Living in New England, I am fortunate to have access to the freshest seafood. Hard to believe in 2021, an old fashion fish monger truck sells fish and seafood straight off the dock at our seasonal summer market. And this winter, after the market closed, the company is delivering weekly to our town. I just place the order on Monday, for a Wednesday delivery!
I don’t have time most weeknights to prepare elaborate meals. Instead, I serve meals prepared in under thirty minutes, or I defrost and reheat something I made ahead on a leisurely weekend.
One of my favorite easy dinners for two is Spaghetti and Clams in a light white wine sauce. I like to use meaty count neck clams, married with wine and herbs for a lusciously delightful taste.
Dinner in under thirty minutes!
2 tablespoon olive oil 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 shallot, minced 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped 1 cup dry white wine pinch of saffron 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 1/4 teaspoon pepper 1 pound count neck clams, well-scrubbed 4 ounces thin spaghetti, cook according to package
In a saute pan, add olive oil, garlic, shallot, and thyme. Saute on medium heat for 8-10 minutes; garlic and shallots should be translucent, not browned. Add wine, saffron, salt, and pepper simmering for 5 minutes. Add clams, cover, continue to cook for 5-10 minutes. All the clams should be open; discard any that aren’t. Pour over cooked pasta. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan cheese.
Winters in New England are cold and harsh. When snow blankets my home and the wind rattles the windows, I crave comfort food that tastes delicious and is hearty. I don’t want excessive fat and calories, so I create recipes that fit my eating requirement! Soups, stews, and casseroles for healthy eating are a satisfying experience, and you won’t feel deprived. You can have a glass of wine with dinner or a small dessert if you cut unnecessary calories—no need to feel deprived. That will sabotage your new year diet or healthy eating intention.
Simply replacing meat with veggie crumbles in chili makes a significant difference without sacrificing taste. I also added butternut squash to this recipe as it pairs well with the beans and tomatoes. Additional I added baking cocoa for richness in taste and color.
If you like five-alarm chili, add additional hot sauces. I freeze the chili in individual for a quick lunch or supper.
2 tbsp. olive oil 1/2 cup chopped onion 2 cloves minced garlic 1 package (20 oz.) cut butternut squash 1 can (14 1/2 oz. ) no salt added diced tomatoes 1 can (15.5 oz.) black beans, drained and rinsed 2 cans (15.5 oz) cannellini beans 1 can (15.5 oz.) garbanzos beans, drained and rinsed 1 box (32 oz.) unsalted vegetable stock 3 tbsp. tomato paste 2 tsp chili powder 2 tsp baking cocoa 1 teaspoon oregano leaves 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1 package (12 oz) Morning Star Farms Veggie Crumbles
Heat oil in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook and stir 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Add butternut squash and cook for additional ten minutes.
Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shrimp and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Cook until the shrimp are just opaque in the center, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the shrimp and juices to a bowl to cool.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons oil to the pan. Add the onions. Cook until tender, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until aromatic, 30 seconds. Add the rice. Stir until well coated and translucent in spots, about 2 minutes. Add the wine. Cook until the wine is absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add the clam juice, lemon juice, zest, and the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the rice is just tender and the risotto is creamy, stirring often, 13 to 14 minutes.
Add the shrimp. Mix in additional broth if needed, 1/4 cup at a time, until the risotto is creamy.
Cooking for me, is fun and creative; I derive enormous pleasure from preparing a delicious recipe. I inherited my passion for cooking from my mother. I loved to return home from school and sit on the countertop, sharing my day with her as I watched her cook. My time spent cooking with my mother motivated me to start my blog and share her cooking philosophy; I am amazed when I hear people say they can’t cook or don’t like cooking. I say if you love to eat, there is every reason to cook.
On my blog, my goal is to make cooking easy and fun. I’m not interested in being intimidated by an overly pretentious recipe with expensive or hard-to-locate ingredients. And my personal dislike too many waisted steps. I don’t show off on my blog; I want you to easily make my recipes to enjoy with family and friends. I love to entertain, and when I do, I want to enjoy my guests, not hibernating in the kitchen.
During the winter months, I make large vats of soups and stews to freeze for consumption later that provides quick and easy dinners when you are short on time. My life is like yours, with an endless to-do list, so when I am short on time, I can open my freezer and discover an array of made ahead meals.
I make my own soups and stews because I find the commercial and restaurant prepared versions are seasoned with too much salt. If you use the right seasonings, salt is a minimal ingredient for a good soup or stew. Limiting salt improves the taste of food and is a healthier option.
I hope I have given you a few reasons to be adventurous if you have never made your own soup or stew! Oh, did I mention I’d love to hear your successes!
If you want to make this a vegan or vegetarian stew, substitute plant-based sausage for chicken sausage.
White Bean and Sausage Soup
2tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
2medium carrots, finely diced
2celery stalks, finely diced
2garlic cloves, finely chopped
1tablespoon tomato paste
½teaspoon ground cumin
1 can (15.5 oz.) Cannellini beans, rinsed, I like Goya Organics, low salt
4 cups unsalted vegetable stock
2teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
1large rosemary sprig
2teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1pound sweet Italian chicken sausage or veggie sausage, cooked and sliced 3/4-inch thick*
½teaspoon black pepper
Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium-high. Add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Cook, stirring until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cumin to the pot. Cook, stirring, until dark golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in the beans, vegetable stock, salt, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer gently for about 30 minutes.
Add the sausage to the pot. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the vinegar and pepper. Remove the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf. Ladle into bowls and serve hot.
Roast the sausage on a sheet pan at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes.
Cooking should be fun! I am amazed when I hear people say they hate to cook! Why would you dislike something essential to survival and can be so creative? I like everyone who cooks has experienced disasters in the kitchen. I once made a cake that, when I frosted, slid off the plate and onto the floor.
Every misshape has made me the cook I am today, and I am grateful for all my cooking experiences.
If you are tackling a new recipe, my first suggestion is to read the recipe in total. Then gather all the tools you need and the ingredients and arrange them on your countertop in order of their use. This makes it so easy to follow the recipe for a novice. Even though I am an experienced cook, I take out my tools and ingredients before cooking.
Cooking is like any other skill; the more you practice, the better you become.
Butternut squash is one of my favorite vegetables. And so delicious with kale in a vegetarian lasagna. I roast both to bring out the flavor; instead of a traditional tomato, I used bechamel sauce. No-boil noodles cut the preparation time.
Butternut Squash and Kale Lasagna
1 package (20 ounces) butternut squash
4 cups kale, cut into 2-inch pieces and stems removed
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 sage leaves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Unsalted butter, for the baking dish1 cup grated fontina cheese (about 4 ounces)
1 cup grated low-moisture mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces)
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
15 ounces ricotta cheese (can be part-skim)
2 eggs, beaten
9 no-boil lasagna noodles
Make the vegetables: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Toss the squash and kale with 2 tablespoons olive oil on a baking sheet; season with salt.
Roast, rotating the baking sheets once until the vegetables are tender, 18 to 20 minutes; set aside. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
Meanwhile, make the bechamel. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the sage and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the flour until smooth; cook, whisking, until the flour is lightly golden but not brown, about 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, occasionally stirring, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add parmesan cheese. Stir in the nutmeg.
Assemble the lasagna. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Toss the cheeses and the flour in a bowl; set aside 1/2 cup for topping. Evenly coat the bottom of the dish with 1/2 cup of the bechamel.
Lay 3 noodles side by side on top. Cover with one-third of the remaining bechamel. Sprinkle with half of the remaining cheese mixture, half of the ricotta cheese, and top with half of the vegetable mixture. Arrange 3 more noodles on top and repeat the layers (bechamel, cheese, ricotta, vegetables). Top with the remaining 3 noodles, then cover with the remaining bechamel; sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup cheese.
Loosely cover the dish with foil and bake until bubbly, about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 additional minutes until browned and bubbling. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
To make ahead, cover the unbaked lasagna with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. To bake, remove the plastic wrap and follow baking instructions.
To freeze, cover lasagna tightly with plastic wrap, then aluminum foil. Freeze up to 3 months. To bake, remove the plastic wrap, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for 90 minutes. Uncover, bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.
An interesting salad adds to a meal with taste, texture, and color. Food should appeal to all the senses not just taste. Lately, I have been obsessed with Slaws which create for different seasons and occasions. And Slaws are healthy especially dressed with simple ingredients. for a colorful holiday slaw, I added pomegranate arils and pecans for crunch.
This recipe works well with other veggies like Brussel sprouts, kale or broccoli. Experiment and see what works for you.
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3 cups cabbage, thinly sliced
2 cup purple cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 cup carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 cup baby kale
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 Anjou pear, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup pomegranate arils (seeds)
Whisk together oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Place cabbages, carrots, and kale in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the dressing, and toss to combine. Let stand at room temperated 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Add pecans, pear slices, and pomegranate arils, and toss to combine. Drizzle with remaining dressing just before serving.
Bundt cakes are so easy to make and I love this red velvet with a cream cheese filling. Perfect for a festive Christmas dessert.
I used a plastic squeeze bottle to drizzle the icing. The bottle allows me to control the flow of the icing.
Red Velvet Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese
1½ cups unsalted butter softened
3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup whole buttermilk
1 (1-ounce) bottle liquid red food coloring
Cream Cheese Filling (recipe follows)
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Preheat oven to 325°. Spray a 12- to 15-cup Bundt pan with baking spray with flour.
Cake: In a large bowl, beat butter and granulated sugar with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of the bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vinegar and vanilla.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating just until combined after each addition. Stir in food coloring.
Spoon half of the batter into prepared pan. Top with Cream Cheese Filling. Spoon remaining batter overfilling. Use a wooden skew or knife to swirl cream cheese filling into the batter.
Bake until a wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean, 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack.
In a small bowl, whisk together confectioners’ sugar and cream until smooth. Drizzle over cooled cake, and sprinkle with red and white sprinkles, if desired.
Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Cream Cheese Filling
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
⅓ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a small bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add egg and vanilla, beating until combined.
Who doesn’t love cheesecake? That rich, creamy taste savored with each bite, a sweet treat that is the perfect finish for any meal! The variety and texture of cheesecakes are endless. Cheesecake can be very dense and heavy or light and fluffy. You can use graham crackers, chocolate cookies, or pastry for the crust and fill it with your favorite recipe. I guess you can tell I love making all types of cheesecakes. Also, flavorings and toppings are endless to create wonderfully tasty cakes for special occasions.
At Christmas, I like to make an Eggnog cheesecake topped with cranberries and cherry preserves for a festive dessert table.
I like this recipe because it is light with a baking method that ensures the cheesecake doesn’t crack. I made either a fruit topping, or if you prefer, you can make a whipped cream topping sprinkled with sparkly candied crystals.
2 ¼ cups (302g) graham cracker crumbs
½ cup (112g) salted butter, melted
3 tbsp (39g) sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg
24 ounces (678g) cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (207g) sugar
3 tbsp (24g) all purpose flour
1 cup (230g) eggnog
3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 12-ounce jar cherry preserves
1 cup cranberries
1 tablespoon brandy or rum
Preheat oven to 325°F (163°C). Line a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan with parchment paper in the bottom and grease the sides. Combine the crust ingredients in a small bowl. Press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then set aside to cool. Cover the outsides of the pan with aluminum foil so that water from the water bath cannot get in. Set prepared pan aside.
Reduce oven to 300°F (148°C). In a large mixer bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar,
and flour until well combined (Use low speed to keep less air from getting into the batter, which can cause cracks). Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
Add the eggnog and nutmeg and mix on low speed until well combined.Add the eggs one at a time, beating slowly and scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Pour the cheesecake filling into crust and spread evenly.
Place springform pan (covered with aluminum foil) inside another larger pan. Fill the larger pan with enough warm water to go about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. The water should not go above the top edge of the aluminum foil on the springform pan. Bake for 1 hour and 30-40 minutes.
Turn off heat and leave cheesecake in oven with the door closed for 30 minutes.
Crack the oven door and leave the cheesecake in the oven for about 30 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven and chill until firm, 5-6 hours or overnight
Cook and stir cherry preserves and cranberries in a small saucepan over medium heat until preserves are melted and cranberries start to pop. Stir in 1 tablespoon of brandy or rum. Cool for 30 minutes.
Remove the cheesecake from the pan. Spoon topping over prepared cheesecake.Refrigerate the cheesecake until ready to serve. Cheesecake is best for 3-4 days.
Healthy eating during the Holiday Season is not an easy task, beginning with Thanksgiving and continuous munching to the New Year. Celebrating, enjoying food with family and friends is an essential facet of the season for me. To not become unhealthy and pack on the weight, I’ve created vegetarian options for our everyday meals that are flavorful and healthy. I make my vegetarian meatball Italian style to add to homemade tomato sauce. I make a large batch of marinara and freeze to have available for a quick meal. You can purchase a good quality sauce if you prefer. The link to my sauce is below.
2 tablespoon olive oil 1 (8 ounces) package mushrooms, I used portabella. 1/2 cup chopped onions 3 cloves chopped garlic 4 teaspoons Italian Herbs 1/4 teaspoons crushed red 1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed. 3 tablespoons tomato paste 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese 1 cup plain bread crumbs or cooked Arborio rice 1 egg, beaten salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 450F. Heat oil in a large skillet, add onions, mushroom, Italian herbs, and red pepper. Saute until onions are soft. Add minced garlic a saute a few minutes longer. Do not let garlic brown.
Transfer to a food processer. Add beans and tomato paste. Pulse until combined, not pureed.
Add parmesan cheese, pulse to combine. Next, add bread crumbs and pulse.
Transfer to a bowl and add beaten egg. The egg binds the mixture together. Once the mixture binds together, make the meatballs. I like my balls’ smalls. They can easily be made large, like big meatballs.
Place meatballs on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Lightly spray with cooking spray. Bake for 12-14 minutes until browned.
Add to tomato sauce for meatless spaghetti and meatballs.
Living in New England, the weather is so unpredictable. We had 6-8 inches of snow on October 30th this year. Early for our Boston suburbs. As soon as the weather changes, I started making batches of soup to freeze. Soup on a wintery day is my favorite meal.
I use to roast whole butternut squash, then peel and cut for this soup. Recently I jokingly said that I was changing my middle name to easy. Now I purchase packaged peeled and cut butternut squash, and the taste of the soup has not been altered.
Roasted vegetables are deliciously flavorful, and roasting butternut squash brings out a nutty flavor. Lately, I have been using pepitas in salads. To add crunch and heat, I tossed the pepitas with spices and toasted them.
Another benefit of this soup is that it is low fat and vegan, very healthy!
1 package(20 oz.) butternut squash
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 celery rib, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1 carrot, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1 tart granny smith apple, peeled, cored, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375. Line one large baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Place squash, onion, celery, carrot, and apple on a baking pan. Roast for 30-35 minutes.
Working in batches, purée the vegetables in a blender alternating with the vegetable broth until the mixture is smooth. Pour the puréed vegetable mixture into a large stockpot.
Add cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper to the squash soup and heat until hot.
Top with toasted spicy pepitas. (optional)
1/2 cup of pepitas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 hot paprika
1/4 cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 black pepper
Place pepitas in a bowl. Add the oil, sea salt, paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and black pepper; toss to combine. Put pepitas in a toaster oven pan and toast for 2 minutes.