Butternut Squash Ravioli with Gorgonzola Sauce

17 May

What is a major staple in autumn cuisine? Butternut squash. Now I love butternut squash ravioli, so creamy and delicious. I have found a recipe that I have adapted a bit to fit my taste buds. The original recipe was for Pumpkin Ravioli with Gorgonzola Sauce, which is good, but they asked for canned pumpkin… canned pumpkin in ravioli? Puke. I used real pumpkin and it was a lot better, but I love butternut squash so I went for it, feel free to use pumpkin if you wish… but promise me and yourself that you won’t go for the canned pumpkin. Please. This dish may surprise you because guess what!? It’s also healthy. I hope you are noticing a trend here… and jump on the band wagon because you’ll thank me later in life.

Although the recipe is a bit time-consuming, only because putting filling in ravioli can be a pain in the ass, it’s worth it. AND you can do that ahead of time and just through them into a pot of boiling/simmering water and voila! Homemade ravioli in minutes and it even serves 6!

Ingredients:

1 1/4  cups  pureed butternut squash or pumpkin
2  tablespoons  dry breadcrumbs
2  tablespoons  fresh grated Parmesan cheese
1/2  teaspoon  salt
1/2  teaspoon  minced fresh sage
1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
1/8  teaspoon  ground nutmeg
30  round wonton wrappers
1  tablespoon  cornstarch
Cooking spray
1  cup  fat-free milk
1  tablespoon  all-purpose flour
1 1/2  tablespoons  butter
1/2  cup  (2 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
3  tablespoons  chopped hazelnuts, toasted (or other nuts if you don’t want hazelnuts)

Preparation:

Stir together butternut squash, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, salt, minced sage, pepper, and nutmeg.

Working with 1 wonton wrapper at a time (cover remaining wrappers with a damp towel to keep from drying), spoon 2 teaspoons pumpkin mixture into the center of wrapper. Brush edges of wrapper with water and fold in half, pressing edges firmly with fingers to form a half-moon. Place on a large baking sheet sprinkled with cornstarch. Repeat procedure with remaining wonton wrappers and pumpkin mixture.

                                     

Fill a large Dutch oven with water; bring to a simmer. Add half of ravioli to pan (cover remaining ravioli with a damp towel to keep from drying). Cook 4 minutes or until done (do not boil), stirring gently. Remove ravioli with a slotted spoon; lightly coat with cooking spray, and keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining ravioli.

Combine milk and flour in a saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil; cook for 1 minute or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add butter, stirring until butter melts. Gently stir in Gorgonzola.

Place 5 ravioli in each of 6 shallow bowls, and drizzle each serving with 3 tablespoons Gorgonzola mixture. Sprinkle each serving with 1 1/2 teaspoons hazelnuts. Serve immediately.

Yum!

Nutrition Facts (5 ravioli and sauce):

Calories: 250 (33% from fat)

Fat: 9.1g (sat 4.5g,mono 2.7g,poly 0.7g)

Protein: 9.5g

Carbohydrate: 33g

Fiber: 3.1g

Cholesterol: 22mg

Iron: 2.4mg

Sodium: 636mg

Calcium: 162mg

 

Whole Wheat Graham Crackers

29 Aug

These are AWESOME!! I got the recipe from the Whole Foods website, but I’ve experimented with some things. You can definitely change the flavorings and sweeteners. I like using agave nectar instead of the honey, you can also use maple syrup or brown rice syrup (I’ve personally never used this, but I assume it would work?). We’re going for non-processed things here… and now I will get into why I came across this recipe.

I wanted to start making my own graham crackers a year or so ago because all of the packaged ones have partially hydrogenated oils! I was infuriated… seriously, I was. What are they? They are made by man by bubbling hydrogen gas into vegetable oil (unsaturated oil) to make it more sturdy. It can resist more processing so it’s easier to get into packaged foods than unhydrogenated oils. Partially hydrogenated oils are found in the ingredient list, but show up as trans fats on the nutrition label.

Why avoid them? Not only do they increase your bad cholesterol (LDL) they reduce your good cholesterol (HDL). AKA they are assholes. And what on earth does your body do with trans fats? Well since it isn’t natural it doesn’t know how to use them so it takes a considerably longer time to digest them… soooo they just chill out in your body, particularly in your arteries and around your organs, which are the worst places for them to be. You can find out more information about trans fats here, but I just wanted to add my two cents. And I’m not done:)

There’s a lot of information and warnings about trans fats these days, but I’d like to shine some light on a piece of information I’m not sure many of you know (or maybe you do and if so… yay!). The FDA has regulations over nutrition labeling and trans fat has become such a big deal they made regulations on labeling. However, companies can say that their food is trans fat free and has 0g of trans fat per serving even if they have up to .5g of trans fat. Ummm WTF! Come on. So, for example let’s look at creamer; most people like it, it’s sweet and virtually fat-free. However, it has partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list so it must have trans fat yet they can label it as free of trans fat. When you think about it the serving size for creamers are 1-2 tbsp depending on the brand. People use at least that much if not more so they can be getting up to 2+g of trans fat when they think they’re getting none at all! So when you think you’re doing something good for yourself, PSYCH! You’re not (fyi: creamers aren’t made from real dairy, but act like it. Natural?…).

Anyways… so these graham crackers are so delicious. It’s harder than you think to get them crispy all the way through unless you cook them longer and get them darker than I care for. I just embrace the chewiness in the middle, makes it more like a flat cookie!

Btw, if you want to just skip all my ranting about partially hydrogenated oils feel free.. I just thought I’d share 🙂 But without further banter I give you amazing whole wheat graham crackers!

Makes 2 dozen (24)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 egg whites, divided (or 1 egg white and some milk, you’ll see)
6 tablespoons dark brown sugar (I just used light brown, but whatever you have will do)
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons raw or turbinado sugar (or granulated)

*Like I said you can experiment with your sweeteners (maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup…) and even reduce the sugar (go for reducing the brown sugar first). I also didn’t have raw or turbinado sugar so I just used granulated, still yummy.

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 and grease 2 baking sheets with cooking spray or use parchment paper.

Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in the butter and use your fingers to combine it resulting in a fine meal. In a separate bowl whisk together 1 egg white, brown sugar, honey and vanilla. Add this to the flour mixture and stir until a sticky dough forms. If your dough isn’t coming together you can add some milk or water, but only in small amounts.

     

Take half of the dough and place it on a floured working surface. Roll it out as thin as you would like. I try for the whole cutting board length in a rectangle. Keep the surface floured so the dough doesn’t stick. Carefully cut into 12 rectangular graham crackers and place on your baking sheet. Using the extra egg white (whisked slightly or milk) brush the tops with it and then add half the sugar. Do the same with the remaining dough. Don’t worry if your crackers don’t have perfect edges, mine never do and I’m not going to waste dough by cutting off the imperfections.

  

  

Bake these goodies for 12-14 minutes until they are brown and fragrant. Set them aside to completely cool because this is when they really harden. Keep them in an airtight container.

These are great for snacks, maybe used for a cheesecake crust, crumbled over ice cream, spread with peanut butter or nutella (topped with bananas too!), dipped in hot cocoa or caramel sauce… possibilities are endless. Oooo you can even wrap up the nicest looking ones and give them as a heart-warming gift!

   *I had some with my homemade chocolate ice cream! Eeeek.. delicious.

These go fast so I hope you enjoy them!

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION per graham cracker:

Calories: 60   Fat: 1g (.5g saturated)   Fiber: 1g   Protein: 1g   Sodium: 80mg

Mushroom and Chicken Couscous with Lemon and Dill

29 Aug

I made this recipe up because I wanted to use up my whole wheat couscous. There isn’t really a story behind this one or anything so… sorry? But… it’s so good! It can be eaten hot or cold and works well for left-overs. The lemon and dill give it superb flavor and the mushrooms, chicken, and couscous make it a filling meal. I added sour cream and Parmesan for creaminess.

You can also use leftover chicken which is great and cuts the prep time!

Check out this recipe:

Serves 5 (about 1 cup)

Ingredients:

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts OR equivalent in left-overs (12-14 oz total)

1 cup whole wheat couscous, dry

1 1/2 cup boiling water

8 oz mushrooms, sliced (I used mini portobello, but white button can work too)

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 tbsp butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Dill, fresh, to taste

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp sour cream

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Start with your chicken. Heat the oven to 350, sprinkle the breasts with salt and pepper and place a few fresh dill sprigs on top. Bake the chicken until done (about 15 minutes for me, but baking times will vary). Once the chicken is done, remove it from the oven and let it cool. Then you can shred it into bite-size pieces.

  

Start your couscous. Heat 1 1/2 cups water to a boil and place couscous in there. Cook until done (according to package instructions) and set aside.

Meanwhile place the butter into a saucepan and add the mushrooms and onion. Cook them until tender 8-10 minutes for a good browning. If you can’t find fresh dill you can add about a tsp of dried right here. Salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and add the sour cream and Parmesan. Toss together with your shredded chicken, cooked couscous, and lemon juice. Top with more fresh dill and Parmesan.

     

Feel free to add more toppings such as toasted pine nuts, chives, etc.

I admit, 5 servings is kind of weird… but let’s think about this. If you are married or in a relationship this leaves you with 2 servings for yourself (if you are female) and 2 servings for your partner (my boyfriend has much bigger portions than me… much bigger haa). But trust me you will be filled up.. and for a while afterwards too! Or… you can keep it all to yourself:)

Here are the specs per serving

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION:

Calories: 264   Fat: 4g (2g sat)   Fiber: 3g   Protein: 25g   Sodium: 611mg

Not only does this recipe provide 50% of your daily need of protein it is a great source of certain B Vitamins, Niacin and B6 to be exact. So enjoy!!

 

 

 

Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

15 Aug

Just reading the title of this recipe you know it’s gonna be a good one… and then you look at the picture. I’m sold! I don’t know why I thought of making this last week or what inspired me, just day dreaming I guess. I just made this one up and it’s a definite keeper! I ate the meatballs plain with a side salad, but you can throw them on pizza, use in spaghetti, make a sub, put in soup… The center oozes mozzarella cheese! If you don’t have time to stuff the meatballs you can just add the cheese into the meat mixture and get cheesy meatballs, but I suggest taking the time (at least on your first try) to stuff them with the mozzarella.

Makes 12 meatballs, serves 6

Ingredients:

-Meatballs-

1.25 lb (20 oz) Italian Seasoned Ground Turkey, Lean. I used Jennie-O

1/4 cup basil

1/4 cup bread crumbs

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Large pinch of salt and pepper to taste

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

-Marinara sauce-

1/2 tbsp oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

1 cup crushed tomatoes with Italian seasonings, an overflowing 1 cup

Large pinch of salt

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Grate your cheese and separate it into 6 portions.

Combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs except cheese, unless you don’t want to stuff them and then you can add the cheese, but beware because they will spill melted cheese onto your baking sheet. Who doesn’t like crispy cheese though? Divide the meat mixture into 6 balls. Take out 1 ball, divide into 2,  press into a mini-looking patty with a little dip in the center, stuff with mozzarella (1/2 of a pile for each meatball) and press down to make it stay, and wrap the meat around it forming a ball. Place the meatball on a greased cookie sheet. Repeat with the remaining meatballs.

*The meat mixture may be a little sticky… feel free to add more bread crumbs or experiment with just using the egg white instead of the whole egg. Don’t add too much of the bread crumbs because the meatballs could become dry; I just suffered through the sticky mess and mine were nice and juicy.

and then… mozzarella pushed in to–> wrapped up in Italian love 🙂

Once you have finished making your bundles of love bake for 15-20 minutes until done, turning once. To check for doneness I just cut into one.

While the meatballs are baking you can make the marinara sauce. Add the oil to a medium saucepan and saute garlic until fragrant, 1 minute. Add crushed tomatoes and salt, stir until warmed through. Add the balsamic vinegar, stir, cover and remove from heat. Once the meatballs are done place them into the sauce, warm over medium heat, and serve!

I like mine with some grated Parmesan and fresh basil on top! Ooooo look at the oozing inside! This was another food-gasm inducing dish, enjoy 🙂

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION:

Calories: 246   Fat: 12.7g (3.7g saturated)   Fiber: 1g   Protein: 23.7g   Sodium: 719mg

*Can’t eat 6 servings? Freeze some and pull out to thaw whenever you are in need of this delicious meal:)

Lemon Curd

15 Aug

So I have a new favorite thing to make, I could honestly eat the whole batch in one sitting! It takes like 15 minutes to make and has only 4 ingredients. I made a Flourless Almond Cake, possible post about… if you want me to post it let me know! I had used 3 egg whites for the cake so I had leftover yolks and didn’t know what to do with them. I didn’t want to make some extravagant, multi-ingredient thing so I looked online for a while and found lemon curd 🙂 I’ve made it before for Lemon Tartlets (one of my boyfriend’s favorites now), but the recipe for the curd was different. I’ve messed around with the recipe a little and have discovered how I like to make it best. One of the recipes called for whole eggs and zest… the whole eggs did add volume, but left stray pieces of cooked whites and the zest made it weird to eat.

This recipe is foolproof, simple, easy, and will impress anyone who gets their hands on your little jar of sunshine. You can eat it straight (I often do), on toast, waffles and pancakes, as a topping for ice cream, a spread for crackers, or dressed up by putting into mini tart shells and topped with homemade whipped cream… all of which are easy and delish!

Here it is! It makes 3/4 cup and I’d say 1 tbsp per serving is good so about 12 servings depending on how big your tbsp is 🙂  Enjoy…

Ingredients:

2 lemons, juiced (you can also make lemon-lime curd and use 1 lemon and 1 lime, juiced)

3 egg yolks (feel free to try whole eggs if you want)

4-8 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp butter, cut into tbsp

Directions:

Get everything ready, juice, yolks separated, sugar in a bowl (with a tbsp measure out), and butter cut into 3 tbsp. On medium-low heat combine yolks and juice in a small saucepan and stir until well combined. Stir or whisk for a little bit longer until the mixture gets a little thicker (a few more minutes). Gradually add 1 tbsp of sugar at a time until you get the right sweetness. I made it once with only 4 tbsp of sugar, it was really tart, but I loved it! 6 tbsp consistently gives good results, but sweeten to your taste and don’t be afraid to test it during this process.

Next, once you’ve gotten the sweetness you like, add the butter 1 tbsp at a time, melting the butter completely into the mixture before adding more. Continue to stir until the curd thickens. You know it’s done with it sticks nicely to the back of a metal or wooden spoon. It will also thicken as it cools so don’t fuss too much about this.

   Or  

Put the lemon curd into a glass jar (or whatever Tupperware you have) and store in the refrigerator. I would say to eat this within a week… if it lasts that long!

*For mini tartlets you can use pie crust dough to make the shells. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray, cut out appropriately sized portions of dough and press into the tin. Prick with a fork and bake according to package directions, or if using a homemade crust bake it like you normally would! Remove the shell, fill with lemon curd, and top with whipped cream and any other garnishes you desire!

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION, per tbsp (12 tbsp total):

Calories: 56   Fat: 3g (2g sat)   Fiber: 0g   Protein: 1g   Sodium: 18mg

*This will easily replace your jam to spread on your morning toast 🙂

Sonja’s Special

11 Aug

The name “Sonja’s Special” has a history, it’s not just some phrase I quickly made up for my food blog… oooh no. This goes way back and of course has a story. This started when I was in elementary school:

I started to realize that all of the other kids at school had that white soft bread known as “Wonder Bread”. I certainly did NOT have this bread for sandwiches, I had homemade bread. As a youngen I wanted to be like my friends so I complained to my mom about it, “I want Wonder Bread like all the other kids, Mom! Can we get it at the grocery next week? Pleeeeease!”. However, my dear Mother, known to the rest of you as Queen Frostine :), didn’t have it in her to succumb to factory made bread, especially Wonder Bread, so she invented a “white bread” to make me happy. She even named it “Sonja’s Special” which made me want to eat it even more! Ever since then, all throughout my elementary, middle, and high school years I’ve had my own personal wonder bread. Here is the original recipe:

Add, in this order, to your bread machine:

After a while she stopped using gluten and sometimes didn’t use milk powder; work with what you have you know? Now that I make my own bread, using an ancient bread machine passed down from Queen Frostine herself, I’ve made some more changes to make it even more special and most importantly my own:

Add, in this order, to your bread machine:

1 3/4 cup + 2 T milk

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp oil (I use vegetable, but whatever you have on hand… butter works well too)

4 cups white whole wheat flour (Eagle Mills), or 3 cups all purpose + 1 cup whole wheat

2 tbsp sugar (brown or white), sprinkled around the edge of the pan

1 1/2 tsp salt, also sprinkled around the edge of the pan

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast, put in a well in the center

Set the machine to “Dough”. Once the dough is ready take it out and form into 2 bread loaves, gently deflating the dough as you do so. Put the loaves into 2 greased bread pans, cover with a warmed kitchen towel (heat it up in the microwave for 30 seconds… a damp one is even better) and let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until the tops are golden brown. Take the loaves out of the pan and let cool on a cooling rack. This is actually an important step because if you cut into the bread too soon after it comes out of the oven it will deflate it… it just doesn’t work so try to be patient. Wait at least 15-20 minutes before getting your fresh-out-of-the-oven-bread fix.

*Brush the tops with some softened butter for a little something extra! Or do an egg white wash on top 5-10 minutes before taking out of the oven (whisk egg white and brush over top)

I am so glad my mom did this or me; it is such a treat to eat the break you make from scratch! I’m blessed to be able to get this treat all the time. Trust me… you won’t want to eat another loaf of store bought bread again (unless it’s from a bakery that makes their own… but you can save money this way!).

This bread is good for toast, sandwiches, making bread crumbs, using for bread pudding, my Spinach, Bacon, and Tomato Egg Bake, and much more. It’s actually healthier than the other whole wheat bread you can get in the store, but you wouldn’t be able to tell!

Like I said before, this recipe makes 2 loaves and I usually turn one into a regular loaf for myself and the other into Cinnamon Pull-Aparts or “Bear Bread”… it looks like one big long cinnamon roll and it basically is, just not cut up before baked.

Bear Bread:

1/2 Sonja’s Special bread dough

1-2 tbsp butter, softened

1/4-1/2 cup sugar (mix white and brown)

1 tbsp cinnamon

I usually don’t measure the above ingredients, but these are my best guesstimates. I also didn’t compute the nutrition information for “Bear Bread” because I don’t have the exact measurements. Eat it like it’s a special treat and you won’t have to worry.

Roll out the dough, using extra flour so it won’t stick to the board or rolling pin, so that the length of it will be a little longer than the bread pan. It can be as wide as you want, you’ll be rolling it up anyways. Spread the softened butter onto the dough with a spoon, not going completely to the edges. Sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon over the top and press it in with your hands.

Fold the ends in about 1/2 inch and roll the rest of the dough like you’re making cinnamon rolls. Pinch the seam to the dough so nothing seeps out (warm water works best). Place the loaf seam-side down in a greased bread pan, cover with a warmed kitchen cloth and let rise for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 and bake for 25-30 minutes, just like the regular Sonja’s Special (I just bake them together to make my life easier).

Once it’s golden brown on top, take it out, remove it from the pan and cool it on a cooling rack. Be patient with this one too!

*My boyfriend inspired me for this one, hence the name “Bear Bread”… Bear: his informal, possibly self-dubbed, nickname/fb name.

Do Bear Pull-Aparts sounds more appetizing? I loooove these, they’re great when you’re going to a brunch with friends or are sharing it with a lot of people. There is no need to use a knife, people can simply pull off a piece and enjoy!

Using the same ingredients and method as before the change comes after you spread the butter and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar. At this point cut the dough in half, hamburger way (aka so you have more square pieces instead of long rectangular ones). Then cut each half into 3. Place all of the strips on top of each other. Cut it in half, then cut each half into thirds. Take each third and stand it up in a greased bread pan, cover with a warmed kitchen towel, and let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 and bake for 20-25 minutes (a little less time for these). Remove from the oven and… INSTANTLY ENJOY!

I only have the nutritional information for regular Sonja’s Special, so here it is!

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION: 12 slices per loaf

Calories: 85   Fat: 1g   Fiber: 3g   Protein: 4g   Sodium: 156mg

 

Israeli Couscous Salad

11 Aug

I adore Israeli Couscous. Perfect little pearls… anyways I was inspired to cook with them ever since I had them a few years ago at “The Lake”; a huge cabin my cousin’s family rents out for a week or so in the summer which is on a lake a few hours south of Indianapolis. I remember an aunt of my cousin’s would make glorious dinners for everyone (20+ people) and I distinctively remember having an Israeli Couscous salad. I don’t remember what was in it or how she made it, but damn… it was worth drooling over. Well, when I was home… ages ago, I picked up some Israeli Couscous at the Chequamegon Food Co-op (I bet you can’t say it correctly, unless you’ve been up north). Try: “Sha-wa-ma-gen” with long a’s… Anyways, it’s taken me a while to get around to using it. So last week I decided to just make up my own Israeli Couscous Salad and I am so glad that I did!

This is a chilled dish that I serve as a main, but can be a side as well (just serve less). It’s very fresh and full of flavor, just what I was in the mood for with the news breaking heat we’d been having. Who knew Minneapolis got to 100 degrees in the summer… not this girl! I’ve survived, barely. I think I was sweaty for a few days straight… gross. Back to my dish! This is easy to prepare, no sweating necessary 🙂

Serves 4 (one large 1 cup)

Ingredients:

1 cup dry Israeli couscous + chicken/vegetable stock to boil it in

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp reserved cooking liquid

Juice of 1 lemon

1 cup grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled or cut into cubes

1/2 cup cucumber, cubed

2 tbsp red onion, diced

1/4 cup fresh mint

1/4 cup fresh oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook the couscous in 1 1/2+ cups liquid, I used “Better than Bouillon” paste in water. Cook it according to package instructions. Mine seemed to cook faster than 10-15 minutes, which is what I found to be the cooking time online. Just check it periodically. Drain it, but keep at least 2 tbsp of the cooking liquid.

While the couscous is cooking you can prepare your other ingredients. Combine all the vegetables, oil, lemon juice, reserved cooking liquid, and herbs. Add the finished couscous, cover and refrigerate for a few hours, or until chilled. Serve it with a little mint on top, as always salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy!

I like this because it’s not like your average cold pasta salad… using a different grain is a nice twist.

*Some more add-ins could be kalamata olives, raisins, artichokes…

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION:

Calories: 254   Fat: 7g (3g saturated)   Fiber: 3g   Protein: 8g   Sodium: 250mg

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