Jan 272013

I was out for dinner with some of my friends on Friday night, and we an amazing portobello mushroom appetizer.  I realized I hadn’t actually had mushrooms, or made anything with mushrooms in ages, and that app reminded me how much I love them.  Well, they make a BIG comeback in this post.  My usual go to pizza topping now becomes the pizza itself.  These are super easy to make, healthy, can have any topping combo imaginable and can be either an adorable appetizer at a party or dinner any night of the week.  Can you tell I’m excited about these?

The process took only about 30 minutes from start to finish.  After cleaning and removing the gills from the mushroom, I brushed them with garlic oil and baked for 10 minutes.  Then I added some sauce, low fat cheese, and toppings and popped them back in for a a few more minutes.  Topped with a little fresh basil, parm, and red pepper flakes and these were totally perfect.  I have to be honest, they’re not the same as pizza (no crispy crust), but they have all the flavors, plus the rich meatiness of the portobello.  I foresee myself making these again and again for a quick dinner, and maybe even cut into fourths as a super bowl appetizer!

Nutrition highlights:  I’m always a big supporter of making pizza at home.  That way you can control exactly what goes into it–low fat cheese instead of the greasy stuff that requires lots of napkin blotting, healthy vegetable and meat toppings instead, etc.  Also, if you’re trying to cut back on carbs, this is a great recipe for you.  You can make them totally vegetarian if you want (the margarita version I made with tomato and basil is) or you can add low fat meats like the chicken italian sausage I used on the other one.  The portobello itself also provides lots of selenium and B2, and are said to be great for our immune systems (which this time of year, can’t hurt a bit).  

Portobello Pizzas


  • 4 large portobello mushroom caps
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper
  • Pizza sauce
  • Part skim low moisture shredded mozzarella (you could also use any other cheeses you like)
  • Toppings: I did fresh tomato and basil on one, chicken sausage, green pepper, and onion on the other.  Any toppings work!
  • Parmesan cheese, red pepper flakes, etc for that last touch
1. Preheat oven to 375.  Clean mushrooms with a damp papertowel or mushroom brush.  Using a spoon, gently scrape out the gills from the inside of the cap (they can be bitter, but are fine to eat if you want to keep them).  Remove any remaining stem.  
2.  Mix olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.  Rub both sides of the mushrooms with the mixture and place on a foil lined baking sheet.  Bake cup side up for 10 minutes.
3.  Take the mushrooms out of the oven and turn the temperature up to 450.  They have probably released some liquid at this point so try to dry them off with paper towel as much as possible.  
4.  Spread inside with a little tomato sauce, top with shredded cheese, and toppings.  Return to the oven for 5 minutes.  Then turn oven to broiler setting and broil for 1-2 minutes so cheese can get bubbly and brown.  
5.  Let cool 5-10 minutes.  Serve whole with a nice salad for dinner or cut into fourths and serve as an appetizer at your next party!!


Jan 182013

I am of the belief that almost all foods are better in mini forms.  Sliders, tiny cupcakes (or basically anything baked in a mini muffin tin), donut holes, anything you can call a “shooter”.  I love it all.  There’s something so great about a perfect little bite, so when I stumbled across this recipe for Baby Stuffed Peppers I knew it was right up my alley.  Also, Giada has never done me wrong in the past. And these were definitely cute and little but still big on flavor.  

This recipe is so versatile and you can swap almost any filling ingredients you like, but I just followed the recipe as is this time for lack of creative inspiration.  I loved the combination of the sharp parmesan with the creamy pancetta, the sweet peas with the smokey pancetta. The only time consuming part of this recipe, really, was cleaning the peppers.  I have some pretty small hands, but even I struggled to pick out some of those tiny seeds.  But once you clean the peppers and mix up the filling, all you do is stuff, bake, and serve.  For baking ease, I stood them up in a mini muffin tin so the filling wouldn’t spill out.  This would be perfect as an app for any party, but I especially liked it as an upscale football nibble…the grown up mozzarella stick, if you will.

Nutritional Highlights:  You know that sweet peppers, big or small, are good for you just by looking at the bright colors.  They are a big source of carotenoids and Vitamin C.  In this recipe the peppers are only cooked for a short amount of time, to preserve as much of those good nutrients as possible.  I can’t say the filling here is super healthy…peas, onions, and ricotta are not so bad, but parmesan and pancetta are not the best in terms of fat and cholesterol.   But, these ingredients pack a big flavor punch so a little can go a long way.  Plus, these are so mini that each one only holds a few teaspoons of filling.  You can also easily make these vegetarian by leaving out the pancetta and adding other flavorful ingredients like garlic or mushrooms. 

baby stuffed peppers with ricotta, peas, & pancetta
adapted from Giada on the Food Network

  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • optional:  additional spices- I used red pepper flakes and garlic powder
  • 24 (2 to 3-inch long) sweet baby peppers
Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Spray a baking sheet or mini muffin tin with vegetable oil cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until brown and crispy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the pancetta and drain on paper towels. Add the onion to the pan and cook until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

In a medium bowl, combine the onion, pancetta, cheeses, and peas. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Using a paring knife, cut 1/2-inch from the stem-end of the peppers. Remove the seeds and veins. Using a small dessert spoon, fill each pepper with the ricotta mixture. Place the filled peppers on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until the peppers begin to soften. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes.

Arrange the peppers on a platter, serve, and enjoy!

Jan 122013

I was trying to get a healthy start this week (along with the rest of the world) so I wanted to have plenty of healthy food in my fridge.  Roasted vegetables are one of my favorite things to have around because they are soooo easy to make, and so versatile–you can eat them as a side, or throw them in a salad or sandwich. I usually stick with the the standard veggies like peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, but when I was walking through the produce isle I decided that I might as well use the beautiful root vegetables that are in season.  I used parsnips, carrots, acorn squash, beets, and onions, but you can use any combo you like.  

An in case you didn’t know what some of those vegggie look like, here they are below (I gave my boyfriend a quiz and he got 2 of the 4 correct).  Then you just cut them up into bite size chunks, toss with oil, salt, pepper, herbs (I used thyme and rosemary), and whole peeled garlic cloves.  Then you just throw it in the oven until they are soft, brown, and delicious.  Can’t think of anything much easier than that! 

Nutritional highlights:  Root vegetables are some of the healthiest out there.  The common theme among these vegetables are the high levels of antioxidants (flavonoids in onions, beta carotene in carrots, betalains in beets) which help lower inflammation and thus protect against various ailments.  Aside from all that, I love root vegetables because they have a slightly sweet flavor when cooked and they are slightly starchy so they keep me full longer than other veggies.  

Roasted Root Vegetables


  • olive oil spray
  • 1 acorn squash, halved, seeded, and sliced (any type of squash works)
  • 6 carrots, peeled, cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces
  • 3 parsnips, peeled, cut into 1 to 2-inch  pieces
  • 4-5 beets, washed and cut into wedges (no need to peel)
  • 1 onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Other options: celery root, any type of potato, rutabaga, leeks
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped herbs (I used half rosemary and half thyme)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled

  • Directions: Preheat to 400°F and spray 2 baking sheets with olive oil spray. Combine all remaining ingredients except garlic in large bowl; toss to coat. Season generously with salt and pepper. Divide vegetable mixture between prepared sheets. Place 1 sheet on each oven rack. Roast 30 minutes. Stir vegetables and add 3 garlic cloves to each sheet. Continue to roast until all vegetables are tender and brown in spots, stirring and turning vegetables occasionally, about 30 minutes longer. Transfer roasted vegetables to serving platter and then serve.


    Jan 052013

    Happy New Year!  I’m excited to get my tush cooking again with some new healthy recipes for 2013!  I’m working on a few this weekend so stay tuned.  In the meantime, I was home in Chicago for the holidays and we made a few pretty tasty things that I want to share.  Obviously I lugged my big camera there only to discover that the battery was dead, so please excuse the iphone photos in this post.  Had to share this first recipe, because it is beef!! Something you don’t see too often on tush cook…but this was the most amazing beef tenderloin I have ever had! (and a little beef every once in a while won’t kill ya).

    My family always expects me to know how to cook everything, but when my dad brought home this giant beef tenderloin, I didn’t really know where to start.  So we sat down and found this video on fine cooking and just did exactly what we were told.  It started with a quick sear of the beef to get a nice crust, then got a yummy rub of whole grain mustard, garlic, and lots of dried herbs, and then went into the oven to roast until it hit 120 degrees (for medium rare).  Along with some roasted brussel sprouts, potatoes, and salad, it was the perfect meal for a low key New Year’s Eve.

    Along with the beef tenderloin we got at Costco, I insisted that we buy this ginormo container of beautiful blueberries.  Despite my mom’s warning (challenge?) that there was no way I would eat them all, I promised I would.  When I obviously did not achieve that by the end of my trip, I decided on a whim to make some homemade blueberry pancakes.  I followed this recipe from Damn Delicious almost exactly with the exception of adding some ground flax seed and swapping some whole wheat flour to make them even healthier.  They were absolutely amazing and super healthy (until I loaded on the maple syrup that is).  Oatmeal and greek yogurt might be odd sounding ingredients for pancakes, but you have to have to try it.

    All in all, 2012 was a great year with the highlight definitely being the arrival of my nephew, Owen, on Halloween.  He just so happened to also be my New Year’s kiss.  Can you think of anything better than  this?