Pasta e Fagioli

As you know, we live in Cleveland. And before you make any snarky comments about the Browns…just, don’t…how ’bout that Tribe & Cavaliers!?

Cleveland this time of year is cold, dreary, and often snowy. It’s only been two of those three as of late, but when we finally got snow, this was a dish that really hit the spot. It lasted two nights, with leftovers that this mommy did in fact, enjoy (because honestly, I don’t like leftovers).

Pasta e Fagioli

adapted from Damn Delicious

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup ditalini pasta –  this is great pasta for soup and when you need pasta for 1 person. In a pinch you can use another small pasta such as shells, stellini or orzo
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pound spicy Italian sausage – remove the casing or buy bulk-style
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (16oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes OR 1 cup cherry/grape tomatoes, fresh/frozen
  • Spices:
    • 1 tsp dried basil
    • 1 tsp dried oregano
    • 3/4 tsp dried thyme
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 (15oz) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15oz) can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain well and set aside in separate bowl, or spoon into your serving dishes.
  2. In a large Dutch oven or stockpot, heat 1 tbsp of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the Italian sausage and cook until browned. As the sausage cooks, make sure to break it apart into small pieces. Drain the excess grease and set it aside in a small dish.
  3. Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the stockpot. Stir in the garlic, onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender.
  4. Whisk in the chicken broth to help get any ‘brown bits’ off the bottom of the pot. Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and spices.
  5. Add the Italian sausage back in, as well as 1 cup water. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about 10-15 minutes until the vegetables finish cooking.
  6. Set heat to low; stir in pasta and beans until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

 

In love with our new soup/pasta bowls…thank you Mom!

NOTE: Add the pasta to serve or else it’ll soak up all the liquid when leftovers go into the fridge! I cooked the pasta, the put it into the soup bowls. Once the soup was finished, I ladled the soup on top of the pasta. It worked perfectly; the pasta didn’t get soggy.

As you probably have noticed, I am a *huge* fan of Damn Delicious. All her recipes are, well, damn delicious! She adapted this recipe from the Olive Garden and I just knew it had to be good. You probably could omit the sausage if you wanted to or used a meat substitute with sausage seasonings (anise, red pepper), but I feel it wouldn’t be true to style if it didn’t have Italian sausage in it. However, that’s my two cents!

This soup pairs well with salad – as you can imagine at the Olive Garden – but is chock-full of vegetables and so hearty that it can be eaten by itself. However, you may want some fresh, crusty bread to eat along with it. 🙂

Enjoy, and stay warm!

 

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Mac ‘n Cheese ‘n Burger

It’s been a long winter. A long, long winter. Not necessarily from the weather-side, but just from the life side. But never fear – I’m still here! And finally back into a groove of cooking. I’ve noticed that the things I cook often reflect my mood. If I’m feeling good, my recipes turn out great…but if I have the blues, then my dishes just really, well, stink.

It almost sounds cliche – and isn’t there a movie somewhere about this? But a long story short, I feel like I’m back in the game! 🙂

Several weeks ago, this was made on a snowy Saturday night. We had no place to be, no plans to be had, so my husband and I made a date with our couch. It was definitely one of those nights where you wanted to just sit there, veg out, and watch TV. And, I confess, a night where you want to eat dinner on the couch. A perfect night for comfort food.

I had all the ingredients on hand for this recipe and decided it would be the perfect night to try it. And boy oh boy, it was a winner.

Mac ‘n Cheese ‘n Burger

adapted from Rachael Ray

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound cavatappi (curlicue pasta) or elbow pasta
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 small onion, minced
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce (or more to taste)
  • Salt & pepper
  • 4 tbsp butter, cut into pieces
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth/stock
  • 2 cups milk (we used 2%)
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (or a ‘mac & cheese blend’ if available)
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill pickles (optional)
  • 1 plum tomato, seeded and diced (optional)

  1. For the pasta, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and a dash of salt and cook until al dente.
  2. As the pasta cooks, heat a nonstick skillet with the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and brown it, breaking it up into bite-size pieces as you go. Add in the onion, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to the skillet to season the meat.
  3. As the meat and pasta cook, heat a saucepot over medium to medium-high heat. Add the butter and whisk in the flour as the butter melts, making a roux.  If necessary, adjust heat to make sure the butter does not burn.
  4. Once the roux is nice and smooth, whisk in the stock and milk. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a bubble, then thicken it up a few minutes. Keep an eye on the pot so that the mixture does not bubble over. Stir the mustard into the sauce, then add the cheese a few handfuls at a time to the pot. Stir the mixture well so that the cheese melts, but does not burn at the bottom.
  5. At this point, your meat and pasta should be done. Drain the pasta and add it back to hot pasta pot.  Add the beef,  then the cheese sauce to it. Stir to combine the mac ‘n cheese ‘n burger altogether. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
  6. Serve in shallow bowls with chopped pickles and tomatoes for garnish, if you’d like.

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This is a fantastic combination of cheeseburgers and macaroni & cheese – which are two great comfort foods (but not necessary great on the waistline…). You can easily tweak the add-ins and cheese to incorporate your favorite burgers and toppings:

  • mushrooms and swiss cheese
  • blue cheese and cajun seasoning
  • hellooo, bacon anyone?
  • toppings: ketchup (Hubs did this!), BBQ sauce, hot sauce, red onions,

I figure this can also work with turkey, chicken, or veggie burgers as well. Whatever your heart desires, I suppose 🙂  The only things I would not recommend adding are mayonnaise and lettuce – it would become very soggy, wilty, and just…ick.

After writing this post I have to admit…I want to go make this again, right now. Yes, it’s that good!

 

Harissa Ravioli

I have a fun one for you today!

We’re now combining the concept of ‘eating less meat’ and ‘Lent’. I’ve been searching high and low for a few new meatless meals that aren’t all about grains and dairy (which we all know hold the first several spots in my list of favorite foods) and may be relative nice on the waistline.

I came across this one in a cookbook that had been circulating around the bakery; lately we’ve been passing around a cookbook or two to get inspired in our own kitchens. I came across this recipe and was hooked because of its use of harissa.

Harissa is a spicy chili pepper paste that is THE condiment of Tunisia. It has a very rich, spicy flavor and is used for meats, vegetables, dips…you name it. There are several different variations of harissa; all of which vary based upon household preferences and regions. Our version that I found at Spice Merchants (I loooooove this store) includes caraway, cumin, coriander, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, sea salt, and dried chiles. It has such a neat flavor profile and after trying this recipe, I cannot wait to use it again (I’m thinking roasted veggies).

 

Harissa Ravioli

adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day

  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp harissa paste/powder
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12-oz cheese ravioli (fresh or frozen) (tortellini works too)
  • 8 oz broccoli florets, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces (broccolini/rapini works too)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (almonds or pepitas work, too)
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 5 or 6 kalamata olives, sliced
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. While it’s heating up, prepare the harissa mixture: Take the smashed garlic clove and sprinkle the salt over it. Then, chop into a paste. Transfer this to a small bowl and stir in the lemon juice, harissa, and olive oil. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  2. Once the water is boiling, add the ravioli. Cook until they float to the top of the water (usually 1-2 minutes is all it takes). About 30 seconds before the ravioli has finished cooking, add the broccoli to the pot. Boil for about 30 seconds to a minute, then remove from heat.
  3. Put the ravioli and broccoli in a large mixing bowl. Add the harissa mixutre, nuts, cheese and olives. Toss to combine and serve.

This meal from start to finish took approximately 20 minutes to make and was absolutely perfect for a weeknight meal and a Lenten Friday, at that. I used spinach & cheese ravioli; you can use whatever kind you wish, however. The leftovers heated up very well for my hubby and it really was a nice change from our usual meal line-up as of late. The harissa does have a kick, so if you are a bit wary of the heat, use less sauce when you mix up the ravioli for serving.  It’s simple, flavorful and relatively healthy, too.

If you see harissa at your local store, pick some up and give it a try. It’s a really neat condiment that adds depth, heat and flavor to what are otherwise ordinary ingredients. As I said before, I’m thinking that roasted veggies with harissa will be next 🙂

Crockpot Potato Soup

At this moment I’m texting my parents and siblings about the crazy weather back in Cleveland, and I’m gloating about the fact that northern Michigan is not receiving any snow. It is however, bitter cold out there with temperatures just above single digits (in comparison to last year, though, these temperatures are just fine; we’ll take ’em). It is perfect soup, stew and casserole weather.

Every time I make soup, I always remember how much I like to eat it and wonder why I do not make it more often. My husband is an even bigger fan of it, too. If made right, they’re satisfying, filling, and chock-full of all the stuff that’s really good for you. What’s not to love?

My February schedule is, for a lack of a better word, ridiculous. I do not have a lot of time during the week to really cook and have fun doing it, so I’ve got to think ahead and be practical these next few weeks – our Crockpot in particular is really going to have to pull its weight.

This soup is a crockpot recipe that really worked well yesterday. I spent my Saturday working in the bakery, so it was my husband’s job to finish up cooking and get dinner ready by the time I rolled in at 6:30. It’s delicious, filling and really hit the spot.

Crockpot Potato Soup

adapted from Cooking Classy

  • 3 lbs russet potatoes (or any potatoes that you have hanging around), peeled and diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 6 cups chicken/veggie broth
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • several dashes of salt and pepper
  • a dash of celery seed (if desired)
  • a dash of paprika (if desired)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • your favorite potato toppings (cheese, bacon, green onions, etc.)
  1. In a 6 quart crockpot, add the potato, onion, broth, milk, and seasonings. Cover with the lid and cook – 4 hours on high, or 8 hours on low.
  2. When you’re about ready to eat, measure out two cups of the liquid from the slow cooker. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, gradually add the flour and whisk to combine. Whisk in the reserved liquid. Once this mixture is nice and thick, pour it all back into the crockpot.
  3. At this point, you can either a) use a potato masher or emulsion blender to break down or puree the potatoes, or b) leave it alone. Whatever you decide, afterwards turn up the heat on the crockpot to high and let the mixture thicken up (it takes about 10 minutes).
  4. Once the soup is nice and thick, turn the heat to warm and stir in the sour cream. Serve topped with loaded potato ingredients, or mix ’em in.

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This soup was very low-maintenance and tasted great! My husband ended up adding the bacon to the soup, and leaving the cheese and scallions for topping later. We did notice that after a day or two in the refrigerator, the soup did condense a little bit – but it wasn’t anything that a little heat and stirring couldn’t fix when we were ready to eat it.

What impressed me the most was using evaporated milk – I had never thought to use that for a soup before, but it makes so much sense! It adds depth and richness to a soup, without overloading it with a ton of fat like regular heavy cream or even half-n-half would. I’ve used it already in another creamy crockpot soup and it really works. Obviously this soup wouldn’t work as a vegan dish, but would be so for vegetarians or Meatless Mondays.

If you’re as busy as we are, and as cold as we are, I could not recommend this soup more! Enjoy!

 

Chicken with Artichoke Pan Sauce

You all know very well (or, maybe you don’t) how much I love to read cooking blogs, cookbooks, and other things of related nature. I’ve added so many to my feed that I often have trouble keeping up; I had saved so many recipes in 2014 that I got overwhelmed and deleted them all – so I’m starting fresh 🙂 I’ve had a subscription to Cooking Light for the past few years and figured that maybe it was time to save a little paper and cancel my subscription, too.

I found this recipe in the last issue that I received. It was so good that I may change my mind and keep my subscription after all…and maybe just do the digital subscription instead!

Chicken with Artichoke Pan Sauce

adapted from Cooking Light

  • 1 cup chicken stock/broth
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 lb boneless chicken breast, cut into halves
  • salt and pepper (eyeball it)
  • 1/2 cup shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary, chopped/crushed
  • 2 oz pancetta, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  1. In a small bowl, whisk the stock and flour together. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine 1 tbsp of the oil, the lemon juice, and garlic powder. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes (or in the refrigerator for a few hours).
  3. When you’re ready to cook, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray. Remove the chicken from the marinade (discard the marinade) and add to pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; cook about 5 minutes on each side until the chicken is done cooking. When the chicken is done, remove it from the pan onto a plate or dish and set aside.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil; swirl pan to coat. Add the shallots, rosemary, and pancetta, cooking until the shallots are tender. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  5. Add the sherry to the pan and let the liquid reduce (about 4 minutes or so). As the liquid boils down, scrape the pan to loosen the browned bits. Add the stock/flour mixture and bring to a simmer.
  6. Add artichokes and cook until the sauce thickens just a bit. Add chicken and turn to coat. Sprinkle with parsley.
  7. IMG_2443

    This photo is proof that I may be the worse plater ever.

Don’t let this *awful* picture fool you – looks can be deceiving as this dish was terrific! I realize after the fact that I let the mixture thicken a little too much after adding the stock/flour to the pan.

The chicken has a great lemon flavor to it that compliments the richness of rosemary-pancetta pan sauce. The artichokes only add to the depth of flavors. I served it atop some couscous I had in my pantry, but you can use rice or orzo if you’d prefer. I served this along with some braised kale – which paired really well with it. According to my husband, his portion reheated very well.

Not only was this dish tasty…it didn’t take very long to make! Make sure to marinate the chicken ahead of time – I did it several hours before and was able to complete the dish in a half an hour after coming home from work.

Now we have another 2 oz of pancetta left in our refrgerator…I’m seriously thinking about making this dish again next week. It was that good. 🙂

 

Stuffed Pattypan Squash

Patty-pan squash, as cute as they are, had taken up some ‘prime real estate’ in my crisper drawer over the past week (so to speak). Before, I had always just sliced them up and sautéed them, since they had a really nice shape and they’re so user-friendly because you don’t have to peel them. However, we all know that squash can become relatively boring, especially in the thick of summertime.

I began doing some research, as I often do, for new and exciting ideas. I came across this.

How could I have not thought of this earlier? I’ve seen stuffed zucchini again and again on my favorite blogs – why can’t I do the same thing with patty-pan squash? It’s the same idea as stuffed peppers, but if you aren’t a huge fan of bell peppers or just not in the mood, it could work really well…right? Right!

Stuffed Patty-pan Squash

Inspired by Oh My Veggies!

  1. Heat your oven to 350*. Ina small saucepan, prepare the Red Beans and Rice according to package directions.
  2. Take your patty-pan squash and carefully slice off both the stem top and the nubbin on the bottom, so that it sits flat. Scoop out the seedy insides, but leaving enough squash to hold in the rice.
  3. Spray a casserole dish with cooking spray. Arrange the squash in the dish; fill each squash with the rice mixture – and really fill them up. Then into the casserole dish, pour a 1/4-cup of water
  4. Cover with the dish lid or aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven.
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I topped mine with a little bit of cheese.

As you can see, I made the recipe with one of those really handy mixed rice packs that you find at the store. I had it in my pantry and truthfully was feeling pretty lazy from kayaking earlier in the day – so it worked out really well. The squash is very filling, too, which I know that my husband appreciated after coming home hungry from playing soccer.

I think this could really work with other types of mixed rice products out there. Be sure to read your labels if you’re trying to avoid MSG or insanely processed foods. I’m sure that making your own filling with rice and other assorted spices/vegetables could work as well. The best part about this is that because zucchini & squash are so versatile, the possibilities are pretty endless. I’d like to try this with Asian-inspired flavors to see how it turns out.

So, now I have yet another fun way to use those adorable patty-pan squash 🙂 Try it out for yourself; I don’t think you’ll be very disappointed!

 – Shared on Homemade Mondays at Frugal by Choice, Cheap by Necessity

Asparagus and Goat Cheese Salad

Hi everyone! Long time, no post. Sorry to those of you who read my blog often – it’s been one heck of a month over here. I’ve been relatively busy during the week with concerts and school wrap-up…and then we’ve been go-go-going almost every weekend (minus the one where I stayed home on a Friday with a stomach flu). There hasn’t been a lot of time for culinary inspiration; my Saved folder on Feedly has grown immensely and the Cooking Light magazines have piled up a bit. However, I’m happy to say that I have 12 actual days left until the end of the school year, and 15 until I jump back in at the bakery for the summer 🙂 Things are starting to slow down…and fewer things are better than slowing down for summer 🙂

Last weekend I had the pleasure of flying down to North Carolina to see my brother-in-law (and now my new sister-in-law) get married in Durham. It was a gorgeous wedding and it was great to see so much family and friends (we stopped in Clayton Sunday night to visit some good friends of ours); better yet, we managed to bring  spring weather back to Northern Michigan! I had a lot of time in airports and vehicles to catch up on reading blog posts, magazines, and even a book on my Kindle…glorious. On our flight back north, I am came across this recipe, and knew that it would be the perfect dish to make that evening to help us ‘detox’ from our weekend. It was a snap to make, and Mike & I both really enjoyed it.

Asparagus and Goat Cheese Salad

adapted from Cooking Light (May 2014)

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • a sprinkle of salt and pepper
  • 1 lb asparagus spears, trimmed
  • 2 cups mixed baby lettuce/spinach greens
  • 2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • 3 tbsp chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley

For the dressing:

  • 1 cup water
  • rind of 1 lemon, julienned
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp white wine
  • juice of 1 lemon (use the one that you skinned)
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • another sprinkle of salt and pepper
  • 5 tsp olive oil
  1. Combine the teaspoon of olive oil, the asparagus, and a dash of salt and pepper in large bowl and toss to coat. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and cook until the asparagus is lightly charred. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a measuring cup, pour in the water. Microwave for 2 minutes or until water just boils. Add the lemon rind; let it stand 20 seconds. Drain the water and reserve the rind. 
  3. In a small saucepan, add the rind, orange juice, and sugar. Whisk together, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low; cook until the mixture reduces to about 3 tablespoons.
  4. Combine the wine, lemon juice, mustard, salt & pepper in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Gradually add the five teaspoons of olive s oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Stir in orange juice mixture.
  5. In a large bowl, layer the lettuces with the asparagus. Top with the cheese, pecans and herbs. Drizzle the dressing over the top; toss if desired.

 

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I’m actually relatively new to the use of cast-iron skillets. I’ve had them in my cupboards for a long time, but wasn’t exactly sure how to use them other than over an open flame when camping. So, shoring up the asparagus in the skillet was a very easy tech week that I can use again and again, especially on nights where I don’t want to fire up the grill. I must note that I also used the cast iron toast the pecans; another technique that I’ve never tried. They were amazing on the salad and if you are not allergic, make sure that you include them when you make this.

If you love asparagus as much as we do, then I highly recommend this salad. The combination of asparagus and goat cheese is not one that I would’ve thought of before, but I really enjoyed the combination of flavors. And of course, homemade dressing beats anything out of the bottle, any day.

I’m really excited to add this to my repertoire of salads!