Spinach and Pecorino Torta Salata “Quiche”

Meatless Monday is back, Yay!

So, I’ve been pretty much trying to find different ways of incorporating more vegetables in winter dishes without it being boring. We all know that I am a salad lover, I could eat salad always; but with that being said I do also realize that it does get tough in the winter when it’s cold outside to come home and have something cold like a salad vs. maybe some steamed or roasted veggies. I wanted to figure out a way that I could have a salad and something warm at the same time and came up with this delish recipe.

It’s so yum you won’t even want to stop eating it and save the leftovers for tomorrow but you must, take it for lunch and have something different and healthy.
My husband did and was so happy that he had a warm lunch considering that it was raining all day. It’s a light and simple dish, hassle free. I accompanied this with a nice baby leaf salad that had Julienne beets in it. I felt that it balanced out the meal and was a perfect way of getting a double dose of vegetables in for the day.

Alright, so I made this with what I had in the house. You know that sometimes you just have to open up that fridge and see what is in there that needs to be used up. I hate throwing out 1 zucchini, or a few mushrooms, or whatever it might be just because it’s not part of the menu, I make it a part of the menu and see with what I can come up with that compliments the ingredients I have at hand, it’s part of the challenge and so satisfying when something delicious comes out of the oven.

Ingredients:

1 Puff pastry, store-bought frozen (take out of freezer 30 min before starting to cook)

1 medium bag Spinach, frozen

1 Zucchini

1 Handful Mushrooms, chopped

5 Egg Whites, keep only 2 yolks

1 Garlic clove

1 Handful Spicy Pecorino, grated *

Salt and Pepper to taste

Drizzle Extra Virgin Olive oil

Pull out Puff Pastry from freezer and set aside to defrost.
Preheat your oven at 350° (180°F). Grab your Spinach out of the freezer and place in a medium sauce pan at medium heat, cover and let defrost for about 8-10 min. Once the spinach is defrosted place in a colander and allow to drain all the excess water.

Get your zucchini and slice it into small cubes. Mince your garlic. In your medium saucepan that you already used for the spinach, place over medium flame and drizzle some olive oil, add the garlic followed by the zucchini and the chopped mushrooms add some salt and pepper. Allow to cook for about 6-8 minutes. Don’t cook fully because they will cook in the oven later.

In a pie dish or in my case I used my cast iron pan place parchment paper. Grab your dough and lay it out making sure that it comes up the edges of the pan. If it’s not big enough roll it out…don’t worry about it being to thin, it’s not. Get a fork and stab lightly over puff pastry and set aside.

By now your spinach should be cooled down, either press down with fork to strain out remaining water or get small handfuls and squish out any water.
Grab a medium bowl and add your eggs, remember only 2 yolks, add some salt and pepper and whisk, now you may add your spinach, zucchini and mushrooms, incorporate all ingredients evenly and pour over the puff pastry.
Lay out evenly and place in the oven to bake for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile grate your cheese. If the puff pastry has already turned golden and your ingredients seem firm (cooked), grab the pan out of the oven sprinkle cheese on top, place back in oven for another 5 minutes or until cheese is fully melted. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and serve.

* I had some delicious Pecorino leftover from a snack of cheese, bread and wine. But use whatever you like. Any yummy cheese will do.

 

 

Healthy Eating Habits That Can Also Help you Lose Weight

Healthy eating habits are about making smart food choices that you can incorporate into your daily life and live with forever. I don’t personally believe in making a change in your routine that you don’t see yourself doing in the long-term or converting into a habit. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you can’t switch up what you eat or do different things in your daily diet. I am talking about getting rid of unhealthy food choices and replacing them with healthy choices.
Let’s say that you are somebody that loves to snack on Potato Chips, you know that that should not be your go to snack not only because it’s going to make you pack on pounds but also because it’s not a healthy snack choice. You could have a fruit, handful of nuts, a vegetable, yogurt, maybe some whole grain crackers/bread/pretzels with a nut butter of your choice, a few slices of turkey meat with lettuce or vegetable of your choice, some cheese (I like Parmigiano Reggiano), or anything that is going to nurture and benefit your body and you don’t have to eat the whole bag and still feel unsatisfied and hungry.

   VS      

It’s all about the choices we make. I used to be 18 and what I would drink and snack on would be chips, snickers bars or what we have her in Italy would be Tronky/Hanuta/Duplo/ Kinder or a Luik (which is a type of Lemon Ice Cream on a Liquorice stick), and then possibly accompanied by a soda Fanta, Coke or Lipton Iced tea.
Oh my, so not nutritious, Packed with sugar, additives and whatnot. I wasn’t fat or anything of the sort but I did look older and I know that I was unhealthy. I decided that I would do a master cleanse at age 20 (oh did I mention I smoked from ages 19-20ish about 2 packs a day, gross) the reason for the master cleanse was a personal challenge and I thought that if other people could do it then so could I.
I did the whole 21 days (I never in my life up until that point skipped a meal, or a snack…NEVER).
I got off the cleanse and felt like I had won the lottery, I felt energized, I felt light, I felt younger, and most of all I was healthy. I never touched a soda again, I am 28 and only drink water I mean it doesn’t even cross my mind to grab anything other than a bottle of water or a tea (hot and no sugar) when I am thirsty. It’s amazing. Just that right there is a healthy choice and this is what I mean by letting your choices become a habit, a lifestyle if you may. To me it became a habit because now it would probably taste nasty to me, but also because I look at it as not worth it. It’s not worth it because it has absolutely no good effect on what my body needs and so I don’t want it. I have friends that live off this stuff, like many of you out there that sit in front of me, offer it to me and it doesn’t even phase me. I mean now that I am talking about it, it does but generally it’s a subconscious reaction to reject it.
I have had the occasional chip, keyword ‘occasional’, not habitual snack. They are yummy especially now they have the baked, the Adzuki, the Sweet Potato, the Rice, etc….but they are chips non the less and not the best snack, maybe small occasional indulgence.

Ok, so to follow are a few life changing Healthy Eating Habits, let’s get healthy together.

Drink Plenty of Water:
Water helps you feel full throughout your day. Water also provides innumerable health benefits to your skin and your digestive and circulatory systems.

Eat Slowly:
Your food isn’t going anywhere, so sit down enjoy every bite and put your fork down in-between bites. It takes your body about 20 minutes to register that you’re eating and to turn off the hunger signal.

Eat Vegetables as the Main Course at every Meal:
Vegetables should be the star of your meal they are packed with fiber and few calories. They fill you up and you end up eating less of the high-caloric food on your plate. If you have to pick what to finish always opt for the vegetable.

Evaluate your Eating Habits:
Are you nibbling while cooking, are you finishing the food off your husband’s or kid’s plate, are you eating in bed? Think about it and try to not eat until you finished cooking, or leave the food on your husband’s plate, (he left it why should you eat it?!) See what you can change.

Shop on a full Stomach:
Make a list so you keep impulse buying at bay. When you shop hungry it’s a recipe for disaster in your refrigerator and in your wallet. You have to buy healthy food and when your ravenous it makes that nearly impossible because of everything you see and smell.

Switch to Healthy Snacks:
The most nutritious snacks contain complex carbohydrates and a small amount of protein and fat. Like nut butter on apple slices, they will make you feel full longer.

Eat regular meals. Figure out the frequency of your meals that works best in your life and stick to it. Regular meals help prevent bingeing.

Keep a Food Diary:
This way you can see what you’ve eaten throughout the day and help balance out your next meals/snacks. It makes you more conscious about what is going in your mouth.

Watch your Portions:
Piling food onto your plate can make you feel pressured to eat it all. Serve yourself a small portion when you’re done wait 10 minutes and if your still hungry serve yourself a little more. Keep in mind that your stomach will grumble early on, until it has shrunk to adapt to the smaller meals you’re now eating.

Healthy does not occur overnight, despite what you may think it takes sometime. Listen to your body and try to make little changes eliminate fried and have baked, replace white sugar with raw sugar, replace sweet iced tea, with hot green tea and no sugar, eventually it will become a part of your lifestyle.

           VS          

 

 

My Easy, Quick, No-Carb Veggie Stack…It’s that Good

So today’s post is about finding time to eat healthy always, no excuses whatsoever. Sometimes I think that people feel that when you have to eat healthy you really need time for it, although I can understand completely I also think that it takes time to cook a meal even if it’s not considered “healthy”.

We as a whole have to get into the mentality that our body is truly a Temple, it needs clean, healthy and most of all homemade foods to feel energized, peaceful, strong and to look it’s best. Lately I, although seem to have a ton of time feel like I am constantly pressed for time, and although it’s delicious and easy to come home and throw some salad, and other veggies in a bowl and mix it up and voilà dinner is served; I also feel like I would like to serve something a little different but that also looks as though I put time and effort in it. Ha! That must be the little cook in me….always trying to achieve perfection.

I’ve mentioned previously how much I love to grill, it’s low fat and quick. So, I decided that I would make grilled Veggies and kinda give them a sort of lasagna layering. You can grill whatever veggies you like it’s really up to what you have in the fridge and what you enjoy most that can be put on a grill….Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Onions, Radicchio, Endive, Potatoes, Asparagus. But remember if you’re in a rush don’t stress out use what you have, it’s going to be delicious. Trust me.

Ingredients:

2-3 Zucchini

1 large Eggplant

4 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tbsp. Vinegar (any flavor you prefer)

1/2 Garlic Clove, minced

6 Parsley stems, chopped

1 Chili chopped, optional

Salt and Pepper to taste

Turn on your grill at medium setting and let heat. In the meantime slice your eggplant and zucchini 1/2 inch thick longwise. Once grill is warm put your veggies on top allowing to cook for about 5-8 minutes.
Chop Parsley, Garlic and Chilli and mix in a small bowl with Olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Put aside.

You may flip over your veggies now and allow to cook another 5 minutes allowing to reach grill marks.
Remove from heat. Get your plates and drizzle a little of your Olive oil mixture on the bottom and layer some eggplant drizzle again and layer some zucchini, drizzle again and  layer eggplant, continue this until you’ve atleast achieved 4 layers and top off with a drizzle. Do the same with other dish and serve.

Now you’ve cooked up a delicious, healthy, quick meal and you still managed everything else. You can do all sorts of variations, sprinkle pine nuts on top, feta grape tomatoes…you choose. This is what I had and it was perfect. Enjoy.

An Amazing Low Calorie Stuffed Egglpant for Meatless Monday

Love, Love, Love the thought of Meatless Mondays. I’m a huge fan of anything vegetable and it’s just nice to see that you don’t always need meat at every meal. It helps me really put my brain to work and see how many meat dishes I can convert into meatless dishes and/or simply come up with.
To some the word meatless or vegetable is such a turn off, but really to me it makes me happy and also gives me the opportunity to start my week off clean and more healthy. I don’t believe in ‘as long as it’s vegetable it’s healthy’. For me you can’t steam broccoli and then add 1/2 a pound of butter, or flour, or all those heavy sauces and consider it healthy; at that point just eat a burger and your probably more healthy and it’s less caloric.

To me meatless resonates with clean, lean, purifying, nutritious and most of all beneficial. So, I think of dishes that I can put together that are all the above mentioned. It’s not that I am eating meatless because meat is bad and so on, so on. But because I truly enjoy vegetables and healthy grains and actually making things that derive soley from the earth. Or atleast most of it.

The Recipe that follows is so simple and really delicious. I love eggplant, it’s a great substitute for meat because it’s a really filling vegetable. I love eggplant Parmiggiana I have a lo-cal recipe here. This time I kept the eggplant whole and stuffed it with mushrooms…Delicious. I hope that you like it and remember that you can always make your on twist, add another vegetable, or you can stuff it with Quinoa, Cous-cous, Rice, even Meat.
This is my meatless delicious version. Enjoy.

Ingredients:

2 medium Eggplants

1/2 lb. Sliced mushrooms

1 small can diced Tomatoes

1 clove Garlic, chopped finely

3 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Chili Flakes (optional)

Parchment Paper

Preheat your oven at 180° C (350°F).
Slice your eggplant in half and with a spoon scoop out the center leaving about 1-2 in. around the border. Put the eggplant aside and begin to slice into small cubes what you scooped out of the eggplant.

In a large saucepan heat 2 tbsp. of olive oil and add your finely chopped garlic clove, once golden color add your mushrooms and chopped eggplant. Allow to cook for 5-8 minutes until you see the eggplant and mushrooms start to shrink a little, now add your can of diced tomatoes, salt and pepper and chili flakes and allow to simmer for another 8 minutes.

In the meantime, drizzle remainder of olive oil inside the whole eggplants and sprinkle some salt as well. By now you can turn off your eggplant and mushroom sauce and scoop the mixture inside of the eggplants. Face both halves together to look like a whole eggplant and wrap in parchment paper, put in a baking tray, do the same with the other eggplant and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Be careful when you unwrap the eggplant as steam might escape. There might be sauce at the bottom of the parchment so grab the whole thing put on plates and push the eggplant off the parchment and eat. YUM.

*Optional you could grate Parmigiano and put over the top if you wish….My husband did.

Healthy Chicken My-Way with Sundried Tomatoes and Mushrooms

I know I have mentioned before how much my Husband and I love chicken. It’s the perfect ingredient for anything healthy….it can be difficult at times to have ideas for skinless chicken breasts especially when you want to keep it healthy, but still tasty.

I love to grill it and then accompany it with any vegetable I have in the house i.e. zucchini, eggplant, green beans, spinach, broccoli or of course fresh vegetables salad.
But then the fall comes along and you start feeling like you want to eat something warm and a little more; how can I put it heartfilling. So anyways, most fall/winter recipes include heavier ingredients and aren’t as healthy as one would like. I find it though easy because I just like to throw whatever vegetable I find in my fridge that I could also use in a salad raw, and cook it. In this case I had sliced mushrooms (I love to add those raw to a green vegetable salad), and some sundried tomatoes in olive oil. Perfect I knew exactly what I could do so here the recipe follows.
Enjoy this heart-warming meal you can accompany it with other vegetables, roasted potatoes, or with brown rice, quinoa, cous-cous, and whole grain pasta. You pick that.

Ingredients:

2 medium sliced skinless Chicken Breasts

1 handful Mushrooms, Sliced

10 Sundried Tomatoes, drained

1 clove, Garlic minced

Handful Parsley, chopped

3 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive oil

1/5 cup Water

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large saucepan heat the olive oil, and add your garlic, add your mushrooms and allow to cook for about 4 minutes, in the meantime chop your sundried tomatoes and then add to your mushrooms, add the water and allow to simmer for 3 minutes.

Add chicken breasts to the pan with the ingredients, cover and allow to 10 minutes, turning the chicken over once. Add parsley, salt and pepper cook for about another 3 minutes and then serve.

Tuscany: Food, Wine and “Le Terme”…Need I say more!

Wine tasting in the Banfi Castle, a Fiorentina steak in Montalcino, a fountain/cascade bath in Saturnia and more typical things to discover about Tuscany.
Let me bring Tuscany to you and discover some of the most delicious food, recipes and of course; wine (if you’re a wino like myself you will truly appreciate), and a few other surprises I discovered and wanted to share with all mythineaters.

It all starts in Montalcino the home of “Brunello di Montalcino” a luscious, deep red wine that has to be aged at least 5 years (or 6 years if it’s a Riserva) by Italian law and only made with Sangiovese grapes from the Montalcino vineyards.  If you like it just a little younger there is “Rosso di Montalcino” also luscious and deep red but more subtle, it only has to be aged about a year, still made with Sangiovese grapes from the Montalcino vineyards. Both amazing. The process is quite long, so there are about 2 weeks a year to be exact when the grapes are picked, generally the last week in September and the 1st week in October, then they are selected carefully, placed in these huge tins for fermentation, then moved into wood barrels and for the remainder of the aging they get placed in the bottle and when ready labeled and off to be sold. There are about 300 “Cantine” that you could visit, with some of the most famous in the world known as Banfi, Biondi Santi Franco, Brunelli, Campana, Colombaiolo, Il Poggiolo, Belpoggio, Barbi and Poggio Antico just to name a few.

                                    

The wine is paired beautifully with the Bistecca Fiorentina which is a loin cut from the male cow raised only in the Tuscany-Umbria region called Chianina . The bone has a “T” shape know as a T-bone steak in the USA, the smallest you could order is about 1 lb and 9 oz. and 2.3 inches thick. They cook it rare about 3-5 minutes per side (and don’t try to ask well cooked or they will give you a dirty look).  You salt it only at the end when you serve it; we accompanied the steak with some stewed veggies. It really was delicious and melted in our mouth.

               

Another famous dish around here is the “Ribollita” which means re-boiled, because every time you re-heat it, it tastes better. It’s derived from back in the day when the farmers only cooked on Fridays, so they used to get vegetables and old bread, cook it in a huge pot and then reheat it the rest of the week. The two most important ingredients are black cabbage and beans. You top it off with some Extra virgin Olive oil and Bread.

Then you have a lot of boar, that’s the meat they use for their Ragu sauce served with Papardelle.  I had Bresaola made from the Chianina cow served with rucola; and of course I had a delicious fresh Porcini soup. Crostini with Pesto, Patè or Pecorino toscano. And something very simple yet amazing, Ricotta Balls with just a bit of olive oil and Parsley.

                       

After all this delicious food there is of course endless desserts, but myself not being a sweet tooth decided that I would opt for the more simple cookies, afterall this is what Tuscany is known for. You’ve all heard about the world-famous Cantucci aka Biscotti in the USA. Then there is one that I particularly love called Brutti ma Buoni which means ‘Ugly but Good’ (in this case Delicious). It’s simply made with ground Hazelnuts, egg whites, sugar and powdered sugar.

  

Yes, I ate and drank all of this and still managed to go to Saturnia a town about 60 km south-west of Montalcino known for their Terme, which is pretty much a natural Cascade of Sulfur water that is at a normal temp. of 99,5 degrees Farenheit. It’s extremely therapeutic and highly recommended for the skin, bones and any circulatory issues one could have not to mention the relaxing benefits you get from the water. It is the most unique waterfall cascade/spring that I have ever laid my eyes on, supposedly the sulfur causes coves and that is how all theses little pockets are created. I loved every second of it and needed some detox relax after all that drinking.

    

Ciao, Hope you enjoyed Tuscany as much as I did.