Category Archives: Pastas

Double Duty Meal #2: Lemon-Mustard Chicken and Israeli Couscous Spa Salad

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We eat a lot of chicken around here. As you might guess if you are a frequent visitor to my blog. Chicken, in my opinion, is a perfect double duty food element.

You can easily whip up a big batch of chicken on the weekend, and stock pile it in the fridge for quick fix meals later in the week. My favorites are to use it in a soup, a salad or a pasta dish. It is so versatile that all you need to do to reinvent it is to mix the chicken with some new flavors.

I’ve come into a pretty good routine in the past year of cooking meals that do double duty.  So, here’s another of my favorites.

 

Shopping List:

CHICKEN MARINADE:

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 garlic clove, sliced

2 pounds of skinless, boneless chicken breasts

 

Instructions:

1. Mix together the marinade in a ziptop bag and place the chicken inside. Make sure that all sides of the chicken is covered before you leave it to do it’s thing in the refrigerator. Marinate it between 1-3 hours, longer than this will cause the chicken to become mushy.

2. Drain the chicken and either grill it on a hot grill for 6-7 minutes per side or cook it  in a saute pan on medium high heat for the same amount of time. Make sure not to overcrowd the pan as the chicken will steam, rather than caramelize.

3. Save 1 1/2 chicken breasts to shred for the salad below.

 

Israeli Couscous Spa Salad
Israeli Couscous Spa Salad

For the second dish of the week you will need the items below. Check out the original posting of this recipe here.

1 1/2 cups cooked chicken (see above)

1 cup uncooked Israeli Couscous (or other small pasta)

1 apple diced

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup dried cranberries

4 tablespoons blue cheese crumbles (hey: by all means if you hate blue cheese a good substitute is feta here, or you could leave it out altogether)

1/2 loosely packed basil

1/3 cup olive oil

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Jamie Oliver’s Bacon and Mushroom Cream Sauce

Don’t get me wrong, I love summer. I mean really, what’s not to love, the fruits and veggies are wonderfully vibrant and flavorful, the weather is awesome and I don’t have to rush out of the house everyday to work. But, I also look forward to the cooler temps of the fall when it’s socially acceptable to fill my plate with a pile of carbs and gobble it all up.

This sauce is a speedy sauce that you can whip up in a matter of minutes to put a quick dinner of pasta on the table, and it’s delicious. Thanks, Jamie Oliver! Continue reading Jamie Oliver’s Bacon and Mushroom Cream Sauce

Pineapple Thai Noodles with Shrimp

There’s something about Thai food that makes me feel like vacation. I think it’s all of the exotic flavors that get mixed into a dish with such ease. From simple stir fries packed with spice, to uncomplicated soups, the flavors of Thailand call to me.

Now, it might be that someone I know is vacationing there right now! or it might be that it’s the start of summer, but either way, I’m totally and utterly in love with the taste of Thai food.

One of my family’s favorite dishes when we visit the local spot is the pineapple fried rice. Again, all of these wonderful spices come through and tempt the palate to eat the whole plate. I mean, it really makes me smile to know that everyone at the table will gobble this dish up.  With a lovely touch of spices and herbs along with a tad for the sweet tooth and some crunch to it–it’s certainly a comfort food worth adding to the repertoire.

But since we’re trying desperately to get out of this food rut I thought this would mix this dish up a bit and put my own twist on it–and not order it , but instead make it myself. Enjoy!

Shopping List:

2-3 oz. packages of udon noodles (or any dry pasta you have on hand)

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon chinese 5-spice powder (If you don’t have this spice, you can get some of the same flavors from just using cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper. The powder contains star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seed and black pepper.)

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1/4-1/3 cup pasta cooking liquid

1/4 cup chopped peanuts

1 diced red pepper

1/2 cup pineapple peeled and diced, alternatively you can use 4 oz. drained pineapple slices that you cut into smaller bites

1 cup chopped peeled and cooked shrimp (personally, I keep these on hand in the freezer for a quick defrost to a healthy and speedy meal)

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

Instructions:

1. Cook your pasta according to the directions on the package. Udon only takes 4 minutes!

2. Meanwhile, in a serving bowl stir together the oil, soy sauce, spices and peanut butter.

3. When the noodles are cooked, reserve up to 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid before draining the pasta.

4. Toss the pasta in the bowl with the sauce, red pepper, pineapple, shrimp and cilantro. Add enough cooking liquid, a splash at a time, to make the sauce the consistency you prefer. I used about 1/3 cup. Top with chopped nuts to serve.

Serves: 3-4

Everything-Pizza Pasta Bake

One of my favorite all-time comfort meals has to be pizza with everything on it. Now, I didn’t always like it this way, and for sure I don’t always like this filling version of pizza. But it definitely has a solid place in my heart. I don’t know, I think it’s something about the blend of the spiciness of the meats and the freshness of the veggies all smothered in cheese.

Ok, so this recipe won’t be going on your Trying-to-Get-in-Shape-for-the-New-Year Diet, but it certainly is a great make-ahead meal that you can twist to suit your family’s tastes. Also, it’s a lot easier than trying to master making fresh pizza dough in a flash.

Shopping List:

3 links of mild or spicy, fresh Italian sausage

1/2 cup of sliced pepperoni, cut in half

8 ounces of sliced mushrooms

1 green pepper, diced

4-ounce can of sliced olives

1 (16-ounce) box of your favorite dry pasta (as a side note, the kinds that have nooks and ridges are best to allow the sauce to cling well)

4 ounces cream cheese, block style

2 cups of your favorite Marinara sauce (click here for mine)

1 teaspoon garlic salt

5 fresh basil leaves

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Instructions:

1.Start the pot of water to prepare your favorite pasta noodle shape. Follow the directions on your package of noodles once your water is boiling. See my suggestions above for types to use here.

2. In a large saute pan on medium heat, squeeze the sausage out of the casing and cook it until it is no longer pink. This will take about 5-7 minutes. Just about this time your water might be boiling, so go ahead and pop those noodles in and set a timer.

3. Remove the sausage from the pan, but continue to leave the pan on medium heat and add the mushrooms and green peppers to the pan. Cook these about 5 minutes or until the peppers are beginning to soften, but have not totally changed color.

4. In a separate small sauce pan over medium heat, stir the marinara and the cream cheese until they make a nice creamy pink sauce. Then take it off the heat.

5. Now, add the pasta and all the toppings into the large pot you used for the noodles, and stir in the sauce. Make sure to cover the noodles well and distribute the sauce.

6. In a buttered, or sprayed with cooking spray, 9 x 13-inch pan spoon in all the mixed up pasta. Top with the shredded cheese and bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until the cheese melts.

NOTE: If you make this ahead and store it in the fridge, just make sure to take it out of fridge and let it come to room temp for about 30 minutes before you need to put it in the oven. When you’ve got it ready to put it in the oven to rewarm, spray some foil with cooking spray and cover the dish. Warm it until the center is warm throughout, about 45 minutes at 325 degrees.

Simple Technique: Marinara Sauce

My first memories of cooking are with my Grandma.

We would walk into her home on Sunday, and the smell of garlic would fill your nostrils; it would make your mouth water the moment you entered the door. We would find her rolling out dough to make the Sicilian style pizza, and she would enlist my help.

It is only fitting that I post this recipe today since her 96th birthday would have been tomorrow. As I been delving into this adventure in food blogging I think of those recipes that remind me of her often. Thanks Grandma for tempting my palate.

The basics of any Italian, family meal is in the marinara sauce. There’s no need to buy that jarred stuff. Sauce is not a complex thing. It’s pretty simple, in fact. When you make your own you can control the flavor and the quality. And of course, when you make a batch it smells like love.

Shopping List:

3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

2 smashed garlic cloves

28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes in puree

29 oz. can of tomato puree

1 tablespoon Italian herbs

½ tsp. kosher salt

Instructions:

1. Place all ingredients in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Bring them to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer covered on low heat for 20-30 minutes for flavors to develop.

Makes 8 cups. Store in 2 cup portions in freezer safe zippered bags.

Stovetop Mac n’ Cheese Laced with Blue Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese is one of those dishes that is super versatile.Yes. It is the hot entrée to revamp, but in my book a creamy mac n cheese doesn’t really need much to improve it, so this is just to mix it up a bit.

The awesome part is that once you get the recipe down it really is a super fast supper. The measurements and ingredients are totally easy to memorize . Equal parts milk and cheese, and then  equal parts butter and flour, a little salt and pepper is all it takes for the basic version. Amp it up with whatever else your heart desires, and you’ve got a simple side dish or a kid-friendly dinner in the time it takes to cook pasta. Oh yeah, of course then there’s no excuse to resort to the watery flourescent-orange colored standard in a box.

Shopping List:

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon flour

1 1/2 cups milk

1 garlic clove

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1/2 cup blue cheese

sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cheddar and 2 tablespoon blue cheese

Instructions:

1. In a bring a medium sauce pot of water to a boil. Add 2 cups of dry pasta to the water. And cook it according to the directions.

2. In a separate medium sauce pot on medium-high heat add the butter and the garlic. Once the butter melts stir in the flour and let it cook for a minute until it is a thick paste and a light brown color.

3. Slowly add the milk to the pot and let it come to a simmer. It should be hot, but not boiling. Make sure to stir it few times during the 5 minutes this will take. At this stage remove the garlic.

4. Take the pot off the heat and gently stir in the cheeses and pepper until the mixture is smooth.

5. Right around this point your timer is probably going off to drain your noodles. Go ahead and do that and then pop them right in the pot with the cheese sauce. Stir it all to coat it evenly. Place it in a serving bowl and top with the remaining cheeses.

NOTE:  If you plan to make this ahead of time for a party, place it in a greased glass or ceramic baking dish and store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. When the time comes to reheat it, set the pan on the counter for half and hour. Cover it with tin foil. Bake at 300 degrees for about an hour or until warm through. Then you can top it with  extra cheese, or breadcrumbs if you’re one of those.

Sicilian-style Bean Soup: Pasta e Fagioli

It’s not “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme” in this soup that makes it a standout. It is the garlic, basil, thyme and rosemary that waft through the air as the aroma of freshly made Sicilian Bean Soup simmers away on the stovetop.

For sometime now I have been an advocate of soups for dinner. It started with a simple Chicken Noodle fascination, but then it led to a Soup and Salad Diet while the hubby and I were engaged. Especially if you’re a harried mom, like me, using a few quick staples can allow you to pull together a fabulous meal with little prep but lots of satisfaction.

Now there are many lovely elements to a soup, such as health benefits and dimensional flavor without a lot of work. But I think one of the best qualities of soup is that it forces you to slow down and take a deep breath and savor it slowly. Much of my life suffers from the perpetual list of daily activities, and when it comes to mealtime, I feel forced to get it done as fast as possible. But soup forces me to slow down.

Although Pasta e Fagioli is a pretty varied soup in Italy, different regions have their own spin on it, it’s really considered a peasant’s soup. Ultimately, this is because all of the ingredients are pretty easily found on the farm and it can be diluted to last for days. In my version of this dish I’ve replaced the pancetta with  ground chicken. Some recipes for this soup include tomatoes. However, the versions that I have enjoyed the most have not included them, so I left them out.

Keep Your eye out for more soups to come from me this season. It’s such an easy mis-week meal I can’t resist.

Shopping List:

1 pound ground chicken

1/2 an onion diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium carrot, diced

14 oz.  low-sodium canned white beans

32 oz. chicken stock

1 cup water

2 cloves garlic or 2 teaspoons granulated garlic

1/2 teaspoon crushed rosemary

1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves

1 bay leaf

2 tablespoons fresh basil sliced thin (here’s a tip: use your kitchen scissors to cut it directly into the pot)

1 cup dry small pasta, like elbow or ditalini

1/2 grated parmesan cheese

Instructions:

1. In a large dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat saute the garlic and olive oil for a minute or until fragrant. Then cook the ground chicken and sliced onions until the meat is cooked through. This will take about 5-7 minutes.

2. At this point pour in the chicken broth, the water, the beans, the carrots and the herbs. Raise the heat and let it come to a boil.

3. Then toss in the pasta and cook according to the directions, about 7 minutes for the elbows I used.

4. Serve this topped with a couple of tablespoons of parmesan cheese in each bowl. Yes, you read right! We Sicilians like our cheese:)

Serves: 4-6