Spinach Fettuccine Alfredo

Question: Now truly, who doesn’t love a good Fettuccine Alfredo?

Not many people I know.

Question: Who loves the massive amounts of calories and empty carbs that typically accompany this dish?

Hmm…. I don’t see nodding heads.  Me neither.

The truth is that I love Alfredo sauce, and since I’m italian, I think my veins are even made out of pasta.  But, in this land of healthy eating, Alfredo sauce and pasta don’t get a seat at the table.  Until now…..

Pull out that immersion blender and get ready to puree some spinach, kale, avocado, and a little plain yogurt or low fat sour cream.  Because my friends, not only is this dish healthier, but it is also easier!!!  No finicky consistency to worry about here!

And what about the noodles?  Whole wheat fettuccine or linguine noodles are easy to come by these days (these are what I usually use), or treat yourself and go for traditional fresh hand-cut fettuccine noodles (for extra deliciousness!).

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Well if this isn’t the strangest mishmash of ingredients known to man, then I don’t know what is.  Oh my goodness!  But, please, please, don’t judge this book by its  very, very green cover because I cannot even explain how tasty this dish is.  Although it is mostly vegetables, it tastes nothing like vegetables. I promise!  Its just creamy, saucy goodness over here.  It is the unicorn of pastas: healthy and tasty!  Excuse me while I slurp up some more noodles.  *Sauce dripping from chin.*

I feel like a formal introduction is probably necessary here.  Ya’ll meet the guilt-less pasta dish that is kid, vegetable-hater, picky-eater, & picky-husband approved.  Now that we are all acquainted…..

Spinach Fettuccine Alfredo

Total time: 15 minutes

Servings: 2 as a main, 4 as a side

Special Equipment: Immersion Blender

  • 2 cups packed fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cup packed chopped flat leaf kale
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup water, one tbl. at a time
  • 1 tsp. salt, divided
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 tbl. butter
  • 2 tbl. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt or low fat sour cream
  • 1 avocado, lightly mashed
  • 8oz. whole wheat fettuccine or linguine noodles (cooked to al dente)
  • Parmesan cheese for serving

In a large skillet, add spinach, kale, garlic, 1/4 tsp. salt, about 1/2 of water.  Cook on medium with lid closed,  tossing occasionally until greens have turned a nice dark green color.

Transfer greens and all cooking liquids to a heat proof mixing container.  Using immersion blender, blend until smooth and well integrated (or use a traditional blender).  This will take less than a minute.

Reduce heat to low, and using the same skillet melt the butter.  When melted, whisk in flour.  Slowly whisk in blended greens mixture.  Add more water if necessary.

Remove from heat and add avocado.  Blend with immersion blender until combined.  Then mix in sour cream or yogurt.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Finally toss sauce with noodles and top with parmesan cheese.   

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Happy-New-Year-Amazing Amaretti Cookies

As I sit here drinking an amazing apple spinach banana smoothie on day one of my smoothie cleanse, I have to say that it kind of tastes amazing. I am starting this whole “cleanse by body from holiday junk food” thing a day later than planned due to the embarrassing number of times I rescheduled the dinner we had last night with our good friends – who also happen to be our next door neighbors.

Our menu last night consisted of traditional Italian dinner fare. The main course was old school Sicilian style lasagna that is always a crowd pleaser. After simmering that sauce for the better part of yesterday, my house is still smelling like the Italian version of amazing.

We enjoyed some crusty baguette, cheese, pancetta, balsamic, olive oil, and dates as appetizers to launch us into the festive mood. And a simple salad of roasted beets julienned on top of a bed of spinach sprinkled with a few pecans and some goat cheese.

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But it wouldn’t be a New Years dinner party without dessert? And after a heavy meal filled with starches, cheeses, and rich sauce, it needed to be something light. Amaretti cookies anyone? If you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting these delicious biscotti alternatives, they are a crispy, crunchy little almond cookie that goes wonderfully with after dinner tea or espresso.  Also, they are naturally gluten free, since they use ground almonds in lieu of flour. I am not one to love dishes that have been altered to be gluten free, infact I tend to avoid them. I have even been known to put things back in pastry cabinets at Whole Foods after discovering that said item was gluten free.  No need to be skeptical of these cookies’ delicious integrity as a suitable dessert for all levels of gluten tolerance.  They are crunchy little almond bites of yumminess that have been gluten free since the first little Italian Nonni ever whipped them up.

The process is similar to making a French macaroon – but much less fickle. These have a coarser crumb and are not supposed to be soft in the middle like the French version.  In Italy, they are traditionally used like biscotti – to soak up espresso.  But in our house, we love that they give you a little nibble of something sweet with your after dinner cup of coffee or tea.

 Amaretti Cookies
  • 2 ½ cups whole raw almonds
  • 2/3 cup sugar divided
  • 2 large egg whites, room temperature
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 ½ teaspoon almond extract
  • Coarse sugar for tops of cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Parchment is a MUST with this recipe!

Using a food processor, process almonds and 1/3 cup of sugar until finely ground. I had to scrape down the sides a couple of times.

Beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks form and then add remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and beat until the shiny soft peak stage.

In a large bowl, fold the almond mixture into the whipped egg whites. Once combined roll into 1 inch size balls and dip tops into coarse sugar before placing on baking sheet.

Bake for about 25 minutes at 350 or until golden brown. At this stage although the exterior of the cookie may be crunchy, the centers will still be relatively soft. So reduce heat to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and cook for 10 more minutes. Without opening the oven door, turn off heat and allow cookies to sit in warm oven for 30-40 minutes more. This will help crisp up the insides without over-baking the exteriors.

Just in case you doubted me, I do see the irony in doing a smoothie cleanse and blogging about cookies, but this is a recipe I just had to share. (Dang it, now I’m hungry for an Amaretti!)

Enjoy!

Nonna’s Italian Anise Seed Cookies

Family traditions are the best, especially around the holidays.

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 My Great Grandmother made these.   My Grandmother still makes these. And now, because I love their subtle licorice-y taste, I make them too.

These cookies are not for everyone. Tim for example states that they are not real Christmas cookies. Why not? Probably because they aren’t slathered with thick butter cream frosting and doused in sprinkles, which is basically his prerequisite for any holiday cookie. But I say, who died and made him Buddy the Elf?

These little cuties are not overly sweet. They are not overly buttery or crisp. They are not overly anything really. They have a mellow and subtlely licorice flavor. They are almost a cross between a cookie and a biscuit and make a great accompaniment for coffee or tea.

One batch makes a lot, but they freeze like a dream! These are as fun to make, as they are to eat. They are perfect for making with kids or at a party.  Who doesn’t love a cookie where playing with the dough is part of the process?   Twisty ropes, knots, spirals, braids, etc… You choose!

The original recipe calls for lard (no, thanks). My Grandmother sometimes substitutes shortening, which will work just fine, but I just can’t bring myself to add something so processed to the mix. So, I use good old butter. Butter makes everything better, anyhow.

Here are the details:

  • 4 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1 tbl. Baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 3 tsp. anise seeds
  • Water (enough to form a workable dough)

Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

Mix butter and sugar with stand mixer.   Slowly add dry ingredients to mixer.

With a potato masher or something similar, mix in the beaten egg.

Then slowly mix in enough water to form cohesive and workable dough. Knead the dough until is it elastic. You may need to add some sprinklings of flour during this process.

Keep your flour handy. You may need it while twisting and tying the dough into little shapes.

Bake for around 15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

After the cookies are baked and cooled, dip the tops in a simple icing made of powdered sugar, milk, and a dash of vanilla extract. I don’t use an exact formula for this because the humidity in the air seems to affect the ratios quite a bit. I just add a tiny bit of milk and vanilla to about ¾ cup of powdered sugar and mix it all together. You can always add more milk or powdered sugar to get the right consistency.

Make a hot cup of tea, coffee, cocoa, or cider and cozy up on the couch to enjoy these little Italian cookies.

Ciao!

Italian-Style Hazelnut Crescent Cookies

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As a kid, my favorite holiday cookie was what my Mom called Russian Tea Cookies.  Although, I have heard some folks refer to them as “Snowballs” as well. When I found a recipe for Italian Almond Crescent Cookies, I was intrigued because of its similarity to my old favorite.  Now, my favorites are a variation of these little buttery crescents.

Once upon a time, I was craving these on a snowy day, but I was all out of almonds.  Pilfering my pantry, I discovered that we did have plenty of hazelnuts. And, we certainly love hazelnuts!  So I thought, why not?!  Since then, we have never wanted these cookies any other way!  Over time, I have tweaked the recipe for hazelnutty perfection. Yum!

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup sifted powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, ground in food processor until texture is a mix of powder and small hazelnut chunks (measure after grinding)
  • 2 ½ cup flour
  • Extra powdered sugar for rolling after baking

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit at the beginning, because these cookies come together in a snap.

First, grind hazelnuts to desired texture in the food processor. Remove Hazelnut powder/bits from processor, measure, and set aside.

The dough for this recipe can be made 100% in the food processor. (Yay, for fewer dishes!)

Add butter and sugar to processor and mix until combined. Then add vanilla and mix.

Add flour in three increments, mixing well after each addition.

Finally, add the hazelnuts. Mix until dough is thoroughly combined.

To shape the cookies, make 1 inch diameter balls of dough. Then roll the dough into a small log and bend in the middle to make the crescent shape. If you prefer for them to be shaped more like the “Snowball” version, that works too! (Note: I prefer to bake the snowball-shaped variety at 325 degrees.)

Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until, they start to turn lightly golden brown.

After they have cooled slightly (cool enough to handle) but have not cooled completely, roll in powdered sugar.

Enjoy!