Orzo, Kale, and Spinach Salad

Orzo Salad 1

This is a great summer salad that goes well with any backyard barbeque or potluck. It’s perfect to make ahead because the kale and spinach are hearty greens that hold up well with dressing. In fact, I think it tastes even better the next day.  I made it to go with my Mediterranean grilled meatballs…that recipe is on the way soon! It would also make a great weeknight dinner with a little grilled chicken on top.

There are a few things that make this dish stand out. The bold flavors of the sun dried tomatoes, olives, and feta really make this salad. I like to buy olives from my grocery store’s olive bar so I can get a couple of different types. It’s nice to be able to buy exactly as much as you need, too.  A really good feta also makes a difference.

I love Pastures of Eden which is sold at my local Trader Joe’s. It’s an imported sheep’s milk feta and it is mellow and delicious. Even my husband likes it and he is not a big fan of feta cheese.

This recipe really feeds a crowd. We served it to company and had leftovers for lunch…yum! You can cut it in half or just use less pasta if you don’t need as much. It keeps really well for a few days in the fridge. I promise you, if you serve this salad at your next summer gathering…your family and friends will think you are a culinary genius!

Orzo Salad 2

Orzo, Kale, and Spinach Salad

Serves 8 – 10

Orzo, Kale, and Spinach Salad Printable Recipe Link

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 1 lb of orzo pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • one bunch of dinosaur kale (also called Lacinato or Tuscan kale), ribs removed and chopped
  • 12 ounces baby spinach, chopped
  • one red bell pepper, diced
  • 3/4 cup of assorted olives of your choice (I used a combo of green and kalamata), sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes (I like the kind in olive oil)
  • handful of fresh basil leaves, sliced thin
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup of toasted pine nuts

Lemon Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil

Directions:

Make the lemon vinaigrette first by combining all of the ingredients and mixing well. Slowly whisking in the olive oil at the end makes for a nicely emulsified dressing that won’t separate. But…you can always throw everything in a small mason jar and shake it really well! Just remember to shake it again before dressing your salad.

Cook the orzo in a large pot of salted boiling water until it is just al dente. I like to cook it just a minute less than it needs so that it still has a little bite once it has absorbed the dressing. Drain the orzo, add it to a large salad bowl, and toss it with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil so that it does not stick together. Let it cool down to room temp. Add the rest of the ingredients and the dressing and mix well. I like to save a little cheese and some pine nuts to sprinkle over the top before I serve it.

Advertisements

Mostaccioli with Roasted Cauliflower, Cannellini Beans, and Bacon

IMG_1985This dinner came out of one of THOSE nights. You know, the kind where you haven’t planned ahead. All of a sudden it’s 6:00 PM and you are scrounging in the fridge and pantry hoping to come up with something to feed the hungry mob that is your family. Luckily, I found the ingredients to put this together and it was a big hit with the Hubs and the boys. AND it was on the table pretty darn quick.

IMG_1975If you haven’t roasted cauliflower yet, you must try it. It might even turn an a cauliflower hater into a cauliflower lover (or at least liker). A while back I was at a friends house for dinner and she offered my son some cauliflower. He asked, “Is it roasted? I only like my cauliflower roasted”. My sweet little food snob…I was a little embarrassed but also a little proud.

All you need for yummy roasted veggies is a cookie sheet, olive oil, salt and pepper, and a hot oven. I  like to line my cookie sheet with foil so I can just toss it and have one less thing to wash.

IMG_1986I always have several varieties of canned beans in the pantry. I add beans to pasta a lot for a dose of fiber and some protein. Plus they are delicious! The bacon adds a lot to this, and you don’t need to use that much for a big flavor boost. 

IMG_1980

Mostaccioli with Roasted Cauliflower, Cannellini Beans, and Bacon

Click here for a printable recipe

Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
  • 1 large head of cauliflower – washed, cored, and cut into small florets
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 pound of mostaccioli pasta
  • 6 strips of bacon
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic – minced
  • 1 can of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • a couple shakes of red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup of fresh chopped parsley
  • fresh grated parmesan or romano cheese for serving

Directions:

Pre heat oven to 425 degrees. Once your cauliflower florets are washed and dried, put them on a cookie sheet and drizzle them with olive oil (be generous – about 2-3 tablespoons). Toss them around to coat then sprinkle on some kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Roast for about 15 minutes, giving them a stir once or twice, or until golden and tender. Line another cookie sheet with foil and cook your bacon slices at the same time as the cauliflower. Keep an eye on it, it should take about 10 – 15 minutes to cook. When the bacon is done to your liking, drain on paper towels and chop or crumble into small pieces.

While your cauliflower and bacon cook, bring a large pot of salted water to boil for your pasta and cook until al dente (about 10 minutes). Drain the pasta and reserve about a cup of the cooking water.

In a small pan, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-low heat and saute your garlic for about 5 minutes while the pasta is cooking. Stir frequently so it doesn’t burn. Add your rinsed and drained beans, the red pepper flakes, season well with salt and pepper (it’s OK to over season this a bit, it’s going to flavor a whole pound of pasta), and cook for about 5 more minutes.  Add a splash of pasta water (about 1/2 cup) to the pan before turning off the heat. This will make a little “sauce” to help moisten the pasta.

In a large serving bowl, combine your cooked pasta, the sauteed garlic and beans, the roasted cauliflower, the chopped parsley and bacon. Add a little more of the reserved pasta water if it seems dry and toss well to combine. Add more salt and pepper if necessary and drizzle the top with a little more olive oil (use the good stuff at this point, if you have it). Serve topped with fresh grated cheese.

 


Fast…Fresh…And Delicious!

Potato Gnocchi with Farmer’s Market Vegetables

I took a trip to my local San Clemente Farmer’s Market today with my boys. I was hoping to be inspired to make something delicious for dinner. I don’t usually need much help coming up with something to make for a fall Sunday dinner, but it is still a little warm out for a big pot of soup or chili. I am seriously ready for some cool fall weather!

So..after perusing the veggies and fruits and letting my boys have a honey stick, we came home with some fresh gnocchi from a local pasta company and some green beans, zucchini, tomatoes and herbs. Once I got home, my little package of gnocchi actually looked kinda small for our hungry family of four (it was 8 ounces, and we usually eat close to a pound of pasta). Luckily I had a ton of veggies so I ended up with a nice platter of food. I also threw in a can of cannellini beans that I found in the pantry to add a little protein.

This dinner was a hit with the Hubs and the mini food critics. There were a couple of groans about the green beans from my youngest, but overall he liked it.

I blanched the green beans (put them in boiling salted water for just a few minutes, then into an ice bath to stop the cooking). I sauteed some shallots, garlic, and the zucchini in a little butter and olive oil.

One of the benefits of this warm weather that is lingering far too long for my taste is that we still have lovely tomatoes available at the farmer’s market. Our garden tomato plants are done for the season…but I can still enjoy the fruits of somebody else’s  labor!

This really was a simple dinner that was bursting with flavors from the herbs and veggies. Fresh grated pecorino romano on top made the dish. If you can’t find fresh gnocchi, you can get the vacuum packed kind in the pasta section of the grocery store. You could also try to make it from scratch if you happen to have a BUNCH of extra time on your hands 🙂

Gnocchi with Veggies and Cannellini Beans

Ingredients:

  • 8-12 ounces of Fresh or vacuume packed gnocchi
  • 6 ounces of fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 tablspoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 small shallots, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 small zucchini, quartered and cut into quarter inch pieces
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • salt and pepper…duh
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme
  • 1/4 cup of half and half
  • handful of fresh basil, cut into thin strips (chiffonade)
  • handful of fresh italian parsley, chopped
  • Fresh grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

This meal comes together really quickly once you have done your prep work. Make sure you have all of your veggies and herbs prepped and ready before you start cooking your gnocchi.

First you will need to blanch your green beans in boiling water for just a few minutes or until crisp tender. Put them in an ice bath the stop the cooking and keep their bright green color, then drain and set aside.

Next…heat a large pot of salted water to boiling and cook your gnocchi for about 2-3 minutes or until it floats to the top (you will need to cook longer if it is not fresh). Once the gnocchi is done, remove them from the water with a slotted spoon onto a plate covered with paper towels so they dry a bit.

Meanwhile, heat a large non-stick skillet with the olive oil and butter and add the shallots. Cook them for about 5 minutes then add the garlic and cook for a couple minutes longer. Next add the zucchini, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 3 minutes. Then add the blanched green beans, tomatoes, cannellini beans, gnocchi and thyme, season again and cook for a couple minutes more so the tomatoes soften a bit and the gnocchi is heated through. Add the half and half and mix well to coat all of the veggies and gnocchi.

Turn off the heat and mix in the fresh parsley and basil. Add more salt and pepper if it needs it (you will need more salt than you think in this dish). Top with plenty of fresh grated cheese and serve.


Sunday Dinner Comfort Food

Orecchiette Carbonara with Peas and Bacon

I know it’s already Monday… but this delicious pasta was our Sunday dinner. I just couldn’t find the time to sit down at the computer and get this post out before now. I feel like Sunday dinner should always be comfort food of some kind. I find pasta to be VERY comforting! Especially if you add bacon, eggs, and cheese to it.  Somehow I rationalize a more indulgent dinner on Sundays. Calories and fat don’t really count at Sunday Dinner…do they? 🙂

Orecchiette means “little ears” in Italian. It is one of my favorite pasta shapes and has a great texture. De Cecco is my favorite brand of orecchiette.

This pasta starts with some sauteed leeks. I love leeks, especially after they have been sauteed in a little bacon fat! Leeks offer great flavor that is different from onions. They are sweeter and milder. Just be sure you wash them well – they can be really dirty. I like to cut the tops off (you only use the white/light green part) and cut the leek in half lengthwise. Then you can run it under cold water and get the dirt out of all the layers.

I cook my bacon on a rimmed baking sheet lined in aluminum foil. I think it is the easiest (and cleanest) way to cook bacon. It takes about 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven. It comes out great with no turning, and you can toss out the foil (carefully) with no greasy pan to wash. In this recipe, I used about a tablespoon of the bacon fat to saute the leeks…yum!

Because there are not too many ingredients in this recipe, make sure the cheese you use is a good fresh grated Parmesan. It really does make a difference.

The sauce is so simple in a carbonara…just good fresh eggs, a little half and half, parmesean cheese, and some salt and fresh ground pepper. A little of the hot pasta water gets whisked in slowly and helps to “cook” the eggs.

Every thing is a better with a little fresh parsly…right?I  sauteed a little panko breadcrumbs in some butter for a little crunch on top of the pasta. I don’t think that is a traditional carbonara thing, but it was a delicious addition!

Orecchiette Carbonara

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 10 slices of good quality bacon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium leeks, white + pale green parts only, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups frozen peas, thawed
  • 12 oz orecchiette pasta (about 3/4 of a box of pasta)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper…duh
  1. Cook bacon until crisp (either in a skillet or in the oven like I mentioned above). Transfer the cooked bacon to a paper towel to drain, and set aside. Reserve 1 tbsp of the bacon fat to saute the leeks in. Once the bacon is cool, break it into small pieces.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and reserved tablespoon of bacon fat over medium/low heat and add the leeks. Season with salt and pepper and saute for about 15 minutes or until soft and lightly browned. Add the garlic and saute for a few more minutes. Add the peas, cook for 5 more minutes, then turn off the heat until you are ready to add the pasta.
  3. In a small skillet, melt the butter and add the panko bread crumbs. Season with salt and pepper and cook over low heat until lightly toasted and crunchy. Set aside to top pasta.
  4. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling WELL SALTED water until just tender – check package directions for time. Just before pasta finishes cooking, remove 1 cup of the pasta water with a ladle and set aside.
  5. While the pasta cooks, whisk the eggs, Parmesan, half & half, one teaspoon of kosher salt and some fresh ground pepper together in a medium bowl (I used a pyrex measuring cup). Slowly add 1/2 of the reserved pasta water a little at a time to the eggs while whisking well to blend.
  6. When the pasta is done, drain well and add it to the skillet with the leeks. Turn on the heat to medium/low and add the egg mixture to the pasta. Mix well making sure all of the pasta is coated. Cook for about 2 minutes stiring constantly so the egg cooks evenly, but stays creamy. If your pasta is too dry, you can add some of the reserved pasta cooking water and mix well.
  7. Stir in the bacon and parsley. Taste to see if you need any additional salt or pepper before serving.
  8. Serve topped with additional Parmesan cheese and toasted panko breadcrumbs.


Lasagna with Heirloom Tomatoes, Spinach and Kale

Lasagna in the summer?

I don’t usually think of making lasagna in the summer, but I’m still trying to find ways to use up our delicious home grown heirloom tomatoes. When you add a couple layers of these juicy slices of heaven, suddenly lasagna is transformed into a summer dish! I love making a dinner that I can do early in the day (before it gets too hot to be cooking!) and pop in the oven when I am ready. That means less racing to get dinner done and more wine sipping and magazine reading during the pre-dinner hour. I also love that lasagna almost always means left overs!

I added a ton of greens (kale and spinach) and some mushrooms to this lasagna. I found baby kale at the market that is already washed and ready to eat…less prep work! I also used fresh lasagna noodles…no boiling first! You can use regular noodles and par-boil them first or use no-boil noodles as well. My other time saver is a store bought marinara. Just look for one that doesn’t have a bunch of junk in it (like Prego & Ragu do).

When it comes to the greens, you can sauté them as is (especially if you can find washed and trimmed kale), or you can chop them like I do. I do them in batches in the food processor (just pulse until roughly chopped). My kids are o.k. with greens if they are chopped really small. It’s an extra step that you don’t need to take if everyone in your house loves the greens. You can also go with all spinach if you aren’t a fan of kale (which would just be crazy :)).

I could not live without my food processor!

I love the earthy flavor that you get from mushrooms!

The spinach and kale sauteed with onion and garlic. It seems like a lot when you start out, but they cook down quite a bit.

A layer of sauce goes on top of the olive oil in the bottom of your baking dish.

Then a layer of lasagna noodles and a layer of the ricotta cheese mixture.

Next goes the greens and mushrooms mixture topped with sliced tomatoes.

The finished product topped with a final layer of noodles, sauce, and cheese.

This dinner was a really big hit with all of my boys (the little ones and the Hubs!). They were claiming the left overs before the dinner was even finished!

Lasagna with Heirloom Tomatoes, Spinach and Kale

Ingredients:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 8 ounce package of mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped small
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 ounce package of baby spinach
  • 5 ounce package of baby kale OR one bunch of kale, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 4 cups of store bough or home made marinara sauce
  • 3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  •  1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup of fresh Italian parsley, chopped fine
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped fine
  • 8 ounces of fresh mozzerella cheese, drained, patted dry and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups of grated mozzerella cheese
  • 4-5 (depending on size) assorted heirloom tomatoes, sliced
  • 8 ounces of fresh lasagna noodles (if using dried pasta, par-boil first)
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper

Optional: Pulse spinach and kale in a food processor until chopped small (not as small as you would do for pesto, more of a rough chop).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Add a couple turns of olive oil to a medium pan and saute mushrooms with a pinch of salt and some pepper over medium/high heat to brown. Once they have released their liquid and browned (best way to do this is not to mess with them too much), remove them from the pan and set aside to cool. Add a little more olive oil and saute the onion for about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Turn up the heat and add the greens (either as-is or chopped)  and some salt and pepper to the pan and stir to evenly wilt and cook off some of the liquid (about 3-5 minutes). Once the greens are done, add the mushrooms back to the pan and mix to combine. Taste to make sure it is all well seasoned and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan, beaten egg, chopped parsley and basil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and some fresh ground pepper and set aside.

Now you are ready to assemble. In a large baking dish (I use a deep 9×13 lasagna pan), drizzle a little olive oil (about  3 tablespoons) on the bottom. Next add 1/3 of the marinara sauce followed by a layer of noodles. Spread 1/2 of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles followed by 1/2 of the greens/mushroom mix. Next add a layer of sliced tomatoes, then 1/2 of the fresh mozzarella (you will not have enough to fill the pan, just space it out), and 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella. Top off with another 1/3 of the sauce. Repeat with a layer of noodles, ricotta mixture, greens/mushrooms, sliced tomatoes, fresh and shredded mozzarella, and another 1/3 of the sauce. Finish with the last of the noodles, the last of the sauce, and top with the rest of the shredded mozzarella and the rest of the Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake immediately for about 45 minutes (uncover for the last 10 minutes), or refrigerate until ready to bake.


Garden Tomatoes & My Heirloom Tomato Pasta

Serious Tomato Heaven!!

After many trials and tribulations, my husband has successfully grown some heirloom tomatoes. It was way more work (blood, sweat, tears and a few choice words), than he thought it would be…but WELL worth it! If you haven’t had a home-grown tomato, whether it be from your garden, a friend’s, or the farmer’s market, you really don’t know what at tomato is supposed to taste like. These little wonders are the JUICIEST of Bites!

We have a nice variety and they are all so delicious. We ordered our plants from Laurel’s Heirloom Tomato Plants in Lomita, CA. She has an amazing selection of organic heirloom tomatoes and they came shipped to us carefully nested in a box in perfect condition at the beginning of Spring. She has also helped my husband with a lot of his questions on what to do about pests and other issues that can be a problem when you grow tomatoes. He found the biggest caterpillar I have ever seen munching on his leaves. We lovingly named him Phatapilla, and found him a home far away from the tomato plants. Here is a run down of what we are growing…

Paul Robeson…Laurel’s favorite (from Laurel’s Heirloom Tomatoes)

Green Zebra…sweet and tangy. My son Max’s favorite.

These little guys are to die for. So sweet!

Our backyard garden. I take NO credit for this…It’s all my hubby. I’m so proud of his first crop!

These tomatoes are so tasty sliced up with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt & pepper. I made a pasta dinner with them last night and they were definitely the star of the dish. Heirlooms aren’t the tomato you would want to make a sauce with. I think their flavor shines the most when they are left uncooked. For this super simple summer dinner all I did was chop up a few of the tomatoes (cut the little cherries in half) and “marinate” them in some really good olive oil with a little minced garlic, chopped basil and Italian parsley, kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper. The tomatoes give off some of their juices and create the most delicious sauce to toss your warm pasta in. Top that with some shaved aged Parmigiano-Reggiano…absolute heaven. I seriously could eat that pasta every day. Amazing flavor and so simple.

Heirloom Tomato Spaghetti

Serves 4 (with a little left over if you are lucky)

Ingredients:

  • combination of heirloom tomatoes – about 4 medium-large tomatoes mixed with some cherry tomatoes (I ended up with about 4 cups of chopped tomatoes)
  • 1/2 cup of good olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of chopped basil
  • 1/4 cup of chopped parsley
  • 2-3 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 pound thin spaghetti
  • Parmesan or Romano for serving

Roughly chop the bigger heirlooms and cut small tomatoes in half. Be careful to save any juice that they give off onto the cutting board. Combine the tomatoes, olive oil, basil, parsley, garlic and salt & pepper in a large bowl. Mix well and cover with plastic wrap for at least 30 minutes (mine sat for about 45 min). In a large pot of well salted boiling water, cook your spaghetti until al-dente. Before you drain, reserve a little of the pasta water. Drain and toss with the tomatoes. If it is a little dry, you can add some of your reserved pasta water. Taste for seasoning…you may need more salt and pepper. 

Serve with freshly shaved cheese and extra chopped basil.

Do you have a favorite heirloom tomato? Or how about a recipe that uses them? Would love to hear from you!


Sunday Dinner

Spaghetti Bolognese

Long time no post! Sorry for neglecting my blogging duties, I have been having a little too much summer fun. I plan on catching up this week, so sorry in advance if you get a lot of Juicy Bites in your in box. We had a fun and busy weekend and I wanted to finish it off with a nice family dinner yesterday. The kind where we actually eat at the dining room table and I light the candles. It was a really nice mellow end to a fun summer weekend.

To me, a Sunday dinner is all about comfort food. One of my family’s favorite comfort foods is spaghetti with a good meat sauce. For this Sunday dinner, I decided to go with a bolognese sauce instead of my usual meat sauce. Bolognese is thicker, meatier, and richer than a basic meat sauce. It’s usually a combo of beef, veal, and pork and is finished with milk or cream. It’s more of an Italian “stew” than a sauce. I searched around and settled on this recipe from Emeril Lagasse. I stuck pretty close to his, with just a couple of changes.

With any Italian dish that calls for tomatoes, you want to make sure that you use a good brand. This is one that I like…

This recipe starts with some diced pancetta or bacon. I used bacon because it’s what I had on hand. After you crisp up the bacon, you saute a mix of onions, carrots, and celery in the rendered bacon fat (YUM!).

This dish does have a lot of steps, but once they are done you can just let it simmer and smell your whole house up with deliciousness.

Don’t forget crusty bread…or good wine. In this case, a fabulous Zinfandel from Orin Swift called “The Prisoner”.

Spaghetti Bolognese

This recipe serves 8 (with 2 pounds of pasta) or 4-6 with one pound and left over sauce to save/freeze.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 ounces bacon or  pancetta, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (one medium onion)
  • 3/4 cup diced carrots
  • 3/4 cup diced celery
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (fresh if you have it)
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1  28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup beef  broth
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup half and half or whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • freshly grated Parmesan for serving

Directions

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon or pancetta and cook, stirring, until browned and the fat is rendered, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the beef, pork, and veal, and cook, stirring, until no longer pink, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, to deglaze the pan and remove any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan, and until half of the liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes.

Add the can of crushed tomatoes, beef broth, and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer (uncovered), stirring occasionally, to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the sauce is thickened and flavorful, about 1 1/2 hours. Add the half and half or milk, stir well and simmer for a couple more minutes. Discard the bay leaves and taste for seasoning, you may need a little more salt depending on the type of broth that you use. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and return the water to a low boil. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the noodles from sticking, until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes, then drain put back in the pot or in a serving bowl.

Add a cup or 2 of the sauce to the pasta, tossing to coat. Top with chopped parsley and serve with extra sauce and cheese.


Asian Noodle and Veggie Stir Fry

This yummy dish is made with whole wheat noodles and packed with veggies. There is a bit of prep work involved…lots of chopping, but the meal is very simple to prepare. The stir fry sauce adds a great tangy, sweet, and spicy flavor to the noodles and veggies. Below is all the ingredients I used to make my stir fry sauce.

I used a whole wheat linguini pasta from Barilla.

And lots and lots of veggies…

Yummy baby bok choy…

Thinly sliced napa cabbage. Don’t worry if it seems like way too much…it cooks down to a small amount

I love edamame!

Fresh and flavorful cilantro…

Asian Noodle and Veggie Stir Fry

Ingredients:

Stir Fry Sauce

  • 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Asian Chili Paste (like Sambal Oelek)
  • 1 Tbsp. fish sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce

Mix all ingredients together in a small sauce pan and simmer until it has been reduced and thickened, about 15 minutes. This can be adjusted to your taste…add more chile paste if you like it spicier, a little more soy if you want it saltier. Set aside while you make stir fry.

Stir Fry

  • 1 pound of whole wheat linguini noodles
  • vegetable oil
  • 8 ounces of mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 red bell pepper cut into strips
  • 2 carrots cut into small strips or a couple of handfuls of packaged match stick carrots
  • 2 small baby bok choy sliced thin
  • 1 small head of napa cabbage sliced thin
  • 1 bunch scallions chopped small
  • 1  1/2 cups of shelled and cooked soy beans
  • 1 cup of fresh chopped cilantro
  • toasted sesame seeds to garnish

Cook the linguini in a large pot of salted water according to the package directions. When the pasta is cooked to al dente, drain and rinse in cold water. In a large frying pan or wok, heat a couple of turns of vegetable oil and once the pan is nice and hot, add the mushrooms, peppers and carrots and saute for a few minutes. Next add the bok choy and cabbage and cook until the cabbage is tender, about 3 minutes. Last add the cooked pasta, soy beans, scallions and stir fry sauce and turn the noodles in the pan until they are all coated in the sauce and heated through, just a minute or two. Turn off the heat and add the cilantro. Serve topped with sesame seeds.

My food critics loved this dinner and both of my boys demanded it for lunch the next day. Finn’s version was edited a bit…no peppers or mushrooms. Max, of course, loved everything about it. My husband was out of town for this one…which was probably good because otherwise I don’t think there would have been enough for both of them to take to school the next day.

 

 

 


Spinach and Broccoli Lasagna

I LOVE lasagna. I don’t necessarily love making it…but this one was definitely worth the effort. I did a veggie lasagna with a ton of spinach, broccoli, and artichoke hearts. I was a hit with my boys. I guess when you smother your spinach and broccoli in a creamy ricotta cheese that has been blended with basil, parsley, pine nuts and garlic…it tastes pretty darn good. I used regular lasagna noodles (the kind you have to boil) because that’s what I had. In my opinion, they are much tastier then the no-boil kind because they are thicker and have a better “bite” to them. It’s an extra step, so if you want to save time you can go the no-boil route. I also used a jarred sauce…too many other steps going on to make my own. I used the “Rao’s” brand sauce that I like. It’s several steps above something like Prego or Ragu.

Spinach that I chopped in the food processor

Chopped Broccoli

Ricotta Cheese blended with basil, parsley and pine nuts

Spinach and Broccoli Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 1 package lasagna noodles
  • 1  32 ounce jar of marinara sauce or 4 cups of home-made sauce
  • 12 ounces of washed baby spinach (about 6 cups)
  • 1  12 ounce bag of broccoli florets
  • 3 cups of ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  •  2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 can of artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
  • a few shakes of red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • kosher salt and pepper

Pre-heat oven to 375

Boil your lasagna noodles in a large pot of well salted water. My box said 12 minutes to “al dente” and I cooked them for about 7 minutes. You want them way under cooked because they will finish in the oven. While you cook your noodles, roughly chop the broccoli and set aside. In a food processor, pulse the spinach (you will need to do this in batches) until it is all chopped. You don’t want it fine like pesto, just a rough chop. Remove from the food processor and set aside.  Add your basil, parsley, toasted pine nuts, 1/2 cup of parmesan and garlic to the bowl of the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the ricotta, the eggs, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and some freshly ground pepper and pulse until it is all combined.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil and saute the onion for about 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and red pepper flakes (to taste) and saute for another 5 minutes. Add the spinach (in batches if necessary) and saute for another minute until it has wilted. You don’t really want to cook the veggies all the way, they will cook in the oven. Turn off the heat, add the artichoke hearts, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and some fresh ground pepper and mix well.

sauteed onion, broccoli, spinach and artichoke hearts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now you are ready to assemble:

  1. Butter a large, deep baking dish to keep the lasagna from sticking
  2. Add one cup of the sauce to the bottom of the dish
  3. Add your first layer of noodles
  4. Add 1/2 of your veggie mixture on top of the noodles
  5. Drizzle one cup of sauce over the veggies (it will not cover them completely)
  6. Add 1/2 of your ricotta mixture in spoonfuls on top of the veggies/sauce
  7. Sprinkle on one cup of mozzarella cheese on top of the ricotta
  8. Add your next layer of noodles on top of the cheese
  9. Layer on the remaining veggies
  10. Drizzle another cup of sauce on the veggies
  11. Add the remaining ricotta in spoonfuls
  12. Sprinkle another cup of mozarella
  13. Put your last layer of noodles on top of the cheese and gently pat down to compress
  14. Top with the last cup of sauce and spread evenly over the noodles
  15. Sprinkle on the rest of the mozzarella and the remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan on top

Cover in foil and bake in pre-heated oven for 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 15 minutes or until top is lightly browned and bubbly. You can put under the broiler for a minute of you want to brown top a bit. Let sit for a good 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

 

Tips:

  • After I boil and drain my noodles, I lay them out on foil that I have sprayed with non-stick spray so they won’t stick.
  • When you cover your lasagna with foil to bake, spray the side that will be touching the top of the lasagna with non-stick spray so the cheese doesn’t stick to the foil.

 

 


Capellini with Tomatoes, Artichoke hearts, and Olives

This is a super simple vegetarian dish that you can whip up on a week night without too much fuss. I can’t wait to make this again when the tomatoes from our garden are ripe and ready. For now I picked the best looking tomatoes I could find at Trader Joes and used a can of their artichoke hearts. With fresh basil, a lot of garlic, Kalamata olives, and some good buffalo mozzarella …the Trader Joes tomatoes tasted pretty darn good! My 8 year old, Max, demanded that we leave him some left-overs to have for lunch at school the next day. That kid loves his left-overs!

Capellini with Tomatoes, Artichoke hearts, and Olives

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of Capellini pasta (angel hair or thin spaghetti)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can of artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • 2/3 cup of kalamata olives, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
  • 2 pounds of vine-ripened tomatoes (I used 8 small tomatoes on the vine…I think they were called “pearl tomatoes”)
  •  8 ounces of fresh mozzarella, cubed (1 “ball” of mozzarella)
  • 1 cup of basil leaves cut into a chiffonade ( stack leaves together, roll up, and cut into thin strips)
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

In a large pot of salted boiling water cook the capellini until it is just done…you really want it to be “Al Dente” and NOT over cooked. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large pan and saute the garlic for a few minutes being careful not to let it get brown. Add the artichoke hearts and olives cook for a couple of minutes to heat them up. Add the balsamic vinegar and cook for a couple more minutes. Turn off the heat,  add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. When the pasta is done, drain well and add to the pan.Toss the pasta with the artichokes, olives, and tomatoes until they are all well combined. Add the fresh basil and the mozzarella and check for seasoning.  Throw a little fresh parmesan on top if you want!