Category Archives: Italian

Tiramisu Iced Coffee

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Happy National Coffee Day! A few days ago, I was having trouble thinking of what kind of recipe I should post this weekend so when I heard that September 29th is National Coffee Day, I instantly knew what my post would be about.

Coffee is one of my favorite drinks – specifically iced coffee. It was a slow growing love for me. As a kid, my mom would let me sip her coffee and even let me get my own small size once or twice. In high school, I began drinking raspberry or cinnamon iced coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts. In college I fell in love with dark roast coffee and have been mildly obsessed with coffee ever since then.

I have my go-to orders at my favorite coffee places (Iced French vanilla dark roast at Dunkin and Iced vanilla latte or iced hazelnut at Starbucks), but sometimes homemade iced coffee is just as good. Last summer I discovered the cold brew method of making iced coffee which has become increasingly popular and doesn’t even require a coffee maker. Since moving into my new apartment, I began enjoying espresso at home too. My roommate Jill has a mini Bialetti Moka Pot, which is basically a manual stove-top espresso maker, so I’ve been having fun playing around with that.

Not only does coffee help me get through the day, but I just love the flavor of a good coffee and it always seems to put me in a good mood. I was reading last year that sipping on a cup of caffeinated coffee actually released endorphins – one of the many reasons to drink it!

Last night my family went out for my sister’s birthday, and we ate at Macaroni Grill. I had never been there before and got a delicious blood orange Italian soda and some awesome appetizers. But the part of the meal that stood out the most to me was the tiramisu for dessert. I’ve never been a huge fan of tiramisu, but this stuff was good. It wasn’t too sweet and had just the right amount of coffee flavor – delicious! After browsing some recipes online , I had the idea to make a tiramisu-inspired iced coffee. It has a bold coffee flavor with a hint of vanilla and cocoa. It’s probably hot coffee season for most people by now but I’m gonna keep sippin’ my iced coffee as long as I can. 🙂

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Tiramisu Iced Coffee
makes 1 coffee

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup strong-brewed coffee, chilled (I used espresso roast)
  • 3/4 – 1 cup milk
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp coffee creamer (I recommend vanilla or amaretto) or other sweetener of choice
  • 1 tsp coffee liqueur or extract (Kahlua would work here!)
  • whipped cream or cool whip to top
  • cocoa powder to sprinkle

Directions:

In a tall glass, combine coffee, milk, sweetener, and coffee liqueur (and iced cubes if desired – I did mine without) and stir to combine. Top off with whipped cream and cocoa powder and enjoy 🙂

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What’s your favorite way to enjoy coffee?

Summer Vegetable Lasagna

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This is a dish I’ve been wanting to make for a while and I’m glad I finally got around to it, but man, I could have picked a better day to do it. I made this dish on Friday, another 90º day, and using both my stove and oven probably pushed the temperature in my kitchen to close to 100. Luckily the weather has cooled down a bit for the time being, but I know the heat will likely return soon enough. This is my first summer since I got into cooking that I live in a house with no central air, and I now realize why my mom would  avoid cooking on hot nights in our old house.

This recipe was actually inspired by a meal I used to get at the dining hall back in college. In the vegetarian section, they often served a Vegetable Lasagna with a white sauce. I really liked all the vegetables in it, and having a white creamy sauce rather than the traditional tomato sauce I was used to growing up. Most of the vegetables I chose to use in my version are at their peak during the summer and so it seemed like an appropriate summer dish – other than having to cook in this crazy heat!

This Summer Vegetable Lasagna is filled with fresh summer vegetables, such as zucchini, bell peppers, and spinach, and held together with a creamy garlic ricotta cheese mixture. Nixing the meat and loading up on vegetables makes this dish a lighter choice than traditional lasagna, and still tastes delicious the day after so it’s perfect for making head of time. You can use any assortment of vegetables you’d like, and switch up the sauce, too.

Summer Vegetable Lasagna
makes 1 8 x 8 dish, or approximately 6 large /9 small servings

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Ingredients:

  • 5 cups assorted vegetables, sliced into 1/2-inch strips. I used:
    • 1 medium yellow onion
    • half a red bell pepper and half a yellow pepper
    • half a medium eggplant
    • half a zucchini
    • 4 baby bella mushrooms
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 9 lasagna noodles, cooked to al dente
  • 3/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 2-3 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1.5 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup scallions, chopped
  • spices: a dash of dried basil, red pepper flakes, and salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzerella cheese and 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese, mixed together
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Your ingredients, plus the tomato sauce and lasagna noodles

Directions:

  1. Begin by sauteing your vegetables in 1 Tbsp of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Stir often and cook for about 15 minutes, or until veggies are beginning to get tender. Add in half of the garlic, saute for an additional 2-3 minutes, and remove veggies from heat.
  2. While veggies are cooking, cook your lasagna noodles to al dente.
  3. When your vegetables and noodles are done cooking, preheat oven to 375ºF and lightly spray an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with cooking spray. You will probably need to trim the ends of your noodles to fit in the dish.
  4. Prepare the garlic ricotta mixture by combining ricotta cheese, remaining minced garlic, scallions, and spices. Taste and adjust any spices you find necessary. Stir in beaten egg.
  5. Spoon 1/4 cup of tomato sauce onto greased baking dish and spread evenly. Layer 3 lasagna noodles on top and spread half of garlic ricotta mixture on top, along with another 1/4 cup of tomato sauce. Next, layer with half of the spinach and then half of the sauteed veggies. Sprinkle with one-third of the cheese. Repeat this process for the next layer.
  6. Top off with 3 more lasagna noodles, the remaining cheese, and a few vegetables (if desired). Bake for 20 minutes covered in foil, and then another 10 minutes uncovered or until cheese is completely melted. Let sit for a few minutes before serving, and enjoy!
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Begin by sauteing up those veggies

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and preparing your garlic ricotta mixture using the ricotta cheese, minced garlic, chopped scallions, spices, and egg. You will also want to cook your lasagna noodles during this time.

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Preheat your oven to 375 F and begin assembling your lasagna. First spoon 1/4 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of your baking dish.

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Next, lay down your lasagna noodles over the tomato sauce and then spread half of the garlic ricotta mixture on top, along with another 1/4 cup of tomato sauce (which I forgot to picture).

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On top of the ricotta, place half of the spinach and half of the sauteed vegetables. Sprinkle a third of the cheese blend on top.

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Repeat this process, and then lay down one more layer of lasagna noodles, and finish off with the remaining cheese and a few veggies if desired. Bake for 20 minutes covered, and then 10 minutes uncovered or until cheese is melted. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.

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Chicken Caprese Salad

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I realized recently I don’t have enough salad recipes on here. Mostly because I don’t eat enough salad, which I’ve been trying to change. I do love a good salad but I often find myself too lazy to get out all the ingredients and chop them up – which is silly because I usually spend 30 minutes preparing most of my meals anyway.

Whenever I see the word “Caprese” on a menu at a restaurant, I get excited. Caprese is the classic Italian combination of fresh mozzerella, fresh basil, and tomatoes. It’s one of my favorite flavor combinations and is always sure to satisfy. A traditional Insalata Caprese doesn’t involve lettuce or greens of any type, but I decided to throw some into this salad for extra heartiness and some crunch, and chicken for protein of course. This salad is so light and fresh tasting  – perfect for summer.

I also threw together a simple homemade creamy balsamic vinaigrette for this salad. You can find balsamic vinegar near the other vinegars or olive oil in your grocery store and it’s relatively inexpensive. I used Greek yogurt (my staple) for the “creamy” aspect of the dressing, but you could alternatively use mayonnaise or heavy cream for a more authentic version.

Chicken Caprese Salad
serves 1

Ingredients:

  • For the dressing:
    • 1 Tbsp olive oil
    • 2 tsp balsamic vinegar
    • 2 tsp plain Greek yogurt or mayonnaise
    • 2-3 tsp lemon juice
    • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • one small stalk of romaine lettuce (about 3-4 cups), chopped and rinsed
  • 1 small breast of chicken, grilled and sliced
  • 1/4 cup of cubed fresh mozzerella
  • 3-4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved

Directions:

To prepare the dressing, simply whisk all of the ingredients for it together in a small bowl. Set aside. Place lettuce in a salad bowl, and layer remaining ingredients on top. Drizzle dressing over the salad and enjoy. 🙂

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Ricotta Vegetable Turkey Meatballs

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Meatballs are one of those things, when done right, I find so satisfying. I’m not a huge meatloaf person and I only eat burgers every once in a while, but something about meatballs makes them super appealing to me. They make a great meal and there are endless varieties to how you can prepare them. Some of my favorites include sweet and sour meatballs, which are made with grape jelly and chili sauce (sounds crazy but it works) and, of course, traditional Italian-style meatballs. My dad makes some of the best beef meatballs I’ve ever had, accompanied by his famous tomato sauce. I have yet to get the recipe from him…

Since becoming interested in eating healthier a couple of years ago, I’ve made the switch from ground beef to ground turkey. Growing up, we always had beef for our burgers and tacos, but I’ve come to prefer ground turkey because it’s not as heavy and still loaded with protein. I certainly enjoy beef every now and then, but I’m really more of a white meat-kinda girl.

After making many different meatball recipes, some successful and some not so much, I’ve discovered a few methods to make them delicious each time. One of the most important tips I can give is to make sure you stick to an appropriate ratio of ingredients. If you use too much or too little of one ingredient, your meatballs may come out dry and crumbly or a pile of mush. The ratio I typically follow for every one pound of ground meat is 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs and 1 egg. It’s also important to measure your spices and/or herbs, since you can’t taste the meat before you cook it. And a method I personally like to use to keep meatballs moist is to add veggies, cheese, or both!

These meatballs were inspired by two recipes. One is a turkey meatball recipe my roommate Emily would make a couple of years ago, which is still one of my favorites to this day. Her version includes veggies like spinach, red pepper, and mushroom and were so flavorful. The other recipe is these Turkey Ricotta Meatballs from CenterCutCook, which use ricotta cheese to help keep the meatballs moist. More or less, I combined these two recipes and came up with the clever name Ricotta Vegetable Turkey Meatballs… ha ha.

Ricotta Vegetable Turkey Meatballs
makes 20 meatballs or 4-5 servings

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Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs (I used Panko)
  • 1/4 cup finely diced onions
  • 1/4 cup finely diced red bell pepper
  • 1 large handful of fresh spinach, shredded
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup parmesan and/or mozzerella cheese
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp dried oregano

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Directions:

  1. In a medium-large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly, either using a large spoon or your hands until all is well-incorporated.
  2. Optional: For a more flavorful meatball, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 hours. If you choose to skip this step, preheat your oven to 375ºF.
  3. Use your hands to roll the meat into about 18-20 meatballs, or around 1.5 tablespoons each. Mine made exactly 20. Place the meatballs on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until they are cooked throughout. Let cool slightly and serve with your choice of pasta, or on a sub roll with marinara sauce and enjoy! 🙂
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Make sure your veggies are nice and finely chopped

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Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir

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Once all your ingredients are well-incorporated, refrigerate for a few hours or bake right away. When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

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Roll your turkey into meatballs, roughly 1.5 tablespoons each or 18-20 meatballs. Bake for 15-18 minutes.

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When your meatballs are no longer pink in the middle and cooked throughout, they are done. Serve with pasta or on a sub roll.

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Wonderfully juicy and moist in the middle 🙂

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Veggie Pita Pizza

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It’s finally starting to feel a bit like spring here in Massachusetts. I suppose I shouldn’t say “finally”, seeing as the first official day of spring was just last week, but it’s been a very long, snowy winter. The temperature has risen above freezing during the day and my favorite produce market is opening up the outdoor portion of the store to sell flowers.

Usually at this time of year, I’m realizing that bikini season is just around the corner and deciding I should start exercising more and eating better. Last fall I joined a gym for the first time in a long time, and had the epiphany that I don’t want being healthy and fit to just be a seasonal thing. Though it’s an effort to make yourself go to the gym every week and eat right, it’s even more difficult to let yourself go during the winter and then scramble to get yourself back into shape for the summer.

My attempt to become healthier has definitely been a process. I didn’t just wake up one day and magically eat all the right foods and go to the gym everyday. There’s been a lot of figuring out what does and doesn’t work for my body, and trying to form new habits. I’ve learned that my body functions best with an abundance of protein, healthy fats, limited sugar, and limited dairy. Though I’ve heard that carbs can slow you down and tend to contribute to belly fat, limiting my carb intake has been a bit more difficult. Like many other Americans, I tend to find a meal incomplete without some source of grains and find comfort in eating a bowl of pasta or a sandwich on really good bread.

Instead of completely cutting grains out of my diet, which just seems too drastic for me, I’ve been focusing on incorporating more whole grains into my diet. Lately, one of my favorite ways to eat whole grains is Arnold Pocket Thins. They are a pita pocket-style flat bread and one serving has (1/2 a pita) 100 calories and 8g of whole grains. They come in a number of flavors and are perfect for a sandwich, or in this case, pizza! I chose the Italian Herb flavor for this particular recipe, which seemed appropriate.

This Veggie Pita Pizza is loaded with fresh vegetables, marinara sauce, low-fat cheese and cooked on a delicious whole grain pita. You can use any type of pita bread that’s available to you, and feel free to switch up the veggies. It’s a quick and easy meal, perfect for a weeknight or even for lunch. This is a fun way to eat pizza without feeling guilty afterwards, plus you’re getting a healthy serving of veggies, too.

Veggie Pita Pizza
makes 1 pizza

Ingredients:

  • 1 6-inch pita pocket
  • 3 Tbsp marinara sauce
  • 1/4 cup mozzerella and/or parmesan cheese, divided in half
  • handful of fresh spinach, chopped
  • 3/4 cup of veggies of your choice, thinly sliced or chopped
  • optional: pinch of red pepper flakes

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Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425ºF. Lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Spoon the marinara sauce onto your pita and spread around in an even layer. Sprinkle with half of your cheese. Layer on your spinach and veggies, and top off with remaining cheese and optional red pepper flakes.
  3. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cheese is fully melted and edges of crust are golden-brown. Let cool slightly before eating and enjoy:)
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Begin by spreading a thin layer of your marinara sauce on your pita, and sprinkle with half of your cheese.

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Add your spinach and veggies, and top with remaining cheese. I used onions, peppers, and mushrooms but you can use whichever veggies you like. Bake at 425 for 10-12 minutes.

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Once your cheese is melted and crust is golden-brown, your pizza is done. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.

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🙂