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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Recipes: Comfort Foods

About a week ago, I hosted a baby shower for a dear friend and former roommate. D and I have known each other for more than a decade, and it was exciting for me celebrate the upcoming birth of her first child by hosting a shower in her honor.

D told me she had been craving comfort foods, such as pastas and casseroles, so I decided that her shower should feature a collection of traditional family favorites. However, there were also some dietary concerns to consider: One guest was allergic to garlic and a highly sensitive diabetic; another was vegetarian; and then there's me with my WLS-related restrictions. It felt like I wa
s cooking too much food in order to accommodate all of the special needs, but it turned out to be perfect. Considering we didn't have a whole lot left after the event, I would say the menu was a great success. Allow me to share the recipes here. Keep in mind that not all of the recipes are WLS-friendly (such as the pasta dishes), but the entire menu featured something for everyone.

The top picture is of the fruit tray I made. I believe that the key to stress-free entertaining is mixing homemade specialties (preferably ones that can be made ahead or prepared with little fuss) with convenience foods.
For this fruit tray, I decided to keep it simple. I bought the melon, apples and pineapple pre-cut and washed from the grocery store and added the grape clusters after giving them a rinse.

As for the fruit dip in the middle, that's just hon
ey-flavored Greek-style yogurt purchased from the natural foods section. It's naturally sweet and creamy without overpowering the flavor of the fruit.

Another successful aspect of the dish is the serving container. I purchased this sectional server from a consultant at a Pampered
Chef party this past summer. What sets it apart from other similar pieces is that it has gel inserts under where the fruit is and also in the dip container, which can be frozen ahead of time. This kept the fruit and dip ice-cold throughout the shower, and it made for a much more pleasant eating experience for our guests.

Baked Penne

16 oz wholewheat penne (ziti or rigatoni can also be used)
16 oz. hot Italian sausage, casings removed (or you could get bulk)
1 pkg pepperoni (or as much as you want)

16 oz. fresh ricotta cheese (I use Trader Joe’s brand)
1 round mozzarella, shredded

2/3 parmesan cheese wedge, shredded
1 large jar of red pasta sauce (I use Trader Joe’s Vodka Sauce)

Cook pasta in a pot of salted boiling water un
til al dente. While that’s going on, brown the sausage, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks. Put on paper towels when done to drain grease. Mix ricotta with half of the mozzarella and half of the parmesan.

When pasta is done, drain and put back in pot. Mix in cheese mixture. It takes some work, but the heat from the pasta will melt it and make it all gooey. Then add sausage and pepperoni (I use scissors to coarsely chop half the pepperoni and leave the other half whole for variety in texture). Once it’s all combined, mix in the pasta sauce and stir thoroughly. Pour mixture into a 13-by-9-inch casserole dish. Press it down firmly. Top with the remaining mozzarella and parm. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and edges start to brown.

Allow to sit at least 15 minutes before serving.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

This recipe comes from my best friend's mom. It's best made right before serving, but you can cut leftovers into cubes and dip in egg and breadcrumbs for fried mac-and-cheese the next day. Note: I mixed in a little parmesan and mozzarella (leftover from recipe above) to make for a more adult version. It worked well.

2 Cups uncooked elbow macaroni (I used tri-color brown rice radiator pasta)
½ cup butter
½ cup flour
1 ½ cup milk

1 ½ cup sour cream
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
10oz bar sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 350

Cook macaroni in salted boiling water according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Pour into 3qt casser
ole dish.
In a saucepan, melt butter and stir in flour
. Gradually stir in milk and sour cream. Add salt and pepper.
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until sauce bubbles and thickens.
Reserve 1 cup grated cheese for the top of the casserole. Toss macaroni with remaining cheese. Pour sauce over macaroni and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle with reserved cheese. Bake for 1 hour, or until bubbly and brown

Spinach Quiche
This recipe comes from my best friend. She made it for
my bridal shower, and I was instantly smitten. I will never host an event where I don't serve this! Note: She pours her quiche into a pie crust. I prefer my quiche without crust. Either option is tasty.

1 (10oz) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 bunch green onions, finely chopped (white parts only)
6 eggs, beaten
1 (16oz) package cottage cheese

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup Asiago/Parm/Romano blend (shredded)
1/4 cup crushed croutons (plain)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Drain all liquid out of spinach, stir together with
green onions,eggs, cottage cheese, cheddar cheese and asiago/parm/romano blend. Pour mixture into baking dish coated with nonstick spray.
Bake uncovered in preheated oven for 45 min, remove from oven and sprinkle with crushed croutons. Return to oven and bake for an additional 15 minutes or until eggs are set.

Chile Relleno Quiche
This recipe actually comes from Susan Maria Leach's "Before and After." However, she calls it "green chile cheese puff." I have renamed it when I make it because I have found that here in California, a chile relleno quiche sounds more appetizing to people -- but it's really all the same. The original recipe calls for medium cheddar cheese, but I prefer it with pepper jack.

Nonstick cooking spray
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup 2% low-fat cottage cheese
1 cup freshly shredded pepper jack
Two 4-oz cans diced mild green chiles, drained

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly coat a 9-inch glass pie plate with cooking spray. Sift together flour, salt and baking powder into a small bowl and set aside.Beatthe eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer until doubled in volume (about 4 minutes). Blend in the flour mixture and melted butter. Stir in cottage cheese, pepper jack, and green chiles.
Pour mixture into prepared pie plate. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is puffed and golden -- and a sharp knife inserted near the center comes out clean.
Serve with sour cream and salsa.