Rocco_DiSpiritoI have been trying to eat healthy in the past month, and I have to say that I think my efforts are paying off! First thing I did was to quit eating so much fried food – believe it or not, I used to eat fried something every single day. Another thing was to buy more chicken and fish and less beef and pork. Of course, looking for easy but good recipes was the next step.

In the course of my search, I ran across a recipe from Rocco DiSpirito. It combines three of my favorite ingredients – chicken, beans, and parmesan. It also makes use of spinach, but I am thinking that if I don’t feel like it, it can be removed from the recipe.

FRESH: Boneless, skinless chicken breasts; basil; baby spinach; Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
STAPLES: Crushed red pepper; low-sodium chicken broth; salt and pepper
PACKAGED: Pasta sauce; cannellini beans


3 14-ounce cans low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons tomato-and-basil pasta sauce
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced thin
Salt and pepper
6 ounces prewashed baby spinach
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
3/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

1. In a Dutch oven, bring chicken broth, pasta sauce, cannellini beans, and crushed red pepper to a simmer. Turn heat to low.
2. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper; add to broth. Gently poach chicken, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes. (The broth should barely simmer.)
3. Stir in baby spinach. Continue cooking soup until spinach is wilted and chicken is just cooked through, about 2 minutes more.
4. Stir in basil; season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle soup into bowls, and top with grated cheese.

Nutrition facts per serving: 407 calories, 43g protein, 36g carbohydrate, 10g fat (3g saturated), 10g fiber.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from Rocco Gets Real by Rocco DiSpirito, Meredith Books, 2008.

Let’s go try it!

Recipe courtesy of Fitness Magazine

Any home should have cutlery. Whether it is the fine and expensive one or the regular ones you use for every day cooking, cutlery serves as a very important part of the kitchen.

Whatever type of cutlery you have in your home, it is a must that they be kept clean and in good condition all the time. If you ignore the cleaning aspect, you can be sure that dust, dirt and rust will find their way on your beloved knives and you will no longer be able to use them particularly those that get rusty.

Most homeowners have their favorite knives that they use when they prepare food every day. These can be of different sizes each with different purpose. Yes, they sure serve you and your family well and so they deserve proper care every time you use them.

With fine cutlery and cooking cookware, normally homeowners use these only during special occasions but again, maintenance is vital if you want to keep them for a long time and even pass them on to your children and grandchildren. Nothing can be better than using a clean and sparkling knife during a special dinner with family and friends in your very own home.

So what are the basic steps you need to keep in mind when caring for your fine cutlery ?

Handwash them. Remember to wash fine cutlery only using your hands and never in the dishwasher. A mild soap mixed with warm water should do to clean them. The same with the regular knives you use during your food preparations. They’re best washed with hands to remove any residue from vegetables and meat.

Wipe dry. Using a soft cotton cloth, carefully wipe dry the cutlery.

Remove fingerprints. As you’re wiping, make sure you take away the fingerprints that you see. You have to know that any oil from your skin can lead to a permanent stain on your cutlery. Make sure then that you use a pair of gloves preferably those made from white cloth so you avoid finger marks on the knives.

Put coating. It would be a good idea to coat your cutlery with a USP food grade mineral oil particularly if you’ll be storing them for quite some time. Just a light coating will do.

Don’t forget to put the oil as well on the leather handles of your fine cutlery. This will prevent the leather from cracking.

Store properly. Fine cutlery should be kept in a warm area if possible such as a cutlery drawer if you have. If they came in a well packaged box, put them back there. Make sure that you store each knife separately as it’s never good that they rub against each other.

Avoid high temperatures as this can cause damage to your cutlery. So never put them on top of your refrigerators or expose them to cold temperatures such as in your basement particularly during cold weather.

Sharpen knives regularly. This is a must for the knives you use on a daily basis. You can sharpen by hand or to ensure you get the right sharpness, get a professional to do it for you.

giada-delaurentiis-2-0807Giada DeLaurentiis may not be my favorite celebrity chef, but this recipe of hers warms my heart – and stomach. Many of you are probably enjoying your beautiful surroundings, courtesy of the snow that has fallen everywhere, but I am also sure that you cannot help but dislike the cold that it brings with it. The next time you go out into that cold winter day, make sure that you have some of this soup ready for you when you get back – you’ll forget your irritation for sure.

Hearty tomato soup with lemon and rosemary
Giada DeLaurentiis
Makes 6 to 8 servings

• 2 tablespoons butter
• 1 onion, peeled and chopped
• 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 15-ounce can cannellini (white) beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
• 3 cups chicken broth
• 1 bay leaf
• 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
• 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 3/4 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 2/3 cup heavy cream
• Zest of one lemon

I made this for an après-ski menu on “Everyday Italian.” It is quite hearty and the beans give it nice body without making it too thick. The whipped cream garnish is beautiful and becomes even more fragrant as it slowly melts into the soup.

In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon rosemary, and red pepper flakes. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, covered.
Puree the soup in a blender in batches, being careful to remove and discard the bay leaf. Return the soup to a soup pot and keep warm over low heat.

Season with salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks. Fold in the lemon zest and the remaining teaspoon of rosemary. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and dollop each bowl with the lemon rosemary whipped cream. Serve immediately.

In the recipe provided by MSNBC, this soup is supposed to go excellently with panini. Visit the article for the panini recipe, or choose your own bread to go with the soup!

alton_brown_e1If you’re a chef, do you have an excuse to gain a few pounds here and there? The argument has been going on forever – “How can you be a chef who’s skinny?” While I certainly can see the point of that argument, anyone can also see that it has so many holes in it that if it were a person, it would die within the hour. Perhaps that is why the trend seems to be celebrity chefs losing weight.

Let’s start with Alton Brown, who has become quite popular courtesy of The Food Network. He said that his weight loss program all started due to him seeing himself on TV. The saying that TV adds 10 pounds has never been truer in this case, and he also noticed that his audience tended to be on the heavy side as well. This combination brought him to his senses and he has lost 50 pounds since March of this year – a remarkable feat considering his line of work.

Then there’s Mario Batali and Michael Psilakis. They’ve both shed unnecessary weight in the past year. The bottom line is that these people have realized that while they work with delectable concoctions day in and day out, they do not have to eat as much as they used to.

For some, like Brown, it was not that bad. For others, it is taking more effort. At the end of the day, their regimens have this in common: they stayed off fatty food and ate less. I think exercise was factored into the equation as well.

Yes, dietitians, nutritionists, and doctors – you were right all along. Less food intake plus some exercise equals weight loss. Do we need celebrity chefs to convince us?

It goes without saying that the turkey is the “piece de resistance” of the Thanksgiving meal, the part of the meal that is most likely to succeed or fail. Therefore, it is imperative to have a fail-proof recipe which not only looks perfect (or close to it), but tastes fabulous as well.

But as with all things in life, nothing, not even the best recipe can guarantee an award-winning roast turkey, as components like your oven and indeed, the bird itself, matters greatly. But by all means, give this one a go and keep on trying until you find the best recipe that works for you.
First in line for what could be the “Best Turkey Recipes Ever” is Alton Brown‘s, which is a rather scientific method of what could be a foolproof way of making a good turkey roast.

1 (14 to 16 pound) frozen young turkey
For the brine:
1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 gallon vegetable stock
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1/2 tablespoon allspice berries
1/2 tablespoon candied ginger
1 gallon iced water
For the aromatics:
1 red apple, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup water
4 sprigs rosemary
6 leaves sage
Canola oil

Combine all brine ingredients, except ice water, in a stockpot, and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve solids, then remove from heat, cool to room temperature, and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.

Early on the day of cooking, (or late the night before) combine the brine and ice water in a clean 5-gallon bucket. Place thawed turkey breast side down in brine, cover, and refrigerate or set in cool area (like a basement) for 6 hours. Turn turkey over once, half way through brining.

A few minutes before roasting, heat oven to 500 degrees. Combine the apple, onion, cinnamon stick, and cup of water in a microwave safe dish and microwave on high for 5 minutes.

Remove bird from brine and rinse inside and out with cold water. Discard brine.

Place bird on roasting rack inside wide, low pan and pat dry with paper towels. Add steeped aromatics to cavity along with rosemary and sage. Tuck back wings and coat whole bird liberally with canola (or other neutral) oil.

Roast on lowest level of the oven at 500 degrees F. for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover breast with double layer of aluminum foil, insert probe thermometer into thickest part of the breast and return to oven, reducing temperature to 350 degrees F. Set thermometer alarm (if available) to 161 degrees. A 14 to 16 pound bird should require a total of 2 to 2 1/2 hours of roasting. Let turkey rest, loosely covered for 15 minutes before carving.

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