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (I used balsamic vinegar)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

*(the secret to peeling tomatoes is to score the bottoms, put the tomatoes in boiling water for 10 seconds and then immediately  plunge them into cold water and the peels should come right off.  Also, all of these ingredients that are going into the food processor don’t need to be chopped much.)

Garnish Ingredients:

1 cucumber, finely diced

1/2 red pepper, finely diced

1/2 green pepper, finely diced

1/2 red onion, finely diced

1/2 ripe tomato, diced

Soak the bread in cold water for 5 minutes, then squeeze out any excess liquid.  Put the bread in a food processor with the tomato, pepper, garlic, chili, sugar and vinegar and process until smooth.

With the motor running, gradually add the oil to make a smooth creamy mixture. Season to taste. Refrigerate for at least two hours.  Add a little of the extra vinegar, if desired.

To make the garnish, mix together the ingredients. Spoon the chilled gazpacho into soup bowls, top with a little of the garnish and serve the remaining garnish in separate bowls on the side.

I like to serve it with french bread or a baguette. Enjoy!

Peach Limeade

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Despite the heat wave, my garden grows!  We’ve been enjoying lettuce and spinach and I’m eagerly awaiting the ripening of the tomatoes.  The apricot tree is also producing an abundance of ripe fruit.  Ahhhh, the joys of the harvest.

I personally don’t love the heat (and being 8 months pregnant certainly doesn’t help) so I have a variety of ways to beat it.  Living in a basement apartment is #1.  My #2 favorite way is with cool treats.  My latest cold delight was inspired by the beverages we enjoyed whilst dining out last week.

The versatile Brazilian Limeade.

All you do is:  zest and squeeze 2-3 limes, add your favorite fruit (I used a couple of peaches), ice, water, and sweetened condensed milk, mix in the blender and Enjoy!

Most of the recipes I found online required that you remove all the pulp by straining the mixture through cheesecloth, but where’s the sense in that?  You loose all the fiber and nutrients and it’s one more step to bother with.  I’ll leave mine thick and pulpy, thank you very much.

  P.S. I didn’t use sweetened condensed milk this time round- I just added a little bit of sugar.  So refreshing!  Try it!

 

One of My Favorite Things

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THE LUNCH TRAY

One of man’s greatest inventions? 

Maybe not, but let me tell you why I love mine.  I found them at the thrift store 6 months ago for 3 dollars a piece.  There were 3 of them.  They are old school, from the 50s I think, and still in great condition.  I looked up Prolon Ware online and it looks like they still make lots of dishes although I doubt they still make lunch trays with styrofoam being the choice of many schools. 

A typical lunch before these wonderful things consisted of a p.b. & j. sandwich with an apple if they (my 3 kids) were lucky.  We snacked on other things pretty much all day so lunch wasn’t a big deal.  However, after I got these trays, the kids wanted every space filled, so lunch became a meal again!  And a really healthy one, too.  I would end up making a p.b. & j. of course, but then fill up the other spaces with carrots and dip, fruit, a drink, applesauce, cottage cheese, and even go-gurt or string cheese where the utensils go.  And because they were eating such a filling lunch, we only have one snack between meals now!  

That’s why I love my lunch trays! 

p.s. the meal in the picture is actually a dinner.  NO WAY do I put that much effort into our lunches!