Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer Lasagna Roll Ups

When I was a little girl, my absolute favorite food was creamy pasta.  Everytime we went out to eat, I got some kind of pasta in cream sauce.  At Bravo, it was Fettuccini Alfredo.  At Amerigos, it was Three Cheese Tortellini with Lump Crabmeat.  At Olive Garden, it was Seafood Alfredo.  It hits all the comfort notes in my mind and made me feel safe, happy, and truly content.  That is until I had my realization that creamy pasta means it is made with heavy cream, butter, and flour which had hardly any nutritional value for me.  Once my journey for healthy living commenced, I began to strive to make food that hits those same comforting notes but also gives my body something to work with.  This is one such recipe!  These little cuties are my Summer Lasagna Roll Ups!

Summer Lasagna Roll Ups

Can't you just taste the melty cheese, sense the chewy of the pasta, and smell the floral basil?   This is also a great recipe for little ones that love to help in the kitchen.  You can slip in some veggies, and they can have fun making the yummy bundles.

The stars of this recipe are: 12 lasagna sheets, parmesan, tomato sauce, part-skim or low fat ricotta cheese, garlic, 1/4 cup of basil leaves plus a few for garnish, and whole milk mozzarella.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and coat the bottom of a casserole dish with tomato sauce.  I used about 1 cup of tomato basil tomato sauce that I had leftover in my fridge.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add your noodles.  I usually use whole wheat pasta, but I searched the Kroger high and low with no avail.  Regular pasta will just have to do this time :)

Slice 3 tomatoes and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.  I typically seed the tomatoes when I am making a pasta dish, but since this is not a very saucy pasta, I left them just as they are.

I know I rave about tomatoes all the time, but they are so so good for you!  They are packed full of vitamins A, C and beta-carotene to fight all of those free radicals from the summer sun.  They are loaded with lycopene which fights cancer.  They have a high water content which makes you feel fuller faster.  There really is no reason not to rave about tomatoes. 

Pluck your basil leaves from their stems, lay them on top of each other, and roll them as if you were making a cigar.  Cut your leaves into ribbons.

Now, lets make the filling for your roll ups.  In a bowl, mix the 1/3 cup of parmesan, 1 container of ricotta cheese, 2 garlic cloves minced, 3/4 of your basil leaves, and a pinch of salt and pepper.  I used part skim ricotta cheese because whole milk ricotta is high in fat, but ricotta in general is packed with protein similar to Greek yogurt.  I also used Parmesan cheese because it is low in fat and high in flavor.

In these semi healthy/semi-indulgent recipes, I like to use all lower fat items with the exception of one.  In this recipe, I used real mozzarella.  It hits that velvety comfort sensation without using heavy cream.  I used about 1/2 lb of fresh mozzarella to top off our bundles.

Get those kiddies ready.  It is assembly line time!  I have a colander for our pasta, an assembly station, and a rolling station.

Strain your pasta and run cool water over it until it is cool enough to handle.

Step 1: Take your noodle and slather some ricotta along its length.  I spy gorgeous flecks of basil!

Step 2: Lay 2 slices of tomatoes over the ricotta.  Start with one end and roll over the tomato slices until you get to the other end.

Step 3: Place in the casserole dish

Step 4: Lay a slice of mozzarella over the bundle and repeat with the rest of your roll ups.

Drizzle the tops with some heart healthy olive oil and place the dish in the oven.  Bake the bundles for 12-15 minutes.  

Garnish your roll ups with the remaining basil and dish up some comfort food.  

12 Lasagna sheets
1 cup of tomato sauce
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/4 cup of basil leaves plus more for garnish, cut into ribbons
1 container of low fat Ricotta
1/3 cup of parmesan cheese
3 tomatoes, sliced
1/2 lb mozzarella, sliced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Use a medium sized casserole dish and slather the bottom of the pan with 1 cup of tomato sauce.  Add the lasagna noodles to the boiling water.

In a medium bowl, mix the garlic, ribbons of basil, parmesan, ricotta, salt, and pepper until combined.  Drain your pasta and run the noodles under cool water to allow for handling.  On a cutting board, lay out one noodle and slather it with the ricotta mixture.  Lay 1-2 slices of tomatoes on top and roll the noodle into bundle.  Place each bundle into the casserole dish and lay a piece of mozzarella on top of each bundle.  Drizzle the top with olive oil.

Place the casserole dish into the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes until the top gets brown and bubbly.  Garnish the top with basil and let the comfort begin!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer Pasta Salad

One of my favorite memories is when my mom would grab our beaten up wicker basket, pack some PB&J, and take us out for a picnic.  It is the ultimate summer memory for me.  There is just something special about squeezing onto a too small blanket and eating on the ground in the warm sun.

This recipe is a perfect picnic meal.  It is so flavorful and packed with yummy veggies, so grab your kids, friends, hubby, or all three.  It is picnic time!  This is my Summer Pasta Salad.

Summer Pasta Salad

First, whip up your dressing.  Use the juice and zest from one lemon, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1 tsp of salt, and 1/2 tsp of pepper.  Wisk it together to combine.

Cook your whole wheat penne pasta in boiling water according to the package directions.  I really love whole wheat pasta, but in this recipe I think it really adds extra depth of flavor.  Make sure to salt your water to season the pasta. comes the not so light part.  You can use less butter, but just think about how much pasta you are using.  This recipe made six servings and six large servings at that.  Use 4 TBSP of butter and melt in a large skillet over medium heat.  Is there any greater smell than melting butter?  

To make up for the butter, measure out four cups of packed spinach leaves.  You could also use arugula or kale, but I love the mild flavor of spinach.

Any variety of tomato would work, but my sweetie loves Roma tomatoes best so that is what I used here.  You could use cherry tomatoes if you want a punch of flavor or colorful cherubs for kids.  Use Heirloom tomatoes if you are a fancy pants person :)

Your butter will be foamy and smelling fantastic by this point.

Add 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts to the butter and warm through.  

Grab a big bowl or large gladware container and start tossing things in.  Drain your pasta and add it to the bowl along with the spinach, tomatoes, walnuts, and 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese.  Toss the pasta salad and allow the spinach to wilt.

But wait!!  Don't forget your dressing!  Pour the dressing over the salad and let the fresh flavors meld together.

1 package of whole wheat penne
1 lemon; juice and zest
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 tsp salt 
1/2 tsp pepper
4 cups of packed spinach
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
4 TBSP butter
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
1/2 cup of parmesan

Cook pasta according to package directions.  While the pasta is cooking, grab a small bowl and add the olive oil, lemon juice, zest, salt, and pepper.  Wisk the dressing until combined.

In a skillet, melt the butter over medium heat for 10 minutes.  Add the walnuts to the butter and heat the nuts through.  In a large bowl, mix together the pasta, dressing, spinach, tomatoes, parmesan, walnuts, and butter. 

Your summer salad is now complete.  It is fantastic warm and is equally good at room temperature.  This is one reason this makes such a good picnic recipe.  So pack up some apple slices and bottles of water and head to the park.  Those swings, slides, and flower headresses await.  It is picnic time!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Twist on Everyone's Favorite: Pepperoni Pizza

Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!  I know my last post was a pizza recipe, but I had leftover dough and had to do something with it!  Something fabulously delicious, I might add.  I am been completely inspired by all of the gorgeous tomatoes this season and have been whipping up yumminess left and right.  And, seriously, who doesn't like farm grown tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and basil from your garden?  I am retracting my former apologies and officially saying "You're welcome!"  This is my version of a Pepperoni Pizza.  

Pepperoni Pizza

1 pizza crust or dough
1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1/2 lb of mozzarella cheese, sliced
Pepperoni (as much as you like)
3 tomatoes, sliced and seeded
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Basil leaves, julienned 

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare your pan or pizza stone with a sprinkling of cornmeal to prevent the dough from sticking.  The cornmeal is necessary if you are using dough; if you are using a premade crust then you can omit this step.  Drizzle the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic.  Throw it in the oven for 5-10 minutes until it is partially cooked so the dough is not mushy in the middle.  No droopy, sad pizzas allowed!

While the dough is in the oven, grab your tomatoes and slice them.  Now, this is very important: seed the tomato slices and pat them dry with a paper towel.  Get as much water out of them as you can.  Sprinkle the slices with salt and pepper.  By this time your kitchen will be wonderfully fragrant with the roasting garlic.  

Remove the crust from the oven and begin layering the ingredients.  The order is very important, as well!  Cover your crust with your mozzarella leaving a 1 inch rim of crust on the outside.  Think of the cheese as the glue that holds the whole masterpiece together.  Following the cheese, artfully lay out your pepperoni slices.  I always use turkey pepperoni, but if you are feeling utterly sinful, I won't judge you for using the real stuff.

Lovingly lay out your vibrant tomato slices and top them with the parmesan cheese.  I know this layering seems somewhat backwards, but the tomato will put off a lot of water.  If they are on the bottom layer the crust will get soggy.  Place your pizza back in the oven and bake it for 15 minutes.  I hit mine with the broiler to get that crispy, brown top which I love!  Remove your delicious dinner and sprinkle the top with your basil leaves. 

I hope you enjoy this fresh summer pizza as much as Matt and I did.  It was comforting in the fact that it was bready and cheesy.  Matt loved it because I did not hide veggies like bell peppers and onions in it.  I loved it because it is packed with lycopene and various antioxidants.  I hope you love it too!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

We have already had the discussion about how much I love bread...and cheese...and bread.  So one of my favorite foods is pizza and I am always looking for new ways of making it.  Pizza is one of those versatile things that you can go in all kinds of directions with.  Since summer has just started, I was feeling some barbecue.

The nice thing about this recipe is you can make it as easy or as complicated as you want.  Btw...who wants to make something complicated?  Me I suppose...I am just a glutton for punishment.  I will tell you how I made it, but also give you a few options to make it more user friendly.  This is my Barbecue Chicken Pizza:

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

1-1/2 cups warm water
1 tsp instant yeast
4 cups of bread flour/AP flour
1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Chicken breasts
1 lb of mozzarella, sliced
1/2-1 cup of barbecue sauce
1 Garlic clove, minced
1 TBSP olive oil
Crushed Red Pepper Flakes

To make the crust, use a bowl of a stand mixer and add the warm water and instant yeast.  Let it sit for 5-10 minutes.  Add the bread, flour, and salt.  With a paddle attachment, mix the dough for 10 minutes.  Let it rise for 1 hour.  To avoid all of this bread making hassle, you can buy store bought pizza crust.  I really like the Pillsbury wheat crust.

While the dough is rising, cook your chicken breasts.  You can poach, saute, or grill them.  I have tried it all of these ways and they are all good.  One truly delicious option is using some leftover rotisserie chicken.  Shred the chicken and mix it with the barbecue sauce.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Take your dough and split it in half.  At this point you can freeze the other half and use it for a quick dinner later.  Roll your dough out and brush it with the tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with minced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes.  Bake the crust for 10 minutes.  Enjoy the amazing aroma that fills your kitchen.

Remove the crust from the oven and lay the mozzarella on the par cooked crust.  Place the barbecue chicken on the pizza.  You can add sliced red onions, but I am not a big fan of onions so I left them off.  Put your pizza back in the oven and let the cheese melt for about 10 minutes.  Broil the top of the pizza to brown the cheese.  

Take your delicious pizza out of the oven and sprinkle with cilantro.  Btw, Matt doesn't like cilantro which is why his half is so bare.  By this point you will be drooling down your shirt, and I apologize.  I love all of these flavors and especially in the summertime.  So dig in and happy summer everyone!!