Monday, October 31, 2011

Ultra Running Chef, Ryan Cobb

I have known Ryan Cobb for a few years through the ultra community and always wanted to know more about him as an Executive Chef at one of Atlanta's finest restaurants, The Colonnade and as an endurance athlete. Ryan is also husband to Carol and father to daughter, Peyton and son, Avery, so he certainly has a full plate, so to speak. In fact, his 13 year old son was the youngest finisher of the Mystery Mountain Marathon in 2010, completing the 13 mile event.  You can also visit Ryan's blog, where he writes about his running adventures, on UltraRunningChef. I really enjoyed learning more about Ryan. I hope that you do as well.

1.What made you decide to become a chef and where did you go to school?
 I went to school at The Art Institute of Atlanta.  Honestly, I got in to cooking because I wanted to impress girls!  It was my ace in the hole on all first dates.  I did not go to culinary school until after I had attended The University of Georgia.  I knew that I needed a more creative outlet than a straightforward business degree was going to offer me.

2.Where do you currently work as a professional chef and how long have you been there? 
I am the Executive Chef at The Colonnade Restaurant, I have been here for about five years.

3.What is your favorite cuisine?
My favorite cuisine would have to be Japanese, Sushi to be exact. Behind that, I would have to go with traditional Latin American cuisine(no tex/mex!).

4.Do you cook for your family as well? If so, what is a family favorite?
I do cook for my family, but if I said it was on a regular basis I would be a liar.  The more I cook at work, the less I cook at home.  My family does have favorites though, and it usually involves my Costa Rican themed evenings. Arroz con Pollo, Ceviche, Tico Breakfast, etc.

5. How long have you been running? And when did you start running ultra marathons?
I have only been running for three years. I started running Ultras about 6 months after I started running, my first 100 miler came 10 1/2 months after I started running.

6.How do you fuel for longer endurance events?
I listen to my body as to what I am going to eat before a long run, its never wrong.  I don't necessarily carbo load, in fact I usually eat a bunch of protein the night before a race. It sticks with me longer.  Also, I hate spaghetti, which is the usual pre-race meal that is offered. I have recently switched from using too many gels and other synthetic aid.  I prefer real food while doing Ultras.

7.What are your thoughts on eating nutritious food and how it affects your performance as an ultra runner? Do you believe it's important?
I definitely think that nutritious food is an important fact in Ultra running, and I do my best to keep a healthy, nutritious diet.  I am far from perfect though, and indulge than less than perfect cuisine on long run days especially.  I believe that eating right for Ultra running gives you the obvious benefits of having the proper balance of nutrients, vitamins and minerals in your body, so that your body will perform at its' peak level.  I think it is important to study what your body as an Ultra Runner truly needs though. This is one area where I think a lot of people fall short.  For example, an Ultra Runner needs far more sodium and fat in their diet than a non Ultra Athlete.  If you think you are eating healthy and don't adjust your diet to increased needs of some items you will not perform at the bodies peak level.

8.As an endurance athlete, do you believe it helps you perform your job better compared to a chef who does not exercise? In other words, is there a correlation between your high level of endurance as a runner and long and stressful hours in the kitchen as a chef?
I'm not sure how much being a runner helps me on my long shifts as a chef.  Obviously it helps to be in better shape than your average chef, I sweat less and  don't notice long periods on my feet.  Going in the other direction, the constant time on my feet in the kitchen has definitely helped my running.  It is always said when training for ultra long runs that feet time is crucial.  I get that whether I want it or not!!!  I have noticed that it does give me an edge.

9.Professional chefs love food. Do you ever have to worry about overindulging and gaining weight? 
I have never worried about over indulging as a chef.  The chef's diet is not what you would think, it usually consists of many small meals or tastes throughout the day.  I think in the last 5 years I have only sat down and had a complete meal at work 7 or 8 times.  I have found myself pigging out after a shift, but I'm never more than 12 hours from my next run, so the added calories never stick around.  My weight has not fluctuated more than 3-4 lbs. in the last three years.

10. What is your favorite part about being a 1) chef, 2) ultra marathon runner.
My favorite part about being a chef is the ability to create with a massive array of different mediums. I have always been creative, but couldn't draw a circle if I tried!  Culinary Arts has given me the artistic outlet that has always been inside of me.  My favorite part of being a ultra runner is the ability to explore.  I love to find new trails and areas to explore. When I'm in a new city, I explore through a run as well. The beauty of running to me is just that; the freedom.  I recently had to remind myself that it is all about the run, not racing that I love.

11.What is your #1 greatest accomplishment as a 1)chef, 2)ultra marathon runner. 
My most significant accomplishment as a chef would have to involve all of the media attention that I have received through The Food Network, PBS, 11-Alive News, and The Travel Channel.  Its sort of self indulgent, but who wouldn't love the exposure?  It took a lot of hard work and long days to get my name out there.  The attention wasn't given, it was earned.  As a runner?  My most significant accomplishment was my first marathon, not Ultra.  I went to being a total couch potato to a marathoner with no help, and all of my own drive.  I looked up a training program on the Internet, followed it religiously through rain sleet and snow, and accomplished my goal.  I cried after I crossed the finish line.  It was such an amazing feat for me and proud moment to see my goals realized through hard work.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Grilled Chicken with Orzo and Fresh Spinach

Since I will be in and out this weekend running back to back marathons as training for my next 100 mile race, I didn't want to leave Marty and Grant alone with no food, I grilled 6 breasts of chicken for them. They can eat them as is, slice them and place them on a sandwich, or chop them up over a salad. They will be set at least for a few meals while I am away.

Years ago, I got the idea from Rachael Ray to pile orzo over fresh spinach leaves and let them naturally heat by the warmth of the orzo. I just love adding butter to this dish as well. It brings back memories of my mom making egg noodles with butter and parsley as a side dish.

A little bit of butter is not going to hurt. This is still a very healthy meal in every way. Feel free to substitute whole wheat pasta orzo. Some of the supermarkets do carry it.

Orzo and Fresh Spinach

1 lb of orzo
2 cups of spinach leaves, roughly chopped
a cup of green onions, chopped (optional)
a cup of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 tbs of Smart Balance butter (or your butter of choice)
salt and pepper to taste

Follow directions on the box to cook the orzo. Once al dente, drain and add back in the pot along with the green onions, parsley, butter and salt and pepper to taste. Toss and serve over a bed of spinach.

Grilled Chicken Marinade

1/2 cup of fresh rosemary, chopped
juice of two lemons
1 tbs of olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbs of honey
salt and pepper to taste

Mix the above ingredients and toss with 6 chicken breasts. Marinade in a plastic bag or container for 30 minutes on up to several hours.

Turn the double burner grill pan on high heat (feel free to use the outdoor grill, of course). Once hot, grill 5 minutes on each side. Turn the grill down on low and use an extra large piece of aluminum foil and let the chicken continue to cook through. You may have to check one, by cutting into it, to make sure it's cooked thoroughly.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sweet Potato Brulee

For several years now, my family spends Thanksgiving with my parents and brother in Marietta. As much as I’d love to host the family meal for both my parents and Marty’s parents, usually I’m running the Atlanta Marathon (which is now only a half marathon and 5K). The first time that I ever ran this race was in 1997 and one year in the 1999, I ran the half marathon with my dad. I still vividly remember us being able to see the finish line and exclaiming over and over, We are almost there! The truth was that we still had a very long mile to go. Don’t you just hate courses like that? When you can see the finish line but it feels like you aren’t making any progress? Okay, lets get back to cooking and food....
Because I don’t host the meal on Thanksgiving, I do like to make a traditional thanksgiving meal for Marty and Grant the week before. Usually, I roast a turkey breast and serve all the yummy classic side dishes.
Not being raised in the South and by a mother who doesn’t care for sweet potatoes, we always had mashed potatoes with gravy. Mom’s gravy is very dark because she doesn’t use turkey stock or chicken stock at all. She simply uses Wondra flour and water. My favorite part of the mashed potatoes is digging the little whole in the middle for the gravy. It’s funny how we all have our own favorite traditions and with fun details that make this holiday so special. After all, it is all about the food. Oh yah, and giving thanks, too.
So, I decided to try a sweet potato casserole by using one of Gina’s recipes from I like sweet potatoes but adding cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar turned it too much into a dessert for me. I’m glad I tried it, though and it was quite pretty served in a pie dish.
Sweet potatoes are one of the best vegetables that you can eat and really a super food for the runner. They’re loaded with carotenoids, vitamin C, potassium and fiber.  They have a lot of bulk to keep you full for hours and the nutritional profile makes those calories well worth it. It’s a shame that most Americans only eat sweet potatoes around Thanksgiving time. They should be eaten year round.
I halved the recipe since serving sizes are smaller for my family.
3 lbs of sweet potatoes, peeled, chopped and boiled until soft
1/2 cup 1% milk
1 1/2 tbs of Smart Balance butter
1/4 tsp of salt, or to taste
1/8th tsp ground cinnamon
a pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 cup unpacked light brown sugar
Preheat the broiler in your oven.
Bring a medium size pot to a boil and add the sweet potatoes. When potatoes are cooked and soft, combine them with milk, butter, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Smash or puree. I used a hand mixer but a potato masher works just fine.
Spoon into a pie dish or a dish of similar size that can withstand high heat. Add the brown sugar sprinkled on top. Broil for no more than 5 minutes. Be careful to not burn the sugar.  Let stand for 5 minutes to allow the sugar to harden.

Arugula with Goat Cheese and Toasted Walnuts

Arugula has really been growing on me lately. I just love combining the bitter leaves with  a tangy cheese like goat cheese, and a lemony vinaigrette. The combination is delicious. 
I’m not a big fan of walnuts unless they are chopped up finely in something sweet such as a cookie or muffin. However, I do love adding seeds, almonds, or pine nuts to salads.  I decided to buy some organic raw walnuts, cut them up a little, and toast them on the stove. In this salad, they were actually pretty good. Walnuts compliment goat cheese very nicely.
A little trivia for you: Walnuts are revered since ancient times as a symbol of intellectuality since they resemble a brain!
Besides walnuts being high in protein as all nuts are, they are also high in Omega 3 fatty acids. Regular intake of walnuts will help keep the cholesterol in check and the heart healthy. No matter how fit you are and how much you run, you can still develop heart problems as a result of not eating healthy.
The ingredients in this salad are approximate depending on your preferences. Please fee free to change it up however you’d like. 
1 bag of pre-washed arugula
1 small package of goat cheese, crumbled or cut up
a few tomatoes, chopped 
1 cup of green onions, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
3/4 cup of raw walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup of vinaigrette or to taste, *recipe follows
In a small skillet, toast the walnuts on medium to high heat.  Be careful to not let them burn and remove them from the skillet once they are browned/toasted. Toss all of the above ingredients with the vinaigrette.
Lemony Vinaigrette
When it comes to vinaigrettes, the magic ratio of oil to vinegar is 3 to 1. Keeping this in mind will help you develop your own vinaigrette recipes. Also, the best way to test the vinaigrette is to dip of piece of lettuce in it. Once I get it the way I want it, I place it in a recycled jar and shake it up really well. It usually can stay in the fridge for about a week.
the juice of one lemon
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup of champayne vinegar 
salt and pepper to taste

Mushroom Ricotta Gratin

A perfect way to use up herbs and vegetables before they spoil is to make a gratin. I also love to use a mandolin to make my potato slices extra thin. Feel free to slice the potatoes by hand; it’s all just personal preference.
1 small container of baby bella mushrooms, sliced
1 red pepper, chopped
1 small vidalia onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 lbs of red potatoes, thinly sliced with skins
1 tbs of Smart Balance butter
1 tbs of olive oil
1 small container of part-skim ricotta
1 tbs of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 tbs of  fresh chives, finely chopped (reserve a tiny bit for garnish)
1 tbs of fresh thyme (finely chopped)
2 cups of 1% milk
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400
Slice potatoes and place in a bowl of cold water. Let sit until ready to be used.
In a medium skillet with the olive oil and butter, saute onion, garlic, and red pepper on medium heat. After about 5 minutes when onion and garlic soften, add mushrooms, and the herbs. Salt and pepper to taste.
Remove potatoes from the water and pat them dry.
In a lasagna size casserole dish, first spray or brush olive oil in the dish. Place a layer of potatoes, veggies, ricotta cheese, and pepper. Repeat again with another layer of potatoes veggies, ricotta cheese and pepper. Lastly, layer with potatoes and ricotta cheese. Pour milk equaly over entire gratin. Add parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Bake until bubbly. About 20 minutes. Let sit for 5 minutes to continue to allow the liquid to absorb.  Serve with a few fresh chives.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Spaghetti with Kale and Chicken Sausage

Kale is a versatile and nutritious green leafy vegetable that is easily found at the supermarket for a low price. I’m more drawn to cooking with kale in the fall and winter months, mainly because it’s a winter vegetable.  After a busy day at work and trying to get my son to get his homework started, I wanted to make something easy that wouldn’t require a lot of thought. Getting Grant to eat kale would be no easy task but I knew that my Southern husband would love it. 
Besides the anti-oxidant properties of kale that keep inflammation down and our immune systems strong, it also is a significant source of vitamin A, vitamin K, vintamin C, and vitamin B-6. Green leafy vegetables are so important for runners. Don’t forget to  make them a regular part of your diet.

  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 6 chicken sausages, sliced and cut in half
  • 1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large bag of pre-washed kale
  • 1 medium vidalia (sweet) onion, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced
  • a dash of dried thyme
  • a dash of freshly ground nutmeg
  • dash of red pepper flakes, to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb of thin spaghetti
  • 2 large carrots, peeled, sliced lengthwise and cut in 2-3 inch length pieces
  • parmesan cheese, grated
In a large stock pot, prepare water to boil for the spaghetti.
Meanwhile, in an extra large deep pan with olive oil, saute garlic, onion, carrots, red pepper flakes, and red peppers on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes. In a smaller separate skillet, cook the sausage on high heat, flipping sides once after about 3-5 minutes. You don’t have to cook the sausage in a separate skillet than the vegetables. I choose to cook it separately because I don’t like the added oil in this dish.
Add spaghetti to boiling water.
To large pan, kale, diced tomatoes, nutmeg, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Then add back in the sausage.  Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. 
Serve over spaghetti and top with parmesan cheese

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Low Fat Chocolate Cupcakes

I got this recipe from . I'm making them again for Grant's Fall Festival/Masquerade Ball at school. I loved using the pumpkin puree in them. You really can't taste it and these cupcakes tasted decadent considering they were only a little over a 100 calories a cupcake.

I used both icings for the recipe combined on each cupcake as opposed to just one. If you know me by now, you know that I have to change something.


  • 18.25 oz Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge cake mix
  • 1.4 oz sugar free, fat free, instant chocolate pudding
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 1/3 cups water
For the chocolate glaze:

  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2-1 tbsp 1% milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
For the vanilla glaze:

  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup light butter (I used Smart Balance)
  • 1 tsp white vanilla extract
  • 2 - 3 tbsp boiling water
Preheat oven to 350°. Line a cupcake tin with cupcake liners. Combine pumpkin puree and water in a large bowl; mix to combine. Add chocolate pudding mix and mix well. Add chocolate cake mix and beat 2 minutes. 
Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake about 25 - 28 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes.

For the chocolate glaze: combine all dry ingredients, add vanilla and 1/2 tbsp milk, adding more 1/4 tsp at a time if needed until smooth. Add to a piping bag or use a zip lock bag and cut the corner off, drizzle onto cooled cupcakes.

For the vanilla glaze: Combine the butter, vanilla extract, and boiling water and beat for two minutes. Add confectioners sugar and continue to beat until pureed. 

Baked goodies are also great home decoration.

Lentils and Quinoa

 Suddenly, I'm back on a vegetarian kick. This happens when I get sick of chicken. I came across this recipe on and the only change that I made was using quinoa instead of brown rice.

For fun, I sauted some green peppers and served them on top with some ripe tomatoes and a little parsley. I was going to make a salad but the lettuce sort of froze in the back the of fridge so I had to throw it out.

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 1/2 cups french green lentils, rinsed
  • 1 cup brown rice (or quinoa)
  • 1-2 tablespoons garam masala (or a mix of curry and cumin)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • onion, diced
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4-5 cups vegetable stock, or water
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, garlic, tomato paste and garam masala and sauté for about 3-4 minutes. Stir in lentils and rice.

Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for about 45-60 minutes, or until lentils and rice are tender. When done, let lentils and rice sit in pot for a few minutes until soup is somewhat thick. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chicken with Butternut Squash Sauce

I love using leftover chicken for a whole new meal the next evening. Because I baked the chicken the night before (Baked Chicken in a Hurry), I was able to cut it up and use it in this pasta dish.

I bought the rigatoni and the jarred sweet peppers at the Dollar Tree. Yep, I love the dollar store. I looked carefully at the brand ( For example, the pasta was made in Italy) and of course scan the expiration date carefully. Between using leftover chicken and dollar store items, this was a very inexpensive meal.

This dish is low in fat, very healthy covering all of your major food groups, and feel free use any pasta of choice including whole wheat pasta. This pasta dish would be great as a pre-race dinner.

  • 1 large butternut squash, sliced in half and seeds removed
  • 1 large head of broccoli or two smaller heads, stalks removed
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small jar of roasted red peppers, sliced
  • 2-3 chicken breasts, cut into bite size chunks.
  • 1 lb of rigatoni
  • 2 cups of pasta water
  • 1/2 cup of half and half
  • a pinch of ground sage
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice butternut squash in half with a large knife. Please be careful. Remove seeds, salt, and place down on a cookie sheet coated with extra virgin olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour. Make sure the squash is nice and mushy. You should be able to remove it easily from the skin.

While butternut squash is roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil. First add pasta for about 4 minutes, and then add broccoli.

Meanwhile, in a large stock pot, saute onion and garlic in extra virgin olive oil on medium to high heat. After about 5 minutes, add the butternut squash, sage, and chicken. Mix thoroughly and bring back down to a simmer.

Add broccoli, pasta, red peppers, and half and half. Make sure the broccoli is not overcooked and the pasta is al dente.  Gradually add pasta water into the pot to thin out the pasta sauce. 

Simmer for 5 minutes and let sit covered for 5 more minutes. Serve with grated parmesan cheese. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Baked Chicken in a Hurry

On baseball night, I try and make something quick that can be eaten before and after the game-depending on the needs of my family. Tonight, I had just enough time to throw some chicken in the oven, braise some carrots and asparagus, and make some boiled parsley potatoes which was a standard side dish in my home growing up.


Preheat the oven to 400. Toss some good quality boneless skinless chicken breasts (I like the organic chicken breasts from Costco and they can be easily frozen) with some extra virgin olive oil, paprika, and salt and pepper. Bake in the oven until cooked through. Check one of them by cutting it in half, if necessary.

Braised Carrots and Asparagus

In a deep saucepan on medium-high heat, add chicken or vegetable stock (about a cup or so) with peeled and cut up carrots (don't use the ones already peeled-they don't have a strange flavor and just don't taste as good). When carrots are fairly soft after about 10 minutes, add the asparagus and cover the saucepan with a lid or aluminum foil and let the asparagus steam. Make sure they are cooked but not mushy. Salt and pepper to taste.

Boiled Parsley Potatoes

Cut up a bunch of red potatoes and add to a pot of boiling water. Drain the water and add a handful of parsley and a tablespoon or two of Smart Balance butter (or a butter that you prefer). Salt and pepper to taste.

This meal seriously took no more than 30 minutes with very little chopping. As the oven was preheating and the chicken was baking, the carrots and asparagus and potatoes were prepared.

I always have carrots (which are very low in cost), potatoes, and chicken(in the freezer) on hand in my kitchen. We are all very busy working, taking care of family, and trying to fit in a run into our schedule. Healthy dinners do not have to be that time consuming nor complicated.  Not only was this meal healthy, it was also incredibly quick and easy.

Pumpkin Poblano Chili

It seems that there are a million and one ways to make chili. For at least a few decades, I've been hooked on my mom's "Chili Non Carne" recipe, whom she stole from a neighbor back when we lived in Virginia. It will always be a favorite of mine.

However, lately I've been intrigued by this "pumpkin" chili concept. Last week, it seemed like it was everywhere- on Facebook, friends telling me about it, and my favorite blogs featuring it. After reviewing all of the methods, particularly my BFF Ami's version, I came up with my own.

I thought it was delicious and an excellent post-race recovery meal after running Nashville 50 mile race the day before. A pot of meat, veggies, and beans will no doubt help push the muscle fatigue out of the body. Unfortunately, Grant wanted me to pick out anything green in his bowl. Then, he reached for a can of Hormel turkey chili and said that he would prefer this. Wow, that was a slap in the face but he's only 10 and hopefully he will be less picky as he gets older....hopefully.

  • 3 cans of cannelini beans (rinsed and drained)
  • 4 cans of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 can pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
  • 1 large vidalia (sweet) onion, chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small can of green chilis, drained and chopped
  • 3 poblano peppers (**roasted in the oven for 15 minutes on 400, roughly chopped)
  • 1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs of cumin
  • 3 tbs of chili powder
  • 2 cups of low sodium vegetable or chicken stock (add more if needed)
  • 2 packages of fat free ground turkey breast
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • green onion, chopped, optional
  • monterey jack cheese, shredded, optional
  • low fat or fat free sour cream, optional
  • tortilla chips, optional
In an extra large pot, cook ground turkey on medium-high heat with olive oil and break it up as you are cooking it. Add freshly ground pepper. Once cooked through, remove from the heat and place in a bowl.

In the same pot, saute onion, garlic, green and yellow pepper for about 5 minutes on low-medium heat. Add some more olive oil if necessary. Add chili powder, bay leaf, and cumin and mix through. Continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Then, add beans, tomatoes, green chilis, pumpkin puree, stock, and add back the ground turkey. Mix thoroughly and bring up to high heat. Once it starts to boil, bring it back down to low heat. Allow to cook for about an hour. Salt and pepper to taste.

**While the pot of chili is simmering, slice in half the poblano peppers, removing the seeds, and place flat on a cookie sheet with a little it of olive oil. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes on 400 degrees. Remove from the heat and when cooler, roughly chop them and add them to the pot.

Garnish the chili with sour cream, cheese, and green onions. Serve with tortilla chips for dipping. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Quick Ravioli Casserole

Before leaving town to run Nashville 50 Mile Race, I needed to use up some produce. Because of the tomato kick I've been on lately and buying an overabundance of them, I knew tomatoes needed to be included in the casserole.

I always buy spinach when I'm at the grocery store no matter what I plan on cooking for the week. It can be used in so many dishes, raw, or cooked by itself. Not to mention spinach has so many health benefits such as being a good source of niacin and zinc, very good source of fiber, protein, vitamin A, C, E, and K, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, potassium, copper, and Manganese. One of the most perfect veggies, in my opinion.

  • 1 1/2 cups of low sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, sliced
  • 3 to 4 cups of fresh spinach leaves )or one bag
  • 1 cup of panko crumbs
  • 3 tbs of pecorino romano cheese or parmesan cheese, grated
  • either grape/cherry tomatoes or 6 medium tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp of oregano
  • 1 tsp of balsamic vinegar
  • about 20-25 frozen cheese ravioli (eyeball this)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Saute garlic and red peppers in an extra large deep skillet on low-medium heat until red peppers soft. Be careful to not burn the garlic and you may want to add the garlic after the red pepper to avoid burning. Add the tomatoes and continue to saute for at least 5 minutes.  Add spinach leaves, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Add balsamic vinegar. Once the spinach leaves wilt, add the stock. 

In a large casserole dish, add the frozen cheese ravioli. Yes, it's okay to add it frozen. Pour the mixture over the ravioli and top with panko crumbs and cheese.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until nice and bubbly. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving. 

The tomatoes burst nicely when cooked.
Almost ready to pour over the ravioli

Serve with a side salad and some crusty bread

Note: Photos are still not very good. I'm getting educated in photography so these will be gradually getting better and better.  Just like improving as a runner,  progress takes time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Beth's Shrimp "Not So" Po Boy

I'm on this serious tomato kick lately and it's not even tomato season. All my foodie friends are baking and cooking with pumpkin for Fall and I'm stuck on the tomatoes. I found some grape tomatoes from Costco yesterday and I was eating them all afternoon from the container. They were just so sweet.

Tomatoes are great sources of potassium and several vitamins such as folic acid, vitamin A, C, and E. Tomatoes are also an excellent inflammation-fighting food in addition to helping lowering the risk of several types of cancer due to the high concentration of lycopene. Most of your lycopene, which the body does not produce on it's own, will come from the tomatoes that you eat. So, tomato up!

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

  • 3-4 cups of grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 3 tbs of extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium sweet onion, sliced
  • 1 half tbs of dried basil
  • a dash of balsamic vinegar
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • thick crusty bread of your choice (I used foccacia that I bought from the Atlanta Bread Co)
  • fresh baby spinach leaves
  • swiss cheese
  • 1 lb of large shrimp, deveined, peeled and tails removed (I used Black Tiger Prawns)
  • the juice of one lemon
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste

Marinate shrimp in 1 tbs of extra virgin olive oil, red pepper flakes, lemon juice and 2 minced garlic cloves, for 30 minutes to an hour. 

To a roasting pan, add tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, 3 minced garlic cloves, 2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil, and onion. Toss and place in the oven for 20 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and appear pleasantly roasted. Toss once while roasting. Remove from the oven.

Use grill pan to grill shrimp. Do not overcook the shrimp. Grill on one side for a minute or so, flip, and quickly remove from the pan and place on a plate until ready to use for the sandwiches.

On a cookie sheet, slice bread and place in the oven for about 5 minutes. Remove. Begin assembling the sandwiches. Shrimp and roasted tomatoes on one side. Spinach leaves and swiss cheese on the other side. Remove from the oven after about 5 minutes and serve.