Fettuccine Alfredo

Growing up I was a picky eater. While my family would have spaghetti and meatballs, I would have buttered noodles with salt, no pepper. I even have photos documenting me trying my first bite of a BLT sandwich. It was a big deal! During this stage of my life, my orders at restaurants were pretty predictable. For a long time I would only order cheese pizza, then when I got to high school my friends would want to eat at Mexican restaurants, so I eventually learned to like chicken quesadillas. Each year, the night before the women’s tennis state tournament, the team would all go out to eat at Olive Garden, so I learned to order their chicken alfredo. Until about my senior year of high school, those were my general orders and I didn’t venture beyond them.

The interesting thing is, once I did venture beyond them I have not gone back since. Suddenly those flavors of chicken and cheese were monotonous, without excitement or dimension. Besides, I figured every restaurant has them, so why order something that I can get anywhere? I don’t think I could tell you the last time I ordered chicken alfredo for myself. I had never made it either, until out of the blue I decided to last Friday night.

mI really have no idea what caused my sudden urge. I wanted pasta that night and I wanted to use one of the zucchinis I bought on sale, but how that led to alfredo sauce, I’m not sure. Perhaps because I’m always trying to make new things and alfredo was one that I hadn’t tried? I don’t know, but what I do know is that I will be making this sauce again. It was simple, full of flavor, delightfully creamy, and, for an alfredo sauce, pretty healthy. Truly! The sauce can be made all in one pot and by the time your pasta and chicken are cooked, it will be ready too. I started with just ½ tablespoon of butter in a medium saucepan and cooked it until brown to give the sauce a rich flavor. I then added the garlic and cooked for 30 seconds, whisked in the flour so the sauce would be able to thicken, added skim milk, some chicken stock for extra flavor, and parmesan cheese to finish it off. Simple and satisfying. If you’ve been like me with your nose turned up at chicken alfredo, it’s time to lower it down and take a good whiff of steamy pasta soaking in a bath of creamy cheese sauce. No, the flavors aren’t groundbreaking, but you cannot deny that they’re good and if you’re a mom or dad with limited time, picky eaters, and a desire to feed your little ones something healthy, try making this—I think you’ll be happy with the results!

Chicken Alfredo with Whole Wheat pasta and Zucchini Ribbons

My notes: If you are feeding this to kids you might want to peal the zucchini so it can be “camouflaged” and hide in the pasta. I know it’s deceitful, but I think it’s OK in this case. You could even take it one step further and steam some cauliflower and puree it with the sauce. I doubt anyone would be the wiser. Also, I used butter instead of olive oil because I believe you can get a much richer flavor by browning the butter than using olive oil, which you need here since the rest of the ingredients are rather “light.” Finally, if you are making this for dinner guests and want to give it the “wow” factor, I might add a couple of drops of white truffle oil.

Serves 2-4 depending on whether you’re serving children, adults, or ravenous male teenagers

2 4-6oz. chicken breasts

1 zucchini, julienned

olive oil

salt and pepper

Whole-wheat fettuccine 1-1 ¼ inch wide circle of pasta in your fist


½ tablespoon of butter

2 good size cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1 ½ tablespoons all purpose flour

½ cup of low sodium chicken stock

1 cup of milk (I used skim, but if you want to use 2% or whole feel free)

Salt and fresh cracked pepper

1/4-1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (use less to keep it healthy, more if you want to up the flavor)

In a medium saucepan melt the ½ tablespoon of butter and cook on medium heat until it starts to brown, about five minutes. While the butter melts, fill up your pasta pot with water, season the water generously with salt, cover the pot with its lid, and bring to a boil. When the butter has turned a caramel colored brown add the mince garlic, cook for thirty seconds, stirring twice, and then add 1 ½ T. of flour and stir to incorporate. Turn heat to low and add the chicken stock and then the milk. Cook over low to medium low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is to your desired thickness. Stir in the grated parmesan so it melts. While your sauce is cooking, heat your sauté pan with olive oil over medium high heat, butterfly your chicken breasts or pound them down so they are about ½ inch thick, season them with salt and pepper, and cook them in the sauté pan until golden brown on both sides and cooked through (180 degrees F). While your chicken is cooking, your pasta water should start to boil, add your pasta then, and cook until it’s al dente. Once your chicken is cooked, remove from pan and let it cool while you add the zucchini ribbons for a quick sauté. Add the zucchini and the finished sauce to the drained pasta. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces and serve!


Match Day Breakfast

Scott with his match letter!
What a day! Thursday, March 18, was "Match Day." Match Day is the day in which every 4th year medical student in the country finds out what residency program they have been matched to. Back in February, after lots of prayer, we submitted our rank list of residencies and waited patiently anxiously for Match Day which seemed so far away. In the weeks before match day we prepared ourselves to be happy with, and even to expect, our second or third choice so we would not be disappointed if we didn't get our first choice, Duke. Since Duke is one of the more competitive programs in the country to get into, we felt it was very reasonable to not expect to actually get in there.

But then all of the sudden Match Day snuck up on us and it was here! Suddenly I was sitting next to Scott with an envelope in his hands watching him open it. He unfolded the eight and a half by eleven piece of paper and we scanned the page for the place where we would be spending the next three years of our life! “Duke . . .” I heard Scott say softly, “Really? Where? Did we get into Duke?!” I questioned taking the piece of paper so I could better examine it while our parents watched us waiting to hear us clearly announce where we were going. There it was, “Duke University Medical Center” printed three lines down, “I think we’re going to Duke” I announced still not sure that’s really where we were going and half wondering if Duke was only printed there to tell us we did not get our first choice. I checked the paper again, there were no other program names listed and I realized that we were indeed matched to Duke!!! “Ahh! It’s Duke!” I squealed, and hugged and kissed Scott who had been sitting quietly in shock. Our mom’s started crying and hugged us and our dads beamed proudly. It was such happy and wonderful moment and it proved to us that God totally knew what he was doing all along (you'll have to ask me for that story, it's too long to put here)! Praise Him!

We promptly went out and bought Scott some Duke gear!

Now I love to cook and entertain, so when my mom said she was sick of hotel breakfasts it was the perfect excuse for me to play in the kitchen and try to make some new delicious thing for our families. I daydreamed of flavor combinations for several days finally deciding what to make on Wednesday night. Recently I’ve noticed poached eggs topping everything, from salads to pizzas to soups and I’ve wanted to try poached eggs over a wilted arugula salad topped with prociutto and either something sour (like pickled shallots) or sweet (like candied pecans) to give a nice point of contrast to the egg and prociutto. Well, such a salad would not do for either one of our dads (they’re more conservative eaters) and it would not do for breakfast so I transformed it. I reduced the amount of lettuce, gave the dish a base with a white bean and thyme waffle, and added some sautéed veggies that one often finds in omelets or frittatas. I upped the flavor components by slow roasting roma tomatoes, adding bacon (hey, I can’t afford prociutto), sautéing mushrooms and a sweet red onion in the bacon juices until the mushrooms browned and the onion turned truly sweet. I deglazed the sauté pan with balsamic vinegar and then added maple syrup and olive oil to make a dressing to wilt the lettuce and further season the vegetables. The flavors were right on point. The different flavors of the earthy mushrooms and white bean waffles, rich bacon, tangy tomatoes, sweet onions and maple syrup (a nod to the traditional waffle topping), fresh asparagus, mellow egg, and pop of balsamic vinegar all gave the dish great depth, interest, and served to bring out contrasting flavors. Our families heartily gave the dish their approval saying, “This is so much better than anything we could have gotten in a restaurant” and “I don’t want this to end, ever! It is so good!” Ahh, music to my ears! I also served caramel rolls for something sweet and bready and strawberry sorbet with strawberries to finish the meal on a light, fresh note.

The dish sans the poached egg. I was too worried about serving people promptly to take a picture of one with the egg on top! Whoops!

The empty plate is for my brother who is an extremely picky eater. He had a caramel roll and peanut butter toast. ;)

Match Day Breakfast

Ok, so a couple of quick notes. First, if you can’t make the waffles due to lack of food processor or waffle iron I would just use some good bread toasted up. Feel free to sub in other types of mushrooms or shallots for the red onion or broccoli for the asparagus depending on what is on sale when you make this. Also, if you’ve never poached eggs before doing a large number at a time can be overwhelming so just fry some up over easy and you’ll end up with a similar result. (I had to do this b/c we were out of vinegar and it was too hard for me to poach them without it.) Finally, I think that if you have white balsamic vinegar you should use that as the dark brown muted the color of my vegetables and it wasn’t quite as pretty.


1 15oz can of white beans, rinsed and drained

1 tsp. dried thyme or fresh

½ cup chicken stock

Salt and pepper

1 ½ cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tsp. sugar

½ tsp sea salt or ¼ tsp table salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

3 tablespoons olive oil


6 eggs

1 ½ quarts (6 cups) water

¼ cup white vinegar (You won’t taste this! It just helps the egg whites to coagulate!)

Vegetable salad:

8 roma tomatoes

6 strips of bacon (not the small microwavable kind!) cut into ½ inch bits

8 oz. of fresh mushrooms (I used button)

1 medium red onion

1 clove garlic, minced

½ lb (8oz or ½ a bunch) of asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (see note above)

1 well-rounded tablespoon of pure maple syrup

1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

½ bag of arugula or spring greens mix lettuce, about 2.5 oz.

Parmesan cheese

Game plan:

The night before make the waffles, roast the tomatoes, and sauté the bacon, mushrooms, and onions. Leave the tomatoes in the oven overnight and cover and refrigerate the waffles and sautéed mixture.

The morning of,

  1. Remove tomatoes from the oven, pull the peels off, and dice.
  2. Poach eggs one at a time, warm waffles in the oven, and warm the sautéed mixture in a large sauté pan and add the asparagus to quickly cook.
  3. Re-warm all the poached eggs in the hot poaching water. Put veggies on a plate and deglaze the pan with the balsamic vinegar and then add in the maple syrup and olive oil, mix, add the veggies back in.
  4. Plate ¼ of a waffle on each plate, put a small handful of salad greens on each waffle, place hot veggies on top, top with a poached egg, and grate large shards of Parmesan over everything to finish the dish.
  5. Serve.

Waffles: Preheat waffle pan. Add the drained and rinsed white beans to a small pot with the chicken stock and thyme. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer over medium high heat for five minutes to release the thyme’s flavor. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Meanwhile in a large mixing bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and ½ teaspoon of sea salt (1/4 tsp if using table salt). Add the beans and their cooking liquid to a food processor and pulse to puree. Add the eggs, milk, and olive oil to the bean mixture in the food processor and puree until smooth. Add in the flour mixture and pulse until just combined. When griddle is hot, add about ½ cup of batter to it and cook until the waffle is golden brown and crisp all over. Let cool on a cooling rack completely and then store in a zip lock bag in the fridge. If immediately continuing on keep these warm in the oven on a baking sheet.

Tomatoes: Preheat oven to 450F. Cut roma tomatoes into three wedges and remove the core, juice, and any seeds. Place tomatoes face up on a baking sheet, sprinkle generously with salt and the thyme, and lightly drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Place tomatoes in the 450F degree oven for 10 minutes and then flip the oven off and leave the tomatoes in overnight to finish roasting. If not doing this the night before, roast the tomatoes in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 450F.

Vegetable mixture: Cut bacon into ½ inch pieces and add to a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Stir occasionally so both sides cook and then after about five minutes add the onions and mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms have browned and onions are transparent and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. If continuing on add the asparagus and finish the dish as described below. Take mixture off the heat and transfer to a Tupperware to store in the fridge until morning.

Morning of: Fill a large stockpot with 1½ quarts of water and ¼ cup of vinegar over high heat. While water is heating, remove tomatoes from oven, peel, dice, and add to mushroom and onion mixture. Add this mixture to a large sauté pan over medium heat. When water for poaching is almost simmering, (when the bottom of the pan is covered with bubbles) crack and egg into a small dish, stir the water to make a mini funnel in the middle of the pan, and get the egg as close as you can to the water and gently slip the egg into the “funnel.” Let cook for about four minutes and don’t worry if some of the egg whites turned into wispy threads—it’s ok! Once egg is cooked remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon and dip it into a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking and rinse off any vinegar. Place egg on a plate and poach the other eggs in the same manner.

While poaching eggs, turn oven to 200F and reheat the waffles on a baking sheet. Add asparagus to the vegetable mixture to cook and stir occasionally. Once all of the eggs are cooked, turn off the heat of the poaching liquid and place the eggs back into the pot to warm them (you will not taste any vinegar if you do this). Remove vegetable mixture from the pan and place on the plate that had the poached eggs. Place pan back onto the heat and add 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and scrap up any of the pan bits. Then add a round tablespoon of maple syrup and two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Mix together and add the vegetables back into the pan and toss to coat.

Plate ¼ of a waffle on each plate, put a small handful of salad greens on each waffle, spoon hot veggies on top, top with a poached egg, and grate large shards of Parmesan over everything to finish the dish. Serve and eat slowly—you won’t want it to end! ;)


Roasted Asparagus with Lemony Quinoa and Mushrooms

Spring is here! Well, not technically according to the calendar, but the snow has completely melted, I hear birds chirping frequently, it rained all of last week, and it was a balmy 52 degrees Fahrenheit today. Back in February, Scott and I mad a bet on when the first day of snowless ground would be. He optimistically bet March 2nd and I optimistically (for me anyway) bet March 10. Turns out I was spot on! I think as the winner of this bet I’m going to have Scott either give me a massage or make me some Compost Cookies. I’ve never had these cookies before but they sound terribly intriguing. You simply add in three cups of whatever you want to get rid of. For example, I have some old Chex mix and pretzels that would definitely be added to the cookie dough, along with a bag of butterscotch chips that I bought when I thought I was out and then got home to realize that I already had an unopened bag that I had mistaken for chocolate chips. Oh, and of course, chocolate of various forms would be added as well! I’m not crazy people, this may sound weird, but it’s not. After all, the creator of the recipe is the pastry chef for Momofoku Milk Bar, one of the famous Momofuku restaurants in New York City, and ever since the recipe has been made public, people have been going crazy for these cookies, adding such things as Bugles chips and other snack-like oddities and loving the results. But I’ve gotten off track, we were talking about spring before my Sweet Tooth interrupted and perfused all my thoughts. . . hmm, I think it’s clear what I’m going to have Scott do since he lost the bet. ;)
I have decided that spring is officially my favorite season. It is just so reviving and full of new life! Such hope! The sun reappears and tickles you with warmth until you laugh with joy, the birds chirp and twitter as they play hide-and-seek, moving to a new hiding place just as soon as you spot them, and the smell of earth perfumes the air in the morning after a night of rain. You can just imagine the first daffodils excitedly working to push their sunny faces up through the soil. If all is well, they’ll call out to their friends, Tulip and Hyacinth, to get moving and see what awaits them above the darkness of the dirt. Of course, flowers aren’t the only things on the move; fresh herbs and asparagus are soon to follow leading the rainbow parade of summer produce. In fact, asparagus is already making a show at the grocery store, the last three weeks it has been greatly on sale! I’ve been buying some every time I go and making it in all different ways with nearly every meal. One of our favorite meals was roasted asparagus with quinoa* and lemony mushrooms. Thanks to the generous amount of lemon, the flavors of it are so bright and peppy they put a “spring” in your step! (Oh DEAR, I am so sorry for that pun, it was very bad indeed, but my nerdy side won’t let me delete it--forgive me!) We first enjoyed this meal, sans the asparagus, the very first time I cooked with quinoa. We love how cooking the quinoa in chicken stock brings it extra flavor and then tossing it with the lemon and garlic juices used to marinate the mushrooms gives the dish a nice “jolt” to make you sit up and pay attention to what’s on the plate. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do and that it can get you all revved up for spring and boost you out of winter’s dreary funk. This dish is also very easy to prepare so if you want to get outdoors and not spend the whole day cooking, you can!

*Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is native of South America and was cultivated by the Incans as far back as 3,000BC. While quinoa looks and cooks like a grain it is actually a seed from the goosefoot plant (apparently named so because the leaves of the plant look like webbed goose feet). Since it is a seed, it has a very high protein content (12-18%), often doubling that of other whole grains. Not only that, but it is a complete protein as it has an almost perfect balance of all eight essential amino acids needed for tissue development in humans. Thus it is quite a popular food for vegetarians. Quinoa also has calcium, iron, vitamin E, and several of the B vitamins. Finally, quinoa has an outer coating of saponin that is quite bitter and prevents birds and other animals from eating it. For almost all quinoa available in the USA this coating has been rinsed off but it is always a good idea to rinse and strain with the quinoa again before use. You can buy golden, red, or black quinoa in the USA.

Roasted Asparagus with Lemony Mushrooms and Quinoa
Inspired by Giada De Laurentiis' quinoa and Nigella Lawson’s mushrooms
Serves 2 (or 4 as a light meal)
For the asparagus:
½ bunch (8oz) of asparagus
extra virgin olive oil
For the mushrooms:
5-6 oz. (about 3 cups) whole button or cremini mushrooms, sliced as thin as possible (1/8th of an inch)
¼ cup (2 fl. oz.) extra virgin olive oil
1teaspoon salt
1 small clove of garlic, finely minced
zest and juice from half a lemon You may want to add this to taste, Scott and I love lemon so we add a bit more than this but your tastes might prefer less.
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley or 2 tsp. dried
½ Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves or ½ tsp. dried
For the quinoa:
1 1/3 low-sodium chicken stock
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¾ cup quinoa, rinsed well and drained
Parmesan cheese (for serving)
Freshly ground pepper (for serving)

Preheat oven to 400F. Snap off the bottom third of the asparagus stalks, place on baking sheet, lightly drizzle with olive oil, toss together to coat with oil and then sprinkle with salt. Once the oven is at 400F roast the asparagus for 8 minutes, roll them so the opposite side then before touches the pan and roast for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from oven and once cool enough to handle chop the asparagus into bite size pieces.

In a medium saucepan, add the chicken stock, lemon juice and quinoa. Over medium-high heat bring to a boil first and then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Toss sliced mushrooms in a bowl with olive oil, salt, garlic, lemon juice and zest, parsley, and thyme. Let marinate for 15 minutes. Add the asparagus and mushroom mixture to the cooked quinoa. You should have plenty of marinating liquid so add enough so the quinoa is nicely coated and reserve the rest to put on a salad or on any extra quinoa that you have left over so that the quinoa can be kept moist in the fridge. Stir to combine and serve warm, at room temperature, or even cold with freshly grated parmesan and cracked pepper.