Creamy Fall Pasta with Squash, Onions, Kale, and Goat Cheese!

2015-09-22 17.19.17I know I’ve been MIA – per my usual routine of being really excited about blogging, followed by an overwhelming about of work to do, and ending with complete neglect. Well, I’m back. At least for this one post. I am on a lighter rotation right now and was able to make a more involved, delicious dinner last night that I’d felt I needed to share with the work. Eli agreed, this dinner was hands-down delicious! He was picky all day and wouldn’t eat anything but bananas (or nanas as he calls them now). I placed a bowl of this goodness in front of his screaming face and viola! he was silent. It was glorious.  The end result was one super happy (and messy) kid. I am looking forward to when he figures out how to effectively use his silverware; until then I’ll deal with the mess since that means he’s actually eating.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Onion, and Kale over Pasta with Spiced Goat Cheese White Sauce

2015-09-22 17.14.22

Ingredients

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 large bunch of curly kale
  • 2 cups cooked pasta
  • 2 cups 1% or skim milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp all spice
  • 1/3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4 ounces goat cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Peel butternut squash cut in 1/2 lengthwise. Remove the seeds. Cube squash and place in a sprayed cooking dish.
  3. Dice the onion and kale. Add to the cooking dish.
  4. Roast for 45 minutes, or until squash is fork-tender. Stir part-way through to prevent burning.
  5. Create a slurry (white sauce) by adding 2 tbsp to 1 cup of milk. Whisk well to completely dissolve. Add the remaining flour and milk, whisking while adding. Pour into a sprayed frying pan (not heated yet!). Place the pan over medium heat and stir continuously with a rubber spatula to prevent sticking. Add spices while stirring. Continue to stir until the mixture just starts to bubble. Add the goat cheese and continue to stir until melted and fully incorporated.
  6. Add pasta and roasted vegetable mixture to a pan. Pour white sauce over and stir completely. Enjoy!

2015-09-22 17.19.10

Grown-Up Mac and Cheese

gourmet mac and cheeseAs a kid, J and I both loved macaroni and cheese. How were we to know that it wasn’t made with real cheese? Thankfully, we’ve come to see how much more amazing this childhood favorite can be. I’ve made a number of takes off macaroni and cheese before, but this is probably my favorite. We don’t plan to feed Eli the box mac and cheese, so we’re hoping something like this will be his favorite go-to childhood meal. Give it a try – I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Grown-up Mac and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1  medium red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 1% or skim milk
  • 5 ounces (1/2 package) of frozen spinach thawed or 1 bag of fresh spinach cooked down
  • 8 ounces gruyere cheese
  • 1.5 cups elbow macaroni (preferably whole grain)
  • 1 pound cooked chicken, diced

gourmet  (2)Directions

  1. Prepare pasta as directed on package; set aside to cool.
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add onion, salt, and garlic. Cook down until soft. Add vinegar and cook for 1 more minute. Set aside.
  3. Prepare the white sauce (slurry version)
    1. Pour 1/2 cup milk into a measuring cup. While whisking, slowly add flour, making sure none sticks to the bottom. Once fully incorporated, add remaining milk and whisk well.
    2. Spray a skillet with cooking spray and pour milk mixture into the room-temperature pan.
    3. Heat pan over medium-low heat, stirring continuously to prevent sticking.  Continue to heat until the mixture begins to bubble. Once slightly bubbling, allow to bubble while stirring for 3 minutes (this is the thickening stage) and then lower heat to low.
  4. Add cheese to the white sauce and stir until fully melted. Add onion, chicken, spinach, and pasta; mix well until well incorporated.

Swiss Chard Bread

Two months ago I had never had swiss chard before. Last week was the 3rd time our CSA came with a bunch, so I am starting to become more familiar with it. I found a delicious Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Gratin recipe but felt it was too heavy for summer. I am going to save that for the fall. For now, I was craving some herb-seasoned bread. I found it used in a number of recipes online, so I decided to throw together my loaf. This bread has wonderful texture and flavor. I made the dough in the bread machine but baked it in a loaf pan in the oven – I wanted smaller loaves and didn’t want a hole in the middle.

image(1)

Rainbow Chard Herb Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of rainbow chard (amount to make 1 cup cooked)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 dried garlic cloves
  • 2 hot peppers (small red chilies)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp canola oil
  • 3 1/2 cup bread flour*
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dry active yeast

Directions

  1. Cut the stems off the chard and place in a food processor. Pulse into small pieces. Add leaves and continue to pulse into small pieces. Remove from the food processor and place into a microwave-save container. Lightly cover the dish and microwave for 1 minute to soften.
  2. In the meantime, add basil to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add other spices and oil. Pulse until well mixed. Push down the sides and add the steamed chard. Process for a few seconds to mix well.
  3. Lightly spray the bread machine pan with cooking spray to prevent excessive sticking. Add water, salt, oil, and chard mixture first. Then add bread flour. Sprinkle the top with sugar. Scoop a small hole in the center of the flour and place the yeast. Make sure the yeast doesn’t come in contact with the salt (that’s why you put it under the flour)**.
  4. Put the bread pan in the bread maker and set on the dough cycle. You can set it on the regular baking cycle if you’re OK with the shape of the bread pan loaf.
  5. If you’re going to make the bread in the over, prepare 1 or 2 loaf pans.
  6. Once the dough cycle is done, lightly flour the counter and dump the dough onto the flour. Try to touch the dough as little as possible. Split in half and place each  half in the baking pan (or all into 1 if you are making  a big loaf).
  7. Cover pan with a clean towel and let sit for 20-30 minutes in a cool, draft-free place (I use the pantry).
  8. Preheat the over to 350F. Once the dough has doubled in in size, DON’T touch the dough. Gently move the pans from their resting spot to the oven. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the top is golden.

*I didn’t used whole wheat but you could probably do 1/2 and 1/2 if you wanted. Remember, this has a leafy green it in, so you can give yourself a pass if you want to just use all bread flour

**salt kills yeast, sugar feeds yeast. You put salt in bread to prevent it from over-proofing, so don’t try to be a health freak and omit it all together. The salt in this bread is not the reason we have problems with high blood pressure in this country.

Sausage and Kale Pizza

This recipe was something we quickly threw together on a Sunday afternoon for lunch. We had a ton of kale left from the CSA and there was a chance we’d be getting more on Tuesday. Originally I thought I’d make kale brownies again, but opted to make real food instead. For some reason, when I think of kale, I instantly think of sausage. While we didn’t have any sausage on hand, we had (and still have) plenty of ground beef. The end product was actually quite delicious and super filling – definitely a man’s pizza.

Kale and Sausage Pizza

Sausage and Kale Pizza

Ingredients

  • 1 premade whole wheat pizza dough
  • 1 large bunch of kale
  • 12 ounces ground beef
  • 1 large onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup pizza sauce
  • 6 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Prepare pan with cooking spray.
  2. Brown meat with onion.
  3. Roll out the pizza dough and press into the prepared pan.
  4. Thinly spread the pizza sauce over the prepared dough. Add kale and beef. Top with cheese.
  5. Bake in the own for 10-14 minutes, or until the edges are golden.

Swiss Chard Pesto

swiss chard

In case you forgot which green this was, it is this beauty.

Here’s another Swiss Chard and Garlic Scape post for those of you with more than you know what to do with! I had so much food on hand that I ended up freezing this recipe.

Swiss Chard Pesto
Adapted from {neverhomemaker}’s Garlic Scape and Swiss Chard Pesto

Ingredients

  • 5 garlic scapes, chopped
  • 1 cup swiss chard, leaves only
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 can of white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt + pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Add the scapes, swiss chard, and basil to the food processor. Process until a thick mixture is formed.
  2. While processing, pour in the olive oil and lemon juice. Once relatively smooth, add in the beans and process until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    At this point you can also add in some fresh Parmesan cheese – I forgot about it, so I didn’t include it in my ingredients.
  3. If you don’t plan to eat all the pesto now, consider freezing it for later. Line a baking sheet (or dish) with plastic cling wrap. Pour the pesto mixture onto the cling wrap and spread out. Place the pan in the freezer, uncovered, for a few hours, until frozen through. Remove from the freezer and cut into 1″ x 1″ squares. Individually wrap with plastic wrap and place into a freezer bag. Keep frozen until use. This portions come in handy for last-minute meal ideas.

garlic scape and swiss chard pesto

Swiss Chard Pancakes

swiss chard

We got a TON of Swiss Chard a few weeks ago. I had always admired the bright colors when I saw it at the market, but had never cooked with it before. I wanted to make something different with it, so after a little searching I found a number of blog posts about swiss chard pancakes. I figured we’d give them a try. One day we served them with caramelized onions, goat cheese, and balsamic roasted beef. Another day we substituted eggs for beef (see picture below).

These didn’t turn out quite as planned, but I think I know why. First, since they are called pancakes, we used the pancake griddle and scooped out portions of batter as if we were making normal pancakes…not the greatest idea. The result was a dense, rubbery blob. Next, the recipe said we could just chunk up the chard (that it didn’t need to be well processed). Also,  not the greatest idea. The result was big chunks of chard surrounded by rubbery-ness. Lastly, I would have preferred a thinner pancake, so if I were making these again, I’d add more milk to the batter. So, the take home message from my experience – pulverize the chard, add more milk, use a pancake griddle, and scope small portions of batter at a time.

swiss chard pancake with eggs, onions, and goat cheese

Swiss Chard Pancakes
Recipe adapted from The Splendid Table

Ingredients

  • 2 cups 1% milk
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 garlic scapes, diced
  • 10 fresh chives, snipped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 5 large or 10 small Swiss chard leaves, center ribs removed, washed, and dried

swiss chard pancakes

Instructions

  1. Preheat pancake griddle to 250F.
  2. Place the swiss chard in a food processor and process into small pieces (not pureed). Remove and set aside.
  3. Working in batches, put everything else into the food processor. Be sure to work in batches unless you have a food processor that can handle this much liquid. Mine had milk pouring out the bottom 😦
  4. Process the mixture until the batter is smooth. Add the chopped chard to the mix and process until well incorporated.
  5. Once the griddle is ready, spoon 1/4 cup of batter onto the surface. Cook about 2-3 minutes per side, or until golden. Transfer the pancakes to a plate and cover with towels to keep warm.

These pancakes in crepe form can be seen here.

Spinach Egg Scramble

I am a breakfast person. Some people don’t have an appetite for anything in the morning, or can get by with a piece of fruit or a slice of toast. Not me. I need a meal. I love having vegetables for breakfast for three reasons:

  1. They are filling (so I am not wasting 1/2 of my morning trying to ignore my  hunger or eating snacks)
  2. They help keep my blood sugars steady (I have reactive hypoglycemia)
  3. I can mentally check off 2 of my 5 veggies servings for the day (score!!)

My favorite thing to make in the morning is eggs with some type of vegetable. Usually it is an omelette, a scramble, or a frittata. This morning I threw together a spinach and tomato egg scramble over a spinach salad, topped with fresh Romano cheese and balsamic vinegar. It was delicious 🙂

I know what you’re thinking – you’re a dietitian, why are you eating cheese and eggs?!? First, eggs are actually GREAT for you. I usually eat 1 whole egg and 2 egg whites. The volume is the same as 2 whole eggs but you cut out 50 calories of fat and add in 15 calories of protein. There is no cholesterol or saturated fat in an egg white, so this is actually very heart healthy. And as for the cheese. Well, I’m a Wisconsin girl, so cheese is a pretty big part of my diet. I like to choose cheese with a lot of flavor, so that I can use a little. There is barely anything in 1/2 TBSP of aged Romano cheese, except flavor of course 😉

Spinach Egg Scramble

Spinach Egg Scramble

Ingredients

  • cooking spray
  • 1.5 cups of fresh spinach
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 TBSP fresh Romano cheese
  • 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar

Directions

  1. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat (around a 7) and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Once heated, add 2 egg whites and 1 whole egg. Mix together once and top with a 1/2 cup of spinach. Let stand for a few minutes.
  3. Scramble the mixture for 2 minutes to make sure the egg is cooked throughout. the spinach should start to shrink at this point. Turn off the heat.
  4. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and place in the pan. Scramble the mixture until you are satisfied with the egg’s doneness.
  5. Put the rest of the spinach (1/2 cup) into a bowl. Pour the egg  mixture over the spinach salad. Top with cheese and balsamic vinegar.
  6. Enjoy – and get ready for a super productive morning now that your brain is nourished and your belly is full 🙂

Pesto Spinach Lasagna

Pesto Spinach Lasagna by A Year of Slow Cooking
(with some healthy modifications) 

Ingredients

  • 1 (26-ounce) jar prepared pasta sauce
  • 6 whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 1 (11-ounce) container pesto
  • 1 (12-ounce) package of soft tofu, crumbled up
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag baby spinach
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup water

The Directions

  1. Each layer will use 1/4 of the ingredients for a total of 4 layers.
  2. Use a 4 quart slow cooker. Add 1/2 cup of pasta sauce into the bottom of your cooker and swirl it around. Add a layer of uncooked, broken lasagna noodles. Add 1/4 of the tofu and pesto. Add a handful or two of baby spinach, and top with a layer of Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
  3. Repeat 3 more times until you’ve run out of ingredients. The spinach is fluffy, so you’re going to have to squish it down to make it all fit.
  4. Add 1/4 cup of water into the empty pasta sauce jar and close and shake. Pour this saucy water over the top of everything.
  5. Cover up and cook on low for 4-6 hours. You’ll know it’s done when the top layer begins to brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly. It will also pull a bit away from the sides. Taste-test a noodle to check texture.
  6. Uncover, and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Will You Tofu?

When I go through a carb counting book with patients at the hospital I always get the same response when I get to the plant-based protein section. It goes like this:

ME: “Some plant-based proteins contain carbohydrates while others will not count towards your daily carbohydrate choices. These can be great additions to your diet so you stay within your carbohydrate range and get adequate protein. Tofu is one that does not have enough carbohydrates to count as a carbohydrate choice. Have you ever tried tofu?”

PATIENT (with a disgusted face) “Yuck, no. I don’t eat that stuff and I never will.”

ME: “I would encourage you to try it sometime. It has no taste at all, so you can put it in dishes and make it takes the way you want. The consistency can be like ricotta cheese or like cream cheese, depending which type you get, so you can use it in many dishes.”

PATIENT (looking unconvinced): “No, that is gross. I’m not going to eat that stuff. Plus, it’s expensive isn’t it?”

ME: “Actually it pretty cheap. Just a dollar or two for 12 ounces – A pound of ground sirloin is usually $4.”

The conversation re: plant-based proteins is usually done there. I wonder what it is about tofu that scares everyone so much. I really tastes like nothing and has a creamy texture, which most people like. However, I too am occasionally scared of tofu and need mor practice at preparing dishes with it. I have made tofu cheesecake before, which my roommates thought was real cheesecake until I told them otherwise. I frequently made spinach lasagna with tofu in the place of cottage cheese when I was in college, but have not made it recently. After a few more patient interactions like the one above I decided I needed to get back into using tofu (lucky Jason…). Not only because it is a great protein, but because I want to perfect some great-tasting recipes that I could try to convince some patients to try. This weekend I made the lasagna again. It turned out just like I remember and Jason loved it. I added ground sirloin for Jason (90% lean…so a healthy choice), so this is protein-packed meal.

His and Hers Spinach Lasagna

Ingredients

  • Crock Pot (4-6 qt works the best)
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce (whatever kind you like – we just used traditional)
  • 6-8 whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 1 packaged of frozen spinach
  • 3/4 pound ground sirloin
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 12 oz soft tofu
  • Pepper
  • Italian seasoning
  • 4 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1-2 oz fresh parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Brown the sirloin with onion in a pan. No oil is needed. Drain off extra fat.
  2. Thaw out the spinach and drain the water.
  3. Place the tofu in a container. With a fork mash it up until it looks like ricotta cheese. Add 1-2 tsp of italian seasoning and some pepper. Add more or less seasoning depending on your preference.
  4. Pour 1/4 of the sauce into the bottom of the crock pot. Break 1/4 to 1/3 of the noodles to cover the bottom.
  5. Add some ground turkey, spinach and tofu mixture. Top with a layer of noodles. Top noodles with 1/3 of the cheese.
  6. Repeat this until all of the ingredients are gone. Be sure that cheese is the very top layer.
  7. Cook on low for 4-5 hours, on until the edges of the cheese begin to lightly brown.

A taste of heaven

A few weeks ago I sat down to catch-up on my favorite food blog, TheKitchenSinkRecipes, and search for a few new dishes to make. I have to admit, I have been in a cooking-rut lately and seemed to have lost the passion I once had for it. I knew some exciting new recipes might be just the trick to get me out of the slump. That is when I found it…

Butternut squash. I am one of the few and far between in the nutrition field who have never eaten butternut squash before. When I was a kid my parents never prepared dishes with winter squash and I can count the number of times I have prepared it in my lifetime on one hand. Something about the dense shell and overall size of the squash tends to be a little daunting to a novice. That challenge was what I needed to feel excited about cooking again. This dish is the most delicious dish I have ever, I repeat, ever made. The subtle sweetness of the squash paired with the spice of the spinach and topped with a light cream sauce makes every bite unexplainably delicious. I guarantee this dish is worth the somewhat lengthy prep time.

Spinach & Butternut Squash Lasagna
Cooking Light (found on TheKitchenSinkRecipes.com with slight modifications)
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 3 cups skim milk
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup vidalia onion, diced
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 cups (3/4-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 2 1/4 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 18 ounces of fresh spinach
  • 9 cooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup part-skim mozerella cheese

Directions

  1. Cook onion in 1 tsp olive oil and a pinch of salt for 2 minutes or until tender. Reduce heat.
  2. Create a white sauce by mixing  1/4 cup of milk with the 1/4 of flour in a glass measuring cup and whisk well with a wire whisk. Add the reamining milk and whisk well. Slowly add the mixture to the pan until the mixture is smooth, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and cook until smooth and thickened. Remove from heat. Cover surface of milk mixture with plastic wrap; set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 425°.
  4. Place squash in a large bowl. Add vinegar; toss to coat. Add 1 tablespoon oil; toss to coat. Arrange squash in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper,  and sage. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°.
  5. While cooking, combine remaining 2 teaspoons of oil, red pepper, and garlic in a Dutch oven over medium heat; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add spinach, 1 bag at a time; cook until wilted, stirring frequently. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook until liquid evaporates, stirring frequently.
  6. Mix the cheese together in a bowl. Spoon 1/3 cup milk mixture in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over milk mixture; top with spinach mixture, 2/3 cup milk mixture, 1/2 cup cheese. Arrange 3 noodles over cheese; top with squash mixture, 2/3 cup milk mixture, remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Arrange remaining 3 noodles on top of cheese; spread remaining 1/2 cup milk mixture over noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.