Baked Gemelli with Pecorino and Smoked Mozzarella


Yeah… so you may have noticed that I’m kind of in the middle of a love affair with smoked cheeses. They are just so gosh darn yummy!

Since it’s birthday season in my world, my wallet has been a little tight – not to mention Mondays are usually very long days for me with work, gym, boy toy, loving on my dog… you get the picture. I had slacked on my running schedule over the weekend so I really pushed myself yesterday. When I left the gym, all I really wanted to eat was a big heaping bowl of pasta. I wanted a recipe that was full of flavor but required minimal effort.

Enter the simple and oh-so-scrumptious Baked Gemelli. As simple as it was, this is one of my favorite things I’ve made so far. I think Nick would have to agree…

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dried Gemelli pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • 3 1/2 cups My Favorite Tomato Sauce (or any type of tomato/marinara sauce)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided
  • 1/4 cup grated pecorino romano
  • 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, half cut into 1/2-inch cubes and half thinly sliced
  • 1/2 pound smoked mozzarella, half cut into 1/2-inch cubes and half thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. EVOO
  • Thyme, to taste (I like A LOT)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper or to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously, and boil the pasta until al dente, tender but still slightly firm. Drain.
  2. While the pasta is boiling, heat the EVOO in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and thyme. Saute until the onions are transparent, about 5 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the cooked pasta with the tomato sauce, sauteed onion/garlic/thyme mixture, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, the pecorino, and the cubed mozzarella pieces. Season with the black pepper and red pepper to taste, and mix until well combined. Transfer the pasta to an oiled 9- x 13-inch baking dish. Cover the top of the pasta with the sliced mozzarella, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Bake until lightly browned and hot, about 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Quinoa “Mac n’ Cheese”

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I LOVE quinoa. Nick hates it. Well – hate is a strong word, so let’s just say it’s not his “favorite.” My cooking mantra is: If it doesn’t taste good, put cheese on it.  Most of the time, this mantra works… especially in this case. If you love mac n’ cheese but want to make it a little healthier by adding protein and cutting carbs, then this recipe is for you. I paired it with some savory grilled tofu (Nick made chicken with the same marinade) and my Crispy Lemon Roasted Brussels Sprouts. TDF.

Quinoa “Mac n’ Cheese” Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1 shallot, sliced
  • good pinch of salt
  • a few grinds of seasoning salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup soy milk or non-fat milk
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese, more for sprinkling
  • 4 oz smoked mozzarella, cubed
  • Optional- Crushed Red Pepper, Panko Bread crumbs for topping
  • Toppings (optional)- salsa, hot sauce, sour cream, scallions

The Method:

  1. Lightly saute garlic and shallot over medium heat.
  2. Cook quinoa to packaged instructions until fully cooked. (About 15 minutes)
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat 13×9 inch dish( or 8 individual ramekins) with cooking spray.Whisk together eggs and milk in large bowl. Fold in quinoa mixture and cheese. Stir very well and let some of the cheese melt. Transfer to prepared baking dish and if using Panko Crumbs or Bread crumbs add now and bake 30-35 mins, until bread crumbs are browned.

Grilled Tofu Ingredients:

  • Extra-firm tofu, sliced 3/4 inch thick
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame oil

The Method:

  1. Remove tofu from package and drain. Meanwhile, mix all the other ingredients together in a shallow bowl.
  2. After the tofu is done draining, slice into 3/4 inch thick strips.
  3. Place slices in the marinade and allow to site for at least 10 minutes.
  4. While the tofu is marinading, heat an indoor grill pan (or outdoor grill) to medium heat.
  5. Grill tofu for 3 minutes on each side.

ENJOY!

Challenge: Couch Potato-to-5k

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I started this blog to post yummy vegetarian recipes and also to keep online recipe book. However, if you look at the title, you’ll notice the word fueled. Earlier this year, I made a resolution to be healthier. This meant:

  1. No soda
  2. Cook more at home to be healthier
  3. Start an exercise routine

The first two goals were a breeze to put in place. As for lucky number three? Well, that took almost 5 months to put in place.

As some of you may know, I recently started the Couch Potato-to-5k Running Plan in hopes to participate in the 2012 Empower One Breast Cancer Race. A few women in my family have faced breast cancer and kicked its ass… hard. I figured that if my mom and grandma can go through intense treatment and come out strong then the least that I can do for them is kick this race’s ass and help fundraise for future research.

Currently, I’m on the third week and I’ve been feeling stronger each and every day. Have any of you tired a 5k challenge? If so, which ones and where are you at today with your running? 

Grilled Tofu with Marinated Tomato Salad and Wilted Spinach

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Tofu ingredients:

  • 1 block of extra-firm tofu, drained
  • 1 tbp. Light Soy Sauce
  • 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
  • 3/4 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. sesame oil

Tofu instructions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together in a shallow bowl.
  2. Once the tofu has drained, slice five 1-inch strips and toss them in the marinade.
  3. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Throw strips on a medium-high heat grill pan and cook for 3 minutes on each side.

Marinated Tomato Salad ingredients:

  • 6 to 8 ripe tomatoes
  • 4 green onions
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Handful fresh parsley leaves, lightly chopped
  • 12 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
Marinated Tomato Salad instructions:
  1. Cut the tomatoes into 4 wedges, then cut the wedges in half and add to a bowl. Lop off the tops of the green onions, then slice the white and mostly light green parts really thin. Add to the tomatoes.
  2. Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, dash of salt and pepper to a jar. Screw on the lid and shake to combine. Pour the dressing over the tomatoes and toss.
  3. Add the herbs and gently toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.
Wilted Spinach with Fried Garlic ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 1 pound spinach, washed and stemmed
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
Wilted Spinach with Fried Garlic instructions:
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add garlic and stir until golden, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add greens in batches, if necessary, and toss until just wilted, 2 to 4 minutes.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.

Avocado Quesadillas

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I love meals that can be made in under 10 minutes. I also love any meal that incorporates cheese and avocado – can you blame me? Since I’m trying to get myself back into shape for the simply sweltering summer that is a brewing, so my time in the kitchen has been replaced with the gym. Not only do I refuse to ruin my workout with a drive-thru dinner, but I’m also not going to throw a bunch of lettuce on a plate and call it a day.

So, over the weekend I found a cornucopia of yummy recipes that are quick to prepare AND won’t make caloric intake go through the roof.

Enter the Avocado Quesadilla…

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice (I used lemon)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tortilla
  • 1/4 cup grated white cheddar

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Mash the avocado with the lemon or lime juice and the salt.
  3. Cover a cookie sheet with foil. Lay the tortilla down, spread the avocado mixture, sprinkle the cheddar across the surface and pop it into the broiler for 4-5 minutes – or until the cheese is melted and the tortilla takes on a golden hue.
  4. Cut into wedges and serve immediately. I served mine with a Kale and Spinach salad dressed in EVOO, lemon juice and salt & pepper. Enjoy!