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Lobster Creole (Puerto Rican Style)

Lobster Creole is not usually thought of as a spanish dish. But it can be. By adding green peppers and tomato sauce it becomes a distinctly different taste sensation all together! And having a Puerto Rican background (Yes, I am only half Italian) this recipe is a nice treat when we can splurge and have lobster! This dish incorporates rice in the recipe and usually Puerto Rican dishes use white rice but feel free to use brown rice if you wish. In Spanish Lobster Creole translates to “Langosta a la Criolla”. This dish is a hearty delicious seafood entrée which can be served with sautéed asparagus, a nice salad and maybe a pineapple sherbet for dessert. If you like add a couple of slices of ripe avocado to garnish the dish.

Photo For Illustrative Purposes Only

INGREDIENTS:

2 onions, chopped

2 green peppers, chopped

2 cans (8 oz. each) tomato sauce

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup olive oil

1½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

2 tomatoes, peeled and quartered

½ cup dry white wine

2 pounds lobster meat, chopped in bite size pieces

3 cups hot cooked rice

avocado slices and pickled red peppers for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

1. Saute onions, green peppers and garlic in oil in a large saucepan until tender.

2. Add the salt, pepper and tomatoes. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Add tomato sauce, wine and lobster meat. Simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Serve over cooked rice. Garnish with avocado and peppers if desired.

Makes about 6 servings

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Zucchini Pancakes Lite

This is an easy, healthy and light side dish or meatless entrée for the hot summer. I really like zucchini pancakes but they are usually full of fillers and other things that boost the calories and fat. This recipe uses my newest favorite food item, House Tofu Shirataki Noodles and egg substitute. The Tofu Shirataki Noodles are great. I will not lie and say they taste just like regular pasta, they don’t. But they are very good in their own right. Their benefits are:

  • LOW CARB – only 3g of carbs per serving
  • LOW CALORIE – 20 calories per 4 oz serving
  • NO CHOLESTEROL
  • NO SUGAR
  • GLUTEN-FREE
  • DAIRY-FREE
  • CONTAINS 10% CALCIUM
  • VEGAN
  • GUILT-FREE

They can be found in the organic section of the produce department in most supermarkets and come in a pouch with water. They must be kept refrigerated and not frozen. They come in Fettuccine, Angel Hair and Spaghetti shapes. I always have at least 2 bags on hand in my refrigerator.  Even my husband likes them! I adapted this recipe to make it lower in calories and fat but if you do not like egg substitutes please use 2 eggs in its place.

INGREDIENTS:


1 -8 ounce package House Tofu Shirataki Noodles (Spaghetti Shape)

½ cup egg substitute (or 2 large eggs)

½ cup biscuit mix (your choice)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1/3 cup scallions, chopped

2 cups zucchini, shredded

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

1. Prepare noodles according to package directions. Cut into 2-3″ lengths.

2. Combine eggs, biscuit mix and seasoning in a bowl. Stir in the noodles, scallions and zucchini.

3. Heat a flat skillet over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon butter. When it’s hot, scoop 1/3 cup of the mixture at a time onto the skillet, like making pancakes.

4. Cook until the bottom is golden brown. Flip and cook the other side until golden brown.

5. When finished place on a platter and keep warm. Make remaining pancakes until finished.

Makes about six 4″ pancakes.

Each pancake has about 95 calories and 5 grams of fat. With the regular eggs it will be about 110 calories and 7 grams of fat.

You can also add a little soy sauce to the finished pancakes for some added flavor.

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Plantain Tostones

Growing up in our house we always had plantains. Or as we called them Plátanos. My mom made them mashed, fried, stuffed, you name it. I always remember we had to buy them green and then they got put into a brown paper bag from the supermarket (this is before plastic was around) and close up the bag and keep it in the oven (it wasn’t on) for days. Until they turned black! This meant they were ripe! The only time we didn’t ripen the plantains were when we were going to be frying them. For frying they needed to be very firm otherwise they’d fall apart in the oil. This recipe calls for them to be double fried. Cubans also make this recipe and sometimes serve with a mojo sauce. Puerto Rican style as was made in my house was just eaten as is with some salt on them. Like big thick plantain potato chips! I would make them more often if I wasn’t the only one eating them! They aren’t hard to do, it’s just time-consuming. So be brave and try a new dish! You won’t be disappointed!

INGREDIENTS:

3 green plantains

1 quart water

2 tablespoons salt

2 cups cooking oil or olive oil

DIRECTIONS:

1. Score the peel of the plantains lengthwise. Peel the fruit and then cut into diagonal slices 3/4″-1″ thick. Add salt to the water and soak the plantains in it for one hour.

2. Heat oil in a large pan or deep fryer to 325°. Drain the plantains and dry well with absorbent paper towels. Fry them in the hot oil for 1-2 minutes. This is to get a nice crisp shell on the plantains. Lower the heat and reduce the temperature to 275°. Continue frying for 10 minutes.

3. Remove the slices from the oil. Place on paper towels. Place each piece between two paper towels and mash flat with the palm of your hand or the bottom of a heavy glass.

4. Return the slices to the oil and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper and serve hot, sprinkle lightly with salt and eat!

Serves 8

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Italy’s Sparkling Wines

As I have mentioned before I really like Italian Prosecco as far as sparkling wines go. But Italy has more than just Prosecco. Most people don’t realize that Italy actually produces more different types of sparkling wines than any other country in the world! No joke! They have been producing spumantes (sparkling wines) since Roman times! This was way before Dom Perignon discovered champagne in France! I am going to cover the basic sparkling wines Italy is proud of. There is Prosecco, Franciacorta, Asti, Moscato D’Asti and Bracchetto. Italian sparkling wines are usually less expensive than the French and California varieties.They are perfect anytime so put aside those memories of the 1970s and those really campy Asti Spumante commercials and try Italian sparkling wine again, for the first time! I will always choose a Prosecco over a Champagne for sure!

Almost all of Italy’s sparkling wines are produced in the cooler, northern regions of Italy. The regions of Piedmont, Veneto and Lombardy are the primary regions. As I mentioned in another post the method to making Italian sparkling wines is called Charmat which is very unlike the Champagne method . This method has the second fermentation being done in a tank instead of in the bottles. This results in a wine that is bottled much younger. This also means they should be consumed when young and not saved for a special occasion years later. I believe you should drink sparkling wine as you would any wine, whenever you want! Don’t save for a special occasion, drink it now! So everyday is a celebration that way!


PROSECCO: This light sparkling wine from the Veneto region of northern Italy is made for summer drinking. Which is why I have it all the time here in Florida! It’s summer almost all year! Prosecco is light, refreshing and can have slight hints of melon, pear and almonds. I have actually had a sparkling almond wine. It was delicious. It tasted like sparkling amaretto! Prosecco is made from a grape of the same name and is excellent with calamari, pasta, or salad. But if you ask me, it’s excellent with everything or just by itself! Traditionally, Prosecco is an off-dry (slightly sweet) wine, but there are many that are dry and crisp. If you like a more dry sparkling wine look for the labels that say “brut”. If you remember from my past posts you will know that Prosecco is the star of the Bellini cocktail which is made from fresh white peach juice/nectar, which was created at Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy!

Prosecco Grapes

FRANCIACORTA: This is Italy’s sparkling wine star. Unlike other sparkling wines, Franciacorta is made using the Champagne method. It’s fermented in the bottles which need to be rotated every day. This leads to smaller, more abundant bubbles and a more subtle taste. Franciacorta is a name of a place, a region in the Lombardy Lake District. This wine is made from a variety of grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc) and Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir). It is usually a dry wine with hints of vanilla, almonds and yellow ripe fruit. It is a much stricter process of aging as well. Italian Wine Law says that it must be aged for at least 18 months and vintage Franciacorta for 30 months! That is a long time for aging! Franciacortas are great with risotto, seafood, white meat and baked fish.

Chardonnay Grapes

Pinot Noir Grape

Pinot Noir Grape

Pinot Bianco Grapes

ASTI: I remember the days as a kid hearing all those commercials for Asti. It used to be called Asti Spumante but now it’s just Asti. Remember Asti Spumante, that’s nice? It was once a popular sweet wine for those college days of drinking inexpensively! Asti now produces a large number of excellent sparkling wines. Asti is also a place name, a lovely town, set in the gentle rolling hills of Piedmont, in northern Italy of course! The rugged, limestone soil in this region is ideal for growing grapes. Grapes don’t seem to do well in “perfect” soil! Who knew? Other than the usual Asti sparkling wine Asti also produces the light and crisp Moscato d’Asti as well as a red sparkling wine called Brachetto. Asti is usually a light, slightly off-dry wine with hints of peach and is made from 100% Moscato (Muscat grapes). It is very high in acidity and this helps to balance out its sweetness. Asti is a non-vintage wine, which means it doesn’t have a year on the bottle and is best to drink within 1-3 years from when it’s bottled. If you are buying a bottle I wouldn’t buy the one that is all dusty on the shelf. Most likely it’s been there way too long and will not be any good. Asti is great with gorgonzola cheese (also from the Piedmont region) and by itself as a before dinner drink!

Moscato Grapes

MOSCATI D’ASTI: Moscati d’Asti is also made from the Moscato grapes. It is technically what they call a fizzante, which is a fizzy or lightly sparkling wine. Moscato d’Asti has less bubbles than Asti does. It is light and crisp and actually pretty low in alcohol, about 5%-7%! It’s best to drink this with the traditional Italian wafer, biscotti or in the summer with a nice crisp salad! In Piedmont, Italy it’s tradition to drink a glass in celebration on Christmas Day! Nice!

BRACHETTO: This is a lesser known sparkling wine because it’s a ruby-red sparkling wine! Very pretty! It’s made from the Brachetto grapes. This wine is festive and light and ready for a party! The hints of strawberry and cherry are subtle and it’s excellent when consumed with fruit and cheese or a light dessert! A cannoli perhaps? I hear it’s even great with pizza! So try and find some of this and see how you like it! I am definitely going to try and find this as I’ve never had it before. Sounds like another good sparkler for summertime!

Brachetto Grapes

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Guacamole Genua Style

I love guacamole! (I think I’ll marry it!- inside joke) I always thought it was so hard to make until my cousins Linda and Kim showed me how when they were visiting me. Ever since then I was hooked on making it myself. I am always looking for the sale on the Hass avocados. They are the best to use. There are other larger avocados out there but they just don’t do it for me. The color is wrong too and the taste is bland. So stick to the Hass. They are usually from California but lately the ones I’ve bought have been from Mexico. Still really good. I make guacamole at least once a week! It goes great on so many things other than chips. Sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, chicken, steak, you name it. I also bought one of those avocado slicers to make the slicing easier, but it’s just as easy to score and then scoop out the avocado with a large spoon. When you cut open an avocado slice all the way around the long way and twist the two halves apart. Then take a sharp knife and whack the seed with it till it sticks in and twist. The seed should come right out. And I planted one recently, I had to see if I could actually grow it. It works! Just waiting for fruit! (See picture below) Though that might not happen but we will see! As soon as I finish writing this I am going to make another batch as well! And when you buy avocados pick ones that are a nice color and firm. If they are already soft you will have to use them right away. They take a day or so to soften on the counter, once they do put them in the fridge and use in few days. They should not be mushy! Mushy is bad. I also make mine half mashed and half chunky. But if you don’t like chunks mash away!

 

INGREDIENTS:

2 large Hass avocados

1 large plum tomato (halved, seeded and chopped)

¼ cup chopped red onion

1 tablespoon cilantro (or ½ cup fresh chopped)

juice of 1 lime

¼ cup jalapeños, chopped (I use the pickled ones in the jar but fresh is good too!) If this is too hot for you lessen or leave out.

2 cloves garlic, minced or chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt (regular will be fine if you don’t have the Kosher)

1 scallion (white and green parts), chopped well


DIRECTIONS:

1. Cut open the avocado and slice and chop one of them and place in a large bowl. Do the same with the second one but set aside.

2. Mash the avocado in the large bowl with a fork till all mashed up. Add the rest of the ingredients as well as the unmashed avocado and mix gently with a spoon so you don’t mash all the chunks. (Unless you want it all mashed!)

3. Chill and serve in a few hours. If you will be waiting longer to serve place a piece of wax paper over the top of the guacamole in a container and cover tightly. It will start to turn brown from oxidation if you don’t do this. Also adding a little more lime juice will help. If it does start to turn just mix it up, there’s nothing wrong with it, just won’t look as pretty.

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Kanpai

Kanpai translates into an equivalent of the word “cheers” when making a toast. I actually thought it was spelled differently but who am I say it’s wrong. Either way I came across a cocktail by this name and it sounds so good I can’t wait to try it on my own. I just have to get a few of the ingredients and I’ll give my review of it once I make it. It is a peachy looking color and sounds so refreshing for a hot summer day. This recipe is supposedly from the high-end Japanese restaurant “Megu NYC”. I have never heard of it but then again I’m not on the élite list that dines in high-end Japanese restaurants in NYC! It has saké in it. Not a problem for me. And what makes it even more inviting to me is that it is a sparkling saké! My downfall. Love sparkling saké and of course it’s much higher in calories. Figures! This recipe of course calls for high-end sparkling saké. But I will be using the cheaper version. If anyone tries it before I do please let me know on this blog in a comment if you liked it or not! Sparkling saké is also a great saké for people who think they don’t like saké. It’s sweeter and not so harsh when you first drink it like so many house sakés are. Most people associate saké with the hot variety. I have found out that most of those hot sakés are the cheaper sakés and they need to heat it to make it taste better! I only use the hot saké for sake bombs now! Cold or room temperature all the way these days. I just texted John who is on his way home from New York and told him about this drink and he is ready to try it this weekend! So I will update everyone once we have a verdict!

P.S. I just looked up the restaurant Megu NYC and it seems to be a fave of the Twilight cast when in NYC. Oh boy!

INGREDIENTS:

5 raspberries, muddled

1 ounce Bacardi Lite

1 ounce pineapple juice

1-2 ounces sparkling saké (they usually come in small bottles for as little as $5 at most wine/liquor stores)


DIRECTIONS:

Put all ingredients except for the saké into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Top with the sparkling saké!

Makes 1 drink

**DON’T FORGET TO VISIT www.cucinadiandrea.com!

Still in progress but check it out anyway!

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Marshmallow Crispy Bars

I think just about everyone out there has had Rice Krispie treats at one point in their life. Well today’s recipe is done completely in the microwave oven! No pots involved! The only pan used is the one we’re going to be cooking in! How cool is that! I am also going to give a few variations on the traditional kind. So get your microwave all cleaned up and let’s go! Oh and don’t forget to throw some flour on you and on your face to make it look like you slaved all day on these!

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup butter or margarine (I would actually use a butter substitute, in stick form for this to save some calories)

5 cups miniature or 40 large marshmallows

¼ teaspoon salt

5 cups crispy rice cereal


DIRECTIONS:

1. Melt the butter in an 8 x 8 inch glass/ceramic dish on HIGH power for 45-60 seconds. Stir in marshmallows and salt.

2. Microwave 1½-2 minutes on HIGH power until soft and melted, stirring after 1 minute. Stir every 30 seconds until completely smooth.

3. Add the cereal, 1/3 at a time, stirring with a fork until well coated. Press into dish with the fork. Cool, then cut into 1¼ inch squares.

Makes 36 squares


VARIATIONS:

Marshmallow-Peanut Bars: Completely stir in 1 cup salted peanuts after the cereal.

Peanut Butter-Marshamallow Bars: Add ¼ cup peanut butter with the marshmallows.

Chocolate-Peanut Bars: Add ¼ cup peanut butter and ½ cup chocolate chips with the marshmallows.

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Chicken Egg Foo Young

Egg Foo Young is a really good chinese dish. But I know how high in calories it can be so I usually stay away from it. My husband loves it too and usually gets the pork variety. This recipe can be made with pork, chicken, ham, or shrimp. Pretty much any protein you want to put in will work just fine. I took parts of this recipe from a Rachael Ray recipe as well as another recipe I had found. I left out what I didn’t like (yes, peppers! Eww…) and added my own touch. Another high calorie part of this recipe can be the sauce. Not in this recipe. There are a lot of ingredients and it does look daunting but give it a try. It’s not difficult and it will taste incredible! And it looks so good doesn’t it! If there are any leftovers they make a great breakfast too!

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups of egg substitute (I use the plain but you can substitute a flavored one if you like. )

1 cup chopped cooked chicken (leftover chicken is great for this)

1 cup fresh bean sprouts (A few big handfuls is good)

½ cup shredded carrots

¼ pound shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced (I used canned because the fresh were too expensive)

1 cup baby bok choy, shredded

1 8-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped

1 bunch scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced on an angle

1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and grated, plus 2 thin slices

2 large cloves garlic, grated or minced

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 cup fat-free chicken stock or broth

¼ cup tamari (aged soy sauce, use regular low-sodium if you can’t find)

1 teaspoon hot sauce (more if you like a spicier sauce)


DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat a griddle pan over medium heat and brush it with some olive oil.

2. In a large mixing bowl pour in the egg beaters, chicken, bean sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, bok choy, water chestnuts, scallions, grated ginger and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and mix until completely combined.

3. Using a large mixing spoon, drop about ½ cup of the mixture onto the preheated and oiled griddle. Cook the pancakes about 2-3 minutes on each side,until golden. (Careful flipping them, it’s a little tricky. Well it was for me anyway!)

4. In the meantime, combine the cornstarch with a splash of chicken broth/stock to dissolve it. Place the rest of the stock/broth, tamari, cornstarch, hot sauce and sliced ginger in a small pot. Bring to a boil and stir until thickened for about 3 minutes or until you can coat a spoon with it. Remove the sliced ginger and remove from heat.

5. Serve 2 pancakes per person with gravy poured over the top.

Serves 4

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Scallops ala Mediterranea

I love coming up with dishes made with those delicious bay scallops. They are so versatile and full of protein and goodness! This dish was another dinner when I had no idea what to make and just looked in the fridge and freezer to see what was there. And voilà! A great hearty protein filled dinner that was easy to make. I used a can of mushrooms in this recipe because I had them in my pantry, if I had fresh I would have used them instead. I am also a big fan of the chicken sausages out there on the market. I used the sun-dried tomato ones in this recipe. So good and less of the bad things usually in sausage. I use al Fresco brand quite a bit. They are gluten-free and no preservatives added either! If you can’t find any ingredient you can always substitute it with something you do have. No worries! The dish looks a bit like the Italian flag in color! Green, white and red! Very colorful if I do say so myself! And it is even good as leftovers, though there usually isn’t too many leftovers in my house!

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound bay scallops

1 medium sweet (Vidalia) onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

10 ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed (draining isn’t necessary as the liquid is good for this dish)

2 chicken & sun-dried tomato sausages, sliced and cut into bite size pieces

1 cup crumbled light feta cheese (or fat-free if you can find it)

¼ cup light sour cream

4 ounce can Portobello or shiitake mushrooms

1 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half

3 tablespoons olive oil

Locatelli Romano cheese to top finished dish (remember we love cheese!)

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a large sauté pan heat olive oil and sauté onions for a few minutes till they start to soften. Add garlic and sauté till it starts getting a little translucent.

2. Add scallops and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove scallops from pan and set aside.

3. Add the chopped sausage to pan, cook for about 5 minutes. Add the spinach and stir well, cook another 5 minutes.

4. Add the mushrooms to mix and lower the heat to medium low and cook another 5 minutes, stirring often.

5. Add the scallops back to pan, stir well. Add the tomatoes and sour cream. Stir well till heated. Add the feta cheese, stir and serve! Top with the romano cheese as needed!

Serves 2-4 (depends on how hungry you are!)

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Savory Stuffing

Even though thoughts of Thanksgiving and turkey are months away it’s never too early to start thinking about stuffing! Stuffing comes in so many varieties so it’s nice to try some new ones every so often. And since we have plenty of time before the holiday season you can try it out now to make sure it’s a hit for your family. And who says you have to wait till Thanksgiving to have a great turkey dinner! I got this recipe from my leader at one of my Weight Watcher meeting several years ago. She had raved about it and I had to try it. It is delicious. It’s a lower calorie version as well so we can not feel so guilty eating it!

Photo is for illustrative purposes only

INGREDIENTS:

½  cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped celery

1 cup fat-free reduced sodium chicken broth

½ cup unsweetened apple juice

4 cups seasoned cubed bread stuffing mix (7 oz.)

½ cup diced unpeeled red apple

¼ cup toasted chopped pecans

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 cup dried cranberries (6 oz.)


DIRECTIONS:

1. Saute onions and celery in the canola oil.

2. In another pot bring the chicken broth and apple juice to a boil. Pour over the sautéed vegetables.

3. Mix bread, apples, cranberries and pecans into liquid ingredients.

4. Spray a 13 x 9 casserole dish (or any size dish it will fit in) with oil and place stuffing in it.

5. Cover and bake at 350ºF for 30-35 minutes.

Serves 12 (½ cup servings)

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