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My friend and I were chatting the other day, and she mentioned she was going to give the Paleo diet a 4 week run. While I’m really not one for dieting, I do appreciate cutting certain things out of my diet temporarily to see if it is beneficial to me. Back in 2008 I was diagnosed with some seriously gnarly heart burn, and spent time cutting most things out of my diet for the better part of the year: meat, dairy, spicy food, alcohol, soy, the list goes on. While I have introduced all of these things back in, I have seen the benefit of moderation in all also. The one thing I have never truly given a break to is my love of starchy goodness, particularly bread, pasta & white potatoes. And so I have agreed, from this past Thursday until Thanksgiving, I’ll give Paleo a go, since these sorts of things are most successful with a partner in crime! My first baby step here, is a no-noodle lasagna. Although I did add a bit of cheese! Truly, a little bit in moderation isn’t so bad, right?

paleo zucchini lasagna

Zucchini Lasagna
adapted from awesome paleo recipes

 

1 lb ground beef or ground turkey
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3-4 small zucchini, sliced thinly
1 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (optional)
1 cup mozzarella cheese (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil or other cooking fat

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat a pot over a medium heat and cook the onion and bell pepper in a tablespoon of oil sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add the ground beef or turkey and cook until browned. Season the mixture to taste with salt and pepper and add the dried oregano and crushed red pepper. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, bring to a boil and then remove from heat. Place a thin layer of the sauce in a baking dish. Layer the zucchini over the sauce and then the mushrooms (then mozzarella, if using). Repeat alternating layers of sauce, zucchini and mushrooms. Finish with a layer of mozzarella and parmesan (if using). Cover with foil. Place in the oven to bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

 

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There are two things I crave for breakfast, salt and eggs. While most days I’m terrible about making time for it, the weekends are made for brunching. Here are a few of my favorites and some I’m dying to try: salty and cheesy, herb-y and peppery, creamy, egg-filled savory goodness. Yum!

savory breakfast 01
Sharp Cheddar & Mustardy Greens Breakfast Sandwich / Oatmeal With Fried Egg and Avocado

savory breakfast 02
Breakfast Salad / Savory French Toast

savory breakfast 03
Veggie Quinoa Breakfast Bowl / Crustless Quiche

This was a quick and easy lasagna, as far as lasagna goes. A little prep, a short time in the oven and voilà! Although no-boil noodles might have shaved off a little more work too. This recipe is super cheesy but packed with vegetables. Probably not the most healthy version out there, but great for a weeknight and the greens provide a punch of vitamins.

vegetable lasagna

Vegetable Lasagna
via bhg

8 ounces dried lasagna noodles (9 or 10 noodles)
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups cottage cheese
15 ounce ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 cup shredded carrot
10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and thoroughly drained
10 ounce package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and thoroughly drained
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain; set aside.
In a medium bowl combine eggs, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, oregano and thyme. Set aside.
In a large skillet cook mushrooms, onion, and garlic in hot oil until tender. Stir in the flour and pepper; add milk all at once. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat. Stir in the spinach, broccoli, carrot, and 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese.
To assemble, in a greased 3-quart rectangular baking dish, layer one-third of the noodles, folding or cutting to fit, if necessary. Spread with one-third of the cottage cheese mixture, then one-third of the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with one-third of the mozzarella. Repeat the layers twice. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.
Bake uncovered for 35 minutes or until heated through. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Phew! Another busy week. I’m really looking forward to work slowing down, but in the mean time I’m starting to get used to this constant high pace and have gotten back in the swing of cooking regularly again. This week I made this amazing risotto, which required almost no stirring whatsoever. Amazing! Add to that the bite of balsamic and beautiful creamy carmelized onions, and this could be one of the most perfect risottos ever.

Baked Mushroom Risotto with Caramelized Onions

Mushroom Risotto with Caramelized Onions
via the kitchn

1/2 ounce dried shiitake or porcini mushrooms, finely chopped
2 cups boiling water
1/3 cup olive oil, divided
4 yellow onions (about 2 pounds)
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
1 cup Arborio or short-grain white rice
1/2 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to garnish

Heat the oven to 300°F. Rinse the dried mushrooms lightly, to remove any dust or grit. Place the mushrooms in a ceramic bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Set them aside to steep while you cook the onions.
Chop one of the onions into a fine dice. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 3-quart (or larger) ovenproof pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes, or until soft and golden. Push the onions to the side of the pot, and turn the heat up to medium-high. Add all the sliced cremini mushrooms and let them cook for 5 minutes without stirring. Flip the mushrooms and cook for another five minutes, or until they are quite brown and a crust is developing on the bottom of the pan.
Drain the dried mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Add the mushrooms and rosemary sprig to the pan and sauté briefly, mixing with the onion and the rest of the mushrooms. Add the rice and cook, stirring once or twice, for about 4 minutes, or until the rice begins to turn transparent.
Turn the heat to high and add the white wine, vinegar, broth, and reserved mushroom steeping liquid. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan as you add the liquid to deglaze any yummy mushroomy bits sticking to the pan. Stir in the salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and put it in the oven to bake for 35 minutes.
While the rice is baking, make the caramelized onions. Heat the remaining olive oil in a cast iron skillet. Cut the remaining three onions in half, and then slice them into thin half moons. Add them to the oil and sprinkle liberally with salt. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn a dark mahogany brown. Let them go as long as you can; I usually cook mine for at least 30 minutes.
When the risotto has finished baking, let it stand uncovered for 5 minutes before serving. Dish it up and top each bowl with a spoonful of caramelized onions, a little extra pepper, and, if desired, a scoop of sour cream or whipped mascarpone.

If you don’t know already, I’m a big fan of wine. And a recipe that calls for a whole bottle of red wine is  something that sings to me! That and a whole lotta mushrooms. While the directions for this dish look extensive, it was something I was able to put together on a week night with a little extra time and we were still able to sit down to eat before eight at night. I made just one change – I left all the vegetables in the sauce so that it was a little heartier. It came together in just over an hour, but would be wonderful to cook at a leisurely pace on a weekend. I think I might even be ready to try the original Julia Child recipe, although the part about igniting the cognac makes me nervous!

coq au vin

Simple Coq au Vin
via simple bites

3 lbs bone-in chicken pieces
salt & fresh ground pepper
1/3 lb bacon, ideally slab bacon, diced
1/2 lb carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 small onions, peeled and roughly chopped
3 stalks celery, washed and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1 bottle of red wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
3 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound button mushrooms, stems trimmed
fresh parsley, chopped
12 oz egg noodles

Rinse chicken pieces and pat dry. Season all over with salt and pepper.
In a large oven-proof skillet (I used a French Oven), cook diced bacon over medium heat until most of the fat is rendered and pieces are browned. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pot, and drain on a paper towel. Add chicken pieces to the pot and brown the skin in the bacon fat over medium-high heat. Remove chicken from pot and set aside. Add carrots, onions and celery to the pot, using a little olive oil as needed to cook the vegetables. Saute for about 5 minutes until they begin to soften. Add a cup of wine to deglaze the pan and scrape the bottom to get all those flavorful bits up. Add the chicken pieces, remaining wine, stock, bay leaf, and thyme leaves to the vegetables. Stir to combine, then cover with a lid. Simmer gently over low heat for about 40 minutes or until the chicken is tender and falling off the bone. Remove the pot from the heat and, using a sturdy pair of tongs, take out chicken pieces, bay leaf, and set aside once again. Cook the sauce for 10 minutes at a low boil until it is reduced by half. Meanwhile, cook the noodles as directed.
In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons soft butter and flour. Using a whisk, incorporate the paste, called a ‘Beurre manié’, into the sauce. Mix well until all the lumps are gone. Cook the sauce another five minutes, whisking occasionally, until it is glossy and coats the back of a spoon. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
In a separate saute pan, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter, and add mushrooms. Stir for a minute, then add a few tablespoons of water. This helps the mushrooms to release their juices. Cook over medium-high heat for another 5 minutes until the liquid is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown.
Return chicken to the sauce in the pot, and adding bacon and sauteed mushrooms. Stir together and heat gently. Serve over hot buttered egg noodles and garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

While I’ve been trying to cut back on dairy, I found myself with a little extra cream left over in the fridge one day and decided it was time for a creamy, comforting soup. I love this basic soup since I often have most of the ingredients on hand. Exactly what I need on a cold winter’s day.

chicken wild rice soup

Chicken and Wild Rice Soup
adapted from simple bites

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups sliced mushrooms (about 4 ounces)
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
1 small chopped onion
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup cream
1 cup quick-cooking or instant wild rice (or pre-cooked wild rice)
3 cups shredded cooked chicken (about 12 ounces)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add celery, carrots and onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook an additional 3-5 minutes. Whisk in flour and continue to cook for an additional 3 minutes. Stir in chicken stock until there are no lumps left. Add cream, rice and turkey. Allow to simmer 20 minutes until heated through. Stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Earlier this week I whipped up a batch of this beautiful pasta, adding in a few of my favorite ingredients (wine & onions!), and posted a picture of the lovely results on instagram. I was so surprised and pleased when a friend from work joked about sharing the leftovers and I had plenty to share! We had a fun little lunch date in my cubicle – this recipe’s for you, Jessica!
If I make it again, I’ll think I’ll go for a home made marinara, or skip it and just use twice as many diced tomatoes. The flavors here are really well balanced and this reminded me how much I love shrimp in the right dish. I’ve been meaning to cook with more seafood for a while now!

penne rosa with shrimp

Penne Rosa with Shrimp
adapted from back to her roots

12 ounces whole wheat penne
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced (I used cremini)
14 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 tspn salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
4 cups fresh spinach
10 ounces medium raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/2 cup marinara sauce
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream if you’re not counting calories)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water until al dente; drain and set aside.
In a large skillet with a lid, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onion over medium heat until it becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in garlic and red pepper flakes, cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add in the wine mushrooms, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes until the wine is reduced and the mushrooms are just beginning to get tender. Turn heat up to medium-high and add in shrimp. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and opaque. Remove from heat, add in spinach and cover skillet. Let spinach wilt for 2 minutes. Add the yogurt, parmesan and marinara. Mix well. Fold in the pasta and stir until sauce the pasta and veggies are well coated.
Heat until just warmed through over low heat.