Thursday, January 19, 2017

Sausage Ragu and Creamy Polenta

Just like a hearty soup, a bowl of creamy polenta seems so comforting especially on a cold winter evening.  Training my body to endure colder temperatures before going to the snow this weekend a bowl topped with a hearty sausage and fennel ragu hits the spot in my 60 degree house.  However, instead of using quick cooking polenta as this recipe calls for, I did it the traditional way using Bobby Flay’s method which happens to be my favorite -
Sausage Ragu and Creamy Polenta Rachael Ray Recipe
Price:  $10 for 4 servings  =  $2.50 per serving
1.      This makes a good portion of ragu that I have leftover sauce to top a future dish TBD
2.      The ragu is so flavorful that I did not even miss the parmesan that I forgot to mix into my bowl of polenta before topping (I normally mix the cheese in my bowl vs. in the pot so the pot would be easier to clean)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tapas Night

When it comes to food, there are no rules which is why I often make brunch items for dinner or love trying dishes that are great BLDs, for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  With the exception of family parties which I seldom bring an appetizer, I only make them if I am serving a 3-4 course meal or for New Year’s Eve.  This past NYE, I was pleasantly surprised at the two that I ended up putting together to go with the champagne and it sparked an interest in making more small plates.  Before I go and pat myself on the back that I came up with a creative new idea, it ultimately is something that has been around for a long time in Spanish restaurants, tapas.  Although my small plates are not Spanish food or even themed, it is tapas style and a great way to revisit old faves and use up those leftover ingredients.  With a little of everything, it is surprisingly filling. 



Friday, January 13, 2017

Buddha Bowl – Eat Well Challenge #3

Apparently one of the hot trends already of 2017 are Buddha Bowls that has been blowing up on Pinterest and ironically I heard about it first from my husband shortly after the New Year since I am not on Pinterest.  I originally had no intention of making one but like many things unplanned, it ended up being a pleasant surprise. 

I was at Trader Joe’s last week and they were dishing up samples of rice cauliflower with a spicy peanut vinaigrette and stir fry vegetables which I thought was quite tasty, so I picked up a bag of rice cauliflower and vinaigrette with the intention of having that as a side dish or a rice replacement this week.  A couple of days later, I see an article from Delish about what goes into a Buddha Bowl.  Curiosity piqued, I decided to see what the fuss was about and clicked on the link.  Although there is no set rule as to what goes into one, normally a protein, vegetable, grain, and dressing overstuffed into a bowl but Delish’s recipe used ingredients I already bought on sale recently, sweet potatoes, avocado, and spinach.  With my recently acquired peanut butter based dressing, it was like the stars were all aligned. 

So inspired by Delish’s Buddha Bowl Recipe -, I made a couple of substitutions (egg vs. chicken for my protein and rice cauliflower instead of brown rice) and the final product was so tasty, for once I am jumping on the bandwagon of a new food trend. 


  1. I just sauteed the cauliflower rice with some olive oil until tender and slightly brown to give it a nutty flavor
  2. I just hard boiled an egg for my protein vs. using chicken breast
Price:  $6 for 4 servings  =  $1.50 per serving

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Roasted Beets in Endive

During this time of year, root vegetables are readily available at the Farmer’s Markets and you cannot beat 3 bunches for $5 where you can sauté the beat greens as a veggie side dish - and roast the beets itself to go into a salad or served in endive as an appetizer.  Doctors for years have recommended people eat colors and you cannot get more colorful than beets, especially red ones. 

Roast beets the same way you do for the beet risotto or beet salad

Preheat oven to 375

Scrub beets with brush and trim the ends so that it can “stand up”

Place trimmed beats in aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil and some sea salt

Crimp the edges to create a pouch

Put in 375 degree oven for 45-60 min (when removed from oven, you should be able to insert toothpick through the beet)

Be careful opening up pouch as there is hot steam

Once beets are cooled, rub off skin with paper towel which should easily come off and dice

Toss the beets with a drizzle of olive oil, lemon juice, and sprinkle of sea salt, then spoon into the endive leaves with a sprinkle of goat cheese

Monday, January 9, 2017

Macaroni and Cheese with Butternut Squash

It has been over 5 years since I made mac and cheese but when I saw this recipe from  Dr. Oz that lightens a normally rich dish with butternut squash, I knew I had to reintroduce myself with this version especially since I had a bag of cheddar that is expiring soon.  As I was planning the menu for the week and putting together my weekly Trader Joe’s list with missing items I did not already have at home, I somehow forgot to pick up the macaroni for the mac n cheese.  Luckily, the recipe gave me the option to substitute with fusilli or shells, so medium shells from my stocked pantry it is! 

With a reduction of milk and cheese vs. many mac and cheese recipes, it is not as creamy and cheesy as the original, making this a bit more figure friendly.  Speaking of friendly, it will not strain your wallet especially if you are like me and had all ingredients already stockpiled in my pantry when on sale.  Pasta for $1 a box of which I only used half a box, butternut squash at 79 cents a lb, once diced was only half a squash, cheddar at $2 a bag, onion at 39 cents a lb. comes in at about a buck a serving.      

Dr. Oz Recipe  


1 ½ tsp coarse salt
8 oz whole wheat pasta elbows, shells, or fusilli
3 cups diced (1/4 in) peeled, seeded butternut squash
1 ½ cups 2% milk
2 tbsp whole wheat flour
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp worchestershire sauce
½ tsp pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cups shredded sharp cheddar


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and add 1 tsp of salt and the pasta and cook until al dente, adding squash for last 4 min of cooking time.  Drain pasta and squash, reserving ½ cup cooking water.  Wipe pan dry and set aside
  3. Whisk together milk, reserved cooking water, flour, mustard, Worcestershire and pepper in a measuring cup
  4. Meanwhile heat oil over medium heat in the reserved pan and cook the onions with remaining ½ tsp salt, stirring until softened (about 5 min)
  5. Add milk mixture raising the heat to medium high and simmer until thickened slightly (2-3 min).  Remove from heat and add 2 ½ cups of cheese and stir until smooth
  6. Add pasta and squash to cheese mixture, gently tossing.  Spoon into a 2-2 1/2 quart oiled shallow baking dish.  Sprinkle pasta with remaining ½ cup of cheese and bake until golden and bubbling, 15-20 minutes.
Price:  $6 for 6 servings = $1 per serving


  1. I used regular all purpose flour vs. wheat since I did not want to buy a bag of wheat flour specifically for this dish. 
  2. I used a pot to make the pasta and a separate large pan to making the sauce for tossing with pasta so I can start sauteeing the onions while the pasta is cooking


Sunday, January 8, 2017

Potato Parsnip Soup – Eat Well Challenge Day 2

I did not plan on making two vegetarian dishes in a row but with an excess of potatoes even after 2 potatoes au gratin for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, a bowl or two of hearty soup will hit the spot on this stormy weekend in the Bay Area.  Loaded with root vegetables and even a fruit, it is packed with nutritional value perfect as part of the Eat Well challenge.  We did the best of both worlds, served without the grilled cheese as part of my Eat Well Challenge/New Year’s Resolution and with the grilled cheese the next day to get the full effect.  Either way even though it tastes creamy, since no cream or milk is added, it really isn’t so bad.      

Potato Parsnip Soup with Grilled Cheese Rachael Ray Recipe

Price:  $5 for 4 servings  =  $1.25 per serving

1.      I left out the apple brandy but I don’t feel like I was missing anything
2.      I had sage on hand so just used that without the thyme
3.      To ensure that it was creamy enough, I did not puree with all the liquid in the pot


Friday, January 6, 2017

Stuffed Zucchini - Eat Well Challenge Day 1

Chef David Burka appeared on a recent holiday episode of the Rachael Ray Show where with the exception of the regular pantry items like olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, it was a 4 ingredient recipe.  For me, the less ingredients the better as one of my pet peeves is buying ingredients that are used for that recipe only.  With Greek olives already in the refrigerator, red bell peppers I was planning on roasting for something still to be determined and pine nuts leftover from making pesto, all I needed were zucchinis.  At 99 cents per pound for organic nevertheless at Lucky’s this week, it was a perfect opportunity to turn this intended appetizer dish into a light vegetarian/vegan dinner to kick off the Eat Well Challenge!! 

Stuffed Zucchini David Burka’s Recipe from Rachael Ray Show

Price:  $6 for 3 servings (2-3 boats per serving) = $2 per serving

Note:  Since the zucchinis were a good size, I halved them lengthwise so did not cut a small portion off the top to add to the mixture.  I did however throw back the pulp into the mixture to ensure I had enough stuffing for the zucchini boats.