Saturday, March 29, 2014

Summer Cravings: Bruschetta

I've been seeing a lot of luscious tomatoes at the store lately. Tomatoes equal warmth. summer. Italy. We took a trip to Naples and the Amalfi Coast a few years ago - hands down, one of the most beautiful places in the world. I know we'll be back some day to enjoy some more dolce far niente

 Join me for a little mental vacation if you will....

Positano, 2011

Luscious lemons
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On a somewhat related note, a lot of friendly people I work with at the hospital have taken note of my  new last name. It's Italian. And long. Responses range from "Sorry, but I'm just not going to learn your new last name" to "Hey! You're Italian now! Are you making a big pasta dinner for Easter??" 

I'm still working on the Italian wife thing. 

In the name of all things Italian, and to celebrate the warmer weather, I made some bruschetta. It's beautiful, easy, and so delicious - what more could one ask for? As for being Italian, at least I'm getting the colors right with this bruschetta. One step at a time :).

Our basil plant, in need of a hair cut

makes approximately 8 rounds


5 small vine-ripened tomatoes 

1/2 small red onion, chopped

5 basil leaves

2 tsp balsamic vinaigrette

1/2 whole grain baguette

mozzarella (preferably buffalo mozzarella, but shredded can work too) 


olive oil

salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat broiler on low

2. Slice baguette into 1/4 - 1/2 inch slices. Brush with garlic and olive oil, and top with mozzarella cheese

2. Roughly chop tomatoes. Discard tomato juice to keep things from getting soggy

3. Chop 1/2 small red onion

4. Slice basil leaves into slivers

5. Combine tomatoes, onion, balsamic vinaigrette in a small bowl. Toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste

6. Spread tomato mixture evenly over baguette slices

7. Broil for 3-4 minutes (watch carefully to avoid burning)

8. Remove bruschetta from oven and top with basil leaves

That's it my friends - Ciao! 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Butternut Squash & Ricotta Pasta

I'm writing this as I wait for a late surgery to finish - can you tell I'm hungry? Just wanted to share this recipe with you - it's an ultra simple recipe that is essentially a healthier version of mac and cheese (special thanks to my friend J for the inspiration behind this recipe!) Really, it's harder to pare this down more - all you need is 1 large pot and a large mixing bowl.

If you want this to be really easy, use pre-cut, cubed butternut squash (usually available pre-packaged at most grocery stores). 

Butternut Squash & Ricotta Pasta


20 oz pre-cut butternut squash

1 cup ricotta cheese (I used part skim ricotta, but if you want this to be more indulgent, feel free to substitute full fat ricotta)
Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups whole wheat penne pasta


1. Bring a large salted pot of water to a rolling boil. Cook squash until tender (pierce with a fork). Remove squash from pot with a slotted spoon

2. Add pasta to still-boiling water (major laziness points here). Cook until al dente. Add more water if necessary to cook the pasta

3. While pasta cooks, mash the squash and add in ricotta, salt, and pepper to taste

4. Once pasta is cooked, top with the ricotta-squash mixture and sprinkle with thyme - then dig in! 

Yes, I was really so lazy that I cooked my pasta in the same water I used for the squash - but you know what? It actually gave the pasta an ever-so-slightly sweet flavor which was delicious! Speaking of which, since butternut squash plays equally well in sweet vs. savory recipes, you could take this pasta dish in a couple of different directions. I went more savory with the thyme, but I could see the addition of some cinnamon, honey, and a light dusting of parmesan being equally delicious. Let me know if you try this out, especially if you experiment a little bit! 

I'm still stomach is grumbling...better close this window before I lick the computer screen.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Pork & Leek Wontons

Happy Friday everyone! I must confess, I made these delicious wontons weeks ago, but haven't had a chance to share them with you since I've been so busy at work! I'm beginning to wish we could just fast forward to July, when I'll have taken (and if all goes well -  passed) my board exams. I dislike having major things hanging over my head. Oddly enough, this whole board prep experience reminds me of wedding planning. They're both big, important events in life and generally good things. Yet, in the last months leading up to our wedding, I was so sick of people asking me about it! It occupied so much of my time and thoughts that I didn't really feel like talking about it at length with anyone. It's the same with if the nagging feeling of I should be studying" weren't annoying enough! Two more months....

Anyway, let's talk about something more pleasant. I was inspired to make these wontons after stumbling across this pork and shrimp wonton recipe in the NYT. It was the dead of February, and of course very cold, and I wanted something warm and comforting. These wontons fit the bill entirely. Now, I'm not the biggest fan of shrimp, so I chose to keep my wontons purely pork - but if you love shrimp, you can certainly substitute half of the pork for shrimp as described in the NYT recipe. I made a few small modifications to the recipe, adding finely chopped leek. I also modified the directions slightly, cooking the wontons in water first, before adding them to the chicken broth. 

The fillings for these wontons is quite easy to put together, but you'll want to set aside some time to wrap them. I would recommend setting aside an afternoon with some friends & family to do this. Why? Because filling dumplings and wontons is inherently such a social activity. It's hard to imagine a better way to  spend a leisurely afternoon, wrapping wontons and chatting with your loved ones. I (unwisely) filled mine on my own and realized quickly that:

 1) 1 pound of pork goes a very long way when you can only fill each wrapper with 1 tsp of meat, and

 2) I really missed my family (husband was at work) the point where I teared up! 

Don't be intimidated if you've never wrapped wontons before. This was actually my first time, but with  this great guide from steamykitchen, I picked it up in a second! 

These wontons are delicious, simple, and a wonderful comfort food. Since it's still freezing here on the east coast (hello weather, it's March!), there's still time to enjoy these. 

Pork & Leek Wontons

adapted from the NYTimes


1 lb ground pork 

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp rice wine

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp grated ginger 

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp chili garlic sauce 

1/2 cup chopped scallions

1/2 cup finely chopped leek

36 wonton skins (you can get these at Asian grocery foods - or Whole Foods!)

1 small egg, beaten

8 oz baby spinach leaves

8 cups chicken broth

Sesame and hot chili oil (for drizzling)


1. Mix first 9 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Chill for at least 30 minutes (up to overnight) until ready to wrap wontons

2. Wrap wontons. A word of warning - the wonton skins will dry out very quickly, so be sure to leave a damp paper towel over them as you are working. Otherwise you'll end up with cracked wrappers - no good! 

3. Boil a pot of water; gently drop wontons in and cook for 5-10 minutes until cooked through (wontons will rise to the surface when cooked)

4. In the mean time, heat chicken broth and add spinach; cook until spinach is wilted

5. Portion broth and spinach into bowls. Remove cooked wontons from hot water with a slotted spoon. Add however many you like to each bowl of chicken broth

6. Drizzle each bowl with some chili oil and sesame oil, and you're done! 

I hope you won't find these intimidating - you'll love them if you give them a try. If you're on the east coast, I hope they'll keep you warm through this last winter chill too! 

Thanks for reading! 


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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Broccoli & Sausage Salad

Can you believe it's mid-March already? Between being on the frozen section service (where we provide intraoperative consultations to surgeons), studying for boards, and my husband's busy schedule in the ICU, entire weeks have just disappeared. I guess that's not such a bad thing, seeing that the tail end of winter is kind of a drag anyway! In the last week, we've sprung forward and suddenly there are so many birds chirping in the morning - so lovely! Spring is almost here....and very welcome, after such a long, cold winter! I was also lucky enough to escape to San Diego for a work-related meeting - and even better, my mom flew out to join me. We spent some quality time together at the beautiful Inn at Sunset Cliffs where we were lulled to sleep by the waves each night. Oh - we had the best fish tacos. Ever

Santorini-inspired inn
Kruz - the Inn's mascot and mini pinscher patrol dog! 

 I digress! Back to the meat of this post - in honor of New Haven's Broccoli vs. Kale campaign (a very cheeky, fun campaign aimed at boosting broccoli over the ubiquitous, uber-trendy kale), I created this simple broccoli & sausage salad. It's meant to be enjoyed warm and is a creamy mix of sweet, plump raisins, juicy sausage, and of course, lightly crunchy broccoli. As always, this is a very simple recipe to put together and makes several servings. This salad makes a great side dish, but also has enough power to stand on its own as substantive main dish. The protein from the yogurt & sausage and the fiber-rich broccoli will definitely fill you up. Watch out kale - broccoli is back!

Broccoli & Sausage Salad


Olive oil

3 links sweet Italian sausage (or spicy if you like)

1 medium red onion, chopped

4 cups broccoli florets, chopped

1/2 cup plain greek yogurt 

1/4 cup raisins

1 tbsp apple cider vinegar


1. Heat olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until hot. Add chopped onion and sausage and cook until sausage is completely cooked through (approximately 15 minutes)

2. Remove sausage and onion from pan. Slice sausage into bite sized pieces

3. While sausage cooks, lightly steam chopped broccoli florets for 3-4 minutes, until bright green and crisp

3. Combine broccoli, sausage & onion, yogurt, apple cider vinegar, and raisins. Mix until thoroughly combined. 

4. Dig in! 

Do you have any favorite broccoli recipes?

Thanks for reading! 


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Saturday, March 1, 2014

10-Minute Fig Pecan & Coconut Bars

It has been a crazy week at work! Now that it's finally the weekend, I have some time to fill you in on what I created the week before!  I was rushing around in the hospital a few weeks ago and hurriedly bought a KIND bar for a snack. Have you tried them? They're great - portable, delicious, and made with just a few simple ingredients....the only catch is that you have to shell out two dollars a bar. My eyebrows definitely went up when I saw the receipt! As I was enjoying my pricey snack, a light bulb went off in my head: I have to make my own version of these at home! 

After looking over some other attempts at homemade KIND bars, I came up with my own plan: figs, pecan, and coconut to make a sticky base, followed by a sprinkling of coconut, cranberries, and chopped almonds, and a drizzle of chocolate (just to take it to the next level!) What I love about this recipe is that nearly all of the sweetness comes from the fruit.  Of course, the cranberries and chocolate have some added sugar, but you'll use them sparingly. Even though we generally eat healthily, there's always room for improvement. With just a few simple ingredients, these bars are a great place to start.

I had to play around with this recipe twice; the first time, I didn't blend my figs well enough and forgot to line my pan with wax paper - let's just say that ended with a sticky (but still delicious) mess. The second time, I managed to figure everything out. Before we start - wax paper is a must - do not skip it, or you will really be kicking yourself in about 10 minutes.

Figs, coconut, and pecans - the stars of the show. They're excellent sources of fiber, healthy fats, and minerals. 

Fig Pecan & Coconut Bars
Makes 5 bars, in a 7 x 5 inch pan


1 cup dried mission figs

1 tbsp water

1/3 cup pecans

1/3 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut (+additional 1-2 tbsp for sprinkling)

1/6 cup dried cranberries

1/6 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips

1/6 cup chopped almonds


1. Add figs, pecans, 1 tbsp water, and shredded coconut to your food processor. Chop and/or grind until a very sticky, thick paste forms. You will probably have to pause and scrape down the sides every minute or so

2. Line pan with a sheet of wax paper. Press fig base firmly into the pan

3. Top with cranberries, remaining coconut, and chopped almonds. Press firmly into the pan again

4. Heat 1/6 cup chocolate chips in a small bowl at 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until completely melted. Drizzle lightly over the pan

5. Cover and refrigerate for 1/2 hour minimum

6. Remove from pan, cut into bars, and enjoy! 

These will hold up well for about a week in the refrigerator. They're solid little guys, and you can easily wrap them and bring them to work for a healthy snack.

If you try these, let me know how they turn out for you! 


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