Thursday, February 27, 2014

Kale Alfredo?!

No amount of punctuation can really express how excited I am about this recipe. This creamy, delicious alfredo sauce features an unlikely vegetable hero instead of the usual suspects of butter and cream: cauliflower!

I've got veggies for days

I was skeptical of the glowing reviews when I first read this recipe, but the cauliflower really makes a velvety sauce that satisfied my craving for creamy, buttery pasta. I would say this recipe was infinitely more successful than my attempt at cauliflower pizza, which is all the rage on Pinterest, that basically turned out like eating a weird potato-like pancake with some marinara sauce and cheese on top.

When I looked at the pictures of this dish online, it seemed a little...boring. Where is the color? The excitement? The vitamins? Since I love spinach alfredo, and we had a bunch (literally, an entire bunch) of kale left over from making my favorite pasta dish earlier in the week, I was inspired to modify the dish and add a pop of green. Behold, kale alfredo was born!

This recipe makes three generous dinner-sized servings. When I reheated the pasta, I added a little bit of water to reconstitute the sauce, as it dried out a bit upon cooling and refrigerating. You can also use a bit of milk if you prefer.

Kale Alfredo

Sauce based on Healthy Fettuccine Alfredo from Pinch of Yum
Addition of kale by necessity


6 oz uncooked pasta (I used Barilla Veggie Pasta)
1 small head cauliflower
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 large handfuls of kale, torn into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon butter
1/3 teaspoon salt
dash of nutmeg
dash of black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoon heavy cream
1/3 cup starchy boiling water from pasta pot (reserve more for thinning sauce)


1. Remove outer green leaves and woody portions, and chop the cauliflower (florets and stems) into bite-sized pieces. In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a boil over medium high heat, and add cauliflower. Cover and cook until cauliflower is soft, about 15 minutes. (The longer you cook it, the easier it will be to blend, and the smoother the sauce will be.)
2. Spray a non-stick skillet with cooking spray. Heat to medium, and add kale. Add about a 1/4 cup of water to the pan to prevent burning and to aid in cooking/steaming the kale. Saute until bright green and limp, about 5 minutes, adding additional water if necessary. Remove kale to plate, and set aside.
3. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, and saute for 3-4 minutes or until soft and fragrant (but not brown).
4. As the garlic and cauliflower are cooking, bring a large pot of water to boil, and cook the pasta according to directions on package, reserving some of the starchy water to add to the sauce later.
5. Transfer cauliflower to a blender with about 1/2 cup of the broth. Add the sauteed garlic, salt, nutmeg, and black pepper and puree until very smooth, about 3 minutes, adding additional broth if needed (I used almost all of the broth I had to get it to blend smoothly). Once the mixture is moving, stream the olive oil into the blender. Add more broth or water if the mixture is too thick to move through the blender easily.
6. Wipe out the butter/garlic skillet to remove any burnt bits, but leave a bit of browned butter on the bottom of the pan to add a nutty flavor to the sauce. Transfer cauliflower puree back to the butter/garlic skillet.
7. Stir in the heavy cream, and cook over low heat. Add the starchy pasta water and the kale, and cook until warmed through. Add more pasta water, if needed, to get the consistency you prefer. Drain noodles and add them to the skillet, stirring to coat the pasta evenly. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pick an Apple, Bake an Apple

I meant to post this recipe back in the fall, but since I'm a bit backed up in my posting and it is currently winter (albeit rainy and almost 50 degrees in Chicago?!), I thought I'd share it with you because it is awesome. And who doesn't like some warm baked apples on a chilly day?

Andy and I went apple picking twice in the fall on back-to-back(!) weekends, which yielded an abundance of apples. I still have no concept of what exactly a "peck" of apples means, but I qualitatively know that it means eating an apple at every meal for about two months. Also, pies.

Om nom nom.

Now, I like pies, I really do, and while they are delicious, they are admittedly quite a bit of work. And then you have to WAIT while they cool, or it gets all soggy and weird. The solution? Apple crisps that come together in a fraction of the time!

The original recipe from Spoon Fork Bacon is made for four, but I halved the recipe since it is just the two of us. This recipe is quick and tasty, and if you squeeze as many apples into the ramekin as you can, it's almost like eating an apple cake or dumpling. Remember to cover it liberally in whipped cream or ice cream for the ultimate apple experience.

Individual Apple Crisps

Slightly Modified from Spoon Fork Bacon
Makes 2 servings

Streusel topping:
1/4 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 cup flour (I use half whole wheat and half AP flour)
3 tbsp light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into tiny cubes

2 apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (I use 1 granny smith or other tart apple and 1 sweeter apple like a gala)
2 tbsp light brown sugar
3/8 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or 1/4 tsp cinnamon + 1/8 tsp nutmeg)

ice cream or whipped cream for topping (optional, but let's be serious here, it's not really optional)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease 2 individual sized ramekins with cooking spray or butter. Set aside.
2. For streusel: Place oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and brown sugar in a mixing bowl, and stir together.
3. Cut in butter until a coarse meal forms.
4. For filling: Combine all filling ingredients into a large mixing bowl, and toss together until apples are evenly coated. Divide filling mixture into prepared ramekins, compacting the mixture into the ramekins if necessary. It is okay of the filling is a little taller than the ramekin because it will shrink as it cooks down. Set aside.
5. Divide streusel between the ramekins, pushing down on the filling if necessary.
6. Place crisps onto a baking sheet, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Allow crisps to cool for 7 to 10 minutes before serving each with a dollop of whipped cream or scoop of ice cream on top.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Cold Weather Dinner

If you are a human living in the United States, I don't have to tell you that it has been cold. Really cold. Hurts-to-breathe-and-go-outside cold. Even though I am from Pennsylvania, which is pretty into winter, I have never seen days like the ones I have experienced in Chicago this year. Highs of -12 F? What. I didn't even know that was a thing.

On days like these, in addition to staying indoors under a pile of blankets for as long as I can, I like to make dishes of hearty, warming comfort foods. Because what is better on a frigid day than a huge slice of lasagna or a vat of mac and cheese? Nothing. The answer is nothing.

In my quest to get in wedding shape, I've been working hard to find healthy recipes that still fulfill the giant-bowl-of-cheesy-goodness comfort craving. Behold! Lasagna that doesn't make your arteries harden just by looking at it!

This recipe from Emily Bites is awesome AND healthy, and as a bonus, the serving is HUGE. One serving of this lasagna is 1/9 of the pan. So much goodness!

I couldn't even wait to take a picture before diving in. It really is that good.

I was a little bit skeptical when I perused the ingredients list, as the recipe omits one thing that is usually vital to a successful lasagna: ricotta cheese. However, the combination of reduced fat cream cheese and low fat cottage cheese yields a texture that is very much like ricotta with a bit of that frozen lasagna cheese nugget texture that I happen to really enjoy (for an example, see Stouffer's lasagna). Keep warm, friends!

The Best Lasagna Ever

Modified slightly from Emily Bites

3/4 lb 95% (or greater) lean ground beef
3/4 lb (about three links) hot (or mild, if you prefer) Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 jar (about 24 oz) tomato & basil pasta sauce
8 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, cubed (I only use Philadelphia brand)
1 cup 1% cottage cheese (mix it up in the container before you measure so that it isn't watery)
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
6 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained
1 cup shredded 2 % reduced-fat mozzarella or Italian cheese blend
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
2. In a large skillet, cook the sausage, beef, onion, and green pepper over medium heat, breaking up with a spoon until browned. Set aside 1 cup of pasta sauce, and combine the remaining sauce into the meat mixture. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat, simmering uncovered for 8-10 minutes.
3. In a small saucepan, melt the cream cheese over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once melted, remove from heat, and stir in cottage cheese and parsley.
4. Spray a 9"x13" baking dish with cooking spray, and spread about 1/4 of the meat sauce evenly across the bottom. Top with 3 lasagna noodles, followed by another 1/4 of the meat sauce. Spread the cream cheese mixture over the sauce, and add another 1/4 of the meat sauce. Lay the 3 remaining lasagna noodles over the top, and cover with the rest of the meat sauce plus the reserved pasta sauce. Sprinkle the top with the shredded cheese, followed by the Italian seasoning.
5. Cover dish with aluminum foil, and bake for 35 minutes. Remove foil, and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until browned (you can also broil it a bit if necessary). Let stand for 15 minutes before cutting.