Inside Out Ravioli Casserole

ravioli

This is a recipe I adapted from my old Better Homes and Garden’s cookbook. You will notice that exact measurements aren’t important – just wing it – keep the proportions roughly the same, and have fun substituting different veggies/pasta/ground meats. This recipe is a great one to get veggies into kids’ tummies without them even realizing it!

  1. 1-3 Tbsp olive oil
  2. approx. 16 oz. pasta – rotini or shells work well
  3. 1 small onion
  4. 1-2 clove garlic
  5. handful mushrooms – sliced
  6. 1 cup zucchini and/or eggplant diced into small pieces
  7. approx. 16 oz. supreme lean ground beef
  8. approx. 16 oz. tomato sauce
  9. approx. 8-10 oz. tomato paste
  10. fistful fresh oregano, basil, and thyme – chopped (if use dried about 1/2 Tbsp. each basil and oregano, 1 tsp. thyme)
  11. fresh ground pepper
  12. (optional splash of red wine)
  13. 2 eggs or 3 egg whites (reminder: all the fat in eggs comes from the yolk; the white is pure protein)
  14. 1 cup grated cheese (I usually use used a cheddar – mozzarella or monterey jack mix)
  15. approx. 1/4 cup parmesan
  16. 2-3 cups chopped fresh or thawed spinach (if frozen squeeze gently to remove excess moisture – then “fluff separate spinach leaves for mixing)

Directions:

  1. Heat water for pasta.
  2. Heat oil in large pan. Saute items 3-6 until just soft but not overcooked. Set aside.
  3. When water boils, cook pasta until al dente (just soft but not mushy), drain and rinse.
  4. Cook ground beef over high heat in same pan for flavor – stir and separate as it cooks to prevent clumping.
  5. When cooked, lower heat to medium, add sauteed veggies back in.
  6. Add items 8-11, wine if desired, cook 5-10 minutes until excess moisture is removed.
  7. While cooking meat sauce mix ingredients 12-15, pour and spread into a 13 x 9 baking dish.
  8. Preheat oven to 350.

When meat sauce has reach desired consistency, (the casserole will hold together better if the sauce is less runny), pour over pasta mixture in baking dish, sprinkle some parmesan over the top, bake for 30 minutes at 350.

Coffee May be Good for You

Data from a major pair of studies, the Nurse’s Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, have turned up evidence that coffee may reduce the risks of death. The two studies together have tracked 86,214 female nurses for 24 years, and 41,736 male veterinarians, pharmacists, and other health workers for 18 years. Every two years the volunteers answered detailed questions about a variety of health habits including coffee consumption, smoking, weight, exercise habits, etc. After accounting for the fact that coffee drinkers tended to have less healthy lifestyles, the data showed that women drinking 2-3 cups of coffee per day had 25% lower death rate from heart disease and an 18% lower risk of death from all causes compared with other equally unhealthy peers. These stats held regardless of whether they drank caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee. One of the difficulties in examining the data were the fact that so many coffee drinkers were also smokers. It is premature, the researchers say, to start guzzling coffee for health benefits, but the fact that it may have health benefits is not too far-fetched because of all the antioxidants in coffee. Other studies have had mixed results. Some have linked coffee consumption with heart disease and cancers, but these other studies did not factor out the other stresses placed on the body by the other unhealthy habits that coffee drinkers often have (e.g. smoking). Coffee may have gotten a bad reputation simply by association. The researchers emphasized that most participants in the studies from which the data came were tracked in the late 80’s and 90’s and drank mostly drip coffee. The health effects of coffee might be dependant on how it is made. Source: Science News. July 5, 2008.

Make mine a latte.

Potassium is Pro-Muscle!

Diets rich in potassium appear to help preserve muscle. A study was recently conducted by the federal Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston (reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in March ’08). They were interested in keeping muscles strong so that the muscles could help prevent falls that so often cause bone breakage in the elderly. They had a study group of almost 400 men and women and they tracked them for 3 years. They were giving them calcium and vitamin D for bone health. After the three years were over they looked at the amount of muscle participants had and correlated it to other components in their diet. The strongest correlation was the potassium intake. Individuals with the highest potassium intake were able to protect their muscles “enough to offset a good chunk of, if not all of, the age-related decline in muscle that normally occurs,” said the researchers. How does potassium help? The researchers believe that the potassium acts as an alkaline buffer to acids that build up in the muscles and trigger breakdown. The acids are naturally produced when protein and cereal grains get broken down by the body. Better choice of diet? Get fewer carbs from cereal grains and focus on fruits and veggies. The bonus is that fruits and veggies are high in potassium!

Source: Science News, March 29, 2008

Basic Barbeque Rub

I recently used this rub recipe from How to Grill by Steven Raichlen on some boneless/skinless chicken breasts and boneless pork chops. After adding the rub, I let them sit in the refrigerator for a few hours. (If you can let them sit over night, that’s even better.) I threw them on a hot grill, and in just a few minutes they were ready.

Ingredients:
1) 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2) 1/4 cup sweet paprika
3) 3 Tbsp black pepper
4) 3 Tbsp coarse salt
5) 1 Tbsp hickory-smoked salt
6) 2 tsp garlic powder
7) 2 tsp onion powder
8) 2 tsp celery seeds
9) 1 tsp cayenne pepper

Makes about 1 Cup. Use 2-3 tsp per pound of meat. Store rub in an airtight jar away from heat or light; it will keep for at least 6 months.

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