Sauteed Green Beans & Pears

November 5th, 2009

A simple side dish recipe with a mixture of summer and fall seasonal produce, this recipe can also be made with frozen green beans if fresh are not available. Of course, I had to add a little garlic to the recipe.

This dish is incredibly easy to make, with little prep work, and is a serious contender for the Thanksgiving table. It is delicious and sweet, but still retains the freshness of the green beans. Next time, I will try sprinkling this dish with toasted almonds for added flavor and a touch of elegance.


Sauteed Green Beans & Pears
adapted from Southern Living

3/4 lb green beans
2 Anjou or Bartlett pears
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper
Toasted almond slivers (optional)

Snip ends of green beans and cut into 1-inch pieces if desired (if using frozen green beans, prepare according to packaged directions). Peel and core pears, then cut into 1/4 inch thick slices.

In a large skillet, melt butter and mix with brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Add garlic to pan and saute for about 1 minute, then add green beans and saute 2-3 minutes. Add pear slices and saute an additional 3-5 minutes, until pears are heated and green beans are crisp-tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with almonds, if desired.


Zucchini-Pineapple Muffins

November 3rd, 2009

For some reason unbeknownst to me, the grocery store had big, beautiful, emerald green zucchini and I decided to turn them into muffins. This recipe was originally for quick bread, but easily translates into muffins with a few adjustments. These muffins are the last gasp of summer, with earthy zucchini and bright flavors from lemon and pineapple. They are light and also unbelievably moist (and pretty much idiot-proof as far as baking goes). Cinnamon adds a richness and fills the kitchen with that wonderful fresh-baked scent.


Zucchini-Pineapple Muffins
adapted from Cooking Light

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini (about 1 1/2 medium zucchini)
2/3 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon zest (finely grated lemon rind)
2 cans (8 oz each) crushed pineapple, drained

Preheat oven to 350F and coat muffin tins with cooking spray.

Spoon flour into measuring cup and level with a knife. Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Whisk until combined.

In a separate bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer on medium speed until frothy. Add sugar, grated zucchini, canola oil, vanilla extract, and lemon zest. Beat until just blended. Add zucchini mixture to flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon just until all dry ingredients are moist and combine. Fold in pineapple.

Spoon into prepared muffin tins (about 1/4 cup per muffin cup). Bake (one sheet at a time) for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 24 muffins (and only about 200 calories per muffin!).


Ratatouille w/ Italian Sausages

October 29th, 2009

This is actually a combination of two recipes from Real Simple magazine, along with my own personal twist. Ratatouille is usually thought of as a summer dish, given the use of produce such as eggplant, bell pepper, tomatoes, zucchini and summer squash. It also works well as an end-of-the-season dish, when the last of the summer produce arrives at the grocery store or farmer’s markets. For the past two weeks, my local grocery store has had the biggest, most beautiful zucchini, so I wanted to seize what it probably my last chance of the season to enjoy them!

Ratatouille is traditionally a meatless dish, comprised of vegetables and fresh herbs. One of the Real Simple recipes combined this dish with Italian sausage, which is a favorite in our house. It seemed like a winning combination, so I created this recipe for some dinner guests and received rave reviews. To complete the meal, I served this over warm egg noodles tossed with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh basil.


Tip: Cut the eggplant first and place in a colander. Sprinkle with salt and allow to set while you prepare the rest of the vegetables. Rinse  and pat dry before adding to saute. This will remove most of the bitter flavor and improve the texture of the eggplant (prevents it from getting overly soggy and mushy).

Look for eggplants that heavy for their size. This indicates ripeness and also improves the texture and flavor of the dish.

Ratatouille w/ Italian Sausages
adapted from Real Simple

4 Italian sausages, 1 lb, halved if desired
Olive oil
Sea salt
1 sweet yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large eggplant, about 1 lb, cubed
1 large zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 can (14 oz) petite diced tomatoes, do not drain
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock
Cracked black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400F and coat a 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray.

In a large skillet, heat about 1 tbsp olive oil. Brown sausages on both sides, about 3 minutes per side (sausages do not need to be cooked through). Arrange in a single layer in prepared baking dish and set aside.

In the same skillet, add onion and garlic. Sprinkle with sea salt and saute 2-3 minutes. Add eggplant, dried oregano and red pepper flakes. If pan begins to dry out, add a little more olive oil. Saute 3 minutes and add zucchini and bell pepper. Saute an additional 3 minutes, then add tomatoes with liquid and chicken stock. Bring liquid to a boil and stir in chopped basil. Season to taste with black pepper.

Pour vegetable mixture over sausages in prepared baking dish. Turn sausages to coat (if desired, cut sausage in half). Bake, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes, until sausages are cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to set for 10 minutes before serving.

As the dish cooks, the vegetables should start to release liqiud and create a sauce in the pan. If the pan dries out, though, just add a little more chicken stock.

Chicken w/ Cherry-Apricot Sauce

October 27th, 2009

The original recipe from Cooking Light Magazine was for pork, not chicken, and used just cherry preserves. I added the apricot jam and decided to use frozen cherries for extra flavor. I served this chicken over egg noodles and zucchini sauteed with sweet onion, garlic, tossed with sesame seed oil. By slicing the chicken and tossing with the cherry-apricot sauce, it made a delicious stir-fry style dish.


Chicken w/ Cherry-Apricot Sauce
adapted from Cooking Light

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders
Olive oil
Sea salt
Cracked black pepper
1 cup frozen pitted cherries, thawed
1/4 cup apricot jam or preserves
2 tsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp rice vinegar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Using a meat tenderizer or small frying pan, pound chicken between two pieces of wax paper until about 1/2 to 1/4 inch thick. Season on both sides with salt and black pepper. Heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook about 5-6 minutes on each side, until chicken is cooked through and no longer pink. Set aside and keep warm.

In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Add to hot skillet, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Heat until slightly thickened, about 2-3 minutes or until sauce is warmed through. Pour sauce over chicken and serve.

I prefer to slice the chicken first, then pour the sauce over top.


Quick and easy dinners are a life-saver after a long day. Pasta dishes fit the bill perfectly, because while you wait for the water to boil and the pasta to cook, you can chop and saute veggies and warm sauces. It involves a small amount of multi-tasking, but the result is a relative fast meal that doesn’t skimp on flavor.


Recently, a friend was seeking suggestions on what to do with Great Northern White Beans. These are one of my favorite pantry items to go to, so I provided her with a couple of my white bean recipes, and it got me thinking about other white bean dishes. This recipe is what I could call a pantry-scraper, because all of the ingredients I stock regularly (except zucchini, and really, a can of diced tomatoes would work here just as well).

Spaghetti w/ Zucchini & White Beans

8 oz dried spaghetti, broken in half
Sea salt
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1-2 medium size zucchini, diced
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (to taste)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 can (15 oz) Great Northern White Beans, drained and rinsed
Parmesan cheese, optional

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add 1 tbsp sea salt and dried spaghetti. Cook 8-10 minutes, until desired tenderness. Drain, toss in olive oil, and keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat about 2 tbsp olive oil in large skillet. Saute garlic and onions with about 1/4 tsp salt for 3-5 minutes, until softened. Add zucchini, red pepper flakes, and oregano and saute 3-5 minutes, until zucchini is cooked through but still crisp. Add white beans and saute until warmed through, about 2-3 minutes. Add additional olive oil to pan if needed.

Add cooked pasta to skillet. Toss, adding some reserved pasta water if pasta begins to stick. Top with Parmesan cheese before serving, if desired.