Tag Archives: pasta

Eggplant and Goat Cheese Bake

11 Nov

I will be honest… I learned this recipe from somewhere on the Internet. The thing is… I can’t remember where or who to give the credit to.

I made this recipe for the first time about 3 years ago when I was staying with my sister for the birth of my nephew, who turned 3 recently. I was craving eggplant… and I wanted an easy way to make it without frying it, which you all know is my favorite eggplant preparation. I did it at home in Puerto Rico and also at my sister’s after scoring a huge bag of eggplants at The Boys Farmer’s Market.

I vaguely remembered what I did the initial time I made it. So who knows, maybe I did came up with THIS version after all.

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Eggplant and Goat Cheese Bake

1 medium eggplant, find one as light as possible, peeled and diced
1 pint of grape tomatoes, divided, all cut in half
1 tbs of dried basil, I use freeze dried
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 ounces of goat cheese
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, optional
Brown Rice Fettuccini, I use Tinkyada brand
  1. In an oven-proof dish place all the diced eggplant pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, minced garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss all to combine well.
  2. Add over the eggplant half of the grape tomatoes that you’ve cut in half already. Leave aside the rest of the tomatoes.
  3. Sprinkle the dried basil over the tomatoes. Add the goat cheese inc crumbles over the tomatoes. Drizzle a final stream of olive oil over everything and a last sprinkle of salt and pepper to make sure everything is well seasoned.

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4.  Place in a 375F oven for about 40 minutes. Turn off the oven.

5.  Boil water to make the pasta according to the package directions. I use Brown Rice pasta, but you can use your favorite brand/kind

6.  Drain the pasta, return to the pot and add the eggplant bake. Mix well to combine. Add Parmesan cheese, if using. Add the fresh tomatoes you set aside earlier. This adds an element of freshness that contrasts really nice with the creaminess of the baked eggplant.

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Serve with your favorite salad and baked plantains on the side…  This is so easy to make ahead and just re-heat when you’re boiling the pasta.  Easy dinner without a lot of tending to it.

The best snacks for race training…

8 Jul

Do you keep track of your New Year’s Resolutions? I do… or at least I try to.

I had as a New Year’s Resolution to race 3 half marathons and so far I have achieved 2/3 of those goals, racing the Miami ½ marathon in January and the Puerto Rico ½ Marathon at the beginning of May. In both, I have finished with my best times so far. I have a lot to thank to my coach, Chewi Candelario. He is strict and fun at the same time. I fully recommend him if you’re looking into training for a running event or a triathlon.

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This running business is a newfound love for me… I have always been active, but never considered myself an athlete. I’ve always leaned more towards the artistic side. I’ve always been a dancer and later on, a yogi… but never an “athlete”. Now I train 4 times a week, I try to never miss a long run on Saturday mornings to the point of not going out with my friends on Friday nights to be able to get up at 3AM to be ready for our 5AM calls.  I even have a running/training group when I am in FL visiting my sister and nephews,  which is quite often lately.  I now know the beauty of ice water baths and Epsom salts. It’s a sacrifice… but I’ve gained so much from it – the social aspect of running is the best part of it all. I’ve made so many friends who are all into health and fitness… it’s a real joy.

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Part of all this training is how to fuel your body… before training, after training and leading to a race. Being a vegetarian, you just need to choose adequately those foods that will fit into your training regime and your veggie lifestyle. So many people stress the importance of proteins when working out and I was hesitant I would not be able to feed my body as the nutritionists were “educating me”. One of the funny things was a list of snacks given to us as examples of what to eat before training and after training. The list was 95% all vegetarian things… this was comforting and relieved me of the usual burden of figuring out what could be applicable for me as a vegetarian.

I want to share with you what has worked for me and maybe it can take a little pressure off you if you’re training or considering starting training for an athletic event. I want to make full disclosure that I am basing all these recommendations on my own personal experience. I am not a nutritionist or a dietician nor a certified trainer. I have applied the knowledge acquired from several sources, including listening to my very own body how it reacts when I eat something in particular.

I’ve noticed over the years that I can’t have 3 full meals a day. I have breakfast, as I always get up hungry. But I can’t have lunch and dinner too. This is too much for me… I can have breakfast, a snack, a late lunch at around 2-3PM and another snack at night or after training. When I have dinner, I find it just takes longer to digest and I won’t have a restful sleep and will wake up with a queasy stomach, especially at 4AM before a long run. So that’s what works for me… 2 full meals and 2 snacks. There are exceptions to this rule, but it’s what works for me most of the time.

Snacks are what I mostly eat after training. I try to include a combination of protein and complex carbs to help me repair muscle and not feel tired and achy the next morning. This is what I tend to eat most of the time:

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich on Whole Wheat bread

Peanut Butter and Cream Cheese Sandwich on Whole Wheat bread

Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich on Whole Wheat bread

Hummus sandwich with tomatoes, baby spinach and mustard on whole wheat bread

Sandwich with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes,  avocados, lettuce on whole grain ciabatta

Cottage Cheese and Fruits

Cottage Cheese and Whole Grain Tortilla Chips

Cottage Cheese Dip 2  KFC

Greek Yogurt with Fresh Fruits

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Fresh Fruit Smoothie with Yogurt and Flaxseeds

Smoothie Collage

Granola with Greek yogurt and fresh fruits

Granola Bar with Peanut Butter with a glass of milk

Cold Cereal with a few slices of cheese and a banana or other fruit

Oatmeal made with Almond Milk with a banana on the side

Almond Milk Oatmeal 3

Oatmeal-based Cold Cereal and a glass of milk

I recently learned the importance of adding lots of dark leafy greens to my diet when training to optimize my performance and avoid injuries. So I’ll be adding some spinach to my smoothies more often from now on. I have shared some ideas in the past that are just delicious:

SS Smoothie

Stealth Shake

Or just add spinach or kale or Swiss chard to your favorite fruit smoothie combination. I have drunk Swiss chard juice in the past and, believe me, you much rather have it in a fruit smoothie than a straight juice format. If you rather not see the green flecks in your beverage, I suggest you use dark berries, such as blueberries or blackberries. They will mask the green bits better than using just banana, strawberries or raspberries in your smoothie.

Before a race, we’re always recommended to bulk up on carbs the day before. Like I said, I usually have a pasta-based lunch the afternoon prior to a race. These are some of the pasta dishes that work best for me:

Pasta with Marinated Tomatoes mixed in with pieces of fresh mozzarella

Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese with Tomatoes and Spinach

Orzotto with Mushrooms and Spinach

Orzotto with Mushrooms and Spinach

Do you train for marathons and half-marathons?? What do you fuel yourself with??

Orzotto with Mushroom and Spinach

21 Jun

Orzotto… to be honest I do not know if this is an official Italian term or not. But I decided to use the term to refer to this orzo pasta made to resemble a risotto. Makes sense now, no??

I have been playing for a few weeks not with dried mushrooms to give added flavor to my dishes. This is one of my better experiments lately… I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

The beauty of this dish is that it cooks almost by itself; no need to be over the stove stirring rice to get a creamy consistency. The creaminess so characteristic of risottos comes from the cheeses blended into the orzo pasta. I used my trusted Sargento 6-cheese Italian cheese blend, Sargento Parmesan and a newfound favorite, crème fraiche.

Sargento Collage

This is one of the recipes I’ve developed to fuel myself up before training for the half marathons I’ve been doing the last few months. It’s easy, it’s filling and it’s nice enough to make even for a romantic dinner.

Orzotto with Mushrooms and Spinach

ORZOTTO WITH MUSHROOM AND SPINACH

½ cup whole-wheat orzo pasta
1 cup water
1 ounce of dried mushrooms – porcini or your favorite kind will do fine here…
1 tsp Knorr vegetable stock or ½ vegetable bouillon cube
½ onion, chopped
2 tbs of olive oil
5-6 white button mushrooms, chopped
1 sprig of fresh thyme
3-4 handfuls of fresh baby spinach
3 tbs crème fraiche
3/4 cup Sargento shredded 6-cheese Italian cheese blend
¼ cup Sargento shredded Parmesan cheese
  1. Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a small sauce pan. Turn off the heat and rehydrate the ounce of dried mushrooms in this water. Cover and let the mushrooms soak for about 30 mins.
  2. After that time has elapsed, strain the mushrooms, reserving the broth you have now created. Cut the mushrooms up in little pieces and set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan over medium to high heat, bring back to boil the cup of water that now has become mushroom broth. Make sure you have 1 cup of broth before you start boiling again, if not, just complete the amount with some water. Add the vegetable stock gel or bouillon cube to this broth while it’s coming up to temperature.
  4. While the broth comes to a boil, in a medium sauté pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil and sauté the onions for a few minutes. Add the chopped fresh mushrooms and allow them to cook and brown on all sides. For this, you need to leave them alone for a few minutes at a time for the mushrooms to get some color. Add the reconstituted mushrooms and cook them with the browned fresh mushrooms. Strip the leaves from the fresh thyme sprig and add to the pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  5. When the broth is boiling, add the orzo pasta and mix in well to avoid the pasta sticking together. I partially cover the pot to maintain the level of boiling but be able to reduce the heat of the stove to medium.
  6. While the pasta is almost done, add the baby spinach to the pasta saucepot. Cover the pot and turn off the heat from the stove. Allow the heat from the pot and the stove finish cooking the pasta and spinach. After about 5-6 minutes, the pasta should be done and the water should be almost completely absorbed by the pasta. If you find there’s still too much liquid left, you can certainly strain it. But it does not need to be super strained because this broth will help us create the creamy sauce…
  7. Uncover the pot and stir in the cooked mushrooms, the crème fraiche, the shredded cheese blend and the Parmesan. Mix well to combine everything very well. I allow the pasta to stand cover for about 3-4 minutes while I prepare a salad or any other side dish. I find this helps the sauce to get creamy and all the flavors to fully combine.

The result is a creamy rice-like pasta… easy to make and even easier to eat. It is full of flavor because the pasta absorbed the mushroom broth we created.

Hope you are inspired to make this orzotto at home as well…

This post was inspired by products from Sargento Cheese. They did provide me with their cheese for use and review but the recipe, comments and opinions are all my own.

Spinach, Tomato and Cheese Stove Top Macaroni

22 Feb

I prefer stove-top mac and cheese recipes to mac & cheeses you bake in the oven…

Why?? After the pasta is cooked and the cheese sauce is made, why do we need to cook it all over again??? I like a cheesey topping just like the next person, but I also like to have my macaroni with lots of sauce and unfortunately, baking dries much of the sauce out.

So this is a recipe that came about with no recipe in mind at all… My aunt likes when I make pasta in cheese sauces. I was in the supermarket and I started buying ingredients without knowing how I would make them in the end. The result was a great pasta dish that delighted not just the people who ate it with me initially, but my friends on the internet as well. So to all of you who were drooling over the pic on FB, here’s the recipe!!!!

This is a large recipe for me… I rarely ask you to make the whole box of pasta at once. This will feed about 8 people or 4 people with leftovers. You can certainly halve this recipe… I do it aaaaaaalllllllll the time.

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SPINACH, TOMATO AND CHEESE MACARONI

1 box of whole wheat macaroni
½ bag of frozen chopped spinach
1 small onion, diced
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbs olive oil
2 cups diced tomatoes
2 cups half and half
4 oz cream cheese
2 cups Italian blend shredded cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
Parmesan Cheese, grated to garnish

 

  1. In a large pot, much larger than you think you’ll need, bring about a gallon of water to a boil. When the water reaches it’s boiling point, salt the water and add the pasta. Stir a few times so the pasta won’t stick together. Cook the pasta according to pasta directions until al dente.
  2. While the pasta cooks, we make the sauce… they’ll be done at about the same time.
  3. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat add some olive oil, the onions and garlic. If you have sofrito, you could add a tbs if you want as an added bonus. Sautee them for a few minutes so the onion softens. Avoid the garlic getting burned.
  4. Add the spinach still frozen… the heat from the pan will thaw it. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the sauce pan for a few minutes. This will help the spinach thaw quicker.
  5. When the spinach is thawed and looks more cooked, add the diced tomatoes and cream cheese. Stir well to combine. Afterwards, add the half and half and allow it to softly boil so the sauce will thicken in consistency. Season again lightly with salt and pepper. Stir a few times as the sauce is thickening to avoid any scorching on the bottom of the pan.
  6. When the sauce has gotten a tad thicker, but is still runny, turn off the stove and add the shredded cheese in small batches. Stir consistently and allow the cheese to melt into the sauce.
  7. When the pasta is done, drain it well… but even if a little water is kept it’s no big deal. Return the pasta to the larger pot and add the sauce to it. Stir well to combine. Try to stir carefully to avoid breaking up the pasta…

Serve with grated parmesan on top with your favorite salad ( we had to have avocados in Miami) and baked sweet plantains.

 

Tell me what you think… Are you brave enough to “invent” a pasta dish on the fly like that??? I want to hear from all my friends on FB that were ohhhh-ing and ahhh-ing when they saw the picture initially. Have you made it?? Tell me what you think. Gracias!!!

Cheese, Spinach and Mushroom Stuffed Manicotti

17 Jan

My un-married friends (which is not the same as being single) and I like to get together and celebrate ourselves, our friendship and the Xmas season. We were also celebrating the new remodeled kitchen at one of my friend’s… She invited us all for a night of music, great company and Madelyn’s cooking.

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That’s the funny thing… my friend loves to cook, and she does it very well, but when she invites, Madelyn does the cooking. I do not mind at all because it gives me a chance to showcase a few recipes I’ve had in the works. Tired of the same Xmas food fare people eat at most parties during the season, I planned a healthy pasta menu with low-fat cheeses and tons of flavors. Annie Mariel would bring the salad… something composed, that’s her type of cooking.

This pasta dish is super simple and you don’t even need to cook the pasta beforehand. Due to time and availability this time around, I made this recipe using regular semolina pasta, but I have certainly made it using brown rice pasta and whole wheat pasta. In none of those cases I have pre-boiled the pasta. There is no need to do that as long as you have enough liquid for the pasta to cook in. The liquid will come from the tomato sauce and the liquid in the filling. This is a mix and bake recipe perfect for entertaining or a pasta night with the family.

 

manicotti - cheese, spinach and mushrooms

 

CHEESE, SPINACH AND MUSHROOM STUFFED MANICOTTI

1 box of whole wheat manicotti
1 box of Pomi chopped tomatoes
16 oz tub of part skim ricotta cheese
16 oz tub of cottage cheese
1 cup of grated Parmesan Cheese, divided
1 cup of shredded Italian Cheeses, divided
1 cup frozen spinach, mostly thawed and finely cut
1 packet of button mushrooms, finely chopped
½ onion, chopped finely
1 clove of garlic, smashed
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
¼ cup of toasted pine nuts
1 tbs basil, chopped – I use the freeze dried kind or Italian Seasonings
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

 

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350F.
  2. Let’s put together the filling…
  3. In a medium skillet over medium-hi heat, add a drizzle of olive oil and add the onion, garlic clove and mushrooms. Mix together and cook without stirring too much so the mushroom get to brown and caramelize. Move them once in a while, but leave them alone for periods of time and allow them to get brown.
  4. When the mushrooms are brown and fragrant, and to me they smell like steak, believe it or not, add a splash of soy sauce and a splash of balsamic vinegar to season. Add the thyme leaves and sauté a few times. Discard the pieces of garlic you may find and set aside.
  5. In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta, the cottage cheese, ½ cup shredded cheeses and ½ cup Parmesan cheese. Also add the toasted pine nuts and the spinach, squeezing any extra liquid from it, but it does not have to be super dry. We want some moisture still because it will help cook the pasta. Also, add the cooked mushrooms. Mix everything together. Season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and set aside.
  6. In another bowl, add the chopped tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and season with salt, pepper and the basil or Italian seasonings mix. Mix everything together to combine all ingredients well.
  7. Transfer ½ the sauce to the bottom of a 9” x 13” baking dish. I used a disposable baking dish because I do not bring my vegetarian-only dishes to anyone’s home where I am not 300% they’re vegetarian just like me.
  8. Using a small spoon, fill each dried manicotti sleeve with the cheese/spinach/mushroom filling we just did. Place each manicotti sleeve one next the other in the baking dish. Some will go one way, the rest across, but they should all fit. This is the most time consuming part of the process. Keep on going until all manicotti sleeves are filled with cheese. If you have any leftover filling, like I did, don’t worry. I have a Round 2 recipe for you to use it in a new different application.

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9.  Pour the rest of the tomato sauce over the filled manicotti. Top with the remaining shredded Italian cheeses and grated Parmesan.

10.  Place in oven for about 30 minutes to allow the pasta to cook in the tomato sauce. You’ll notice when the sauce is bubbling and the pasta has softened. If the top is not golden brown, turn the broiler on and allow the cheeses to get crispy on top. When it’s golden delicious, I turn the oven off and leave the pasta in there for another 15 minutes to let it finish cooking with the oven’s residual heat. This will ensure the pasta is cooked, yet still al dente.

 

Serve with your favorite side dishes… and for us Puerto Ricans that means sweet plantains are on the menu too. We also served it with Annie Mariel’s awesome composed salad. It may not have been the traditional typical Xmas menu, but it was my last cooked meal of 2012 and I LOVED it!!!! I hope you love it too.

My Plate

 

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