Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Creamy Pesto Artichoke Dip!

By the time you read this, we will know who is going to the Super Bowl.  As I write this, we don’t.  It had better be the ‘Niners, or I will have one very unhappy husband.  I would like to see the ‘Niners go too, after all, I am a Bay Area girl at heart.  And it always nice to see Colin Kaepernick succeed, right?

You may be able to guess, I’m really not that into football.  I try, I really do.  But it is hard for me to sit through an entire game.  They are so long!  I coach my daughter’s cheer squad and the games they cheer for are about an hour.  That’s a game length I can get behind!  But alas, playoff football is here, and that means that I am forced to sit through an entire game. 

The only thing that can get me through an entire game?  Football food!  I love football food because it is usually appetizers, and you all know by now….apps are my favorite.  I really feel that a football game needs a hot cheesy dip.  Today, I am going to show you my hot cheesy dip that is perfect for the big game.

Everybody loves artichoke dip, right?  It’s a crowd pleaser.  My artichoke dip is creamy, cheesy and garlicky.  Sounds delish, hmmmmm?

I start with cream cheese, which is the perfect base to all cheesy hot dips.  And life in general I think.  Everything good starts with cream cheese.  You can quote me on that.

Anyway, I melt my cream cheese with mayo, jarred pesto, artichoke hearts, bacon and Fontina cheese.  I use jarred pesto for ease, but you can feel free to make your own, you over achiever, you.  I choose Fontina cheese because it is a great “melting” cheese.  You could totally use mozzarella or provolone too.

Once everything is melted together, I pour the mixture into a bread bowl and top it with parmesan cheese and more bacon before it gets popped under the broiler.  It comes out browned, bubbly and delicious.

The pesto in this gives the dip a garlicky goodness that can’t be matched.  And…look at all that green!  It’s beautiful!  The artichoke hearts almost melt into this dip giving it a salty goodness that is perfect with all the gooey cheese.

Perfect football food, right?  I serve my dip with sliced baguette that I have brushed with olive oil and toasted up in the oven.  You don’t have to be that fancy though….crackers and raw veggies also rock with this dip.  Give it a try!  And go ‘Niners!

Creamy Artichoke Pesto Dip

16 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

8 ounces pesto

1/3 cup mayonnaise

14 ounces artichoke hearts (in brine), chopped

6 ounces bacon (cooked and crumbled), divided

6 ounces Fontina, shredded

1 cup parmesan cheese

1 sourdough boule (round loaf)

Preheat broiler.

In a large saucepan, melt together cream cheese, mayo and pesto over medium heat.  Stir occasionally.  Once mixture is smooth, stir in shredded Fontina, artichoke hearts and bacon, leaving 2 tablespoons of bacon aside.  Heat through.

To prepare the bread, cut about 1 inch off the top of the loaf and discard the top or save for future use.  Scoop out the inside of the loaf leaving you with a “bowl”.  Discard the innards or freeze for future use.

Pour dip into bread bowl.  Top with parmesan cheese and remaining bacon.  Broil in broiler for about 4 minutes or until top is golden brown and bubbly.

Serve with crackers, bread slices, crudité, etc.

Makes about 4 cups.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Creamy Cioppino Pasta

So my birthday was this week.  Am I the only one that makes myself dinner on my birthday?  I do this every year.  I like to make something that I like.  Something that is my favorite.  Not my kid’s or my husband’s….Mine.  Something that maybe they wouldn’t normally eat.  But I don’t clean up.  I’m not crazy.

This year, I decided to make pasta.  Why?  I love pasta.  I love everything about it.  It’s such delicious carb-y goodness.  I also knew I wanted seafood.  And not fish, but shellfish too.  So….I resurrected a recipe that I haven’t made in several years.  I am so happy that I did. 

I won’t keep you in the dark any longer.  I am going to give you my recipe for Creamy Cioppino Pasta.  Cioppino is a basically a fish stew.  It originated, supposedly, in San Francisco, which is near where I am from.  I like Cioppino as a stew, but adding pasta and cream takes it to a whole other level. It is pure decadent deliciousness.  And since this is me we are talking about….my version is pretty easy.

I start by sautéing an onion with some garlic, salt and cayenne pepper.  Cioppino typically is a bit spicy.  I am a wuss with spice, so I go easy on it.  You can always add more.

Once the onion has softened, I add in white wine.  Again, the wine is a prime component of Cioppino.  I let the wine reduce for a bit, and then I add a jar of marinara sauce.  Yep, that’s my shortcut.  Marinara is usually tomatoes, garlic, onions and spices that have simmered together for a long time.  If someone has already done that for me and put it in a jar…you bet I’ll use it. 

I let the sauce simmer for about ten minutes, and then I add my mussels.  If you haven’t cleaned mussels before, let me break it down for you.  First off, throw out any open ones.  They are dead and no good.  Soak the mussels in cold water to remove any sand or other nasty stuff.  Remove them from the cold water and give them a good scrub.  If they have a “beard” on the front, pull that off by pulling towards the hinged side of the mussel.  Easy stuff.  Don’t be intimidated by mussels.

The mussels cook in the sauce, with the lid on, for five minutes.  Then I add my fish, scallops, shrimp and crab.  I use canned crab because I don’t want to deal with a full crab carcass.  Yes, I know they are all over the stores right now, but that’s more work when I want to do.  This cooks for another five minutes, lid on. 

Finally, I stir in my cream and the sauce is done.  Quick note, if any mussels didn’t open, toss ‘em.  I serve my sauce over papparadelle pasta, which is big thick ribbons of pasta.  I also sprinkle basil over the top.  Make sure you have a lot of good bread ready for dipping in the sauce!

This pasta is rich, creamy and so amazing.  The seafood cooked in the marinara and wine can’t be beat.  This is the epitome of a special meal.  Do you have a birthday coming up?  Make this.

Creamy Cioppino Pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 cup white wine

23 ounces marinara sauce

½ pound mussels, cleaned

½ pound scallops

1/3 pound raw shrimp, deveined & shell on

½ pound cod, chopped into bite sized pieces

6 ounce can lump crab meat

½ cup heavy cream

¼ cup basil, chopped

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, salt and cayenne.  Sauté over medium heat until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.  Add wine.  Cook until reduced, about 3 minutes.  Add marinara.  Continue cooking, with lid on, over medium heat for 10 minutes.

Add cleaned mussels and continue cooking, with lid on for 5 minutes.  Add scallops, shrimp, fish and crab meat and cook an additional 5 minutes with the lid on. 

Stir in heavy cream and heat through.

Serve over pasta and top with basil.

Serves 4-6




Thursday, January 9, 2014

Healthy 2014!

Happy 2014!  May your year be filled love, success and health.  I actually might be able to help you with the “health” part of it…..Part of healthy living, obviously, is healthy eating.  While I am a firm believer in “everything in moderation”, I still know that healthy eating, for myself and my family is key.

For me, 2014 is going to be the year of the vegetable.  And protein.  I can’t forget protein.  I think that these are the two things I skimp on the majority of the time.  My kids do too.  We tend to be pretty carb-centric.  I tend to stay away from veggies.  But no more!  No more, I say!

This year, I want to eat meals that contain more protein and more veggies, but I definitely don’t want to sacrifice taste.  And they have to be relatively easy.  We’re all busy, am I right?  Easy is a must. 

Today I have three recipes to show you, a breakfast, lunch and dinner.  And they are all easy and healthy.  These recipes have the perfect mix of protein, veggies and grains.  Plus, they are all delicious.

My Breakfast Frittata is the perfect start to the day for my family.  I’m up first, usually, so this is something easy for me to make when I get up.  The best part is that frittatas are delicious at room temperature, so my husband and kids can eat when they get to it.  And, this frittata uses up leftovers!

I start by adding precooked turkey sausage crumbles to an oven proof skillet.  This is a must as this cooks in the oven.  Plastic handles will melt!  I’ve learned that the hard way.  And the messy way.

I use Jimmy Dean Fully cooked turkey sausage crumbles.  They are super lean, and they cook quickly.  This frittata is the perfect way to use up leftover veggies, so I usually toss in chopped broccoli, mushrooms, tomato and green onions.  I also add leftover cooked quinoa for an extra protein kick. 

Have you tried quinoa yet?  I slowly got on board with it, but now I am fully on board.  It’s a super food.

Frittatas start on the stove top but finish in the oven.  It starts almost like scrambled eggs.  Once the eggs start to set, I sprinkle on cheese and then let that bad boy go in the oven for about ten minutes.

The resulting product is a crustless quiche essentially.  It slices easily and is super portable too.  It’s like an omelet that you can carry with you.  Yum!

What’s for lunch, you might ask?  How about grilled Chicken Gyros?  I marinate boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a combination of plain non-fat yogurt, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and dried herbs.  I like to get that going the night before I want to eat it.  I let it marinate all night, then I grill the chicken in the morning.  It’s a perfect lunch to take to work!

The grilled chicken gets sliced thinly and served in whole wheat pitas with tomato, baby spinach and my homemade tzatziki sauce.  The chicken is tender and moist with so much flavor, and the tzatziki is creamy and delicious.  I think the tzatziki is my kid’s favorite.

For those of you that aren’t familiar with it, tzatziki sauce is a combination of plain yogurt, grated cucumber, garlic and lemon juice.  I add in some light sour cream so that my sauce isn’t super tangy.  It’s great on sandwiches, but it is also phenomenal as a dip.  My recipe gives you a bit extra for snacking.

These gyros are, again, a great combination of protein, veggies and grains.  And it is all super good for you!

As for dinner….this is a fun one…..Tilapia Roll-ups.  Yep, these are rolled up, pinwheel style, so my kids love them.

I start by making an edamame (lots of protein!) “hummus” out of boiled and shelled edamame, garlic, parmesan cheese, lemon juice and olive oil.  I spread this on thin fillets of tilapia (or any other thin white fish) and then top that with diced tomato and green onion.  I roll the fish up, securing the rolls with toothpicks, and bake the fish in a bit of lemon and olive oil.  It is super easy, super fun and super good.

I serve my roll-ups with a side of rice, quinoa, couscous or barley and a vegetable.  This is a great way to get fish into my family, as they are usually fish haters.  The roll-ups are so cute that my kids want to eat them, and the edamame “hummus” is so delicious that my husband can’t help but eat them up.  Win/win, right?

We all know that eating healthy is so important, but it can be hard.  We’re all busy.  We’re all pressed for time.  And we all want to eat something that actually tastes good!  I think these recipes fit the bill.  They taste great, are easy, and they are all healthy.  That is a great start to 2014 in my book.

Breakfast Frittata

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups Fully Cooked Turkey Sausage, Jimmy Dean

½ cup mushrooms, chopped

½ cup broccoli, left-over chopped

1 tomato, seeded and chopped

¼ cup green onions, chopped

1 cup quinoa, leftover

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 cups Egg Beaters, or 8 eggs

½ cup Fontina cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add olive oil to an 8 inch oven proof skillet.  Add turkey sausage and cook over medium heat until browned, about 3 minutes.  Add mushrooms, broccoli, tomato, green onions, quinoa and salt and pepper.  Continue cooking over medium heat until heated through.

If mixture looks dry, add additional olive oil so eggs will not stick.  Add Egg Beaters and let cook about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally with rubber spatula.  Push cooked egg into the middle of the pan so edges can cook.  Once eggs have set on the bottom, sprinkle cheese over the top and transfer pan to oven.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until frittata is set in the middle.

Let cool before slicing.

Serves 4


Chicken “Gyros”

1 pound chicken breasts, boneless and skinless

½ cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons dried parsley

2 tablespoons dried chives

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

For serving:

Whole-wheat pitas

Sliced tomato

Baby spinach

Tzatziki Sauce (Recipe to follow)

Place chicken, yogurt, olive oil, parsley, chives, lemon juice, salt, black pepper and garlic in a re-sealable plastic bag.  Massage ingredients into chicken.  Let marinate in refrigerator for at least 4 hours, no more than 8.

Pre-heat indoor grill or broiler.

For indoor grill:

Pace chicken on grill and close lid.  Grill for 6 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

For Broiler:

Place chicken on broiler pan.  Broil for about 12 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.  Flip chicken halfway through cook time.

Let chicken rest for 5 minutes, and then slice thinly.  Serve with pitas, tomatoes, baby spinach and tzatziki sauce.

Serves 4.

Tzatziki Sauce

½ cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt

½ cup light sour cream

1/3 cup cucumber, grated and squeezed dry

2 teaspoons garlic, minced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients together in a small mixing bowl.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes about 1 cup.


Tilapia Roll-ups

1 pound tilapia fillets

2 cups edamame, boiled and shelled

1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided

1 tablespoon garlic, minced

¼ cup pecans

½ cup parmesan cheese, grated

1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 tomato, seeded and diced

¼ cup green onions, chopped

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add boiled and shelled edamame, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, garlic, pecans, and parmesan cheese to bowl of food processor.  Process mixture while slowly drizzling in about 1/3 cup olive oil.  Blend until you have a smooth paste.

Spread each tilapia fillet with about 1 to 2 tablespoons edamame mixture (depending on size).  Top evenly with tomato and green onion.  Roll fillet up into a pinwheel, securing with toothpicks.

Add remaining olive oil to an 8x8 baking dish.  Add rolls, standing the rolls up with about an inch between each.  Drizzle remaining lemon juice over the tops and sprinkle evenly with salt and pepper.

Cover baking dish tightly with foil.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until fish is flaky.

Spoon lemon and olive oil “sauce” over fish roll-ups to serve.

Serves 4