Spinach and Sausage Lasagna

This recipe is not your typical lasagna, but it’s a delicious twist on the classic.  Since the whole thing only uses 1/2 lb. of pasta, it’s really easy to make this very healthy by using extra lean sausage and low-fat cheeses

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Meatballs

I must admit, I had never made meatballs until I tried this Barefoot Contessa recipe.  My mom usually makes them in bulk and gives me some – so I never had the opportunity to make them myself.  But I’m glad I tested this recipe out because it tastes very different from my mom’s meatballs – the meat is very tender and not overpowered by any particular flavor, it’s just perfectly blended and seasoned.    

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed – pulse in food processor until they’ve become crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 1/2 – 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl
  •  Combine very lightly with a fork
  • Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. (You will have 14 to 16 meatballs, if you make them a bit smaller you can get up to 24)
  • Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) saute pan until the bottom of the pan is liberally coated.  Heat the oil.
  • In batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork
    • This should take about 10 minutes for each batch
    • Don’t crowd the meatballs
    • Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels
    • Alternatively, you could bake the meatballs in the oven at 350°F for 10 minutes
  • Add the meatballs to a pot full of Robust Red Sauce
  • Cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through
    • If you’ve made more meatballs than you need, don’t fret!  These freeze beautifully – I usually freeze them as meals with sauce; perfect for a weeknight dinner!

Garlic Bread

Dressing up a regular loaf of fresh bread makes it that much more irresistible.  I adapted this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa and it’s unbelievably tasty and full of vibrant, fresh flavors.  Just don’t make it for a new beau, cause that garlic sure packs a punch.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large loaf ciabatta bread
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
  • 2 tbsp pesto (you could also use plain fresh basil, chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Place the garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process until minced.  Add the parsley, oregano, basil and salt and pepper and pulse until the herbs are finely chopped.
  • Heat the olive oil in a small saute pan and add the garlic mixture – saute until the garlic is fragrant – you don’t want to overcook it, you’re just getting rid of the raw garlic flavor.
  • Slice the bread in half horizontally and spread 1 tbsp of butter on each half of bread
  • Spread the garlic mixture evenly on each half of bread (depending on the size of your loaf, you might not need all of the mixture – reserve the extra for another day)
  • Put the halves back together, wrap in aluminum foil and bake at 350°F for 5 minutes
  • After 5 minutes, open the foil up and open the bread so the inside can get a little toasty – bake for an additional 5 minutes

Baked Shrimp Scampi

I watched Ina Garten make this dish on her show a few weeks ago and was dying to try it out.  Let’s just say, it did not disappoint.  This dish kind of blows baked stuffed shrimp out of the water – it’s full of so much flavor and is really easy to put together.  I made some small adjustments and it tasted like perfection.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 lb. large shrimp (U8-12), deveined with the tails still on
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp dry white wine
TOPPING
    • 8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
    • 4 tsp minced garlic (4 cloves)
    • 1/4 cup shallots, finely chopped
    • 3 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
    • 1 tsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
    • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp pepper
    • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
    • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 1 extra large yolk
    • 1 cup panko

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Butterfly the shrimp but leave the tails on
  • Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and combine with the olive oil, white wine, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper – let the shrimp sit and marinate at room temperature while you prepare the topping
  • In a small bowl, mash the softened butter together with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest and juice, egg yolk, panko and 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper
  • Arrange the shrimp in one layer, cut side down around the edge of a 14 inch oval gratin dish, you want the tails curling up facing in towards the middle of the dish – pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp
  • Spread the topping evenly over the shrimp
  • Bake at 425°F for 12-15 minutes or until its hot and bubbly and the shrimp is totally pink – you can broil it for a minute or so to brown the top if it’s not crunchy enough

Baked Stuffed Shrimp

Rumor has it (i.e. my mother thinks) that this is the Twin Oaks recipe for baked stuffed shrimp.  Whosever recipe this is has done something right, because it’s delicious.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. large shrimp (U8-12), deveined with the tails still on
  • 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup Ritz crackers, crushed
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 small onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 tsp white wine
  • Optional: 1/8 cup (2 tbsp) parmesan cheese, powdered
  • Optional: 1 tsp fresh parsley, chopped

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Melt the butter over medium-high heat in a saute pan – add in the chopped onion and cook until translucent, then add in the garlic and white wine and cook until the garlic is fragrant, but not burned
  • Add in the breadcrumbs and crushed Ritz crackers and combine well
  • If you want to add in the parmesan cheese and/or fresh parsley, do so now and stir well
  • Using a spoon, stuff the split side of the shrimp with as much stuffing as it will hold
  • Line the shrimp up with the tail upright and the un-split side down in a baking dish with high sides and bake at 375°F for approximately 20 minutes or until the shrimp is cooked and the stuffing is browned on top

Panko Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Pork is always a nice change-up from the normal weeknight routine.  This crunchy crust is full of flavor and takes this lean meat to the next level.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp whole grain dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 1  1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (or 1 tsp dried parsley)
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme (or 3/4 tsp dried thyme)
  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • Olive oil

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Preheat the oven to 400°F
  • Combine the flour salt and pepper on a plate
  • Combine the mustards, honey and water in a bowl large enough to fit the pork
  • Combine the breadcrumbs and herbs on a plate
  • Dredge the pork in the flour and shake off any excess
  • Dip the pork into the honey mustard mixture
  • Roll the pork in the herbed breadcrumbs until it’s evenly coated (press it on there to make sure it’s thoroughly coated)
  • Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large saute pan until it’s hot but not smoking
  • Add the pork to the pan and sear on all sides – about 5 minutes total
  • Move the pan with pork to the oven (or transfer onto a baking tray brushed with olive oil)
  • Bake for about 15-20 minutes (or until a meat thermometer reads 155°F – the center of the meat should be slightly pink)

White Bean Dip

This spread is a nice alternative to hummus.  When you season it with typical “Italian” flavors, it makes it a great appetizer to an Italian meal.  

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 – 15 oz. can canellini (white) beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (plus a bit for drizzling)
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed flat leafed parsley, or 3/4 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • Pinch of dried rosemary (optional: tastes great without it, too)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed (you can also used roasted garlic puree)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor
  • Pulse about 5 or 6 times – you want it to be smooth, but not totally smooth – it’s nice to have a little chunk in this dip (if you prefer a totally smooth dip, just process until smooth)

Serving Options…

    • Serve with pita chips (I like to serve this with Stacy’s Parmesan Garlic and Herb pita chips) and fresh veggies, or
    • Serve on top of slices of toasted french baguette brushed with olive oil

Mediterranean Meatloaf


This is another one of my mother’s recipes that was a staple in our household growing up.  It’s a Middle Eastern version of good old ‘meat and potatoes.’ 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Handful of fresh parsley (approximately 10 stems), finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 lb. (or more if desired) baby potatoes, peeled
  • 1 small can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Combine the ground beef, onion, parsley salt and pepper and mix well with your hands
  • Pour in the juice from the canned diced tomatoes, and mix well
  • Boil the potatoes and slice them into 1/3″ slices
  • Place the meat into the center of a baking pan with high edges (you don’t want the juice to leak)
  • Press down with your hands until the meat is about 1″ thick
  • With your index finger, divide the flattened meat into four by making a shallow indention and then make random shallow indentations with your index finger in each section (this will help keep the juices in the meat while it’s cooking)
  • Top the meat with the sliced potatoes and sprinkle with salt
  • Evenly place the diced tomatoes on top of the potatoes
  • Bake at 375°F for approximately 45 minutes
*Try serving this dish with fresh pita bread – makes a tasty sandwich!



Marushka’s Tabouleh

Here is my mom’s recipe for this traditional Middle Eastern salad.  It’s refreshing and full of so many different flavors.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large bunch of parsley
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of scallions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup crushed wheat (bulgar)
  • A few chopped leaves of fresh mint or 1/4 tsp of dried mint
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Lemon and Olive Oil Dressing*
*LEMON AND OLIVE OIL DRESSING
    • Mix equal parts of fresh lemon juice and olive oil and salt and pepper to taste – so easy!

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Rinse the crushed wheat (bulgar)  in cold water and squeeze it dry
  • Combine the chopped tomatoes with the crushed wheat (bulgar) – mix well
  • Finely chop the scallions and season with salt and pepper – add this to the tomatoes and bulgar
  • Pick the leaves off the parsley stems and wash them well and squeeze them dry
  • Either finely chop the leaves by hand, or BRIEFLY place them in a food processor – one pulse and it’s done (don’t over process, it will turn to mush)
  • Combine the parsley with the mint and add it to the rest of the ingredients
  • Pour the lemon and olive oil dressing over the tabouleh and serve with fresh romaine lettuce

Chickpea Salad

This hearty salad is a perfect healthy lunch because it’s got enough protein to keep you feeling full.  I’ve even had this “salad” over mixed greens to make it feel even more filling.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
  • 2 peppers (1 red, one green), chopped
  • 1 small can sliced black olives
  • 1/2 cup onion (red or vidalia), finely chopped
  • 1 tsp died parsley
  • Red wine vinaigrette (store bought or homemade*)
*RED WINE VINAIGRETTE
    • Red wine vinegar
    • Olive oil
    • Garlic powder to taste
    • Pinch of sugar
    • Salt and pepper to taste

HOW TO MAKE IT

  • Combine the chick peas, chopped peppers, olives, celery and onion in a medium bowl
  • Prepare the red wine vinaigrette in a separate bowl
  • Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and mix well
*RED WINE VINAIGRETTE
    • Combine the vinegar and oil at a 1:2 ratio in a small bowl (for ex. 1/3 cup vinegar + 2/3 cup olive oil)
    • Add in the garlic powder, pinch of sugar, salt and pepper to taste
    • Whisk well