Category Archives: Pasta and Grains

Pasta with Sweet Italian Sausage in Sauce

Let me say from the start that even though this recipe is about pasta and sweet Italian sausage this is not necessarily an Italian recipe. It is more of a combination of Italian and Mexican flavors.

Whenever my youngest son asks what’s for dinner and I say pasta he breaks into his happy dance with sound effects. I have said this more than once in my blog… my family loves pasta. Maybe the next time I make pasta I’ll see if I can film the dance and share it on my blog.

Today, I decided I didn’t want to make the usual spaghetti meat sauce using sauce from a jar. Instead, I opted to make my own sauce using canned tomatoes, veggies and sweet Italian sausage. I also wanted to create a few different textures in the sauce so I added white beans which provided both texture and more flavor. Although everything was soft in the sauce, there were different levels of softness if that makes sense. The pasta was al dente. The beans were creamy. The veggies were smooth and the sausage had a nice soft chew. Fortunately, it all worked together and had me doing my own happy dance.

Pasta with Sweet Italian Sausage in Sauce

Ingredients:

2 packages Sweet Italian Sausage links

1 can small white beans drained and rinsed

1 can Mexican stewed tomatoes

1 can fire roasted tomatoes

1 small can tomato paste

1 small green pepper diced

1 small red pepper diced

2 cups water

2 tbsp grape seed oil

2 tbsp fresh hot salsa

½ tbsp ground oregano

½ tbsp dried basil

½ tbsp Adobo

1 tsp Kosher salt

1 tsp ground black pepper

Heat grape seed oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Add sausages in batches and brown on each side. Slice the browned sausages then set aside. Wipe out the dutch oven if the bottom is too brown. Lower the temperature to medium. Add a little more grape seed oil to the pot then add onions ad peppers along with the seasonings. Stir and cook for approximately 2 – 3 minutes. Add both cans of tomatoes, white beans and tomato paste to the pot and stir until well blended with the onions and peppers. Cook for 3 minutes then add the sausages to the pot. Stir and let simmer for 20 – 25 minutes over medium low heat to allow the sauce to thicken.

While sauce is simmering cook pasta according to the package. Spoon sauce over a bowl of pasta and sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

 

 

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Skillet Baked Spaghetti

I am dedicating this post to my hubby and mother-in-law (may she rest in peace).

Hubby and I were discussing our childhoods the other day and reminiscing about the comfort foods our mothers would make. One of the comfort foods my hubby mentioned was the baked spaghetti his mom would prepare for the family. Mom B. had a special frying pan with rings in the bottom that she would use to bake the spaghetti in. I kind of remembered a similar pan from my childhood my mom would use but I don’t think she used it for baking.

Skillet Baked Spaghetti was pulled together based on how Mom B. would make her baked spaghetti. As always, I added my own twist to the recipe but hubby said my version did remind him of his mom. What a great compliment. I was happy that we could share a moment from his childhood and feel the same warmth and comfort his mom’s cooking would bring to the family.

Fast forward to today and now I have a recipe I can share with my kids and grand kids that makes them feel the comfort we felt from old family recipes. Pasta is usually a hit with my family. Add spice to the mix and a crispy cheesy topping and it’s a home run.

Thanks Mom B. for leaving hubby with a wonderful memory and giving me a delicious recipe.

Skillet Baked Spaghetti

Ingredients:

1 box vermicelli pasta (prepare per package instructions and save ½ cup pasta water) al dente and drained

1 pkg hot sausage links (casing removed)

1 pkg Italian sausage links (casing removed)

1 large jar spaghetti sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp salt

1 tbsp ground black pepper

1 tbsp ketchup

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

½ tsp turmeric

½ tsp onion powder

¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown the sausages in medium non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Remove most of the grease from the skillet then add the spaghetti sauce, ketchup and seasonings (except for the red pepper flakes). Stir to mix then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes.

After preparing pasta drain it and reserve ½ cup of the pasta water. Place the pasta back in the pot and add the spaghetti sauce. Mix well and add a little pasta water if the spaghetti seems dry. Spray a large cast iron skillet with cooking spray and drizzle a little olive oil on the bottom of the pan.

Place have of the spaghetti in the skillet then top with ½ of the shredded mozzarella and ½ of the Parmesan cheese. Top with the remaining spaghetti and sprinkle with the remaining cheese along with the red pepper flakes. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the top is slightly crispy and golden browned.

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Mixed Pasta with Kielbasa

Roasting vegetables is one of my favorite ways to prepare vegetables because it is a quick process that brings out a lot flavor. Before I started my blog I never thought about roasting unless it was chicken. Instead, I would just saute vegetables in a pan. Believe it or not the two techniques of sauteing vs. roasting will affect the nutritional value and flavor depending on the vegetable.

I did a little research and found that both roasting and sauteing are healthy methods of preparing vegetables. Steaming is the best way to go and grilling is better than frying when trying to maintain nutrition. Both tomatoes and onions maintain their antioxidant capacity after baking but green peppers tend to lose antioxidant capacity when baked. No, that has not stopped me from baking peppers because I like the taste. It’s just good information to know when preparing them.

Mixed Pasta and Kielbasa was a last minute recipe I came up with based on what I had on hand for dinner. I keep a jar of dried mixed pasta which are the remnants of different boxes of pasta. Elbow, penne, bow tie – whatever! Pasta is pasta. All that really matters is what you add to the pasta. On the night I made Mixed Pasta with Kielbasa I had some baby spinach, tomatoes and a package of kielbasa I needed to cook.

The end result was pretty tasty and definitely a hit with my pasta eating crew. It is hard for me to mess up pasta when dealing with an audience that loves pasta in any shape or form. But, I know just how delicious my pasta dishes are when they go for seconds and this one certainly hit the mark. Seconds all around!

Mixed Pasta with Kielbasa

Ingredients:

1 ring of smoked kielbasa sliced

1 small onion sliced thin

1 pkg baby leaf spinach

1 pkg vine ripe tomatoes quartered

½ green pepper seeded and sliced

1 cup mixed pastas (penne, twists, cavatappi, etc) cooked al dente per package

½ cup chicken broth

¼ shredded mozzarella cheese

3 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp salt

1 tsp Adobo

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp ground black pepper

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Add tomatoes, onions and green peppers to a rimmed baking sheet. Season with 1 tsp of salt and pepper. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp oil and toss to coat. Roast in oven for 20 – 25 minutes until slightly charred. Set aside.

Brown kielbasa in 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium high heat. Add chicken broth, roasted vegetables and remaining seasonings to the kielbasa. Stir to mix well. Toss in pasta and stir. Cook until pasta is heated up then sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

 

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Penne Pasta and Eggplant with Spicy Meatballs on the side

This post is dedicated to Kashana who is a foodie like me. Kashana and I met at one of my favorite places – Starbucks. We happen to strike up a conversation about food and since then she has been a visitor to my blog. It is nice when someone outside of family appreciates many of the recipe ideas I have shared over the years.

I have to admit that this recipe was adapted from another recipe I saw on a cooking show. I thought it would be a nice recipe for the days when I wanted a meatless dish that was also quite filling. Adding spicy meatballs on the side was a way for me to please others that liked a meatless dish as well as those that are true carnivores no matter what.

This recipe really came in handy recently when my sister, who is a vegetarian, and brother-in-law joined us for dinner at our house. I was surprised that night when my sister shared that she no longer eats pasta, flour, sugar, etc. Fortunately, I had also prepared blackened salmon because I knew she liked salmon which I figured would go with the pasta. So all was not lost with my dinner menu which included a delicious salad (per the family) along with steamed broccoli topped with melted cheese.

Okay, back to the Penne and Eggplant. Talk about easy. Preparing pasta is usually quick and quite easy by just following the directions on the box. I made sure the pasta was al dente so that it would not be a pile of mush after I baked it a little. Eggplant can be quite watery when you cook it. So, the trick to reducing the amount of moisture in the eggplant is to microwave the cubed eggplant for about 8 minutes on a paper towel. This method worked like a charm. I think I might try this when I make another eggplant lasagna to make it less watery too.

Spicy meatballs on the side allowed me to have a vegetarian dish and the ability to satisfy the carnivore in me and some of my family. The meatballs were also a big hit along with the Penne Pasta and Eggplant. Two for one! Man…. I’m on a roll.  Thank you Kashana for your support.

Penne Pasta with Spicy Meatballs on the side

Ingredients:

2 large eggplant cubed (do not peel)
½ small onion sliced thin

1 box Penne pasta cooked al dente according to package

1 ½ jars marinara sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella

1 cup grated fresh Parmesan

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp sea salt or Kosher salt

1 tsp dried basil

1 tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp onion powder

Cooking Spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a large microwaveable bowl with paper towels. Place cubed eggplant in the bowl and sprinkle with sea salt. Microwave eggplant for 8 minutes. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add eggplant and sprinkle with black pepper, oregano, basil and onion powder. Saute the eggplant until softened stirring constantly so that it does not burn.

Remove the eggplant from the heat. Spray the bottom of a casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour a little marinara sauce on the bottom of the dish and spread around. Add the Penne pasta to the dish and top with the eggplant, thinly sliced onions and Parmesan cheese. Pour marinara sauce over the top and gently mix to combine the eggplant, pasta and cheese. Add more sauce if the pasta seems too dry. Top with the shredded mozzarella cheese then bake for 20 to 30 minutes until the cheese has melted and pasta is heated throughout. Serve immediately with the Spicy Meatballs and a healthy salad.

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Parmesan Chicken Fingers

One of my youngest son’s favorite meals is Parmesan chicken. He likes chicken and he loves pasta. Put the two together and he is extremely happy with dinner. I also enjoy Parmesan chicken (light on the pasta) but sometimes a big fat chicken breast is too much for me. Okay, I will admit I go for the chicken breast first when I eat fried chicken but that is a different kind of meal.

I decided to alter my recipe for Parmesan chicken by substituting chicken fingers for a full chicken breast. Thus, Parmesan Chicken Fingers was born. Using the chicken fingers allows everyone to choose exactly the right portion of meat for their appetites rather than filling their plates with a large single chicken breast.

To add an extra layer of crispiness to the chicken fingers I mixed in a little ground cornmeal with the panko bread crumbs for the coating. I wasn’t sure I could pull this one off with my taste testers but the guys loved it. Sometimes you just have to sneak in something new to a recipe and then sit back and wait for the reactions. I got the idea to add fine ground cornmeal from one of the many cooking shows I like to watch. I think the chef was making fried chicken (yeah, I went back to talking about fried chicken) and added cornmeal to the coating to add an extra layer of crunch. It looked so good on the plate I figured it would be good on my Parmesan Chicken Fingers too.

Bottom-line …. it worked! Such an easy recipe and thankfully a tasty one too.

Parmesan Chicken Fingers

Ingredients:

2 packages chicken fingers

2 eggs

1 jar spaghetti sauce

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

½ cup panko bread crumbs

½ cup flour + 1 tbsp

½ cup frying olive oil or vegetable oil

¼ cup finely ground cornmeal

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp milk

1 tbsp flour

1 tbsp salt

½ tbsp ground black pepper

½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Season chicken fingers with salt and pepper. Place ½ cup flour on a plate and set aside. Beat eggs with milk and set aside.

Mix panko bread crumbs, cornmeal, 1 tbsp flour, grated Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes in a bowl.

Dredge chicken in flour (shake off excess) then dip in egg mixture. Roll in bread crumbs and place on a cookie sheet to rest.

Heat oil in a no stick frying pan over medium heat. Test the oil to see if it is hot by place the thick end of a chopstick in the center of the pan. It you see rapid bubbles then the oil is hot (Thanks for the tip Mama Noi). Fry the chicken in batches until lightly golden brown. Drain on a paper towel.

Place chicken in a casserole dish and drizzle with spaghetti sauce and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until cheese is melted and golden. Serve with pasta.

P.S. For the grand kids I make Parmesan Chicken Fingers with a honey mustard or BBQ dipping sauce.

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Spicy Taco Chicken Bowl

The “new” craze right now is creating recipes and putting the dish in bowls. At first, I wasn’t really into the bowl idea but it didn’t take long for me to realize I kinda liked the idea. Placing breakfast, lunch or dinner in a bowl helped to cut down on the amount of food we actually ate. I put less in a bowl compared to  how much I put on a plate.

One of my first bowl adventures was my Asian Bowl with Lollipop Lamb Chops. Not to brag too much but that recipe was a big hit with hubby. Now, he has another favorite. My Spicy Taco Chicken Bowl. This recipe was a little spicy with various textures and flavors that complimented each other. Although there are several components to the recipe, I think it is a very simple dish. Shredded spicy taco flavored chicken, crispy yellow rice, seasoned black beans and a mix of avocado and tomatoes. The hardest thing about this recipe is the wait time. Yeah, this one isn’t quick to make only because the chicken has to bake. While the chicken bakes about an hour all of the other pieces can easily be pulled together.

Even I couldn’t complain about having chicken again. Plus, I didn’t take the easy way out and make wingettes. Instead, I opted for chicken legs because they are meaty and you don’t have to take a long time to clean them like chicken thighs. Granted, I think chicken thigh meat is sweeter than chicken leg meat but it takes work to get thighs ready for cooking. Maybe the next time I make a Spicy Taco Chicken Bowl I’ll build in extra time and try it with chicken thighs. Whichever chicken part you choose (legs vs. thighs), I am confident you will enjoy my Spicy Taco Chicken Bowl. Healthy, Easy and Delicious!

Spicy Taco Chicken Bowl

Ingredients:

6 – 8 chicken legs washed

2 plum tomatoes diced

2 scallions diced

2 slices bacon diced

1 can black beans rinsed

1 avocado diced

1 pkg hot and spicy taco seasoning

½ stick butter melted

1 ½ cup water

1 ½ cup chicken broth

1 ½ cups white rice

1 ½ tbsp salt

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

½ tbsp ground black pepper

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cilantro

½ tsp dried parsley

½ tsp onion powder

½ tsp Chile powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place chicken in a large bowl. Season with 1 tbsp salt, black pepper, Chile powder and all but 1 tsp hot and spicy taco seasoning. Add melted butter and mix until chicken is well coated. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray then place chicken in one layer in the baking dish. Bake for 1 hour until the chicken is tender and cooked through. Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes then pull meat off the bone into chunks. Place chicken in a medium size skillet with ¼ chicken stock and remaining taco seasoning. Stir and let simmer for 5 minutes.

While chicken is cooking prepare the following:

Rice:

Rinse rice with cold water to remove some of the starch. Place in a microwaveable casserole dish with a pinch salt, turmeric, water and chicken broth. Place in microwave uncovered for 21 minutes until cooked. Remove from microwave and fluff up rice with a fork. Let cool for about 10 – 15 minutes. While rice is cooling cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp over medium high heat. Remove from skillet and drain on paper towels. Reduce heat to medium high and add rice and scallions to the bacon grease breaking up any clumps of rice. Let rice crisp up for about 3 minutes then stir and flip to crisp up the other side. Cook for an additional 3 minutes then toss in bacon and mix in thoroughly. Cook another 2 minutes then remove from heat.

Prepare Tomato and Avocado:

Place diced tomatoes and avocado in a medium sized bowl. Season with a little salt, ground black pepper, parsley and lemon juice. Gently toss with a spoon. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator.

Black Beans:

Place black beans in a small pot and add a little chicken broth. Season with salt, pepper, cilantro and onion powder. Cook over medium heat for 3 – 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Bowl Setup:

Place crispy yellow rice in the bottom of an individual bowl. Add chicken to one side of the bowl then add the black beans along with tomato and avocado mix. Enjoy!

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Asian Bowl with Lollipop Lamb Chops

Recently, I received a wonderful surprise in the mail. New bottles of Gazebo Room Salad Dressing and Marinade. I immediately started thinking about the kinds of recipes I could create that incorporated the dressings. I didn’t want to just use them as a dressing on top of one of my regular salads. I wanted something new and exciting!

Bingo! I finally decided to make an Asian Bowl with Lollipop Lamb Chops. I topped the Asian bowl with Gazebo Room Asian Vinaigrette Salad Dressing and Marinade. Yes, that is a mouthful to say and a delicious mouthful to taste. If you like tangy salad dressings, I think you will like this Asian dressing. I just would not put a lot of this dressing on a salad. A little goes a long way with this dressing because it is so flavorful.

Now back to my Asian Bowl with Lollipop Lamb Chops. In my mind, this is a very simple dish to make and the Asian bowl is both colorful and nutritious. I kept it simple by combining just a few veggies, thin lo mein noodles and of course the lamb chops. I have to admit I developed this recipe based on the lamb chops. As I usually do on the weekends, I was perusing the meat aisle looking for something other than chicken. Remember, I have nothing against chicken. We just eat it often so I try to break up the week with another meat if possible so that we don’t grow feathers. I spied a lone package of lollipop lamb chops among the packages of bigger lamb chops and grabbed them before anyone else could. It is rare for me to find these little jewels so I was quite happy with this trip to the grocery store.

When I pulled the recipe together I wasn’t totally convinced hubby would be on board since I had never prepared a “bowl”. I wasn’t even sure he had heard of an Asian bowl but he surprised me and said “Sure, go for it”, which meant he was on board. Hubby did come into the kitchen a couple of times to see what I was doing and guided me on how he wanted me to “create” his bowl. Yeah, let’s just call him my assistant on this recipe. Anyway, we both enjoyed the final product. Hubby really enjoyed it because he ate the whole thing. Normally, he leaves a little food on his plate but not this time. All I saw were two chopsticks and lamb chop bones sitting at the bottom of his bowl. That is what I call a successful dish!

Asian Bowl with Lollipop Lamb Chops

Ingredients:

2 Roma tomatoes diced

2 scallions sliced

2 bunches romaine lettuce shredded or small Napa cabbage shredded

1 package (6 – 8) lollipop lamb chops

1 package thin lo mein noodles

1 small can water chestnuts drained

1 cup snow peas

1 cup shredded carrots

¼ cup crispy rice noodles

¼ cup Gazebo Room Asian Vinaigrette Salad Dressing and Marinade

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp minced fresh ginger

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp salt

½ tbsp black pepper

paprika

Season lamb chops with Worcestershire sauce, salt, black pepper and paprika. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a medium sized frying pan over medium high heat. Brown lamb chops on both sides approximately 3 – 5 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and place on paper towels to drain.

Add snow peas, carrots and scallions to frying pan and saute until slightly softened but still has some crispness. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Build Salad:

Place lettuce in the bottom of the bowl. Arrange veggies around the bowl. Add lo mein noodles, water chestnuts and diced tomatoes. Place three lamb chops on one side of the bowl. Drizzle with dressing then sprinkle with rice noodles.

Enjoy!

 

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Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes, Fennel and Pasta

Salmon is probably my favorite fish next to cod. Cod is my go to fish for frying because it is tender and flaky. Salmon tastes great when it is broiled or baked and dripping with butter and lemon. To compliment salmon I like to add a side dish of vegetables and pasta. On some occasions I like to combine everything into a single dish.

My Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes, Fennel and Pasta is one of those dishes that can be combined into a single dish. Beautiful curls of pasta topped with a tenderly broiled salmon fillet and a cascade of roasted tomatoes and fennel can only make your mouth water when you look at your plate of deliciousness. Okay, Seriously! This is a beautiful dish that tastes wonderful. The type of salmon used in the recipe will change the taste of the dish so use whatever your taste buds like. I am not a fan of sockeye salmon which has a deep reddish orange color and a strong flavor. I prefer Coho or Atlantic salmon which is lighter in color and has a much milder flavor than sockeye. No matter which type of salmon you choose you are sure to get a ton of Omega-3s.

Roasting tomatoes brings out the natural sweetness of the tomatoes. Fennel is aromatic and has a sweet licorice flavor. Cooked fennel has a milder flavor than raw fennel so it goes well with the salmon and tomatoes without overpowering the dish.

So, if you are looking for a nice healthy flavorful dish to impress your family and friends try out my Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes, Fennel and Pasta. You cannot go wrong with this one.

Salmon with Roasted Tomatoes, Fennel and Pasta

Ingredients:

2 – 3 salmon fillets

6 -8 plum tomatoes cut into wedges

1 small bulb of fennel

1 shallot sliced

1 pkg campanelle pasta

¼ cup reserved pasta water

¼ cup shaved parmesan cheese

6 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp dill

paprika

Preheat 425 degrees.

Prepare pasta according to package reserving ¼ cup of the pasta water. Set aside.

 

Place tomatoes, fennel and shallots on a rimmed cookies sheet. Drizzle with olive oil then sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Toss to coat veggies with olive oil and seasonings. Place in oven and roast for 25 to 30 minutes.

Prepare salmon by placing on a rimmed baking sheet. Season with salt, black pepper and dill. Place 2 tbsp of butter on each fillet. Place in oven with tomatoes and fennel. Cook for 20 minutes. Set aside to rest while tomatoes and fennel finish cooking.

Remove tomatoes and fennel from the oven and pour pasta water over veggies. Spoon pasta onto a plate. Add a salmon fillet then spoon roasted tomatoes and fennel over the salmon. Garnish with shaved parmesan cheese.

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Nat’s Broccoli and Pasta Remix

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During the holidays families often have to split time when their adult children are married. Our family is no different than any other family. Every year we share the kids with the in-laws. Last year my daughter-in-law came up with a great idea so that my hubby and I did not feel left out on Thanksgiving day since it was not our turn to host the family. Instead of having a big Thanksgiving celebration with all the kids and grand-kids, we had a big after Thanksgiving family leftovers celebration.

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All the ladies were charged with coming up with a dish using leftovers from Thanksgiving. Besides being able to spend time with my kids and mom I got a few new ideas to share on my blog. Nat created a tasty pasta dish from leftover steamed broccoli. This was a very simple dish but was packed with flavor from the garlic, white wine and parmesan cheese. I knew Nat’s Broccoli and Pasta Remix would be a good recipe for my blog when my youngest grandson jumped right in and gobbled up the pasta. Who could argue with a pasta connoisseur like little Ant?

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Thanks Nat for creating a new family tradition and a way to still share the holidays with our kids and grand-kids.

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Nat’s Broccoli and Pasta Remix

Ingredients:

1 box gemelli pasta

4 garlic cloves chopped

2 shallots diced

1 small onion diced

1 lemon

3 cups leftover steamed broccoli or 2 lg broccoli heads cut into florets

1 cup white wine

½ cup shredded parmesan cheese

4 tbsp olive oil

1 ½ tbsp salt

½ tbsp black pepper

½ tsp oregano

½ tsp thyme

Prepare pasta according to package then set aside in a large bowl. Reserve ½ cup pasta water.

Place 6 cups of water along with 1 tbsp of salt and bring to a boil. Blanch broccoli then drain. Place into a cold water bath to stop the broccoli from cooking. Reserve ½ cup of the broccoli water.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onions and cook 3 – 5 minutes until onions begin to soften. Add shallots and cook for 1 minute then add garlic. Cook until vegetables begin to brown stirring constantly so that garlic does not burn. Pour in white wine and cook for 1 minute. Add broccoli to the pan season with salt and black pepper. Stir to mix then remove from heat.

Pour broccoli mixture to the pasta along with broccoli and pasta water. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and gently toss together.

Optional: Red pepper flakes to add a little kick!

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Pearls and Black Eyed Peas

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A few weeks ago my hubby and I visited Washington, DC to get away and enjoy each others company. Because we really just wanted to relax and not do a lot of sightseeing we stayed close to the hotel. We also took most of our meals at the hotel. Fortunately, the main restaurant served some delicious food and gave me a few ideas for new recipes.

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One night I chose to have grilled salmon (my favorite fish) with a side of black eyed peas and Israeli couscous. I was interested in tasting the Israeli couscous because I had just purchased a box of it from Trader Joe’s and I wasn’t sure of how to prepare it. Plus, I liked the look of the box. I sometimes chose new foods to try based on how they look. I think it is a true statement that we eat with our eyes and presentation is important when serving a meal.

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The black eyed peas and Israeli couscous was absolutely wonderful. It was full of flavor and I liked the texture of the pearl sized couscous. Israeli couscous is larger in size than regular couscous and resembles tapioca pearls. The side dish also included lots of other vegetables like zucchini, corn, onions and mushrooms. As soon as I tasted the black eyed peas and couscous I knew I had found a new recipe to try using my box of Israeli couscous.

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Although I truly enjoyed the hotel’s version, I decided to put my own twist to the dish and used a few different ingredients that complimented the black eyed peas and couscous. Black eyed peas, Israeli couscous, roasted red peppers and mushrooms. Yummy! Once you have a bite you will be making this side dish over and over again.

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Pearls and Black Eyed Peas

Ingredients:
1 bag frozen black eyed peas
1 large or 2 small smoked turkey legs (optional)
2 cups cooked pearl (Israeli) couscous (prepare according to package)
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup sliced shitake or baby bella mushrooms
½ cup onions diced
½ cup green peppers diced
½ cup roasted red peppers diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
½ tsp cayenne

If using smoked turkey in the dish, cook turkey in 6 cups of water until until meat is tender. If you are comfortable using a pressure cooker, it will speed up the process. Strain and reserve broth to use with black eyed peas in lieu of chicken broth. Slightly shred turkey.

Heat olive oil in a medium sized frying pan over medium high heat then add mushrooms, green peppers and roasted red peppers. Sprinkle with a little salt and cayenne pepper. Saute until mushrooms are browned and green peppers are soft.

Place black eyed peas in a large pot with 2 cups chicken broth or reserved smoked turkey broth. Add onions and remaining seasonings. Cook black eyed peas for 20 – 25 minutes until soft. Drain black eyed peas.

In a large bowl gently mix couscous, veggies and black eyed peas. Add a little broth to moisten if necessary.

Enjoy!

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