Category Archives: Pasta

Ten minute chili mac

Who doesn’t love a little comfort food now and then?I know I do! I believe in life with moderation in all things. Eat well most of the time, be active most of the time, indulge a little some of the time! Not only is this chili mac super easy and fast, it is also ridiculously cheap. To bare-bones it, just get the store brand mac n cheese and the frugal-est can of pre-made chili and mix the two. This recipe is just one step up from there by making your own quick chilli. You can use the chili alone, or top hot dogs or baked potatoes too.

Ingredients:
1 box macaroni & cheese
1/2 cup shredded cheese (cheddar for extra oomph)
1 can kidney beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 small can tomato sauce (6 oz)
1/4 cup chili powder

Step 1: Prepare the macaroni by boiling and draining pasta. You can choose to make your own pasta and cheese sauce if you don’t want the preservatives or seasonings from the packaged version.

Step 2: While noodles boil, brown the ground meat and drain fat. In a sauce pot, combine the meat, diced tomatoes with juice, chili powder, drained kidney beans, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes to 2 hours.

Step 3: If you’re using this just as chili for a meal or topper, longer simmering is better. But basically as soon as flavors combine and it is heated through you can add into the macaroni. Just pour it all in there, and give it a good stir.

You can add in any spices you want too, hot sauce if you like that kinda thing, garlic powder, black pepper, salt, etc…

There you have it, a thick, hearty comfort food that is sure to please your palate and fill your tummy. Depending on if you hit sales and buy store brand or not, you can easily feed six-eight for under $3!

Enjoy!


What’s your favorite comfort food?


Chicken Liver Pasta

 

Now I may have lost many of you on the title alone. But trust me. Have I ever steered you wrong? If you hate liver & onions, that’s ok. If you’ve never had liver, then you can’t say you don’t like it!

Liver is an extremely inexpensive meat per pound, because most people don’t know what to do with it, or don’t like it. Their loss is my gain. And yours.

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Beef liver is what liver & onions is typically made from, because it is much larger. Chicken livers are a lot smaller, and are perfect for this recipe which requires blending them into a sauce. They cook up quickly, and easily fit in the blender. It is up to you, I imagine beef liver would taste similar.

Organ meats (offal) were traditionally a large part of many cultures. However it seems they are not thought of much and even spurned in today’s society; where we can all basically afford whatever cut we want. But every animal killed for a steak, wing, or ham contains edible parts like the liver, kidney, and even heart.

Some avoid liver because they are concerned that it stores toxins, since the liver’s main job is to detoxify chemicals and drugs in the body. Chris Kesser sets the record straight: “While it is true that one of the liver’s role is to neutralize toxins (such as drugs, chemical agents and poisons), it does not store these toxins. Toxins the body cannot eliminate are likely to accumulate in the body’s fatty tissues and nervous systems.”

So eating liver will not cause you to ingest a bunch of toxins. It will cause you to ingest large amounts of all kinds of vitamins and micronutrients though. Gram for gram, liver has more copper, iron, vitamins A, C, D, and E, B vitamins, and P, K, Mg than apples, carrots, or lean red meat in most cases combined.  Of course, where the liver comes from is important. A grass-fed, naturally raised cow’s liver is much healthier than a CAFO animal fed antibiotics, growth hormones, corn, and packed in too tight to lie down.

If you are lucky enough to already like liver, rock on! Keep eating that superfood. And hopefully you will love this recipe, as a new and exciting way beyond the typical onions or pate to enjoy liver. If you don’t like liver, give this a try anyways and see what you think. Blended up with other veggies and pasta, you may not even notice. Look for it in the frozen section if you can’t find it in the meat aisle.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound pasta (I used bowtie)
  • 1 pound chicken livers
  • 1/4 cup cream or milk
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • Handful chopped kale or spinach
  • Garlic salt
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

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Step 1: Boil the pasta for 7-9 minutes. While that’s boiling, cook the livers over medium heat until only slightly pink, then turn heat off. Drain pasta and put in a large fry pan.

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Step 2: In a blender, combine cooked livers, milk, and garlic salt to taste. Blend well and coat pasta. Add in can of diced tomatoes and greens. Cook another 10-15 minutes, until greens are wilted and everything is heated through.

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Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese on top. That last tiny hit of saltiness really makes this sing. It is a bit gamey, but I absolutely loved it! Which is good, because it made about four meals’ worth for me.

 

Do you ever eat liver? If so how do you cook it?

Sneaky healthy lasagna

Lasagna, come delizioso!

Lasagna is a classic favorite recipe. It is also a recipe that is super simple to double or triple and freeze extras for later. Meat, cheese, and pasta, what’s not to love. It takes a little bit of work, but is very worth it. I’m also always looking for ways to sneak a little extra nutrition into recipes in ways that aren’t too noticeable. Lasagna presents a perfect triple opportunity.
1. When you make the sauce, combine a jar of traditional sauce and a jar of chickpeas (or other bean) in a blender and blend until smooth. This adds extra protein and fiber with nearly no change in taste.
2. Add a layer of spinach under the noodles. When baked it doesn’t have a strong flavor of its own, and is barely noticeable.
3. Use cottage cheese instead of ricotta. It is lower in calories (100 vs. 175) as well as fat (4.3 vs 13 g), though it does have 3x the sodium.


Ingredients:
1 package lasagna noodles
1 large package cottage cheese
1 bunch spinach
1 pound ground beef
1 jar pasta sauce
1 can chickpease
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 cup shredded cheese (use mozzarella if you have it)

 Step 1: Make the sauce by blending beans and sauce. Add the diced tomatoes and mix well. 

 Step 2: Brown the ground beef and drain. Mix into the sauce mixture. Boil the noodles for about 7-9 minutes and drain.

 Step 3: In a large bowl, mix the cottage cheese and shredded cheese. I had mixed cheddar/mozz so that’s what I used.

 Step 4: Spray an oven-safe pan. Layer the noodles, spinach, beef/sauce, and cheese. Follow with more noodles and so on. Make one with four layers or two separate with two layers.

 Step 5: Bake, covered with foil, at 350 for 1 hour.

The result is a perfect taste meld of cheesy, tomato-y, beef, and noodles. You can see the spinach but really can’t taste it. And if you want a vegetarian version, just don’t add the beef to the sauce mixture. The only change I’d make is double the amount of sauce and it would be tres magnifique!

Do you have a special family lasagna recipe?

Mixed seafood linguini in lemon-butter sauce

I’m very thankful that I have the ability, when I’m at the grocery store and see a bag of mixed seafood on sale, I can just throw it in my cart and think nothing of it. That’s exactly what happened last week. I saw the mixed seafood on sale, and decided seafood linguini was for dinner that night.

Ingredients:
1/2 lb pasta
1 lb bag mixed seafood
1/2 bag frozen mixed vegetables
1 tbsp garlic
1/3 cup butter/margerine
1/3 cup lemon juice
Sprinkles of garlic, italian seasoning and sea salt
(I added a few squirts of fish sauce because I have that. Because I’m weird. But it’s salty and goes great with seafood.)

 
Step 1: Boil the pasta. While it’s boiling, throw all the other ingredients into a pot. The lemon, butter and spices will coat the seafood and veggies. Simmer with a lid for about 5 minutes, then without a lid for another 10 or so. 
 

 Step 2: Once the pasta is done (~7/8 minutes) throw that in the pan to coat with sauce. You can adjust by adding butter, oil, lemon juice, or white wine as needed. Cornstarch or flour can thicken the sauce too.

 Once the seafood is soft, and the vegetables give when poked with a fork, or you’re hungry, it’s done!

Cheeseburger Mac

This classic student-loved recipe is still delicious as an “adult”, though you can fancy it up with different cheeses and noodle shapes if you want. Super simple to make yet very filling. It’s like macaroni & cheese only beefier.

Ingredients:
1 pound of macaroni
2 cups of cheese (any kind, shredded or cubed)
1 pound of ground beef
1 cup of milk

Step 1: Boil the macaroni for about 7 minutes, until al dente. Meanwhile, brown the ground beef and drain the fat.

 Step 2: Drain the pasta, add it back to the pan. Add in the cheese and milk, heat until the cheese melts, stirring often so the cheese doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pan. Add the beef back in, mix well.

I used half cheddar and half pepper jack cheese, so it was a little tangy. I’d recommend trying it. You can use any kind of cheese and noodle shape you want, and even add veggies if you’re feeling crazy.

Crusted salmon & veggie alfredo

Still trying to use up all my freezer/pantry items, I pulled together this meal with frozen fish fillets (1 cod 1 salmon) a box of straight pasta, a can of alfredo sauce, frozen veggies, crackers, and various spices. This is a good example of what I call “kitchen improv”.
Ingredients:
2 fish fillets, ~6 oz
1 cup crushed crackers
Black pepper
Paprika
Garlic salt
3 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 lb pasta
2 cups frozen veggies
1 can alfredo sauce

 Step 1: Smash the crackers in a plastic bag & add spices. Coat the fish on both sides. Spray a frying pan and cook over medium heat about 10 minutes (to thoroughly thaw) then flip and cook another 10 minutes.

 Step 2: In a large pot, boil a gallon or so of water. Once boiling, add the pasta and simmer 7-9 minutes, until al dente. Add the frozen veggies and boil another 2 minutes. Drain.

 Step 3: Put the pasta back into the pot, add the alfredo sauce and stir well.

Very filling and lots of protein & Omega-3s. This is a good way to get your fish for the week without it seeming too ‘fishy’, which turns some people off. Even the salmon taste & smell wasn’t terribly strong thanks to the alfredo flavor and crust.

Sneaky bean & beefy pasta

In an effort to not only be healthier but also use up canned goods, I decided to take the old student standby of pasta with meat sauce and kick it up a notch. I had a half jar of Ragu from a few days ago, so I just used a small can of tomato sauce to round it out, and a can of chickpeas. (You could probably use any bean here, but chickpeas were what I had, plus they blend better than pinto or black) I didn’t just want chunks of beans in my sauce, so I blended them. Makes the sauce thicker and adds protein and fiber.

Ingredients:
1/2 jar pasta sauce
1 can tomato sauce
1 can chickpeas
1 box pasta noodles of your choice
1 pound ground beef
Handful spinach

Step 1: Open the can of beans and drain half the liquid. Pour the rest and the tomato sauce into blender and liquefy it. Add extra water if it’s too thick.

Step 2: Fill a large pot half full of water, add salt if you want. Bring to a rolling boil, and cook the pasta 5-8 minutes. While cooking, complete step 3. Drain when al dente (aka soft but not mush).

Step 3: Brown the ground beef in a frying pan. You want to make sure it’s fully cooked. Then add the handful of spinach and cover. Cook for 3 minutes to wilt the spinach. Pour the sauce on top, mix well and cook on medium, covered, until heated through.

The beans makes the sauce thick and gives it a certain depth of flavor without being too obvious. You could also blend in the spinach once cooked so you don’t even know it’s there. Mixed with the plain Ragu pasta sauce and ground beef, it isn’t too noticeable. This is a good way to sneak extra nutrition past whiny kids and picky hubbys. Those adjectives are probably also interchangeable. Just saying.

Spaghetti squash ‘pasta’ with Turkey Meatballs and Tomato-Chickpea Sauce

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I had bought a spaghetti squash a few days ago, and finally got around to making it. I was not sure what to make with it, so I went with the “spaghetti” theme and made turkey meatballs and a tomato-chickpea sauce. Like real pasta only tons more fiber and quite delicious!

Ingredients:
Spaghetti squash

Sauce:
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 can diced tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, diced
Italian seasonings
1 1/2 cups water/chicken stock

Meatballs:
1 pound ground turkey
1/4 cup bread crumbs
3 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 onion, grated
1/4 cup ketchup
1 egg
1/4 cup blue cheese/parmesan cheese

Step 1: Bake the spaghetti squash face-down for 1 hour at 375 or microwave 10 minutes then bake for 30.

Step 2: Mix all meatball ingredients in a bowl.

Step 3: Cook the chickpeas in a sauce pot for ~5 minutes. Then add the diced tomatoes, water, and seasonings and simmer.

 Step 4: Roll the meatball mix into 1-inch balls and bake on a sprayed cookie sheet for ~10 minutes at 350, or until brown and cooked through. Then add to the simmering sauce.

 

Step 5: When the squash cools, use a fork to pull the strands out.

In a bowl, add the squash, a meatball or two, and pour on some sauce. Enjoy!

Chicken & veggie alfredo

This is just something I came up with on the fly, I was hungry and needed something quick which didn’t take much time to make. My usual on the fly recipe is meat + carb + veggies. When I checked the pantry, I found pasta and alfredo sauce, which I love. Then I had a chicken breast in the freezer as well as frozen spinach. I added some shredded carrot, which turned out to be a great addition as it looked like cheddar cheese but way healthier!

Ingredients:
1/2 pound rotini pasta
1 jar alfredo sauce
2 carrots, shredded
1 chicken breast
1/2 bag frozen spinach

Step 1: Begin boiling the water, and thaw the chicken in the microwave 2 minutes on each side.
Step 2: Boil the pasta 7-8 minutes. Cut the chicken into 1 inch thick pieces and put in a frying pan with 1 tbsp oil. Add any desired spices to the chicken, and cook about 5 minutes on both sides, until browned and chicken is no longer pink.
Step 3: While chicken is cooking, shred the carrots.
Step 4: Drain the pasta. Add the spinach, carrots and cooked chicken. Mix well and ensure it is heated through and the spinach is thawed. Add the alfredo sauce and enjoy!

This was deliciously creamy and fulfilling!

Creative leftovers: Butternut Squash Mac n Cheese

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The best recipes in my opinion are the ones that either get eaten the first time around, or lead to easy leftover combinations. I hate to see food go to waste, and unfortunately when you’re cooking for only 1 or 2 people that can happen quite often.
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You make something that tastes great the first time, and the second time, but by days 3 and up you are sick of it. So it sits in the back of the fridge, hidden by water bottles and fresher produce until you clean out your fridge tri-monthly and get grossed out by the mold and bacteria on it.
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Therefore I try to cook things which easily lend themselves to meal makovers to dress up the leftovers and make it feel like a whole new meal. So I took some macaroni & cheese I’d made earlier, leftover chicken, and bruchetta topping (since the bread was now mush) and mixed it up for a super-easy, quick & healthy lunch.
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Less wasted food = more money in your pocket = win-win.
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Ingredients:
2 diced roma tomatoes
1/4 white onion, diced small
3-4 oz cooked chicken breast (or meat of choice, or no meat if you prefer)
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Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Microwave on high 1-2 minutes. You can sprinkle with extra cheese, or add any kind of cooked veggies you like. Enjoy!