Green Pasta

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This recipe has become a staple for me. A quick 30 minute meal that’s healthy and full of amazing texture and flavor. It can be adapted and changed by adding any veg of your choosing, but I love the combination of green vegetables in this version. The soft vegetables that I used are peas and spinach and the hard vegetables are broccoli and green beans. Other notable greens that would be delicious add-ins or exchanges are celery, zucchini, escarole or chard. Possible veggies of the non-green variety: carrots, cauliflower, bell peppers, corn, eggplant… am I boring yet?

Basically, grab whatever you have in your fridge. This recipe calls for anything and everything.

Also, this could probably take you less than 30 minutes. Whether it’s 20 or 30, you will be busy the whole time.

1 box of penne; or any pasta really

1/4-1/2 c. finely chopped onion; I used white, original recipe calls for yellow, I’m sure red would be good, too, whatevs. Also I didn’t even use onion the first time I made this, so if you don’t have it, no worries!

1-2 tbs. oil; again I’m sure any would do. I used the last of my olive oil and added vegetable oil as needed.

1-2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1/2 tsp. mediterranean basil; pick an herb, any herb

1-2 c. of soft green vegetables, peas and spinach (larger leaves torn)

1-2 c. of hard green vegetables, broccoli (cut into small florets) and green beans (chopped)

1 heaping tbs. sour cream

1/2-3/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated or micro-planed (not sure what that’s called)

Kosher salt

1/2 tbs. dried basil OR 1 tbs. fresh basil; again, any herb will do.

Optional: lemon zest, crushed red pepper flakes, flat leafed parsley, scallions

Start by prepping all of your herb and veg. Chop up green beans, onion, herbs, broccoli, and garlic.

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Heat up the oil in a skillet over medium/high heat, add onion and cook for 3 to 6 minutes. Looking for soft and translucent.

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Add the garlic and 1/2 tsp. of dried basil. Cook for a minute or two, stirring often so the garlic doesn’t burn.

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Add the peas..

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Then the spinach. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.

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The spinach/greens will wilt into the peas and onions. Remove from heat.

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Here’s where you control the speed of the recipe, you can start the water at the same time as the onions and multitask like a pro or wait. Boil water for the pasta, add a generous pinch of kosher salt and the pasta when it boils. After 3 minutes, add the hard vegetables to the pot. If you start the pasta at the beginning, don’t forget to add the vegetables. 

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Once the pasta is cooked to al-dente, no longer, save about 1 c. of pasta water and drain. Add the pasta back to the top and return to stove.

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Plop a heaping spoonful of sour cream into the pasta, along with a nice pinch of kosher salt.

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Add in the soft greens.

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Then 1/4-1/2 c. pasta water…

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And 1/2 c. of parmesan cheese.

Here you can add in more basil, fresh herbs, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, season it up! My green version uses more mediterranean basil and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

And stir!

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Cheesy, green, delicious! 🙂

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Asparagus! Add that…

Anne Burrell always says brown food tastes good; I say green food tastes good! 🙂

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Zippy Corn & Zucchini Salad

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My parents are off on a surprise trip to California, leaving me the benefactor of some fine vegetables. I scored big time: mixed greens, scallions, three ears of corn, four tomatoes, a hefty bag of green beans, and a lone zucchini. Since I’m all by my lonesome this eve it just made sense to eat the zucchini (and it was also on its last leg). Mom gave me a great recipe from Rachel Ray for inspiration.. or help.

1 tbs. olive oil

1 ear of corn

1 small zucchini

2 small tomatoes

1 scallion white

1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/4 c. of fresh parsley, loosely packed

1 c. spring greens/arugula/spinach

1 tbs. butter

S&P

Parmesan

Optional: Squeeze of lemon and 1/2 tsp. zest

This recipe takes more time to prep than to cook. At least in my case, I’m a very slow, methodical chopper. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet while you prep, I set the heat to medium/high – your stove may not need to be as hot.

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Begin by slicing the kernels off the cob. Be careful here, watch your fingertips!

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Core the zucchini by slicing it in half lengthwise and cutting out the middle. It will look like a cute zucchini canoe. Cut each half into six rods and cube.

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I used two small tomatoes that I got from my mom, but you could use grape tomatoes and leave them whole. Core and dice the tomatoes. Slice the white of a scallion, save the green for another meal.

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Now we get cookin’! Add the corn to the skillet and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.

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Add the zucchini, sliced scallion white, and red pepper flakes to the skillet. Season with kosher salt and a little pepper (beware of pepper here, the red pepper flakes already add a kick). Cook until softened, about 3 to 5 minutes.

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Add 1 tbs of unsalted butter to the mix, stirring it in. Rachel Ray says stir until its creamy, but I don’t think that is the proper adjective. There is no cream to this mixture IMO. I let the butter stew for a couple minutes before removing the skillet from the heat.

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Toss the salad with the diced tomatoes and a 1/4 cup of chopped parsley. Almost any herb will do here but I always have fresh parsley on hand, the same cannot be said for basil or tarragon. I added a nice squeeze of lemon juice and a little zest here.

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Pour over a small amount of greens, about 1 c., and top with shredded parmesan.

*I couldn’t help using my new wooden bowl for this meal!

The corn and zucchini are the stars here. In fact, skip the greens, grab a paddle, and just shovel the salad into your mouth.

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A perfect, healthy, irresistible meal for one. 🙂

Tomato Tart

It’s such a dreary day outside – rainy and freezing. I wanted to make something for dinner that made me feel all warm inside, but I couldn’t decide between soup or macaroni and cheese. So while I debated, I made a quick appetizer. This tart is gorgeous; the perfect dish to bring a little beauty to a somber day.

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I, of course, forgot to purchase puff pastry as the recipe calls for so I had to get a little crafty. Instead of a flaky puff pastry crust, I made a French tart crust. Which sounds amazing, but upon puff pastry research I found the recipes to be very, very different. Did you know amazing homemade puff pastry takes days to make? That’s why you buy it. To make matters worse, I do not own a tart pan. This stunner was made with a pie plate.

1 sheet of store bought puff pastry, or a random mod – but really, use puff pastry

2 roma tomatoes, sliced thin – any medium tomatoes will work!

Kosher salt

1 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard (with chardonnay – love this stuff)

1/4 tsp. ground pepper

1/4 tsp. rosemary

1/4 tsp. thyme

Squeeze of lemon juice and a few zests

1 tbs. olive oil

Parmesan cheese

Preheat to 450 and move a rack to the bottom of the oven.

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Slice the tomatoes up thin, imperfection is acceptable here. Spread them out in a single layer on paper towel to soak up the juices. Pat the tops with a paper towel, too. Sprinkle the slices with kosher salt.

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Pull out your shell, roll it to 1/4 inch thickness (at most!), and press into your pan. Now if you have a tart pan, this will be a seamless process. If you have a pie pan, you will have to refrain from pressing the dough all the way up the side, just under an inch of height. Spread mustard over crust and poke with holes.

Note: My crust looks ridiculous, but don’t hate. It did its job well – transporting tomatoes into my mouth. Your puff pastry will look gorgeous in comparison.

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Place the tomatoes in the shell in a swirl formation. Start from the outside and work your way in, overlapping the slices, and using the smallest tomatoes for the center.

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Sprinkle the tart with the rosemary, pepper, and dried thyme. Squeeze a little lemon juice over top and zest a few zests over top.

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Drizzle the tart with olive oil, you can eyeball this – just don’t overdo it!

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Grate some parm over the whole tart and pop in the oven for 25 minutes.

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Viola! I ate a very large piece.

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By the way, Amanda came over and we made macaroni and cheese together!

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Yum. 🙂

Tangy Chicken with Shallots

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I think my love for Melissa D’Arabian has been adequately expressed, but in case it isn’t as apparent from the number of recipes I make from her cookbook, hopefully this posting will drive it home. Melissa’s cookbook should be the go-to guide for the college/budget cook. Not only does she give amazing tips on how to shop smart, she shares recipes to use up dying veggies, provides recipe variations, tips on extending the life of your food, and so much more. It is a must for the culinary shelf.

This recipe follows her Chicken Piccata recipe but uses different ingredients.* I followed one of her suggestions and adapted it to fit my pantry.

2 chicken breasts

2 tbs olive oil

S&P

1/4 c. flour

1/2 c. red wine vinegar

1/2 c. water

1 large shallot

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tbs dijon mustard with chardonnay (Melissa uses a grainy mustard)

4 tbs butter

Fresh parsley

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Start by slicing the chicken breasts in half, creating four thin breasts. I made a minor error and wound up with 5, no big. Pat chicken dry and sprinkle both sides with S&P.

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Dredge the chicken in the flour and set aside. Heat up the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.

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Brown the chicken, about 6 minutes per side, and then transfer to a plate. Cover loosely with foil.

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Chop up the shallot and add to the chicken pan with the dried time. Stir constantly so those precious shallots don’t burn! Scrape the brown bits off the pan while you stir.

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Add the red wine vinegar and water to the pan, continuing to scrape the pan for all the sautéed goodness.

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Add the butter and mustard to the pan, stir well and let reduce a little, you want it to be saucy not watery. Taste and adjust with S&P, mustard, or water. I added a bit more than 1 tbs of mustard, this is recommended if you love mustard as much as myself. I also got a little fancy and used pasta water in my sauce.

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Rip up some parsley leaves and throw those in.

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Add the chicken back to the pan and spoon sauce over top. Serve alongside pasta, orzo, or a salad. The sauce is reminiscent of a dressing.

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Huzah! 🙂

*Melissa switches up the veg (shallots & thyme), deglazing liquid (red wine vinegar & water), and finishing touches (mustard & parsley) to create new chicken dishes all the time. Try your own concoction!

Beer, Bacon, and Cheddar Soup

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Last week I picked up a 3 lb bag of taters, forgetting I already had some leftover from my last bag. I will be eating lots of potatoes this week. This soup has no potato in it, but I served it alongside a baked one because of their complementary ingredients. I found this soup on Pinterest and adapted to fit my crafty kitchen. Excuse my weird pictures.

1 c. finely chopped carrot

1 c. finely chopped celery

1 c. finely chopped yellow onion

3 small (1 large) clove of garlic, finely chopped

6 tbs butter (I used unsalted and adjusted seasoning later)

1/4 c. of flour

2 1/2 c. chicken stock (I used homemade stock!)

1 can of Yuengling

4 strips of bacon, cut into small pieces (this is a minimum. use more.)

3/4 c. heavy cream

1 c. cheddar cheese, shredded (sharper the cheddar, stronger the flavor)

1 tsp. ground mustard

1/2 tsp. cajun seasoning (could use cayenne pepper)

This may be the first recipe that doesn’t start by preheating the Enterprise.

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Chop up all the veg. I cried a lot during this process, partially due to my poor chopping skills but mostly because of the onion. I need those glasses Phil has on Modern Family.

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Get the bacon going on a side burner, not the sole large one. Push around the pan until cooked then place bacons on paper towels to drain until needed.

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While the bacon is cooking, melt the butter with the garlic in a large pan over medium heat. I used my dutch oven, but any large pot will do (about 6 c. of soup).

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Once the butter has melted and smells ahmazing, throw in all the veg – carrots, celery, and onion – and some of that bacon fat, mmmm. Let them cook down for about 10 minutes, until they are nice and soft.

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Now add 1/4 c. of flour to the pan and stir constantly for 3 minutes. This is a very quick process, don’t stop stirring! Brian had to take this picture because I couldn’t walk away from the pan. VEGGIE ROUX!

I should mention that it would be handy to have the stock and beer ready and by your side prior to adding the flour.

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Add the liquids, stock and beer, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 40 – 45 minutes.

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Shred some cheese while you wait.

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Turn the heat down to low and stir in the dairy, heavy cream and a cup of cheese; spices, ground mustard and cajun; and bacon!

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Pair with a equally as cheesy and bacony baked potato and enjoy! 🙂

Mexican Breakfast – Huevos Rancheros

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Tonight was a lesson in oven rack placement. I realized that maybe, just maybe, I could prevent my food from burning on the bottom if I move the rack higher in the oven. I know, genius.

I love Mexican food, I love Melissa D’Arabian, and I also love recipes that can easily be scaled to fit the number of people eating, so therefore I love Huevos Rancheros! This recipe is from Ten Dollar Dinners and I hardly strayed, just on cooking time.

I should also mention that I have a beautiful new camera to take pictures. Hopefully my food will jump off the screen now! Thanks, Karl (my camera)!

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2 eggs (could make with only whites)

2 small tortillas

1/4 cup black beans

1 tbs melted butter

1/4 cup of salsa

1/4 cup of Monterrey Jack cheese

S&P

Start by preheating to 400. Cut the tortillas down to fit into the cups, about 5 inch diameter. Spread melted butter and salt on them before pressing into muffin pan.

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Mix the beans and the salsa together with a little S&P, a pinch and a few grinds by my standards. And fill the tortilla cups with the mixture.

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Top each with an egg, or egg white, my cups were a little full – probably should have saved the yolks for a later purpose.

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Put into the oven for about 8 minutes, the Enterprise took about 11. When the egg has barely set, top with the cheese! This is when I thought to move my oven rack, the egg took longer than suggested but my tortilla smelled like it was on the verge, so I popped the pan up a notch in the oven.

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Tent with foil and bake for another 6 to 7 minutes, the Enterprise took 10 to fully melt the cheese.

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Grab both sides of the tortilla and pull the cup out to serve. Yum! A great breakfast idea for Friday! 🙂

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What’s for lunch? Mini Quesadillas!

Well, its that time of year again… meatless Fridays! I haven’t decided what I am giving up for Lent but I have decided that I am going to be on point about veg Fridays. To get Brian on board, I need to incorporate protein. I decided that Fridays will be bean days! I have a pantry stocked with dried beans, waiting for me to experiment with.

In honor of this entrance into beanhood, I am having black bean mini quesadillas for lunch! Adapted this recipe for the Enterprise.

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Cheddar cheese, shredded

Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded

Olive oil

My additional fixin’s:

Grape tomatoes

Sour cream

Cilantro

Black beans, from a can (I have yet to prep my dried beans!)

In a mini skillet, for my mini tortillas, I heated a small amount of olive oil over medium heat. Once the oil heats, drop in a tortilla. Flip it over a couple times until it begins to brown and bubble.

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Then add the cheese and any other veggies you’d like inside the ‘dilla. I chopped up tomatoes and threw in a few black beans. Don’t over fill! Cheese will spill onto the pan and burned cheese smells awful. <<this obviously happened to me in the process.

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Reduce the heat, I didn’t because the Enterprise does not operate on low, and cover the pan. Check every minute or so until the cheese is melted and keep your eye on the bottom of the tortilla so it doesn’t blacken. A little black adds a nice flavor, a lot of black and it becomes a Charred Mini Quesadilla.

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Once the cheese is all gooey, use a spatch to flip half of the quesadilla over (like an omelette). And slide onto your plate!

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Top with sour cream, a little cilantro, MORE tomatoes, onion if you like it, guac if you have it or are willing to sacrifice an avocado (which I was not)! Go ahead and make three. I ate all of them.

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Ole! 🙂

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