Monday, August 15, 2011

Cooking Club, Part 1

So this past Sunday night was the first meeting of my new Cooking Club! There are a total of 6 people in the club - size based on manageable number of portions but also providing a variety of options each time we meet. The guidelines we are trying to stick with are as follows:

  • Fresh (or fresh frozen) veggies & fruit as much as possible
  • Whole grains
  • Minimally processed food
  • Organic when possible and affordable
  • Lower calorie dishes preferred
Unfortunately we did not have full participation for our first "meeting" but everyone enjoyed catching up with some light snacks and wine while exchanging delicious homemade food. Also, we are not taking credit for the recipes below but are not sure who to credit for most.

Check out the recipes below and let us know what you think!

Rachael's Contribution: Matzo Ball Soup

A few notes from Rachael:
I cook a whole chicken in a crock pot for about 4 hours on high (6-7 on low) or until the meat thermometer reaches 180 degrees since its a whole chicken. You can also do this with some chicken thighs if you are making a small portion. Remember to remove the giblets inside the chicken and then put your "poultry bouquet" of herbs (found in the produce section) inside the chicken. Add about 2 cups of water, salt, pepper, and the veggies listed on the recipe.

After the chicken is cooked remove it from the pot and use the juices to add to the chicken stock. This homemade stock gives you all the great flavor. Once you've heated your broth, pull the chicken from the breasts to add to the soup, chop up some of the cooked carrots, add your cooked matzo balls, and then a few sprigs of dill. (Note: I chopped the dill too fine and it made the soup look green. Just chopped it a few times. I also did not use the chicken fat in the matzo balls since we wanted to keep it healthier. I cooked the balls for only about 10 mins since they were on the smaller side.)

Jasmin's Contribution: Gluten Free Baked Penne with Spinach

1 large bag of gluten free penne pasta
3 large cans of organic crushed tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
1 container of low cal fresh mozzarella - bocachinni if you can get it
1 small tub of low fat ricotta cheese
1 small white onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 container of grated parm cheese (the good stuff)
1 large bag fresh spinach
Fresh basil
Fresh oregano
6 pepper cloves
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbspn of olive oil

In a large pot heat olive oil, add crushed garlic and diced onions

Once onions are translucent, add basil, oregano, pepper cloves, salt and pepper. Mix and simmer for 1 minute.

Add crushed tomatoes and stirr. Bring to boil on high/ med heat. Once boiled, stirr and reduce to simmer for 1 hour.

After an hour, add tomatoe paste and add 1/2 tub of reduced fat parm cheese. Stir, simmer for 1 additional hour.

After 2 hours, add 1 large bag of fresh spinach to sauce. Let cook/ wilt for 5 mins.

Boil pasta in separate pot.

In lasagna tray, add sauce to the bottom of the pan. Add layer of pasta. On top of pasta layer mozzarella cheese and spread ricotta cheese in a thin layer. Repeat to desired amount. Very important ( be liberal with the sauce, especially cover the sides and corners to avoid burning). When layers are completed, cover with tin foil and bake on 350 for 45 mins. After 45 mins, remove foil and bake for another 20 mins uncovered ( to allow for crisp).

And there you have it! Serves 8+. Enjoy!

Mia's Contribution: Pasta with Potatoes & Spinach


1 1/2 vegetable bullion cubes

16 oz whole wheat pasta (I also use the organic brown rice pasta from TJ’s but it doesn’t taste that great the next day)

4 small caribe (or any potatoes (about 1 lb)


1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp dried basil

5 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup vegetable broth/stock

1 lemon juiced

4 cups amaranth or fresh spinach, washed and chopped if leaves are large

1 15 oz can cannellini beans

salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp fresh basil (optional)

2 tbsp fresh chives (optional)

1) Add water to a large pot. Bring to a boil.

2) Slice potatoes: quarter, then slice lengthwise, 1/4”.

3) Once water is boiling, add bullion cubes. Stir until they're dissolved. Add potatoes and pasta (in that order). Cover. Cook until pasta is al dente and potatoes are tender/cooked all the way through. Drain and return to pot.

In the meantime...

4) In a small bowl, combine dried basil and olive oil. Mix. Set aside

5) In large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add basil and warm through. Add garlic. Cook for 1 or 2 minutes, until fragrant and it just starts to brown.

6) Add vegetable broth and lemon juice, scraping bottom of pan with your spoon to get all the good stuff mixed in.

7) Add greens. Stir until just wilted. Add beans with just a bit of the bean water. Stir and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

8) In the large pasta pot (assuming it will leave room for you to stir), add sauce to the pasta/potatoes and mix it all together.

9) Garnish with fresh basil and chives if you have them lying around. I had just a few leaves of basil and barely an ounce of chives I needed to use. That’s why they’re in there.

Gretchen's Contribution: Taco Soup

1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes

2 cans Rotel (comes in several flavors: original, mild, Mexican, hot)

1 15 oz. can corn, drained

1 15 oz. can black beans, drained

1 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained

1 15 oz. can refried beans, fat free

2 9.75 oz. cans of white meat chicken, drained

1 packet taco seasoning mix

1-2 packets Ranch dressing powder mix (I use one, less salty)

Place all ingredients in a crockpot (break up chicken as you put it in crockpot for best results) and simmer on HIGH for about 1 ½ - 2 hours. Stir the mixture several times during the cooking process.

Serve with shredded fat free cheese (or your favorite cheese). One cup is an ample serving when you add the cheese. You can also top with crumbled baked tortilla chips, fat free sour cream or avocado.

Serves 10

Katie's Contribution: Slow Cooked Braised Pork with Roasted Tomatillo

4lb boneless pork shoulder or butt

2 cups tomatillo or salsa verde

2 1/3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth

1 large onion

1 1/3 tsp. cumin seeds or ground cumin

4 plum tomatoes

2/3 cup cilantro


1. Trim and discard pork surface fat. Cut meat apart following layers of fat around muscles to trim fat. Cut into 2" chunks and rinse with cold water. Place in a 5 qt slow cooker and cook on high.

2. Combine tomatillo, broth, onion & cumin in saucepan and bring to boil over high heat. Pour over meat, then add tomatoes and stir gently. Place lid on slow cooker and cook for 6-7 hours until meat pull apart easily.

3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pork into a large bowl. Cover and keep warm. Pour sauce and vegetables into skillet & skim fat. Bring to boil over high heat. Boil skimming froth periodically for 20 minutes. Add pork and cilantro while heating through.

4. Serve over rice/quinoa (cook per package instructions) and garnish with sour cream and cilantro.

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