Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tortellini Soup

My husband and I recently moved to Boston and I bought a huge bag of tortellini from Costco so that we could have some quick, easy, but still relatively healthy meals while moving in. I guess I didn't realize just how many tortellini are in a Costco bag because no matter how many we ate, there always seemed to me more. In an attempt to escape my classic method of heating up the tortellini and dumping marinara or Alfredo sauce on top, I tried my hand at tortellini soup. It was fantastic! I am going to buy the Costco tortellini again just to give me an excuse to make this soup a few more times. Enjoy!

Tortellini Soup
  • 1 pound Italian sausage
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 ounces fresh tortellini pasta
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 2 cups stewed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced zucchini
  • 2 green bell peppers, seeded and cubed
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  1. Remove casings from sausage. Brown sausage and cook until crumbly. Remove meat from pot. Reserve 1 tablespoon drippings.
  2. Cook onion and garlic in the drippings until tender. Add broth, water, wine, carrots, tomatoes, basil, oregano, tomato sauce, and the cooked sausage. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered 30 minutes.
  3. Add zucchini, green peppers, parsley, and tortellini. Simmer another 25 minutes, covered, for fresh tortellini, or 45 minutes, covered, for frozen tortellini. Serve with fresh parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Black Bean and Rice Enchiladas

My vegetarian meal for this week (Thank you, Kristen!):

Black Bean and Rice Enchiladas
courtesy of Kristen Cutler

1 green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chilies
1/4 cup picante sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups cooked brown rice
8 (6 inch) flour tortillas, warmed
1 cup salsa
1 cup reduced fat shredded Cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Saute the green pepper, onion and garlic in oil until tender. Add the beans, tomatoes, picante sauce, chili powder, cumin and red pepper flakes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, until heated through and mixture thickens. Add rice; cook 5 minutes longer or until heated through.
Spoon a rounded 1/2 cup down the center of each tortilla. Fold sides over filling and roll up. Place in a 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Spoon salsa over each tortilla. Cover and bake at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with cheese and cilantro. Bake 2-3 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Speaking of Bananas...

I know I haven't posted a recipe in forever and I have a long list to share that are wonderful staples. But these Banana Oat Pancakes are hands down the best pancakes I've ever had. They taste like banana bread and I just eat them plain because they are so good. I haven't tried it yet but I'm guessing they would be good as muffins too.

Banana Oat Pancakes
3 small bananas mashed
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp honey or agave
2 eggs
1 cup oat flour (just grind oat groats or rolled oats (not instant) in a blender for quick oat flour)
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg

Blend all ingredients together in a blender. Cook pancakes on griddle at low temperature (300 degrees) so that the outside of the pancake doesn’t cook too fast. They are sooooo good, you should make them as soon as humanly possible:)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

To Die for Banana Cake, Literally

We recently served this banana cake at a wedding and it was a hit. So much so, that a man came up to me afterward and said "I would kill you for that banana cake recipe." I'm sending him the recipe right away. And here it is for your enjoyment - a not-so-healthy treat. Please look into the fabulous cookbook, The Silver Palate, from which this and other recipes-so-good-someone-would-kill-you-for-them originate from.

Banana Cake
The Silver Palate Cookbook
Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins

1/2 cup unsalted butter, plus more for greasing the pans
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for flouring the pans
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, separated
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (we usually use a little more, about 3 medium bananas)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting (see recipe below)
1/2 to 2 medium, firm, but ripe bananas, sliced (only use if you are serving immediately and not freezing)
1 1/2 cups shelled chopped walnuts (optional, as always)
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting the top

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch layer cake pans.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl. Add the egg yolks and beat well. Add the mashed bananas.
3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together and add them to the butter mixture. Stir until just combined. Add the buttermilk and vanilla. Beat the egg whites to soft peaks. Fold gently into the batter.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Set on the center rack of the oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pans on a rack 10 minutes. Unmold and cool on a rack for 2 hours.  (If planning to freeze the cake for a later date, let the cake cool, but you don't have to wait 2 hours, and then wrap in plastic wrap and freeze).
5. When cooled, place one layer on a serving plate and frost with the cream cheese frosting. Arrange banana slices over the frosting; cover with the second layer and frost the top and sides of the cake.
6. Cover the sides of the cake with the chopped nuts, holding the nuts in your palm and pressing them firmly to the sides of the cake. Dust the top of the cake with confectioners' sugar.
Serves 8 or more. 

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
6 TBSP unsalted butter
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)

1. Cream together the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl.
2. Slowly sift in the confectioners' sugar and continue beating until fully incorporated. The mixture should be free of lumps.
3. Stir in the vanilla, and lemon juice if desired.
Frosting for a two-layered cake. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Good Try, Vegetarian

In an effort to promote healthy eating in our household, I made a New Year's Resolution to try to make more vegetarian meals. Yesterday, as I got out my cookbooks to make spaghetti sauce, I passed over the all-too-delicious looking meatballs and my eye glimpsed a recipe for Gnocchi, the classic Italian potato dumpling. "Perfect!" I thought. I can still create a more filling meal without adding the meat!

Don't be fooled. My gnocchi didn't look anything like this.

It could have been a relaxing day when I finished making my marinara sauce at 11 a.m. However, I was for some reason intent on making gnocchi, so the rest of my free time and lots of time that wasn't, was spent in boiling, peeling, grating, mixing, rolling and shaping little potatoes into dumplings. Had they been delicious, my efforts would have been worth it, but no; they were bland, soggy dumplings that I ended up throwing away and being frustrated over because I had spent my whole day attempting to make bland dumplings. Yikes.

The good thing was that the marinara sauce was delicious. We tossed it with whole wheat spaghetti noodles and served it with herb french bread and squash and it turned out to be a lovely meal.  No recipe for gnocchi today, but make the sauce. It was worth it and much faster.

Based off the recipe from Williams-Sonoma for

2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion
2-4 garlic cloves (minced)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 (14.5 oz.) cans of stewed tomatoes (2 cans Italian style, 1 can garlic and olive oil) - undrained
dash of nutmeg
1 bay leaf
1 tsp or more of basil (1/4 cup chopped fresh basil)
red pepper flakes
freshly ground pepper

Dice the onion. Heat olive oil in a pan with high sides. Add onion and cook until onions are tender (slightly translucent). Add garlic and cook approximately 1 minute. Pour in red wine vinegar. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat.

Add the tomatoes, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, basil (if using fresh, wait until 10 minutes before serving to add) and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil and then lower to heat so that the sauce can simmer. Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours. Occasionally add more water if the sauce is getting too thick. Discard bay leaf. Toss with pasta and serve.  Or let cool and refrigerate  for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.