Dinner


How many times have you heard people say that they can’t afford to eat healthy? Sure, McDonald’s Dollar Menu is cheap but there’s a lot of other good deals out there. A great place to shop for produce is the Reading Terminal Market. I think a lot of people associate the market with a tourist attraction and a fun place to go sampling with friends but I associate it with bargain shopping. The same conventionally grown tomatoes selling for $2.99/lb at Whole Foods are here for .79 cents! That price differential holds for most items including potatoes, apples, and mushrooms.

@ Iovine Brothers Produce

Aside from produce, I also heart the 12th street Cantina: Handcrafted Mexican Food. The 5 years my boyfriend spent in LA have messed with his taco shell standards and since tacos are an easy week night meal 12th street Cantina offers a great option. 10 hand made corn tortillas for $1.50.

12th Street Cantina

The tomatoes and corn tortillas led to a 20 minute, market to table meal. My boyfriend makes the ground turkey with taco seasoning while I prepare a plate with fillings: guacamole, tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, and shredded cheeses. Very easy, filling, and the corn tortillas give it an authentic taste.

Market to Table to Belly

Does anyone know of any other great deals in Philly – shopping or eating out?

Is collecting recipes a hobby? An obsession? I’m constantly bookmarking webpages, tearing pages out of magazine, ordering cookbooks, and drooling over tastespotting postings. At this point I’ve got enough recipes in que for the next 1000 meals, give or take a few. Disappointingly many recipes are forgotten as soon as they are marked and some just don’t get the buy-in from those who have to eat my cooking/baking.

The gratin featured in this post is different from the forgotten recipes though. This root vegetable wonder has been in the front of my mind for over a year and yet I never made this easy and delicious meal. Something about the cooking time of over 1.5 hours and the use of a mandolin  created a roadblock. But, for the small dinner party I hosted on Saturday, the gratin was finally featured.

We started with a few cheeses from the beautiful Di Bruno’s located in the Italian Market.

Several bottles of wine later, the gratin, which bakes in chicken broth for an hour, and then in cream for half an hour, was finally ready to be served.

Root Vegatable Gratin - instead of using 2lbs of rutabaga, I added a parsnip to the mix, and instead of heavy cream, used light cream. Calories were reduced and taste was unaffected.

Look at those beautiful layers! If you love root vegetables, this is a winner. How else do you get to have butternut squash, sweet potato, rutabaga, and turnips all in one meal? As a plus, all the vegetables were purchased from small vendors at the Italian Market.

The gratin recipe was from Food & Wine so in maintaining the theme, I also chose a salad from Food & Wine: Asian Pear and Arugala Salad with Goat Cheese. The mandolin to make the gratin was on loan and it was also used for the pears in the salad. The pumpkin seeds in the salad were just the right addition to the citrusy lemon dressing and pears. Seeds were purchased at The Spice Corner.

I’m really excited to have checked this root vegetable gratin off my recipe list. Are there any recipes you’ve been thinking about but haven’t executed?

This is one of my week night favorites, about 20 minutes from fridge to table, and so good you want to lick the bowl clean…which I might do if no one is around.

My recipe for Chicken Pad Thai is adapted from the Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick Goudreau. I bought this cookbook when I was in a vegan phase and some of the sauces are outstanding. You could use chicken, shrimp, tofu, or just veggies in this pad thai, it really doesn’t matter because the peanut butter sauce is the star.

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces of rice noodles or wide Lo-Mein noodles may be easier to find
  • 1/2 tbsp for cooking
  • 2 chicken breast (~12 ounces)
  • 1 red pepper, cut into slivers
  • 2 cups snow peas
  • 2 cups mushrooms
  • salt and pepper, to taste

For the sauce:

  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)

Directions

  1. Mix together ingredients of your sauce and boil the water for the noodles.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan, and add chicken. Flavor with salt, pepper, red pepper flakes.
  3. When chicken is almost done, add all veggies. The veggies should be on the crunchy side so after 3 minutes add the peanut butter sauce mixture.
  4. Turn the heat on high and help the peanut butter melt into the mixture. Remove from heat.
  5. Drain your noodles, add to the chicken, veggies, and sauce.
  6. DONE!

Makes approximately 4 servings, 330 calories.

Week nights are busy. By the time I finish work, commute, go to the gym, run errands, and just deal with life, I don’t have time for an elaborate dinner. What I do have time for is something quick, easy, inexpensive, healthy, and tasty. And, lets be honest weekends tend to be splurg-y so weekdays are a good time to be healthy so it all balances out. Here’s my weeknight dinners from last week complete with shopping list, ingredients, and directions. Not that you even need the directions, its that easy…

Italian Sausage, Spinach, Mushrooms, and Whole Wheat Pasta

sausage and pasta

This is a simple one dish recipe that takes about 20 minutes. Its got tons of flavor and is perfect for a colder, rainy day b/c of its heartiness. Here’s the short ingredient list:

  • TJ’s chicken and roasted red pepper sausage, peel off casing and break into chunks (used 3 for 2 people)
  • 2 cups mushrooms (presliced to save time)
  • bag of spinach (prewashed to save time)
  • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
  • garlic and italian spices
  • 1 cup uncooked whole wheat pasta.

Boil water and add pasta. Use a little olive oil and garlic to get things fragrant, add mushrooms and when they are almost done add in chicken sausage, spinach, and spices of your choice. When everything is done mix in tomato sauce to add liquid. I will definitely make this again.

Chicken, Mixed Veggies and Brown Rice

chicken and veggies

This took 20 minutes from start to finish and I had help from my good friend, Trader Joe’s. All 4 ingredients were picked up at TJs and throw into a one pan wonder:

  • grilled chicken
  • frozen mixed veggie bag
  • sesame soy ginger vinaigrette
  • brown rice

Chop the chicken into chunks, grill it until almost done, throw in veggies, when everything is almost done, add about 1/2 cup of marinate. Pop already prepared rice into microwave for 60 seconds. DONE. I enjoyed the marinade, the dish had flavor and was filling, but I’m not sure I would make this very often – its just not very exciting :(

Shrimp tacos and Lettuce Cups

shrimp and veggies

Mexican food is the best solution to a quick dinner. So easy.

  • whole wheat wraps
  • shrimp
  • salsa
  • tomatoes
  • avocado
  • red onion
  • lettuce leaves

Chop up all veggies (or buy prechopped), mix in with salsa. Grill shrimp using a spice that has a kick. I used cooking spray and then sprinkled taco seasoning. Broil wraps, throw it all in and your are good to go. To save on calories, I usually eat one real deal taco and then switch to wrapping the veggies and protein in a lettuce wrap. I would also make this again.

Next week for Easy Weeknight Dinners:

  • Orange Glazed Salmon with Red Bliss Potatoes and Spinach
  • Stuffed Acorn Squash

During my West Coast adventure, I got to do something new in the kitchen. Homemade Pasta! I’ve never had access to a pasta maker and making pasta sounds intimidating. Luckily, my friend’s boyfriend is boy wonder in the kitchen and offered to guide me through the process.Surprisingly, there’s nothing terrible difficult about making pasta, its just time consuming (about 2 hours from start to finish).

finished

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups Super Fine “OO” Wheat Flourflour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • Pinch of salt

Step-by-Step Guide: Butternut Squash Ravioli

1. In a large bowl, mix the 2 flours together. Push flour to the sides and create a hollow space in the center.

flour and eggs

2. Break the eggs into the hollow center and use fork to scramble yolk and egg whites. Then start to pull flour into the liquid until there is no more liquid to absorb flour. At this point, get your hands dirty and start kneading the dough. You may need to add water for additional moisture. We ended up having to add almost 1/4 cup of water.

3. Eventually you will have a ball of dough. Wrap in plastic and let it rest for about 40 minutes.

ball

4. While dough is resting, you need to roast the butternut squash. Peel skin and cut into 1 in squares, pop in the oven for about 30 minutes, remove when you can pierce squash with a fork. In a food processor, break up 1 tbsp of butter (room temperature), 1 tsp cinnamon, pinch of salt, and the roasted butternut cubes. Blend until you have a semi-chunky puree.

5. Unwrap ball of dough and break into 4 parts. Sprinkle surface with flour, and use a rolling pin to roll out each part; keep the other parts in plastic wrap so they do not dry out. After rolling out a piece, set the pasta maker on the first (widest) setting – 1.

6. Run flattened dough through the machine. Fold in half, and run through again (kind of like feeding an old school fax machine). Change setting to 2 (slightly thinner). Run dough through, fold in half, run through again. Repeat these steps until you run through the 5th setting. The dough will be thin and long at this point. Repeat this with all 4 parts of dough.

dough machine

7. With all 4 pieces of dough laying on countertop, take 2 pieces and cut off ends to make them equal in size.

8. On one of the sheets space out teaspoon sized dallops of butternut squash mixture (you will have a lot of mixture left over, but its delicious and you can some for the sauce and save the rest for a dip with pita chips). Leave enough room between each dallop that you will be able to have edges on each ravioli. We were able to fit 8 to 10 on each sheet.

dallops

9. Cover with other sheet, and press together. Then take butt of a knife and draw lines for each ravioli. Then cut.

raviolis10. Boil huge pot of salted water and drop your 18-20 raviolis into the boiling water. Should take less than 10 minutes to cook.

11. Meanwhile, in a small pot, take 2 tbsp of butter and fry sage. You will end up with a sage infused butter, but remove the leaves. Add 3/4 cup of the butternut squash mixture and 1/4 cup of heavy cream and heat until it becomes a liquid.

sauce

12. Drain the ravioli and you are done! Serve 3 to 5 raviolis per plate and drip with sage butternut squash cream. Serve with a light salad: field greens with pomegranate seeds, goat cheese, and balsamic vinegar. Yummy…

 

 

Acorn Squash is undoubtedly one of my favorite foods. Here we are about to hit November, and I hadn’t had so much as a bite of acorn squash. I resolved to change that and picked an acorn squash at the store.

non stuffed acorn squash

I think of acorn squash as a special treat, which is great because the nutritional benefits of winter squash are astounding:

  • Winter squash is a relative of the melon and the cucumber
  • Long storage life of up to six months
  • Excellent source of Vitamin A
  • Very good source of Vitamin C
  • Good source of folate, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B1, copper, vitamin B6
  • High in beta-carotene which promotes healthy blood flow thus protects against heart disease
  • Rich in beta-cryptoxanthin which may significantly lower risk of developing lung cancer
  • Contains potassium which may lower blood pressure
  • Fiber found in winter squash is also able to prevent cancer-causing chemicals from attacking colon cells

The only downer about winter squash is cutting them in half to roast in the oven. I had a bad knife accident last year with butternut squash and now have a terrible fear. However, I have a new technique:

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400
  2. Pierce acorn squash about 15-2o times and place on baking pan in oven for 20 minutes
  3. Remove from oven and easily cut through the middle of the squash (long ways, from the stems). Scoop out the middle flesh.
  4. Spray with canola oil and sprinkle with a little cinnamon and brown sugar.
  5. Place back in oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until middle is soft and its easy to pierce through with fork.

You could serve the squash just like this with a protein or cut up into cubes or stuff it with a filling. I had the mushroom and black bean filling left over from my Vegetarian Quesadillas so in it went.

stuffed acorn squash

This was a great meal. Filling, warm, and incredibly nutritious. There will definitely be more appearances of winter squash in my kitchen over the next few months.

Its week two in my new adventure:  Craving Ellie in My Belly. The group is made up of bloggers’ who rotate to select a Ellie Krieger recipe every week and then we all blog about completing the recipe (Ellie hosts Healthy Appetite on Food Network).

Joining this group has been a great experience so far, especially because I made my first soup for week one! Week 2 has proven to be just as interesting but for different reasons. The recipe this week was Easy Chicken Mushroom Quesadillas. You might notice my title is different. I’m not much of chicken or quesadilla kind of girl. I don’t eat chicken frequently and I’ve always found wraps to be a waist (waste) of calories. To each his own, don’t make fun, I know its weird to not like wraps.

veg quesa

The original sounded great, but I made a few changes and still ended up with a delicious dinner:

Ingredients (Makes 4 to 5 portions)

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 8 ounces white button mushrooms, (about 3 cups) 2 cups white button, 2 cups cremini
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced didn’t include
  • 2 cups cooked chopped skinless, boneless chicken breast (1 breast half)1 can organic black beans (rinsed)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 4 (10-inch) whole-grain flour tortillas 100 calorie whole grain pita
  • 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese mix or Cheddar 4 Light Original Swiss Laughing Cow (1 wedge per pita)
  • 1/2 cup salsa
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream non-fat greek yogurt

Please refer to Ellie’s directions on the Food Network. When adding the spices, add the black beans. I cut my pita into two circles, spread the thicker side with laughing cow cheese, added about 3/4 cup of the veggie mixture, and put it all into my George Forman grill to press like a panini. I don’t like to buy sour cream, b/c I will never use the whole container, so I just use the non-fat greek yogurt I always have on hand.

Nutrition Comparison: The original dinner had 440 calories for 1/2 a quesadilla, assuming my portion of a whole pita is the same, I shaved off about 105 calories, added heart-healthy vegetables and increased fiber. Not a bad deal.

I’m already excited about next weeks recipe – Pumpkin Pie Muffins. Mmm.

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