Happy 4th of July!

Wishing a very Happy Independence Day to all who celebrate!

I’ll be back in the kitchen soon.

PeachMelba6B

Peach and Raspberry Tiramisu

 

 

Herbed Ricotta and Olive Tapenade Ravioli with Tomato Sauce and Fresh Basil

Finishedravioli

As mentioned in my last post, my husband and I took a little jaunt to the Highlands, North Carolina area for a weekend early this Spring. We had the good fortune to make reservations at a wonderful restaurant in downtown Highlands, Wild Thyme Gourmet. Last time I shared my version of the dish I ordered that night, the Provençal Vegetable Ragout with Soft Cheese Polenta…truly an out of this world dish.

But that wasn’t the only amazing and inspiring dish on the table that night!

Now I’d like to share a re-creation of the dish my husband ordered, a ricotta and tapenade stuffed ravioli with tomato sauce and fresh basil. My version features the same very easy to make tapenade recipe by Jacques Pépin that I used in the last post, and you can find that recipe here. This tapenade makes an outstanding appetizer on its own served with crostini, as well as an excellent and savory ingredient for use in other dishes.

This fun-to-make ravioli comes together by simply placing a bit of the tapenade and an equal amount of a creamy ricotta mixture onto some pre-made wonton wrappers, then fold, seal, boil, drain and serve with fresh basil and tomato sauce. And when it’s done, get ready for an unbelievable pop of lively flavors that will tingle your taste buds. Va, va voom! I think my version is even better than the dish from the restaurant. Click on the first picture below to scroll through the slideshow with basic instructions for the process, then try out the recipes for the tapenade, ravioli and sauce, and judge how good this is for yourself.

Keeping in mind how versatile the tomato sauce is for other dishes, it is well worth the effort to make your own and spin your leftovers into more delicious dinners. Here are a few ideas for doing just that: Italian Sliders, Pizza with Prosciutto and Arugula, Herbed Turkey and Veggie Meatloaf, Shakshuka (recipe coming soon) and of course, the Provençal Vegetable Ragout with Soft Cheese Polenta. You can also use the sauce as a base for your favorite spaghetti recipe, in a pasta casserole, on a meatball sub and in any recipe that calls for a marinara or red pasta sauce.

Herbed Ricotta and Olive Tapenade Ravioli with Tomato Sauce and Fresh Basil
Serves 2, can be doubled

16 Won Ton Wrappers (such as Nasoya)
16 teaspoons prepared olive tapenade (seriously, try Jacques Pépin’s link above)
16 teaspoons part-skim ricotta cheese
teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest, finely chopped
1 egg lightly beaten to use as an egg wash
1 1/2 cups homemade or your favorite tomato sauce (see recipe below)
Fresh basil leaves for garnish

Mix together the ricotta, thyme and lemon zest in a small bowl. Working one at a time, lay one wonton wrapper on a flat surface and brush just the edges with beaten egg. Fill one half of the wonton wrapper with 1 teaspoon of tapenade and 1 teaspoon of ricotta mixture. Fold over the wonton carefully, opposite corner to corner, to make a triangle and then gently press on the edges to seal. Use the tines of a fork to gently press and completely seal and crimp the edges. Lay each ravioli on a lightly floured surface such as a baking sheet, while preparing the remaining ravioli. Repeat the filling and sealing process 15 more times. When all of the ravioli are prepared, cook in a large pot of boiling and slightly salted water for 3-5 minutes, or until al dente. Drain gently, preferably removing the ravioli from the water with a large slotted spoon. To serve, ladle a small amount of the warmed tomato sauce into each of two large bowls or plates, top with 8 ravioli, then ladle more warmed tomato sauce on top and finish with a sprinkling of chopped and whole fresh basil leaves.

Homemade Tomato Sauce
(Slightly modified from Mario Batali’s Basic Tomato Sauce Recipe)
Makes about 8 cups of sauce

Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
medium red onion, diced
cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Tablespoons of fresh thyme, minced
1cup shredded carrot
2- 28 ounce cans of whole, peeled tomatoes in juice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat olive oil over medium heat, add onion, garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, 8 to 10 min. Add thyme and carrot and cook 5 minutes more. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often and breaking up the tomatoes with your spoon. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Taste and add more seasoning if necessary. Will keep tightly sealed in fridge for one week or frozen for 3 months.

Provençal Vegetable Ragout with Soft Cheese Polenta

finished ragoutwpolentaBSpring has popped here in Atlanta and we are leafed out! It’s been so pretty here, but the weather continues to be fickle…hot one day and downright cold the next with freezing temperatures coming this weekend, which is not good for azaleas. Still, the longer days and beautiful spring colors are most welcome.

A few weeks ago as the first buds were starting to show, we took a jaunt up to Cashiers, North Carolina for the weekend. It was still very much winter there, but the hiking was magnificent. Our close proximity to Highlands—which is only 15 minutes from Cashiers—meant that we could check out some very good new restaurants. One of them was Wild Thyme Gourmet. This restaurant used to be in a very small cottage a block or so off the main street of Highlands. They had little to no seating other than outdoors, but we had lunch there a couple of times and it was good. A few years ago they moved into a much larger space right on the main street and expanded their menu. It is now a fine restaurant worthy of reservations!

The night we dined at Wild Thyme Gourmet, both my husband and I were drawn to the vegetarian dishes on the menu. He ordered the ricotta and tapenade stuffed ravioli with fresh basil and tomato sauce. I ordered a Provençal vegetable ragout with soft polenta. The vegetables were meltingly delicious with a slightly smoky and rich undertone and were incorporated into a tomatoey sauce with briney kalamata olives. This was served atop a nutty and cheesey tasting soft polenta with just a few crumbles of soft, fresh goat cheese scattered on top. Both dishes were outstanding, so much so that the taste haunted me all the way back to Atlanta…and you know what that means!

So here’s my recreation of that delicious dish, which started off by making Jacques Pépin’s exceptionally wonderful version of tapenade which you can see here. While it wasn’t exactly like the dish at the restaurant, we thought it was every bit as good. And you guessed it, the next post will be my husband’s ravioli dish, so stay tuned.

finished ragoutwpolenta2

Provençal Vegetable Ragout with Soft Cheese Polenta
Serves 6

For the Ragout:
medium 
uncooked zucchini, split in half lengthwise
medium yellow summer squash, split in half lengthwise
1 each red, yellow, orange and green bell pepper, halved, stemmed and seeded
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, peeled and diced
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
3 medium plum tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 1/2 Tablespoons Kalamata olive tapenade, preferably homemade
12 Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 1/2 fluid oz. Pernod or Pastis liquor
1 1/2 oz. unsalted vegetable stock, preferably homemade
1 Tablespoon Italian Parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 Tablespoon fresh basil, chopped, plus extra leaves for garnish
1 Tablespoon soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled

For the Polenta:
3 cups unsalted vegetable stock, preferably homemade
3/4 cup skim or 1% milk
Tablespoons half-and-half
cup whole-grain yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt

Place the halves of zucchini, squash and peppers on a medium high heat grill or grill pan and grill both sides just until you have nice char marks. Remove from the heat and dice into 1/2 inch pieces.

Place olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the zucchini, squash, and peppers and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are starting to get tender. Add the tomato, tomato paste, olives, tapenade, vegetable stock, herbs and the Pernod or Pastis and cook on low heat, covered, until the tomatoes are soft and all the ingredients are integrated, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn off heat and leave covered while making the polenta.

Bring the 3 cups vegetable stock, milk and half and half to a gentle boil. Add the cornmeal slowly while whisking and then turn the heat to low. Continue to whisk until the polenta is creamy and tender to the bite, about 5-8 minutes. Add the parmesan and some freshly ground black pepper. Taste and add salt if needed. Serve 3/4 cup polenta with 1/6 of the ragout on top. Finish with a tiny sprinkle of goat cheese and a spring of basil, if desired.

*****

For those of you “Jones-ing” for spring, rest assured it is on its way. Here are some pics from our yard and neighborhood to tide you over.

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Light Individual Chicken Pot Pies for Spring!

Plated2 copy2Spring is in the air and I have one more recipe in a lighter vein to share with you as we usher in this beautiful and transitional season. Chicken pot pie!

I really love chicken pot pies any time of the year and I especially love individual ones because you can have a reasonable portion that is just right. Since these pies aren’t the quickest thing to make, it’s wonderful to freeze some of them and then enjoy those goodies at a later date for a quick weeknight dinner. Just thaw, top with your favorite crust, bake, add a salad on the side and you’re good to go.

This particular version of the dish has been lightened up a bit by cutting back on the fat and amping up the vegetables—some of which are roasted, giving them an extra boost of flavor. The filling is still creamy and rich tasting, but uses only a touch of olive oil and butter for flavor, flour to make a roux and some homemade unsalted chicken stock and low fat milk instead of cream to make the sauce. The taste of the sauce is additionally enhanced by a dash of cayenne pepper for a little kick. (You can cut back on the cayenne or eliminate it completely if you are heat sensitive.)

I roasted a whole organic chicken for the meat and made my stock from the carcass, which you can see how to do by clicking on this post. Homemade stock adds unbelievable flavor and richness to any dish, and is well worth the effort. Really there isn’t much effort…you just need to give it a couple of hours on the stove, then cool and strain it. Extra stock freezes well and is really nice to have on hand. You can also buy a pre-roasted organic whole chicken at your grocer and make stock from the carcass, or use a purchased good quality low or no sodium stock to save some time.

outofoven1 copyI made a biscuit topping for the pies in the post I linked to above, but this time I used a bit of puff pastry to top my first round, then topped the pies I froze and thawed later with a purchased refrigerated pie crust just before baking. Any of these options will make a delicious and very satisfying result. My only regret is that we’ve now gone through all of the pies in the freezer, which were as good as freshly made. Time to make some more!

This recipe definitely lends itself to a vegetarian version by substituting another hearty veggie like butternut squash for the chicken, and by using homemade vegetable stock. Enjoy these pies with a spoon to sop up every last bit of the sauce!

Happy Spring!

Light Individual Chicken Pot Pies
Serves 10
Freezes beautifully without crust

small uncooked red potato(es), 1/2 inch dice
1/2 lb. uncooked green snap beans, trimmed and snapped into bite sized pieces
Tbsp olive oil
Tbsp unsalted butter
large uncooked onion, diced
2 large ribs uncooked celery, sliced
large uncooked carrots, peeled and diced
oz. fresh mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered
cloves garlic, minced
tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Tbsp all-purpose flour
cups unsalted home-prepared chicken stock or other unsalted chicken stock
1/2 cup low-fat milk
2 1/2 cups roasted skinless chicken breast and thigh, diced
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped, plus extra for sprinkling on top
Additional salt and pepper to taste
servings Dufour Frozen Puff Pastry (about 1/2 of one sheet in a 2-sheet, 14 oz. package) OR refrigerated pie crust (you’ll need two of them for 10 rounds)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray 10 one cup ramekins with cooking or olive oil spray.

Step 1: Make two aluminum foil trays and place on a rimmed cookie sheet. Place the potatoes in one tray and the green beans in the other. Season lightly with salt and pepper and roast until tender and lightly browned, about 20 minutes for the potatoes and 15 minutes for the beans, stirring once. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Step 2: Heat the 1 tablespoon of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, celery and carrot and sauté for about 4-5 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic, a little pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Stir in the 5 tablespoons of flour and stir continuously for about 4 minutes to cook the flour and make a light roux. Add the chicken stock, stirring, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook another 5 minutes or until the sauce begins to thicken, stirring occasionally. Stir in the milk, then simmer another 4 minutes. Add the potatoes, green beans, chicken, cayenne, salt, pepper, parsley and thyme. Stir well to combine. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Divide the filing evenly amongst the 10 prepared ramekins. If freezing any pies, allow the filling to cool in the ramekins, then cover them with plastic wrap and place into the freezer on a flat surface. Once frozen, place the covered ramekins into a freezer bag. Thaw before using and then proceed to step 3.

Step 3: Thaw and roll out the pastry according to the package directions. Cut the pastry with a knife into 10 equal portions if using puff pastry, or if using pie crust make 10 slightly larger rounds to fit over your ramekins and pierce them to vent. Place one portion on top of each of the 10 pies, securing the edges of the pastry around the edge of the ramekin. Brush with a little whisked egg wash and sprinkle with some chopped thyme, if desired.

Step 4: Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place the ramekins on the foil, evenly spaced, and place the pan with ramekins into the oven. Cook the pies in a 400 F. degree oven for about 20 – 25 minutes, or until the chicken filling is simmering and the pastry is puffed, cooked through and golden brown on top. Watch carefully and if your pastry starts to get too brown, cover it with some aluminum foil. When done, remove from the oven and allow to sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Decorate with a bit of chopped fresh parsley and serve with a green salad on the side, if desired. This makes ten servings, and leftovers will keep well for a day in the fridge and can be reheated in the microwave.

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A Lighter Vichyssoise or Creamed Leek and Potato Soup

soupcu1Want another quick, simple, delicious and lighter soup recipe? This is a “lightened up” fix for an easy favorite…vichyssoise, or leek and potato soup. My lighter version is pureed and creamed, much like the original, but with a simple sub of lightened sour cream instead of copious amounts of heavy cream, you can definitely cut back on the calories and fat without sacrificing the flavor.

I think you’ll find that the sour cream adds a slight tang that naturally complements the leeks and the potato. This version is a little thicker, but is just as velvety as the original. Depending on how starchy your potatoes are you may wish to thin the soup with a bit more broth or water after you puree it. You could even use Greek yogurt as a substitute for the sour cream, but I happen to like the body and smoother consistency that the sour cream provides.

Like the traditional vichyssoise, this soup comes together incredibly quickly and is good hot or cold, which means you can eat it all year long…although this winter we’re leaning towards hot! It’s great to make on a busy weeknight. And it keeps well in the fridge for up to three days. All-in-all it makes for a warming (or chilled) and filling bowl of satisfying soup. We like ours with a bit of cheese toast alongside, which one can righteously enjoy when one has eliminated heavy whipping cream from the ingredients!

If you’ve never made vichyssoise because the name sounded “difficult,” you should really give it a try. What could be easier than throwing these few raw ingredients into a pot, cooking it for 40 minutes, pureeing it with a stick blender and stirring in some sour cream? You won’t be sorry.

Don’t need to worry about fat and calories? Then you can’t beat the original version of Julia Child’s vichyssoise here.

Lighter Vichyssoise or Creamed Leek and Potato Soup
Serves 6

4 cups sliced leeks, cleaned well, white and light green parts only (about 3-4 leeks)
1 3/4 lbs. raw yukon gold potatoes, cleaned, peeled and sliced
6 cups unsalted chicken broth
4 oz. water, plus a bit more for thinning, if needed
1/2 cup light sour cream, not fat free
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives (for garnish)
additional salt and pepper to taste

Place the leeks and potatoes in a large stock pot, add the broth, 1 teaspoon of salt and the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook partially covered until the vegetables are tender, about 40 minutes. Remove from the heat and puree with a stick blender until very smooth. Return the soup in the pot to low heat. Stir in the sour cream, black pepper and add any additional salt, to taste and heat through. If the soup is too thick for you, thin it with a bit more broth or water. Serve the soup hot or cold with fresh snipped chives sprinkled on top as a tasty garnish.

soupcu2

Happy Valentine’s Day!

molten chocolate cake2This is one of my favorite sweet treats to make for Valentine’s Day or any occasion requiring a spectacular dessert. Molten Chocolate Cake. It’s easy to make and you can still make it for your Valentine this evening. It can also be made one day ahead and placed in the fridge, then brought to room temperature and baked when needed. I like to add just a touch of cinnamon to my batter for a little spicy warmth, and use vanilla bean ice cream on top. Make 1/3 of the recipe for two, if that’s where you’re headed. This isn’t my recipe, but it’s one I use over and over again, and I highly recommend it! You can find the recipe by clicking here.

Need more quick Valentine’s ideas?

Coeur a la creme by candlelight...very romantic!

Coeur a la creme by candlelight…very romantic!

Coeur à la crème click here.

Milk Chocolate and Orange Pots de Creme for dessert!

Milk Chocolate and Orange Pots de Creme for dessert!

Milk Chocolate and Orange Pots de Crème click here. Just add a little orange zest to make my version.

flowers

Hope you have a lovely day one and all!

Spinach, Mushroom and Artichoke Strata

plated2BsharpHere’s a revamp of one of my favorite comfort foods to enjoy, particularly in cold weather: The Strata.

A Strata is much like a bread pudding…in fact the ingredients are almost the same. In my mind the main difference lies in layering versus mixing the whole together, along with the proportions of egg to milk or cream. The strata is “egg-y,” and the bread pudding has more of a “custard-y” quality. Because of these slight variations, the two are actually a bit different in both texture and taste.

The strata allows you to use thinner pieces of bread and fewer pieces as well, which are then layered with other ingredients. You add just enough moisture from the eggs and milk to hold it together, then top it with cheese. The result is sort of a baked sandwich with a fluffy texture. A bread pudding heavily relies on thick cut or torn chunks of bread soaked in a lot of custard to give the finished product a true pudding texture. Traditionally, bread puddings can be sweet or savory, but strata are most always savory.

And much like the frittata you saw in my last post, you can customize your strata to suit your taste or to accommodate what you have on hand by changing the type of bread, filling and cheese. In the end, the lines between strata and bread puddings can be blurry for sure, but the results are always delicious! And often quite caloric…which brings me back to the “revamp” part of this post.

Outoftheovenbest

Given that I am trying to continue the idea of “leaning up” some recipes without sacrificing flavor and texture, I came up with a modified strata, one that’s jam-packed with veggies. But it’s not just lots of veggies that provide the revamp. I’ve also used a flavorful multi-grain and seeded sliced prairie bread as the base, lower fat milk instead of cream, added some sweet spice, a hint of sherry and just a little bit of strongly flavored cheese to round out the taste and mouthfeel. I can tell you that the result is wonderful!

As I said, this leaner version is much more healthful than my usual savory bread puddings. With the adjustments I’ve made, I’d say this strata has 1/2 of the calories and fat, but all of the homey comfort food quality that I have always loved. It’s a meal unto itself and can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner. You could also enjoy it with a fruit salad, if you like. This reheats well in the microwave, too, so even if there’s just one or two of you around to eat it, leftovers can be kept in the fridge and used as needed. I haven’t tried freezing it because we eat it up quickly, but I think it would freeze well.

aftercutting

Spinach, Mushroom and Artichoke Strata
Serves 6

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
a pinch of salt and pepper
1 teaspoon of dry sherry
1 teaspoon of minced fresh thyme leaves
8 slices of prairie bread (I use Whole Foods, but a good quality multi-grain and seeded bread will do)
5 oz. of fresh baby spinach, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped frozen and thawed cooked artichoke hearts
4 large eggs
2 cups 1% milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 oz. of gruyere cheese, shredded
Olive oil cooking spray for the pan

1. Spray a 7 inch by 11 inch glass pyrex casserole with olive oil and set aside.

2. In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, warm the 1 tsp olive oil and then add the chopped onion. Sauté until the onion is tender, translucent and just beginning to caramelize, then add in the mushrooms and cook until they are tender and most of their moisture has evaporated. Sprinkle the mixture with a tiny bit of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, the fresh thyme and the sherry. Stir to combine. Remove from the heat and set aside. Line a baking sheet with foil. Lay the slices of bread on the sheet and preheat your broiler. Lightly toast the bread on both sides, remove from the oven and set aside. Turn off the broiler and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, nutmeg, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.

3. Assembly: Dip each piece of toasted bread into the custard mixture to fully coat it, then arrange each slice of the coated bread in the casserole slightly overlapping like a deck of cards. Pour the remaining custard mixture evenly over the bread. Tuck the cooked onion and mushroom mixture, chopped spinach and chopped artichoke hearts in evenly in between the slices. Sprinkle the gruyere cheese over the top and lift the slices with a spatula to allow some of the cheese to slip in between. Press down on the strata to even it out and to allow the bread to soak up the custard.

4. Place the dish with the strata onto a foil-lined cookie sheet to catch any drips. Put it into the oven and bake for about 45 minutes at 350 degrees F., or until golden brown and just set. After 45 minutes if it still need more time, cover lightly with aluminum foil to prevent over browning and continue to cook for 10 more minutes or until done. The strata is done when it is golden brown on top, slightly puffed and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean, without egg. Remove from the oven. Cut into 6 pieces and serve. Leftovers will keep in the fridge for 3 days.

This can be made the night before, covered and placed into the fridge. Allow it to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes before baking. Remove covering and proceed as above.

*****
snowynight2
We enjoyed this strata on a blustery and snowy night…a rare thing in our parts. But you don’t have to wait for some snow to warm up to this recipe!

 

Broccoli, Mushroom, Onion and Cheddar Frittata

Just out of the ovenWith the new year comes the resolutions, and one of them is always to try and “lean up” a bit after normal eating goes by the wayside in the total decadence of the holidays.

I am one who always has, and always will, fight the good fight with my waistline. We hike every weekend that the weather will allow this time of year, and that’s not only a fun way to get exercise and destress after the work week, but also a healthy and happy penance to other weekend pursuits! Still, one cannot lose weight by exercise alone…and there’s the rub.

It won’t come as a shock to you that I love to eat and won’t be giving up that pleasure any time soon. But there are ways to eat what you want and not gain, or even better, actually lose some weight.

Enter the frittata. What’s not to love about a frittata? You can make one in a snap and you can use up leftovers in your fridge to do it. Frittatas can be made out of most anything as long as it goes with eggs. Frittata is my go-to dish for those nights where I don’t have a lot of time in the kitchen and I want something good, filling and comforting to eat.

My approach to frittata has changed over the years and if you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ve several versions posted. I began on one end of the spectrum with lots of egg and cheese, with only a few other ingredients added in. Then after reading some of Mark Bittman’s approaches to getting more vegetable and less animal into one’s diet, I switched to the other extreme, which was almost all vegetable and very little egg. Tasty and messy, but not quite as satisfying and “frittata-like” as where I’m landing now. Since eggs have been vindicated and are back in the “good for you” department, this frittata is filled with eggs. And vegetables. And just enough cheese to taste and enjoy. I think it’s perfect. I hope you will, too.

First I roast the broccoli and the mushrooms with no oil, just adding a bit of salt and pepper for seasoning. This results in concentrating the flavor of the vegetables and bringing out a nuttiness in the broccoli which only roasting can do. Then, I use a tablespoon of olive oil in my cast iron skillet to lightly caramelize the onion before adding the roasted broccoli and mushrooms to the party. Eggs are whisked in a bowl with salt, pepper and a goodly dash of freshly grated nutmeg. The nutmeg is really key here because it does two really wonderful things to the frittata. It brings out the natural sweetness of the eggs and the parmesan cheese, and boosts the flavor of the veggies. Lastly, I whisk in equal amounts of full fat shredded extra sharp cheddar and freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheeses into the eggs, but only just enough for the taste…1/2 cup combined for the whole dish. Pour the egg mixture over the veggies, pop the skillet into the oven for about 12 minutes and you’ve got a healthy, filling dinner entree with very little fat, but lots of protein and veggies. It’s pure gold. Or at least it looks like that in these night time shots!

Another thing to love about frittata? Leftovers, if you have any, keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days. Love.

Happy New Year to you all and I hope yours has started off well. Here’s to your good health…and resolutions!

*****

Below is a little taste of an all too short hiking trip we took for our anniversary in November after Thanksgiving. This is the truly spectacular Falls Creek Falls State Park in the Cumberland Plateau area of Tennessee. A gorgeous, 35,000 acre park with trails, a lake, boating, zipline, fishing, cabins and an inn with a small restaurant, horseback riding and more. Since this was off season and winter, it was rainy and only the trails and accommodations were open, along with the restaurant, but it was still so beautiful and I can imagine it would be any time of year. We will go back for sure!

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Broccoli, Mushroom, Onion and Cheddar Frittata
Serves 6

Two heads of broccoli crowns, washed and cut into small florets (about 4-5 cups)
8 oz. button mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 Tablespoon of good quality olive oil
10 large eggs
1/4 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese (I use Cabot)
1/4 very finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 generous teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
more salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, then make an aluminum foil tray with sides to go into half of the sheet. Place the broccoli florets on the covered sheet and the mushrooms inside the tray. Season the broccoli and the mushrooms with the 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper, dividing evenly. Place the sheet with tray into the oven and roast for approximately 15 minutes, stirring each side once halfway through, until the mushrooms are tender and the broccoli is cooked through and just starting to brown a little bit. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Crack the eggs into a medium-sized bowl and whisk to combine. Whisk in the nutmeg, a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper. Add the two cheeses and whisk to combine.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a 10 inch cast iron skillet. Add the onions and cook for about 4-5 minutes, until they are translucent and just starting to caramelize a little bit. Add the roasted broccoli and the mushrooms and toss together, warming for about 2 more minutes. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the veggies, lifting the veggies gently to allow the egg to run underneath. Place the skillet into the 400 degree oven and cook for about 12 minutes, until the top is just barely set in the middle and firm on the edges. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for about 4 minutes. Cut into six wedges and serve.

Happy New Year!

May you enjoy peace, prosperity and good health in 2016, and may all of your fondest dreams come true. Happy New Year to you and yours!

Cookies for Santa and a Merry Christmas to All!

Did someone say "Catfoodie"???

Jingle…jingle…jingle. I hear those sleigh bells jing-a-ling, ring-ting ting-a-ling, too! Christmas is almost here and you know what that means, right? You’ll be needing some cookies for Santa and his reindeer on Christmas Eve this Thursday. Here are some ideas for last minute Christmas cookies that are sure to please even the pickiest elf or reindeer.

biscottiA-1

Chocolate, Ginger and Hazelnut Biscotti

These are a classic!

Mom’s Drop Sugar Cookies

Mmmm. These Glazed Apple, Walnut and Oatmeal cookies are to die for! Mmmmuuuuaaaah ha ha ha ha!

Fresh Apple and Walnut Oatmeal Cookies with Sweet Cider Glaze

Maamool 4

Ma’amool Cookies

crinkles2

Chocolate Espresso Crinkle Cookies

Yes, may I have another?

Toffee Bars

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Spiced Oat and Chocolate Chip Blondies

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Waiting for Santa…

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Need more holiday entertaining or food and beverage gift inspiration? Check out this previous post: Gifts, Goodies and Greatest Hits

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To all of those who celebrate, I wish you a joyful and Merry Christmas!
See you in 2016!