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Cooking Inspiration for the Month

8 Jan

During this reset season, the competition between the abstinence commitments made in December and the lingering desire for comforting food, especially when faced with frigid temperatures across the country, can be fierce. Maybe it’s best to ride somewhere in the middle so here are a few ideas.

Please share in the comments section below what you’ve tried and how it turned out.

Happy New Year!

BREAKFAST

The Perfect Make-Ahead Waffles from Marion Cunningham

We all have our idea of what makes the perfect waffle. In our family, these are it. Lighter than pancakes, they are slightly crispy on the outside but fluffy within. As a bonus, they’re quick to prep the night before and finish up in the morning. Try them served with butter and berries, either fresh or heated from the freezer.

Marion Cunningham Waffles

NOTE:

  • If you’re wanting to up the nutrition factor, you can substitute whole wheat pastry flour for white.
  • A teaspoon of vanilla adds a nice flavor boost but is not necessary.
  • Don’t be surprised by the thin batter.
  • Any extras will freeze well for a toaster oven snack.

APPETIZER

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Meatballs from Cheeky Kitchen

Just in time for the Golden Globes this weekend or for the Superbowl on February 1st, these are a simple, sure hit. Ground turkey also works well.

Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

MAIN DISHES

Weeknight Porchetta from Bon Appétit 

To simplify this recipe, skip nestling the heads of garlic around the tenderloin.

Weeknight Porchetta

Spaghetti and Drop Meatballs with Tomato Sauce from Mark Bittman

Mark Bittman does it again with meatballs and sauce made easy in one pot.

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VEGETABLES

Roasted Carrots with Honey, Sage and Garlic from Cannelle Et Vanille

Something healthy and light to go with that pork. Good with or without the yogurt.

Carrots

SNACK or SIDE

Corn Muffins from Food 52

Great to serve alongside the Porchetta above or Butternut Squash Soup below and perfect with chili, these are a fun alternative to corn bread. I prefer the buttery flavor to the bacon fat called for in the recipe.
Corn Muffins

LUNCH

Butternut Squash Soup from Half Baked Harvest

If you haven’t discovered the blog Half Baked Harvest, it’s worth checking out. Tieghan took over cooking for her big family of nine in her mid-teens and hasn’t missed a beat since. Her creative, delicious recipes, excellent photography and youthful flare have brought her well-deserved success.

Below is a recipe inspired by her Moroccan Butternut Squash Soup. Next time, I’ll try her version, but for today, I lacked a few ingredients. Regardless, it was full of flavor.

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup with Curry and Leeks

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed (about 2 small to medium)
  • 2 tablespoons Coconut Oil
  • 1 Leek, white portion only, or 1 small Onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon Curry Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried Thyme, chopped
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 1 Garlic clove, skin removed and crushed
  • 1 (14 ounce) can Coconut Milk
  • 2 cups Chicken or Vegetable Broth
  • 4 ounces Goat Cheese, softened

Optional Toppings: Plain Greek Yogurt or Goat Cheese and/or roughly chopped Cilantro and Pistachios

PREPARATION

  1. To make peeling easier, cut off the bottom of the squash and put on a plate in the microwave for 3 minutes. Peel, remove seeds and cut into approximately 1-inch cubes.
  2. Add the coconut oil to a large soup pot set over medium heat.
  3. Once hot, add the leek or onion and cook for 3-5 minutes or until soft.
  4. Add the cubed butternut squash, curry powder, paprika, cumin, cayenne and thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Add the garlic clove and stir for 10 seconds or so to meld the flavor but avoid scorching.
  7. Pour in the coconut milk and broth.
  8. Bring to boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the butternut squash is fork tender.
  9. Once the squash is tender, add the goat cheese (optional).
  10. Remove the pot from the stove and allow to cool slightly, then puree the soup in a blender or food processor. Return the soup back to the stove and heat through.
  11. To serve, ladle the soup into bowl, topping with Greek yogurt or crumbled goat cheese and garnishing with chopped cilantro and/or pistachios.

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Italian Sausage, Spinach and Pasta Soup

1 Jan

For some ease and enjoyment this post-holiday or any time, here is a go-to hearty soup that can well serve as a meal.

Continue reading

Shrimp Sauté with Tomatoes and Kale on Quinoa

4 Dec

Shrimp SauteThis is a great all-season recipe that handles many variations, an especially useful feature for making a last-minute meal and avoiding a trip to the store. Raw frozen shrimp is available at most supermarkets and is a good thing to have on-hand in the freezer. Check that it’s peeled and deveined to spare you the task. You can take or leave the mushrooms. Spinach can stand in for kale. Pasta can replace quinoa. And in summer, whole cherry tomatoes are a great alternative for the canned San Marzanos. Whatever way you go, it’s full of flavor and an excellent leftover.

For defrosting the shrimp, the package instructions typically indicate that a slower thaw is preferred but the quick way works fine too. The easiest way is to put the shrimp in a bowl in the morning, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate until dinner. If they’re still slightly frosty, you can place them in a colander, rinse with water and then let drain before putting in the bowl to marinate. For the quick thaw, run under cold water in a colander for 6-8 minutes and then drain and proceed.

Because you’ll be adding ingredients every couple of minutes, it helps to take the time to pull everything together before you start.

Begin with quinoa or pasta preparation. Then marinade the shrimp.

Shrimp

After sautéing onions, mushrooms, garlic, herbs and salts, crush the tomatoes individually over the pan.

Shrimp and Quinoa Saute

Next add greens, either kale or spinach, and blend in slowly until wilted.

Shrimp and Quinoa Saute

Add the raw shrimp last, heating it in the sauce just until it turns pink.

You’ll find this sauce is even better the next day. Keep the quinoa stored separately. Enjoy!

Shrimp Sauté with Tomatoes and Kale on Quinoa

  • Servings: 4
  • Print

INGREDIENTS

Quinoa or Pasta

Start by preparing quinoa (here is a great basic recipe) or boiling water for pasta.

Shrimp

  • 16 ounces frozen, raw Shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • ½ teaspoon Kosher or Herb Salt
  • 1 grind of Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried Thyme
  • Half of a Lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/4 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (optional)

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1 medium Onion, diced
  • 8 ounces sliced Mushrooms (8 large/12 small, optional)
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 grind of Black Pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 28-ounce can San Marzano whole peeled Tomatoes
  • 2 large handfuls of fresh Spinach, stems removed, or 10-12 Kale Leaves, stem and rib removed and cut in ribbons
  • 1/2 cup Milk, Cream or combination
  • Fresh Parmesan Cheese (optional)
  • Fresh Basil, sliced (optional)

PREPARATION

  1. Thaw shrimp according to package instructions. See notes in post above.
  2. When defrosted and drained, place in a bowl and toss with olive oil, regular or herb salt, black pepper, thyme, and lemon zest and juice. Optional: Add ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes for an extra kick. Let flavors meld until the sauce is prepared.
  3. Heat a large sauté pan or pot over medium flame and add 2 tablespoons olive oil.
  4. Heat for a minute and add onion. Stir occasionally for 2-3 minutes until slightly soft.
  5. Add mushrooms and sprinkle with salt, pepper, thyme and red pepper flakes.
  6. Stir occasionally for 2-3 minutes.
  7. Add whole crushed garlic cloves and stir for 30 seconds to infuse flavor.
  8. Crush tomatoes with your hands and add to sauce. Use just the tomatoes and not the liquid. Stir to combine.
  9. Add spinach or kale and stir occasionally for 2-4 minutes until wilted.
  10. Add shrimp and fold into the sauce. Cook until shrimp has just turned pink, about 5 minutes.
  11. Stir in ½ cup milk, cream or a combination and stir for 30 seconds to blend in.
  12. Remove from heat.
  13. Fish out garlic cloves.
  14. Serve over quinoa or pasta.
  15. Sprinkle with fresh Parmesan cheese and basil.

NOTE: This is a great make-ahead recipe. When ready to serve, just reheat on the stovetop. If you are planning to eat the same day, slightly undercook the shrimp so that they don’t get overdone when reheated. Excellent leftovers.

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Sausage Spinach and Tomato Sauce

Sausage, Spinach and Tomato Pasta

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Chicken or Turkey Tetrazzini

Classic Chicken or Turkey Tetrazzini

1 Nov

This recipe has a steady spot on the dinner rotation and for good reason. It’s easy to prepare, contains no unusual ingredients and even though chicken tetrazzini might have a gut-buster reputation, can be altered to the lighter side.

Continue reading

Sausage, Spinach and Tomato Pasta

29 Apr

Sausage Spinach and Tomato Sauce

This is a favorite weeknight meal with a number of variations. One of the main flavor determinants is the sausage. I like  the Chicken Tuscan Sausage from Woodlands Market in Kentfield, but any handmade chicken, pork or beef sausage works. Continue reading