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Katherine's Weekly Batch Recipe: Stuffed Shells with Ricotta & Roasted Eggplant

December 6, 2018

My third weekly batch recipe, based on what you can find at your Farmers Market this weekend (Tomatoes, Eggplant, Garlic, maybe Basil, the Ricotta cheese, and something comparable to Parmesan - do some tastings!), is Roberto Donna's Stuffed Shells with Ricotta and Eggplant. It is featured in my book,  Diet Simple, and a gift from Washington's most famous, James Beard Award-winning, Italian chef, Roberto Donna, currently Executive Chef at Al Dente Restaurant.

Batches are all about making the most of the time you spend in the kitchen and easing some stress from your life. I feature batch recipes in my books, Diet Simple and Diet Simple Farm to Table Recipes. Batches are your favorite delicious, quick and easy meals made ahead of time so that you always have something in the freezer or refrigerator, ready to eat, or serve for guests, on a moment’s notice. And, believe it or not, though it may take a little extra time to prepare the batches on the weekends, it actually saves time overall and calms the daily whirlwind of your life.


Roberto Donna's Stuffed Shells with Ricotta and Roasted Eggplant

excerpted from "Diet Simple: 195 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations"

This elegant dish, always a crowd pleaser, comes together quickly. Though it may be a little more complex than some of my other batches, it's worth it! Using canned tomatoes and roasted peppers is perfectly fine in this recipe instead of using fresh, to save time. This unique Italian fare makes for an exquisite meal, or appetizer, minus loads of calories. And it can be refrigerated for use later, then re-heated easily with your microwave.


Katherine baking Roberto Donna's Stuffed Shells with Ricotta and Roasted Eggplant (Photo by: Katherine Tallmadge Collections) Katherine baking Roberto Donna's Stuffed Shells with Ricotta and Roasted Eggplant
Serves 4

8 oz. peeled and cubed eggplant, sprinkled with 1 Tbs. olive oil
8 oz. low-fat ricotta cheese
2 Tbs. capers, drained (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
12 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade (place the basil leaves on top of each other so they're in a pile, then slice diagonally in thin strips)
12 jumbo shells, cooked, drained and cooled (you may want to boil more than 12, as some will fall apart) 
2 Tbs. olive oil
4 Tbs. grated Parmesan, optional
Italian parsley leaves for garnish

Olive Oil spray (optional)

Tomato Sauce (as an option, you can use a favorite commercial sauce):
1 1/2 cups canned plum tomatoes, or an equivalent amount of cooked fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup pureed tomatoes from a can, or an equivalent amount of cooked fresh pureed tomatoes
1/4 cup roasted, peeled, seeded red peppers, from a jar/can, or made yourself (optional)
1 garlic clove, minced
4 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, or other comparable cheese from the Farmers Market

Italian parsley leaves for garnish


1. Preheat oven to 450F,
2. Place eggplant cubes on nonstick baking sheet - if you use parchment paper on the pan, the eggplant will not stick. Roast about 15 minutes until crisp and golden. Remove from oven,
3. Mix Ricotta with the Parmesan cheese, capers, and eggplant cubes in mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper and 4 chiffonade basil leaves. Set aside,
4. Reduce oven temperature to 400F,
5. Cover baking dish with foil or parchment paper and spray with nonstick vegetable spray. Fill each shell with about 1 tablespoon ricotta cheese mixture, filling evenly among shells until used up. Place the shells on the baking dish. Brush tops of shells with 1 tablespoon olive oil (or spray with olive oil spray). Bake 10 minutes, or until crisped and golden brown at the edges,
6. Meanwhile, to make tomato sauce, purée tomatoes, roasted peppers, remaining basil, rest of olive oil and garlic (or use your favorite commercial sauce). Season with salt and pepper,
7. Heat sauce over low heat, just  until warm (Roberto says a simple sauce, without overcooking, is the best),
8. Remove and set aside,
9. To serve, spoon one-quarter of the sauce on the dish (use a heated dish, if possible), and place 3 stuffed shells on top. Drizzle a little extra sauce over each top and garnish with parsley leaf and extra Parmesan cheese, if desired. Repeat with remaining shells and sauce. Refrigerate if not using immediately,
10. To re-heat, place 3 shells on top of sauce on microwavable plate or a shallow bowl, cover with a glass bowl and microwave for about 2 minutes,
11. If you are serving the stuffed shells as an appetizer, just one shell per plate will do.

Per serving, approximately (depending on the type of Ricotta Cheese you use):

360 calories
total fat 17 grams
saturated fat 6 grams
Fiber 4 grams
Protein 12 grams

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Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, José Andrés In My DC Kitchen

December 3, 2018

Food security promotes peace. The power of food provides people health, and happiness, and can help raise them from poverty, advancing their education and involvement in the world. And that is worth something! This has now been acknowledged by the enlightened nomination of local chef and hero, José Ramón Andrés Puerta, known as José Andrés, for the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, as reported by Janet Donovan in November 27th's Georgetown Dish

José began his American career with the opening of his tapas restaurant, Jaleo, in 1993 in Washington, DC.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival-Food Culture USA-Cornucopia of Dishes (José at far right) (Photo by: Katherine Tallmadge Collections) Smithsonian Folklife Festival-Food Culture USA-Cornucopia of Dishes (José at far right)

At the time of Jaleo's opening, I interviewed José for the University of the District of Columbia's Public Radio Station (with a colleague). During that interview at Jaleo, José was generous, enthusiastic, and passionate; I was impressed by his sheer joy about food, life... everything. The small bites he served were delightful. Then, this twenty-something, a fresh immigrant from Spain, shared his future ambitions with us. They were fantastical aspirations only few could imagine, and even fewer could achieve. It seems he exceeded his!

José was a leader and award-winner among Washington, DC chefs soon after he arrived. His talent, energy, and hospitality fueled his popularity; and it grew swiftly, along with his many restaurant openings, and causes in which he founded or participated.

I had the privilege of working alongside José on several occasions through the years. During the 2005 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, featuring "Food Culture USA," and curated by my friend and colleague, Joan Nathan, José and I performed a food demonstration on-stage together (actually, José performed, as I stood beside him agog at his performance). He made gazpacho for the dazzled crowd (mainly a sprinkling of veggies pureed in a sea of - Spanish - olive oil!)... Something happened that afternoon that I've told very few, and it even slipped my mind until putting this piece together: There was a woman at our demo who worked in an important capacity with the Smithsonian who was very surly toward me; she even tried to keep me from talking. She didn't think the topic of "nutrition" belonged at the festival (that was a general attitude among food enthusiasts at the time, and still lingers today). When José noticed her churlish reaction to me, he took me aside and assured me that I - and nutrition - were appreciated, and he encouraged me to ignore her and get out there and perform! This act of kindness, shown to me during a private, seemingly unimportant moment, was clearly prescient...His goodness has become legendary, and his interest in nutrition and food science are now commonly known. 

José Andrés Corralling the Smithsonian Folklife Festival Chefs & Volunteers on my Backyard Deck (Photo by: Katherine Tallmadge Collections) José Andrés Corralling the Smithsonian Folklife Festival Chefs & Volunteers on my Backyard Deck

At the end of the two-week "Food Culture USA" Folklife Festival on the swelteringly hot National Mall (it is held annually in July!), Joan Nathan planned a thank you celebration for the generous and self-sacrificing volunteers and chefs ... at my place. Among them, José Andrés.

José is as down-to-earth as they come. I see him occasionally in the 'hood, wearing an old t-shirt and jeans (forgive me, José), and always graciously responding to the few who might approach him.

Andrés emerged as a leader of the disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017. He organized a grass-roots movement of chefs and volunteers to establish communications, food supplies, and other resources and started serving meals. Andrés and his organization World Central Kitchen (WCK) served more than two million meals in the first month after the hurricane, according to

"Named as one of Time Magazine’s '100 Most Influential People' in both 2012 and 2018, and 'Outstanding Chef' and 'Humanitarian of the Year' by the James Beard Foundation, Andrés is an internationally-recognized culinary innovator, author, educator, television personality, humanitarian and chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup. Andrés’ restaurant group includes 31 restaurants, ranging in a variety of culinary experiences from food trucks to his multi-location vegetable-focused fast casual, Beefsteak, and world-class tasting menus like Michelin starred Minibar by José Andrés," according to

"Andrés is the only chef globally that has both a two-star Michelin restaurant and four Bib Gourmands. As a naturalized citizen, originally from Spain, Andrés has been a tireless advocate for immigration reform. Together with World Central Kitchen and #ChefsForPuertoRico, Andrés has served over 3.5 million meals in Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017, reaching communities in need across all 78 municipalities through 23 kitchens. Andrés has earned numerous awards including the 2015 National Humanities Medal, one of 12 distinguished recipients of the award from the National Endowment for the Humanities," according to

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This Week's Seasonal Batch Recipe 'Cauliflower Vichyssoise'

November 29, 2018

My second weekly batch recipe, based on what you can find at your Farmers Market this weekend is Cauliflower Vichyssoise. It is a take on the French Classic Vichyssoise - leak and potato soup - substituting most of the potatoes for cauliflower. Even though Vichyssoise is usally served cold, in the winter I serve my Cauliflower Vichyssoise warm.

Batches are all about making the most of the time you spend in the kitchen and easing some stress from your life. I feature batch recipes in my books, Diet Simple and Diet Simple Farm to Table Recipes. Batches are your favorite delicious, quick and easy meals made ahead of time so that you always have something in the freezer or refrigerator, ready to eat on a moment’s notice. And, believe it or not, it actually saves time. 

Blending the cooked cauliflower, leaks, and potatoes with the Cuisinart Smart Stick (Photo by: Katherine Tallmadge) Blending the cooked cauliflower, leaks, and potatoes with the Cuisinart Smart Stick

Soups are some of the best "batches" in the cold dark days of winter. They're warm, filling, psychologically satisfying and sate the natural urge for comfort food in the winter. Eating soup also makes it easier to lose weight. How?

Classic studies have found that soups are effective weight loss foods. As long as the volume of a food is high (when water or air are incorporated into the food), people can feel full with fewer calories. In one study, researchers varied the water content in three different first courses to see how it would affect peoples’ intake at the main course. The study subjects were fed either 1) chicken rice casserole, 2) chicken rice casserole served with a glass of water, or 3) chicken rice soup – basically the casserole with water/broth added. The researchers found the subjects who ate the soup consumed 26 percent less, about 100 calories fewer, at the main course, compared to the other conditions, even though all three conditions provided the same amount of calories. As I always say, "A calorie isn't always a calorie!"

Researchers surmise that a large food volume caused by water, even without added calories, helps us feel more satisfied for several reasons. It causes stomach stretching and slows stomach emptying, stimulating the nerves and hormones that signal feelings of fullness. Also, visually seeing a large volume of food can increase your ability to feel satisfied by it, even though the calories are relatively low. Finally, the larger a meal and the longer a meal goes on, studies show, your satisfaction declines and you lose interest in completing it. Water is the component in food which has the largest influence on how much you eat. This study, and many others like it, find eating a high-water-content, low-calorie first course, such as soup, enhances satisfaction and reduces overall calorie intake.

Cauliflower "Vichyssoise"
excerpted from Diet Simple Farm to Table Recipes: 50 New Reasons to Cook in Season

Cauliflower is in the species of foods called “brassica.” The brassica family of foods has extremely high nutritional values and contain high levels of antioxidants and nutrients such as vitamin C, selenium, calcium, potassium, folic acid and choline - important for the brain, as well as soluble fiber, which reduces cholesterol and helps level blood sugar. Brassica, a huge category of foods including broccoli, cabbages, mustard seeds and greens, also contain potent anti-cancer compounds which help detoxify carcinogens in the liver before they continue to circulate in your bloodstream. These compounds also aid your immune response with anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.

4 to 8 Servings


1 Tbsp Canola Oil
2 Leeks
1 Head Cauliflower
1 Medium Potato
6 Cups Chicken Stock (or vegetable stock), fat removed
1 Cup 1% Milk
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
8 leaves Fresh Parsley, Chopped

Slice the white part of the leeks, cut the cauliflower into florets and set aside. Heat canola oil in an iron skillet over medium heat. Add sliced leeks, stirring frequently for about ten minutes until soft. Stir in the stock, cauliflower and potato. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about twenty minutes or until vegetables are soft. When mixture has cooled a bit, puree with the  The Cuisinart Smart Stick... No mess, no fuss! (or blender or food processor), add the milk. Serve hot in the cool weather, cold in the hot weather. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley.

700 calories in the entire pot of soup


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