Monday, April 18, 2011

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lend Me Your Orecchiette ... With Broccoli

Orecchiette with Broccoli

Happy Easter Everyone!  Holiday time is always crazy at our house.  Lots of gatherings and lots of hungry guests.  I try to make extra dishes that are not only quick-n-easy but also that keep well in the fridge ... just in case.  Here's one of them.  My orecchiette with broccoli can be made, start to finish in under 15 minutes and is actually best served at room temperature.  With the advent of tons of interesting whole grain pastas on the market now, you can easily cut the carbs in this dish.  And, you can keep it simple and classic (like what's pictured above), or be bold and avant garde and try adding fresh sauteed seafood, crispy pancetta, sliced sausage or even canned tuna to this crowd pleaser.  There's simply no way to get this dish wrong, and even your unexpected guests will think you slaved over a hot stove for them.  I have received accolades on this dish since I started making it a decade ago.  And, so will you.  So, lend me your orecchiette - your ear, that is - and I'll show you how it's done!

1 pound of any whole grain pasta.  I prefer orecchiette (ear shaped) macaroni
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
2 heaping tbsps crushed garlic (from the jar).
4 heads of fresh broccoli (stems removed, and broken into individual bite-size pieces)
Freshly grated Parmigiana cheese
Red pepper flakes

- Boil the macaroni in 6 1/2 cups of well-salted water until al dente.
- Steam the broccoli until vibrant green, which takes about 3 minutes.
- In a large skillet, saute the chopped shallots and garlic over medium heat until the shallots are caramelized, which takes just a few minutes.  Be careful not to burn them.
- Once the broccoli is steamed to perfection, add them to the olive oil, shallot and garlic mixture, and toss briskly over medium heat until the broccoli is well coated.  It doesn't hurt to taste one.  Do not overcook this, or the broccoli will lose its nutrients and start to turn brown. 
- Drain the macaroni, and add it to a large bowl or Tupperware. 
- Carefully pour the sauce and broccoli over the macaroni, and give it a toss with a large slotted spoon.
- Add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste.

I truly prefer serving this dish at room temperature or even cold.  It's fantastic!

Real Meals for the Working Woman

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Na-CHO Ordinary Tacos: Veggie-Pinto-Turkey Tacos to the Rescue

Veggie-Pinto-Turkey Tacos
(serves 4 to 6)

While the average tacos made in your house probably include lettuce and tomatoes as a garnish, there's an even better way to make sure your family gets at least two full servings of vegetables and protein in every bite.  My veggie-pinto-turkey tacos are bursting with them and are very low in fat and calories at the same time.  Truth be told, you really don't need to be an accomplished "cook" to make these, and you'll feel very good about serving your family something delicious, healthy and fun.  The secret to cutting the fat and sneaking in proteins, vitamins and minerals is to mix them all together into one powerful punch!  These health-minded tacos can be made in about 15 minutes, which is ideal after a long day.  For those of you out there who think your families won't eat ground turkey instead of beef, you have my permission not to tell them.  Trust me, they'll probably never realize you made the switch!  The best part about this meal is that the leftover filling can be saved and used to make nachos, taco salads, or simply eaten all by itself.  That's a gift that keeps on giving for the busy working woman or mom.  Ole!!!

1 lb. 99% fat free ground turkey
1 packet of low sodium Taco seasoning (I prefer Ortega)
1 package of taco shells (soft or hard)
1 can of pinto or cannellini beans (drained)
1 can of corn
Fresh mushrooms (coarsely chopped)
1 tbsp of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
Lettuce (coarsely chopped)
Grape tomatoes (sliced in quarters)
Fat free shredded taco (or Mexican) blend cheese
Fat free sour cream

- Fully cook ground turkey in a large skillet over medium heat.  Toss in 2 tbsps of water while the poultry is cooking to keep it moist.  There is no need to drain afterward.  Make sure to break up the pieces of turkey with a wooden spoon while cooking.
- Add 1 can of drained pinto/cannellini beans to the poultry, along with 1 can of corn and 1 package of freshly chopped mushrooms.  Toss the turkey, beans, corn and mushrooms as well as 1 tbsp of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter in the skillet on medium for about 3 minutes.  All of the ingredients will cook down and blend together.
- Add taco seasoning to this mixture with 3/4 cup of water over medium heat and stir vigorously until the water blends and/or evaporates and everything is coated.  Remove from heat. 
- Warm your soft or hard taco shells in the oven or microwave until warm to the touch.
- Chop your lettuce and tomatoes and set aside in a bowl with shredded cheese. 
- Make an assembly line!!  Have your family and guests make their own veggie-pinto-turkey tacos, and make sure they garnish with lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, salsa and sour cream!

Real Meals for the Working Woman

Monday, April 11, 2011

I Heart Rigatoni: Rigatoni with "Swicy" Sausage & Cream

I'm an Italian ... by marriage, that is.  When Sundays roll around in our household, there's really no debate as to what's for dinner.  It's always some variation on "macaroni and gravy".  My goal, therefore, has been to find healthy and flavorful ways to put my spin on the concept.  My rigatoni with swicy (sweet & spicy) sausage and cream is one of my Sunday Greatest Hits.  I prepared this as somewhat of an extra, throwaway dish for a surprise spaghetti and meatballs birthday party for my husband last year to break things up a bit, and the entire platter was wolfed by 60 guests in about 10 minutes.  I'm partial to it exactly the way I make it -- the added kick from the spicy sausage truly elevates this dish.  But, you can make it with just sweet sausage, and you'll love it just the same.  The whole meal can be made in under 20 minutes (when you boil the pasta water while preparing the sauce), which saves valuable time and effort.  And, using whole grain pasta and fat free heavy cream cuts the carb and calorie intake for you and your family.  This is another great meal that keeps well and even tastes better as leftovers.  That's a win.  So, what are you waiting for? ... MANGIA!!!   

Rigatoni with "Swicy" Sausage and Cream 
(serves 4 to 6)

1/2 lb Sweet Italian Sausage
1/2 lb Spicy Italian Sausage
1/2 cup (1 stick)  I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
1 cup fat free heavy cream
1/3 cup any tomato sauce (referred to as "gravy" in my household)
1 tbsp nutmeg
Freshly ground sea salt (to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiana cheese
1 lb Barilla Plus rigatoni (or whole wheat rigatoni)
3 tbsp freshly chopped parsley leaves

- Place the sausage in 1 1/2 cups water.  Cover, bring to a boil and turn heat down to low.  Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. 
- Remove sausage from water.  Drain it on a paper towel on a plate.  Once it is cool to touch, remove the casings and crumble.
- In a large skillet, melt 1/2 cup I Can't Believe It's Not Butter over medium heat.  Add fat free heavy cream, turn heat to low and cook until mixture is well blended and slightly thickened, stirring once or twice with a wooden spoon.  Stir in crumbled "swicy" sausage, nutmeg, salt and pepper and cook for one minute.  Add 1/3 cup of  tomato sauce and Parmigiana cheese, give it a quick stir, and promptly remove from heat.
- Cook the macaroni is 6 quarts of salted boiling water until al dente.  Drain in a colander, transfer to a large pasta bowl containing 1 tbsp of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and toss quickly.  Mix 3/4 of the sauce with the macaroni and spoon the remaining sauce on top. 
- Garnish with freshly chopped parsley and Parmigiana cheese. 

Real Meals for the Working Woman