Cleaned out the Fridge Pasta Sauce!!

I really dislike throwing out food, but on occasion I am guilty of needing to toss some things that I didn’t use. And that bothers me.

I’ve really been trying to not do that anymore, so I’ve been more observant of my schedule along with the food in my fridge. Sounds odd I know, but what I mean is; if I have a busy week and I have a lot of perishables, I may end up freezing things or I make a one pot dish with as much of the food as I can.

This sauce was a perfect example. I have several half full boxes of various pastas in my pantry. I had a partial jar of marina sauce along with some veggies in my fridge so I decided to make a pasta sauce.

I started with the marina sauce, put that in a pot and turned it on low. I had about 6 roma tomatoes that were not really good enough to slice and use in anything so I blanched them for a minute or so in boiling water. Peeled them, removed the seeds and tossed them in the marina.

I also had a rind of parmesan cheese in the freezer, I put half of that in the sauce. Added pepper, a little salt, Italian seasoning and garlic powder. I had a little leftover red wine, I know I know, how is that even possible!! But I did, so I poured some of that in the sauce as well.

Then I found some black olives so I chopped them up and tossed them in too. I left that simmer on low for about 30 minutes, stirring often, then I tossed in some chopped zucchini and a handful of spinach.

Next I started the pasta.

And the next thing I knew dinner was done. I topped the pasta with some freshly grated parmesan cheese, opened another bottle of wine and I was good to go!

What meals have you made by cleaning out your fridge?

Broccoli and Cheese Topped Chicken

I have been on a broccoli kick lately.   I usually just prefer it steamed or stirred fried and never do I like broccoli and cheese…. EVER! Until now.

It’s delicious over a perfectly cooked chicken breast and topped with shredded cheese.

It’s comes together rather quickly, cooking the chicken takes the longest amount of time so this dish is great for those times that you want something healthy and filling but yet not wanting to spend much time in the kitchen.

I am also sure this would be perfect for summer grilling!

I added some oil to my cast iron skillet over medium heat. I seasoned the boneless, skinless chicken breast with Cajun seasoning and cooked the chicken on each side.

Meanwhile I steamed some small broccoli florets, seasoned with salt and pepper.

When the chicken was cooked, I topped it with the broccoli and then shredded cheese, popped that into the oven, 375 degrees, until the cheese melted.

You could also bake the chicken in the oven, then pull it out to put the broccoli and cheese and pop it back in the over to melt the cheese.

This was such an easy meal to make and will be a perfect meal for those busy summer days when I want something fast for a meal.

Enjoy!

How to prepare a spaghetti squash for roasting

Anyone that follows my blog knows by now how much I love spaghetti squash!

I have always LOVED pasta, it’s my absolute favorite meal, prepared in many many ways!! But I’m trying to eat healthier meals so I need to cut out the pasta when possible. I sub those dishes with spaghetti squash.

A friend of mine asked how to prepare it, she said she has wanted to try to make it but didn’t know how. I promised her that the next time I would make it, I would send her pictures and directions so she could see what I was doing. I thought I would share just in case anyone else is interested too.

Cutting those suckers is half the battle! Use a good sharp knife, keep a wooden spoon handy. And make sure the squash is on a cutting board so you do not chop or cut into your countertop. I start by putting the knife right in the middle lengthwise (or end to end) and carefully work it down about halfway through. I found that if I put it the entire way through, I have a more difficult time working it around to the end. This works for me, you may find a better way for you.

Anyway, I gently start working the knife blade back towards the end of the squash. Now, sometimes I have had squash that my knife will NOT cut through the stem, this is where the wooden spoon comes in handy, but it needs to be a heavy duty wooden spoon. I use the handle to start “hammering” the knife handle down through the stem. Seriously, this works!!! I saw someone else do this, I tried it and it works!

After that, just keep cutting around the entire squash. If the cut doesn’t match up on the opposite side, no worries cuz no one is gonna see that.

Then scrape out the seeds. If you start scraping too much you will see that you are also pulling the squash noodles out too so once you have the strands with the seeds out, then you’re good to go.

If you’re only planning to use half the squash, wrap the other piece in plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge for up to a week.

Next I drizzle the squash with olive oil, then salt and pepper. Depending on the sauce I am making I may add different spices and herbs to the squash. For this recipe I sprinkled the squash with cayenne pepper.

You will need a baking dish or cookie sheet lined with foil, just make sure the baking object has sides to collect any oil that may run out.

Turn the squash upside down onto the baking sheet. Place in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 45 minutes or until tender.

When done, remove the baking sheet from the oven. I use a towel to grab the squash and turn it over. Be careful!! Using a fork, gently pull the noodles from the squash onto a large bowl or plate.

There ya go! Give it try and feel free to share how you make you spaghetti squash.

Spaghetti Squash Puttanesca

I haven’t made Puttanesca in a very long time, it’s one of my favorite Italian dishes. And since I am loving spaghetti squash and trying to find new ways to serve it, this seemed like a good thing to try… And I loved it!

There’s nothing better than a pasta sauce full of garlic simmering on the stove, the aroma is amazing!

I started with some olive oil in my cast iron skillet, after that heated I added 2 anchovies, red pepper flakes, and garlic. I used garlic powder since I didn’t have any garlic bulbs on hand. I simmered that until the anchovies melted, then I added capers, chopped black olives and a can of whole tomatoes. I smashed them while they were cooking and then added a few tablespoons of tomato sauce.

When the sauce was ready, it only took about 5-8 minutes, I tossed in the spaghetti squash noodles. I did a light and gentle toss. After placing the scrumptious noodles and sauce in a pasta bowl, I added some freshly grated parmesan cheese and dinner was served.

A glass of red wine and a slice of toasted Italian bread, and my tummy was happy.

This made 2 servings for me, I cannot eat a big bowl of pasta, even the spaghetti squash. So for you, this may well be one full serving. A half of a spaghetti squash is two meals for me. If you are making this for two, you may want to use the entire squash and double the recipe for the sauce.

Also, if you think you won’t like the anchovies, just give it a try. I am not a fan either and generally do not use them but I did this time. They just bump up the flavor, but omitting them is fine. You might want to double the capers if you don’t use the anchovies. And I can tell you from experience, don’t go overboard with the anchovies either. I have put too many in because I didn’t want to waste them, and it had too much of a fishy taste for me. So 2 is plenty.

The garlic is a must, and lots of it. I typically don’t use a lot of garlic in my recipes but for this dish I love a lot of garlic.

For the tomatoes and sauce, if you don’t have a can of whole tomatoes, diced will work just fine. Adding the extra tomato sauce is not necessary, I just wanted a little “extra” in the sauce. I thought about adding a tablespoon of tomato paste but went with the sauce instead. This step is totally up to you.

This sauce works fine with regular spaghetti noodles too.

Spaghetti Squash Puttanesca

Serves 2

2-3 T olive oil

2 anchovies

½ tsp red pepper flakes, more or less depending on your preference

1 bulb of garlic, finely diced or 2 tsp garlic powder

1-1/2 T capers

¼ cup chopped olives, use your favorite

1 14 oz can whole tomatoes

3 T tomato sauce, optional

Salt and pepper to taste

Half of a prepare spaghetti squash

Finely grated parmesan cheese for topping

  1. Heat oil over a medium heat in a large sauce pan. Add the red pepper flakes and the anchovies, stir until the anchovies are melted.
  2. Add the capers, olives, tomatoes and the tomato sauce. Gently smash the whole tomatoes until they are broken up.
  3. Let the sauce simmer lightly for a few minutes, taste and adjust with salt and pepper if needed.
  4. Gently toss in the spaghetti squash noodles, toss until coated and then serve. Top with grated parmesan cheese.

I hope you give this sauce a try over spaghetti squash! Let me know if you do 🙂

Gramma’s Chicken Rice Soup

My Mom’s side of the family is Pennsylvania Dutch, and they were farmers. So I grew up with some pretty hearty meals when we visited. Some of the things I miss most are my Gramma’s slippery chicken pot pie, hogmaw (recipe here), and of course her chicken rice soup. She mostly made beef rice soup but I loved the chicken soup.

If you follow me on Facebook, you saw me post a picture of this soup that I made on a day that I had a little bit of an upset tummy. I have been craving it again ever since! So I thought the next time I made it, I would share it. There is nothing extraordinary about the recipe that sets it apart from others. It’s just delicious, simple and basic, and a family favorite. I am positive I am not making it like my Gramma did, but it’s pretty darn close and just as comforting. I use boxed chicken stock or broth, fresh herbs from my garden, as well as ground turmeric, she did not use any of those things.

So let’s get to it!

I’ll start with the chicken. Most of the time I use leftover chicken from a roast chicken dinner, and sometimes I use leftovers from a rotisserie chicken that I bought at the market. Today I’m cooking half of a chicken breast on the stovetop with a little chicken broth. When that is cooked, I will chop it into small pieces and set aside.

After cooking the chicken, I heated olive oil and tossed in finely diced carrots and onions. I cooked these until they are tender and then added the chicken and left that simmer for a few minutes, stirring constantly. Next I poured in an entire carton of chicken stock or broth.

**I forgot to mention that I salt and pepper each layer, always. So I seasoned the chicken while it was cooking, I seasoned the onions and carrots too, and then just another light seasoning after the broth is added. I also add the turmeric to the onions and carrots. Turmeric is not only healthy for you but it also adds the golden color that we all associate with chicken soups and gravy.

So, back to the soup. After adding the broth or stock, I immediately added one cup of uncooked rice. I left that simmer on low until the rice was cooked. Just before serving I added some chopped thyme and dill, stirred them into the soup and cook for a few minutes to release the flavor and then I served myself!

This is such a quick and easy soup that is so full of flavor and so comforting. Enjoy!

Chicken Rice Soup

Serves 2

Half of a chicken breast, cooked, deboned and skin removed, chopped

1-2 T olive oil

1 small onion, diced

1/3 c carrots, diced

Few dashes Turmeric

1 carton of chicken broth or stock

1 cup uncooked rice

1T chopped Thyme

1 tsp chopped Dill

Salt & Pepper

  1. Sauté onions and carrots in olive oil over medium heat in a medium sized sauce pot. Season with turmeric, salt and pepper.
  2. Add cooked, chopped chicken and stir for about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Pour in carton of chicken stock or broth, season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add rice. Stir and lightly simmer over a medium to low heat, do not boil.
  5. When rice is tender, add herbs and let simmer for a few minutes, then serve.

Tender Roast Beef, Crock Pot Style!

I so enjoy when I come home from work, open the door and I am greeted with the aroma of a beef roast waiting for me to devour. And I know it will be tender because it has been simmering all day long!

That meal is so comforting and satisfying; I often make the meal for family too.

I always use my crock pot for this meal, ALWAYS, I seem to have more success with the beef being tender. I don’t have a particular type of beef to use either, I choose whatever looks good to me at the market or whatever might be on sale.

A lot of people swear that you must sear the beef first; I typically do not have the time to sear the beef, which is why I use my crock pot. I have seared the beef a few times but as a time saver I do not. I can’t say I notice a difference in the taste when I have seared it.

Into the pot goes the beef. I like to add 2 medium onion cut into quarters, red skinned potatoes, and carrots. I don’t use the bagged mini carrots, since this cooks all day in the crock pot so I go for the regular big carrots. Ya know, the carrots that Bugs Bunny likes to munch on!

I pour in about 2 cartons (-/+) of beef stock, as long as the roast and veggies are covered but I also make sure it won’t cook over. This really depends on the size of your crockpot, the size of the beef and how many veggies you use. I really just eyeball everything. That said, the beef stock gets poured in last.

Beef consume can also be used, but then I only use about 1 carton for the beef stock and then add a little water to help even out the taste.

So, either use about 2 cartons of beef stock OR 1 carton of beef stock, 1 can of beef consume and finish with water to finish. The consume has a little bit more concentrated flavor. Beef broth can be used in replacement of the stock. You can play around with the both to see what you like and don’t like. But honestly, the beef stock has enough flavor.

I sometimes add about 1 cup to 1-1/2 cups of a good red wine, use what you like or omit. Totally optional! The alcohol will cook off so no worries if you serving this to the kiddos, the wine just heightens the taste but again, totally optional.

Parsnips are good for this recipe too.

I love adding tomato paste, about ¼ cup or so. To make sure the paste blends in well I put it in a bowl and then add a little of the stock until blended well and then pour into the crock pot. I season with salt and pepper, and add a sprig of thyme and rosemary. I sometimes add a bay leave too. These herbs go well with this meal to give it a little more punch of taste.

I turn the crockpot to high and let it cook while I’m at work, about 8 hours. My pot has a setting where it will stop cooking and simmer until I get home.

For this particular recipe today, I pulled some leftovers from the freezer. The last time I made this meal, I had a lot of beef and broth left over so I popped it in the freezer. I did not freeze any of the veggies.

After thawing, I put the broth and beef in a large pot and added baby carrots and heated over medium low heat until the carrots were just fork tender. I also added fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme. While that was simmering I put red skinned potatoes in the microwave and cooked until I could easily pierce with a fork. Then I smashed the potatoes, adding some milk, butter, salt and pepper, and a hint of garlic and dill. You could also use cream or half and half.

Just before serving, I took a couple of spoonful’s of the broth out of the pot and transferred it to a jar with flour so that I could thicken the broth. This is typically how I make my gravy, it’s how my Mom taught me. I never measure so my suggestion is to start with about 2-3 tablespoons of flour in the jar, add about 4-5 tablespoons of the hot broth, put the lid on and give a little shake to blend. You may need to adjust the broth to the flour, just make sure it’s pourable and not a glob!! Be careful, it’s hot! You can also use a cornstarch slurry in place of the flour. Then, slowly pour the flour mixture, a little at a time, into the beef and broth. Stir to make sure it is blended and let it simmer for a few minutes. It will thicken as it cooks. Just eyeball it and slowly add more if you need to. You are not looking to make it thick like gravy, you just want the broth thickened.

Then just serve over the potatoes and enjoy! This is so delicious and hearty.

Farfalle with goat cheese, spinach and roasted red pepper

I forgot how much I love using goat cheese in my recipes, it’s been awhile. This dish turned out so good and was insanely delicious! I consumd way more than I should have.

And like a lot of my recipes lately, it comes together quickly, which I really love now that I am back to doing yard work. I don’t have a lot of free time to spend in the kitchen most days.

The first thing I did was to get my water boiling for the pasta and salted it well. While the pasta was cooking I chopped my roasted red pepper (I use jarred) and tore up all the spinach. I also broke up the goat cheese into several small pieces to help it melt quickly.

When the farfalle was just about done, I put just a little bit of olive oil and a pat of butter in my fry pan over medium heat. As soon as the butter melted I added the red peppers and seasoned with salt and pepper. I heated the peppers well and then ladled in the pasta, added the cheese and the spinach.

I gently tossed everything to get it going, and then added 2 ladles of pasta water. As soon as the cheese melted and the spinach wilted, it was ready to serve. I added a light topping of parmesan cheese too!

Just a quick note, you may need a little bit more or less pasta cooking water. Just eyeball the dish as the cheese melts. Also, when I ladled in the pasta, some of the cooking water went with it, I did not strain it. The water will help with the sauce. So yummy!

I cannot wait to make it again!!

 

Farfalle with goat cheese, spinach and roasted red pepper

Serves 2

Half pound of farfalle pasta (about half the box)

Salt and pepper

1 T butter

1-2 T olive oil

1 roasted red pepper, chopped into bite sized pieces

2 large handfuls spinach, torn and stems removed

4 oz package of goat cheese

Fresh grated parmesan cheese for topping

*Reserve the pasta cooking water for the sauce

  1. Cook pasta, season well with salt.
  2. Over medium heat in a large pan melt the butter along with the oil.
  3. Add the chopped roasted red pepper, season well with salt and pepper, stir until heated and then add the cooked pasta.
  4. Immediately add the goat cheese and torn spinach. Toss gently.
  5. Add 1-2 ladles of pasta water, one ladle at a time. This will help create the sauce, melt the cheese and wilt the spinach.
  6. Serve as soon as the sauce is ready. Top with the fresh grated parmesan.

Enjoy!