Archive for July, 2013

Broccoli Beef Pasta Bake

A girl (this girl) walks into a bar, orders a drink and says to the bartender, “what’s new?” So starts the story of this delicious recipe. Last week I stopped at one of my favorite happy hour spots where my old friend Eric was bar tending. Not only did he pour me a glass of my favorite white (La Playa) but he brought out three jars of his dads homemade marinara sauce, called Doug’s Prairie Kitchen. I’m convinced that home grown fresh ingredients are best, so I was quick to snatch up all three jars (sweet pepper, basil and garlic varieties).

Today, I had the day off after a long busy weekend, and decided to do a little comfort food cooking. This recipe came together really well, and the fresh sauce added great flavor. Doug doesn’t have a website yet, but you can get his sauce for $6 a jar at the New Berlin farmers market on Saturdays and the Greenfield farmers market on Sundays – or if you’re lucky, you can pick up a jar at happy hour, like I did!

1 bag corn pasta (I used this because it was gluten free and it was on sale – use whatever pasta you like best)
1 block 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 lb. ground beef
1 med. white onion
1 head of broccoli, florets cut off
Pinch of salt and pepper
1 tsp. oregano
2 small jars Doug’s Prairie Kitchen marinara sauce
1 c. Gluten free bread crumbs
1/4 c. Shredded Parmesan
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9″x13″ glass baking dish.

Cook pasta to al dente consistency, per package instructions. As pasta boils, brown ground beef in a large pan with salt, pepper and oregano. Add chopped onion and broccoli, until softened. Add marinara sauce and simmer.

Once pasta is done, strain and return to pot. Add cream cheese and milk, stir until cheese is melted and coats pasta.


Pour pasta into bottom of baking dish. Top with broccoli marinara mixture.


In a medium bowl, mix bread crumbs, Parmesan and egg whites with a fork. Sprinkle mixture over top of baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes, or until top is browned.



Milwaukee River Cruising

Wednesday night Katy and I had the opportunity to take advantage of one of the perks of being an “Event Planner” in Milwaukee – open house events hosted by some of the best caterers in the city. This one was one of the most unique I’ve been invited to over the years – Zilli Hospitality ( invited us to join them on the Milwaukee Boat Line ( for an evening on the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan.

We were welcomed onto a lovely boat with a large interior cabin and open air upper deck. The cabin had a bar, buffet station and 7 or 8 tables which seated at least five each – a surprising capacity and very comfortable.

Throughout the 2-hour cruise there were passed hors d’ovures including sesame peanut lollypops, olive, tomato and mozzarella skewers, eggplant cheese pinwheels and my favorite: watermelon bites filled with goat cheese and topped with a balsamic reduction.


We didn’t expect such a meal, especially on a boat, but the main course really won us over. It was a cleverly arranged glass with rich cheese hash browns in the bottom, topped with a sweet BBQ pulled pork and coleslaw. The icing on the cake was a sliced pork tenderloin sandwich.


This is a situation where I wonder how they do it. We are on a boat with limited space – how in the world does this food taste so fresh and perfectly prepared? We asked the question, and found out that there is space below deck to prepare food, so everything was cooked on board.


Overall, I was quite impressed with this event. The ambiance was perfect – not too crowded, plenty of food, no lines, and the beautiful city and water. I didn’t believe you could really do catering well in a situation like this, but the folks at Zilli proved me wrong. Katy and I are grateful for a perfect evening on the water – thank you for the opportunity Zilli Hospitality!


Cafe 1505

Despite my best laid plans for this busy week, I still ended up out for lunch instead of sticking to my home made goodness. It’s hard for me to make good decisions when me use include things like burgers and BLTs and things with toasted bread and melted cheese. My co-worker Katy assured me that if we stopped at Cafe 1505 ( in Mequon there would be something appealing AND healthy on the menu.

She was right. We started with a delicious Sedona roasted corn tortilla soup, which was smooth and not very spicy at all, despite the poblano peppers.


My main course was the Wild Alaskan salmon Cobb salad – it was huge! I had them leave off the bacon, but couldn’t resist the Gorgonzola crumbles. Paired with a generous portion of salmon, quarter of an avocado and hard boiled egg, everything came together perfectly with the home made lemon Dijon dressing.

Although this wouldn’t be my top pick for atmosphere, the food was solid, and Katy was correct, I felt like I was able to choose well without sacrificing satisfaction.

John’s Sandwich Shop

I’m behind again! Tuesday night I had a relaxing friend-therapy session and casual dinner with my Annie, after yoga of course! We had planned on the Vietnamese restaurant next door to our studio, but to our surprise, the doors have closed. So plan B became John’s Sandwich Shop, a little cafe at 8913 W. North Ave. in Tosa. At first glance, this place appears to be sort of a greasy spoon with a lunch counter and limited table seating. Let me tell you, the greasy spoon look is far from the truth of this cuisine!


On the menu, you’ll find breakfast all day which includes things like berry flax French toast and an asparagus pine nut scrambler, as well as sandwiches (sockeye salmon with blueberried balsamic glaze), burgers (caramelized onion and Brie), salads (sriracha crunch) and wraps. They even have Udi’s gluten free buns and bread for you gluten-free peeps! I chose the cashew chicken wrap, but had them make it “naked” – the peanut sauce is delish and I love me some broccoli slaw. I couldn’t resist a side of John’s garlic fries – these puppies are fresh, home made and have the perfect crunchy breading. Also, the ranch dressing served with the fries is special, and I’m ranch obsessed. I think there is a little cayenne, and maybe some paprika mixed in.

John’s is truly a hidden treasure in Wauwatosa. It’s food is much more sophisticated than you’d expect from the look of the place, and there are cute outdoor tables available this time of year. The food is fresh and well prepared, and its always a treat when I stop in.

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

I didn’t actually make this today, but I’m working to transfer the recipes from my old blog,, to this one. Chasing Jillian was a fun little project that my friend Tashia and I worked on a few years ago; we challenged each other to cook-offs with a theme, and had to make our favorites a little bit more healthy.

This is a really excellent vegetarian recipe for baked mac and cheese that incorporates butternut squash; it was published in Cooking Light in 2011. My theory is, I’ll do anything to get a few more vegetable servings into my day, AND get my comfort food when I need it. You could absolutely make this gluten free by using rice pasta and GF panko crumbs (I just bought some at Woodman’s this weekend). I’m not sure I would try to make this vegan though – the real cheeses add important flavor, and your reduced fat milk and yogurt give it a little creaminess. I really enjoyed this, and hope you will too!


3 c. cubed, peeled butternut squash (about 1 (1 lb.) squash)

1 ¼ c. chicken broth

1 ½ c. skim milk

2 garlic cloves

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. pepper

2 tbsp. fat-free greek yogurt

1 ¼ c. shredded Gruyere cheese

1 c. grated romano cheese

¼ c. parmesan cheese, divided

1 lb. uncooked whole wheat pasta – use a shape that will hold onto the sauce

Cooking spray

1 tsp. olive oil

½ c. panko bread crumbs

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Combine squash, broth, milk and garlic in a medium saucepan, bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until squash is tender when pierced with a fork; about 25 minutes. Remove from heat.
  3. Place the hot squash mixture in a blender. Add salt, pepper and greek yogurt. Remove the center piece from the blender lid (to allow steam to escape). Place a clean towel over opening in lid and blend until smooth. Place blended squash mixture in a bowl; stir in gruyere, romano and 2 tbsp. parmesan. Stir until combined.
  4. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat, drain well. Add pasta to squash mixture and stir until combined. Spread mixture evenly into a 9”x13” glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray.
  5. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add panko and cook for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from heat, stir in remaining parmesan cheese. Sprinkle evenly over the hot pasta mixture. Lightly coat topping with cooking spray.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately

This can also be made ahead 24 hours and stored in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before baking and it may take about 10 minutes longer to get bubbly.

Serves 8. 390 cal, 109 g. fat, 19 g. protein, 54 g. carb, 3.2 g. fiber, 31 mg. chol, 2.4 mg iron, 589 mg. sodium, 403 mg. calcium

Faux Starbucks Protein Box

Last week I discovered the Protein Box at Starbucks. It’s a simple little meal, comparable to fast food, but so much smarter when you need a quick breakfast or lunch. I decided that I could make my own boxes to save a little money. You can do this for a couple of dollars per box, and I made a few substitutions to make it gluten free and more appealing to my taste buds.


My boxes include:

1 hard boiled egg
1/2 gluten free bagel thin
1 oz. aged white cheddar cheese
1 tbsp. Better ‘n’ peanut butter
Handful of mixed fruit: pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries

I plan to grab these for breakfast during my upcoming busy week. A bit more protein in the morning should help my energy level, and with about 300 calories, it fits into my daily plan.

Summer fruit salad jars

I don’t like to admit it, but outside of bringing me a lot of joy and taste bud delight, food is also a bit of an enemy to me. Like many women in America, I’m overweight, and have trouble controlling my food urges. Despite a love for fresh and healthy ingredients, when I get stressed or sad or lonely or angry, I head straight for the pizza, Cheetos, garlic bread and wine.

I’ve got a big week coming up with a lot of opportunity for things to go amiss, people to be disappointed and my tolerance for other human beings to go down. So I’m trying to be proactive. I find if I have some meals prepped I have a better chance of not going crazy on a bag of chips or a heavy duty lunch out.


I’m getting back to basics with salad jars made with great summer flavors – here’s my recipe:

1/4 c. Cranberry pear white balsamic vinegar (
1/4 c. 18 year aged balsamic vinegar (
1/4 c. Olive oil
1 medium yellow summer squash, chopped
1 pint strawberries, chopped
2 peaches, chopped
4 oz. goat cheese
Salad greens (I used an organic herb mix)
4 tbsp. hemp seeds

Whisk the vinegars and oil together and put 3 tbsp. in the bottom of four mason jars. Top easy jar with 1/4 of the squash, berries, peaches and goat cheese. Fill the remaining space in the jars with salad greens and sprinkle hemp seeds on top.

The whole salad is approximately 350 calories. These jars should be sealed tight – they’ll last 4 to 5 days in the fridge, and travel well – just shake it up to coat with dressing when you’re ready to eat.

%d bloggers like this: