Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Dark Chocolate-Buttermilk Muffins

My boys love anything with extra dark chocolate. Did you know that Hershey's makes a cocoa that's Special Dark? Just like the candy bar. That's what I used for these muffins, which explains why they're so dark. 

Here's the great news: These are SKINNY! I used lowfat buttermilk, 1 egg, and only 4 tablespoons of coconut oil in the entire batch. The batch makes 36 muffins! 

I made these for dessert last night, but you could easily feel good about having them for breakfast, brunch, or a mid-afternoon snack. 

Dark Chocolate-Buttermilk Muffins

Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder (regular cocoa powder works too)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
4 tablespoons coconut oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (which is naturally lowfat!)
Powdered sugar for dusting the top (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously coat three 12-cup mini muffin pans with cooking spray. (I say generously because these muffins will stick if you don't). You could also use paper liners. 
In a bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well with a fork or whisk to combine. Set aside. 
In a mixing bowl, beat together the brown sugar and coconut oil until blended. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture and buttermilk, alternating each and ending with the flour mixture. 
Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin pans. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until a wooden pick comes out clean. 
Cool on wire racks. If desired, sift powdered sugar over top before serving. 

Makes 36 mini muffins


Baked Stuffed Artichokes

These are just the way my mom prepared them -- with seasoned bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese. My mom didn't insert the lemon in the middle, but I love the way it looks. Plus, I like to "clean" the artichokes before stuffing and baking them (that means getting rid of the fuzzy portion). Why? So that once I serve them, folks can enjoy the leaves and get to the "heart" with ease. 

Note: How do you eat an artichoke? First, you work your way IN from the OUTER leaves. Pluck each leaf, scrape the base of leaf (and the filling that's on it) against your top teeth to get both the flesh of the leaf and stuffing in one bite. Discard the rest of the leaf. Once you get to the "heart", hold on tight -- it's downright incredible. 

Baked Stuffed Artichokes
Note: This recipe can easily be halved or doubled to serve as many people as you have. 

4 artichokes
1 lemon, sliced, plus extra lemons if you want to insert them in the middle of the artichoke before baking (1 lemon per artichoke)
1/2 cup Italian-style seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
Cut the stem end of each artichoke so it stands upright. Cut about 1-inch from the top to remove the spiky tops of the leaves. Use kitchen scissors to remove the pointy ends of each leaf. Place the artichokes in a large pot of water with the sliced lemon. Set the pan over high heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes. 
Drain upside-down on paper towels. 
When cool enough to handle, remove the inner leaves (you can just grab them), revealing the fuzzy portion on top of the heart. Use a small spoon to scrape away that fuzzy portion. 
Fill the leaves with the bread crumbs and parmesan. Make sure to fill every leaf!! I tend to fill each leaf with about 1/2 teaspoon filling, but you can use as much as you like. 
Place the artichokes in a baking pan and, if desired, insert a lemon in the middle. Cover with foil. Bake 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 5 to 10 more minutes, until the tops are golden. Serve warm or room temperature. 

Serves 4




Meatball and Pasta Soup with Parmesan Rind

I discovered using the rind of parmesan cheese in soup stock many years ago when I wrote The Daily Soup, an amazing soup cookbook inspired by the restaurant of the same name. It seems we always have a rind of parm in our fridge, right? Don't toss it! Grab it and add it to soups and stews and your life will forever be changed. I choose to leave the rind in when I serve the soup, and my boys pull strands of the melted cheese from the rind as they enjoy the soup...

Meatball and Pasta Soup with Parmesan Rind


1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 cups chicken broth (you can add more if you like a brothier soup)
2-inch piece parmesan rind
2 tablespoons sundried tomato paste
4-5 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions
1/3 cup frozen green peas, keep frozen until ready to use
Grated parmesan cheese for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a bowl, combine the beef, garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Mix well and shape the mixture into 16 meatballs. Place the meatballs on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until browned and cooked through.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and saute for 3 to 5 minutes, until soft. Add the oregano and stir to coat. Add the broth, parmesan rind and tomato paste and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the meatballs, macaroni and peas and return to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Ladle the soup into bowls (you can leave the parmesan rind in the pot) and top with grated parmesan cheese.

Serves 4



Cheesy Garlic Pull-Apart Bread

Look at that cheese! I should say, look at those cheeses! I used a combination of mozzarella and cheddar for this incredible snack/side dish/appetizer. I also buttered the bread with melted garlic butter - so the flavors truly soar in every bite. Grab your favorite loaf of artisan bread and get this baby in the oven STAT.

Cheesy Garlic Pull-Apart Bread

I loaf round bread, I chose a Baby Boule, sourdough works great too
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
Using a sharp serrated knife, make several horizontal slices in the bread, about 1 inch apart. Now make the same amount of vertical slices, creating a cross-hatch pattern. 
Melt the butter and garlic powder together until melted (in a small saucepan or the microwave). Brush the butter in between all the openings in the bread. Brush any extra butter all over the top of the bread. 
Fill the openings with both cheeses -- it's easiest to go in one direction, say all the horizontal slices, and then all the vertical slices (that way you won't miss any spots). 
Wrap the bread in foil and bake for 20 minutes. Unwrap and bake for 5 to 10 more minutes, until the top is golden brown. 

Serves 4


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Spinach and Pesto Stuffed Chicken with Mozzarella

Holy amazing-ness! These are so easy and delicious! So delicious that I think this might become one of your weeknight staples.

Oh, and full disclosure: To make 4 servings, I used 2 chicken breast halves that were SO BIG, I simply cut them half to make 4 smaller chicken pieces. How big are the chicken breasts these days? Jeez.

Note: For the pesto, I prefer the refrigerated variety. And, although I used mozzarella cheese, provolone would be fantastic too!

Spinach and Pesto Stuffed Chicken with Mozzarella

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 4-5 ounces each)
Salt and ground black pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons prepared basil pesto
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup pasta or pizza sauce

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a baking dish with cooking spray.
Use a sharp knife to cut "pockets" in the chicken - cut crosswise through the middle (like cutting a bagel), without cutting all the way through. Transfer the chicken to the prepared pan, season the top with salt and pepper, and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach and cook until it starts to wilt (this happens fast). Add the pesto and remove from heat. Stir to combine.
Spoon the spinach mixture into the chicken pockets. Top the spinach with half of the cheese. Secure the chicken with wooden picks. Spoon the pasta sauce over the chicken and top with the remaining cheese.
Bake for 25 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
Remove the wooden picks before serving.

Serves 4


Monday, January 16, 2017

Lemon Poke Bundt Cake with Vanilla Glaze

Why "poke" a Bundt cake? Why not?! I think poke cakes are awesome - you create lots of holes for adding extra ingredients! I feel like Bundt cakes are often "average" because the ratio of cake-to-glaze is off. Meaning, too much cake. Adding "holes" filled with lemon pudding changes the game entirely! And, this cake is super simple because I start with a "jazzed" up white cake mix!

Note: I used coconut oil because I wanted the cake to be very "white", and because I love the subtle coconut flavor with the lemon. 

Lemon Poke Bundt Cake with Vanilla Glaze

Cake: 
Cooking spray 
15.25-ounce box white cake mix
1 cup milk
3 large egg whites
1/3 cup melted coconut oil  
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
1 container snack-size lemon pudding 
Glaze: 
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Coat a Bundt pan with cooking spray (I used coconut cooking spray to keep the flavors consistent). 
To make the cake, in a mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, milk, egg whites, coconut oil, and lemon zest. Mix well. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean. 
Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before flipping over and cooling completely. 
Using the bottom end of a wooden spatula, make several holes all over the cake (almost through to the bottom). Fill the holes with the lemon pudding and smooth the surface of the cake with a rubber spatula. 
To make the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract. Drizzle the glaze over the cake and allow to set before serving. 

Serves 6-8

Lemon and Sweet Pea Risotto with Parmesan

I love this creamy blend of tender risotto with tart lemon, sweet peas, tangy parmesan, and decadent butter (just enough butter to add depth without making the dish unhealthy)! 

Meet your new favorite side dish! 

Note: Notice that I use "warmed" broth below; that's so you don't stop the cooking of the rice each time you add the 1/2 cup liquid. And, make sure to stir almost constantly, it's the friction that creates the classic creaminess risotto is cherished for. 

Lemon and Sweet Pea Risotto with Parmesan

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup minced white onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup arborio (short grain) rice
1/2 cup sherry wine
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth, warmed on the stove
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup frozen green peas, keep frozen until ready to use
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until they are soft, but not browned. Add the rice and cook until translucent, stirring constantly (this only takes a minute). 
Add the sherry and cook until the liquid is absorbed. Add the broth, 1/2 cup at a time, and wait until the liquid is absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup, stirring very frequently. This process should take about 20 minutes for the rice to cook properly. 
Stir in the cheese, peas, butter, and lemon zest and cook and stir until the butter melts and the peas are warm. 
Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Serves 4