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.
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.
Mediterranean Stuffed Pepper with Turkey, Orzo and Feta Cheese
Some foods shout out comfort and remind me of my mother. Stuffed peppers was a staple in our home when I was growing up. My mother, a creative cook, never made anything with the same ingredients, doctoring up, her words, any recipe she cut and saved from ‘Woman’s Magazine.’ She never wrote down any of her adjustments or changes to a recipe. She liked the freedom from structure and routine when cooking and living her life. On her bookshelf, she stacked her collection of recipes in a pile that she skimmed through for ideas before she fashioned a delicious meal from scratch.
I share so many of my mother’s passions, cooking, gardening, entertaining, and family. One area that we are total opposites is the organization and structure of life. I am an organization geek and live by having a set place for everything.
When my mother would come for a visit, she would marvel at how organized I was and how my life flow systematically. I think she found it amusing that I gravitated to the direct opposite of her raising my family. My children had chores each day, which they completed without being asked and helped in many ways at home. Although she admired my skills, they were not for her. She told me that I was like my grandmother, organized and structured, something she hated growing up. And when she had her own family, she wanted nothing to do with my grandmother’s rules and tasks.
Now that my mother and grandmother are no longer with me, I am grateful that I inherited the best traits from both women.
Mediterranean Stuffed Pepper with Turkey, Orzo and Feta Cheese
2 red, 2 yellow, and 2 orange peppers
1 cup orzo, cook according to package instructions, cooled
1 lb. ground turkey
1 cup mozzarella
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon mint
1/2 teaspoon dill
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon zest of lemon
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoon olive oi
l2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 can(14.5 oz) petite chopped tomatoes, I use Hunt’s no salt added
2 tablespoon parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350F. Cut off the top of each bell pepper and reserve the tops; discard the seeds and white membranes. Put the turkey in a large bowl; add 1 cup mozzarella, 1/4 cup feta, orzo, oregano, mint, dill, allspice, cinnamon garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Gently mix with your hands. Stuff each bell pepper evenly with the turkey-rice mixture; cover with the pepper tops. Place in baking dish.
Make the sauce: Heat oil in a deep and wide saucepan. Add garlic cooking until translucent, don’t brown. Add oregano, pepper, and salt until combined. Slowly pour in tomatoes cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Top peppers with tomato sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Cover with lid or aluminum foil and bake her for 60 minutes
Autumn has holds a special place in my heart. I was born in the fall, school starts in the fall (I loved school), and I mysteriously become energized, renewed with the changing of the leaves and the crisp fell of morning New England air. Along with the change in season, my cooking and baking use different ingredients and flavors.
I love hearty stews packed with veggies and flavor. I prefer to make my own soups and stews, and I can control the fat and salt content, making healthy dishes.
Kale can be tough, and lightly cooking before adding to a stew tenderizes the veggie. Colorful vegetables, fragrant fresh herbs, and a low salt vegetable broth make this a hearty, healthy option.
This recipe makes a large quantity of stew and freezes well. If I am not feeding a group, I like to freeze the stew in individual containers.
1 small bunch Tuscan or other kale, center ribs and stems removed Kosher salt ½ cup olive oil, divided, plus more for serving 2 medium carrots, peeled, finely chopped 2 celery stalks, finely chopped 2 leek, white and pale-green parts only, chopped 4 cloves garlic cloves, chopped ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 2 cans diced tomatoes, no salt 8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth 3 15-oz. cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed 4 sprigs thyme 1 sprig marjoram or oregano 1 bay leaf
1 cup Italian farro, rinsed
2 inch piece of Parmesan rind (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper Shaved Parmesan (for serving)
Working in batches cook kale in a large pot of boiling salted water until slightly softened, about 3 minutes per batch. Rinse to cool. Squeeze out excess water; roughly chop. Set aside.
Heat ¼ cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, and leek; stir often until softened, 8–10 minutes.
Add garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes. Cook, stirring frequently, until liquid is evaporated and tomatoes begin to stick to the bottom of the pot, 10–15 minutes.
Add broth, beans, thyme, marjoram, bay leaf, reserved greens, farro and partisan rind; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until flavors meld and soup thickens slightly, 40–50 minutes. Discard sprigs and bay leaf.
DO AHEAD: Soup can be made 2 days ahead. Let cool slightly; chill until cold. Cover and keep chilled. Reheat before continuing. I also like to freeze in small containers for later.
Springtime in New England our markets are bursting with fresh asparagus, which is one of my favorite veggies. I love to combine asparagus with leeks then flavor with thyme and lemon. I used this combination to make this rich goat cheese quiche. A wonderfully easy dish, I used store-bought piecrust, saving time, and cleanup while maintaining the rich fresh favor.
Asparagus Leek and Goat Cheese Quiche
1 (14.1-oz.) pkg. refrigerated piecrusts
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced leeks
1 chopped shallot
1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces)
1/2 kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 whole milk
1/2 heavy cream
4 large eggs
4 oz crumbled goat cheese tablespoons
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon lemon zest
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Unroll piecrust; stack on a lightly floured surface. Roll stacked piecrust into a 12-inch circle. Fit piecrust into a 10-inch deep-dish pie plate or a lightly greased tart pan with removable bottom; press into fluted edges. Flute and pitch if using a pie plate. Trim off excess piecrust along edges if using a tart pan.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high. Add leeks, shallots, asparagus, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and cool 5 minutes. Reserve 4 asparagus spears for decoration.
Whisk together eggs, milk, cream, nutmeg, goat cheese, mozzarella, salt, pepper and lemon zest
Spoon asparagus mixture in the prepared pie dish. Gently add egg mixture. Arrange reserved asparagus spears on top. Bake in the preheated oven until set, about 45-50 minutes, covering with foil to prevent excess browning if necessary. Cool on baking sheet on a wire rack 20 minutes before serving.
While my husband and I have been social distancing during the pandemic, running out on a whim to purchase ingredients or locating specific products has been challenging. Instead I’ve been creative using what I have on hand to make dinner. I love to cook so I usually have certain stables in the pantry and garlic, shallots, olives are a necessity in my kitchen. If you stock your pantry with canned tomatoes, artichokes, olives, olive oil, pasta, and have garlic, shallots, or onions on hand, a meal is easy to put together without running to the store.
I also like to keep a few Asian ingredients for a quick easy meal but my repertoire isn’t very extensive. I realized during this time of social distancing that although I love Asian dishes we normally go out to a restaurant for Thai or Chinese food. Take out is an option, which we have tried during the pandemic. Now I want to expand my cooking and include more healthy Asian dishes. I love cooking with fresh veggies. I look forward to this new cooking adventure. Who knew that after all these years I could find more outlets for my cooking skills.
My favorite weekday meal requirements are simple: flavorful, easy, and little clean-up, two dirty pan limit! And my Veggie pasta is perfect!
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, chopped
1 can(14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, no salt. I like Hunts tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 crushed red pepper
1/2 can(14 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained and sliced in quarters
1/2 cup Castelvetrano Italian olives, I love Mezzetta olives
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
4 oz fresh mozzarella, chopped
1/2 box thin spaghetti
Heat olive oil in a medium pan. Add garlic and shallot, saute for 5 minutes until the shallot is translucent. Add diced tomatoes, and wine. Season with salt and red pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add artichokes hearts, olives, and basil. Simmer for 5 minutes
While the tomato mixture is simmering, cook spaghetti according to package instructions. Drain and put in large bowl
Add mozzarella to the tomato mixture cooking just until the cheese starts to melt. Remove from heat and toss with spaghetti.
When I’m cooking with canned tuna I love to use Italian canned
tuna in olive oil, fabulously flavorful. Adding cauliflower and
tuna to pasta makes a deliciously easy mean that is ready
quickly for a weekday meal. And this is a healthy dinner for the
whole family. Serve with a large fresh salad, and crisp baked
16 ounces Cavatappi pasta
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small cauliflower head (about 2 1/2 pounds), cored and cut into
8 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (4.9 oz.) Italian Tuna in olive oil, I use Tonnino Tuna
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add pasta and 1tablespoon salt and cook to al dente. Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, then drain and set aside. Add two tablespoon olive oil to a 12-inch skillet and heat to simmering. Add cauliflower, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring, until light golden brown and crisp and tender.
Stir in the garlic, tuna, rosemary, pepper flakes, and 2 tablespoon butter. Cook, stirring until the garlic is softened, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the pasta cooking water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Toss in the pasta and the remaining 2 tablespoon butter.
Cook, tossing until the sauce has thickened and coats pasta, about 1 minute.
Remove from heat, stir in lean juice. Transfer to a serving plate and sprinkle with the lemon zest and parmesan cheese. Serve with more parmesan cheese
I love nostalgic recipes that remind me of my mother and childhood. Growing up in the fifties or sixties, Tuna Noodle Casserole was a familiar staple my Mom shared with her family, perfect comfort food. My Mom, an excellent cook, typically prepared fresh dinners, even she had a recipe for Tuna Noodle casserole that yes included Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. My Mom, first-generation Italian, considered herself a modern American wife and mother.
I made Tuna Noodle Casserole for my family but cut down on fat and salt by making my own sauce. And although some great recipes top the casserole with crushed potato chips, I prefer plain panko bread crumbs, and I add thyme and lemon zest.
I use a dutch oven for cooking the veggies and for baking the casserole in the oven. I like Le Creuset, but there are many excellent manufactures of the dutch oven.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 cup asparagus cut into 2-in pieces
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup half and half
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
12 ounces wide egg noodles
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyère cheese (about 4 ounces)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
2 5- to 6-ounce cans Italian tunapacked in olive oil), drained, broken into 1/2-inch chunks
1 1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs
2 teaspoon lemon zest
Melt unsalted butter in heavy dutch over medium heat. Add mushrooms and asparagus to saucepan; sprinkle with sea salt. Cover the pan and cook until vegetables are tender but not brown, frequently stirring, about 8 minutes. Add flour; stir 1 minute. Gradually add milk and half and half; simmer until mixture thickens slightly, frequently stirring, about 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice. Season sauce with 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Remove sauce from heat.
Meanwhile, cook egg noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, stirring occasionally. Drain noodles, reserving 3/4 cup noodle cooking liquid. Add noodles to the sauce and combine. Add grated Gruyère cheese and thyme and stir to blend; add reserved noodle cooking liquid by tablespoons until mixture is moist and creamy (about 1/4 -1/2 cup). Fold in tuna, including oil.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover with foil and keep refrigerated.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Bake noodle casserole, covered with foil, until heated through, about 20 minutes if freshly made or 30 minutes if chilled. Remove foil. Sprinkle panko bread crumbs, lemon zest and 1 tablespoon thyme over and continue to bake, uncovered, until the top is golden brown and filling bubbles, about 10 minutes longer. Serve hot.
Pasta, a most versatile ingredient, is a perennial favorite in my cooking repertoire. Pasta dishes are easy to make, feed a large group, versatile, and delicious. Now that my husband and I are empty-nesters, I make this Baked Ziti on Sunday for dinner then I package into smaller size portions. I freeze for future dinners when I don’t have time to cook.
If you don’t want to make your own sauce you can substitute a good store-bought prepared sauce, I would use two jars. Add sausage and simmer sauce for about 5 – 10 minutes. Then proceed with the remaining recipe.
You can substitute vegan sausage for chicken and make the baked ziti vegetarian. Release your creativity when you cook and follow your instincts for delicious dinners to share with family and friends. All you need to add to this meal is a salad and freshly baked bread. Oh, and don’t forget the wine!
Baked Ziti with Ricotta and Sausage
1 package ( 5 sausages) Chicken or Vegetable sausages
3tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1teaspoon dried oregano
½teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely crushed
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1(28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes with their juices
1(14-ounce) can crushed or strained tomatoes
1 package (1 pound) ziti pasta
8ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-size pieces
8 ounces whole-milk ricotta
⅓cup grated Parmesan
¼cup basil leaves
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the sausage from the refrigerator 10 – 15 minutes before cooking to remove the chill from the meat. Layer the baking pan with parchment paper and place sausage evenly on the cooking sheet. Place pan in the oven on the middle rack. Bake sausages for 20-25 minutes. Cool then slice into bite-size pieces.
Lower oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high.Add garlic, oregano, fennel seeds, and red pepper flakes, and cook for 2 minutes until garlic is translucent not browned.
Stir in whole tomatoes and their juice, using a spoon to break them up. Add crushed tomatoes, bay leaves, and 2 teaspoons salt, and bring to a simmer. Add sliced sausage and simmer for 10 minutes to thicken slightly. Remove bay leaf.
Cook pasta according to package directions and drain.
Place a 1/4 cup of tomato sauce in a large baking dish. This recipe layers the pasta with ricotta, tomato sauce, and mozzarella. First, arrange 1/3 of pasta then add 1/2 ricotta. Next place 1/3 tomato sauce over pasta and ricotta. Top with 1/3 mozzarella. The next layer will again be 1/3 pasta, 1/2 ricotta, 1/3 mozzarella, and 1/3 sauce. For the final layer complete by layering the remaining pasta, sauce and finish with mozzarella. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over the top, then transfer to oven. Bake until pasta is tender when poked with a fork, and cheese is bubbly and lightly golden 30 minutes. (If you’d like a more deeply browned topping, run the pan under the broiler for 1 or 2 minutes.) Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.