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Quick Weeknight Meal: Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

10 Sep

Well hello sarcastic followers! I know, I know. I’ve been MIA again. SO much going on. Weddings, weddings and more weddings. An unscheduled kitchen demo and remodel (another post!), raising new baby chicks and incorporating them into the current flock, gardening, and just life in general has been…hectic. BUT, I’m baaaaaack!

With summer drawing to a close, I was on the hunt for a recipe that would let me use of the last of the fresh basil. I froze a container full to use during the colder months, but still had a nice amount left of the plants that hadn’t been attacked by bugs or started turning brown. Then the the kitchn showed me a way with Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil.  After I read the comments, I made some modifications since there were people saying it lacked flavor. I doubled the lemon juice and zest, didn’t really measure the ricotta (so I’m sure I used more than the 2 cups, probably by about 1/2 cup), and added in garlic. I used an egg pasta for a little bit of a richer taste. The result was a bright, flavorful dish that was like summer in a bowl.

Hubs loved this dish as much as I did. If I were to serve it to a group for dinner, I’d use it as a side with some baked chicken and a salad. It was so quick to put together!

Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil

1 pound small shaped pasta – I used an egg pasta in rolled tube shape

2 1/2 cups whole milk ricotta

1 cup shredded parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 garlic gloves, minced

Juice and zest of 2 lemons

Kosher salt and pepper to taste

¼ cup sliced basil leaves

1 cup reserved pasta water

 

Salt and boil a pot of water large enough to fit  your pasta of choice.

In a large bowl, mix your ricotta, parmesan, lemon juice and zest. Set aside.

Add your olive oil to a pan and heat over medium flame. Once oil is heated, add your minced garlic and cook for 3 minutes, stirring so it does not burn. Add your garlic oil mix to your cheese mix, stirring to combine. Salt and pepper to taste (I went heavier on the pepper for more flavor).

Once pasta is cooked to package directions, drain – reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Add ¼ cup of pasta water to your cheese mixture and stir to combine. Add pasta and basil, stirring to combine. If you would like the sauce to be thinner, add more pasta water until you reach your desired consistency. The heat from the cooked pasta and the pasta water will warm the cheese sauce and make it nice and creamy.

Serve immediately! If you have leftovers, save any leftover pasta water to add to the mixture when reheating. This will keep the sauce creamy and delicious.

 

Spinach and Ricotta lasagna roll ups with Roasted Garlic Butternut Squash Sauce

28 Oct

So, about the title. Ya, that is a mouthful and a half. However, I feel like it all needs to be outlined in the recipe title, because you don’t want to forget critical bits of information. Like the spinach. The fact that it’s not layered lasagna, but lasagna ROLLS. And that there is a sauce of squash, not tomatoes. Oh, and it has roasted garlic in it. One cannot forget about the garlic.

I originally saw this post over at Skinny Taste and thought wow, what an awesome way to get some more veggies into a meal and I happened to have some butternut squash on hand.  It was meant to be. Now, obviously I adapted this recipe so it didn’t turn out quite as healthy and lower fat as hers, but it’s pretty damn amazing. I always use full fat cheeses, and freshly shred my own. Why you ask? Because I don’t like that they have to do something to take the fat out of a food. Plus, the flavor is so much richer with a full fat cheese. Why shred your own cheese? That way I don’t get an extra helping of cellulose fibers (what they use in pre-shredded cheeses to keep them from sticking). It doesn’t take a huge amount of extra time to bust out the box grater and shred some cheese for a recipe.

Since there is some extra prep work to this recipe with the roasting of the squash and garlic, I like to roast the squash/garlic over the weekend and puree the sauce so that this can be a quickly assembled weeknight meal.

If you end up without enough cooking liquid left over after you roast your squash, add in some chicken stock until it reaches your desired consistency. Mine turned out kind of like pumpkin pie mix prior to adding the milk, but after the eggs and sugars are added if that helps to give you a visual. You could totally go thinner if you like, but I wanted it to be a bit thicker.

The flavors of this recipe really work well together, and all the fiber you get from the squash really helps make it a filling dish. I will certainly be making this one again. It was worth the effort of roasting my squash, and the roasted garlic gives the sauce a nice depth of flavor that you just wouldn’t have if it wasn’t part of the recipe.

I hope you enjoy these as much as we do! The photos below do not do it justice. Seriously. Just make it. The hubs only gripe? No meat. So leftovers will be provided with some turkey meatballs. Because they are good too.

squash roll done

Spinach & Ricotta Lasagna Rolls with Roasted Butternut Squash Sauce

Adapted from Skinny Taste

Roasted Garlic Butternut Squash Sauce Ingredients: 

2lb butternut squash, cut in half with seeds removed

1 head garlic, top cut off

¼ cup parmesan cheese

Salt & pepper to taste
Lasagna Roll ingredients:
9 lasagna noodles, cooked and cool enough to touch

1 ½ cups frozen spinach, thawed and drained

30oz ricotta cheese

1/2 cup shredded extra sharp white cheddar cheese

1 egg

½ cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs

¼ cup freeze dried chives

¼ cup parmesan cheese

Salt & Pepper to taste
Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a shallow baking sheet, place your butternut squash halves skin side up. Add 1- ½ cups water to the pan and put in oven. Roast for 40 minutes, or until fork tender.

While your squash is roasting, put your head of garlic in a small oven proof dish, drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkling of kosher salt. Place in the oven with the squash and check on at 20 minutes. Garlic should be fork tender, with the tops of the cloves nice and brown.

Once your squash is cooked and your garlic roasted, let cool enough to handle. Scoop out the flesh from the squash and squeeze roasted garlic cloves into a medium mixing bowl. With an immersion blender, blend until the mixture is smooth. Add in the cooking liquid from your baking sheet, stirring to combine until the mixture resembles a very thick sauce. Stir in parmesan cheese, and season with salt & pepper to your liking. In a 9 x 13 baking dish, spoon a thin layer of the squash sauce, setting the remainder of the sauce aside.

In another clean mixing bowl, add in all of the lasagna roll ingredients, with the exception of the noodles. Stir until combined.

squash roll pre assembly

Lasagna roll assembly:

Lay out a piece of waxed paper to keep noodles from sticking to the counter. Add a layer of the ricotta mixture to the center of the noodle, leaving 1 inch of the noodle end free of the ricotta mixture.

squash roll ricotta mix

 

Roll noodle up and place seam side down into your baking dish. Continue until all noodles are filled.

squash roll sauce

Top noodles with the remainder of the squash sauce, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and cover your pan with foil. Bake in your 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.

Serve immediately, along with some crusty bread and nice big salad.

The DIY Life: Arugula Pesto

22 Oct

So, um, wow. I haven’t blogged for over a month. Now that I’ve had this epiphany, I feel it’s a little ridiculous because I’ve been cooking my ass off making all this from scratch food. Lots of squash type dishes. Complete with photos. And yet, not a blog post to be found for over a month. Damn.

Well folks, don’t you worry your pretty little faces off anymore. I am back. I have recipes out the wazoo. But since it’s been so long, I wanted to start off simple. With a different twist of pesto sauce. Most of the time when you think of pesto, you think of basil, pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan cheese. Which is delicious and simple in its own right. BUT…what if you were to try a pesto made from peppery arugula, mixed with salty parmesan and nutty roasted almonds?!?!?!? Have I blown your mind yet?!?!?!? It’s a simple list of ingredients, and the only other tool you need to make this is a food processor. And like, 5 minutes. Really. I made a bunch of this and froze it into cubes so that I could use it on pizzas, in sauces, or as a cooking medium for chicken. It’s pretty versatile. And tastes wonderful. For reals.

2013-09-07 12.07.28 2013-09-07 12.08.22

Arugula Pesto

7oz bag of arugula

1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Pinch of kosher salt

1/2 cup olive oil

2oz toasted almond slivers * see notes below on how to toast

Add your arugula, cheese, almonds and salt to a food processor and pulse until combined. Depending on the size of your food processor, you may have to add the arugula in batches (I did). Once all of the arugula has been processed, turn the processor on and slowly pour in the olive oil until combined. Use immediately on whatever tickles your fancy, or freeze for later use.

Spoon into ice cube trays and let freeze until solid. To remove cubes. set the ice cube tray in a shallow dish of hot water to loosen up the pesto cubes. Place in a freezer safe bag or container and use as you need to!

Notes:

To toast almonds, put in a dry skillet that has been preheated over a medium flame. Toss around until they start to brown. Let cool completely before adding to food processor.

Quick Dinner – Spinach & Feta Chicken Burgers

29 Apr

We are getting to that time of year when things start to get busier at our house. I’m sure we aren’t the only ones either. Outdoor chores like weeding the flower beds, mowing the grass and planting the garden come into play. With warmer weather also comes more outdoor activities – motorcycle rides, outdoor parties, weddings, graduation parties, camping, bicycle rides. That means less time spent at home, which translates to quick dinner options on the weekdays. I don’t want to be stressing about what to make for dinner, or punk out and make something that is quick, but completely unhealthy. Since I am on the path to healthier eating, I’ve been thinking up meal options that can be whipped up in 30 minutes or less, but are healthy, filling, and taste great. These burgers fit that bill. You get a burst of nutrient rich veggies from the spinach mixed into the burger, plus the addition of using more baby spinach in place of lettuce. The chicken is packed with protein but lower in fat than your traditional beef options, and frankly more flavorful than ground turkey. The feta cheese adds some dairy, and eliminates the need for additional salt since it helps flavor the meat. I used olive oil mayo that I spiced up with some wasabi sauce, giving the burger a little zing. It complimented the burger very well! Ciabatta rolls were a lovely change of pace from traditional burger buns, and could actually be skipped completely if you are looking to limit your intake of carbs, serving it over a bed of baby spinach with a little smear of the wasabi mayo. We enjoyed these with a large serving of garden salad, and it was delicious!

spinach & feta chicken burgers

Spinach & Feta Chicken Burgers

makes 4  1/4lb burgers 

1lb ground chicken

4oz feta cheese crumbles

1 1/2 cups baby spinach, torn into smaller pieces

1 small shallot, minced

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine all of your ingredients in a bowl, and form into 4 1/4lb burger patties. Pan fry – no additional oil – or grill until cooked all the way through, 10-15 minutes. Serve on toasted ciabatta bread with baby spinach and wasabi mayo. Serve with a garden salad for a light and healthy dinner! Also great for lunch!

Healthy Meal Idea – Spinach & Bacon with White Beans

22 Apr

I’ve been on a blog hiatus recently. Not because I’ve been overly busy or anything. More like I’ve been trying to enjoy the lovely weather when it comes about. Catching up on some spring cleaning chores like cleaning out the chicken coop and run. Trying out new recipes, and revisiting old ones. I am always on a mission for easy, healthy, simple and QUICK meal ideas. Have you ever noticed that most of the easy meals tend to be unhealthy because you are either eating a premade meal made who knows when, preckaged stuff that has so many preservatives you feel almost pickled after, or it’s laden with fat to compensate for flavor? Blech. Enter in the Spinach & Bacon with White Beans. It’s fast. It’s tasty. It’s healthy. It’s LOW FAT. Even with the butter and bacon. Ya, that’s right. But it’s REAL butter. Not margarine. Not anything that’s 1 step away from being plastic. If you are going to ingest a fat, make it a natural one. BUTTER people. BUTTER. Say it with me….BUTTER. End rant.

Anyways, back to this meal. It’s filling. Because of the beans. That’s a lot of fiber. Good for you, keep you full fiber. It was delicious. No added salt or pepper was needed. I used precooked bacon because it’s quick, and it’s lower in fat and calories, and we always have some on hand. Don’t feel like you HAVE to. Don’t feel like you have to use bacon either – you could use some chopped country ham, prosciutto, salami. Whatever. And you can mix up the greens too – collard greens, mustard greens, kale. I just had a big ass container of spinach, which I happen to love, and wanted to use it up. Boy, I’m glad I whipped this up. I think hubs wished I made a double batch. He wanted more. So, I guess I should say this would serve 2 as a lunch sized portion. Double the recipe if you’ve got a big meal eating man in your life. Next time I make it I think I’ll cook up an egg over easy and top the greens & beans with that. And a little parmesan. Wow. I want that right now.

Spinach & Bacon with White Beans

Serves 4 as a side, 2 as a meal

Ingredients

1 pound fresh organic baby spinach

6 garlic cloves, minced

8 pieces pre cooked bacon, chopped

2 cans Great Northern or Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon REAL butter

shaved parmesan

Add butter to a large skillet, letting melt. Add in your garlic and bacon, cooking until bacon is crisp and garlic is starting to get a little crispy looking – about 3 minutes. Add your beans, tossing to coat with the bacon garlic butter mix. Keep tossing until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add your spinach, in batches if necessary, stirring the mixture around to let the spinach wilt and cook through.

Serve immediately, and sprinkle with some shaved parmesan cheese for an extra hit of flavor!

Hearty meal idea – Spinach and Ricotta Quiche with Savory Chive Crust

24 Sep

Breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner, you can’t go wrong with Quiche. It can be a hearty and filling meal addition. For breakfast or brunch, it’s great served with some fruit and a few slices of bacon. Add a salad and you have a lunch or dinner option.

With our chickens laying between 4-7 eggs (plus the duck laying almost every day too!), we are ending up with a huge vast amount of eggs – as of this morning, we have 52 eggs – before todays offering from the ladies. For a household of 2, even with our love of eggs, that’s a lot to eat up. What better way to use up some of that egg surplus than quiche! You COULD make this a crustless version (just skip the part about the crust and follow the balance of the directions) but it’s pretty tasty so I don’t know WHY would actually WANT to.

I whipped this up over the weekend so that I could have something tasty to heat up for breakfast during the work week. This would also do well in the freezer to save for when you have unexpected breakfast guests or need something to take to a pot luck. Just partially bake it (in an aluminum pan, you do not want to use ceramic as the frozen to hot oven will most likely break your dish)- 20 minutes in the 375 degree oven, remove and let cool to room temp. Freeze with a double layer of saran. To finish cooking, remove from the freezer and place in your preheated 375 degree oven, cooking for 30-40 minutes until center is set.

Spinach and Ricotta Quiche with Savory Chive Crust

serves 6

Seasoned with Sarcasm Original

1 Chive Pate Brisee (recipe below)

2 cups frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid

1/2 cup milk

1 cup ricotta cheese

4 eggs

3/4 cup freshly chopped cheddar cheese

kosher salt & pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray your 9″ pie pan with non stick cooking spray. Roll out your Chive Pate Brisee and place in your prepared pie plate. Press down the edges and trip off any excess crust. I did a rough edge for my Quiche, but you can pretty yours up if you like. Puncture the base of the crust with a fork.

Add your spinach to your crust, distributing evenly. Sprinkle the spinach with your chopped cheddar cheese.

In a small bowl, add your eggs, milk and ricotta cheese, whisking to combine. Pour your egg mixture over the spinach & cheese. Season with kosher salt & pepper.

Place your Quiche into your preheated oven, cooking for 40-45 minutes, until center is only slightly jiggly.

Remove from oven and let sit for 10 -15 minutes to finish setting the Quiche. Serve hot. Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers.

Chive Pate Brisee

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Yield: 1 pie crust for single 9″ pie

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chives – fresh or dehydrated
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 stick butter, cut into cubes
  • 3 tablespoons ice water, more if needed

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt and chives, pulsing a few times to combine. Drop your cubes of butter into the flour mixture, and pulse until the dough resembles a dry coarse crumb.

Turn your food processor on and slowly add the ice water through the feed tube in a steady stream just until the mixture starts to come together. If dough appears to still be crumbly, add more ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Turn dough out onto a piece of saran wrap, press together into a flat disc and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. You can also freeze the dough, double wrapping in saran.

Bake according to directions for your recipe.

 

Grilled Romaine Salad with Grilled Buttery Garlic Baguette

27 Aug

Too much of anything for me ends with me getting sick of said thing. With certain exceptions: bread, eggs, and salad. We have salad with every meal. On those rare occasions when I am out of salad stuff, it feels like there is this huge void because there is no salad. Dinner is a downer, no matter how wonderful when salad is missing. Ok, not REALLY a downer, but still. A critical piece of the meal is missing.

With the summer days having been so very hot and the hubs on a mission to lose weight, he had started requesting just a big salad for dinner. Well, sweet. I can lose weight too AND save oodles of time on dinner prep by tossing together a salad! Woo hoo!!!

So, one day I found myself with some beefy romaine lettuce heads. Hmmm…seeing as how this is not my most favorite type of lettuce, I decided to help make it more palatable to me, I’d get wild and grill it. Grilling salad is no new thing, but I think we tend to forget about this option when prepping our meals. We put everything else on the grill, why not our salad too? Now, the thought of eating a grilled iceberg lettuce or grilled field green salad sounds rather gross to me. But romaine is nice and sturdy. It can handle the heat. That char that some of the leafy tops get just adds a lovely depth of flavor.

Now, since this is a grilled salad, meaning it will be warm when served, I wanted any additional ingredients to also be grilled and warm. So I grilled up the green onions. I even cut a couple of tomatoes in half and grilled them too. And the bread, oh the bread. Grilled to perfection with a lovely hint of garlic. I could eat a whole baguette of this stuff by myself. As it stands, I ate 1/4 of a baguette and forced myself from going back.

This recipe can easily be double, tripled, quadrupled to serve multiple dinner guests. The recipe below is enough to serve 2 as a side salad, or 1 as a dinner salad. I have already asked hubs to keep a path cleared to the grill when it starts to snow because this has rather quickly become my new favorite salad. I use my Creamy Italian Dressing with it, but you can use whatever you like. I wouldn’t go for any soft cheeses though as they will get melted and stuck together from the warmth of the salad. Harder cheeses are key. As is simplicity, which is why there are so few ingredients. Sometimes it’s nice to have a dinner that you don’t have to think too hard about or do tons of prep work. Enjoy!

Grilled Romaine Salad with Grilled Buttery Garlic Baguette

Serves 2 as a side, 1 as a main

1 head romaine lettuce, rinsed dried and sliced in half lengthwise

6 green onions, roots and green tops trimmed

1 clove garlic, cut in half

1/2 loaf baguette bread, cut in half lengthwise

shaved parmesan cheese for sprinkling

butter

olive oil

kosher salt

Preheat your grill so the grill plates are nice and hot. While the grill is heating up, drizzle olive oil over your green onions and romaine lettuce halves. Sprinkle with kosher salt.

Take the garlic clove halves and rub them all over both pieces of the baguette, tops and bottoms. Smear a little butter on the tops of each baguette half and sprinkle with some kosher salt.

Place your lettuce and bread halves cut side down on the hot grill along with your green onions. Let cook about 5 minutes or until the lettuce starts to get nice and browned and flip both the lettuce and the bread. Check your onions, once grill marks appear and onions start to get soft, flip them. Cook for about 5 more minutes. Remove everything from the grill.

Transfer the lettuce and green onions to a cutting board, and using a sharp knife, roughly chop everything into bite size pieces. Place in a bowl, sprinkling top of salad with shaved parmesan. Add dressing and toss to coat.

Serve with the grilled baguette and enjoy!