Zucchini Ravioli

I am not sure if it is the weather or my schedule of late but I havent really spent my usual amount of time planning the garden for this year. I was letting the dog out the side door just yesterday (Monday – i’m writing this one early as I am away this weekend) and noticed my asparagus was already 3 feet tall UGH! I hadn’t even cleaned out the debris from last year. I immediately went out and dealt with the situation and had some of the “normal” sized stalks for dinner – they were delicious as I knew they would be .
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Last year my zucchini was such a disappointment i am hoping for better this season. I realize people tend to use the oops I didn’t get to the garden in time sized squash that went from perfect to damn how did I miss that one; it’s the size of a Softball bat. For when they want to make zucchini lasagna; even though most times they are very seedy. But if you are looking for something to make with the cute little ones, this will fit the bill. Plus they are super cute and really easy to make.
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I actually have been trying for a month or so to make these. It started when I saw the crop of squash at the store, they were so cute so I grabbed a bag full. I forgot to go back to the other end of the store for the ricotta – fail. Then the next trip I grabbed some ricotta and thought I had some squash at home – fail. Finally I was going to make it happen – nope another fail timing is everything and it got away from me. Now I was determined and finally pulled it off. They don’t take long at all but I definitely could have used a few more to fill the pan I chose to make it in. I know just use a smaller dish – I know I know I have issues! Regardless I was very happy I finally made it happen, they are tasty, easy to assemble, quick and worth the wait.
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4-6 small Zucchini – for a 9×13 pan
1 large container Ricotta
2 eggs
1-2 tablespoon dried Parsley
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesean Reggiano
1 cup mozzarella
Kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper
1 jar marinara sauce
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Either make your marinara or use your favorite jarred sauce and doctor it up as you normally would, or not.
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In a medium bowl combine the ricotta, eggs, parsley, parmesan, mozzarella, salt and pepper. Mix till combined.
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Using your vegetable peeler, slice lengthwise till you can’t anymore. I didn’t do this but think it would be easier to leave the stem on to use as a handle.
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Depending how large you want your ravioli layer 2 slices side by side then top with two more slices going the opposite direction.
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Put a dollop of the cheese mixture in the center and fold into a little package.
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Layer as you would a lasagna. Sauce, ravioli, cheese and repeat.
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Bake for about 30 minutes until the top cheese layer is brown and bubbly
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HAPPY MOTHERS DAY!!!!!!

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Let me start by saying there is nothing wrong with using some pre-packaged items from pantry. I have a few staples that I use, albeit probably not very often but not because I don’t want to, I really kind of forget to open the cupboard. We are meat and potato kind of people so I sometimes space that I have rice in many forms on hand.
IMG_2729 - CopyThe other night I was going to cook up a pasta and veggie kind of side but opted for using a packaged rice pilaf but knew I wanted to use up a few small peppers and tomatoes that were about to go south fairly soon.
IMG_2727 - CopyIf you have never doctored up a plain ole box; again nothing wrong with it; but a few other ingredients you already have on hand and you will not be disappointed. My daughter was funny and asked if I made this up, I cannot take full credit as I was served something a little similar years ago it just had different ingredients.
IMG_2728 - CopyThere is no set rule of what you can add; again I wanted to use up some fridge items and then added a handful of spaghetti that I broke up and chopped up some marcona almonds along with my peppers and tomatoes. My fam loved it!
IMG_2734Package of rice pilaf
1 small onion diced
Small hand full of spaghetti broken into small pieces
Hand full of cherry tomatoes halved
1 medium pepper sliced, seeded and chopped
2 cups Chicken stock or water
Slivered or chopped almonds
Scallions or chives sliced
IMG_2732 - CopySaute the onion, pepper till soft. 4-5 minutes, add the spaghetti and brown a bit, add the rice and it’s packet. Add the stock, stir and cover. On low for about 20 minutes. Check to make sure the rice is done.  Add the sliced tomatoes, cover and let sit for 5 minutes or so. Just before serving add the almonds and top with scallions.

Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs

This week my kitchen was pretty quiet; which is my way of saying that I didn’t make anything exciting that I felt I HAD to share with you. That doesn’t mean we didn’t eat it’s more how I would say “no brainer” meals were had this week. What I mean by that is whatever was simple, quick and not a lot of ingredients. Any shortcut you know works here!

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I am sitting here trying to think why I didn’t make something fun and exciting. I don’t think we were super busy, though we did spend a wonderful night out on the town. I mentioned in last weeks blog about gathering 9 of my foodie friends and family to a food bank fundraising event featuring Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli. What an awesome night! She is a true rock star. She was funny, engaging, personable, approachable and everything I had hoped she would be and more.
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Three of us paid a little extra, it was for charity, it’s all good. For a meet and greet with Alex. I met her, shook her hand and took pictures with her, we are on first name basis now, well at least I think so and it’s my blog so that’s what I am going with.
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While in the VIP room; yeah that’s what they called it. I was kind of geeking out. There was a TV chef from my younger days that I recognized Mary Ann Esposito she has a show on Public Television called Ciao Italia which I just looked up is the longest-running television cooking program in America. I watched this all the time when I was younger; mostly because it was one of the 5 channels we had. But I loved her and her show so it was an honor to meet her. Plus she thought my daughter was my sister so I love her even more.
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We had a great time laughing and talking with local Chef Luca Paris who is Chef/Owner of Luca’s Mediterranean a few towns over. I’ve eaten at his place numerous times but this is the first time we chatted more than just the cordial meet and greet; here’s your table and how is everything. He was one of the competitors; this was an chef challenge event; he didn’t win – but we were routing for him all night.
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If you are looking for something simple, hands off and delicious this is going to help you out a lot. I know it’s not really a recipe but we had such a great night I wanted to share it with you but this is a food blog so I wanted to leave you with something.
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Slow Cooker Chicken Thighs – couldn’t be simpler!

Bone in skin on Chicken thighs – however many fit in a single layer in your size crockpot
Kosher salt
Black Pepper

Salt and Pepper both sides of your chicken thighs and lay them in a single layer in your slow cooker, nothing else just put the cover on them and leave on low for the day. about 6-8 hours. They come out perfectly cooked with the skin still crispy. it’s that simple and they taste great. Add a couple of your quick sides and dinner is served.

I’m sure you could add another spice to the mix; maybe Cajun, Garlic, Italian seasoning whatever you like.

Creamy Garlic Chicken

I think I have finally found something I am passionate about. I mean truly passionate about. I love playing golf, I love gardening, I love traveling and exploring; but what gets me really excited is food. It only took me around 20 years to figure out that I get super excited about the experience of and being around food. I mean it has not always been this way trust me but I definitely can see that I have become more excited at the prospect of getting into a restaurant that is impossible to get in, finding a hidden gem by accident and staying for hours,  seeing/meeting a famous chef or even a chef that came in second on Chopped; yeah that really happened.
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My daughter wanted to go to a restaurant the runner up was cooking at in Washington DC; so we were in the city and went for lunch, I mentioned to our waiter we were here only because my daughter saw him on chopped. He said he was cooking out back and then proceeded to tell him without our knowledge. A chef was coming towards us; came to our table and chatted with us, more like me, my daughter was chef shocked and could barely speak. Same thing happened when she came face to face with Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian on a flight from Japan to the US.
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Last year my daughter and I went to a taping of a radio show featuring ex iron chef Mario Batali, this week I am dragging 9 of my foodie family and friends to a fundraising dinner and I paid extra for my ticket for a meet and greet with Iron Chef Alex Guarnascelli.  I am currently waiting “patiently” to see if my name is pulled to make a reservation to the Lost Kitchen in Freedom ME; which is only taking names via 3×5 index cards mailed in for reservations.  Also a couple of years ago my husband and I along with another couple made a reservation to a restaurant in Montreal Canada that had a 4 month waiting list; which by the way is a 4 hour drive from us. Not to mention I am heading into my fourth year of writing a weekly food blog. I think you get the gist now!

I love that I am sharing my passion with my husband and kids and that they are just as much a foodie as I am. Having dinner together at the table every night together IS important! What my husband said about this dish “knocked it out of the park”

Ingredients

1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, thinly sliced or chopped up like I did
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup chicken broth
2-3 cloves of minced garlic
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
1 cup chopped spinach
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions

season chicken with salt and pepper, in a large skillet cook the chicken until cooked through and browned on each side, remove chicken and set aside.
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Add the garlic for and cook for 30 seconds, do not let it brown. add the chicken stock and using a wooden spoon get all the browned bits up off the pan, cook for about 3-4 minutes to almost half of the stock is gone.
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Add the heavy cream, seasoning, cheese and whisk over high heat till it thickens. Add the spinach and tomatoes and bring to a simmer until the spinach wilts.  Add the chicken to the sauce.
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serve over pasta if you want – I served it over linguine and it re-heated beautifully the next day!

Macros – chicken and sauce only
484 Calories 57 g Protein 34 g 23 g Fat 9 g Carbs

Chicken Divan – a little lighter

Last week I unfortunately ate WAY too much of the Texas sheet cake I blogged about; it was SO good I’m going to have to hold off on making it again anytime soon, eventually it is going to be shorts season again; once all this snow melts.
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My husband has a childhood memory of chicken divan, he never calls it chicken divan it’s always my mom’s chicken and broccoli casserole so when I made my first divan he was like yeah that’s it. Wel after making it for several years now I have come to realize even though it’s filled with broccoli the other things around the broccoli are kind of crazy bad for the waistline if you know what I mean. Cream of chicken soup, cubed bread, shredded cheese and butter. Don’t get me wrong I LOVE the old casserole but I wanted to try to lighten it up just a bit.
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I am all about flavors and was a little nervous to change it too much that it is unrecognizable. So I stuck with building layers of flavor so I wouldn’t miss all the richness of cream of soup, bread and cheese.  I hope you like this “lighter” version of my husband’s’ childhood chicken divan.
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Chicken Divan

Ingredients
2-3 heads of broccoli, chopped
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 bulbs shallots, minced
3 tablespoons flour
2-3 teaspoons curry powder
1 cup of chicken broth
1 cut fat free milk
¼ cup white wine
6 oz shredded low fat cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan
¼ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
Kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

Instructions
Steam or blanch the broccoli just till slightly tender and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350’F and grease a 13×9 baking dish

Chunk up chicken into bite sized pieces.  Season liberally with salt and pepper on all sides.
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Heat a medium skillet on medium high heat, add some of the oil and cook the chicken till it is slightly browned and just cooked through. Remove the chicken and set aside.
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In the same skillet add more oil if needed and saute the shallots and garlic; saute till soft and translucent. Sprinkle with flour and the curry powder whisk till smooth.
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Stir in the broth, milk and wine and bring to a boil allowing the flour to help thicken the sauce.
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Remove from the heat and add half of the shredded cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fill the bottom of the casserole dish with the broccoli, pour half of the sauce over the broccoli, cover with the pieces of chicken and then the remainder of the sauce. Sprinkle with the remaining shredded cheese, the grated Parmesan and the breadcrumbs. Spray a little cooking spray on top and bake for about 30 minutes.

Serves 6
Approx Macros
340 Calories – 13 Fat – 20 Carbs – 34 Protein

Baked Jalapeno Poppers – no longer afraid

As little as a few short months ago you couldn’t pay me or my husband to even try a Jalapeno popper – we both just figured they were going to be too hot for us. Now I am making them for my Christmas party. I must be growing as an adult, nah we were at a friends for dinner and they served jalapeno poppers and stuffed mushrooms – ugh I had to at the very least take a “no thank you” bite of each. My husband was going to be OK because he doesn’t mind mushrooms; I think it must be a texture thing for me. We were both super surprised how much we liked the poppers and the mushrooms were not too bad either.
IMG_5601.JPGSo here I was shopping for the party; saw the jalapenos and decided why not! I get home and tell my husband what I was doing and he was psyched. Maybe we are both evolving hahaha stop talking crazy Donna.
IMG_5591This is actually going to be great come summer when I have way too many Jalapenos from my garden; I usually just bring them into to work and put them on one of the kitchen tables for whoever wanted them. Now I have more than salsa and guacamole to use them in.
IMG_560024 +/- jalapeno
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
8 ounce cream cheese – softened
16 ounce breakfast sausage – browned and drained

Slice each jalapeno in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and veins; I use an iced tea spoon, it is small enough to fit right in them. If you are not wearing gloves, make sure not to touch your face or eyes until you wash your hands really well.
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Mix the next three ingredients once the sausage is cooled.
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Scoop about a tablespoon and a half into each jalapeno. Press the mixture into them so it doesn’t fall out.

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My husband saw me writing and said you should tell them “that I Love these”


Place on a sheet pan and broil for about 7-10 minutes but you know your oven better than me so watch them. You want them nice and browned and for the jalapeno to be soft

Macros = 2 pieces
228 Calories – 15g Fat – 10g Carbs – 13g Protein

Macaroni & “Cheese” butternut squash

I mentioned a bit ago that I heard you could make a pretty decent macaroni and cheese using butternut squash. A few years ago I would have told you you were crazy. Now I am coming around; so much so I tried it. I looked around the internet for a few recipes but decided to make my usual one and replace most of the cheese with the butternut squash. I was still a little skeptical but what was there to lose?
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I will advise you that if you are going to have your family or anyone for that matter try your new recipe I would not tell them what was in it.  I find that if you tell them it’s different or lighter or different in anyway, their senses are on high alert and they are sure to find or even look for something different with it.
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Case in point; my husband was home when I was making my lighter macaroni and cheese and when it was finished I just brought over a fork full and gave him a bite. First reaction was “mmmm good” I had to ask him what he thought it was. He looked at me a little funny and said “macaroni and cheese” but I think my comment made him add “of some sort” I had to confess it was made with squash and very little cheese. Oh and I also used rotini that was made from Chickpeas.  If you haven’t tried chickpea pasta I really think you will be pleasantly surprised. I have made 2 dishes with great success.

You might be thinking why chickpea pasta it has less carbs than average pasta, more protein and more fiber. So it is just a little better for you than ordinary box pasta. Unfortunately I haven’t seen any at either of my local stores my boxes were bought by my daughter when she visited one of Mario Batali’s Eataly. Looks like I will have to go and check it out.

Macaroni and “Cheese”

Small onion – diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves – minced
2 pounds cubed butternut squash – I used frozen
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
box of chickpea pasta
4 ounce gruyere cheese – grated
few drops sriracha sauce
Parmesan cheese – a small amount for grating on top
1/4 cup seasoned panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste

saute onion for a couple of minutes in the olive oil.  Add garlic saute another minute. add mustard, nutmeg, butternut squash, stock and milk still squash is softened.
Remove from the heat and using either a stick blender or however you puree your soups. puree the mixture and then add the cheese, season with salt and pepper to your taste.
place in a baking dish and grate some Parmesan cheese and a little seasoned panko bread crumbs.

Per 11 ounce serving
215 Calories – 12g Fat – 14g Carbs – 16g Protein