Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ladies Who Lunch

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta Bake
A few weekends ago I ended up hosting an impromtu ladies lunch at my apartment. It was a casual, laid-back affair and I didn't want to spend a ton of time in the kitchen.  This casserole received rave reviews and was simple to assemble!

When I first found this recipe, I was put off by the cream cheese and the sour cream mixture in the sauce, but was able to modify and cut the quantity (and fat!) without compromising taste. I even added another vegetable (mushrooms) to amp up the nutrition content. Serve with a side salad or fruit, and you have a tasty, simple and impressive meal. Enjoy!

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta Bake
Cast of Characters: Small-shaped pasta, frozen spinach, artichoke hearts (canned, jarred or frozen), mushrooms (optional), reduced-fat cream cheese, reduced-fat sour cream, parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon, onion and olive oil.

Cook pasta as directed on the box.

Chop onions, garlic, artichoke hearts and mushrooms.

Saute the onion and garlic.

Add frozen spinach, mushrooms and artichoke hearts.

Drain the pasta and put in a large bowl. Add a 1/4 cup of cream cheese and sour cream (more or less depending on your preference) and lemon zest. Fold together.

Put in a casserole dish coated with cooking spray and top with parmesan cheese. Bake at 425.


Here's the original recipe from Budget Savvy Diva:

  • 14 oz of Orecchiette Pasta ( or short pasta)
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup of Chopped Onion
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic ( Minced)
  • 1 Cup of Sour Cream
  • 4 oz of Cream Cheese ( Room Temperature)
  • 3/4 Cup of Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice + Zest
  • 10 Oz of Spinach ( Make sure to squeeze excess moisture, after it has been thawed of course)
  • 13.5 Can of Artichoke Hearts rinsed and chopped
  • 1 Cup of Mozzarella
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon of Pepper
  1. Preheat Oven To 425
  2. Cook pasta according to the box. Keep 1/4 Cup of the Pasta Water before youdrain the cooked pasta.
  3. Heat oil in pan and cook onions for 8 – 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute.
  4. In a large bowl – Mix Sour Cream, Cream Cheese, Parmesan, Lemon (juice and zest), onions, and garlic. Add Pasta and mix.
  5. Stir in spinach, artichokes, 1/4 cup of cooking liquid from the pasta, salt, pepper, and 1/2 Cup of Mozzarella
  6. Place mixture into greased 2.5 – 3 qt casserole dish and place the rest of mozzarella cheese on top
  7. Place in the oven till golden brown on top – about 10 – 15 minutes.
  8. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

It's Easy Being Green

Pesto Risotto with Roasted Zucchini

There are a ton of pictures today, so I'm gonna keep the written portion of this post short and sweet. Once again, I've found a fantastic recipe on the Post Punk Kitchen. My last experience with them was the recipe I blogged about here. Those curry fries were a hit, and I had several folks email me that they tried them and loved them!

Today's recipe, Pesto Risotto with Roasted Zucchini will be entered into the  (fictitious) *From Scratch Hall of Fame. It's creamy and flavorful, and doesn't require a lot of ingredients.

Short-grained arborio rice is toasted in a pan and then coaxed into creamy perfection by layering in pesto and vegetable broth. Top it off with simply prepared roasted zucchini that's been tossed in salt, pepper, garlic and EVOO, and you have an amazing dish. Enjoy!

Pesto Risotto with Roasted Zucchini
Cast of Characters: Fresh zucchini, onion, arborio rice, pesto, vegetable broth or bouillon, salt, pepper and olive oil (not pictured: garlic).
Warm broth or bouillon cubes.

Add diced onion, evoo, s/p to pan. Saute until onions are translucent.
Add the rice to the pan and toast up the rice. Add white wine here if you want (I didn't have any so I skipped that step). 

Start gradually adding the warm broth and stirring until it's absorbed. You do this cupful by cupful, not all the broth at the same time.

Once half of the broth is absorbed, add half of your pesto and stir it in. Layering great flavor!

Keep stirring and adding the broth. Mr.*From Scratch leant a hand when my arm got tired:-)

When the broth is gone, add the last of the pesto and do a taste test. If the rice is still crunchy, add a little more warm water or heat up some more broth. We had to heat up one more bouillon cube b/c ours was a little crunchy. In retrospect, I think this is because I skipped adding the white wine.
Whilst you are preparing the risotto, cut up your zucchini, toss with s/p, evoo and garlic. Roast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.
Layer some rice in a bowl and top with the roasted zucchini. I added some fresh tomatoes for garnish.  I fully intended on garnishing with parmesan cheese but once I tasted the dish, it needed absolutely NOTHING else. It was perfect!
Recipe From The Post Punk Kitchen:

For the risotto:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups or so vegetable broth
3/4 cup pesto (I recommend Bestest Pesto, it makes plenty)
1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less depending on how salty your broth and pesto are, so taste for salt often)
Fresh black pepper
For the zucchini:
1 lb zucchini, cut on on a bias into chunky half moons
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
Extra toasted pinenuts
Extra pesto for drizzling
Warm the vegetable broth in a saucepan. Keep it warm on the lowest setting possible as you prepare the risotto.
Preheat the oven to 425 F for the zucchini, and have ready a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Now let’s make the risotto! Preheat a heavy-bottomed 4 quart pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion in oil and a pinch of salt until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the rice and use a wooden spoon to stir and coat with oil. Add the white wine and stir occasionally, until wine is mostly absorbed, 4 minutes or so. Add a few dashes fresh black pepper, and half of the salt. Turn the heat down just a bit to medium-low.
Add the broth by the cupful, stirring the risotto after each addition until the broth is mostly absorbed (6 to 8 minutes). After 2 cupfuls, add about half of the pesto and stir well, then continue to cook, adding broth by the cupful, stirring, and letting the liquid absorb.
At some point in there, your oven will be preheated. Toss the zucchini with oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Roast for about 6 minutes on each side, or until softened and lightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside.
With your last addition of broth, add the remainder of the pesto. Taste for salt and add the other 1/4 teaspoon if needed. Risotto is ready when the rice is chewy but still firm, and the sauce is very creamy. For a firmer risotto, just cook a few minutes extra to absorb more of the liquid.
To serve: scoop risotto into each bowl, and top with zucchini. Drizzle with extra pesto and garnish with a few toasted pine nuts.
*                   *                  *                *                *                 *                     *                     
Not only is this dish delish, it's vegetarian, vegan and gluten free. Can it get any better? Let me know what YOU think of this pesto powerhouse.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

What I'm Cooking

 Chilled Noodle and Veggie Salad

The hubs and I have taken to a health kick lately, which is one of the reasons it has been so quiet here at *Girl From Scratch Headquarters. Even though we are enjoying our healthier lifestyle- beet juice, brown rice and lentils just don't seem all that interesting to blog about.

I'm discovering that tasty healthful food is anything but boring and difficult to prepare, it's actually crave-able, sumptuous and down-right delicious! All it takes is the perfect balance of flavors and secret little tips.

Just for kicks, we've been doing a mostly vegan diet. *Mr. From Scratch is doing much better then me in the willpower department-I cheated when my boss at the restaurant "made" me try a gourmet crab-cake (Who can say no to a jumbo lump crab-cake? Not this girl). But mostly we've been cooking at home, or frequenting our favorite falafel joint, and, on occasion, stumbling upon new vegan eateries in our city. 

I've been really impressed by some of the new flavor combinations that we've had, and this is one of them. There is no formal recipe today, just a general format that you can tweak to your liking. Chilled Noodle and Veggie Salad is a create-your-own dish. You pick the ingredients. The basics to this cold noodle dish are; 1) noodle 2) sauce 3) veggies, beans, and/or crunch factor like nuts


Chilled Noodle and Veggie Salad
Step One: Choose your noodle. You can pick whatever you prefer. I chose buckwheat soba noodles found in the international/asian aisle at your grocery. Boil noodles as directed, then rinse with cold water and drain.
Step Two: Make your sauce. While your pasta is boiling, whip up a simple sauce for your noodles. If you want- you can use an Asian or Thai-inspired bottled salad dressing and brighten it up with a squeeze of lemon. I used sesame oil and soy sauce with some grated ginger and a dash of sugar.
Step Three: Add your veggies. Toss it all together. This is my favorite step because it requires NO work! I bought a bag of shredded cabbage and carrots. Then I perused the salad bar at the grocery and picked up some other fun items like edamame beans. Shopping the salad bar is a great way to get a variety of nutritious stuff for your salad without buying a ton of food that may go to waste. (Who needs a whole can of bamboo shoots? Just a couple off the salad bar will do!) Sidenote: Cabbage and noodles are AWESOME together. The cabbage bulks up the dish without making it heavy and adds a major crunch factor. It's a super sturdy veggie that can hold up to a sauce without getting soggy.
Let it all chill in the fridge for a little bit and enjoy! A vegan/vegetarian meal that rocks!

I hope you try this delicious and easy recipe. Let me know what ingredients you add to make it your own signature dish! (And we'll see how long this health-kick lasts...we may be back to nachos and beer in a few months.)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Less Cooking, More...Thrifting???

For the next few weeks I will be hanging up the apron, and hitting the pavement in search of one-of-a-kind thrifted treasures. I am hosting a vintage clothing sale called "Lost & Found," where all proceeds go to Nomi Network, a non-profit dedicated to ending human trafficking.

I will try not to ignore my kitchen too much! If you are in the NYC area, please feel free to attend, and if you're not, be sure to check out Nomi Network's website for more information.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Kitties and Kourage

Recipes, cooking and blogging have all taken a back-seat this week as I've been consumed taking care of our sick cat Oliver. It seems our precious orange tabby got himself into something, and scratched his eye pretty bad.

Mr.*From Scratch took a week-long business trip to Orlando (boo hoo), so I've been the sole administer-er of antibiotics, pain meds and the dreaded Elizabethan-cone-around-the-neck.

Today Oliver's much better, so I've had the mental energy to think about other things, like this beloved blog! I have to give myself a (small) pat on the back for all the stress I fared this week. I discovered I'm a little bit more courageous then I thought. Carrying a 14 pound crying animal to and from the vet and then making him comfortable all week was a big task (remember we live in a 5th floor walk-up folks). Many thanks to the friends and loved ones who have checked up on us--you know who you are!

Along with my newfound courage, I also realized there were some neat little tidbits of daily life that just had to be shared for this week's post. Nothing earth shattering, just simple discoveries that made my week easier and more pleasant. Enjoy!

1) Go bananas for...bananas!

Too many ripe bananas? Cut them up and place on a baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen, pop them in a zip-top bag. Perfect for smoothies or dip them in melted chocolate for a tasty spring treat.

2) Show your sink some love...
 Did you know any soap nozzle will screw onto a glass bottle? I got this idea from the website Pinterest. Just fill  your favorite bottle with dish-soap and screw on the nozzle. I have always loved the green Pellegrino bottle, and now my sink looks tres chic.

3) Captain Obvious called...
Ok this right here just changed my life. I have always struggled with getting the blessed Clorox wipes to pull through the hole. It NEVER works for me...until I discovered I was doing it wrong. I know the photo is light, but it says, "Pull Wipe from Center of Roll." Genius.
Convalescing cat with cone. 

I treated myself to a little retail therapy this week. It's a little Ohio charm! You can take the girl out of the Mid-West, but it will always remain in my heart.

Back to food and recipes next week! Please feel free to share your favorite daily tips, tricks and discoveries that make your life better. You all have some I'm sure- and we'd love to hear about them!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Yellow Fingers, Happy Stomach

Garlic Curry Steak Fries
My sister recently turned me on to this entertaining blog called the Post Punk Kitchen. It includes a plethora of tasty and creative vegetarian recipes that are anything but boring (or granola). My dear lil' sis happens to be an extremely talented cook, foodie and artist and when she called me all excited about today's recipe that she found on the Post Punk Kitchen, I knew I had to try it ASAP. She has exquisite taste in and out of the kitchen.

The potatoes turn crisp on the outside yet tender on the inside when coated with minced garlic, olive oil, sweet yellow curry and then baked to golden-brown goodness. As a kid I never cared for ketchup with my fries, but lately I just can't get enough of the stuff. I highly recommend cozying up with a steaming plate of these crispy seasoned fries and a mound of cold ketchup to dip them in.

You don't have to be a vegetarian to enjoy these delicious Garlic Curry Steak Fries, in fact they would go amazing with a big, fat, juicy burger. Enjoy!

Garlic Curry Steak Fries

Cast of Characters: Potatoes, olive oil, garlic, yellow curry and salt.

Wash potatoes and cut in 1/4 in thickness. (These are *Mr. From Scratch's hands...I  put him to work!)

Par-boil the potatoes for 4-7 minutes. Don't let them get too soft.

While potatoes are boiling create your little "assembly line" with  a bowl of ice water and a plate covered in paper towels.

Drain potatoes and plunge in ice water.

While potatoes dry on the paper towels, empty the water bowl and put remaining ingredients in it. Minced garlic, salt, curry and olive oil. Combine all spices into a paste-like mixture. (If you're feeling lazy, just use garlic powder.)

Coat potatoes in small batches, meaning don't just dump ALL of the fries in the bowl. Do a few batches at a time to ensure each fries gets some tender, lovin' spice rub on it. Warning: Fingerstips will be yellow for a few hours!

Into the oven they go!
Pass the ketchup!

Recipe Here: Garlic Curry Steak Fries from the Post Punk Kitchen

My sister made this recipe with sweet potatoes, which I think would be a divine combination especially when paired with the smoky curry. I will try that next time fo' sho'. Let me know what you guys think of these tasty little guys and especially give me a holler if you make them!

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Homemade Fruit, Fiber and Nut Bars
Life has been so hectic lately that most of my sustenance has come in the form of a bar. And I'm not talking about the place where everybody knows your name. There was one day last week where I was doing my mental checklist of 'what did I eat today?' and the list included:

7:30 am- Fiber One Bar & coffee
11:00 am- post work-out smoothie
All day- sugarless gum
2:00 pm- Fruit and Nut Bar & coffee from Starbucks
5:00 pm- Special K bar and cafe con leche at work
9:00 pm- curry chicken sandwich


I realize I have no idea what is actually in those "healthy" bars that I eat all day out of convenience and/or necessity. Sure they boast healthy claims on the front, but if I dare flip the package over I would be shocked.

Today's recipe rocks. It tastes great, is easy to do, and you can control your ingredients-so you know exactly what is going in there. The brilliance is how versatile it is. You can substitute any dried fruit you want, any cereal you want, any nut you want and any binder you want. I made mine with tons of fiber-rich ingredients, so now I can kiss those store-bought Fiber-One bars bye-bye! Even the Mister got into it. He and I had a blast preparing this together and talking about new flavor combinations. His next try will be perfecting the perfect protein bar, so be on the look-out all you meat-heads out there.

Homemade Fruit, Fiber and Nut Bars
Cast of Characters: Oats, shredded wheat cereal (or anything), nuts (any), dried fruit, cinnamon, salt, eggs, honey (I used agave nectar), vanilla extract, mini chocolate chips.

Pre-heat oven at 350 degrees. Combine oats, cereal, nuts, dried fruit (I used diced prunes!), cinnamon and salt. 

Pulse the mixture in a food processor or blender. Here I am with my all-time favorite kitchen appliance, The Magic Bullet! Don't pulse it too fine, it should look like gravel.

In a separate bowl, combine eggs, honey and vanilla. I got Mr. *From Scratch to help out here.

Whisk wet ingredients and set aside. Pour the dry chopped mixture back in bowl and add chocolate chips. I found some shredded coconut and added it last minute here!

Combine wet and dry ingredients.

Press FIRMLY into a grease baking dish.

This is optional, but I lightly scored the bars half-way through with a knife before baking. Pop in the oven for 15-18 minutes.

Let cool completely before taking out of pan.
At first taste, I was kinda disappointed, but as the days have passed, the flavors have gotten better and better. In fact, I'm eating the last one right now and am planning on making a second batch this afternoon. I know that after a few more times I will have this recipe memorized, this is definitely a new staple in the *From Scratch household. Sidenote: the coconut was the all-star ingredient in flavor and texture. I would highly recommend it even though it's not called for in the original recipe. What flavor combos would you enjoy?

Here is the original recipe from What's Cooking With Kids, in parentheses I will add my personal modifications:

1 cup oats (*GirfFromScratch used Bob's Red Mill 5-Grain Rolled Oats)
1 cup shredded wheat cereal (*GFS used F-Factor High Fiber Skinny's Cereal)
1 cup walnuts (*GFS used sliced almonds)
1 1/2 cups dried fruit (*GFS used Plum Amazins diced prunes)
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup honey (*GFS used organic agave nectar)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Light oil or coat an 8×8-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray (we wiped ours down with oil instead of using spray) and set aside.
  2. Place the oats, shredded wheat, walnuts, dried fruit, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the mixture is finely chopped.  (The dried fruit should be the size of lentils.)
  3. Whisk together the eggs, honey, and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Add the oat mixture and chocolate chips and stir to combine.
  4. Spread the mixture evenly in the prepared pan and flatten gently with the back of a spoon.
  5. Bake about 18 minutes, or until the edgest turn golden brown.  Let cool completely in the pan before slicing into 12 bars.