Books · Holidays · Tips and Tricks

Gift Guide: Cookbooks

If there’s one thing even experienced cooks never mind receiving, it’s a new book about food. From cookbooks to travel writing, novels, and memoirs about eating, there’s always something new to whet the appetite of any foodie bookworm. Here are a few new cookbooks that I’ve got my eye on this year, plus some trusty favorites that would make great gifting for anyone on your list who is just starting out in a new home, new marriage, or with newly-acquired cooking skills. There are 3 DAYS LEFT for free two-day shipping with Amazon, so get shopping for those last-minute presents!

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Best of the New Cookbooks, clockwise from top left:

Anthony Bourdain’s Appetites: A Cookbook // Molly on the Range // The Flavor Bible // Cooking for Jeffrey // Small Victories // Damn Delicious // Thug Kitchen 101 // The Sprinkles Baking Book

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There were so many great cookbook releases this year, it’s hard to pick just one or two. All of these eight books appeal to different tastes, and all came out within the last two months, so they’re unlikely to be part of anyone’s collection yet — and all can be shipped before Christmas.

If you aren’t as concerned about getting something brand new and would rather help a budding cook or recent college grad in your family build their collection of go-to recipes, here are my selections — the tried and true, dog-eared favorites I turn to over and over, and still find something new to try.

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The Silver Spoon and the Silver Spoon For Children

This was the first cookbook my mother got me when I got out of school, and for good reason. Not only does it specialize in Italian cooking, which is what I know best, but it is indexed by ingredient, so a novice cook can flip to something like “parsnips” or “rutabaga” and figure out how to prepare it. The children’s version I received as a baby shower gift from my sister-in-law, and it’s equally wonderful — perfect for a first-time parent, or someone with a baby just starting to eat solids, or a toddler just starting to ask you if they can help in the kitchen!

Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking

A classic for a reason, this is an encyclopedic look at one of the world’s best cuisines. With over 500 recipes, you will turn to it time and time again. Make a festive gift basket with this and her fascinating memoir, My Life in France, plus a nice bottle of wine.

Vegan with a Vengeance

Isa Chandra Moskowitz knows her stuff. Got a new vegan in the family, or just want to build some non-animal-protein foods into your regular rotation? This is the accessible, easy place to start, and the new 10-year-anniversary edition is even more beautifully laid out than the original. Looking for the fastest of the fast weeknight fare? Isa’s got you covered there, too, with Isa Does It, a digestible book of 30-minute meals with sumptuous photography to boot. No weird or expensive ingredients to be found in either one.

The Can’t Cook Book by Jessica Seinfeld

I got this when it first came out in 2013, because — even though I’m a seasoned cook — I knew that with a new baby in our family, we’d be needing to expand our repertoire of uncomplicated meals as well as help Mark gain the skills to do some cooking while I was busy nursing. It got us through that bumpy time and is now a solid favorite that I turn to time and again to get out of a rut.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime

Made for busy families, this book is filled with supper recipes, freezer meals and other ideas that will quickly make their way onto your list of regulars. If you love her blog, this puts many of the favorites all in one place. And her writing style is such a kick, it’s like reading notes from a friend.

The Moosewood Cookbook

Timeless! A best seller since its publication in 1974, this is the most simple, delightful, hand-illustrated earthy little book of plant-based eating. Everything is comforting, no-frills and filling. If you’re looking to make more healthy, seasonal food, this is a great place to start.

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Good luck finishing up your shopping everyone! I’ll be sharing my Christmas menu soon! Need ideas now? Check out what we made last year.

 

Baby & Toddler · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

Why we’re going nuts about almonds

Last week, Georgia had her (very belated) 18-month checkup. In addition to hearing that my baby who once wouldn’t gain weight is now in the 65th percentile (!), I was thrilled to get the green light on introducing almond milk and other nut products to her diet. Why? Because, pre-Georgia, that was all we used! We were not dairy consumers, and buying three cartons of cow’s milk every week has honestly been a weird adjustments for me to make when grocery shopping. We always follow G’s pediatrician directions on food, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been excited about the prospect of one day trying things like sushi, tofu, smoothies, natural nut butters and almond milk together, which I always loved before having her.

she's a growing girl who needs her protein!
she’s a growing girl with an appetite to match!

New evidence, which our pediatrician pointed to, shows that children who are exposed to peanut products earlier in life may have a lowered risk of developing allergies later on. That, in combination with their nutritional value, is why our doctor encouraged us to offer Georgia all varieties of nut butters, flours, milks and crackers at home, now that she’s at an age where she can tolerate it. And I’m always excited to offer her new things to expand her palate.

Not quite what I had in mind...
Not quite what I had in mind…

When we gave her almond butter on apples and bananas, and made her a berry shake by pureeing frozen fruit with almond milk this week, she loved it! Now there’s so much more I can’t wait to try. And there are great reasons we use almond products beyond just the taste and the fact that I, like so many people, can’t digest lactose, or that eliminating cow’s milk (while adding exercise) has helped Mark control his once-serious (and hereditary) acid reflux.

another new food buddy?
making new food buddies every day!

Nut products are a great source of protein, which is important if you or your child eat little to no meat, and they are loaded with healthy fats, fiber, fewer calories than cow’s milk, and powerful antioxidants. By including plenty of calcium from sources like organic, low-sugar yogurt and real cheddar cheese in your toddler’s diet, you can confidently replace some of their cow’s milk with almond milk.

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What are some of the ways we use almonds, almond butter, almond milk, and almond flour in our home?

  • A post-workout shake that I created for Mark
  • A creamy, green, fruit smoothie for breakfast
  • An afternoon pick-me-up while at work: I keep raw almonds and walnuts in my drawer at all times!
  • This pasta dish with kale
  • These tasty breakfast Muffins
  • This better-for-you baked Mac n’ Cheese
  • As a substitute for pricey pine nuts in Classic Pesto
  • To make gluten-free treats for friends with dietary restrictions, since almond flour is naturally free of gluten and can seamlessly sub for wheat flour in baking recipes
  • In lieu of cow’s milk as a drink or in almost any recipe. I blend almond milk with one banana and a dash of cinnamon for Georgia, and she loves it!
Pioneer Woman’s Apple-Nut Butter Delights: click photo for recipe

We also love Martha Stewart’s Five-Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe, which uses 1 cup almond butter, 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 2 large eggs and 1/2 tsp coarse salt. You mix together the almond butter, chocolate chips, sugar, eggs and salt until a dough forms, preheat the oven to 350, drop tablespoon-sized dollops of dough about an inch apart onto a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes or until the cookies puff up and the tops are set. After cooling on a wire rack, you can store these in an airtight container for up to three days!

I’m so glad Georgia been an adventurous eater so far, and I can’t wait to keep discovering new foods together.

Nuts.com gave me the opportunity to share this infographic on the health benefits of almonds here on OrganicGlory. As with all such posts, opinions are my own, and I never endorse anything my family doesn’t already love. Please check with your doctor or pediatrician to make sure you follow their guidelines on when and how to introduce nuts to your family diet.

mac n' cheese and apples: still our two favorites.
mac n’ cheese and apples: still our two favorites.

How about you — how do you cook, bake and snack with Almonds or other nuts? Do your kiddos like them? 

Holidays · Recipes

Eating Fish on Good Friday?

Allow me to share my two favorite seafood recipes for any last-minute Good Friday cooks out there (with apologies for the 2012-style fuzzy photo in the second dish). These really are scrumptious and easy to pull together.

Seafood Pasta Baked in Foil, adapted from the Pioneer Woman

Are you eschewing meat entirely this Lent? Allow me to share with you my favorite meat-free risotto recipe.

Springtime Risotto

However and whatever you’re celebrating, have a lovely weekend and enjoy your family, friends and food. XOXO

Holidays · Recipes

St. Patty’s Day Confession

That’s right — I gave in to temptation this week. I did it. I caved. I’m totally, utterly weak. 

I ORDERED A SHAMROCK SHAKE. 

an irresistible temptation since childhood.
an irresistible temptation since childhood.

After all, who can blame me?? It’s St. Patrick’s Day, which is basically bigger than Christmas in Boston. Plus I have this cute Irish husband and consequently a bonnie Irish babe at home! I can’t resist being just a wee bit festive.

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This does not mean I had it together in the clothing department. Lacking a shamrocked onesie, I dug out the only item of green(ish) attire Georgia owns: some Gap jeggings that are really more chartreuse, with teeny white stars on them, and called it a day. And for myself?

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at least my walls are green?

The only one who really pulled out his A Game was Mark, because he was working the Freedom Trail today.

So I’m going to add value today not sartorially, but by sharing my favorite St. Patty’s Day recipes from around the interweb. Like:

A healthy Shamrock Shake knockoff by Hungry Girl

Slow Cooker Corned Beef & Cabbage by Rockin’ Mom’s Kitchen

Mini Grasshopper Ice Box Cakes by Lulu The Baker

Irish Coffee and Guiness Floats by Pioneer Woman

That’s all, my friends! Have a fun St. Patrick’s Day, and may the luck of the Irish be with you all year ’round!

CSA · Recipes

Bowties with Kale

I adapted this from the Pioneer Woman’s recent Kale Pasta Salad post. Like hers, mine tastes good cold or warm, as a main meal or as a side; unlike hers, mine adds roasted tomatoes, almonds in place of pine nuts, and kale that cooks a bit longer so it’s not as rough on my tummy. I also use copious Pecorino instead of shaved Parmesan cheese, because I just love that salty flavor! If you like kale, this will be a great addition to your arsenal of recipes featuring the leafy green.

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Bowties with Kale

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (PW uses more)
  • olive oil for the pan
  • 1 lb. bowtie (aka farfalle) pasta
  • 3 tbsp almonds, chopped (optional)
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes (approx. 14 oz.)
  • pecorino cheese, grated (I used a lot)
  • to taste: salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar

DIRECTIONS

Put on the pasta to boil. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium heat and crush both the nuts (if using) and the garlic cloves.

Cook nuts, adding garlic after a few minutes so it doesn’t burn, then add the kale ripped into small pieces and stir, cooking over medium heat until it wilts to the desired level.

Add can of roasted tomatoes to the pan, reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring, until combined (just a few minutes). If desired, add a splash of balsamic to the pan for flavoring, and season with salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta quickly and add to the pan with the kale mixture, reserving a splash of the cooking water if it’s too dry. If it’s really too dry, you can always add a splash or two of almond (or regular) milk to the pan.

Top with tons of shredded cheese — I used pecorino, my favorite — and serve warm OR let cool and have later! This tastes good cold, as a main dish, or as a side. I think if I made it again, I’d add more garlic, but otherwise this came out just right.

I didn’t try giving this to Georgia because it contains nuts and is also just a bit too fiber-filled for her system, but I will when she’s older. Thanks to Georgia’s Nan for sharing all that yummy kale with us from her CSA!!

Baby Milestone Update

Because I know you’re wondering. We can now:

  • Stand, and pull self up to standing
  • Bend down to pick up a toy with one hand
  • Hold mom’s hands and walk around house
  • Cruise from coffee table to couch and back
  • Point with both hands
  • Pick things up pincer-style
  • Feed self with hands (short list of acceptable foods)
  • Crawl. Finally!

Things we refuse to do?

  • Feed self with a spoon
  • Put self back to sleep at 1 a.m. (this is a horrifying new problem)
  • Soothe self while teething without intervention from mom, dad or Tylenol
  • not scream in the grocery store
  • behave properly around the cat’s tail

I think I’m just getting a taste of the toddler years. So far, it’s exhausting!

Did you like this recipe? Share it! And if you just love kale, check out my cheesy kale pasta bake, kale chips and satisfying kale salad with avocado-lemon dressing. I just love that last one because you simply tear up the kale, mash a whole avocado into it by hand, then coat with a couple of fresh-squeezed lemons. Creamy and delicious!

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Baby & Toddler · Holidays

Happy Memorial Day

Hey everyone! By some chance of fate, Mark and I both have this weekend off…as in, this entire weekend off at the same time, including all three days in a row. Needless to say, this happens rarely to never. So what did we do? We took long walks with the baby, we hung around the house, and I got a pedicure (at long last!!)

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Finally found a place near my “new” house that I like. Only took two and a half years…

Georgia also decided she was going to practice crawling after all — up to now, she’d skipped that milestone in favor of scooting on her butt or going straight to standing and pulling up on things. We are still trying to get her to feed herself finger foods, to no avail. (She’ll eat them ’til the cows come home, so it’s not a texture thing. She just prefers to have us feed her. Lazy lady!)

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It’s never too early for sun protection! This gal has gorgeous skin and I’m going to make sure she keeps it.

On Friday, I went with co-workers to a new Italian coffee shop that opened near my office. Holy moly! The vibe was cool and the drinks were amazing. It’s called Caffe Nero. If you work in the financial or theater district (or are planning a visit to Boston), check it out. Even has sidewalk seating which was what really clinched it for me. This winter, I suspect the seats  in front of the fireplace will be popular. And this summer, I’d bet a certain communications manager working at a downtown urban planning agency will feel compelled to try the coffee frappe which comes with an espresso shot. Just sayin’.

On Monday, we are meeting Mark’s 91-year-old grandfather for lunch near where he lives in New Bedford (the former whaling capital of the world). It’s still a major fishing port and every year they do a poignant dockside service remembering all those lost at sea for the past couple hundred years. Normally we attend and follow it up with a cookout, but this year we are keeping it more low-key. If I was going to cook out, though, I’d definitely make this easy side dish:

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I’m also dying to try the Pioneer Woman’s simple yet delicious-looking Watermelon Sangria. Watermelon is so hydrating, refreshing and good for you! And who doesn’t love a festive sangria. In fact, I’m trying to find a good “peachy” version for Georgia’s 1st birthday party (which, obvi, will have a Georgia Peach theme). If you know of a good recipe, send it my way!

And have a wonderful long weekend, everyone 🙂

Baby & Toddler · Recipes

Our Thanksgiving Traditions

This is going to be Georgia’s first Thanksgiving (and everything else!) and we are super excited to have her around for the holiday.

This time last year, we were just keeping our fingers crossed that she’d be coming into our lives soon, and a few weeks after Thanksgiving we found out that our wish had come true and she was officially on the way! I haven’t decided what she’s going to wear yet (well, other than this bib, since she drools like crazy) but I have decided what we are making. My father-in-law does the turkey, gravy, and stuffing, and our relatives split all the sides and desserts.

We bring:

  • Pumpkin, lemon meringue and apple pie. I order them from this bakery near where we live. They deliver for $1, and donate 20% to the Bread of Life, a local food pantry which hosts a huge Thanksgiving dinner every year for hundreds of people north of Boston, all for free.
  • Mashed potatoes. I have a great make-ahead method!
  • Cranberry Sauce from scratch. My specialty.

Click the photos below for my easy recipes for those buttery mashed potatoes and special cranberry sauce, which has little kick thanks to some ground ginger and orange peel.

Boil and mash these with half-and-half and cream cheese the day before, then bake topped with butter the hour before Thanksgiving dinner.
Sweet and tart.

Need more inspiration?

Don’t miss the New York Times Vegetarian Thanksgiving Guide, which includes Gluten-free options and plenty of ideas for leftovers this year.

I’m also dying to try this recipe for Sweet Potato Tart Tatin topped with Mascarpone (!) from The Chew, and this recipe for Mashed Sweet Potatoes topped with caramelized onions. Mark said next year he’s going to try his hand at cooking for Thanksgiving by whipping up these sauteed cipolline onions by Mario Batalli. My grandmother always made creamed pearl onions for Thanksgiving; it might be a Scandinavian thing. I really miss them so I can’t wait for Mark to try these!

I’m headed back to work the Monday after the holiday, so wish me (and Georgia and Daddy) good luck. Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Drinks & Smoothies · Recipes

Pumpkin Madness

At least, that’s what Fall in New England feels like sometimes!

It started with the Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte, and seems to have spread from there. Now everyone has pumpkin something on the menu. To wit:

Dunkin’ Donuts has gone Pumpkin crazy. I’ll admit, I love the pumpkin coffee flavor, both hot and iced. It’s pre-sweetened and I just order it plain with a dash of skim milk. And by that I mean, I send my husband out to fill my order while I nurse the baby every morning. Yum!
Pumpkin Spice Whiskey, crafted by the Sons of Liberty Spirit Company. Available starting this week in liquor stores around Boston.
Yes, there are even pumpkin spice M&M’s. I can’t decide if these sound good or not?

I love me some pumpkin flavor, but I wonder if there’s such a thing as too much. And let’s not forget that other classic New England fall staple: apples! I can’t wait to take the baby out apple picking — she’s a little small this year — and to eat apple cider, cider donuts, and caramel apples. Since she’s so tiny, our fall festivities so far are confined to taking her for walks and drives among the foliage near our house. The Boston Globe had some great apple recipes in the paper Tuesday: apple crostata, apple-bacon tartines, and turkey kielbasa with apples and sauerkraut. And the Pioneer Woman also just posted a collection of her best pumpkin recipes, from soup to muffins to pumpkin cream pie. Even Make Magazine jumped on the bandwagon this year, posting a recipe for pumpkin cheesecake martinis the other day. Yum!

Courtesy: BostonGlobe.com

Here are some of my own fall recipes:

Pumpkin Spice Enchiladas

German Apple Pancake

Pumpkin Bread from Scratch

pumpkin-bread

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin Sangria

Apple Cinnamon Hard Cider

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie.

What about you — what do you do with pumpkin?

Recipes

Homemade Salsa

Just in time for March Madness! Make enough to get you from the Sweet Sixteen to the Final Four, and you won’t be sorry. Here’s what you need:

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Tomatoes, canned jalapenos, fresh cilantro, and — my secret ingredient, cribbed from The Pioneer Woman’s salsa — two cans of Rotel. Here’s her original post, where she also makes some killer nachos. This fresh salsa is awesome with heirloom tomatoes from your garden or the farmer’s market, but regular old supermarket tomatoes will do just fine, too.

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Homemade Salsa

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups tomatoes (about 3 heirloom) or 1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes
  • 2 cans (10 oz) Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies, mild or medium
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped fine
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • jalapenos to taste (start with a few slices and add if needed)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • juice of 1 lime

Directions

Using a large food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients until you get the consistency you desire. I err on the side of chunky and not smooth. Test the seasonings, refrigerate for an hour and serve! This makes a pretty good-sized batch, so you can definitely bring plenty to a party and still have leftovers (or, if you have a huge family, just eat it all at one sitting).

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I used this handy guide to figure out how many garden tomatoes would give me the same quantity as a 28 oz. jar of the whole canned variety (the answer: about 2 1/2 cups). So if you have no choice but to sub in the canned kind, that’s the size you want to grab.

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This salsa has a satisfying smooth yet chunky texture with a tiny bit of heat, but not too much. In my opinion the fresh cilantro really makes it, but you can certainly adjust to your preference if cilantro isn’t really your thing!

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***IMPORTANT!!!*** If you are considering canning your salsa, please consult a guide such as the Ball Canning Book or a reputable reference for proper food preservation — this website is a good place to start — because you can’t just take any old salsa recipe and throw it in a hot water bath to preserve it long-term. There are USDA guidelines over the ratio of acidic foods to alkaline ingredients to prevent spoilage and growth of dangerous bacteria. Unless you are using a pressure canner, please be very careful while canning salsa or similar sauces! Mine are pictured in Mason jars because I gave them out as gifts the day after I made them, so they’re safe to keep in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.

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Want to learn how to make jam? Check out my how-to guide for fruit preserves.

Recipes

Seafood Pasta Bake

Hurray! This is the new pasta dish I’ve been looking for.

A couple weeks ago, I picked up a bag of frozen seafood blend from Trader Joe’s for about $6. With bay scallops, shrimp & calamari, I figured there was something tasty I could find to do with it. Figuring that something might involve pasta, I also grabbed a can of organic diced tomatoes and linguine … but my ingredients never developed into a plan, and the stuff sat in the fridge. Until I stumbled upon this easy seafood pasta recipe by the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. This baked dish is so flavorful and comes together quickly, since you start it on the stovetop and then bake it for just 15 minutes! I made it for Sunday night dinner before Mark had to dash off to tech rehearsal for the show he’s opening this week, and it kept him satisfied through hours of work.  And for seafood that came out of the freezer aisle, the taste was incredibly fresh. This one’s definitely going into our regular meal rotation.

Directions

Set on a large pot of covered water, unsalted, to boil.

While the water is heating up to boiling, melt a tablespoon of butter and a dash of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.

Toss the frozen seafood (I thawed mine a bit for a couple hours in the fridge) into the skillet once the oil and butter have melted together, and saute the fish for a few minutes until just warm and translucent. If there’s too much liquid in the pan, scoop a bit out and reserve in a measuring cup. You want the seafood to get browned a bit, and depending on how frozen they are when you saute them, they may let off too much liquid (they did to me). But don’t throw out that spare fluid! It’ll come in handy later.

You want to undercook the pasta a bit since it’ll be baked some more in the oven, so keep that in mind after you toss it in the boiling water.

Once the seafood is browned a bit, remove it from the heat and set aside. If you haven’t drained the extra liquid off, then set the seafood aside on a plate WITHOUT a paper towel so you can reserve the juices. If, like me, you’ve already poured off the juices, then set the seafood aside on a paper towel.

Turn the heat down in the skillet and add 3-4 diced garlic cloves to the pan with a bit of olive oil. Don’t let the garlic burn.

Then, add a dash of white wine to the pan and deglaze it, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet.

Cook, stirring, until the wine reduces and a thin sauce starts to come together. Again, don’t let the garlic burn.

Then, add the can of diced organic tomatoes and a couple spoons full of capers to the pan, stirring. (The original recipe did NOT call for capers, but I love them, and I think they add a certain saltiness that pairs well with seafood. You could also add Kalamata olives; the only reason I didn’t is because Mark dislikes them).

Stir over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Take care to salt and pepper it generously. I also added a teeny dash of red pepper flakes.

Meanwhile, prepare a casserole dish for baking. Doubling up on foil, you want to line the dish with enough overlap that you can fold the edges over the entire thing, like you would when baking in foil over a campfire. These little packets are going to blend all the flavors together and make the dish really harmonious!

Next, pre-heat your oven to 350.

When the pasta is nearly done — you want it a little firmer than Al Dente, because it’ll continue cooking in the oven — drain it and lay it in the casserole dish. A little cooking liquid is OK; if they’re on the slippery side when they go in the dish, the linguine will have just the right amount of moisture to bake well.

Pour the cooked tomato mixture on top of the pasta, then top with the reserved seafood pieces. If the whole thing feels or looks a bit dry, pour some of that reserved cooking liquid (remember the butter and olive oil I had you set aside when the seafood was sauteeing?) on top before you put it in the oven.

Then, fold up the edges to completely encase the food and seal it off so it blends together nicely in the oven. You don’t therefore need a lid on your baking dish.

When it comes out, just unwrap it……

And voila!

If I had any fresh basil on hand, I would have topped this with some basil leaves. Otherwise I can’t imagine this tasting any better. Enjoy!