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Paleo!?

Hi Blog Readers:

It has been a while since my last blog entry! This past week every night my to do list included “Write blog entry” but it just never got done. The big reason I was so busy this past weekend was because on Monday morning I decided to try the Paleo diet for the week. Honestly, I have no idea what I was thinking – but I started it and stuck with it for the week!

You might be wondering, what is the Paleo diet. I am certainly not an expert – but I can give you a basic idea of what I have been doing for the week. First – here are the foods that I have avoided:

grains, dairy, legumes (so sad – I miss beans, hummus and peanuts!) processed foods, refined sugar, fast foods, candy, junk food, etc.

The big take away for me: no bread, no cereal, no popcorn, no pretzels or goldfish crackers, no bagels, and so on. I am trying not to think about what I can’t have and focus on what I can have!

What people eat while on Paleo:

Protein in the form of meat & seafood (grass fed beef, chicken, fish, seafood [including shellfish], etc.) fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, eggs, nuts, seeds, healthy oils (olive oil). I love any diet that lets me have avocado!

The first couple of days I had a lot of zoodles (zucchini noodles) and ground turkey for dinner. This was delicious:

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I used pesto (without cheese) as the garnish for the week. The pesto included healthy fat in the way of olive oil and pine nuts. The protein from the turkey really helped keep me going during the week and kept me full.

My first stop at Whole Foods while I was transforming to a Paleo diet I saw these “raw” cookies and picked up a package:

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I googled the Go Raw cookies and found that many people that follow the Paleo lifestyle eat them, and they are considered “ok” on the Paleo diet. I love these little cookies. I have a small handful a day, usually after dinner.

I spent a lot of time in the kitchen this week – literally a couple of hours each night preparing dinner and breakfast, lunch and snacks for the following work day. I made an egg and vegetable bake for some of my breakfasts:

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This egg bake has 4 eggs, broccoli, red onion and red pepper. I baked it at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, until the eggs were set and cooked. Breakfast was half of this and a quarter of an avocado every morning:

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It was a really good breakfast! If I needed a mid morning snack, I would have a small handful of nuts or an apple with a tablespoon of almond butter.

Lunches were often a salad, or a lettuce wrap with protein:

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The proteins for lunch were either chicken breast or chicken sausage. Lots of vegetables, too! The dressing for my salad was a little olive oil, apple cider vinegar and lemon.

On Thursday I finally had enough time to try my hand at Paleo baking! I had ingredients to make Paleo Banana Nut Muffins. I was a little nervous as to how they would turn out. I found the recipe on a website that is new to me, http://www.paleogrubs.com – for the recipe click here. I must say I LOVE THESE MUFFINS!

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To my surprise, I have seen a lot of benefits in the short time I have started the Paleo diet. I have noticed that almost all of the inflammation issues I have had over the last couple of months have stopped. I have lost weight, I am getting a great night’s sleep every night and I am getting more sleep than I normally do. Some days I have more energy – but sometimes I do feel tired and crave breads (but having these banana muffins around does help) for the most part I have more energy. It is a lot of work but it has been fun! I was also able to go out with friends on both Friday and Saturday and find things that I could eat at both restaurants without a problem. Muscles on Friday night and a cobb salad without cheese on Saturday. I even got through a movie (Gone Girl was a great movie – almost as good as the book, I thought!) with a small bag of cashews instead of movie theater popcorn – I felt like this was a big accomplishment.

I’m not sure how long I will do the Paleo diet – but it has definitely been an interesting experiment. I will post more recipes as I discover them.

Happy cooking, bloggies. Have a wonderful Sunday and I’ll see you soon!

Minestrone Soup

Yesterday the sous chef and I returned home after a week’s vacation. We spent our week on an island, a block from the beach and it was restful and relaxing. I was sad to leave the beachside community that we have vacationed at for the last two years, but when I walked into our house, I was eager to make a healthy and delicious dinner from our own kitchen.

Of course before we did that we had to do a few things – mainly unpack the car and get some groceries. We had recently received a free trial membership to BJ’s and for some reason we decided to go the one or two miles down the road and give it a try. I felt that it could be hard for a couple to shop at a place like BJs (where you buy lots of things in bulk) but I also knew there were a few things that we would be able to get and use due to the fact that we do a lot of cooking.

I was impressed with the amount of fresh, organic and even local produce we found at BJs. I was able to pick up fresh zucchini, a bag of apples for about 5 dollars, a large container of organic spinach, and a fantastic bag of onions for $3.99 (I can never have enough onions in the house!)

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The two things I did not find were white beans (sad!) and fresh parsley. But other than that I was nicely surprised by what I found at BJs. I still wish I could head over to Costco, but it is miles away and just not that convenient for weekend shops. Since we are only doing a free trial from BJs I still might see if I can make a Costco membership more useable for our situation – stay tuned.

Once we got home, I started on the evening’s dinner – it was chilly out, so I really wanted to make a soup. I decided to make a hearty minestrone soup with lots of fresh vegetables, white beans and small pastas. I got to chopping my vegetables up, and I was so happy to be back with my knife and cutting boards!

Once everything was chopped up, I added two tablespoons of olive oil to my pot and let it heat up on medium heat. Once the oil was hot, I added the vegetables and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt to the pot. Things started cooking and the house started to smell like a special dinner was in progress.

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I let the vegetables cook for 10 – 12 minutes (and looking back, I should have let them cook a bit longer – maybe 15 minutes if you don’t want a little crunch in your carrots while eating soup. Personally, I like having a crunch and I do not like mushy carrots!) After the onion had turned translucent, I added chicken stock and a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes (both ingredients were low sodium – this is very important!!! Look at the labels you are buying in the store [or use all fresh ingredients, but for us that was not possible tonight]. The lower the sodium of your ingredients, a. the healthier things will be for your heart and b. the more you can be in charge of seasoning and flavoring your recipe!) Once the liquid was in the pot, I added two medium bay leaves to the mix.

I let the liquids heat up in the pot and stirred a couple of times. Then I got to washing the spinach and parsley and chopping. I did a fine chop on the parsley, and a normal chop on the spinach. About 1/3 cup of parsley and 3 cups of spinach. I also chopped up a medium zucchini. The sous chef opened the can of beans and drained them. Because they were low sodium, I decided not to rinse them to keep some of that flavor in the soup. Once the liquid was boiling, I turned down the heat and brought the pot to a simmer for twenty minutes. After that I added the parsley, spinach and zucchini and a parmesan rind. I let everything cook for another twenty minutes. As things cooked, we tasted and decided what else to add. Some freshly ground black pepper. A smidge more salt. A tiny sprinkle of madras curry (into minestrone soup!?) As we did this, we kept tasting. It was coming together nicely!

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While the soup was cooking, I brought another pot of water to a boil and added just shy of two cups of dried small pasta and salted the water. I stirred, and cooked the pasta until it was al dente. I drained the pasta, put it back in its pot and added a drizzle of olive oil and stirred the pasta around so it would not clump together.

The sous chef also heated up our oven, and baked the take and bake sour dough bread we picked up at BJs to go with the soup.

In under an hour, this soup had come together so nicely! Everything was wonderful, and really warmed us up on a chili evening – I really could tell that fall was right around the corner. I garnished our bowls with more freshly cut parsley, freshly grated parmesan cheese and we both had a hearty slice of sour dough bread – which was such a perfect addition to this meal.

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For me, this was the perfect meal to come home to. It was hearty, full of flavor and got me excited for fall and made me feel happy to be home. The best thing about making this soup on the night we got home from vacation was definitely the fact that I had a great lunch of leftover soup and bread the next day!! This soup always tastes better the next day – so if you decide to make something like this for your family, you could always make it the night before. The flavors have a chance to develop and work together overnight and then you are left with something like this:

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Minestrone Soup:

Ingredients:

1 medium onion, chopped

3 – 4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced

2/3 C celery, shopped

1 C carrots, chopped

2 T olive oil

1 32 ounce container of low sodium chicken stock or broth

1 28 ounce can low sodium crushed tomatoes

1 – 2 cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1/3 C parsley, chopped

3 C of spinach chopped

Sea salt, freshly ground pepper to taste

1 parmesan rind

2 bay leaves

Aprox 2 C small dry pasta

to garnish: parsley, freshly grated parmesan cheese

Serve with: a crusty artisan bread or toast

Directions:

Chop onion, carrots, celery. Heat olive oil in a pot. Once heated, add onion, carrots, celery and 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Stir vegetables. Let cook and soften for 7 – 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add garlic, once garlic is added stir more frequently to avoid burning the garlic.

After 15 minutes of vegetables cooking, add the chicken stock and crushed tomatoes. Bring everything to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Lower heat and bring to a simmer. Add parsley. Cook for twenty minutes. Then add spinach, zucchini and beans. Taste and season as needed with freshly ground pepper, add bay leaves, and optional parmesan rind. Cook for twenty more minutes on low simmer. At this time, cook pasta in a separate pot. Once pasta is cooked al dente, drain and return to same pot. Drizzle pasta with olive oil – stir well to keep pasta from sticking together and forming clumps.

Prepare bread / toast and garnishes. Serve in bowls by adding pasta first (1/3 C to each bowl) and then ladling the soup over the pasta. Garnish and serve!

Flatbread Pizza and Zoodles

HI there blog readers – congratulations on making it through the first day (and night – almost) of the work week! I felt like I needed a pat on the back for making it through the day.

The weekend was a good one (although it went by waaaay too quickly, as they often do). Saturday was fun, but hot and I got a lot of reading done (I finally finished The Goldfinch – which I felt was a big accomplishment!) and errands (haircut and gym). On Sunday it was a beautiful day out – and the temperature was a lot lower, it was a comfortable day. Perfect for cleaning the house and my messy room. Cleaning, laundry and organizing myself took me nearly all day.

I had a yogurt in the morning for breakfast, and by 1 o’clock I was very hungry. I did not want to stop cleaning – and I quickly thought about ordering pizza. But then I got to thinking – could i make something homemade instead??? I looked around and found flour, eggplants, crushed tomatoes (canned) and shredded cheese… I realized I had the ingredients to make a flatbread pizza of sorts!

I found one of my Jacques Pepin cookbooks More Fast Food My Way (where I knew his great recipe for flatbread resided). This recipe is so wonderful and easy.

Jacques Pépin’s recipe for flatbread:

Ingredients:

1 1/2 C all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/3 teaspoon salt

1 cup water plus 2 tablespoons more for steaming the bread

1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions:

combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the 1 cup of water and mix together with a sturdy rubber spatula to create a thick, gooey dough (it will be gooey!!)

Spread the olive oil in a cold 12 inch non stick skillet. Add the dough to the skillet. Dip the spatula into the oil in the skillet and use it to press on the dough to flatten it in the skillet, and spread it out as much as you can.

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(The oil will prevent the dough from sticking to the spatula). Add the 2 T of water to create a bit of steam and get the bread cooking. Cover with foil and place over medium high heat for about ten minutes. The water should be gone and the dough should be frying at this point. Reduce the heat, and using a fork, turn the bread over. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Uncover and set aside to cool a little in the skillet.

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Really – it’s that easy!

I cut up and salted some eggplant. Once the bread was done, I got out my grill pan and started grilling the eggplant:

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I spread some crushed tomatoes on to the flatbread and turned my oven to broil (low if you have the option).

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Once the eggplant was grilled until it was tender, I layered it onto the flatbread. I sprinkled everything lightly with cheddar cheese (because that is what I had!) and put everything in the oven. In five minutes it was ready to eat!

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This “pizza” was delicious and I was kind of impressed that I made it on the fly!

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Today was Monday. I did not sleep well, but some how managed to drag my tired butt out of bed this morning at 5:30 to start my day. I was well prepared for work – all of my healthy food was packed, and my clothes were laid out for an efficient morning. (that’s always a good thing!) I made it through my day, and I got to the gym. I came home, showered and got into the kitchen to start dinner.

Tonight’s dinner is thanks to Skinnytaste.com – one of my absolute favorite websites for healthy meals. Tonight we had Kung Pao Chicken with Zoodles on the menu. Do you remember zoodles?? Zucchini noodles – one of my favorites!! So instead of noodles or rice with the chicken you have zucchini noodles. Tonight was the first time I tried out my new spiralizer. Let me tell you – this is one of the best things I have in the kitchen now! It made these beautiful zoodles:

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Everything came together so nicely and mom and I loved this dinner. You can find Gina’s recipe here .


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Because we had more than 6 ounces of chicken and a couple of extra zucchini, we made more than two servings. I’m taking some for lunch tomorrow. This was a really great dinner. I timed how long it took us to get this from prep stages until we sat down to eat – one hour. I think next time it will take a little less – because this time I literally had to take the spiralizer out of the box and wash it before using it.

The final product was very pretty and really tasted just great and fresh. We loved it!

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Ok, I must sign off for now – in hopes that tomorrow is a better day than today! Happy cooking everyone – and if you have not made zoodles yet – what are you waiting for!? :)

Greetings Blog Readers:

I hope the first days of September have been kind to you! I don’t know about you, but for me the days after Labor Day are still all about a fresh start and getting back into routines. I always feel like September is more of a new year than January 1st! How funny.

The last few days I have been concentrating on getting back into my healthy routines. Packing healthy foods for breakfast, lunch and snacks, packing a gym bag so that I get a workout after work on all days that I do not have after work plans. it takes a lot of work and time to be this organized and by Friday I could really feel the effects of all of this work – not to mention that I have to wake up a full hour earlier than I have been this summer to get to work at a decent time!

A few days ago I switched my breakfasts from light English muffins (high fiber, protein and low sodium) and nut butter to a Greek yogurt and apple slices. Sometimes I add a 1/3 C of Kashi Go Lean Crunch.

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It has gotten me through until lunch on some days and on other days I need to have a 100 calorie pack of almonds to get me through until my lunch break.

Lunches this week have mostly been salads, but I’ve added a few whole wheat crackers and a babybel cheese – some days I have more apple slices or carrot sticks. It’s been a good lunch – and by having such a fresh salad and using local produce, I feel like I’m hanging on to summer while I can!

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In the salad mix: grated carrot, tomato, arugula, avocado, grilled chicken.

In the last week I got to the gym three times – which was my goal. Twice this week I had over 15,000 steps on my fitbit! Once this week I was able to take a quick walk before heading in to start my work day. I took a walk every day during lunch. This week was one of the hottest of the summer!!!

Over Labor Day weekend I spent a couple of days on Martha’s Vineyard. Sadly, my first trip to the island all summer. But I made the most of my few days. I walked around my favorite towns, did some shopping, took some photos:

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I just loved these tiles and can’t wait to incorporate some into my house some day soon!

On Saturday night I had lobster for dinner and it was great (and just a little messy):

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Besides lobster, my other dinners lately have been on the healthy side. After the gym sometimes I would pop over to Whole Foods and pick up dinner:

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(this dinner was grilled salmon, garlic green beans [they are amazing!! crunchy and flavorful - one of my favorite things to pick up from WF.] and kale ‘pad thai’ – I also love this side because it is all vegetable and no actual noodles! My philosophy on Whole Foods dinners – if I take the time to go to the gym, and if it is going to be almost 8pm when I get home from my long work day, I’m 100% ok stopping by WF to pick up a healthy dinner for myself even though it might cost me a little more than if I made it myself.

On other nights I would go to the gym and come home to a wonderful dinner waiting for me:

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Grilled chicken breast (thanks to mom) locally grown tomatoes (delicious!!!! My favorite thing about late August, early September!) and nutty brown rice (that I picked up on my way home from the gym) what a perfect dinner!

By the time Friday night rolled around I was totally out of gas. Sadly, I had no energy for the gym – I had meant to pick up an iced coffee on the way home in hopes it would power me to the gym but I never got around to it. We didn’t have much food in the house, but we had enough to make salads for dinner and they were delicious.

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Yellow pepper, tomatoes, cucumbers, hard boiled egg and mixed greens. A half slice of sour dough bread on the side.

Now I am off to organize myself for the work week ahead. What am I going to pack for lunches this week!? How can I get a head start on healthy dinners for the week? How can I organize my gym bag for the next couple of days and be efficient. Stay tuned. Let’s see how this second week of September goes!

Mix and Match

The last few days have been a mix and match of lovely dinners, make shift lunches and one of my favorite things during the work week – tasty leftovers!! 

On Sunday I made a go to lunch – an egg, tomatoes and cheese wrap! This lunch is so simple, tasty and satisfying. Even better for some,  it takes only about ten minutes to make! This is a great treat for kids, too.  Here is what you need to make this lunch – which actually can be lunch, breakfast, dinner or a snack at any time of day! 

 

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An egg, a tortilla or a wrap, tomatoes (these are small tomatoes, I used one and a half and ate the rest!), cheddar cheese or another type of cheese and I personally think a good hot sauce makes the wrap – but of course it is purely optional. (If you don’t like hot sauce, salt and pepper your egg while you’re cooking it!) 

Tip: heat your pan and butter (I use brummel and a little cooking spray) before you put your egg in. Do not over cook your egg! 

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Put your cooked egg directly onto your wrap which will melt the cheese, add the tomato and hot sauce: 

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I added a few red pepper flakes, too… wrap it up and enjoy!

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After enjoying my lunch, I ran some errands. I am so happy that my day included an extended stop at one of my favorite culinary stores in Providence, Stock!  If you ever know someone that needs to get a gift for me – send them to Stock. I did a lot of poking around on Sunday – but I was able to resist a lot of things…. until I came across one thing I just had to have

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I could not resist – obviously!  There were plenty of other things I wanted to purchase for my kitchen as well, but I will save that for another day… if you are on the East Side of Providence (or just in the area at all) I highly recommend stopping by Stock – I know you will find something to make you happy! 

On Sunday night I made a fun dinner. I grated carrots and chopped parsley to get started: 

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I had two pieces of fish, and I crusted them in potato flakes, a little panko and parsley and seasoned with freshly ground pepper and a dash of salt.  I mixed together fresh, roasted corn, jalapeño, roasted fingerling potatoes, carrots, parsley and seasoning to make a fresh salad. It all came together very well: 

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When it came to dinner, there were no leftovers to speak of… so for Monday at work I packed some random things and felt like I was having a picnic in my office – not a bad feeling for a Monday, I guess. 

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Lunch consisted of: carrot sticks, apple slices, a Chobani 100, a mini babybel cheese and a couple of whole wheat crackers. On the side, a lemon seltzer which was very refreshing, especially after my lunchtime exercise. 

On Monday morning I decided it was time to get back into my “routine” which consists of eating healthy (which I have been doing for the most part) going for my lunchtime walk (which I have been doing), and going to the gym after work (which I have not been doing much – but I have been going outside for a few short runs a week). All day at work I would remind myself, “You are going to the gym after work.” In case I ran the risk of forgetting. 

On my way home I had a protein drink because I was hungry and wanted the energy to get through my first gym workout in a while.  Once I got to the gym, I did the elliptical machine for 30 minutes and some weights. I felt really accomplished getting to the gym for the first time in a long while – and I was surprised by how busy the gym was on a beautiful day in August. (You have got to hand it to the avid, healthy gym goers!) 

Dinner on Monday night was very easy and that helped get me to the gym. I got home after 7 o’clock and not having to think about dinner was a wonderful and helpful thing. I had left over Skinnytaste Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken. I heated up the chicken, heated up two tortillas and made my soft tacos in just a couple of minutes: 

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(I added some of the corn salad from the night before, too) It was a great dinner and I felt like I deserved it after a workout. I actually am excited to get back to the gym – which is surprising! I am definitely going to remember how nice it is to have leftovers during the work week – especially in September because everything always seems hectic in September. Everyone is back to school and back to work so doing everything takes longer, it seems!I can see that cooking a couple of times a week and having leftovers a couple of times a week will be a big page in my play book coming up. 

The last couple of days have been a culinary whirlwind. I am signing off for now to plan the next couple of days – stay tuned and happy cooking!

Julia’s Zucchini Gratin

This week started out with a great Italian ragu – but quickly turned back to some good old fashioned French Cooking!! (My favorite!)  The other day I discovered an old favorite from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume II thanks to Food 52.   I love Food 52 especially for their timely recipes. It is August in New England and zucchini is soooo plentiful around here! Thankfully, Food 52 posted Julia’s recipe for Tian de Courgettes au Riz which translates to Gratin of Zucchini, Rice & Onions with Cheese. How good does that sound!? 

Whenever I make a Julia recipe, I really have to concentrate. I wanted to take photos, but it just did not happen. But I did come out with a most amazing zucchini gratin!! It was one of the best things I have eaten in recent and not so recent memory.  It took a long while, but I hope when I make it again I can cut down on the time and be more organized and hopefully take a few photographs. If you love zucchini and parmesan cheese – MAKE THIS TODAY!

Julia Child’s Zucchini Gratin – Recipe Found on Food 52

Ingredients:

About 2 pounds of Zucchini (I used four medium zucchini)

1/2 Cup plain, raw white rice (I used Jasmine rice because that is what I had on hand!)

1 Cup minced onions

3 – 4 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2-3 Large cloves of garlic, smashed & minced (I used 3 cloves because we love garlic!)

2 Tablespoons flour

About 2 1/2 cups of warm liquid – This is basically all of the zucchini juice you get from ringing out the zucchini and the rest milk and a tablespoon or two of cream is the mixture that I made!

2/3 Cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese

salt, pepper

6 – 8 Cup flame proof baking and serving dish about 1 1/2 inches deep (I did not have this, so I made due with what I had on hand – it was fine!)

Instructions:

1. Cut off the ends of your zucchini and wash the zucchini thoroughly. 

2. Grate your zucchini using a box grater. 

3. For every two cups of grated zucchini, add one teaspoon of salt and mix together in a medium sized bowl.  Transfer the zucchini into a colander and place the colander over your bowl.  Let the zucchini drain for 4 minutes or so. 

4. While the zucchini is draining, you want to quickly blanch your rice. Put rice in boiling and salted water for 5 minutes.  Drain and set aside. 

5. After zucchini has drained, squeeze a little bit dry and taste it. If it is too salty you can rinse some of the salt off. I didn’t add a whole lot of salt to my zucchini, so I was happy with the taste (in fact it tasted perfect to me and I ate a little more of it raw!) Continue to squeeze your zucchini over the bowl to drain your zucchini – you need to reserve this zucchini juice for later!  Place the drained zucchini on paper towels to dry. 

6. Heat up your large frying pan with 3 tablespoons of olive oil – have your pan on medium heat.  Once the pan is hot, add your onion and cook for 8 – 10 minutes, the onion should be fully broken down, translucent and starting to brown.  

7. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees

8. Stir in the zucchini and garlic. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Continually toss and turn, zucchini should be tender at the end of the 5 -6 minutes. 

9. Sprinkle in the flour, raise heat slightly and cook for two minutes stirring so the flour is mixed well, and smooth. (No lumps please!) 

10. Remove your pan from the heat and gently stir in the warm liquid (you can warm this liquid on your stove or you can warm it in the microwave – but you do not want this liquid hot, you don’t want your milk to curdle!) 

11. Return to moderately high heat, bring to a simmer – stir constantly so milk doesn’t scorch on the bottom of your pan. After the mixture comes to a simmer, remove from heat again and mix in your rice and all but two tablespoons of the grated cheese.

12. Turn mixture into your buttered serving /  baking dish. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons on top of mixture.

13.  Place your dish in the upper 1/3 of your oven. Bake at 425 until the top of your gratin is browned, bubbling and it looks like the rice has absorbed most of the liquid. It will make your kitchen smell amazing!!

My end product was a huge hit at my house!

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So, my gratin was not quite as browned as I had wanted – but two hours after starting this recipe I was so hungry. The rest of our dinner was ready to go, so I served up the gratin, too. I didn’t plan everything out perfectly – and my chicken breasts were cooking at 350 degrees for 35 minutes before I put the gratin in. Next time I’ll try to coordinate a little better! 

I served chicken breast coked in white wine, lemon juice, rosemary & thyme with the gratin, as well as fresh and local tomato slices and rosemary bread. It was  all so delicious – a go to dinner in our house from now on. 

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The next day we ate breakfast late – so it was more like a brunch. I made spinach and parmesan omelets with a side of gratin. Even though the omelet in this photo was not perfect, it was very well received:

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The sous chef and I ate this gratin until it was gone. I cannot wait to make it again – it might seem like a lot of work, but trust me it is completely worth it!! Go ahead and try it! Happy cooking!

 

A Change of Dinner Plans

As I was driving to work today, I was so excited about receiving my second shipment from Plated this afternoon.  I planned my evening in my head. Because I would not have to go to the grocery store or think much about dinner, I could go for a run after work and throw in a load of laundry. Perhaps I would even get some other things done, too. The post-work part of the day was my oyster, or so I thought.

When I got to work, I checked my phone as I settled in for my day.  Oh no!! I saw an email from Plated saying that my shipment was being sent to the wrong address!  Over a week ago I had signed on to my plated account and changed my shipping address to reflect where I would be during the week. I was so sad – and after a phone call to Plated, we ascertained that we would not be able to fix the problem today. I received helpful customer service but I was disappointed that even though I had changed my address days before, it was not reflected in this week’s shipment. NOTE: If you do decide to use Plated, and change your address – it only affects your shipments from that point on. Not a shipment that you have already ordered and paid for. I guess that makes sense? But I thought  I was all set because according to the website, my address change had been processed.

Just like that my day had changed. I had to think of what to make for dinner – which only bothered me because I was really excited about already having everything planned out, both menu and ingredients.  Thankfully, I am almost always thinking about food – so I had a great idea.  I had recently come across a recipe for Bucatini thanks to Bon Appétit and I had been craving it ever since I had seen the beautiful photograph and read the recipe. I was not going to make Bucatini, but something close. My own take on Bolognese… or something like that!

But before we skip ahead to dinner – here is a brief recap on other foods of the day.  I was at work for a couple of hours before I got around to breakfast. I took five minutes out of my morning to prepare a healthy breakfast – a whole wheat English muffin, a tablespoon of cashew butter and a handful of fresh blueberries.

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At noon, I walked to get a sandwich for lunch. I ordered a fresh turkey wrap with lettuce, tomato, red onion, cucumber and a thin slice of swiss cheese. I also picked up an amazing bag of rosemary and olive oil potato chips. The chips were so flavorful – but they were also a little rich (I guess I do not eat real potato chips all that much…) so I ate half the bag and gave the rest to a friend. We both agreed that they were amazing potato chips – definitely worth the splurge as long as I forget how much I like them!

 

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After work I started my commute home. Thankfully Whole Foods is in the middle of my drive, so I stopped to pick up a few ingredients for tonight’s impromptu dinner. By this point I was pretty excited about what I was making – but I also opted to not get every ingredient I would normally use, because I was not going to have all day to cook my sauce. I skipped carrots and celery.  I did pick up a small onion (because I had half of an onion in the refrigerator at home – which would not be enough) another garlic (because I have an awful habit of picking up one  head of garlic every single time I am in a grocery store – even if we have garlic at home. Why do I do this!? I must have a fear of being caught without garlic… I feel the same way about onions and San Marzano tomatoes!)  I picked up just over half a pound of Whole Foods 93% lean ground beef…. and two cans of San Marzano tomatoes, even though I knew I only needed one. The other would live in the pantry for a week or two…

Once I got home, I put away the meat. I ate a couple of Stacy’s baked pita chips. I had not eaten since lunch and I was forcing myself to go for a run and while I like running on an empty stomach, I find it hard to run when my stomach is grumbling.  I had to force myself to go for a run today. I really wanted to read, or sit on the couch, relax before starting dinner. I thought about just doing a load of laundry and watching tv. But instead, I got ready for my run. I told myself – Just run for 20 minutes. That is better than nothing.   I was hoping that if I started running, I could push myself to do more than twenty minutes. Luckily, that worked. I ran for 28 minutes and felt a lot better and accomplished after.

Back to the bolognese!!  This is probably not a typical bolognese and maybe I should just call it a red meat sauce or a ragu.

 

Bolognese Sauce 

Ingredients:

1 onion, chopped

1 T olive oil

Butter (unsalted, about a tablespoon)

4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced

1 28 can of whole tomatoes (I always use San Marzano)

1/4 C white wine

.65 pounds of lean ground beef

Finely grated parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

basil

salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

To start your sauce, add about a tablespoon (or a little more) of olive oil to your pan, turn your burner’s heat to medium. Heat the oil while you chop up your onion. Once your pan has heated up nicely, add the onion and a pinch of salt to the pan. Stir the onion occasionally. Smash and mince your garlic – I used four cloves.  Once your onion has started cooking, add your garlic to the pan. Once you add the garlic, you have to stir frequently so the garlic does not burn. After a minute, add your ground beef, breaking up the meat with a spoon once it is in your pan. Add one tablespoon of butter. Let the meat brown. (this will take a few minutes) Once the meat is browned, add one 28 ounce can of whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes. Season ingredients with a 1/2 T of crushed red pepper flakes and freshly ground pepper. Add two tablespoons of tomato paste.

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Stir to make sure the tomato paste is incorporated evenly in your other ingredients. Bring to a simmer. Once everything is simmering let it go for 30 seconds or so. Bring down heat to low, and continue to cook the sauce. Add 1/4 C dry white wine. Add a tablespoon of thinly sliced fresh basil. Taste your sauce and see what you think!  Season with salt and pepper if you think it is necessary. Add 1/8 – 1/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese. Stir everything together. Add a tablespoon of basil pesto if you have it – if you don’t that is totally fine.

Once all of the ingredients are in the pan, I like to cook the sauce on low for at least twenty minutes – but you can cook it longer. If you want to keep all the liquid in the pan, cook it with the lid on. If you need to evaporate some of the liquid, leave the lid off. If you ever need to add more liquid to your sauce, just reserve some pasta water once your pasta is cooked – it is a great addition to your sauce.  Once our pasta was ready and our zucchini was steamed, I served everything up.  Once I had the plates made, I garnished with more freshly grated parmesan cheese, a little basil and freshly ground pepper. The end result was pretty, flavorful and delicious.

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Tonight it feels like fall instead of a summer evening in the middle of August – but I am not complaining! I loved having this hearty dinner tonight, especially after a post work run. I was so glad that I forced myself to go out and hit the pavement. This dinner was a sweet reward!

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