Butternut Squash "Cream" Sauce

by Laura

This is a great meal when you are looking for something comforting but not trying to eat a 1000 calorie, cream-laden bowl of pasta. The pureed butternut squash makes the sauce creamy without adding any dairy and I used Barilla Plus pasta, which has added fiber and protein (and tastes much better than whole wheat pasta in my opinion!). It is also great leftover for lunch!

Served with roasted brussels sprouts and balsamic

Served with roasted brussels sprouts and balsamic

Sausage, Spinach and Butternut Squash Pasta

Recipe base from Skinny Taste

8 oz. pasta (I used penne)

4-5 links of spicy italian turkey sausage (chicken or pork would work too!)

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup chopping red onion

2 cloves garlic minced

1 lb butternut squash peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (the pre-cut and peeled kind at the grocery store works great)

2 cups baby spinach

3 tbsp grated parmesan

5-7 sage leaves thinly sliced

Red pepper flakes to taste

Heat a large frying pan on medium heat. Remove the casing from the sausage and cook sausage until browned through, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently. While sausage is cooking, boil a large pot of water and cook the butternut squash until soft enough to easily stick a fork in it - about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the squash and place in a blender, keeping the water boiling for the pasta. Cook pasta according to the package instructions. If you can remember (I never do!!) reserve one cup of pasta water before you drain the pasta. Season the squash with salt and pepper and then puree it. I needed some water to get the squash to actually puree, so add a little if you need it. Remove sausage once cooked through and set aside. In the same pan, add the oil and cook onions and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the pureed butternut squash, spinach and parmesan into the pan and stir until spinach is wilted. Add sage and stir again. Add sausage and pasta and combine until the whole pan of is heated through. I topped mine with some red pepper flakes and another sprinkle of parmesan. Enjoy!

Sausage Orecchiette

by Laura

Orecchiette! One of the best underused pasta shapes and it is ear-shaped -- is there anything more appetizing?! Sometimes they can be tough to find at a smaller market or Trader Joe's, but they hold a not to saucy sauce perfectly so next time you see a bag/box in the pasta aisle, do yourself a favor and grab one. This recipe requires just a few basic ingredients and can easily be thrown together on a weeknight. Adapted from The Food Network.

Ingredients:

Chop all this up while the water is boiling for the pasta...

1/2 package (6 oz) orecchiette

2-3 pork or chicken sausages, casings removed

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 scallions

1 clove garlic sliced

1/2 carton (4 oz) crimini mushrooms, sliced

1/2 carton mini heirloom tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes), sliced in half

1/2 cup grated parmesan

2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped

Red pepper flakes to taste

 

Bring salted pot of water to boil to cook pasta. Meanwhile, heat olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan and add sausage, breaking it up as it browns. Once cooked through, add garlic and onions and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook three minutes then add mushrooms. Add cherry tomatoes. Once the pasta is cooked through, use a slotted spoon to transfer it into the sauce pan with all of the other ingredients (bringing a little bit of the pasta water along with it to smooth out the sauce). Give it a few stirs, add parmesan, fresh basil and red pepper flakes if desired and serve!

Maybe even better as leftovers!


Chicken Parmesan

by Laura

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If you have ever caught an episode of The Pioneer Woman on Food Network....well, just don't. In fact, her blog kind of bothers me too but she does have some great recipes and instructive photos. So, I'm sorry, Ree, for the mean thoughts I've had about you while taking advantage of your hard work in the kitchen. Most recently, with this recipe for Chicken Parmigiana.

The only things I changed were that I added some thyme to the flour mixture that you dredge the chicken in and I put it under the broiler for about 5 minutes at the end to get a crispier parmesan crust. Oh and I only had 28 oz. crushed tomato and it was still delicious! So I will continue to visit Pioneer Woman and encourage you to do the same. However, if I ever come up with an obnoxious nickname for John like the Marlboro Man, please stage an intervention!

I had to cook my chicken in batches.

I had to cook my chicken in batches.

I used a zinfandel for the wine to deglaze the pan (this is also a good one for drinking along the way!)

I used a zinfandel for the wine to deglaze the pan (this is also a good one for drinking along the way!)

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Served with whole wheat pasta and spinach sautéed in olive oil with some onions, lemon juice, pine nuts and feta cheese

Served with whole wheat pasta and spinach sautéed in olive oil with some onions, lemon juice, pine nuts and feta cheese

Spaghetti and Meatballs

by Laura

Adapted from Ina Garten

The main difference in my adaptation from Ina's version is that I just used beef instead of ground veal, pork and beef and I increased the ratio of sauce to meat. And I have to say the best part of this meal was leftover spaghetti and meatball subs.

Ingredients

For meatballs:

1 1/4 pound ground beef
1/2 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

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For Sauce:

1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For Serving:

3/4 lb spaghetti

Parmesan

Toast (not really optional in my opinion)

First batch of meatballs in the works

First batch of meatballs in the works

Place the ground beef, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, egg, and 1/2 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 1-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don't crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don't clean the pan.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.

For the leftover subs

Toast any bread (I used french rolls) and butter. While bread is toasting, heat up the leftover spaghetti and meatballs. Place warm spaghetti and meatballs on toast and top with provolone cheese while it is all still warm. 

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Farm to Fork

By Katherine

Laura has previously mentioned her love for her Farm Fresh box.  I don't have a similar subscription, but my mother-in-law-to-be, DiAnne, does, and we are lucky enough that she likes to share.  She recently gave us a huge bag of vegetables and fruit. Look at this beautiful bounty!

I feel healthier just looking at this. 

I feel healthier just looking at this. 

Those are artichokes, blood oranges, lemons, radishes, avocados, carrots, and romanesco cauliflower (Wikipedia tells me it also goes by romanesco broccoli, but I'm going with cauliflower).  Getting this grab bag of produce is a great exercise in creativity in the kitchen.  It's like a puzzle: how can I put these pieces together into a yummy and satisfying meal?  

That beautiful romanesco was really calling out to me this night, and I remembered a recipe that's a favorite of one of my go-to food bloggers, the Amateur Gourmet.  He calls it Heaven and Hell Cauliflower Pasta.  I made the recipe basically as he writes it, except that I substituted whole wheat penne for the ziti to try to makes things a little healthier.  Here's what you'll need to get started:

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I used two heads of romanesco, since that's what I had, and they seemed to be a little on the small side.  First step is chopping them into florets. I think the two heads yielded about 2 cups of florets.  

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Next up: chop the garlic and anchovies, and add them to a bowl with fennel seeds and hot pepper flakes.  This is basically a bowl of dragon breath. 

Tell roommates, loved ones, and co-workers to stand back. 

Tell roommates, loved ones, and co-workers to stand back. 

Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta and heat some olive oil in a skillet to brown the romanesco. Depending on how much cauliflower you have and how big your pan is, you may need to do this in batches -- you really want just a single layer of cauliflower so it all has a chance to get nice and caramelized. I have a really big saute pan, so I was able to get it all in there at once.  

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Meanwhile, you cook your pasta to al dente and add most of your dragon breath mix to the romanesco.   After you've sauteed the cauliflower and the spice mixture a bit, add some of the pasta cooking water a ladleful at a time to make a sauce. You'll have to eyeball this, depending on how much water is absorbed by the vegetables. You don't want it to be liquid-y, just a bit saucy.  Then you add the pasta to the pan to finish cooking and top it all off with a bit of the raw spice mixture (for extra stinky breath) and grated cheese.  Here is the finished product:

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Even though this dish has vegetables in it, I felt like we needed a salad to round this meal out.  Luckily, we still had plenty of beautiful options left from DiAnne, the veggie fairy.  I decided to make a spinach salad with blood oranges, avocado, and radishes.  I don't mean to brag, but we get amazing local avocados here in San Diego. 

I love California! I also love my giant, 10-inch Wusthof chef's knife. Don't mess with me!

I love California! I also love my giant, 10-inch Wusthof chef's knife. Don't mess with me!

That avocado got tossed together with the orange segments, thinly sliced radishes, baby spinach, and a simple vinaigrette.  

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Although this meal came together on the fly, it really turned out well.  The pasta recipe can be made mostly with pantry staples (if you're the kind of person who keeps anchovies around, which I now am), but it packs a lot of flavor. The combination of sour (orange), creamy (avocado), and spicy (radish) worked well in the salad, and made me feel slightly more virtuous after eating a big bowl of pasta. I probably would not have thought to put these things together if I hadn't been presented with that bag of goodies, but I'm very glad I did!