Monday, March 17, 2014

Ricotta stuffed shells

Everywhere I looked last week, recipes for stuffed shells kept popping up. I took it as a sign and decided to try out this recipe. I don't often make pasta so my husband was pretty excited for a change. Plus with my half marathon training schedule in full gear, I was excited to try this as well.

I served this alongside an arugula salad and our favorite vinho verde since it was 70 degrees that evening. This meal would make an excellent meatless Monday dinner. You could also double the recipe and freeze half for later.

Ricotta stuffed shells
Adapted from Fork Knife Swoon
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion diced
1/4 tsp salt
1-28 oz. can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
1-14 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp red wine

20-25 jumbo pasta shells

3/4 c part-skim ricotta
1 c shredded mozzarella
1/4 c shredded parmesan
1 organic egg
1/4 c minced basil
1/4 c minced arugula
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 375.

Heat olive oil over low-to-medium heat. Add the onion, cooking until transparent and fragrant, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and oregano. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add a splash of red wine and balsamic vinegar. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add a big pinch of salt to the water, then add the shells. Cook for 12-15 minutes until al dente. Remove from heat, strain, and rinse pasta with cold water to stop from cooking further. Set aside.

While the noodles are cooking, make your ricotta mixture. Mix the remaining ingredients together into a large bowl.

Ladle half of the tomato sauce into a large 9x13 in. casserole dish. Pick up a jumbo shell,  fill with about a tablespoon of ricotta mixture, close the shell and set down into the pasta sauce. Repeat until the dish is full or you run out of filling. Ladle the remaining tomato sauce over all of the shells. Cover with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly before eating. Garnish with parsley and serve with an arugula salad.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A little chocolate doesn't hurt

I'm not the most thoughtful person in my household, that would be my awesome husband. He's an excellent listener and the best gift giver I know.

I always feel pressured to find that perfect gift on holidays. I'd much rather show my love throughout the year when I find a gift I know a friend would enjoy. Sharing my love of cooking and passion for health is what I really want to share with people. I find myself giving edible gifts of chocolate, kale salads, baked goods, recipes or cookbooks. What better gift than to inspire someone to get back in the kitchen, right?

I stumbled upon this quote this morning and thought it was perfect. "All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." - Charles M. Schulz

My sentiments exactly. Enjoy some chocolate treats like these from a local Raleigh favorite, Escazu Chocolates, or make your own. But be sure to share with someone you love. Happy Valentine's day friends!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Magical spaghetti squash

Spaghetti squash is a cousin to butternut, acorn and other winter squash. I enjoy eating winter squash this time of year because it's comforting without being heavy. When spaghetti squash is baked and scrapped with a fork, its flesh breaks up into noodle-like strands. This vegetable makes a delicious gluten free pasta-like dish. Pretty magical, right? We don't eat a lot of pasta around our house, but we really enjoy this dish.

Squash is like a sponge, it will soak up whatever flavor you want. Lately I've sautéed my squash noodles with onion, garlic and herbs. I have a neighbor who swears by garlic and chili oil.

How to cook spaghetti squash
1 spaghetti squash, cut in half with seeds removed

Bake at 400 for 30-40 minutes depending on the size. Remove from oven. Once cooled, scrap the flesh with a fork until it's all broken up into noodles.
Pesto spaghetti squash
1 spaghetti squash
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tbsp spinach
1 tbsp fresh basil, chiffonade
4-6 tbsp pesto
parmesan to garnish

Cook the spaghetti squash according to the directions above.

Saute the onion in the olive oil over medium heat. When it starts turning transparent, add the garlic and herbs, stirring until fragrant. Now mix in the spaghetti squash and spinach. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often.

Remove from heat. Mix in the fresh basil, pesto, and garnish with parmesan. Enjoy with Sara's lentil meatballs or grilled chicken.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cherry orange couscous

Fall is here and it's almost Thanksgiving! How did that happen so quickly?

I feel like I've been a little off balance lately. When I start feeling this way I take a step back, shut my computer off, go outside for a long run, pick up a book, and cook up a storm. I also load up on fresh fruit and vegetables.

This is one of those feel good salads. It's easy to make and ready to eat in about 10 minutes. I've been making variations of this bean and grain salad on the weekend. I pack it for lunch during the week along with a bowl of soup or sweet potato wedges. You could also add leftover grilled chicken to this if you need more protein.

Cherry orange couscous
1/2 c couscous
1 can of garbanzo beans
3 tbsp of tangerine or orange juice
3 tbsp of walnut oil
1/4 sea salt
1/4 c of fresh mint, roughly chopped
1/2 c of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
2 c of baby kale or spinach
1/4 c dried cherries
1 oz goat cheese (optional)

Bring 1/2 c of fresh water to a boil. Add the couscous, stir well and cover. Remove from heat and set aside for five minutes.

Mix the juice, oil, and salt together in a small dish. Add the garbanzo beans, kale, herbs and cooked couscous to large bowl. Immediately pour the dressing over and mix well. Add the cherries and garnish with goat cheese. I like to put a lid on the bowl and give it a shake, so everything gets mixed up well. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Carrot ginger apple soup

Soup's on!

A warming bowl of veggie-based soup is not only delicious but good for you too. It's a creative way to get more vegetables into your diet and the flavor combinations are endless. Plus it's perfect paired with cooler temperatures.

Carrot is one of my favorite soups to make because I almost always have a bag in the fridge. I picked up this beautiful baby ginger at the farmer's market along with a few jonagold apples. I'm a big fan of bold-flavor soups (like curry) but sometimes I want a humble soup where the vegetable shines. This is exactly that. What are you favorite soups this time of year?

Roasting is a quick way to add a lot of flavor to your soup, if you don't have broth on hand or are short on time. We all know soup tastes better the next day when the flavors have had time to meld.

Carrot ginger apple soup
6 carrots, peeled and cut into coins
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 onion, diced
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp or more of diced jalapeno
1 apple, peeled, cored and diced
3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp fresh baby ginger
4-6 cups water or veggie broth
1/2 tsp tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
juice of 1 lime
garnish with fresh herbs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add carrots to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tbsp coconut oil and sprinkle with cumin seeds and 1/4 tsp salt. Roast for 20-25 minutes, then remove from heat.

Heat the remaining coconut oil in a soup pot. Add the onion, mustard seeds, jalapeño and remaining salt. When the onion is translucent, about 5-8 minutes, add the apple. Stir, cooking for a few minutes, before adding the garlic and ginger. Cook until pungent. Stir in the roasted carrots and 4-6 cups of water (depending on how thick your carrots are). Bring to a boil, simmer for 15-20 minutes.

Remove from heat, add the lime juice and tamari, blend until smooth. Add salt or more lime juice to taste. Garnish with fresh herbs. Serve over top brown rice alongside tahini greens or with a grilled cheese.

More soup ideas for fall:
Curried tomato
Roasted garlic & cauliflower
Roasted tomato & carrot soup with socca croutons
Smoky split pea
Roasted parsnip
Beautiful beet soup
Curried sweet potato

Friday, October 11, 2013

An unlikely pairing

I'm training for a half marathon in early November and along with that comes a regular training schedule. I run 3-4 days a week and cross-train for 2. I do my longer runs bright and early on Sunday mornings. As my distance is increasing, so is my appetite. Instead of loading up on empty carbs, I eat wholesome meals and snacks with healthy fat and high-quality protein. I'm eating more eggs and even some chicken.

This is one of my favorite snack combinations lately: tahini and molasses. I know it may sound weird, but it's delicious. Tahini contains more protein than milk and it's rich in iron too. It's great on bananas or slathered onto toast for pre-run fuel. I've even used it as an alternative to frosting on carrot cupcakes.

Is anyone else training for an upcoming race? Have any tips to share? Happy Friday friends!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Part three: Get outside the city

The best way to see Iceland is to rent a car and drive Ring Road. There are a lot of day or weekend excursions that leave from Reykjavik, if that's your thing. I can't speak to it since we planned our own adventures.

Gulfoss falls (golden waterfall)
Majestic waterfalls outside the city with a great cafe at its base.

Great Geysir
On the way to Gulfoss you'll pass the geysirs, so you may as well stop. Plus it's pretty cool to watch them erupt.

Black sand beaches anyone? Vik is a small town right on the south coast. We stopped at the cutest cafe for lunch, Sudur.

Svartifoss waterfall at Skaftafell National Park
Stunning. Worth the hike up.

Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon
Icebergs! Glaciers! Oh my! Seriously a must.

Blue Lagoon
Yes, it's touristy but you should do it. When else will you swim in a geothermal pool?
And the side of the road
Seriously there are so many picturesque moments along the highway that you'll want to stop and capture the breathtaking Icelandic scenery.

Frost & Fire Hotel (Frost og Funi)
Awesome hotel with delicious European-style breakfast (bread, cheese + cucumber is my fav).

Laekjarhus cabin
Three of the cutest cabins at the base of these giant mountains. Oh and there was a sheep farm. 15 minutes for Skaftafell National Park where we hiked to see Svartifoss waterfall. A 30-40 minute drive to the glacier lagoon in Jökulsárlón. Stop in Vik and load up on groceries since the cabin has a fridge and stovetop.

And I forgot to mention, this is the Airbnb studio apartment we stayed in for four nights in Reykjavik. It was perfect. South of the city by the university and minutes from the coast which had an awesome paved path for biking and running. Bjorns Bakeri was a block away (which we didnt' realize until the day before we left) and it was only a 10 minute walk to the domestic airport to pick up our rental car.

If you have any questions about Reykjavik or Iceland, let me know!