Tag Archives: pasta

Five Favorite Soups for a Chilly Week

IMG_3824I rarely meet a soup that I don’t like. They are a bit like people, you know. Some are smooth and refined, while others are rough around the edges, and yet others are just too darn spicy for me. To me soup is always just a bowl of comfort, really. And, it’s such a non-threatening way to introduce an unfamiliar veggie to kids that I made it my Fall/Winter Mission to get my kids to eat a small bowl of soup at dinner time. Continue reading Five Favorite Soups for a Chilly Week

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Dinner Plan Week #1: Man-I-Need-a-Beer Chicken and Chicken Enchilada Soup

All ready for the first day of Pre-K!

There’s nothing like starting a week that you know will be hectic (like the first week of school) let alone worrying about putting food on the table for the family. That is why I’m trying to be a bit more organized with my menu planning for the week.Oftentimes I fall into standard patterns where I buy the same old stuff when I make a trip to the market. Although I do actively try to only make one trip per week, but that doesn’t always work out. And, I bring along the kids to the market so that they can each pick a veggie and/or fruit of their choice. But this also doesn’t always go as planned either, ie doughnuts. Continue reading Dinner Plan Week #1: Man-I-Need-a-Beer Chicken and Chicken Enchilada Soup

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

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.

A Collection of Salads: Pasta, Hearty, Bean, Slaw and Spinach

Thai Carrot Slaw

We all know that summer truly came to an end a few weeks ago when the kids (and teachers) went back to school, but with the official change of seasons this week I thought it would be nice to compile some of my favorite salads that I’ve posted this summer along with a few new ones that I haven’t yet photographed.

Now, I have to preface this list with the fact that these are not the only salads I make. In fact, these are strictly my party salads (one’s that I serve at a party or bring to a potluck) and salads for lunch. For dinner I rarely make such a filling side dish, but often use spinach or romaine with a few other simple ingredients and a favorite dressing or a fast homemade one to round out my veggie intake.

Israeli Couscous Spa Salad

Pasta Salad My favorite recreation this year is probably a Trader Joe’s inspired Israeli Couscous Spa Salad. For over a year I was buying a pre-made salad similar to this one at the market when I realized that I could reinvent this salad at home pretty easily. As a result I decided to combine it with some Waldorf-like ingredients to make a really fresh and filling meal and not so much like the romaine based one at the food chain.

Hearty Salad One that stands the test of time for my family is the Marinated Mushroom Salad, which is so simple and hearty that you could certainly toss it with some cooked pasta to make a meal too. The great thing about this one is that the ingredients like bacon and garlic add a lovely robust flavor to the meal and it’s darn easy to make, I mean you just pile it all in a bowl and let it sit at room temperature until you’re ready to serve it. That’s why this one always makes an appearance at holiday meals.

Marinated Mushroom Salad

Bean Salad Another hearty one is the White Bean Picnic Salad. The flavors here are so fresh and clean that they pop against the creaminess of the white beans. The nice thing about this one is that you control the sodium since you’re not using canned beans. But hey, you certainly could cut down on the time involved by using a canned low sodium white bean of your choice. I’m not against using those  types of shortcuts that make our lives simpler, but in this case I was trying to cut the salt down in our diet. That’s the great part about eating flavorful food, you don’t need as much of that other stuff, like salt, if you’ve wonderful food.

White Bean Picnic Salad

Slaw Ok so eventually I move to slaws. As far as slaws go, they’re normally too sweet for me, and the mayo in most of them really grosses me out. So I tend to toss my coleslaw mix with a store-bought Asian Dressing, but I also like to make this Thai Carrot Slaw, which would be really fun for a Halloween party.

Spinach Salad So my favorite spinach salad has to be one that I copied from the Marriott Desert Springs Spa. They no longer have this one on their menu, weep weep, but I ordered it so many times before they took it off that I have got the flavor profile down, and now I feel that I own it.

I haven’t taken any pictures of it, crazy since I just made it for our back to school party, but I thought as I was accumulating ideas I couldn’t ignore this one. It’s pretty simple. Here it goes. In a serving bowl combine one pound of baby spinach, one sweet potato (peel it, cube it, then steam for 4 minutes in the microwave) , a kid-sized box of raisins, a couple of handfuls of pecans toasted, a handful or two or dried cranberries and a few slivers of red onion. Toss with your favorite dressing. A sweet one like a honey mustard works well. To mix your own Honey Mustard vinaigrette simply combine 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon Dijon, 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. Or… I often use my go to party dressing in a pinch, Girard’s White Balsamic Vinaigrette. This one serves 3-4 as a meal.

As summer’s end officially makes it’s mark on the calendar, we all know the weather hasn’t followed the rules this year, so go ahead and continue to make some salads as a light dinner. Maybe this collection will give you a few more in your repettoire.