kid-friendly · Recipes

Rotini with Asparagus, Peas & Goat Cheese

Clearly, I am revving up for spring, because this is a decidedly non-wintery dish. Fluffy rotini drenched in a light, lemony goat cheese sauce mingles nicely with whatever vegetables you have on hand; I love the blend of asparagus and peas, because it’s like a signal to my taste buds that nicer weather is around the bend.

This is perfect for meal prep Sundays, or for throwing together right after work. All you need on hand, after all, are your vegetables of choice — even frozen work well — and a small package of chevre, one lemon, plus a box of pasta. This is a great one for little helping hands, too, because there are just a few simple steps and easy tasks to share!

By the way, chevre and goat cheese are the same thing. They are a goat’s milk cheese which can be easier to digest for anyone with low tolerance for cow’s milk; chevre is also a bit lighter in fat and has a pleasingly tangy flavor and smooth texture. I save about a cup of the pasta cooking water here, and add it in gradually to the dish to loosen up the goat cheese and thin it into a silky, smooth sauce.

CHEVRE ROTINI

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 box rotini pasta (or similar shape)
  • 1 bunch asparagus (or bag frozen, such as Trader Joe’s grilled)
  • 1/3 package frozen peas, or about a good palm full (I estimated)
  • 1 small log goat cheese, about 4-5 oz.
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 cup reserved pasta cooking water
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

If you are using fresh asparagus, I like to roast them on a sheet of aluminum foil in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper at 425 for about 12-15 minutes, or I pick up a frozen bag of the Trader Joe’s grilled spears. No matter which way you prep them, frozen or fresh, chop into rotini-sized pieces after they are done cooking and set aside.

Next, boil water for the rotini and cook the pasta until al dente, or 8-10 minutes. I like rotini because it really grips sauces, but any shape of pasta is OK. If you are using frozen peas, cook them at the same time as the pasta.

Drain pasta (and frozen peas if using), reserving one cup of cooking water.

Return rotini to the pan, stir in the asparagus and goat cheese, and zest the lemon into the pan. Halve the lemon and juice both sides into the pasta, being sure to catch the seeds (using an inexpensive hand-held citrus press is a great way to do this). Lastly, pour in the pasta water a little at a time, stirring until you reach the right consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve warm!

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This makes such great leftovers for the work week, and actually tastes good hot or cold. I haven’t tried this yet, but I bet it would be good to bring to a cookout in the summer as a cool pasta salad. If you try that, let me know. Until then, happy meal prepping, and stay safe if you’re impacted by the Nor’Easter hitting the East Coast right now!

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kid-friendly · Recipes

Trader Joe’s Tag: Teriyaki Steak Tips & Grilled Asparagus

For the latest installment in my not-frequent-enough series on Meals You Can Make Exclusively Using Trader Joe’s Products, I offer these delicious, grill-ready steak tips and sides. Made using things you can find 100% at Trader Joe’s, this meal comfortably fed our family of three with leftovers, and came together in half an hour on a weeknight after work and camp. It’s also pretty healthy, with just 240 calories per serving of beef, or a total of 10 Weight Watchers points if you eat a really big helping. We cooked this indoors because it was raining out, but these tips are made for the grill. You could also broil them to mimic that fresh-off-the-barbecue sear!

Teriyaki Steak Tips.png

Teriyaki Steak Tips & Grilled Asparagus

INGREDIENTS

All from Trader Joe’s:

  • 1 package refrigerated teriyaki steak tips (in the meat case)
  • 1 package frozen grilled asparagus spears
  • 1 packaged refrigerated scalloped potatoes or boxed potatoes au gratin*

*Or, substitute a similar potato side. Looking for different options, or rather make something from scratch? Check out my mashed potatoes, homemade scalloped potatoesroasted potatoes, or classic potato salad.


DIRECTIONS

Prepare potatoes following package directions (or use from-scratch recipes above) while heating up a grill pan/large cast iron skillet/Dutch oven to cook the steak tips. (Or grill ’em outside!) I used my large Le Creuset dish and it worked perfectly by giving all the tips room to brown without crowding on the bottom of the pan.

You can also stick these under the broiler for a few minutes and that would work great, too. You’ll be cooking them for about 7 minutes or to desired level of done-ness.

While the tips are cooking, heat the frozen asparagus either in the oven in a glass dish, or in the microwave in a safe dish, until cooked through, following package directions.

Serve the tips with some pan juices alongside the grilled asparagus and potatoes. Garnish with any additional steak sauce you like; Trader Joe’s island soyaki sauce might be nice here, as would any other sweet condiment that won’t fight the teriyaki marinade. Enjoy!

There’s no need to season these further, as they come already marinated in a sauce that you can just throw right into a hot pot with a little olive oil. This would also go really well with any type of rice side, as well as any other type of vegetable if you don’t like asparagus. I love these frozen asparagus because you can really taste the grilled parts, and they aren’t very mushy, which kind of tricks your taste buds into thinking that you cooked them fresh. Other awesome frozen sides at Trader Joe’s include their Organic Superfood Pilaf (tri-color quinoa with sweet potatoes, kale and carrots),  Fire Roasted Bell Peppers & Onions, and Misto Alla Griglia (marinated grilled eggplant, zucchini and red peppers). I also keep their boxed frozen rice on hand at all times, because you can just steam-heat a two-serving pouch in the microwave to go with dinner at the last minute, and they have a wide variety ranging from organic jasmine rice to organic brown rice to barley mix.

Looking for other Trader Joe’s meals? Check out:

Roasted Red Pepper & Tortellini Soup (vegetarian!)

Chimichurri Rice with Chicken Sausage

Lemon Pepper Pappardelle with Hummus Pesto

Soy Chorizo Chili (vegetarian!)

Butternut Squash, Sage & Sweet Chicken Sheet Pan Meal

And, like most people who shop at Trader Joe’s, one of our top meals is their frozen orange chicken sauteed in a pan with TJ’s frozen vegetable fried rice. It’s our #1 takeout substitute for busy weeknight dinners and now even Georgia asks when we can have “OC” again! I make a big batch on a busy evening and she loves to share a plate with Daddy while watching a movie. What other Trader Joe’s foods do YOU love?

Have a great weekend everyone!

SPANX

Blue Apron · Grow Your Own Way · kid-friendly · Recipes

Spring Fettuccine

Hmm. Where did we go for 21 days? It sure whizzed by rather mysteriously for me, until I woke up and realized I hadn’t written a new recipe all month. But I can tell you one thing — we did very, very, VERY little cooking these last three weeks, so that right there is probably the secret to why this blog went silent.

We had my mom’s 70th birthday party, the end of school for Georgia, the start of summer camp, the tail end of audition season for Mark, and annual reviews at my office, plus graduation from the political candidate training program I underwent all winter, Emerge.

I guess we were busy, huh?


You’ll notice this post has the word “Spring” in the title. That’s because that is when I started writing it! It’s probably even more exciting as a meal option now, though, because it’s just that easy — and easy is what you want in the heat (which we finally have here in Boston). And, bonus: you can use any greens that are ready to harvest from your garden now, if you’re in the Northeast.

The title of this should really be “Fresh Fettuccine with Chicken, Asparagus, Kale and Rosemary” but that is just WAY too long, so I’m leaving the flavors a bit to your imagination with a festive-sounding word like “Spring” instead. Because when I think of this season, and eating outdoors or on the porch, with something light and easy to pull together on a weeknight, those foods are for sure on my list…right next to a crisp glass of white wine or rosé.

SPRING FETTUCCINE.png

I originally made this as part of my Blue Apron subscription but have since redone it and adapted it for our family, and you could do the same. Chicken and Rosemary are natural buddies, but you can leave out any part that doesn’t appeal, including the chicken if you want to make this vegetarian, or the red pepper flakes if you don’t like so much heat. The greens are also interchangeable, so a spring mix or spinach would be fine here, too. Other ideas: you could add in some garlic to the saute step, or even some mushrooms — especially for a heartier vegetarian option if you omit the chicken tenders. I might even add some fresh peas if I saw them at the farmer’s market.

rosemary

Spring Fettuccine

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 chicken tenders
  • 6 OZ fettuccine
  • 1 bunch kale
  • ½ bunch ssparagus
  • 1 bunch rosemary
  • 2 TBSP crème fraîche or Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 TBSP grated Parmesan
  • ⅛ TBSP crushed red pepper flakes

DIRECTIONS

Wash and dry the fresh produce and eat a medium pot of salted water to boiling. Snap off and discard the tough, woody ends of the asparagus, then cut into 1-inch pieces on an angle. Remove and discard the kale stems and finely chop the leaves. Pick the rosemary leaves off the stems, or run through an herb stripper; discard the stems and roughly chop the leaves.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and chop into bite-sized pieces, then transfer to a bowl. Season the chopped chicken with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

In a large pot, heat some olive oil on medium-high until hot. Add the seasoned chicken and cook, stirring occasionally for about five minutes or until it is lightly browned and cooked through.While the chicken cooks, add the pasta to the pot of boiling water and cook 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Reserving ¾ cup of the pasta cooking water, drain thoroughly.

While the pasta cooks, add the asparagus, kale, rosemary, 2 TBSP water and as much of the red pepper flakes as you’d like, depending on how spicy you’d like the dish to be, to the pan of chicken; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for a couple of minutes or until the asparagus is bright green and the kale wilts.

Add the cooked pasta, crème fraîche and half the reserved pasta cooking water to the pan of chicken and veggies. Cook, stirring vigorously to coat the pasta, until thoroughly combined, just a couple of minutes. If the sauce seems dry, add the remaining pasta cooking water to reach a better consistency. Top with cheese and enjoy!

This makes about two servings, so it’s perfect for date night. Or, it doubles easily.

Buon Appetito!

fettuccine2

Technically summer started last week, but I think you can still safely make this “spring” pasta and be on-season with your ingredients. I know my garden is still overflowing with greens like lettuce, cabbage and kale! In fact things are growing so fast and furious after our heavy spring rains that allergies have hit in full force for me lately, and I hope you aren’t suffering too! Have a great rest of the week, and an awesome start to your Fourth of July vacation if you’re taking off soon. We are staying in town but hoping to savor the warm sun and maybe get to some boating and beach or pool time! 🍉🇺🇸☀️


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Gymboree Sale On Now!

kid-friendly · Recipes

Springtime Risotto

Risotto isn’t anywhere near as difficult to make as some people would have you believe. Once you master the basic techniques, you’ll find it’s easy to make it your own. It’s truly an all season food ~ I have summer and winter versions, and I’m always inventing new recipes!

The thing I love most about risotto is how easily it feeds a crowd and makes fabulous leftovers. In fact, I prefer eating day-old risotto to a freshly made batch; the flavors just blend together so nicely.

My spring risotto included leeks, peas, celery and lemon; I was looking for good asparagus but left it out because everything I found looked a bit tired.

I also make a fall version with roasted red peppers and sundried tomato chicken sausage. It’s super hearty and my husband loves it. Experiment to your heart’s content!

The first thing to know about making risotto is that you need a handful of essential ingredients before you can customize. You’ll want to use arborio rice; it usually comes in a cardboard carton, vacuum sealed, and can be found either with the other rices or in the ethnic/organic section of major food markets, depending on where you go. I buy mine at Trader Joe’s because their packaging is exactly the amount of rice you need for one batch (about two cups). Arborio rice is an Italian short-grain rice that is high in starch and absorbs lots of liquid to give you a creamy finished product. When I lived in Italy, I learned that risotto is truly a staple — you can throw just about any leftover veggies into it, and it reheats very well as I mentioned. The children in my host family ate it most days of the week when they came home from school for lunch.

The second thing you need is broth — chicken or vegetable, either works fine. You’ll either need two cans or one of the cardboard cartons. I don’t recommend getting low sodium, unless you are on a strict heart-related diet, but fat free and/or gluten free versions (like the one above) are just fine. To get started, set a pot of stock on to boil while you chop your other ingredients. Once the stock boils, you’ll want to keep it at a medium simmer — not so high that it starts to burn off, but not so low that it cools down, either. You need it hot to mix into the risotto properly.

Photo May 28, 5 24 27 PM

The second thing you need is a chopped onion. In this case, I used leeks. While your stock is boiling, chop your onion and add to a large stock pot with equal parts olive oil and butter. Be liberal here — you really need it to coat the onion and bubble up when heated. The olive oil and butter keep each other from burning. You’ll start by sauteeing the onion over medium-high until translucent.

Next, you will pour all the arborio rice into the pot and stir immediately so it doesn’t stick. Why do this? The butter and olive oil actually coat the arborio rice and prevent it from getting soggy, which might happen if you started adding liquid right away.

Then, pour in a healthy glug of white wine. Just eyeball it; you’ll almost always use white, unless you are making something so meat- or seafood-heavy that only red makes sense. Stir until the wine burns off, just a minute or so. Get a measuring cup ready — after the wine burns off, you’re going to add a cup of water to the pan and stir.

Now there’s two ways you can go from here. If, like me, you’re using things that would benefit from longer cooking — like celery — you can add them in at this point, before you start adding the stock to the pan. If you are mixing in meat, I’d cook that in a separate pan and add it in the end; anything you don’t want to get soggy you won’t cook with the risotto. Most things fall into that category. Celery just happens to be pretty tough. Since I was also using a package of frozen peas, I tossed them in at this stage, too, so they could cook alongside the rice and celery.

Now it’s time to add the broth! It should be simmering away on medium-low. Using your measuring cup, add it one cup at a time, and stir the rice slowly until the liquid is absorbed. Then repeat. I don’t recommend leaving the room for longer than a minute or the rice could stick to the bottom of the pan — death to your risotto! If there’s one thing you can’t rescue, it’s burned rice. But don’t get sneaky and add too much veggie stock at once, either, because risotto is fickle that way. You have to go slow.

Once all your broth is gone, you’ll want to do a taste test. Check the risotto for tenderness. You want it to be al dente; a little pushback when you bite, somewhere between mushy and hard. If it’s still doesn’t taste done, then you can add water from here on out, tasting after every cupful to get the right texture. If you are cooking veggies or meat on the side, now would be the time to add them in. For my spring risotto, now was the time to add fresh squeezed lemon.

When you’re done, it’s time to add in grated cheese. Before you do this, you can also add salt and pepper to taste. Some people like to stir in a creamy element at this point, such as mascarpone cheese, but I prefer not to. Up to you!

Now if you decide you like your risotto more luiquid-y, that’s fine. Some people prefer a porridge feel, and that’s just as good. I wouldn’t skimp on cheese either way; I mix in a blend of parmesan and pecorino, because pecorino lends a nice salty bite that cuts the inherent blandness of a dish like risotto. Of course, fresh basil is always a good option.

Springtime Risotto

hands on time: 30-40 minutes // serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package of arborio rice, about 2 cups
  • 1 onion, chopped, or one bunch of leeks, sliced
  • 1 large carton (or 2 cans) of vegetable broth (chicken stock is OK too)
  • 1 small package of frozen peas
  • 4-6 stalks celery, diced
  • freshly shaved parmesan and pecorino (or just use one of these)
  • water
  • EVOO & butter
  • salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS 

Set a sauce pan on medium-high and pour in the stock. Once it reaches boiling, reduce heat and keep the stock at a low simmer, so it doesn’t burn off  but stays warm.

Meanwhile, chop your leeks and add them to a large stock pot with equal parts olive oil and butter; stir until melted, well coated and translucent. Salt well to help leeks release their flavors.

Pour a healthy splash of white wine into the pan and stir to reduce. Next, add about a cup of water and stir until absorbed.

Add the celery and peas and stir to combine. Then, start adding the simmering stock, one cupful at a time, stirring constantly to prevent sticking.

Once the stock is gone, taste test; if the rice is too al dente, add water gradually until it achieves the right texture — firm but not stiff, and before it gets soggy.

Squeeze one organic lemon into the pan and stir.

Grate parmesan and pecorino directly into the pan. Pick a not-too-small grater and be heavy handed with the cheese.

Taste; add salt and pepper if needed.

Optional: Stir in a spoonful of mascarpone or cream cheese. I don’t do this; it’s a tad too Americanized for me. If anything, a drizzle of excellent olive oil is more authentic, as would be some freshly torn basil.

Serve with white wine and enjoy leftovers the next day!