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Kousa Mahshi (Lebanese Stuffed Squash with Tomato Sauce)

My grandmother and my great-grandmother, both from my dad’s side of the family, used to make this all the time, especially in the summer.  It’s such a light and refreshing dish.  Mamie, my great-grandmother grew her own kousa squash.  It’s a light green squash of the summer variety.  Depending on where you live, it may be hard to find so if you cannot find kousa, zucchini or yellow summer squash will work just fine.  Get the thickest you can find and make sure they are all about the same size.

 

Ingredients:

4 medium kousa squash (or zucchini/yellow)
1 lb. organic ground beef or lamb (93% fat free or more)
1 medium onion, diced
½ cup uncooked brown rice
½ teaspoon ground allspice
Small handful chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
Plain low-fat Greek yogurt
Teaspoon chopped fresh mint leaves (optional)


Method:

Scrub squash under cold running water. Pat them dry with paper towels and cut about 1 inch off the stem ends.  Using a corer or “wrong” end of a spoon, carefully tunnel out the center of each squash; be careful not to puncture skin.  In a large bowl, cover squash with cold salted water and let soak for about 10 minutes and remove.  Shake out any excess water that may have gotten inside the squash.

Meanwhile in a large skillet, cook onions in the butter until translucent, about 8 minutes.  In a large bowl, combine ground meat, allspice, rice, salt/pepper, and parsley.  Mix in onions.  Stuff each squash with meat mixture, leaving about a ¼ inch room at top.  In that same skillet, mix water and tomato paste until completely combined.  Add tomatoes and a little salt and stir.  Add squash to tomato mixture, cover, and simmer on medium low for about 45-60 min, until squash is tender and stuffing is thoroughly cooked. 

Serve topped with some of the tomato sauce and a dollop of Greek yogurt. Garnish with chopped mint. 

I made rice pilaf to go with this but you can serve this with anything- a salad, roasted potatoes, or by itself.

Kousa 2

Better For You Cheeseburger Mac

I love the traditional cheeseburger mac but it’s so full of fat and calories that just eating one bite makes me feel as if I gained 20 lbs.  I created this because I still wanted to be able to enjoy such a dish but without as much fat and calories.  And with the added nutritional punch of the sweet potato and whole wheat pasta, it’s a waist line winner!

Ingredients:

1 lb. organic ground beef (93% lean or higher)
1 small onion, chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, minced
½ can French onion soup (I use Campbell’s)
1 1lb. box whole wheat elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions
1 teaspoon ground yellow mustard powder
½ cup shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
3 wedges  Laughing Cow Light Swiss Cheese
½ cup 1% milk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil

Method:

In a large skillet over medium heat, drizzle about a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil.  Add onions and sweet potatoes and sauté about 5 minutes then cover and let cook another 5 minutes until sweet potatoes are fork tender and beginning to brown.  Next add the ground beef.  Using a potato masher, break up the meat until it’s evenly dispersed and some of the potatoes have been mashed into the meat.  Next add the garlic, French onion soup, salt and pepper and let cook about 5 minutes. 

Boil the water for the macaroni so it cooks while you make the cheese sauce.

Put the Swiss cheese wedges in a small bowl.  Mash them with a fork until softened then add the milk.  Mix together until combined (it’s ok if there are still some chunks of cheese, it will melt) then add to the meat mixture.  Cover and let cook on medium low for about 5 minutes. 

Once macaroni is done, drain and add to the meat.  Turn off the heat and mix so all of the macaroni is coated.  Then add the cheddar cheese and combine.  Serve topped with some crushed red pepper flakes or a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese.

Better For You Cheeseburger Mac2

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Ingredients:


1 lb fresh sea scallops (about 12- 6 per person, add 6 more for each additional person)
½ pint fresh plum tomatoes, sliced in half
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup dry red wine
4 cups fresh baby spinach (seems like a lot, but it will cook down)
Handful chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Method:

In a deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium low heat.  Add garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes- just enough so garlic turns a light golden brown- DO NOT BURN.  Next add tomatoes, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper and cook on medium high heat about 15-20 minutes– you want them to start cooking down into a sauce.  Next add the wine and let reduce, about 3 minutes.  Turn heat back down to medium low, cover, and allow to simmer for another 10 minutes.  Keep checking to make sure it doesn’t cook down to a paste.  If it starts to get too thick, add a few drops of water to thin it out. Once it’s done,  turn off heat and let it sit while scallops cook.

In another skillet, heat some olive oil on medium high heat.  Make sure pan is hot enough so scallops will sear nicely on the outside - you can test this by sprinkling a few drops of water in the pan.  If it sizzles and pops right away then the pan is ready.  Place each scallop about an inch apart and let sear 5 minutes on each side.  Nestle scallops in tomato sauce (make sure heat is shut off so scallops don’t overcook) and set aside. 

Drizzle a little more olive oil in the same pan scallops cooked in and add the spinach.  Let cook a few minutes, just until spinach starts to wilt.  Add a little bit more salt/pepper.  Place spinach on a plate, add scallops, and top with some tomato sauce.  Garnish with fresh chopped Italian flat leaf parsley.

seared  scallops


Nana's Ricotta Cake

One of my favorite desserts of Nana's- especially this time of year- it's so light and refreshing. We knew Spring/Summer were just around the corner when Nana would start to make this!

 

Ingredients:

1 package lemon yellow cake mix

2 lbs ricotta cheese

4 eggs

1 cup sugar

2 tsp lemon extract

Method:

Preheat oven 350.  Grease and flour 13x9 pan.  In one bowl, prepare cake mix according to package directions.  In another bowl, combine ricotta, eggs, sugar, and lemon extract.  Pour cake batter into pan then gently pour ricotta mixture over batter.  Bake at least one hour until golden.  Refrigerate after cooled. Serve with whipped cream and sliced strawberries.


Yellow Cauliflower Quinoa Alfredo





Ingredients:

1 box Ancient Harvest quinoa spaghetti (you can use regular spaghetti if you cannot find this)
1 head yellow cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
1 can cannellini beans
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups 2% milk
Handful grape tomatoes (about a half of a pint)
Grated Parmesan Reggiano cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Method:

Preheat oven 400 degrees.  On a large baking sheet, arrange cauliflower florets in a single layer ,drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle salt and pepper.  Bake in oven about 15 minutes until florets are fork tender and golden brown on top. 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt butter then whisk in flour.  Let cook for about 2 minutes then add the milk. Continue to whisk until flour mixture (roux) has dissolved in the milk.  Reduce heat to medium low until sauce thickens up.  Add the crushed garlic clove, salt, pepper, grated cheese, beans, and grape tomatoes.  Continue to cook until tomatoes slightly burst- you want them somewhat intact but smashed enough so the juices turn the sauce into a subtle blush color.  Reduce heat to low and once cauliflower is done, mix into the sauce.  Drain the pasta and add that to the sauce. 

Serve topped with grated cheese and crushed red pepper flakes.


Yellow Cauliflower Quinoa Alfredo

Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad



An Heirloom tomato is an open-pollinated (non-hybrid) heirloom cultivar of tomato. This means that seeds from open-pollinated varieties produce plants and fruit that are identical to their parent. You can spot these types of tomatoes by their unique shapes, sizes, and colors.  While they are becoming more available in neighborhood grocery stores and local farmers markets, if you can't find them just use any large tomato variety.

 

Ingredients:

4 large heirloom tomatoes, sliced about 1/4 inch thick

1 lb fresh mozzarella, sliced about ¼ inch thick

½ cup coarsely chopped fresh basil

Extra virgin olive oil (drizzle)

Balsamic vinegar (drizzle)

Salt/pepper

 Method:

Arrange by alternating sliced tomatoes and sliced mozzarella on a medium sized platter.  Drizzle with the extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar (just a little of each) then sprinkle chopped basil all over.  Salt/pepper to taste.  Serve at room temperature.   

IMAG0207

Braised Chourico over Rice and Beans









Ingredients:

1 pk  Chourico butterfly each one
2 bell peppers, sliced lengthwise (any color will do, I used yellow and red)
1 medium onion, sliced
½ can beef consume (Campbells makes this- if you can’t find then use ½ cup beef stock)
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Olive oil
Salt/pepper

Method:

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Brown chourico for about 2 min per side.  Remove from pan then set aside. Drop heat to medium low and add onions and peppers .  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook for about 15 minutes until very tender and onions have caramelized.  

In a small bowl combine the beef consume, mustard, and vinegar then pour over vegetables.  Turn heat back up to medium high. Nestle each sausage among the veggies, cover, and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

Serve over rice and beans.  I used the Zatarains rice and black beans or you can make your own.

Braised Chorizo







Meatballs

Ingredients:

1 lb ground lamb
½ medium onion, finely chopped
½ cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 egg
½ cup plain rolled oats
½ cup toasted pine nuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Salt/pepper to taste
Olive oil

Method:

Preheat oven 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil then spray with nonstick cooking spray.  In a large bowl combine all ingredients by hand, except olive oil.  Be careful not to overwork mixture.  Roll the meat about the size of golf balls and place on baking sheet.  Bake for about 15 minutes until a nice golden brown.  Serve with nonfat plain yogurt.

Purple Potato Salad


Ingredients:

4 good-sized purple potatoes, cubed into bite-sized pieces
1 clove garlic, minced
1 scallion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, sliced lengthwise
½ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt/pepper to taste

Method:

In a large pot, cook potatoes about 7-10 minutes- they should be fork-tender but still firm so they don’t break apart when mixed.  Once potatoes are done, drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. 

In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Then toss with the garlic, scallions, and bell pepper.  Next add the potatoes and mix well.  This is where you can adjust the dressing- if potatoes are too dry you can add a little bit more oil and vinegar.  You can also add a bit more salt and pepper if needed.  Chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Purple Potato Salad
Middle Eastern Lamb Meatballs





Ingredients:

1 lb boneless chicken thighs
1 can cream of onion soup
1 can cream of celery soup
4 large carrots, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces
1 celery stalk, chopped into bit sized pieces (include leafy tops)
1 cup sliced mushrooms (I used Porcini but Shitake, Porto Bellos, or Cremini work well)
1 cup dry white wine (or chicken stock)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Crushed red pepper
Olive oil
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

Method:

In a large skillet, heat about a teaspoon of olive oil over medium high heat.  Season both sides of chicken thighs with salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning.  Sear about 2 minutes per side.  Transfer to a slow cooker.  Next add both cans of soup, white wine, and another pinch of salt and pepper.  Cook for about 6 hours.  At hour 5, add the carrots, celery, and mushrooms.  Chicken will be tender enough to shred apart but don’t completely shred as you want some nice big chunks.  Serve over roasted potatoes (recipe follows)


Ingredients (Roasted Potatoes):

About 4-5 large low-starch potatoes (Red, Yukon Gold, New)
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
½ cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
1 teaspoon paprika
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method:

Preheat oven 375 degrees.  Chop potatoes into bite sized pieces and place in a large bowl.  Add olive oil, garlic powder, salt/pepper, paprika, and grated cheese.  Toss together until all the potatoes are well coated.  Place on large baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, until potatoes are golden brown on outside and tender on inside.  Serve topped with Chicken Crock Pot Pie and sprinkle with crushed red pepper.

Chicken Crock Pot Pie



Ingredients (Angel Hair All’Amatriciana):

¾ lb pancetta, diced
1 box angel hair pasta (cooked according to package directions)
2 14.5 cans diced tomatoes (I use the organic Muir Glen brand)
1 medium onion, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (use more/less depending on heat level tolerance)
Handful freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped

Method:

Bring about 6 quarts of water two a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.
 
Drizzle about a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil in a large sauté pan then place pancetta in a single layer and cook over medium-low heat until most of the fat has been rendered from the meat, turning occasionally.  Remove the meat to a plate lined with paper towels and discard half the fat, leaving enough to coat the onion and red pepper flakes.  Cook onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Next add the tomatoes, season with salt and pepper and simmer for about 20 minutes over medium heat. 

Cook the angel hair in the boiling water according to the package directions, until al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the simmering sauce. Add the parsley leaves and pancetta and increase the heat to high and toss to coat. Top with freshly grated Pecorino cheese.

Ingredients (Veal meatballs):

1 lb ground veal
¾ cup plain bread crumbs
2 handfuls freshly grated cheese (parmesan or romano is fine)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
Small handful Italian flat leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced

Method:

In a large bowl, combine the ground veal, garlic, bread crumbs, cheese, eggs, parsley and some salt/pepper.   Shape meatballs (size between golf ball and tennis ball).   In a large pot, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium low and fry the meatballs in batches.  Or you can preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake on large cookie sheet in a single layer for about 15 minutes.

Serve with Angel Hair All’Amatriciana topped with grated cheese.


Angel Hair All Amatriciana
Veal Meatballs