Shallot, Spinach and Goat Cheese Pasta

Greetings! I have to say, thank you to all of you who have come visited the blog while I’ve been a little, um, preoccupied with work. Granted, we had two snow days last week (one of which was on my birthday so it was the best day ever), but I definitely hit the ground running when I came back from Christmas break with pep band and exam preparations. Mike was in charge of cooking a few times as my ETA from school was after 8:00pm. It’s so nice to not have to worry about cooking dinner some nights – as much as I love to do it!

You know it’s an awesome recipe when your husband texts you that the dinner he made (and the recipe that I picked) was “really good”. 😉 It was a nice change from all the visits to restaurant dining, epic grilled cheese, fantastic family dinners, and alcohol consumed during our visit to Cleveland. Even better, it’s a meatless meal.

Shallot, Spinach & Goat Cheese Pasta

adapted from How Sweet It Is

  • 8 oz pasta (we used fusilli)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • salt & crushed red pepper, to taste
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 12 oz (1 package) fresh spinach
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 log (~4 oz) goat cheese, crumbled
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over low heat and add the oil. Add the shallots & salt. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Try not to let the shallots get too dark.
  3. Add the brown sugar and cook for about 5 more minutes. By this time, the water should be boiling and the pasta should go in.
  4. Add the spinach to the skillet and stir constantly until the spinach wilts down.
  5. In a small saucepan (we’re using 3 burners, what?), over medium heat, melt the butter. Whisk constantly until the butter starts to brown. As soon as you see brown bits start to appear, turn off the heat and remove the saucepan from the stove. Whisk for another 15-20 seconds. Whisk in the minced garlic and keep mixing for another 30 seconds.
  6. Drain the pasta and add it to the large skillet – where the spinach & shallots are. Toss to combine, then add the garlic brown butter and toss to coat. Add the goat cheese and stir; sprinkle pasta with crushed red pepper and serve immediately.
Like my plastic fork? Classy teacher right here.

Like my plastic fork? Classy teacher right here.

I absolutely loved this dish. Granted, I didn’t get to eat it right away since I was at school, but the leftovers were fantastic. The original recipe says that it should take about 30 minutes to make, but I can’t vouch for it since I didn’t make it, and I doubt that my husband kept track 😉 One of the ingredients that surprised me the most was the brown sugar; it added just enough sweetness without it being too sweet. It really complimented the shallots and the brown butter nicely. Again, this is a meatless dish – but truthfully, it didn’t need any whatsoever. There are so many flavors going on that the dish kept my attention from first to last bite.

This is an absolutely wonderful dish with which to kick off 2014.

Shared at Frugal by Choice, Cheap By Necessity’s “Homemade Mondays”
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Baked Broccoli Mac ‘n Cheese

With fall and cooler temperatures comes one big request in our dinner rotation: comfort food. I was raised on Kraft macaroni & cheese, so I don’t mind eating it at all. My husband, though, prefers the real thing 2:1, so I need to make it from scratch every once in a while (in his defense, he will oblige to eat it my way; Kraft macaroni & cheese with hot dogs).

Gina over at Skinnytaste does a fantastic job (as I’m sure many of you know) with lightening up recipes & still making them taste good. She truly doesn’t disappoint with this one, either. I used broccoli from my CSA, which really added something fresh to this dish. Being that we want to eat more vegetables, but have our mac ‘n cheese and eat it too…this was a great remedy and compromise.

Baked Broccoli Mac ‘n Cheese

adapted from Skinnytaste

  • 12 oz ‘healthy’ elbow pasta (Ronzoli Smart Taste, whole wheat, etc.)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth (low sodium, or veggie broth works too!)
  • 1 8-oz bag reduced-fat sharp cheddar
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 12 oz fresh broccoli florets
  • grated parmesan, bread crumbs, & paprika, for topping
  1. In a large pot, cook the pasta & broccoli together until the pasta is al dente (I love this. It saves you a pot!). Meanwhile, spray a casserole dish with some cooking spray & preheat the oven to 375.
  2. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Add the onion & cook on low for about 2 minutes or so.
  3. Add the flour & combine with the butter until a nice roux forms and the mixture is a nice gold color. Add the milk and broth, and whisk; turn the heat up to medium-high until it starts to boil.
  4. Stir consistently until the sauce becomes nice and thick – but do not let it boil over! Add salt & pepper, then stir & remove from heat.
  5. Add the cheese & mix well until the cheese is melted & the mixture is even thicker. Add more salt & pepper if needed. Add the macaroni & broccoli, and mix well.
  6. Pour the mac & cheese into the baking dish, and sprinkle parmesan and breadcrumps on top. Then, add a dash of paprika, too.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes, til the top gets a little golden brown.
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Baked healthy deliciousness.

I really liked out this turned out. I know that I didn’t miss the full-fat version very much; this dish had great flavor and I didn’t feel very guilty about eating it. It’s always nice to feel a little indulgent when you’re trying to watch what you eat – especially when all you want is some comfort food.

Hunter’s “Stoup”

I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve written a post!

Our Easter weekend was full of eating wonderful things, drinking wonderful things, and seeing wonderful people.  I’ve been on spring break (it has been glorious!) and have had the time to cook a bit more, too. Thus this week, we wanted to eat a few meals that were a bit more healthy for our waistlines.

I found this recipe in one of my Rachael Ray cookbooks that I occasionally sift through. After reading through the ingredients, I remembered that I had made this recipe before, when my husband & I were first married. It’s a great dish to serve, yet again, on a cold & snowy evening. And, wouldn’t you know it – it’s been snowing on and off all week up here in our neck of the woods. Spring, where are you?!?!

Hunter’s Stoup – adapted from Rachael Ray

  •  1 lb whole wheat penne
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 oz pancetta, chopped
  • 1.5 lb chicken breasts, thighs, or a combination of the two – cut into bite-sized pieces
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 large onion, chopped (I used red)
  • 2-4 carrots, peeled & roughly chopped
  • 8 oz mushrooms, cut into chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • Romano cheese, to taste
  • parsley
  • crusty bread

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Boil pasta until al dente.

2. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta and chicken; season with salt and pepper. Cook until chicken is slightly browned. Remove and reserve the meats on a paper towel-line

3. To the pot, add the onion, carrots, mushrooms, garlic, rosemary and red pepper flakes. Cook until the veggies soften; season with salt & pepper.

4. Add the red wine to the pan and let it simmer, deglazing the pan. Scrape the ‘browned bit’s off of the bottom. Then, add the tomatoes and chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 5 minutes, then add the reserved browned chicken and pancetta back to the pot and continue to cook for 5-10 minutes more so that the flavors combine.

5. Remember that pasta you were making? Drain the water off. While it’s still hot, place some into the bottom of your serving bowls. Pour a ladle of stoup on the pasta, followed by a sprinkling of Romano cheese and parsley. Serve with crusty bread.

Forgive the quality of this photo…

I really love the flavors in this dish. The pancetta (an ingredient that I don’t use often) adds a really nice, smoky depth. I made a lot of adaptations to this recipe based upon what I had on hand in my pantry, such as the tomatoes. You can also vary the amount of carrots you use in this dish, depending on if you’re a carrot fan or not. You could probably use celery as well, if you wanted.

Through using what I had on hand, I was able to determine that I successfully canned my diced tomatoes right 🙂

Hopefully, this will be the last of the thicker soup/stew posts for the next couple weeks. I know that all of us up here in Michigan are very tired of the snow and cold weather and are praying for the weather to break. At least the fruit farmers & maple syrup makers are happy!

Think spring!!!!

Cheeseburger Casserole

One of the foods I’ve really had a taste for lately is a good old-fashioned cheeseburger. There are a few decent places to get a burger up by where I live, but nothing really beats one that you make on the grill during the summertime. It’s still winter up here, and it’s been pretty cold lately – so not the right weather for making burgers on the grill.

I found this recipe from one of my favorite ‘healthier food’ blogs and knew that we just had to try it. With conferences & honors band last week, I didn’t have much time to cook. However, Hubs is now back on day shift…so he did the honors with this one.

Cheeseburger Casserole – adapted from Skinnytaste

  • 2 cups uncooked pasta (we used small shells)
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 28 oz diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard – or whatever mustard you like on your burgers…being native Clevelanders, my husband used Stadium Mustard & it totally worked 🙂
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped pickles (we are kosher dill fans over here)
  1. Set a medium sized pot of water on the stove to boil, and Preheat the oven to 350*. Spray a 9 x 13 inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Once the pot is boiling, cook the pasta until al dente, and drain.
  3. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Cook the onions until soft (about 5 minutes).
  4. Add the garlic & saute; once you can smell the garlic cooking, add the beef and cook until brown, seasoning with salt & pepper.
  5. Add the tomato paste, tomatoes, and mustard. Let simmer until it thickens. Remove from heat.
  6. In a bowl, mix the cooked pasta in with the meat/tomato mixture, and pour into the baking dish. Top with cheese & bake 15-20 minutes, until the cheese is nice and gooey.
  7. Remove from oven & top with chopped pickles. Serve.

Cheeseburger Casserole. The leftovers are just as delicious as the dish the night that it’s made (that is, if you end up with any leftovers).

I didn’t miss the bun; the pasta made up for it. I’m not one to put tomatoes on my ‘burger, but they tasted great in this dish. I suppose maybe you could put it on top of lettuce if you’re missing that…but I’m not a fan of lettuce on my ‘burgers either! 😉

It was a delicious meal to come home to after conferences and it helped satisfy that taste I’ve got for a nice greasy cheeseburger. Since it’s still cold outside, casseroles are still more than welcome in my kitchen and this one did a great job of satisfying my taste buds as well as my need for comfort food. I highly recommend it!

 

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Every now and then my husband reminds me that I do, in fact, like shellfish, and should cook some for dinner. I’m not a culinary expert when it comes to making anything seafood-related, but I can hold my own. Needless to say, when he suggested that I make a shrimp pasta for dinner, I immediately knew what dish I wanted to make.

With the help of the awesome Giada de Laurentis, I cooked up a delicious, spicy, garlicky shrimp pasta dish that hit the spot. I received her cookbook Everyday Italian for Christmas a few years ago – and being Italian, this is a great resource for making dishes that I should be stereotypically good at (which, not to brag or anything – I am 🙂 ) When I have a taste for Italian food, this the book that I go to for any inspiration. I highly recommend it.*

Shrimp Fra Diavolo, with Linguine – adapted from Giada de Laurentis

  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled & deveined
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped fine
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1.5 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1.5 tbsp dried basil
  1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium high. Add the shrimp & saute until cooked through & pink. Remove & set aside. (NOTE: If you are using precooked shrimp, don’t add it now. Add it at Step 3.)
  2. Add onion and saute until they start to become translucent. Add tomatoes, wine, garlic, and oregano, and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the sauce starts to thicken.
  3. Add the shrimp to the sauce & toss around to coat/reheat the shrimp. Remove from heat & add parsley and basil. Season with more salt and red pepper.
  4. Serve either atop fresh cooked linguine, or all by itself in a shallow bowl, with some fresh bread.
Shrimp fra Dialvolo, with linguine & the best bread in the world

Shrimp fra Diavolo, with linguine & the best bread in the world

The bread, above, is Pepper Parmesan bread, from my favorite bakery, Crooked Tree Breadworks. I worked there last summer & will probably be doing a few shifts there this coming summer to make some extra cash & work with the awesome people there. (FYI – You can buy their products online, and I swear to you, they are worth every frickin’ penny*).

This dish, I said before, can be served either with the pasta, as I did, or alone by itself in a bowl – maybe even atop spinach instead; I may need to try that next time!

In other news – it’s raining, and not snowing. I’m very thankful for this brief respite from snow.

Happy Sunday, everyone 🙂

*No, I am not getting paid to talk up these things. I just like them, and use them, and thus highly recommend them!

Garlic Pesto Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce

This recipe was so easy for a weeknight, so tasty with its flavor combinations, and so great as dinners for Mike at the foundry. I found it off of Pinterest; while my picture doesn’t do the dish justice, I can verify that it’s still a great meal.

The important thing to do with this recipe is marinate the chicken for a few hours, or even overnight, as I did. I adapted the recipe to use spices in my kitchen, and not buying a bottle of marinade (which can have loads of sodium).

Garlic Pesto Chicken with Tomato Cream Sauce – adapted from Southern Girl Cooking

  • 1 pkg thin-sliced chicken breasts (chicken tenders will work also), cut into 1-inch strips
  • garlic powder, onion powder, italian seasoning, & salt-n-pepper, to taste
  • a few dashes of lemon juice
  • 2 spoonfuls of pesto

In a baking dish, layer ingredients & mix to coat chicken. Cover & store in refrigerator for up to 24 hours.

For the sauce, the night you’ll be eating it:

  • 8 oz pasta (I used basic, whole-wheat spaghetti)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, or 2 tbsp minced/crushed
  • 2 spoonfuls of pesto
  • 1/2 cup chicken or veggie broth
  • 8 oz of tomato sauce (I used Ragu)
  • 1 cup half-n-half
  1. In a saucepan, boil water & begin cooking pasta.
  2. In a skillet, cook up chicken & marinade. Cook chicken until no longer pink, and remove from heat.
  3. In the same pan, heat up the olive oil and cook the garlic.
  4. Add pesto & broth; cook until the liquid has reduced by half.
  5. Add tomato sauce, and stir. Add cream and simmer for 5 minutes. *At this point, I also added some frozen peas.*
  6. Add pasta & toss to combine; add chicken and do the same. Serve nice and hot, topped with a bit of parmesan cheese.

This can easily be made without the chicken, but I’m going to warn you – the chicken makes the dish. There is so much flavor from the marinade; I may even make the chicken alone by itself for another dish or two in the future. I love cooking Italian-inspired dishes, and this is a great, easy dish to add to your arsenal.

Garlic Scape & Basil Pesto

When it comes to pasta, I typically enjoy eating it with homemade meat or marinara sauce. You can blame that on the fact that I’m half Italian and that’s how my mom made it for us when I was growing up. I rarely make anything with white/alfredo sauce (much to the chagrin of my husband, I’m sure!). Pesto, I do enjoy, but save for only certain pastas because of its consistency and garlicyness (is that even a word?). I feel that I could keep away any vampire after eating it.

While doing research on garlic scape recipes, pesto kept popping up as a ‘must-try’ by magazines and food bloggers alike. A combination of scapes, olive oil, and some type of nut. I knew that I had to try this out.  Most of the recipes that I found only used scapes, and no basil. However, I wanted to use the basil in this week’s CSA (as the other went bad before I could finish it), so this was the perfect way to do so. I plan on eating this in another day or so, atop of some tortellini that I bought this week at the store.

Garlic Scape & Basil Pesto (adapted from Soup Addict)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup basil
  • 3-5 garlic scapes
  • 1/4 c. pine nuts
  • 1/2 c. parmesan cheese
  • salt, to taste
  • olive oil, to consistency
  1. In a saucepan, toast the pin nuts until they start to lightly brown. Remove from heat.
  2. In a food processor (or blender), add basil & scapes. Mix, and add oil to emulsify. Once mixed, add nuts and salt. Process until the mixture forms a paste, adding olive oil if needed.
  3. Add parmesan cheese (and again, more olive oil if needed) and pulse until combined, to the consistency that you wish.
  4. Store in a sealable container, for 3-5 days.

I was very pleased by the flavor of the pesto. It had all aspects of a ‘typical’ good pesto, but wasn’t nearly as garlicky. The flavor was really nice as well; the spiciness of the garlic hits you right away, but is mellowed out quickly by the oil and parmesan. I would definitely prefer this recipe any day, over the jar of mass-produced, store bought pesto sitting in my refrigerator. Homemade is the way to go!

Question of the Day: On your pasta, which do you prefer the most – red sauce, white sauce, or pesto?

Garlic Scape & Basil Pesto. I especially love how bright, fresh & green it looks!