Tag Archives: fresh

Butter vs Olive Oil – Penne with Shrimp, Fresh Herbs and Lemon

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

There was a time when most any meal I set out to cook began with a big glob of butter melting in a hot pan. Whether it was sautéing onions for a casserole, browning chicken for a braise, or scrambling an egg; it all started with butter. Then as I began reading about nutrition and becoming more conscious of my health, slowly but surely I transitioned to olive oil. Quietly and gradually, somewhere over the last few years, olive oil became my butter.

Through most of my years of cooking, it was not unusual for me to use a pound of butter per week, or at least every couple of weeks. Nowadays it is a rare purchase indeed and though I still keep (un-salted) butter around for a special treat in a pan-sauce or on my Sunday morning toast…I can honestly say the transition is complete. And why not?

Butter is a saturated fat too much of which can contribute to the build-up of blood cholesterol – Olive oil actually contains anti-oxidants and monounsaturated fats that have been proven to help lower cholesterol. Olive oil also contains vitamins E, K, and A, powerful anti-inflammatory properties and a host of other health benefits.

So why eat butter at all? Well, aside from that wonderful flavor there are a few good things about butter. For one, it does not contain any trans-fat, it also contains beneficial vitamins and minerals, can be high in Omega 3, and can even help your body fight off cancer cells. There is a great article at getmybodyback.com that discusses the details.

To my thinking these days, a little butter goes a long way…It’s a good fit in my “everything in moderation” theory that I mention so often. Butter is not inherently evil but it can easily be too much of a good thing. If you balance it out with a good bit of olive oil though, I think you can find a happy medium that will help you live a longer and more enjoyable life.

Recipe notes: This recipe uses olive oil as the base for the “sauce”. It is surprising in that it is not dripping in fat or greasy tasting. The idea is to coat the pasta rather than drenching it in a heavy sauce. The recipe comes together very quickly so I recommend having all of your ingredients ready to go by the time the pasta is almost ready to drain.

Penne with Shrimp, Fresh Herbs and Lemon

1 Lb – Med fresh shrimp, peeled & deveined
1/3 Cup – Extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp – Fresh garlic, minced
2 Sprigs – Fresh thyme
½ Tsp – Dried red pepper flakes
8 Oz – Dried 100% whole wheat penne
Juice of ½ Lemon
1 to 2 Tbsp – Fresh basil chiffonade
Fresh Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

Add a tablespoon of kosher salt to a large pot of water over medium-high heat. When the water comes to a boil gently stir in the pasta. Continue stirring occasionally and cook 8 to 10 minutes or until the pasta has softened to your desired doneness.

When the pasta is roughly two minutes from being done, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, stir in the garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes and about ¼ teaspoon of fresh ground black pepper. Stir constantly for about 30 seconds then add the shrimp in a single layer. Shake the pan to “nestle” the ingredients.

Meanwhile, test the pasta for doneness, and drain into a colander reserving a little of the pasta water on the side.

After about 2 minutes, shake the pan again to loosen any shrimp that may be sticking and turn the shrimp over. Cook 2 minutes more on the second side then add the lemon juice and a couple of tablespoons of the pasta water. Cook another minute and remove the pan from the heat. To finish, stir in the pasta and the basil, gently tossing to combine.

Serve with fresh grated parmesan sprinkled over the pasta.



Mother’s Day Brunch – Mixed Berries with Mascarpone-Limoncello Cream

(photo by: Leo Gong)

I had so wanted to try a variation on a theme using this recipe as a template and Agave Nectar as the sweetener but alas time has run out. So I shall do the next best thing and share the recipe that was originally posted on my favorite recipe site: Epicurious.com

Whenever you find yourself in a pinch for a new recipe, wondering how to cook a specific ingredient, or looking for ideas from a certain ethnicity Epicurious.com  is the go-to site. They have bailed me out countless times and I cannot recommend them enough. This recipe is just one fine example of the many you will find there.

Happy Mother’s Day and God bless all of the Moms! To the rest of you…please make this day special for your Mom for without her where on earth would you be?

Reprinted from Epicurious.com this recipe was originally published in Bon Appetit

Mixed Berries with Mascarpone-Limoncello Cream

3/4 cup chilled whipping cream
1/2 8-ounce container mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons limoncello (lemon liqueur)
8 cups assorted fresh berries (such as raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and hulled sliced strawberries; about 2 pounds)
3/4 cup raspberry preserves
1 tablespoon grated lemon peel

Combine whipping cream, mascarpone, 3 tablespoons sugar, and limoncello in large bowl. Beat until soft peaks form. Combine all berries, raspberry preserves, lemon peel, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in another large bowl; toss gently. Divide berry mixture among 8 coupes. Top with mascarpone cream.



Using Leftover Turkey – Shepherds Pot Pie

Photo by KathyHuntPhoto.com

In one of my last posts I talked about all the stuff I’d been doing with leftover turkey, then, I posted a recipe for pork. Surprise! I got a few emails asking for the turkey recipes I had mentioned. Since I didn’t have pictures of those I thought I would use a little more of that turkey last night. Even after making this one, would you believe I still have more turkey in the freezer? Wow, I do love making good use of those leftovers!

This is sort of a fusion recipe; a pot pie filling with a shepherd’s pie topping. All of the ingredients are fresh and honestly, with the exception of a couple of recipes my daughters will never let me quit cooking, I doubt I could ever go back to making casseroles with frozen veggies and canned soups! When you take that first bite of good fresh food the wholesomeness is immediately apparent…the richness of the leeks and the mushrooms, the depth of flavor in the homemade broth.

I can’t recommend enough cooking with fresh food. The payoff in enjoyment (not to mention compliments) is almost as nice as the health benefits!

In this recipe I used my own homemade turkey stock, another great way to use leftover turkey (and bones). Chicken broth would work almost as well as would leftover chicken. The idea behind cooking the mushrooms in this way is to get the pan just hot enough so that the juices exude and evaporate very quickly, rather than pooling in the pan. As the liquid evaporates it leaves lots of flavor behind. Then as the mushrooms begin to caramelize, they will be at the peak of their flavor.

Yes, I do use a little butter here; I think it adds richness to the potatoes and a polish to the sauce. I honestly feel there is no harm in using butter as long as it is used in moderation. If you think about it in terms of, two tablespoons of butter in a dish of 10 – 12 servings, it actually works out to very little fat per serving. Just enough in fact that I didn’t miss the whole milk (or cream) that I used to use in mashed potatoes. As the potatoes come together the goal is a fluffy creaminess with still a little stiffness…too much liquid would result in a watery final dish.

Start to finish the dish took a little over an hour to prepare…40 minutes prep work and 30 in the oven. This one is definitely good enough for company as the friend that came to dinner simply couldn’t stop eating it. It was, for sure, a great way to use up a little more of that leftover turkey!

Shepherd’s Pot Pie

For the filling…

2 Cups – Cooked Turkey, cut in roughly ½” cubes
2 Cups – Good stock
2 Cups – Leeks (white part only) quartered lengthwise, rinsed well then sliced
8 oz – Button mushrooms, quartered (approx 2 cups)
1 Cup – Celery, diced large
1 Cup – Carrots, diced large
3 Tbsp – Unbleached all purpose flour
2 Tbsp – Fresh Italian parsley, chopped
½ tsp – Rubbed sage
½ tsp – Dried marjoram
½ tsp – Dried thyme
2 tbsp – Olive oil
1 tbsp – Unsalted butter
Kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper

For the topping…

5 large – Red potatoes, quartered lenthwise the cut into (approx) 1” chunks
1 Cup – Low fat cultured buttermilk
½ Cup – Fat free plain yogurt
1 Tbsp – Unsalted butter
One sprinkling – Paprika

Kosher salt

Place the potatoes into a large saucepan or soup pot and add enough water to cover. Add 2 tablespoons kosher salt and bring to a boil over medium high heat. When the water is boiling reduce the heat to medium and cook until fork tender.

While the potatoes are cooking…

Heat a large saute pan over medium high heat. When the pan is nice and hot add the olive oil and swirl in the pan to distribute. Add the mushroom and sage and cook stirring frequently until the liquid has cooked out of the mushrooms and they are showing signs of browning. Then, add the leeks, carrots, and celery to the pan along with several good grinds of pepper, the marjoram, and the thyme. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often until the celery is tender-crisp.

Stir the Turkey into the pan along with 1 Tbsp of butter and cook, stirring, until the butter has melted. Stir in the flour and cook two minutes more stirring gently to incorporate. Stir in the broth being sure to loosen any browned bits that have stuck to the pan. Reduce the heat to low and allow the mixture to simmer and thicken, stirring only occasionally, while you prepare the mashed potatoes.

Pre-heat the oven to 350°.

When the potatoes are fork tender carefully pour into a colander or sieve to drain. Allow the potatoes to sit for 5 minutes to allow the steam to dry the potatoes before returning them to the cooking pot. Crush the potatoes slightly then add ¾ of the buttermilk and the yogurt. Mash well with a potato masher (or mixture) until well mashed. Add the butter and the remaining buttermilk and continue mashing until your desired consistency is reached. Taste the potatoes and season with salt if needed.

Stir the turkey mixture once more, stirring in the fresh parsley. Taste the mixture to check the seasonings, add salt & pepper if needed, then pour evenly into a 9 X 13 baking dish. Top the turkey mixture evenly with approx. ½” thickness of the mashed potatoes using the back of a spoon to even out the surface. Sprinkle the top with a little paprika then bake 30 minutes. Rest 10 minutes and serve, garnishing each plate with a little more fresh chopped parsley.



Frittata with Spinach and Tomato

Frittatas are another very versatile and fast way to whip up a great dinner. This one calls for Spinach and Tomato but, like pizza, the ingredient list is limited only by your imagination. Some of our favorite combinations include tuna & scallions, diced ham & fontina with scallions, and asparagus, artichoke hearts, tomato, & onion. Fresh grated Parmesan cheese is a constant for me and I even sprinkle some over the top for an added flavor boost. Though I used Soy Milk in this recipe you can use skim milk, whole milk, or even half & half in yours. Get creative and have a little fun!

Frittata with Spinach and Tomato

1 package pre-washed fresh spinach, about 12 oz
2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, halved lengthwise, rinsed well, patted dry, and sliced
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded, and diced large *See my note below
1 large tomato, peeled and sliced into 7 equal slices
2-3 med red bliss potatoes, sliced 1/8 to 1/4 inch-thick
8 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
1 tbs whole wheat flour
1/4 cup part skim ricotta
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus about a tablespoon reserved
1 pinch fresh grated nutmeg
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

Heat 1 tbs of the olive oil in a 10 inch non-stick pan over medium heat. When the oil is beginning to shimmer, add the leeks and about 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper. Cook, stirring often, 2 to 3 minutes until the leeks are just transparent. Remove them to a bowl to cool. Using the same pan, raise the heat to med high and bring 1/4 cup of water to a boil. Dissolve about 1 tbs of kosher salt, then carefully add the spinach. Cook 2 to 3 minutes until spinach is wilted then pour into a colander to drain and cool. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, in a dishtowel, gently squeeze out excess water. Hold the spinach in the same bowl with the leeks until ready to use.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl beat the eggs with the soy milk. Gently fold in the flour and the nutmeg, then the spinach, leeks, diced tomatoes, ricotta, and most of the Parmesan cheese, reserving about 1 tbs. Warm the same pan over med heat with 1 tbs of olive oil. Meanwhile carefully distribute the potato slices evenly around the pan trying not to overlap. When the potatoes begin to sizzle, pour the egg mixture into the pan. Use a spoon to make sure the ingredients are evenly distributed. Lower your heat to low, cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes or until the eggs have begun to set and pull away from the side of the pan.

Remove the cover and evenly distribute the tomato slices around the top, sprinkle with the reserved Parmesan then carefully place the pan in the oven. Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes or until the eggs in the top center appear to be completely set. Remove the pan from the oven and using a thin spatula carefully loosen the frittata from the pan all the way around the edges. When the frittata is freed from the pan, gently slip it out of the pan and onto a cutting board to rest. Rest 10 minutes, then slice into pie shaped pieces to serve.

* Note: Tomatoes are easy to peel if you blanch them in a little hot water for a minute or two. For this recipe, slice about a 1/2 inch “X” in the bottom of your tomatoes (opposite the stem end). Gently drop them into a pan of water heated to near boiling and simmer for two minutes or so until the tomato skin at the “X” begins to pull away. Now removes the tomatoes and cover them in cold water to stop the cooking.

Once the tomatoes have cooled the skin will be very easy to peel; I use the edge of a knife to grab it and gently peel it away.

To remove the seeds, cut the tomato in half cross ways (midway between the stem and the bottom) and gently squeeze the tomato to force out the seeds  using the tip of your knife to remove any stragglers.


After seeing the photo in my blog header, my friend Jackie really wanted my bruschetta recipe. I told her this was only one of about a million ways that bruschetta is made and explained how I prepared it on this particular day.  She still insisted that I share the recipe so Jackie…this one is for you!

The word bruschetta actually refers to the bread that is usually grilled or toasted, drizzled with good olive oil, then rubbed with a fresh cut clove of garlic. The “bruschetta” is then often topped with a mixture of fresh tomatoes, garlic, and herbs. A quick search of bruschetta on Google actually returns over 7,150,000 results, many of which are delicious recipes and the common denominator in nearly every one is the bread, the most important ingredient.

Traditionally bruschetta was a use for old bread that was or about to become stale. This was the good, crusty stuff that mom baked in her kitchen or picked up from the local bakery. So in keeping with tradition, when I make bruschetta, I always look to start with a good loaf of Italian bread or a French baguette. And, for the best taste and texture, I always try to serve my bruschetta while it is still warm.

To make bruschetta place a whole loaf of good crusty bread on your cutting board so that the right end is pointing towards the lower right corner of the cutting board, and the left end is pointing towards the upper left corner or roughly a 45 degree angle. Now cut ½ inch thick slices with your knife blade parallel to the sides of the cutting board. This should give you nice oval shaped slices of bread. Now lightly toast the slices on a grill or under a broiler until they are crisp but not overly browned. (I toasted mine on a dry cookie sheet placed 6 inches under the broiler just until they were golden.) Once toasted, lightly brush each slice of bread with a little extra virgin olive oil then rub gently with the cut side of a freshly cut in half garlic clove.  Now you are ready to make bruschetta magic!

On the day the photo was taken, I wanted to make my bruschetta in the style of an Insalada Caprese. So after toasting and following the steps above, I drizzled each piece with a little balsamic vinegar; probably no more than ¼ teaspoon on each. Then I topped each bruschetta with a slice of soft fresh mozzarella, a slice of super ripe fresh tomato, a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper, and a few ribbons of fresh basil chiffonade.

I hope you enjoy this bruschetta and be sure read through a few million of the other recipes on Google <wink!> or use your imagination to come up with your own yummy topping combination!