Quick & Easy Sides

Serves 8 servings (about 2/3 cup each)

What you need
     Not everyone's favorite; however made the Chef G way, these veggies taste divine. They have a mild, somewhat bitter taste, so combine them with tangy or savory sauces, like balsamic vinegar. Health benefits include: 

1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds thinly sliced Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup Parmesan shavings
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted

Brussles Sprouts w/ Parmesan & Pine Nuts

How to
     1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat; add Brussels sprouts, salt, and pepper. Cook until sprouts are tender and golden (about 6 minutes), stirring occasionally. Remove pan from heat; add vinegar. Toss well. Transfer the sprouts to a serving bowl; top with Parmesan and pine nuts.

**recipe and photo by Chef G & Rachael's Healthy Eating.  

Serves 4 - 6

What you need
     This simple chopped salad highlights the colors of Summer. Made with Summer's freshest ingredients, some picked straight from the garden, you can enjoy a delicious salad that will also serve as the beautiful centerpiece of your meal!
1 head Chopped Romain
2 - 3 Diced Fresh Garden Tomatoes
2 Sliced Cucumbers
1 Quartered and Sliced Orange Squash
2 Peaches, halved and sliced
Sliced Mushrooms, about 6 oz.
1/8 c. each of Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Honey and  Salt & Pepper to taste.  


How to
       It can't be easier than this:  Chop and place all ingredients in a decorative bowl and toss with Olive Oil, Honey & Lemon Juice. 
     You can add your own personal touch with whatever ingredients are your favorite. Enjoy! 

Serves 6

What you need
     I'm entertaining with a BBQ tomorrow and we were tired of the same old salads, so I needed to find a way to make our standard macaroni salad recipe new again.  I doubled the batch and we had some for dinner tonight.  It was gobbled up in an instant while everything else sat on the table.  Not too spicy, but certainly a little zing in this one!!

1 lb Elbow Macaroni, cooked al dente, then rinsed with cold water to stop the cooking
1/2 c. finely minced celery
1 shallot, finely minced
1/2 jar sweet piquante peppers, diced, and 1/4 c. of the liquid in the jar.
1/2 c. light mayonnaise (or more if you like it creamier)
1/4 c. Horseradish sauce
2 tbsp dried mustard
1 tbsp sugar
1 or 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp sour cream (I like Daisy Light)
Salt and Pepper to taste


How to
   Cook elbow macaroni in salted water, as directed, al dente.  If you cook it too long it will fall apart when you mix it.  Rinse with cold water to cool. 
   While the pasta is cooking, chop the vegetables and put them in a large bowl with the mayonnaise, horseradish sauce (more or less depending on how much zing you want), mustard, sugar, vinegar, sour cream, salt and a good tablespoon or so of fresh ground black pepper.  Wisk together and taste.  Adjust ingredients to your taste now before adding the pasta. 
*If you want more spice, add more horseradish, pepper or piquante peppers.
 **If you want less spice, add more mayonnaise and a dash of sugar.
Add the pasta and fold into the sauce until well combined. 
Serve immediately, or cover tightly and refrigerate up to a week.

-You can add a bag of frozen peas about an hour or so before serving to get a bit more veggies in and add some color.
-Tomatoes are also a nice addition, but be sure you seed and chop them small first.
-If you end up with a lot of leftovers, mix in a few cans of chunk white tuna and some shredded cheese the next day and bake for abour half hour until warmed through, then sprinkle with a handful of oiled breadcrumbs and bake 5 minutes more.  Voila, instant casserole!

Serves 4

What you need
   This is one of those wonderful dishes that comes together in minutes, and everyone wants the recipe. Its light and refreshing and will go with anything grilled during the grilling season, but also works great on the table during the holidays.  Enjoy.

2 chopped tomatoes,
1 chopped cucumber,
1 chopped Italian frying pepper (or bell pepper if you prefer)
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion (or sweet if you prefer) 
1/2 cup chopped parsley in a bowl. Toss with
3 tablespoons olive oil,
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice,
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, and pepper to taste.


How to
Chop all the vegetables to approximately the same size and combine the tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, onion and parsley in a large bowl and toss to mix. Vigorously wisk together olive oil, lemon juice, dijon and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over vegetables and mix well.
Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 4

What you need
   Wouldn't you know it.  The other day my husband comes walking in from the garden with a bag full of string beans.  Yes, string beans!  This was after a number of basil plants, a bushel full of tomatoes, green peppers and red cabbage all within a week. We are not vegetarian.  So I had to find something to do with these string beans, which he loves, but the rest of us are not all that fond of.  This recipe fits the bill, with deep flavor from the sauteed shallot, and a bit of spice from the pepper, which you can adjust to taste.  And it uses all his fresh veggies.  Now that's true love!

2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed
2 tablespoons butter
1 large shallot, chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1 medium tomato, diced
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chiffonade


How to
   Add the green beans to a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook until bright green, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove green beans from the boiling water and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Drain well.
   In a large heavy skillet, melt butter. Saute the shallot over medium heat until soft. Add red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and green beans. Toss together cooking for a minute more. Add the white wine and tomato and cook until the wine has reduced; about 3 minutes. Add the basil and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serves 6

What you need
   With our abundance of tomatoes already, tonight I made a family favorite - with a little twist.  As you know, toasted bread cubes or croutons are a necessary ingredient in panzanella.  Here, at home, we don't eat the inside of our bagels (to save a few calories).  So this year, we've been saving the pieces we scoop out after they were toasted and putting them in a ziploc bag in the freezer.  We accumulated quite a few over this past winter, all different varieties.  So, this evening I took them out, put them on a cookie sheet, drizzled them with olive oil, salt, pepper and a bit of garlic powder, and toasted them crispy.  A brilliant idea if I do say so my self!  Here's the rest of the recipe:

6-8 Fresh heirloom or garden tomatoes
1 small red cabbage, sliced very finely (shredded)
1 very small shallot (finely minced or grated) (or onion)
1 tbsp garlic paste
Fresh Ground Pepper
Good Sea Salt
Fresh basil, torn or chiffonade
about 3 or 4 good handfulls toasted Italian or French bread, (or bagle insides!)
2 tbsp or so extra virgin olive oil
handful good grated cheese, or shaved parmesan (whatever you like)

"Steve's Tomatoes" Panzanella Salad

How to
   First, cut your tomatoes.  Don't dice them, cut them in various shapes and sizes so you have a rustic feel. Even better if you have a few different colors of tomato.  Place in large bowl. 
   Shred the cabbage and put that in the bowl, along with the grated or minced shallot. (Some like a thin sliced red onion here. Thats ok too).
   Add the pepper, (Do Not add salt until the very end, or you will have tomato soup), basil and olive oil and toss lightly to mix. 
Here you can put the mixture in the fridge until you're ready to serve. 
   Meanwhile, place bread cubes, or bagle insides, or whatever bread you choose, on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper and toast, turning once until crispy. 
   When ready to serve, take the tomato mixture out of the fridge, tip to drain any excess liquid that may have accumulated at the bottom.  Add bread cubes, Sea Salt and Grated or Shaved cheese and toss with a bit more olive oil.  
   See photo below for tonights results.  The whole bowl was gone in an instant.
Note:  I often throw in a couple handfuls of baby arugula if I have it, but I didn't tonight.

Serves 6 - 8

What you need
Considering the bounty of tomatoes I have, expect a few tomato recipes here!  This one looks so delicious I'm going to make it tomorrow .

  • 1/2 cup finely minced red onion
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely minced fresh tarragon leaves

    For the Salad
    2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, skin on, cut into 1-inch chunks
    2 cups diced tomato, skin on, including seeds and juice

  • Warm Tomato & Potato Salad

    How to

    For the vinaigrette
       In a bowl, whisk together the onion, mustard, 2 tablespoons of the red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil and then add the tarragon. 
       Put the potatoes in a large pot of cold, well-salted water to cover. Bring to a boil, adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook until tender when pierced, about 15 minutes. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl or sheet pan to cool slightly. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar.
       Add some of the vinaigrette to the potatoes and toss; you may not need it all. Add the tomato and toss again. Taste and adjust the seasoning. The salad may need more salt.

    Serves 4 - 6

    What you need
       A Greek side dish from 'Eat Greek Tonight."
    1 -2 garlic clove (fine chopped)
    2 -3 tablespoons olive oil
    2 medium onions, chopped (I used frozen chopped) 
    1 tbsp pepper (to taste)
    1 tbsp Italian Seasoning
    2 whole bell peppers, chopped (I used fresh here)
    2 lbs potatoes
    1 tbsp salt (to taste [potatoes need salt])
    4 medium tomatoes, chopped & drained** (I used red & yellow) 
    feta cheese (optional)*

    *I also added some grated parmesan, and a bit of fresh basil in between the layers for an added depth of flavor.
    **When I made this recipe, I found that even with draining the tomatoes well, as it cooks, the tomatoes tend to release a lot of liquid at the bottom.  That didn't stop anyone from eating it - they loved it in my house. But next time, I will sprinkle a little flour on the bottom and beneath each tomato layer (except the top of course), so that any liquid that drains out will be absorbed into more of a sauce. 

    Patates Yiahni (Potatoes & Tomatoes)

    How to
    Preheat your oven to 375.
    Peel potatoes cutting into about 1/8th inch thick slices and set aside soaking in cold water.
    Chop all the other vegetables and place in a baking dish with the oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and the potatoes.**
    Add just enough hot water to coat the bottom of your dish and cover with foil.  Cook for about 45 minutes or until the potatoes are soft, then uncover, add your feta (or mozzarella) and cook another 10 minutes until the top becomes golden brown.
    After you pull it out of the oven, you could sprinkle with additional Feta Cheese if desired.

    **I doubled this recipe.  Here I chopped all the veggies and put them in a bowl first, then added the oil and seasonings so I could mix them and evenly disburse the seasoning.  Mix gently so your tomatoes don't smash. Then drain all liquid out, and re-season with salt & pepper. Then I used a layer of sliced potatoes, a layer of the mixed veggies, some grated parmesan & basil, then potatoes, veggies & cheese, then a top layer of potatoes, toppes with just a bit of veggies & cheese covering the potatoes so you end up with all the colors on top. The dish should be covered for at least half of the time in the oven so the potatoes have a chance to cook and become soft. 

    Photo below is Deb's Revised Tomato & Potato Pie 

    Serves 4

    What you need
       You can take the leftovers of your Greek Potato casserole (or any of the potato dishes) and make breakfast in a snap.

    Leftover Potatoes and Tomatoes
    butter and/or oil

    Leftover Tomato & Potato Breakfast

    How to
    Heat large Skillet on high and add 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp oil.
    Add letovers of what ever potato mixture you are using to pan, spread out, and let sit until the underside is crispy.
    Flip mixture over in sections, add eggs is various places on top of the potatoes.
    Cover pan tightly and let cook about 5 minutes until eggs are done to your liking

    Serves 6 - 8

    What you need
       While I was trying to think of something to do with all my fresh tomatoes, it was suggested that tomatoes & potatoes go well together.  That they do.  Then, this simple tomato, potato and mozzarella bake came to mind.  I made it last summer and it was simple to put together and fantastic to eat. 

  • 8 cups water
  • 3 russet potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch
  • 3 tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 8 ounces mozzarella, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons grated Romano cheese
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • Tomato, Potato & Mozzarella Bake

    How to
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Bring water to boil, add potatoes and parboil for 5 minutes. Strain. (Note: you want these to be a little underdone so that they wont get too mushy when you bake them in the oven).
    3. In a large casserole dish, layer potato, tomato, mozzarella. While you will only have one layer, you’ll want to overlap these so that the mozzarella melts over the potato and tomato. Sprinkle with Romano cheese, garlic, salt and pepper. Drizzle lightly with extra virgin olive oil.
    4. Bake 20-25 minutes. Cheese will be melted and slightly golden. Serve hot.

    Serves 6 - 8

    What you need
       Who is not going to love this, a fun dish made with garden fresh tomatoes and & Potato-tots!  You just cannot go wrong.

    1 bag (32 oz) frozen potato nuggets
    1 can (15 oz)black beans, drained, rinsed
    1 can chopped green chiles, drained
    1 medium tomato, chopped
    1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar or Colby-Monterey Jack cheese (6 oz)
    1 medium avocado, pitted, peeled and cut into chunks
    1/2 cup sour cream
    Additional toppings, as desired (thinly sliced green onion, chopped fresh cilantro, seeded and chopped fresh jalapeño pepper, sliced ripe olives, guacamole, salsa)

    Tomato & Potato-Tot-chos

    How to
    ■Heat oven to 450°F. Arrange frozen potato nuggets in single layer on ungreased large cookie sheet. Bake 24 to 26 minutes until hot and crisp. Line another cookie sheet or pizza pan with cooking parchment paper or foil.
    ■2 In medium bowl, mix beans, chiles and tomatoes. Spread half of the potato nuggets on lined cookie sheet. Spoon half of the bean mixture over potatoes. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Top with remaining potatoes, bean mixture and cheese. Bake 5 to 10 minutes or until cheese melts.
    ■3 Top with tomato and avocado. Serve with sour cream. Top with additional toppings as desired.
    Expert Tips
    For a full dinner, use 1 lb ground beef in place of beans. In 10-inch skillet, cook ground beef over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until brown; drain. Mix beef, chilies and 1/2 cup salsa. Follow directions above for layering.
    Thank you to: Betty Crocker Fan Fare

    Serves 4

    What you need
    The more colors of tomato in this one, the better.  It takes only minutes, but tastes like a little bit of ingredients.  Save if for when you have fresh garden tomatoes, some fresh mozzarella, and a good extra virgin olive oil.

    fresh heirloom garden tomatoes
    buffalo mozzarella
    olive oil
    lemon (for the juice)
    fresh ground black pepper
    course ground sea salt
    fresh ricotta (if you can find it)

    Tomato Avocado Salad w/ Italian Cheeses

    How to

    Slice up your avocado and tomatoes, and mix with torn mozzarella. Cover everything in lemon juice and olive oil, then sprinkle on the black pepper, sea salt, and finally some paprika for show.  Arrange all of it on an oven proof platter, with chunks of cheese on top, place under the broiler for 3 - 4 minutes just until the tips of the cheese start to melt and brown.  Dab the ricotta on when it comes out for a wonderful flavor contrast, and drizzle with a bit more olive oil. 
       Important tips: You have to an extra virgin olive oil and a good sea salt. 
       Handy hint: When you’re done, there will be loads of tasty oil/lemon juice etc. left in the bottom. Drizzle in some extremely good balsamic vinegar: Trace some from Modena in Italy, at least 5 years old, preferably 8. Then swipe it all up in bits of fresh bread.  Like I said, Heaven.

    Serves 6 - 8

    What you need
       Think of this one as a tomato quiche. Feel free to change the cheeses around, play with the spices. Although it calls for a homemade pie crust, a good quality prepared crust would work fine.  Just put it in your own pie plate!  If you want to take this recipe up a notch, you can caramelize the onions while prepping the other ingredients. If you do that, double the amount of onion.
    • 1 9-inch pie shell (or make your own if you can)
    • 1/2 yellow or red onion, chopped
    • 3-4 tomatoes, cut in half horizontally, squeezed to remove excess juice, roughly chopped, to yield approximately 3 cups chopped tomatoes
    • 1/4 cup sliced basil (about 8 leaves)*
    • 2 cups grated cheese (combination of sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack, or Gruyere or Mozarella, or whatever you like)
    • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
    • 1 teaspoon (or more to taste) of Frank's Hot Sauce (or Tabasco)
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

    *To slice basil, chiffonade them by stacking the leaves on top of each other, roll them up like a cigar, starting at one end slice the "cigar" crosswise in thin slices.

    Tomato Pie

    How to

       1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Place pie shell in oven and cook for 8-10 minutes or longer until lightly golden. If you are starting with a frozen crust, you'll need to cook it a little longer. If you are using a homemade crust, freeze the crust first, then line the crust with aluminum foil and pre-bake it for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes.
       2 Squeeze as much moisture as you can out of the chopped tomatoes, using either paper towels, a clean dish towel, or a potato ricer.
       3 Sprinkle the bottom of the pre-cooked pie shell with chopped onion. Spread the chopped tomatoes over the onions. Sprinkle the sliced basil over the tomatoes
       4 In a medium bowl, mix together the grated cheese, mayonnaise, Tabasco, a sprinkling of salt and freshly ground black pepper. The mixture should be the consistency of a gooey snow ball. Spread the cheese mixture over the tomatoes.
       5 Place in oven and bake until browned and bubbly, anywhere from 25 to 45 minutes.

    Serves 6 - 8

    What you need
    A Roasted Red Potato Salad recipe dressed with a fresh basil pesto; a healthy alternative to mayonnaise-laden salads. Aside from the pesto sauce the salad is a simple one with only three ingredients: the potatoes, tomatoes and red onion. Simple to make, complex in flavor. Not only are the potatoes roasted but so are the tomatoes. This is a nice change from your average potato salad.
    5-6 cups Red Potatoes, diced, skins on
    3 tablespoons Olive Oil
    2 cups course chopped Tomatoes
    Sea Salt and Fresh Black Pepper
    For Pesto Sauce:
    1 cup packed Fresh Basil leaves
    1/3 cup Fresh Parsley leaves
    2 cloves Garlic
    1/4 cup Pine Nuts or Walnuts
    1/2 cup Olive Oil
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
    2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    Also need:
    1/2 cup Red Onion, thinly sliced

    Pesto Potato & Tomato Salad

    How to
    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss potatoes with 2 tablespoons of Olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread out in a greased baking sheet. Toss tomatoes with 1 tablesoon Olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread out in a separate baking sheet. Bake potatoes until tender about 25-30 minutes and tomatoes until shriveled about 20 minutes.
    2. Meanwhile prepare the pesto by adding the basil, parsley, garlic and nuts to a food processor. Pulse until chopped. Stream in Olive Oil with food processor running. Add Parmesan and pulse to combine. Add Extra-Virgin Olive oil with food processor running. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
    3. To a large mixing bowl add warm potatoes and tomatoes with any juices in the pan, along with the red onion. Pour pesto over top and toss well. Season with salt and pepper. Can be served warm or refrigerated to be served cold. Mix well before serving.

    Serves 4

    What you need

       This is a nice little twist on the basic cucumber salad, using lemon juice instead of vinegar, giving it a nice fresh taste.  But add a bit of salt and fresh ground pepper and stir again just before serving.  Its delicious.

    1/2 c. Lemon Juice (preferable fresh, if possible)
    1/2 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    Handfull of chopped fresh Dill
    Salt and Pepper to taste. 

    Cucumber Salad with Dill

    How to
       Make a 1:1 ratio dressing of lemon juice and olive oil and mix in chopped fresh dill. 
       Cut two long cucumbers lengthwise and thinly slice.  Use a mandolin if you have one.  
       Toss with dressing and season with salt.

    *Recipe from Curtis Stone

    Serves 6

    What you need

       In my house, we have been turned on to the Quinoa craze for a few years now. We eat it as we do rice or any other starch: buttered, with a salad, tossed with vegetables, even with pork chops and gravy! The grain is similar to couscous, comes in white, red or black, and has a nutty, al dente taste, but much more healthy.  This delicious salad, posted by Williams Sonoma, is a staple throughout the Andean region. Quinoa, one of the ancestral Inca and Chibcha Indian crops, is harvested from Colombia to Argentina in the higher Andean plains. Quinoa is prized for its earthy yet delicate flavor, as well as its nutritional value. The medley of the Peruvian corn with glossy black beans, pale gold quinoa, and red tomatoes and bell pepper make this an eye-catching and colorful salad.

    For the dressing:

    • 2 Tbs. fresh lime juice
    • 3 Tbs. white vinegar
    • 2 Tbs. minced fresh cilantro
    • 1/4 tsp. ají amarillo paste
    • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
    • 1/2 cup olive oil

    For the Salad

    • 1/2 cup quinoa
    • 1/4 tsp. salt
    • 1 cup drained cooked black beans, or purchased
    • 2/3 cup thawed frozen corn kernels, preferably Peruvian
    • 1 tomato, seeded and finely diced
    • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced

    Black Bean, Corn & Quinoa Salad

    How to

    To make the dressing, in a bowl, whisk together the lime juice, vinegar, cilantro, ají paste, oregano, salt and pepper. Add the olive oil in a thin stream, whisking constantly until smooth and emulsified. Set aside.

    In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the quinoa and 1 1/2 cups water. Stir in the salt. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the quinoa is tender and all the water has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Transfer the quinoa to a colander and rinse under cold running water. Drain thoroughly, then transfer to a large nonreactive bowl.

    Add the black beans to the bowl with the quinoa. Pat the corn dry with paper towels and add to the bowl, along with the tomato and bell pepper. Pour in the dressing and stir to coat all the ingredients well. Transfer the salad to a large serving bowl or individual plates and serve immediately

    Serves 4 - 6

    What you need
       This side dish does involve a few different steps, but it makes such a pretty presentation, and if you are using enough chicken, it can substitute for a main course as well, especially where you are serving other alternatives.  This recipe was originally written with Tofu, making it vegetarian.  However, if Tofu is not your thing, feel free to substitute chicken breast.

    First saute:
    Tofu Triangles (or chopped chicken breast)
    10 mini sized tofu triangles
    1 Tbsp maple syrup
    2 tsp tamari
    fine black pepper
    add in:
    1/2 cup red onion, diced
    1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced

    Second saute:
    1 1/2 cup fresh pineapple, diced
    4 cups cooked quinoa (I used Trader Joe’s Multicolor Quinoa)
    1/4 red onion, diced
    sauteed shiitakes + red onion from tofu saute pan
    1 cup kale, shredded
    1/4 cup nutritional yeast
    1/2 tsp dried jalapeno (for spicy accent)
    to taste: splash of maple syrup and pinch of salt

    Tahini Pineapple Dressing
    2 Tbsp Tahini
    3 Tbsp pineapple juice
    1 tsp chopped mint

    PIneapple Fried Quinoa in a Boat

    How to
       1. Cook your quinoa according to package directions.  If you have it in bulk, I used 1 1/4 cups dry quinoa + 1 cup water + 1 cup veggie broth + pinch salt. Set cooked quinoa aside.
       2. For your first saute, you will cook the tofu (or chicken breast), shiitakes and red onion. Cooking them all in the same pan helps to season the tofu a bit. Start off with a thin layer of safflower oil. Add tofu triangles (dry them as much as possible). Allow to sizzle for a minute or so. Then add in tamari and maple syrup with a generous layer of black pepper. Cook on high 2 minutes on both sides. Then add in the shiitakes and onions. Cook until the veggies are tender. Remove tofu (or chicken) from pan and set aside. You can leave the mushrooms and onions and any excess liquid in the pan.
       3. For the next saute, add the quinoa, pineapple, more red onion, mint, kale, and jalapeno to the pan with a splash of vegetable oil. Turn heat to high and cook for about 3 minutes – moving quinoa around so it cooks on all sides. A few crisped bits of quinoa is a good thing. Do a quick taste test and add a splash of tamari or maple syrup if needed. Transfer the fried quinoa to a bowl. Set aside.
       4.  If you like, you can quickly saute a few pieces of the pineapple garnish. Just brown the edges a bit. The pineapple will pick up the flavor left in the pan.
       5. Mix your dressing. Set aside.
       6. To plate you can either use a pre-hollowed pineapple or a simple bowl. Add the fried quinoa. Then the pineapple garnish over top. Some fresh chopped mint or parsley on top is nice too.    
       You can serve with the dressing and tofu (or chicken) on the side or you can add right over top this dish.

    source from: lunchboxbunch

    Serves 6

    What you need

     It seems this Summer Yellow Squash Recipe with grape tomatoes, garlic, thyme and parmesan cheese is eating up the internet, and we didn't have it yet.  Well, now we do, adapted from www.aspicyperspective.com, and we appreciate it.  This is a welcome addition to any table and takes only a few minutes to put together.

    • 2 lbs. yellow squash, choose smaller ones
    • 1 pint grape tomatoes
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 Tb. fresh thyme leaves
    • 1 Tb. butter
    • 1 Tb. olive oil (or use 2 tbsp olive oil, and no butter)
    • Salt and Pepper
    • 1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese

    Yellow Summer Squash w/ Blistered Tomatoes

    How to

       Heat a large skillet to medium-high heat.
       Trim the ends of the squash. Quarter each squash and slice into pieces, 1/3 inch thick.
       Add the butter and oil to the skillet, followed by and squash and garlic. Toss and sear for 2-5 minutes, until barely cooked through. Salt and Pepper to taste.
       Push the squash to the sides of the skillet and add the tomatoes. Cook and toss another 2-3 minutes until the tomatoes are just about to pop. Stir in the fresh thyme and remove from heat.
       Sprinkle the yellow squash recipe with Parmesan cheese and serve warm!

    Serves 4 - 6

    What you need
       You can't help but love this summer squash & tomatoe casserole.  The original recipe called for fresh tomatoes, so if you are in the height of the summer and you have them, use them instead of canned.  The topping of crunchy crumbs mixes perfectly with the sweet tomatoes and squash.  Enjoy. 

    3 tablespoons olive oil (you can use less, but you will likely need the moisture)
    1 large onion, finely chopped (or 1 pkg frozen chopped)
    3 medium summer squash, halved lengthwise and cut into bite-sized pieces
    Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
    2 tbsp garlic, minced
    1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained well
    Handful of fresh basil, chopped
    . . .
    For the topping:
    1 cup Panko Crumbs, seasoned or unseasoned.  
    1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
    1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
    chopped freshly parsley

    Crusty Summer Squash Gratin*

    How to
       Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
       Heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, to soften them. 
       Add the diced summer squash and a generous pinch of salt and continue to saute, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes more. 
       Stir in the garlic; saute briefly, then add the tomatoes. Continue cooking the vegetables for another 8 to 10 minutes (less if you're using canned tomatoes). Stir in the basil, pepper and more salt to taste. 
       Turn the mixture into a gratin pan (for this recipe, an 8-inch square casserole dish also works well).
       In a small bowl, mix together the crumbs, parmesan, a pinch or two of salt, the parsley and the final 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly over the top of the vegetables. Bake the casserole for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the top is golden brown

    *Adapted from Feeding the Healthy Vegetarian Family, by Ken Haedrich (1998)
    for six servings

    Serves 4

    What you need

       Leftover dark meats, such as turkey, marry well with strong flavors. Serve this savory stir-fry side dish as is, make it vegetarian and just leave out the meat, or make a lovely light main course by serving over whole wheat pasta, egg noodles, steamed brown rice or soba noodles.

    2 tablespoons chili paste with garlic
    1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar or distilled wine vinegar
    2 teaspoons light soy sauce
    2 tablespoons water
    1 teaspoon cornstarch
    2 teaspoons olive oil
    4 garlic cloves minced
    2 tablespoons finely ground ginger
    3 cups broccoli florets
    3 cups sliced bok choy
    1 cup sliced fresh shiitake (or any) mushrooms
    2 cups cooked turkey meat (or rotisserie chicken, or short cuts)

    1 package no-yolks egg noodles (optional)

    Vegetable Stir-fry w/ Chicken

    How to
       1. In a small bowl, wixk together chili paste, vinegar, soy sauce, cornstarch and water; set aside.
       2. Heat oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add broccoli and bok choy and stir-fry until the broccoli is bright green, about 2 minutes. Add shiitakes and stir-fry until softened, about 1 minute. Add poultry meat and stir until heated through. Add the reserved chili-paste mixture and stir until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. 
       3.  Serve immediately as a side dish, or even a light main dish, or for a hungrier appetite, toss over some whole wheat pasta or no-yolks and you have a complete dinner.

    Recipe courtesy of: www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating

    Serves 2 - 4

    What you need

          Lemon and basil are a flavor match made in heaven. Added to risotto, it makes for a lovely light side dish for the Spring or Summer.  Adapted from The Big Book of Quick & Healthy Recipes, published by Hearst Books/Sterling Publishing 2007.

    2 tablespoons olive oil
    1/2 onion, diced (or 1/2 pkg frozen chopped onion)
    2 stick celery (with leaves), sliced thinly, on the bias
    1 clove garlic, crushed
    3/4 cup risotto rice (arborio)
    1/3 cup dry vermouth
    2 1/4 cups vegetable stock, heated
    1 lemon, quartered and sliced
    3 tablespoons basil, chopped
    2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

    Lemon Basil Risotto

    How to
    1. Heat the oil in a large heavy-based Dutch oven and gently stir-fry the leek and the celery until soft.
    2. Add the garlic and the rice, stir for 1 minute, then add the vermouth. Stir for a further minute, then add the stock. Bring to a boil, cover, and very gently simmer until the rice is cooked. (**It really is ok to add the stock all at once, or even half at a time, just be sure to stir occasionally to prevent sticking)
    3. Add the lemon pieces and most of the basil, gently stir, and heat through.
    4. Sprinkle with Parmesan and the remaining basil, and serve immediately.

    Serves 4

    What you need
           Panzanella Salad is one of my favorite side dishes to make, but only in summer when you can really get fresh heirloom tomatoes.  Fortunately for us, my husband has a green thumb.  Do not use plum tomatoes or tomatos with lots of seeds, or you will end up with soupy Panzanella.  I also love it for its versatility, like in this recipe which uses capers & chickpeas. 
    3/4 pound
    day-old crusty whole-grain bread, cut into 1-in. chunks, lightly toasted
  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1-in. chunks
  • 2 cups lightly packed arugula
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas (garbanzos), drained
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar (I leave this out, and put it on the table instead)
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Chickpea Panzanella with Capers

    How to

    In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, tossing well to coat evenly.
    No kidding, it really is that easy.  Just a few tips:
    1.  I leave out the vinegar, as the ingredients are tart enough (especially in this version), just toss with a really good extra virgin olive oil. Leave the vinegar on the table for those who want it.
    2.  Use only ripe heirloom tomatoes or if you must, substitute a good ripe beefsteak tomato with few seeds.
    3.  You need bread.  I suggest that you keep all your bread leftovers and scraps in the freezer (like the ends of a loaf, or the insides of a bagel, then you will always have some on hand. Its delicious if you happen to have a few different types of bread. Take them out of the freezer, put them on a baking tray, spritz them with olive oil & a sprinkle of garlic and lightly toast.  If you are buying fresh bread, toast it, even garlic bread.  If you don't toast it, you will have panzanella soup!
    4.  My version at home does not include capers, but you may find anything else in it from the chickpeas in here to fresh corn cut off the cobb.  Artichoke hearts, quartered, are also a favorite addition. 
    5.  You don't need to use arugula if you don't like it.  You can use fresh baby spinach, chopped romaine or even bibb lettuce. 
    6.  Finally, a special treat in my family is when we have some Fresh Mozzarella, sliced thin and tossed in with the bread & tomatoes.  Depending on your taste, you might want to add a good reggiano parmigiano, or even crumbled bleu.  Use your imagination!!

    Serves 8

    What you need
         "Raw fish wrapped with lettuce makes a solid meal." (Whole Living, July/August 2011) Ha!  No it doesn't, not unless you eat all of them yourself.  But it does make a light and delicious lunch served aside a chilled soup, or a great appetizer to a seafood dinner.  One correction, Ceviche is not raw fish.  The fish is cooked by the enzymes in a citrus or vinegar marinade, as you will see below. 
    • 6 ounces black cod, skin removed, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 cup lime juice
    • Sea salt
    • 1 head tender lettuce, such as Boston, leaves separated
    • 1 mango, peeled and thinly sliced
    • 1 avocado, thinly sliced
    • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and julienned
    • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves

    Ceviche Spring Rolls

    How to

    Pour lime juice over cod in a glass baking dish. Season with salt. Cover and refrigerate until fish is opaque, about 30 minutes.  During this time the fish will be "cooked" by the enzymes in the lime juice.  NOTE: you can do this with any fish. 

    For each roll, stack two lettuce leaves and top with some cod, mango, avocado, pepper, and cilantro. Season with salt. Roll and slice in half.

    Thank you Whole Living Mag. for the idea.

    Serves 4

    What you need
      "Meaty vegetables, like portobello mushrooms, can make a light, satisfying dinner, even for those with bigger appetites." From Whole Living Magazine.   However, I will not put a vegetable filled mushroom cap in a main course section, even if they are portobellos, regardless of your appetite!  But I do think the recipe is beautifully presented and makes a perfect side dish or appetizer. 

    *   Juice of 3 lemons, plus 1 tsp grated zest
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • Sea salt
  • 4 small portobello mushroom caps
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews (since you're going to puree these, you could buy cashew butter instead, and skip that step. 
  • 1 ear corn, shucked (about 1 cup kernels)
  • 1 cup baby spinach
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • Marinated Mushroom Caps

    How to

    In a bowl, whisk lemon juice and zest, oil, garlic, and rosemary. Season with salt. Arrange mushrooms, rounded side down, in a glass baking dish. Pierce each with the tip of a knife. Drizzle with marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
    Soak cashews in warm water for 30 minutes. Drain. Pulse in a food processor with 1/4 cup water until smooth. (Add more water for desired consistency.) Season with salt.
    Spoon cashew puree into mushroom caps. Top with corn, spinach, scallions, and any remaining marinade. 
    Done. Enjoy. 

    Serves 8

    What you need
     Yes, I know there is a homemade recipe for baked beans in this section (where it should be). However, we don't always have the time or advance notice to make them. So. I'm going to show you my fail safe method to make baked beans and no one will ever know they started off out of a can.
    You wont believe how easy it is.

    2 cans baked beans (here I used Bush's Grillin' Beans)
    1 can beans (any kind, rinsed and drained)
    1/2 pkg frozen chopped peppers and onions)
    1 can or frozen pkg corn.
    Hot sauce like Tabasco, or Red Pepper flakes to taste

    Deb"s Kicked Up Baked Beans

    How to
    1. In a medium sauce pot, empty 1 can baked beans, 1 can baked beans with some of the sauce drained out, and 1 can of plain beans, rinsed and drained. Heat to boiling.
    2. Add 1/2 pkg peppers and onions, heat to boiling.
    3. Add corn and hot sauce to taste, stir in and take off heat.
    Hot, delicious and festive baked beans that taste like homemade with "fresh" onions and peppers, spiced to taste.

    Serves about 6

    What you need
       Yes, I know we already have a few recipes for potatoes as side dishes in the grilling section.  Probably here too.  But these are special, spicy and tangy, the perfect compliment to a bbq of burgers and dogs, or your fancy dinner of roast beef or pork chops.  I discovered this luscious combination at www.insockmonkeyslippers.com .  Its delicious!

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds small new potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 chipolte pepper from a can of chipolte peppers in adobo sauce*
  • 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
    * chipolte peppers in adobo sauce can be found canned in most major grocery stores.
  • Chipotle Lime Roasted Potatoes

    How to
       Preheat oven to 400°F. With a knife, slice the potatoes in half
       Place the halved potatoes on a baking sheet. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the potatoes. Add salt and toss with your hands until the potatoes are thoroughly coated with oil and salt. Place in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring once, until golden and can be easily pierced with a fork.
       While the potatoes are cooking: Remove one chipolte pepper from the can and mince (chop into small pieces). Place in a large bowl. Using the adobo sauce that the peppers are packaged in, add 2 teaspoons of sauce to the minced pepper in the bowl.
       Peel and mince the garlic glove. Add it to the bowl as well
       Next, add the lime zest, lime juice, and the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil.
    Whisk everything together until combined.
    Now, take a good whiff. The smell is intoxicating.
       Once the potatoes are done and still hot, pour them into the chipolte lime dressing. Add cilantro and gently stir to combine, making sure every potato is covered.

    Serves 4

    What you need

         I was going to put this in the International Food section, but it was too tempting to limit to only my adventerous readers.  Its simple and flavorful, and goies with most everything.  This delicious and light recipe is a variation of the traditional Provencal dish. Roasted Ratatouille can be served cold or at room temperature, as a first course or a light lunch. It is best to make this phenomenal dish in the summer when the vegetables are at their peak. Naturally the ratatouille will taste even better if you prepare it a day ahead.

    2 medium yellow onions, sliced
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    1 medium eggplant, cut in 1/2-inch slices
    3 small zucchini, cut in 1/2-inch slices
    2 medium bell peppers, one yellow, one red, cut in strips
    8 medium tomatoes, preferably Roma or vine-ripened tomatoes, cut in 1/2-inch slices
    1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves or 1 1/2 teaspoons ground rosemary
    1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 1/2 teaspoons ground thyme
    1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
    Extra virgin olive oil
    Freshly ground pepper

    Roasted Ratatouille

    How to

    1. Preheat the oven to 350*F. Combine the vegetables and herbs in in a large mixing bowl.

    2. Season with salt, drizzle with liberal amounts of of olive oil, and toss to coat. Transfer into a large baking dish; the dish may seem quite full, but the vegetables will shrink as they bake.

    3. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes. At this point the vegetables should be softened but not colored, and there should be cooking juices at the bottom of the dish.

    4. Remove the foil and stir. return to the oven for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the cooking juices have thickened and the vegetables are slightly browned. Season with freshly ground pepper, taste, and adjust the seasoning.

    Makes 6 servings.

    Recipe adapted from Dusoulier, Clotilde, Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen. New York: Broadway Books, 2007.

    Photo courtesy of simplycraving.com

    Serves 6

    What you need
    1 Tbsp lime juice
    1 Tbsp Lemon juice
    1 Tbsp orange juice
    1 Tbsp white vinegar
    1 Tbsp dijon mustard
    1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
    1 lb box cooked rotini (I like to use the tri-color)
    1 1/8 c. cantaloupe
    1 1/8 c. honeydew balls
    Thinly sliced red onion (optional).

    Pasta Salad with Melon

    How to
         Wisk all wet ingredients from juices through olive oil, season with salt and pepper, toss with pasta and melon balls, and thinly sliced red onion if you prefer.  See illustration below. 

    Serves 6

    What you need
     This is a different twist on mashed cauliflower (which has been done to death as a substitute to mashed potatoes) I made this the other night with some roasted red peppers I had leftover in a jar, and it was almost gone before I remembered to take a photo and, as you can see, there wasn't much left!

    3 bags frozen Cauliflower (steam fresh or any kind, even fresh)
    1 roasted bell pepper, in oil. (or more if you like)
    1/4 c. fat free half and half
    2 tbsp butter or margarine.

    Mashed Cauliflower & Red Peppers

    How to
    Steam the cauliflower, a few minutes longer than the package directions say, because you will be mashing it.  Pour half & half in bowl, add butter and roasted red pepper.  Add Cauliflower, and heat a few more minutes.  Mash with a potato masher, then if you want an even smoother puree', you can use your immersion blender until it becomes the consistency of mashed potatoes.  Don't forget the Salt and Pepper - always!
    It looks pretty, the kids love it, and you can use it for a meal or a dip.  Healthy and low calorie. 

    Serves 6

    What you need
       What could be more summer than homemade coleslaw.  Its faster and easier than you think.  I have reviewed a number of recipes and taken a little bit from each to come up with a lighter, less calorie slaw that everyone seems to love.  

  • 1 head green cabbage or savoy if you don't like a hard crunch, finely shredded
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, finely shredded (optional, as are shredded carrots)
  • 3/4 cup Hellman's light mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons light sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons honey, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (or cider vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin or caraway (don't use both)
  • 2 teaspoons celery salt
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • ColeSlaw

    How to
       Cut the cabbage heads in half, then in quarters and with a very sharp knife, slice across the grain into thin, very thin, slices.  In just minutes you will have shredded cabbage.  [Don't take a shortcut here and by the pre shredded in the bag.  Its never as fresh]
       Take all the remaining ingredients and put them in an airtight container (like a leftover chinese soup container) and shake well until all ingredients are incorporated and smooth.  
       Pour over shredded cabbage, toss and you're done. 

    Serves 6 - 8 (as a side dish)

    What you need
       This is one of my favorite side salads for the summer.  Its lite and flavorful, and the arugula gives it a bit of a peppery bite and cuts down the calorie count of the couscous, while the tomatoes and lemon brighten up the salad
    3 boxes Pine Nut Couscous (you an use olive oil, or plain flavors)
    1 large bag of prewashed organic baby arugula
    2 fresh garden tomatoes or ugly tomatoes, roughly chopped. (you can use canned instead, but in this recipe, they are better fresh)
    1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    1 tsp lemon juice
    Salt & Pepper to taste.

    Baby Arugula & Couscous Salad

    How to
    Cook couscous according to pkg directions and when done, fluff with a fork and place in a large bowl. 
    Roughly chop or tear arugula and mix 3/4's of it with the warm couscous. It should wilt just a bit. 
    Add the tomatoes, lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and mix gently.
    Place in serving bowl and top with the rest of the un-wilted arugula. 

    You can add some shredded chicken and a bit of feta, and make this a main course.

    You can also make this with orzo, pearled couscous, or any other very small pasta or grain.  I have even used quinoa - which gives it a nutty taste.  Enjoy.   

    *photo by Squidoo

    Serves 4 - 6

    What you need
    This is another variation of the salad above - because sometimes you simply do not have fresh baby arugula around.  You can make this salad with any lettuce or greens you have in the house.  For this one, I happened to have cabbage!

    2 boxes Parmesan Couscous (prepared as per package directions.
    1 head of cabbage, cut into quarters and shredded (regular of savoy is fine)
    1 large ripe tomato diced, or 1/2 cup bruschetta (canned diced tomatoes will also do)
    1/2 c. blueberries or strawberries, lightly smashed (or any berry you like)
    About a dozen fresh basil leaves, chiffenade (sliced into ribbons)
    3 tbsp butter or olive oil
    Salt and Ground Pepper to taste

    Couscous Salad

    How to
    Shred cabbage and place in serving bowl.  You can use the lettuce instead, or combine both.  Add the butter and/or olive oil.  Fluff couscous in its pan, and toss on top of cabbage. Let sit for a couple of minutes until greens wilt only slightly. The mix gently.  Add tomatoes, 1/2 basil leaves, blueberries and sald and fresh ground pepper.  Mix lightly once again, then garnish with the rest of the basil. Simple and healthy!

    *The recipe pictured below was made with blueberries because my kids love blueberries.  I personally would have used strawberries but it was all gone just the same!

    Serves 6 - 8

    What you need


    3 cans Goya Black Beans
    3 cans Progresso Cannelini Beans
    3 cans petitie diced tomato (or fire roasted)
    2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    1tsp of lime
    2 tsp of Italian seasoning
    Salt and Pepper to taste. (here I would use a good finishing salt
                                                 like Himalyan Pink Sea Salt)
    Basil for garnish. 


    How to

    Open all cans of beans, rinse and drain in large collander, dry by patting lightly with a paper towel, then place in serving bowl.
    Open cans of tomatoes, drain and place in bowl.
    Add oil, lime, seasoning, salt and pepper.  Toss gently to combine.
    Garnish with chiffinade of basil. 

    Serves 6-8

    What you need
    **Credit for this recipe to Ina Garten.  It was too good not to share.

    3 pounds baby Yukon Gold or baby redskin potatoes

    1/3 cup olive oil
    4 teaspoons kosher salt
    2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
    2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary (divided)

    Rosemary Roasted Spiral Sliced Potatoes

    How to

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

    Slice the bottom off each potato and cut crosswise at 1/8-inch intervals, cutting to within 1/4 inch of the bottom. (You can place the potato on a large spoon so the edges of the spoon prevent you from slicing completely through the potato.)

    Place the potatoes in a large bowl, add the olive oil, salt and pepper and 1 tablespoon of the rosemary and toss well, working the salt mixture in between the slices. Arrange the potatoes on a sheet pan cut side up.

    Bake the potatoes for 30 minutes, until they are tender and golden and crisp on top.  
    There is no reason why you cannot put these on the grill if you prefer.  Simply start them ahead of your meats so everything is done at the same time.  

    • Sprinkle with remaining rosemary and serve.

    Serves 4 - 6

    What you need
    • The prevailing wisdom is that you must make Risotto on the stove painstakingly stirring a half cup of water at a time until it is all absorbed over a period of 30 minutes  to get it to the desired consistency.  Ha!  Who has the time for that?  Thank you Rachel Ray for this wonderful method and recipe.  I have made it a number of times and altered it with other vegetables and seasonings and it always comes out delicious.  Here it is in its original form :
    • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 large shallot or half of a small onion, finely chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
    • 2 cups arborio rice
    • Salt and pepper
    • 1 32 ounce container (4 cups) vegetable or chicken broth
    • 1 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley
    • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
    • 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
    • Grated peel of 1 lemon
    • 1 pound thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2-inch pieces

    Asparagus Risotto Bake

    How to
    1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees . In a heavy ovenproof pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until translucent and softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and rice; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the rice is toasted, about 3 minutes. Stir in the broth and 1-1/4 cups water. Transfer immediately to the oven and bake for 25 minutes.
    2. Meanwhile, using a food processor, finely chop the parsley, 1/2 cup Parmesan, the pine nuts and the lemon peel. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and process until blended. Set the pesto aside.
    3. Remove the risotto from the oven and stir in the asparagus and the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan. Continue to bake until the rice is tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the reserved pesto and serve with extra Parmesan.

    Serves 6

    What you need
    3 pkgs frozen steam fresh sugar snap peas
    2 pkgs frozen steam fresh green peas, or green peas with mushrooms if available
    1&1/2 c. pea shoots or if not available use any regular sprouts that are fresh
    1/2 c. finely diced red onion (optional)
    1/2 c. japanese dressing (the yellow one)

    Note:  if you do not have the japanese dressing you can use ranch,
    or use this recipe for something lighter:
    3 tbs olive oil
    1tbs lemon juice
    1tbs dijon mustard
    salt and pepper
    Whisk all salad dressing ingredients together vigorously and pour over vegetables.

    Green Spring Pea Salad

    How to

    Cook the steam fresh vegetables as package directs, but just until defrosted. (that is about half the time directed)  You dont want to be eating mushy vegetables.

    In a large bowl, add snap peas, green peas, and sprouts which should have been rinsed and dried, salt and pepper.  Add Japanese dressing of your choice and mix gently.  Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

    I love to see the striking hues of bright green on the table in the Spring.  But, as always, this is a flexible recipe for you to use as a base.  Feel free to substitute or add ingredients as you see fit.

    Serves 4

    What you need
      • Here is a fun and different take on spinach.  It is aromatic, but not spicey.  The garam masala and turmeric give it a depth of flavor that you might find in an Indian restaurant.  Enjoy!
    • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1 onion, finely chopped
    • 1 cup canned chopped tomatoes
    • 3 teaspoons ground coriander
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
    • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
    • 1 15 1/2 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach
    • Pick up garam masala, a traditional Indian spice blend, in the spice aisle.


    Chickpeas and Spinach

    How to
    1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until the edges are browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, coriander, cumin, garam masala and turmeric. Lower the heat to medium and cook for 3 minutes more.
    2. Stir in the chickpeas, add the salt and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and cook about 5 minutes more.

    Serves 8-10

    What you need
    This is antipasto salad is a holiday dish in our family. However I have also used it as a light antipasto in the summer at a barbeques (no mayo to spoil).  It also travels well if you are bringing a dish to someone else's house.  I would serve it along with 2 or 3 cheeses and some good crackers or flatbreads.  It simplifies the making of a tray of antipasto, giving you all the taste and none of the work.
    3 jars of roasted red peppers packed in oil (we like Rao's with pignoli nuts and raisins for the flavor)
    3 cans jumbo pitted black olives
    1 jar spanish olives, drained
    3 cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained 
       OR 3 jars of artichoke hearts in oil

    bite size chunks of parmigana reggiano
    hot or sweet cherry peppers
    picante peppers
    kalamata olives
    stuffed olives
    roasted garlic cloves
    stuffed grape leaves, cut in half
    marinated mushrooms
    and so on.....
    whichever you choose, be sure to drain the liquid before adding.

    **You can easily cut this recipe in thirds to serve 3 or 4 people, two-thirds to serve 6-8 people, and as written to serve a crowd!

    Deb's Own Antipato Salad

    How to

       Drain one jar of the roasted red peppers and add all three jars to a large mixing bowl including the oil in the other 2 jars.  Cut into bite sized pieces or slice the peppers into strips.  Add all the other ingredients, plus whichever  optional ones you chose.  Mix gently and place in serving bowl.  
       You can make this a day before, just be sure to add the cheese on the day you are going to eat it and mix well before you serve it.      

    Serves 6

    What you need
         This was a new recipe for me, simply because I happened to have cans of artichoke hearts I wanted to use up.  It was so simple and it turned out wonderful.     

    For Salad:
    3 cans of quartered artichoke hearts (rinsed well and drained) 
    1/4 c extra virgin olive oil
    1 tbsp honey
    1 tbsp minced garlic
    Salt & Pepper to taste

    For Crumbs:
    1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    Handful Panko crumbs

    Roasted Artichoke Hearts Salad

    How to
    Preheat Oven to 400 degrees
    Rinse and drain artichokes to remove as much brine as possible, and pat dry.
    Place artichokes in a large bowl with olive oil, honey, garlic, salt & pepper and mix gently. 
    Spread mixture on to a flat baking sheet or roasting pan.  
    Roast about 30 minutes or until crispy on the outside.  At this point you can place in a bowl and serve.  Or:  
    Sprinkle with a mixture of olive oil and breadcrumbs and cook 5 more minutes, then spoon into a bowl and serve.

    **Pictured below is the above recipe with a can of sliced beets added.  My kids love beets. (I don't know why and they didn't get it from me!) Rinse and drain them, cut the circles in half, put them in the bowl with the artichokes and proceed as directed.  If you like beets, try this variation. It looks pretty.
    *** Double this recipe for company because everyone liked it and the kids asked for more!

    Serves 4

    What you need

    2 fennel bulbs
    Peeled cloves from 1 garlic bulb 
    1 quartered lemon,
    3 tablespoons olive oil and
    1 teaspoon each salt and sugar on a baking sheet. 
    1 pint grape tomatoes


    How to
    1. Core and thinly slice 2 fennel bulbs; chop some of the fronds.
    2. Peel the cloves from 1 garlic bulb and toss with the fennel and fronds, 1 quartered lemon, 3 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon each salt and sugar.
    3. Place entire contents of bowl on a baking sheet. Roast in a 500 degrees F oven until golden, about 20 minutes. Toss in 1 pint grape tomatoes; roast until the tomatoes burst, 7 more minutes.
    4 Place in a serving bowl  to serve.

    Serves 4-6

    What you need
    My son created this recipe out of his favorite things when he was about 8, and now it is one of our favorite things. We serve it at almost every BBQ, and even as a side dish in the winter.  Its healthful, tasty, and pretty enough to serve for company.

    2 cans black beans, rinsed well
    1 pkg steam fresh frozen corn (or southwestern corn if you can find it)
    1 can of petite diced tomatoes (with chilis or not depending on your taste)  Alternatively, fresh tomatoes diced or a cup of premade bruschetta will also work here.
    1 tbs Olive Oil
    1 tsp Lemon or Lime juice
    Salt and Pepper to taste.  Here I like to use a good sea salt or Himalayan Pink Sea Salt to bring out the flavors of the individual ingredients.

    Willie's Own Black Bean Confetti Salad

    How to

    Rinse the beans, add to bowl.  Cook the corn until defrosted, then add to bowl. 
    Drain the tomatoes and add to bowl.  Then add the olive oil, lemon or lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix and you're done and you can serve it as a side dish as a light and refreshing alternative to baked beans.  
    Leave out the oil and lemon/lime, and add just a few tablespoons of ranch dressing, just enough to lightly coat the vegetables.
    You can also add chopped red, yellow and/or green peppers to the mix.
    Serving Variations: 
    As pictured below, you can serve with tortilla chips as an appetizer or side.
    You can mix it with cooked plain couscous for a healthy side dish instead of pasta.
    You can use it on top of a salad of chopped romain (and you wouldn't even need dressing) 
    How would you use it?     

    Serves 6

    What you need


  • 4 cans navy beans or progresso cannelini, drained
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound chopped bacon (or sausage)  
  • 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  • 1 cup reserved fat free chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup chopped onions (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon dry (powdered) mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

    How to
    Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F .

    Rinse and drain the beans and set aside.

    Heat the oil in a large ovenproof pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add the bacon (or sausage) and cook, stirring, for 4 minutes or until the fat is rendered. Add the ketchup, broth, onions, sugar, mustard, garlic, black pepper, and cayenne (to taste). Cook, stirring, for 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the beans and stir gently to mix. Simmerfor 5 minutes.

    Transfer the beans to the oven and bake, uncovered, for an hour. Remove from the oven and serve hot

    **adapted from Emeril Lagasse's original recipe.  Sorry Emeril, but my changes make this easier and faster for the home cook!

    Serves 6

    What you need
    Another one of my kid's favorites, this side dish is quick and simple to make, easy to tailor to your own tastes, and visually pleasing on the table.  For those of you who want the extra work, you can start from dried beans, and soak overnight, and roast your own tomatoes with basil and so on.  This is my 15 minute way:

    2 cans cannelini beans rinsed well and drained.
    1/2 c. frozen chopped onions.
    1 cup of prepared Bruschetta*
    1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
    Salt and Pepper to taste
    1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    1/4 c. fresh basil, chopped.

    *If you cannot find a well made bruschetta, you can substitue 1 can of fire roasted tomatoes and add Italian seasoning, or to spice it up, 1 can of petite diced tomatoes with chilis.  You can even use your own fresh tomatoes in season. 

    White Beans & Roasted Tomatoes

    How to

    In a small fry pan, saute the onions until they are soft and translucent, add the bruschetta (or tomatoes), red pepper, salt and black pepper, and sautee about 3 or 4 minutes for flavors to meld.  
    In a serving bowl, toss drained beans, tomato mixture and olive oil.  Garnish with fresh basil. 

    Serves 8

    What you need
    This is a perfect Spring and Summer salad.  Since it does not contain any dairy it can be served warm or at room temperature without fear of spoiling or contamination.

    1 3- 5 lb bag baby red potatoes
    1/2 pkg bacon
    1/2 c. Extra virgin olive oil
    1/4 c. White wine vinegar
    1 tsp Dijon mustard.
    1 tsp garlic, minced or powder
    1/4 c. fresh basil, chopped
    Salt and Pepper to taste. 

    German Potato Salad (no mayo)

    How to
    Cook bacon (fry or microwave )  until crispy, drain bacon fat into a bowl with the olive oil, and reserve bacon pieces until later.
    Boil potatoes until almost fork tender. (you will not want them so soft that you end up mashing them). Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Cut each potato in half or quarters, so you have bite size pieces. Set aside in large bowl.  
    Whisk the vinegar into the oil slowly, until emulsified. Continue whisking while adding mustard, salt and pepper.  Be sure to use enough salt so your dressing is a bit salty. The potatoes will need the salt to bring out the taste. 
    Once dressing is fully mixed, taste for flavor.  My family likes a bit of garlic in the dressing.  
    Pour the dressing over the potatoes and mix gently with a rubber spatula trying not to smash the potatoes. 
    Serve sprinkled with crumbled bacon and fresh basil. 

    Serves 8

    What you need


    • 2 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
    • 4 cups seasoned stuffing croutons, divided
    • 1 bag frozen chopped onions 
    • 2 tablespoon sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/2teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
    • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine

    Tomato Crouton Casserole

    How to

    In a bowl mix tomatoes, croutons, onion, sugar, oregano, salt and pepper. (save a handful of croutons for the top). Sprinkle with remaining croutons and dot with butter.  Bake, uncovered in a greased 2-qt. casserole, at 375 degrees F for 30-35 minutes

    This dish goes particularly well with the rib roast on the recipe page !

    Serves 12-16

    What you need
    • Once you try this, you will never go back to marshmallows again. You can roast all the potatoes and bananas, then put everything together.  Or even better I make and bake the whole thing except the topping, then when ready to serve, you can heat in the microwave, put on the topping and broil 5 or so minutes ***thank you to Tyler Florence, Food Network, who provided the basic recipe. This is doubled, because it will disappear so fast you will need more!
    • 10 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed
    • 8  bananas, unpeeled
    • 1 lb (4sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature.
    • 1/2 cup honey
    • Kosher salt
    • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
    • 1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped

    Whipped Sweet Potato & Banana, w/ Pecan Strusel

    How to

    Poke the sweet potatoes all over with a fork, put them in a roasting pan and roast for 45 - 50 iminutes. Toss the bananas into the pan and continue roasting for 10 to 15 minutes, until both the bananas and potatoes are very soft inside. Remove the pan from the oven but don't turn the oven off.

    When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a large mixing bowl. Peel the bananas and add them to the bowl including that luscious banana juice that comes out of the peel, and along with 2 sticks of the butter, and the honey. Season with salt and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until everything's well combined and the mixture is fluffy. Spoon into an oven-proof serving bowl and smooth the top.
    For the Pecan Brown Sugar topping:

    In a separate mixing bowl, use your fingers to rub together the remaining stick of butter, the brown sugar, flour, and pecans until the mixture is the consistency of coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the sweet potatoes and return to the oven. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the crumbs are golden. Serve hot.

    Serves 4

    What you need


    1 head cauliflower, cut into florets (or one pkg frozen florets, defrosted.
    2 cups heavy cream
    1/2 lb Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
    2 c. grated parmesan 
    6 oz goat cheese crumbled
    salt and fresh ground pepper      

    **You can cut back on the calories a bit by using half n half, and low fat monterey jack.  But don't cut back on the parmesan or goat cheese.  You need some fat in there for it to meld. 

    Cauliflower Gratin

    How to
    Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    Spray medium casserole dish with Pam.
    Layer cauliflower, heavy cream and the 3 cheeses in the casserole. 
    Bake about 30 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft and the sauce has thickened and top is browned. Let rest 10 minutes before serving.

    Recipe can be doubled and made is a shallow roasting pan or casserole.  I used a 9 x 13, or maybe a little longer.

    You cannot believe how delicious this simple recipe is until you taste it.  Enjoy. 

    Serves 4

    What you need
       I usually by this already made and frozen because there are so many good ones out there.  But I've come across a few really delicious and easy recipes that need to be shared for those of you who want to make it from scratch.

    First, my simple way.  It works, its fast and its delicious.
    2 bags or boxes frozen chopped spinach
    1 can Campbell's condensed cream of mushroom soup.
    1 tbsp butter
    1 tsp granulated garlic
    Salt & Pepper to taste.
    Cook spinach according to package directions and drain.  Add all ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a low boil, simmer 10 minutes.  Done.  If you want a healthier version, use Campbells Healthy Request.

    Creamed Spinach

    How to
    Now, the real way, from scratch:
    3 tbsp salted butter
    1 tbsp minced garlic
    1 tbsp all purpose flour
    3/4 c. half & half
    2 boxes or bags frozen chopped spinach, thawed.
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (this is important)
    1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper.
    Melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat and saute' garlic for abour 30 seconds. Wisk in flour and stir constantly for about a minute, but do not brown.  Add half & half and wisk once again. 
    Squeeze water out of thawed spinach and add to saucepan, with the rest of the spices.  Simmer over medium heat for abou 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Spinach will be tender when done. 

    **Photo below courtesy Rita's Recipes replication of Joe's Stone Crab Creamed Spinach.

    Serves about 6

    What you need

        Root vegetables sing of the season. Steeping the ancho chiles in the broth lends a smoky deep layer to the flavor of this dish.  But, first, you can make this all year round, even on the grill. Second, if you don't happen to have dried ancho chiles, you can use chili powder or Tabasco's Chipotle Chili sauce, to taste.  Enjoy.  

    2 dried ancho or chipotle chiles
    1 ½ cups low-sodium broth (vegetable or chick, en)
    1 teaspoon olive oil
    2 large baking potatoes, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices
       (or 1lb baby reds, unpeeled)
    2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices
    2 medium parsnips (about 8 ounces), peeled and sliced lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices*
    3 medium turnips (about 12 ounces), peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch-thick slices*
    Salt & Pepper to taste
    2 cups (about 8 ounces) shredded reduced-fat cheddar or Monterey jack cheese

    *you may switch to carrots, or brussles sprouts, or any other alternate you like.  Just be sure all your ingredients are cut to just about the same size

    Smoky Root Vegetable Gratin (you can even do this on the grill)

    How to
       1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. 
       2. In a small saucepan, simmer the ancho chiles in the vegetable broth for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let steep while preparing the gratin.
         3. Rub a casserole or baking pan (about 12 cup) with the olive oil. Arrange the root vegetable slices, starting with a layer of slightly overlapping potatoes, followed by sweet potato, parsnip, .and turnips; repeat the sequence. Season each layer with salt and sprinkle with diced roasted pepper and shredded cheese; reserve about 1/3 cup of shredded cheese. 
       4. Remove the anchos from the broth and pour evenly over the casserole. Cover with foil wrap and bake for 50 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and bake for 15 more minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving.

    Note: Use a mandoline to slice vegetables quickly and uniformly. Made of stainless steel or plastic, they are usually sold with a variety of blades for thin slicing, julienning, and french-fry cutting. Inexpensive, good-quality plastic mandolines are available at most culinary stores.
    Recipe adapted from www.thedailygreen.com

    Serves 4

    What you need
       This pretty gratin is not as rich as it tastes. I blend the kernels from one of the ears of corn with eggs and milk for a sweet, rich custard that holds it all together. Cumin accent the mixture and give it a Southwestern twist.  (photo & recipe adapted from The NY Times, 7/6/09)

    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    1 medium onion, finely chopped
    1 medium red bell pepper, diced
    Salt & Fresh ground pepper to taste
    1 large garlic clove, minced
    1/2 pound zucchini, thinly sliced or diced
    Kernels from 2 ears sweet corn (about 2 cups) (or 1 bag frozen, thawed)
    3 large eggs
    1/2 cup milk
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    2 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated (1/2 cup, tightly packed)

    Corn & Vegetable Gratin with Cumin

    How to

       1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil a 2-quart gratin or baking dish. Set aside the kernels from one of the ears of corn. Heat the olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until it begins to soften, about three minutes, and add the red pepper and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onions and peppers are tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic and the zucchini, stir together and add another generous pinch of salt and some pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the zucchini is just beginning to look bright green and some of the slices are translucent. Stir in the kernels from one of the ears of corn. Stir together for a minute or two, and remove from the heat. Scrape into a large bowl.
       2. Place the remaining corn kernels in a blender jar, and add the eggs, milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Blend until smooth. Pour into the bowl with the vegetables. Add the cumin and the cheese, and stir everything together. Scrape into the gratin dish. 
       3. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is browned and the gratin is firm to the touch. Serve hot or warm.
       Advance preparation: The vegetable filling can be prepared a day ahead and kept in the refrigerator.

    Serves 4 - 8

    What you need

       This would be an excellent side dish for Thanksgiving or Christmas, or anytime you're having company.   But since six ingredients is all it takes, you can make it anytime.  I adapted it a bit from www.meganscooking.com, and she suggests a variation of french's fried onions on top instead of crumbs.  I do like that idea!

    • 2 bags steam fresh broccoli, cooked and chopped
    • 1 onion, chopped (or 1 pkg frozen chopped onion)
    • 1 Can Cream of Mushroom Soup (you can use healthy request)
    • 1 cup mayonnaise (you can use light)
    • 1 cup Cheddar Cheese, (Don't use light cheese)
    • 1 egg, beaten
    • Salt and Pepper to taste
    • 1/2 c. Panko Crumbs
    • 1/4 c. olive oil.

    Broccoli Casserole

    How to

    Mix all ingredients (except panko and oil) in a bowl.

    Place into a lovely dish baking/serving dish.

    Bake at 375, till bubbly. 

    Remove from oven and sprinkle with mixture of Panko crumbs and Olive Oil (even a little parmesan [optional] if you like) and bake another 5 to 10 minutes until browned.   


    Serves 6 (2 per person)

    What you need

       These "pancakes" are a delicious and healthy alternative to potato pancakes, and certainly more flavorful.  If you want to cut back even more on the calories, use Pam to spray your pan, and cut back your oil to only a couple of tablespoons to coat the bottom of your pan.  If you use a double burner size griddle, you can make these just like pancakes and get most of them done in one batch, making about a dozen.

    2 cups spinach
    1/4 cup grated yellow onions
    1/2 teaspoon dried basil
    2 teaspoons chopped lemon zest
    1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1/2 cup all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    2 large eggs, beaten
    1/2 cup olive oil
    1 (5-ounce) log goat cheese, very thinly sliced

    Goat Cheese Stuffed Spinach Pancakes

    How to
    Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F, only for warming.
       In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, onions, basil, zest, garlic, salt,
    and pepper.
       In a small bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Add the eggs and flour
    mixture to the vegetables and stir just until combined.
       Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. When
    hot, add enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the batter by
    tablespoons into the skillet (making sure to spoon both batter and
    vegetables), leaving 1-inch between the cakes.
    Immediately drop a round of cheese into the center of each pancake. Top with
    another tablespoon of batter to enclose the cheese.
       Cook until golden brown on the bottom side, about 1 1/2 minutes. Flip with a
    spatula and cook on the 2nd side until golden brown, about 1 minute.
       Remove from the pan and place on a baking sheet. Keep warm in the oven while
    preparing the remaining pancakes.

    Serves 8

    What you need
      1 lb ground beef
    1 pkg frozen chopped onions
    1 8 oz pkg cream cheese
    3/4 c. milk
    1 green bell pepper, chopped (or use the chopped pepper & onion mix)
    6-ounce can tomato paste
    one 8-ounce can tomato sauce
    3/4 cup water
    1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
    2 c. uncooked macaroni noodles (elbows)
    1/3 cup sour cream
    1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

    Sicilian Ground Beef & Tomato

    How to
       Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Then place 1 pound of ground beef in another large skillet over medium heat. Start to cook the beef, breaking it up with a fork as it cooks. When the beef starts to render some fat, add 1 chopped onion.
    As the beef cooks, it will turn brown and the pink color will disappear. The onions will start to look translucent. Keep cooking and stirring!
    Cut one 8-ounce package of cream cheese into cubes and place in a microwave-safe medium bowl along with 3/4 cup milk. Microwave on medium power for 1 minute, then remove.
    When the sauce has microwaved for 1 minute, use a small wire whisk to stir the mixture. It will look lumpy; don't be afraid! Return to the microwave and cook on medium power for another 1 minute. Remove the bowl from the microwave and beat with that whisk until the sauce is thick and smooth. Set aside
    Seed and chop one green bell pepper and add to the beef mixture when the beef is almost cooked. Continue to cook and stir until the green pepper has softened slightly.
    Tilt the skillet containing the beef mixture. Use a large spoon to scoop out the liquid and discard it. Return the skillet to medium heat.
    Add one 6-ounce can tomato paste, one 8-ounce can tomato sauce, 3/4 cup water, and 1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning to the drained beef mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring until sauce combines and thickens. Let simmer over very low heat while preparing pasta. Add 2 cups of uncooked macaroni noodles to the boiling water; stir, then cook for 6-8 minutes until almost cooked.
    When the pasta is almost done but still has a bit of resistence in the center, drain it thoroughly in a colander, then add to the cream cheese mixture along with 1/3 cup sour cream and 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Stir until pasta is coated
    Place all of the cream cheese/pasta mixture in the bottom of a 2 quart casserole dish. Top with all of the beef mixture. Sprinkle the top of the casserole with 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese. At this point you can refrigerate the casserole until you want to eat.
    Bake the casserole at 350 degrees F for 20-30 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbly around the edges and the cheese on top melts and begins to brown. Let stand for 5 minutes, then scoop out with a large spoon to serve.

    recipe adapted from studentsfridge.szm.com

    Serves 4

    What you need
        Fresh out of the new Rachel Ray Everyday magazine, I couldn't pass up this wonderful recipe for Risotto from Tuscany. 

    1 1/2 pounds graffiti or globe eggplant, halved
    1/4 cup EVOO
    pinch nutmeg
    1 onion, chopped
    1 1/2 cups rice
    1/3 cup white wine
    1 quart hot chicken broth
    sliced basil for topping

    Smoky Eggplant Risotto

    How to
       Preheat grill over medium heat.
       With knife, cut eggplant flesh in crosshatch fashion, brush with 2 tbsp. EVOO and season. Cover and grill until soft, 20 minutes. Scoop flesh into blender; puree with nutmeg.
       In saucepan, heat remaining EVOO over medium heat; add onion and rice and stir, 5 minutes. Add wine, then broth, 12 cup at time, and cook, stirring, until absorbed, 20 minutes.
       Stir in eggplant; season. Top with basil and more nutmeg.