Brown Rice Stuffed Mini Zucchini

In ode to Halloween I came up with this recipe. I had to:

  1. Because they look like little Pumpkins.
  2. Because a healthy, fun theme dish seems totally appropriate.
  3. Lastly, I just couldn’t resist these cute Zucchini & stuffing them seemed like the perfect thing to do since the moment I laid eyes on them.

I didn’t grow up with Halloween and I definitely never carved a pumpkin until about 3 years ago in the States with my Husband.  Here in Italy it wasn’t something common or known while I was growing up but in the past few years seems like it’s finally starting to catch on.

I was at the grocery store and since being back from the states I really do appreciate our agriculture much more. We have endless options of farm grown vegetables & fruits of which I learn more & more about each day.  For instance I had never even seen these types of zucchini before but the minute I laid eyes on them I knew I had to cook with them and make something traditionally different. You usually stuff bell peppers but I knew that this would be an excellent and lighter sub; turns out I was right. Also it brought Halloween to mind because they completely look like a tiny little green pumpkins.

I don’t really need to say that this is a healthy, vegetarian dish because it’s kinda obvious but the fact is that I think zucchini and brown rice merry so well together the flavors are light yet rich and totally perfect for the Fall to top it off the parmigiano reggiano really sets off the nutty flavors of the rice and the sweetness of the zucchini making it one delicious meal.
I didn’t really have many vegetables in the house to put inside but if you want you could add mushrooms, asparagus, artichokes, bell peppers, spinach.
For an non-vegetarian meal you could add ground meat, bacon, shrimp or chicken. That’s the fun thing about these guys is that you can do whatever you like and I think it would all taste amazing. Enjoy!

Ingredients:
Makes 4 Zucchini

4 Zucchini

100-150 gr. of Brown rice, cooked

1 Shallot

2 tbsp. EVOO

1/2 cup Vegetable broth

2 tbsp. Parsley, chopped

3 tbsp. Parmigiano Reggiano, grated

S&P to taste

Preheat the oven @ 350°F (180°C)

Slice the top off the zucchini and with a spoon gently scoop out the pulp. Set aside & repeat with other zucchini.
Heat EVOO in a medium skillet; finely chop your shallot place it in the skillet and sauté until golden. Stir in chopped zucchini pulp along with the vegetable broth, parsley & brown rice add salt and pepper stir & remove from heat.

Drizzle a bit of EVOO in a baking dish. Get one zucchini at the time add rice mixture half way sprinkle some parmigiano fill up with rice and top off with more parmigiano put top that you cut off and place in baking dish. Repeat process with the rest of zucchini. Bake for 20-30 minutes until zucchini is tender.

 

 

 

 

Brown Rice Risotto with Asparagus & Red Wine Porcini

I will eat pretty much anything that has a combination of seasonal vegetables and risotto.
I love risotto it’s a luscious and delicious way of making an incredible meal without too much effort and/or ingredients. Bonus it’s healthy too!
I know people think that it really is so hard to make, but the reality couldn’t be further from that.

My favorite vegetable is in season in Italy right now and we are taking full advantage of incorporating it in our everyday meals, it will only be around for about another month so we can’t seem to have enough of it. Grilled Chicken and Asparagus, Salmon and Asparagus, Salads with shaved Asparagus, Pasta with Asparagus and of course Risotto con Asparagi e Funghi Porcini.
It’s a great and a really easy ingredient yet absolutely flavorful and rewarding to cook with. It’s full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and detoxifying diuretic goodness that it’s hard to ignore it.

My husband asked for Risotto it didn’t matter how it was made or with which ingredient but he just wanted a risotto, like more often than not I opened the fridge and had an ‘aha’ moment and decided that it would be with asparagus and what’s delicious in a risotto? its porcini. I opened the cupboard and had some beautiful dried porcini (which are perfect especially when making risotto). I decided that I would soak them in the bottle of Chianti we had opened a few nights back but hadn’t completely finished. So I did, 1 Cup Chianti and 2 Cups water threw my Porcini in their and let them soak for atleast an hour. The flavor they delivered this dish was just amazing. Of course you can omit the wine and just soak them in water…up to you!

Here’s the Recipe. Enjoy and let me know what you think….Ciao.

Ingredients:
Serves 2

200gr. Brown Rice*

100gr. Dried Porcini, soaked and strained prior to cooking

200gr. Asparagus

1.5 qt. of Vegetable Broth

1 Shallot

Drizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Chop up your asparagus stems in about 1 inch rings save the tips, separate and set aside.

Mince your shallot. Grab a large pan over medium heat and drizzle some e.v.o, add your shallot and allow to get golden. Add your mushrooms and allow to cook along with shallot for about 5 minutes. Add your chopped asparagus stems and rice, stir well and pour in 1/2 of your broth, allow to cook for about 10 minutes stirring every now and then.

Now add your Asparagus tips, salt and pepper. Stir in the remaining broth. Allow to cook for another 10 minutes stirring every 2-3 minutes and serve.

*I used one specifically for Risotto so it cooked in 20 min, if you use another one check the cooking instructions on the package.

**I topped of with some chili peppers, my husband topped off with Parmigiano Reggiano. You do what you like.

 

Sage wrapped Low-Fat stuffed Chicken Breasts

The winter is well on its way and I feel like heart-warming meals without all the added calories and heavy ingredients. As you all know by now there are 2 things that I absolutely love 1. Chicken (especially my husband, he literally could eat chicken everyday) 2. Veggies (I will find a way to incorporate them in all my meals).

During the summer it’s always grilled chicken. It’s light , tastes delicious and most of all easy and fast. However in the winter I feel more like staying inside away from the cold and also don’t really crave a grilled anything for that matter. It’s hard sometimes to try to make chicken inside on the stove top without it tasting absolutely boring. I’ve decided that no matter what I won’t cave in to millions of ingredients in one dish just to give it flavor, there are so many natural herbs and spices that can give your meals incredible flavor and bring out the best of your meals, without overpowering a dish.
The other morning I was craving stuffed chicken breasts and thought that I would need to go to the store for some cheese and whatever else inspired me to put in it. However, the thought became an absolute ‘no way am I going out in this cold for some cheese and stuff’, like always I opened the fridge and saw that I had some sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, some artichokes in olive oil and some fresh sliced mushrooms. Perfect this was going to work. I will say that I did have some Parmigiano Reggiano but I opted to leave out the cheese and see how a stuffed chicken breast with no cheese would taste.

I also have a wonderful Sage plant outside and I love the warming, eloquent, subtle flavor it gives when added to food. It has wonderful health benefits, it helps cure gastrointestinal disorders, muscle spasms and cramps, gingivitis, it helps regulate blood sugar and improves digestion. It’s full of Antioxidants that help with the aging process. And it’s an Anti-inflammatory agent for people with inflammatory issues such as but not limited to Rheumatoid arthritis. So yeah, it’s good for ya; and I decided that it would be the only seasoning herb for the chicken.
Here in Italy people incorporate it to meals quite a bit, whether its soups, sauces, meats, stews, etc… let me say that it really does compliment a dish when used correctly.

I hope that you enjoy this recipe it’s really simple and so delicious. Accompany it with whatever you like, a salad, roasted vegetables, steamed vegetables, rice, quinoa, couscous, potatoes or anything else you can come up with. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 boneless skinless Chicken breasts

8 Sun-dried Tomatoes, in Extra Virgin Olive OIl

8 Artichoke quarters, in Extra Virgin Olive Oil

8 slices of Mushrooms

2-3 fresh sprigs of Sage, or 14 leaves

2 tsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 pieces Parchment paper, big enough to wrap each breast individually

8 pieces cooking Twine, about 4in. long

 

Preheat your oven at 350°.

Grab your chicken breasts and butterfly. Sprinkle some salt and pepper.  Now layer 4 pc. of sun-dried Tomatoes, followed by 4 slices of Mushrooms, followed by 4 pc. of Artichokes. Now close your chicken, cover the top nicely with half the sage leaves, salt and pepper.
Get 4 pc. of Twine and carefully slide one by one under the breast and then tieing at the top until the whole breast is securely tied. Lay one piece of parchment paper out and place your chicken in the center, drizzle 1 tsp of Olive oil and then close your parchment paper as if making a little doggie bag. Place in baking tray and repeat the same with other breast.

Bake for 25 minutes and then carefully open the paper, start with sides as some steam may leave and you’ll get burnt. Cut twine off and place nicely on dish. Buon Appetito

Definitely A Low Fat Meal – Roasted Asparagus and Shrimp

My husband and I love both asparagus and shrimp. When we lived in the USA it was easy to find asparagus all the time, I don’t recall ever going to the grocery store and there not being asparagus, so it pretty much was a staple in our meals. However, since we’ve moved to Italy it has been tough to find asparagus, the grocery stores here only carry fruits and veggies that are in season, so you can’t find asparagus year round as you can in the USA.

Asparagus 101: Spring is the best season for fresh asparagus. Crops are harvested from late February to June, with April being the prime month. High in vitamins B6 and C, plus fiber, folate and glutathione, an anti-carcinogen and antioxidant, asparagus is an excellent nutritional choice. It comes in three colors: white, green or purple, although the green variety is the most common. White asparagus is popular in much of Europe and is produced by keeping the growing shoots hidden from light under soil.

All this to say that we finally went to the market this weekend and found asparagus, my heart skipped a beat I was so happy to finally be able to buy some asparagus (that wasn’t over priced like $10 for a quarter lb.) so we bought the asparagus and decided we would make one of our favorite simple delicious dishes we used to make in the USA ‘Roasted Asparagus and Shrimp”. It turned out delicious as always and we wanted to share it with you.

This dish doesn’t take long at all, it’s very simple and yes you can make it in 20 minutes, so if you are running home late for work don’t give into something on the go, make this dish and feel like a million bucks. Trust me it’s worth it. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. Asparagus

1/2 lb. Shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat your oven at 350°.  Grab a large roasting pan, line it up with parchment paper lay out your asparagus evenly on one side and then on the other side pour your shrimp evenly. (I used the big black oven roasting pan, or you could use 2 separate baking trays, it’s up to you)

Slice your garlic and pour some over the asparagus and some over the shrimp, now pour the olive oil evenly over both as well and then season with the salt and pepper.
Put in the oven and roast for 20 minutes and then serve. Buon apettito!

 

 

Healthy and Elegant Zucchini Ribbon Salad

Try this for your meatless Monday. I truly enjoy salads, and I like exploring in the vegetable world and seeing what I can use in a salad so that we never get bored or feel that it’s too monotonous. Salads don’t just have to be made of leaves, it can be of anything you like. I am determined to believe that the more you explore and diversify your meals the more you look forward to experimenting and eating healthy foods. i.e. if you make the same salad everyday, then you start feeling as if you are deprived but if you spice it up and add different things you start forgetting all the other bad foods and start craving and looking forward to the foods that you are eating.

I am a firm believer that you crave what you eat, if you eat too many sweets you are going to be craving sweets, if you snack on junk food, your body will crave junk food anytime it’s hungry, if you eat too much meat your body will crave more meat, and when meat (or any other food) is not included in a meal you may feel as though you are still not satisfied because your body will send signals to the brain that its missing something. So, if you eat veggies, or fish, or nuts, or any healthy eating habit you’ve formed your body will be more inclined to craving that vs. the other. I am not saying by any means that meat is bad for you, I understand that we all have our opinions and a good grass fed filet of meat is delicious; but eaten in moderation. In my opinion meat should not be eaten all the time, once in awhile is good, there are so many better for you replacements out there like; fish, chicken, eggs, nuts and etc….

However seeing that this is a dedication to meatless Monday lets stick to no meat at all. This recipe is nutritious, vibrant, healthy, low carb and most of all delicious. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 Zucchini

1 handful Rucola

1 Jalapeno, optional

1 handful Parmigiano Reggiano Shaves

2 1/2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 Lemon Juice, freshly squeezed

Salt and pepper to taste

Start off by washing all your vegetables. Get a salad bowl and a mondoline*, now get you zucchini chop off the 2 ends and lay longways on the mandoline and start shaving (slicing) you don’t want them too thin, if you have one of those that adjust make sure that it is almost transparent. Once you are done with those add your handful of rucola and if your adding your chopped jalapeno add it now as well. In a separate little bowl mix the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and gently mix all the ingredients, be careful to not break the zucchini.

Plate and shave some parmigiano over the dish and serve. If you like you can drizzle a little olive oil over the dish or you could also sprinkle some toasted pine nuts. You can do what you like. I hope that you like and enjoy this recipe.

* if you don’t have a mandoline you can also use a peeler, hold the zucchini in your hand and run the peeler across, it should do the trick.

 

Delicious Dairy-Free and Eggless Chocolate Cake

I usually try to find healthy and still delicious moist desserts with the least ingredients possible so that my body doesn’t take up too long to process and digest them. Don’t get me wrong I love homemade cakes and there is nothing wrong with dairy or eggs, but I sometimes like to leave them out as so to make a healthier version; and if it tastes delicious it’s all the better. This is a great recipe if you are lactose intolerant or if you have any sort of allergies due to dairy.

This is a very simple recipe that doesn’t require much time and barely any ingredients, you should already have all of these ingredients in your cupboards so when the moment hits and you want something that tastes indulgent and sweet but healthy, you don’t have to neglect yourself of that pleasure.

My sister recently got home from work and had to bake a cake for her son and had no time to go to the grocery store so she ended up calling me I gave her this recipe and everyone loved it, now her son is 10 so to have children love it makes you know that for sure it is delicious. I hope that you enjoy it.

Ingredients:

3 cups Flour

2 cups Sugar

6 tbsp. Dark Cocoa powder

1 tsp. Salt

2 1/2 tsp. Baking powder

1 tsp. Vanilla

1/2 cup melted Margarine

2 tbsp. Vinegar

2 cups Water

Preheat your oven at 350°.

Mix all ingredients together and pour in a buttered and floured 9×12 cake pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Simple and yummy.

Low Fat has Never Tasted So Delicious: Vongole con Vino Bianco (White Wine Clams)

Oh, yes I love Clams! They are the perfect low-fat and low-calorie food. They are so delicious and it’s always an enjoyment to eat them.
Here in Italy it is a very common and delicate dish. They are fresh everyday from the fisherman that go out in the middle of the night and then sell them or at the fish markets or the fish stores. They are a very summer thing to eat and as soon as Spring comes it’s one of the first thing Italians are out to eat. The more common and known way to eat them would be “Spaghetti or Tagliolini alle Vongole” which means “Spaghetti or Tagliolini with Clams”, but here in Italy it is also very common to have them served in a light wine sauce with toasted bread on the side to dip in and do the “Scarpetta”.  Clams are one of the simplest things to cook and require basically no time at all.

I’ll explain the way to clean them so that you too at home can make them.

First of you want to buy them fresh. Rinse them real quick under cold water. Grab a tray that has edges, I normally use one of my larger baking trays (like the one I use for Lasagna), lay the clams evenly (don’t worry if they are a bit over layered) and fill with cold water just about 1/2 an inch above your clams. Sprinkle with abundant sea salt, shake the tray around a bit and let sit for about 3-4 hours. (You can let sit over night as well, just remember the longer the better).

What the salt water does is help the clams spit out the sand that they might have inside. They basically clean themselves, this is the only way to get rid of any sand they might have in them. If you look at them during this process you will see them open and spit out the sand or move around; it’s quite interesting.

Once the time has passed you can grab a handful of the clams and throw them in a plate, shake up and down a few times, and then put in a bowl or colander. This method helps them spit out anything left. (don’t worry if they don’t spit out anything) that means that they are perfectly clean. Rinse once more real quick under cold water and they are ready for cooking.
Here’s the recipe. I hope that you enjoy.

Ingredients:

1 lb Vongole Veraci (Clams), cleaned

1 Garlic Clove, Minced or Whole

1/4 cup White Wine

Red Chili Flakes (optional)

3 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Handful chopped Parsley

Grab a nice large sauté pan put over medium heat with the olive oil (I like the garlic whole, but if you are mincing it that’s delicious also), once the oil is heated add you garlic and chili flakes allow to get just golden and throw in your Vongole (Clams) with the wine. Cover and let them cook about 10 minutes. You will know once they are ready because they will all be open. Turn off heat and throw in your parsley mix gently and serve*. Tata, Buon Appetito!

* I serve in bowls or deep plates I put the vongole first and then I add all the remaining sauce.

Okay, now this dish I accompany with toasted bread or bruschetta. The other night I made bruschetta to go along. But do what you wish. Enjoy