Category Archives: Pasta

Quick & Easy “Cheater” Pad Thai + Peanut Sauce

 

Sometimes you just want something different, but also cheap, and sorta healthy. Oh, and really easy to make. Sounds like so many recipes you know right? If you’re laughing like I was while writing that, you’re in the right place. Finding recipes that hit the “sweet spot” of the trifecta: price, time, health, is a tall order.

Luckily, this recipe is one of them!

Pad Thai is probably the most famous dish outside of Thailand, and for good reason. Thailand is snack in the middle of the indochina peninsula, with a tropical climate and a lot of ocean front property. (Which comes with a lot of hurricanes and water damage, so don’t jump on that time share just yet…) This warm climate and water access combines to create a very healthy ethnic cuisine based around coconut, fish, rice, chilies, tons of spices, and tropical fruits like lemons and limes.

Authentic Pad Thai involves homemade rice noodles, hours of stewing and many ingredients common on the mainland but sometimes difficult to find and/or pricey elsewhere. This recipe is for the “cheater” who loves the flavors of Thai but doesn’t want to shell out for take-out, or spend hours in the kitchen.

You can expand this recipe to include other protein sources like tofu, chicken, or shrimp. You can also add any fresh herbs like mint or cilantro or basil, or change up the vegetables to ones that you like. You can add chilies or Thai chili paste or Sriracha to get to your preferred level of spice.

This recipe is the simplest you can make it, multiply the ingredients by the number of people you want to feed. You can easily cook for one, or for twenty. Take this bare bones recipe, try it once or twice until you’re comfortable, then make it your own! And tell me all about it in the comments.

Pad Thai with Peanut Sauce

Ingredients (per person):

  • 1/4 package rice or soba noodles (or linguini)
  • 1/4 small cabbage, shredded
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 egg, scrambled or not
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter (or other nut butter)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce and/or fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp lime juice or vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil / coconut oil
  • Optional: green onion, cilantro, sriracha, chopped cilantro, chilie slices, crushed peanuts, bean sprouts

Pad Thai with Peanut Sauce and Egg

Step 1: Cook the noodles according to the package, rinse and drain and set aside.

Pad Thai with Peanut Sauce

Step 2: Shred the carrot and cabbage, and add to a frying pan with a tbsp olive oil and/or stock. Cover and cook on low for 10-15 minutes, until cabbage is wilted and opaque.

Pad Thai with Peanut Sauce

Step 3: In a bowl, mix the peanut butter, soy sauce, and lime juice. Cook the egg as you like, whether you want it scrambled or with the yolk still dippy.

Step 4: Put some noodles on a plate, add a scoop of cooked veggies, and drizzle with the sauce. If you like, add optional toppings, and your egg. Enjoy!

Quick & Easy “Cheater” Pad Thai + Peanut Sauce

Quick & Easy “Cheater” Pad Thai + Peanut Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/4 package rice or soba noodles (or linguini)
  • 1/4 small cabbage, shredded
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 egg, scrambled or not
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter (or other nut butter)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce and/or fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp lime juice or vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil / coconut oil
  • Optional: green onion, cilantro, sriracha, chopped cilantro, chilie slices, crushed peanuts, bean sprouts

Instructions

  1. Cook the noodles according to the package, rinse and drain and set aside.
  2. Shred the carrot and cabbage, and add to a frying pan with a tbsp olive oil and/or stock. Cover and cook on low for 10-15 minutes, until cabbage is wilted and opaque.
  3. In a bowl, mix the peanut butter, soy sauce, and lime juice. Cook the egg as you like, whether you want it scrambled or with the yolk still dippy.
  4. Put some noodles on a plate, add a scoop of cooked veggies, and drizzle with the sauce. If you like, add optional toppings, and your egg. Enjoy!
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Creamy Peas and Panchetta Pasta

 

Nothing is quite so satisfying and delicious as enjoying a brief crop of produce in its prime.  Spring peas are a great example.  They burst into bloom in the early spring, swell to full pods, and then quickly disappear, leaving round seeds to dry and protect until next year.

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The beauty of frozen produce is that you can lock in all the enzymes and living nutrients of a fresh item and keep it for use many days or weeks or even months later.  Flash frozen vegetables can be the next best thing to right-from-the-dirt produce, and maybe even better because it is washed and minimally processed. This way, you can enjoy this fresh taste of spring any time of the year!

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The cream sauce is made with a minimal amount of fat. I used some half and half and some regular 2% milk. Add fresh grated Parmesan cheese and if you desire a tbsp or so of flour for a thick, creamy, salty sauce that tastes like velvet and will satisfy any Alfredo lover.  You can use other types of cheeses too, don’t be shy about trying mozzarella or reggiano, asiago or feta.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 – 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup torn greens of choice (kale, swiss chard, collards, spinach)
  • 2 slices thick cut bacon (optional, you can omit for a vegetarian recipe or use turkey bacon instead)
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup grated hard cheese
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 pound cooked fresh pasta, drained

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Step 1: Boil and drain your pasta.  In a frying pan, cook the bacon until crispy.  Remove and drain all but about 2 tsp of fat*, and crumble the bacon.  Cook the peas and greens in the bacon fat for 5-10 minutes, until softened.

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Step 2: To the pan, add the milks and bring to a slow simmer.  Add the cheese and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well until thickened, add flour 1/2 tbsp at a time if desired.  Pour it over the hot drained pasta and top with a sprinkle of fresh grated cheese!

 

*If you want a vegetarian dish, omit the bacon and use vegetable of coconut oil instead!

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Blender Pesto Sauce

 

One of my favorite things about summer is all the fresh delicious produce, including fresh herbs.  Basil in particular seems to grow really well near me in CT, last summer it turned into a huge bush of a plant, and this year’s crop looks promising for the same.  As you may or may not know, to keep basil producing you need to harvest regularly to encourage new growth and discourage the plant from going to seed.

That’s great news for those who love basil, like me!  Pesto is such a great, fresh, summer recipe that can be way easier than you may think. Many people are intimidated by pesto, thinking Pine nuts are way too expensive for me, or I don’t want to grate fresh hard cheeses just for a weeknight dinner.

Well, don’t worry this recipe is super low-stress! And super low cost too, if you have your own basil plant. During the summer, even if you don’t have basil of your own, it is super affordable at a farmer’s market as it peaks in production. This recipe uses fresh basil, but you can SO EASILY slip other greens in here!  Try adding fresh chives, green onion, swiss chard, spinach, collards, or arugula. Just keep it less than 1/3 the total volume and use mostly basil.

Basil in the blender

This recipe is made in the blender, which saves you the trouble of chopping or blending yourself. Just add you ingredients, adjust as needed, and whir away. Mix in the cheese just before serving, and you have a super quick, super healthy meal in minutes.

Blender Pesto

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups basil (optional extra greens)
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces (or pine nuts)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used the green can stuff, you can also buy fresh hard cheese and grate it yourself to be more authentic)
  • Dash of lime or lemon juice
  • Sea salt or garlic salt to taste
  • Dash of cooking water from pasta, or hot water

Blender pesto sauce in a bowl

Step 1: Add the basil and greens into your blender, and whir once or twice.  Toss in the garlic, walnuts, and olive oil. Blend for a minute.

Step 2: Using a spatula, push the pieces down the sides of the blender. Continue blending and pushing it back down to blend it all together. Meanwhile, boil your pasta and drain, reserving a bit of the cooking water.

Fresh pasta and pesto sauce

Step 3: Pour the pesto into a bowl, using a spatula to get it all out.  Mix in the lime or lemon juice and sea salt or garlic salt to taste.  Then mix in the cheese, and add the hot cooking water until it is the consistency you desire.

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Step 4: Mix the pesto into your fresh pasta, and enjoy! I served this with garlic bread and an extra sprinkle of Parmesan on top. Some swiss chard and arugula is hiding in there, and no one was the wiser, I got two males to eat this and praise how good it was! Give it a try and see if you don’t want this to become a staple of your summer meals.

 

(Oh, and if you still have more basil left over, pesto freezes well, or try making some blueberry basil iced tea to go with the pasta!)

 

Blender Pesto Sauce

Blender Pesto Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 cups basil (optional extra greens)
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces (or pine nuts)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I used the green can stuff, you can also buy fresh hard cheese and grate it yourself to be more authentic)
  • Dash of lime or lemon juice
  • Sea salt or garlic salt to taste
  • Dash of cooking water from pasta, or hot water

Instructions

  1. Add the basil and greens into your blender, and whir once or twice. Toss in the garlic, walnuts, and olive oil. Blend for a minute.
  2. Using a spatula, push the pieces down the sides of the blender. Continue blending and pushing it back down to blend it all together. Meanwhile, boil your pasta and drain, reserving a bit of the cooking water.
  3. Pour the pesto into a bowl, using a spatula to get it all out. Mix in the lime or lemon juice and sea salt or garlic salt to taste. Then mix in the cheese, and add the hot cooking water until it is the consistency you desire.
  4. Mix the pesto into your fresh pasta, and enjoy!
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Restaurant Review: T’s Pizza & Kitchen

 

Do you love pizza?  I thought so.  Please, read on.

Along a quiet back street a half mile away from the Stamford Train Station, near Stamford Connecticut’s Antique Alley (what I’ve termed Dock St, due to its proximity to at least 7 antique stores and galleries), sits an unassuming painted brick building.

ts pizza kitchen google map

On a spur of the moment trip, the new hubster and I decided to explore some of the East Coast.  We figure since we live in a place where we can travel to five different states in one day and there is ample public transit, we should take advantage of these things.  So on a sunny Sunday, we hopped on the Metro North to Stamford, just one hour down the tracks.  We had gone by on our way to the Big Apple once or twice, and it seemed nice.

Downtown is tiny but quaint.  Several restaurants were open on this lovely Father’s Day, and one had a giant sign proclaiming “$5 Burgers Everyday”.  You can guess where we went for lunch… While sitting there, we witnessed some sky-writing of an advertisarial bent. The burgers were also tasty, but that’s another post. We then explored the nearby Stamford Town Center mall, which is deceptively huge. It goes up and up and up… ten floors I think. Pretty darn cool, to my exceedingly tall other half.

Then the true reason for coming all this way, we wandered down to the waterfront.  Harbor Point is the big development here, they have created many lovely living spaces that are very walkable. And there is a free public trolley that runs 7 days a week! This is a fantastic service. After a nice walk down the boardwalk and through the Kosciuszko park (dare you to say that three times fast) and some water-watching, we decided it was about time for some dinner and to wander back to the station to catch a train home.

T's Pizza Kitchen Exterior

Well, since we are in New England, we have made it our mission to find and eat pizza whenever and wherever possible, so as to do a fair comparison.  New Haven style is fiercely guarded and defended as the best pizza on Earth. Just as Pepe’s, Sallys, Modern, BAR, Ernies, or a host of other local hot spots.

Google maps informed us that “T’s Pizza & Kitchen” was super close to the train station, and basically along our way there. So we figured, that’s perfect! We can stop and pick up some dinner to eat on the train on the way home.

T's Pizza Kitchen Interior

The road on the way there, not gonna lie, it’s a little bit sketchy. But what do you expect from the industrial district? Though I must say, I was a little intrigued by the “Vertical Addiction” pole dancing studio next door… Anywho, as soon as we walked in the door, I thought “I love this place!” From the brick and wooden slat walls, to the muted black and rustic wooden decor, to the thoughtfully picked wall of wines and golden crusted baked goodies on display, this place oozed homey comfort with class.

We were welcomed by an elderly gentleman, who asked us some questions, and when we seemed hesitant, gave us a menu and let us sit down to figure out the game plan. We decided a whole pizza was too much, both to take on the train and because of the huge burgers we had eaten just a few hours earlier, so we would split a calzone. He recommended the Stromboli Roll, which comes with salami, ham, peppers, and mozzarella cheese. Si grazie!

Carlos of Ts Pizza Kitchen

While we waited, he offered us some waters, which we gratefully accepted (it was a high of 86 people!).  As I wandered to the back to watch our dinner be rolled out, filled, and baked all by hand, the kind chef chatted about what he did.  Turns out, the guy lovingly crafting our soon to be dinner was Carlos, the manager! He was filling in since Sundays are quiet.

He told me about his love of pizza and all Italian foods, and how hard they had worked since opening just 6 months earlier. It was mesmerizing to watch him roll out the dough into a thin, long oval. Dusting it with spices and layering the toppings carefully. Slices of meat, strips of peppers, chunks of fresh mozz. Then he rolled it up into one long log, and popped it in the giant oven. He was warm and funny, and genuinely interested in our story. It’s too bad we don’t live nearby, I would definitely become a regular!

Ts Pizza Kitchen Calzone

They were kind enough to give us two plates and wrap everything in tin foil, and added two cups of marinara dipping sauce plus a hefty stack of napkins.  We made it to the station! … just as our train pulled away. Ha. Oh well, the next one was set to arrive & depart in 25 minutes, so we could eat it while we waited. I’m sure everyone else on that platform was SO jealous!

Ts Pizza Kitchen Stromboli Roll

The calzone was still steaming hot, and the mozz was molten goo, which is totally a good thing.  The peppers had cooked up perfectly and were nice and soft, a perfect flavor to balance the salty ham and salami. The dough was nice and light, but crunchy and flavorful. The dipping sauce seemed a bit thin, but turned out to be perfect, not too heavy such as would overpower the flavors of the fillings.

While I’m not crazy about the small pool of grease left on the plate, sometimes that is just what you’re craving.  Based on just this calzone alone, they really know what they are doing in the kitchen! Hopefully we will return to Stamford someday, and we can try the pizza too. (If you’ve been there, please let me know what  you think in the comments!)

 

Overall, I’d rate Ts Pizza & Kitchen:

  • Taste: 8
  • Atmosphere: 9
  • Value: 9

 

You can read other reviews here:

Balsamic Brown Butter and Collard Greens Sauce

 

This particular sauce is what I made to go along with my mouth-watering Butternut Squash Gnocchi.  Something about the combination of the autumn/wintry flavors and chewy texture of the gnocchi with the buttery but tangy sauce just makes fireworks happen.

And the gnocchi have hidden vegetables in it, plus this sauce packs in a serving of your daily greens!  So much health, in one deliciously sneaky meal!  No one will ever guess.  But they will ask for seconds.  Maybe thirds.

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 good-sized collard green leaves, torn
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1/2 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar and/or lemon juice

Collard Greens Pasta Sauce Ingredients

Step 1: Place all ingredients but the butter & vinegar in a blender and pulse until chopped into small pieces.  Alternatively you can use a knife and chop them up yourself.  (But Ninja blender. So good.)

Balsamic Brown Butter and Collard Greens

Step 2: Melt the butter in a pan, and bring to just a simmer.  Once it starts to turn brown, add all the chopped vegetables, and add in the balsamic vinegar.  Bring back to a simmer, and cook for 10-15 minutes, serve hot over fresh pasta.  Maybe a little fresh shaved Parmesan on top, if you’re feeling festive.

 

PS: You can substitute other greens in here if you don’t have or like or feel brave enough yet to try collards.  Try a nice safe spinach, or something crazy like mustard greens or beet tops.  Let me know how it tastes too!

Butternut Squash Gnocchi

 

During my whole January Freezer Month challenge (read how that went during weeks one, two, three, and four) I had used half of a decorative butternut squash to make butternut squash macaroni & cheese.  This is one of my favorite fall & winter time meals, because it has all the creamy comfort of mac n cheese with an added boost of vitamins and fiber.  It totally counts as a serving of vegetables!

But what I had discovered was that even a deceptively small-looking squash can create a ton of pulp!

Mashed Butternut Squash

This giant bowl of squash was half!  Yes indeed.  So, being the frugal epicurean chef I am, I decided this was not to go to waste.  After searching the interwebs for inspiration, I had seen several options that were contenders, but in the end the winner was butternut squash gnocchi.  It’s the sauce that sealed the deal, which I will tell you about in just a second.

For those who don’t know what gnocchi is or have never had them, go find your nearest authentic Italian restaurant and re-evaluate your life choices.  Just kidding.  Make this recipe instead!

Gnocchi are typically thick, soft dumplings that may be made from semolina, wheat flour, egg, cheese, potato, breadcrumbs, or similar ingredients.  You basically make a thick pasta dough, and create chewy pillows from it.  The most classic gnocchi shape is the oval with ridges, created in our grandmother’s day using fork tines.  (Did you know the things that make a fork a fork are called tines?  Now you know.)

Pressing Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Growing up in Youngstown Ohio, a city with some serious mafia ties (seriously, go read about it), we have some crazy good Italian restaurants.  Thus I am well-versed in gnocchi.  I’ve even taken a foray into gnocchi making previously, with acorn squash and potatoes.  So I was fairly confident that this project would turn out well.  And boy did it ever!

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Balsamic Brown Butter and Collard Greens Sauce

The process does take a little bit of time, I think it was just over an hour start-to-finish, and I had already-cooked squash to work with.  So be sure you have about 2 hours prior to tackling this.  But trust me, it is well worth it!  My fiancee, who is allergic to vegetables, told me this was delicious and amazing and asked for seconds.  He didn’t even believe me when I said there was squash in it.

The sauce is much easier, I just whipped it all up in my amazing Ninja blender (a Christmas gift from said fiancee) and simmered it on the stove to brown the butter.  But I am convinced that the two flavors and textures are the magic that elevates this from “weeknight pasta” to “so good this could be Valentine’s Day dinner at a 5-star restaurant”.  But at home.

But hey, I’m not gonna tell you what to top your gnocchi with.  If you like marinara, go for it.  If Alfredo is your thing, rock on.  Shoot, if you want to eat your gnocchi naked, that’s fine with me.  Just make sure the blinds are closed. 😉

Butternut Squash Gnocchi Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups cooked, mashed butternut squash
  • 4 1/2 cups flour plus extra
  • 2 tbsp Italian seasonings
  • 2 tsp nutmeg
  • Sprinkle of ground pepper and salt

Step 1: If you haven’t cooked your squash, do that first.  Go ahead I’ll wait.  Bake it, microwave it, steam it, whatever.  Then mash it up.

Cutting Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Step 2: Mix your cooked, mashed squash in a large bowl with the other ingredients.  Add seasoning to taste, so if you want it heavy on the spices, do it, or go nuts and add cinnamon.  Get your hands all up in that squishy dough mess and mix it up nice.  Add more flour, 1/4 cup at a time as needed, until the dough just barely still sticks to your hand.

Boiling Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Step 3: Separate out about 3 cups of dough, and turn out onto a floured surface.  Pinch off a good handful, and roll it into a log.  Cut the log into 1/2 – 1 inch squares.  Each individual piece will be one noodle/dumpling/gnocchi.  If you’re feeling fancy, go ahead and roll each gnocchi over the tines of a fork to create ridges.  (I recommend this step mostly because the ridges create a nice place for the sauce to stick to!)

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Step 4: Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.  (Here’s a secret tip: I actually used chicken broth to boil the noodles, for extra flavor and because I like bone broth).  Boil the gnocchi for about 10 minutes, until they float to the top.  Remove with a slotted spoon.

Cooked Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Step 5: Top your gnocchi with sauce or topping of choice, and then watch whoever is eating this oooh and ahhh.  Including yourself.  Go ahead and pat yourself on the back too, that’s step 6.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi with Sauce

And if you are just dying for the sauce recipe I used, don’t worry I won’t tease you and leave you waiting.  Oh wait.  Yup, you have to wait until Thursday’s post.  It will be worth it I promise.

Freezing Butternut Squash Gnocchi

Oh, and did I mention this makes a crap ton?  This recipe made me about 7 dozen gnocchi total, so I ended up freezing about half.  Just lay them out in one layer in the fridge for 1 hour to overnight, then pop in a freezer bag or container and they will keep for about 6 months.  So one day’s hard work equals one amazing meal now, and another amazing meal sometime later.  Jackpot.

 

Seafood Linguini Bonanza

 

If you are already a lover of seafood, oh boy do you need this recipe in your life!  If you are unsure, trying to incorporate more seafood into your diet, or have someone who does not like seafood and you want to convince them, you also need this recipe in your life!

Seafood is super for your health, mussels & clams provide some of the highest sources of zinc and certain other minerals of all protein sources, is quite high in protein yet low in calories, and a source of omega-3 fatty acids.  You should of course educate yourself as to the source of your seafood, and you can read more on the nutrition facts here or here.

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Well, isn’t seafood expensive? you may ask.   I can’t afford to eat that stuff.  you may think.

False.

Let me explain.

The components of this recipe include: mussels, shrimp, and white fish (in this case, catfish).  All of these ingredients came out of my freezer (since I am doing my January restricted budget/eat from the pantry challenge), and all together cost about $6.  Here’s the secret: always shop sales!

The catfish nuggets I grabbed when they were manager’s special, meaning they had to be sold that day, or else, for less than $2.  Just pop it in the freezer, now you have fresh fish whenever you want it.  The mussels were on sale, close to $6 for a 2 pound bag, and I used one pound.  The other pound is in the freezer waiting for the next recipe.  And the shrimp?  Also on sale, under $2 for a 12 oz bag.

Herbs and Alliums

The other ingredients include fresh onions & garlic & dill, all to be had for a buck or two.  Whole wheat pasta, 0.88 on sale.  Olive oil, salt, these I always have on hand.  And a secret ingredient, stuffed cherry peppers!  These were left in the refrigerator and I didn’t want them to spoil, so into the pasta they went!  And I must say, it was a wonderful addition, the peppers added just a touch of bite.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pound linguine pasta
  • 1 pound mussels
  • 12 oz shrimp
  • 1.5 pound white fish, such as catfish or tilapia
  • 5-6 hot peppers
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 green onions
  • 2-3 stems of dill (optional)
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 small white onion
  • Salt & Pepper

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Step 1: Either steam the mussels by heating, covered, until they all open, or freeze them and then thaw in the frying pan, this causes them to open.  Cook mussels for 7-10 minutes.  Add 2 tbsp olive oil and the shrimp, cook another 2-3 minutes.  Add the white fish, cook until easily flaked with a fork.

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Step 2: Remove the seafood to a plate and keep warm.  Add peppers, garlic, and onion, and cook until softened.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and simmer the pasta 8-10 minutes, until al dente.

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Step 3: Add the cooked, drained pasta to the pan, along with the rest of the olive oil, vinegar, and the seafood.  Mix well to coat the pasta in the seafood juice and oil.  Season to taste with salt & pepper.  Dice up the fresh dill (or other herbs)  & sprinkle on top.

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You could also use parsley, basil, oregano, thyme, or rosemary.  Feel free to substitute other types of shellfish or seafood such as cooked lobster meat, crab, clams, or scallops.  Whatever is on sale! 😉

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Dried Tomato and Artichoke Pasta

 

Those of you who have been cooking for a long time probably know the feeling of making a dish which to you seems quite simple, yet to someone else who enjoyed the meal with you, it is fancy and magical.  I’d like to share a secret: sometimes all it takes is one to two little touches, that don’t take much time or work, to elevate a dish from plain to pizazz!

Oven-dried tomatoes in olive oil and jarred artichokes are examples of such a touch.

Simple things that only cost a few dollars can really jazz up a weeknight meal or make an occasion special.  Using pre-canned dried tomatoes and artichokes adds almost literally no prep time (ok, you have to open it…) but makes the final plate look and taste restaurant quality.  Other such items are kalamata or pimiento olives, infused oils or vinegars, capers, pine nuts, brined pepper rings, citrus zest, shaved fresh cheeses, or finishing salts.

This dish takes less than 20 minutes start to finish, with no slicing and dicing of mountains of produce or complex kitchen skills besides boiling, straining, and mixing.  If you don’t like spinach, use whatever other vegetables you have on hand, or just stick with tomatoes and artichokes alone.  I had some broccoli on hand, so I added it in for extra fiber and nutrition, plus it went with the already-there colors.

Whip this meal up to impress dinner guests, say I love you, or just to enjoy a magical moment to yourself any time.

Dried tomato and artichoke pasta ingredients on counter

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound pasta
  • 1/2 jar artichoke hearts
  • 2 cups dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped
  • 1 cup spinach, optional
  • 1 cup broccoli, optional
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, diced

Dried tomato and artichoke pasta ingredients

Step 1: In a large pot, bring 4-6 cups of water to a boil.  Add the pound of pasta.  You can use any shape here, but plain straight spaghetti is the classic choice.

Dried tomato and artichoke pasta cooked

Step 2: Boil the pasta for 5-7 minutes.  Meanwhile, in a large pan, add the garlic, chopped tomatoes in oil, and artichokes (and any other vegetables you are using, like the broccoli) and saute for 5-7 minutes, until fragrant and the vegetables soften.

Dried tomato and artichoke pasta in pot

Step 3: Strain the pasta, do not rinse, and add the hot noodles into the frying pan.  Stir it all together to coat the noodles with the oil from the tomatoes and the juice from artichoke hearts.

Dried tomato and artichoke pasta on plate

If desired, sprinkle with garlic salt or whatever herbs you enjoy, or grate some fresh hard cheese on top (like Parmesan or white cheddar).

Dried tomato and artichoke pasta ready to eat

Veggie Packed Pasta Sauce

 

Pasta sauce is one of my absolute favorite things to pack extra veggies into!  Any time you have a sauce, chili, soup, or stew, is an excellent opportunity to be sneaky healthy.  By blending things in, no one knows they are there, yet you are giving the people eating the meal extra doses of fiber and vitamins.  There’s no reason not to!

The best things for blending in include beans, greens, and carrots.  Beans thicken the sauce because of their natural fiber content.  Greens may change the color a bit, so keep that in mind.  And carrots provide a slight sweetness while not affecting the overall color very much.  Keep in mind with carrots, you must cook them first so they soften before trying to blend them in, or juice them.

In this sauce, I went really bold and added some spinach as well as a half bag of frozen carrots and peas I had left from a previous meal.  To this I added a full can of stewed tomatoes, and 1/2 cup milk.  Simmering everything together makes it soften, and then if you have eaters that won’t tolerate chunks, pop half or all of it into a blender before serving.

Ingredients:

  • 1 package frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1 can stewed diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 bag frozen carrots & peas
  • 1/2 cup milk

Sneaky healthy pasta sauce

Step 1: Thaw the spinach, and squeeze out extra water.  Put in a pan with the peas and carrots, and cook, stirring often, for about 15 minutes or until carrots have softened.

Rigatoni with spinach pasta sauce

Step 2: Add the tomatoes and milk, and cook another few minutes.  Puree in a blender.  You can further cook it down to thicken the sauce, or serve as is.

I added some crumbled cooked bacon and sprinkled on Parmesan cheese, but if you serve as is this is a perfect vegetarian meal.  You can see what I mean about the greens changing the color of the sauce.  If that is a problem, just start with very small amounts of greens, maybe just a handful of spinach rather than the whole package.

 

Simple Sausage & Veggie Parmesan

 

In the warm-to-chill days of autumn, we begin to crave more hearty, filling, stick-to-your-ribs kind of foods.  Soups, stews, chilies, and pasta all sound wonderful as seasonal hibernation signals kick in.  However, you probably don’t want to already start putting on your “winter coat” do  you?  I know it is pretty socially acceptable to gain a few pounds over winter, who doesn’t?  With these filling foods, not much time outdoors, and lots of holiday treats, it is easy to succumb.

But not this time!

A lightened up parmesan pasta alfredo to the rescue!  This recipe is intensely flavorful, with lots of meat to satisfy the carnos in the family,yet packed with good-for-you veggies for vitamins and fiber.  With a homemade alfredo sauce, you get to control how much and what kinds of fats are included, and can amp up the vegetable content, to make a much healthier alternative to a frozen-bagged or restaurant meal.

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This recipe takes about 20 minutes, and serves 2-3.  If you don’t have the specific vegetables mentioned, feel free to substitute any kind you like, as long as you try to keep at least 2 cups’ worth.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound sausage links (or loose)
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 1 small eggplant, diced
  • 1 large head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1/2 bunch kale, rinsed and chopped
  • 1 pound pasta (save 1 cup of cooking water)
  • 1/2 cup shredded parmesan
  • 1/2 cup milk or cream
  • 2-4 tbsp. butter

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Step 1:

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Step 2:

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Step 3:

 

 

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