Archive for the ‘Mediterranean’ Category

Thanksgiving weekend was wonderful!  And there were plenty of creative dishes made from turkey leftovers, but I didn’t think to take pictures until after we had already finished the dishes!  I’ll still share the recipes, but they’re never as much fun without the photos 😦 .  Today our family got back on track with work, house chores, and healthy eating.  So today’s recipe is ridiculously easy, but the star of it is the balsamic vinaigrette.  What a life changer it is when you finally are able to enjoy the same (or better most of the times) vinaigrettes in your own home that you find in good restaurants.  It makes eating salads so much better!  And part of the reason I always have dijon mustard in my refrigerator (and pantry-wouldn’t want to ever run out!) and balsamic and a few other vinegars on my counter, is so I can always whisk up a quick vinaigrette.  A great way to add flavor to something without adding unwanted fat.  At least it’s unsaturated fat when you’re using olive oil. 

Rotisserie Chicken Salad

2 chicken breasts from your rotisserie chicken
1 cup of gourmet or heirloom tomatoes
3 tbsp of crumbled feta cheese
1 8 oz bag of butter lettuce or mixed greens
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 small clove of garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh black pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil

Dice up your chicken breasts and set aside.  Remove the skin if you want a leaner dish.  Chop your tomatoes into bite-sized portions.

In a large salad bowl place your mustard, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.  Peel and dice your garlic clove on a cutting board, after dicing it add a little salt to it, and with the side of the blade of your knife smear the garlic to make it into a paste.  Add this to your bowl and whisk.  Next slowly drizzle in your 1/4 cup of olive oil, whisking as you add it.  You want to create air bubbles so you will emusify the vinegar with the oil; resulting in a thicker vinaigrette.  Toss your chicken, tomatoes, lettuce, and feta with the vinaigrette and serve.  This is another “fastfood” item I love to make when I’m short on time.  It takes about 5 minutes to put dinner on the table and it’s healthy and tasty 🙂


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So things are getting back to normal in our house.  After 4 or 5 loads of laundry, plenty of dishes, vacuuming, a strict potty regiment (trying to get Lucas into cloth underwear fulltime, this means no accidents please!), vacuuming, and grocery shopping a good bit of that food creativity was drained a bit. But no worries!  Good thing I have a plethora of tried and tested recipes that I love!  And since my dad (yes, again, my dear father has bestowed on us some more goods) 😉 sent me home with a huge NY Strip left over from yesterday’s barbecue, I thought of the perfect way to use it: a Penne with Beef and Arugula recipe.  Again, this one is a Giada recipe, and who can blame me??  She is a cute italian chef who maintains her figure and lightens up her dishes so you don’t have to unbutton your pants when you’re finished with your pasta!  Not to mention, I don’t think any of the dishes I’ve made from any of her books are just “okay”.  Plus this recipe has arugula in it.  And I don’t need too many excuses to use that it my dishes.  If you haven’t cooked with arugula yet, please let me encourage you to do it.  This peppery slightly lemony green is just bursting with flavor and is just as delicious raw in a salad, as it is warm, served in pasta, or just used as a simple bed to place grilled steak over.  Let’s be done with boring iceberg lettuce and move on to the amazing greens God has given us to eat!  Not that God didn’t create iceberg lettuce.. but for you Florida folks, it is 2 for $5 this week at Publix, and Barilla pasta is buy one get one free.  So this is the perfect week to try this recipe!

Penne with Beef and Arugula


1 (1 lb) NY strip steak
1 tsp herbs de provence (if you don’t have this mix your favorite dry herbs, like oregano, rosemary, etc)
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus 3 tbsp
1 lb penne pasta ( i used 13 oz of Barilla Whole Grain pasta)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt, plus more for steak and pasta water
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (ran out so I used a lesser amount of dried basil)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cups chopped arugula


Season the steak with salt and freshly ground pepper, herbs de Provence, and minced garlic.  In a skilled, heat 3 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat.  Cook steak for about 7 minutes on each side.  Remove the meat from pan and let it rest for 5 minutes.  Thinly slice  the steak.  Set aside.













Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until tender, but still firm to the bite (al dente), stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes.  Drain pasta, reserving 1/4 cup of pasta water.

In a small bowl whisk together the balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, fresh herbs and 3/4 cup olive oil. 













In a large bowl toss the pasta with half of the salad dressing and the reserved pasta water. 



















Add the arugula and steak, more dressing (if needed), and season with salt and pepper, as needed.  Toss and serve. 

This is the perfect picnic/date food, by-the-way.

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Hello after a long weekend!  Tonight was my uncle’s last night with us before returning to Spain.  So of course, we had to have a big dinner to wish him a bon voyage.  But my mom was too tired to cook, and my grandmother had her chemotherapy today and wasn’t feeling up to it, so… Super-Pamela to the rescue!  Haha.. no, I offered mostly because it’s nice to cook when grandma will watch Lucas for me, so I can “just cook”.  I love it, it really is like a therapy to me.  So for tonight, in keeping with our fall theme, we have a Rigatoni with Squash and Prawns.  Well, it’s more like Rigatoni with Squash and Shrimp, since we had regular jumbo shrimp on hand.  This is a recipe I cannot take credit for; it was created by a chef I really love for healthful Italian cuisine, Giada de Laurentiis.  Here is the recipe with a few adjustments:

Rigatoni with Squash and Shrimp

3 tbsp olive oil, plus 3 tbsp
1 pound butternut squash, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt, plus 1 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/2 teaspoon
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1 pound rigatoni
1 pound large or jumbo shrimp
3/4 to 1 cup 2% or whole milk
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan


Warm 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the butternut squash, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Saute until the squash is golden and tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the squash is very soft, another 5 to 7 minutes.

Transfer the squash mixture to a blender or food processor and puree. *You can actually add some of your milk at this point, rather than all of it later, if you need some liquid to better puree your squash.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, warm the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the shrimp with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Add the shrimp to the pan and cook until just pink, about 3 minutes.

In a large pot over low heat combine the cooked pasta, pureed squash mixture, and 3/4 cup milk. Stir to combine. Add the remaining 1/4 cup milk if the sauce needs to be moistened.

Add the cooked shrimp, basil, and cheese. Stir until warm and serve.   Top with a little extra parmesan and basil.

Results:  An incredibly healthy and delicious dish!  The sauce is so creamy, and you actually feel like you’re eating something bad for you, but it’s not!  The combination of the sweet butternut squash with the bite of the pepper in the sauce as well as in the shrimp, along with the saltiness of the parmesan cheese is just delightful!  I doubled my recipe to feed my family of seven plus a toddler.  I got great reviews! 

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We try to eat pretty balanced meals, for the most part.  When my husband first began medical school a few years ago, he would come home excited to tell me what he learned about that day.  Of course not everything.  I’d let him know when I started to get overwhelmed.  But my favorite part was when he was taking nutrition courses.  It was my favorite part because as the homemaker and cook of the home, I take responsibility for keeping our family fit and healthy…and of course happy with the occasional dessert…ok, sometimes more regular than occasional ;).  Anyway, they studied in school that the most healthy lifestyle and diet comes from the people that live on the coasts along the Mediterranean Sea.  I had to do my research and find out what it was!  And even though there is so much to know, I boiled it down to this: lots of vegetables, lots of fruit, less, but still plenty of complex and whole grain carbohydrates, plenty of fish, poultry, and occasional red meat, and saturated fats.  Instead of butter, mediterraneans use mostly olive oil- for everything, cooking, dipping their bread in, vinagrettes.. even in lotions and soaps (which I love by the way).  They also tend to eat their meals slower, enjoy a glass of wine once a day, and linger at the table even after the food is gone and continue with conversation.  So our family follows a mediterranean diet about 90% of the time, although it’s more of a lifestyle, and I try to stay with this because it is what has worked best for our family. 

So on to tonight’s dinner!  Spinach, butternut squash, turkey sausage and rigatoni pasta.. I created this with (of course) pleasant thoughts of fall and the desire to fill my home with more of these aromas.. lol.  Serves 4-6 people, and usually you’ll have leftovers, although in my case my son had 3 helpings, my husband had 2 huge portions, and my mother-in-law stopped by, plus me… so only a little left for lunch 🙂

3 italian turkey sausages, without casings
1 lb (or approx. 4 cups) of diced butternut squash
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 large handfuls of baby spinach (approx. 3 cups loosely packed)
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp of flat-leaf italian parsley
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb rigatoni (or another ridged pasta)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
salt & pepper to taste

Fill a large pot with water and set to boil.  Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet and add  your turkey sausage with the casing removed.  Use a flat edge or wooden spoon to break apart.  Season with a pinch of salt, pepper, and chili flakes . 

In the meantime dice your butternut squash into about 1/2″ cubes, dice your bell pepper, and mince your garlic.

*Tip for cutting your pepper-slice off both ends, then down side to open up pepper. Run your knife around seeds and veins, and you will have one whole piece to cut more easily.






When sausage is done browning, remove and put into a separate plate (leave any oils behind from the sausage in skillet) and add the butternut squash, stirring to evenly cook.  Make sure to, again, salt and pepper to taste, and add thyme. 







Allow to cook for about 5 minutes, then add the diced bell pepper, and minced garlic.







At this point you are going to let your vegetables soften.  In the meantime salt your boiling water, and add your rigatoni to it.  Cook pasta to al dente, which is italian for to the tooth; translation: we don’t want soggy pasta, there should be a slight bite to it when it is cooked right.  I usually cook it for a minute under when the box says it’s “al dente” because by then it’s usually over done.  Doubts?  Try the pasta as it cooks. 







Take a little of that pasta water out with a liquid measuring cup, and add enough of it to your vegetables to wet them, about 1/4 cup, and stir.  When you can pierce your squash with a fork, your veggies should be ready.  Again, try them to see- if you are trying right along as you cook- you will not have any surprises at the end when you serve your meal.  Magically this is how you ensure and control good tasting food!  Add your turkey sausage back into the skillet and reduce the heat. 

By this time your pasta should be done.  Reserve 1 cup of starch pasta water before draining!  Drain your pasta.  Add rigatoni and baby spinach to skillet and slowly mix it in as spinach begins to wilt and reduce in volume.







Next, add your parmesan cheese, and as much of the starch water as you need to moisten up the pasta dish.  I almost used my entire cup.







Also add your freshly chopped parsley and mix everything well.







Serve in a deep dish or bowl and top with a little shaved parmesan and leftover parsley.  Perfecto!

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