Sunday, September 25, 2011

Cheesey Stuffed Shells

Stuff shells what a treat! This is one of my favorite recipes. I love Italian food and I could eat pasta all the time. Actually this pasta has a low Glycemic Index, which means it doesn't raise your blood sugar and low GI foods are digested more slowly.They stay in the digested system longer and help to naturally satisfy hunger. So, eating a delicious meal that includes pasta can be one of your healthful alternatives. If you wanted to half this recipe for the meat sauce and filling, it would be easy to do.

Ingredients for meat sauce:

1 lb ground sirloin (97% fat free)
1 lb Italian turkey sausage, removed from casing
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 oz) can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
1 (28 oz) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup dry red wine
10 fresh Basil leaves, julienned (cut into thin strips)


In a large sauce pan, pour the olive oil and saute' onions for 5 minutes and add the garlic, cook 1 minute and add the ground sirloin and sausage. Break up the meat with a large spoon to make crumbled meat. Add the whole tomatoes and juice and crush the tomatoes with a potato masher and then add the tomato sauce and red wine. Mix thoroughly. Add the Basil leaves and simmer for 1 hour.

Ingredients for the filling:

1 (12 oz) box Mueller's jumbo shells
2 eggs
2 containers (15 oz) each low-fat Ricotta cheese
2 clove garlic, minced
2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 small can chopped black olives
1/4 cup fresh Basil leaves, julienned


In a large pot, boil water and add salt to taste. Add pasta and boil for 13 minutes. Drain and lay each shell on a piece of wax paper. Preheat oven 400 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, beat eggs, stir in Ricotta, garlic, 1 cup Mozzarella, Parmesan, black olives and basil.
Spoon about 1 tablespoon of cheese mixture into each shell. In a 13x9-inch baking dish, spoon some meat sauce on the bottom of dish and arrange the filled shells. Top with more meat sauce and sprinkle with 1 cup Mozzarella cheese. Cover with aluminum foil.
Bake for 45 minutes until the sauce is bubbly. If there is any meat sauce left over, put in a container and freeze for another meal. Enjoy!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Healthy Carrot Cake

As you can see, this carrot cake goes as quickly as you make it. It tastes like it is full of calories but it is the low-fat version of the real thing. It is loaded with carrots, crushed pineapple in its own juice and to ensure the cake is moist, nonfat buttermilk is used in this recipe. Also, there is no butter in the frosting, I used reduced-fat cream cheese and it is still light, smooth and tasty.

Ingredients for cake:

1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple in its own juice
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup nonfat buttermilk, (no buttermilk? mix 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup nonfat milk)
1/2 cup organic canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrots, (4-6 medium)
1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, lightly brown until fragrant, 2-5 minutes)

Directions for cake:

Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Coat 2 (9-inch) cake pans with cooking spray.
Drain pineapple in a sieve set over a bowl, pressing on the solids. Reserve the drained pineapple and 1/4 cup of the juice.
Whisk flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Whisk eggs, sugar, buttermilk, oil, vanilla and the 1/4 cup pineapple juice in a large bowl until blended. Stir in pineapple, carrots and coconut. Add the dry ingredients and mix with a rubber spatula just until blended. Stir in nuts. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans, spreading evenly.
Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes on a wire rack and then invert cakes and remove from pans. Finish cooling on a wire rack.

Ingredients for frosting:

12 oz reduced- fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions for frosting:

Beat cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.

To finish cake, on a pedestal cake dish put the first layer of cake and icing top and sides. Next put the second layer on top of the first and finish icing the top and sides of cake. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Easy Italian Vegetable Soup to Bring in the Fall

This vegetable soup is so easy to put together and it can be ready to serve in 30 minutes. It is a one dish meal with lots of heart healthy vegetables and canellini beans for protein and fiber.


1 (15 oz) can canellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 large red onion, diced
2  medium carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
32 oz low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
9 oz bag fresh baby spinach leaves
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, optional


In a small bowl mash half of the beans with a fork and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add, onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, garlic, thyme, sage, salt and pepper and cook stirring occasionally until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add the mashed and whole beans and the spinach leaves and reduce heat and simmer, about 20 minutes.

Serve topped with Parmesan. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Coconut Cake with Pineapple Filling

This was our family's traditional birthday cake that my mother made for us every year. It is a three layer yellow, moist cake with thick pineapple filling and seven-minute icing with sweet shredded coconut spread all over the cake. I created a cookbook with all of my mother's recipes and here is a taste of one of the recipes. It is yummy!

Ingredients for cake:

3 cups cake flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cups white sugar
½ cup butter, softened
3 eggs, beaten, room temperature
1 ¼ cups whole milk, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Preheat oven 375 degrees F. Butter and flour three 9-inch cake pans and set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar, add beaten eggs, milk, and vanilla and use a hand mixer to blend together. Add flour mixture in three batches, using mixer to incorporate all ingredients.

Pour evenly into the prepared cake pans and bake for 25 minutes. Use a toothpick to make sure cake is done. Remove from oven and cool on rack 5 minutes and invert cake onto rack to finish cooling.

Ingredients for Pineapple filling:

½ cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon butter
1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple in its own juice (do not drain)
Dash salt

Combine ingredients, cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick and clear. Cool before using.

Ingredients for Seven-Minute Icing:

1 ½ cups sugar
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
2 egg whites
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups sweetened shredded coconut

Place sugar, cream of tartar, salt, water and egg whites in the top of a double boiler. Beat with a hand mixer for 1 minute. Place pan over boiling water, being sure that the boiling water does not touch the bottom of the top pan. (If this happens, it could cause your frosting to become grainy). Beat constantly on high speed with mixer for 7 minutes. Beat in vanilla.

Assemble the cakes:


Take a pedestal cake dish and put first layer of cake, spread half of the pineapple filling, take second layer cake and put on top first layer and spread with other half of filling, take third cake and place on top second layer and start icing around the sides of the cake. Put the rest of the icing on top of cake and make big swirls for a nice finish. Take sweetened shredded coconut and immediately put around the sides and on top of cake before the icing dries. Enjoy! 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ravioli with Tomato Basil Sauce

If you like ravioli and you don't like to buy the frozen processed kind with the additives that are a mile long. This would be the recipe to try, because it is very easy and not time consuming. The dough is simple and you don't have to knead it or use a mixer with a dough hook. The filling you should use whole milk ricotta to prevent it from being watery and the recipe has Parmesan cheese, fresh basil and garlic that gives the filling lots of flavor. The tomato sauce is easy and it has fresh garlic, onions and basil, which makes it tasty.
Adapted from Giada from the Cooking Channel



2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup very hot water (microwave for 1 1/2 minutes)


3/4 cup whole milk ricotta
1 large egg
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 (28 oz) can of tomato sauce
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves


For the sauce, in a medium sauce pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer. Add the remaining ingredients and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes.

For the dough, in a large bowl combine the flour and the water. Using a wooden spoon, stir to combine onto a large ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes.

For the filling, combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir to combine.

To form the ravioli, cut the dough into 4 evenly sized pieces. The dough should be slightly sticky. Add extra flour as necessary for rolling, but use only a little as necessary. Form each piece into a 2 by 6-inch rectangle. Recover the dough with the plastic wrap.

Lightly dust the work surface and a rolling pin. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, roll the dough into a 4 by 16-inch rectangle. Place 6 rounded teaspoons of filling about 1-inch apart down the center of the dough. Fold the dough over the filling. Press down around the edges of each of the ravioli with your fingertips. Cut the ravioli with any 2 1/2-inch round cutter and press down around the edges again with the prongs of a fork to seal. Place the finished ravioli on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. After forming all the ravioli, cover with plastic wrap and put in refrigerator until ready to cook.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add half the ravioli and cook until the ravioli float, stirring occasionally, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain into a large dish and cook the remaining ravioli.

Once the sauce is done, spoon over the ravioli. Enjoy!