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.

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I originally made this as part of my Blue Apron subscription but have since redone it and adapted it for our family, and you could do the same.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.

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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!

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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 · Slow Cooker

Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken

Inspired by a popular post on Damn Delicious (one of my favorite cooking blogs), this recipe for Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken is beyond foolproof, with no braising, marinating or prep work required — just toss it in the slow cooker, come home after work and eat. You can use any cut of chicken and it still turns out moist and delicious. The original recipe called for chicken thighs, but boneless breasts were on sale and are something Georgia prefers, so we decided to try the recipe with those instead. And it worked perfectly. Life = easier, just like that!

Honey Garlic Slow Cooker Chicken

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 Chicken thighs (or two packages of boneless breasts, which I used here)
  • 16 oz. red potatoes (half a 2.5 pound bag)
  • 16 oz.baby carrots (one bag)
  • 16 oz. green beans, trimmed (one bag)

FOR THE SAUCE

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce (preferably reduced sodium)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Dried oregano, basil, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste (about a tablespoon total)

DIRECTIONS

  • Mix the sauce together and set aside.
  • In your slow cooker, nestle the potatoes and carrots into the bottom of the pot, then layer the chicken on top. Pour the sauce over and set to cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
  • The original recipe calls for basting every half hour, which is fine if you are home but not fine if you’re working. It turns out well either way.
  • In the last 30 minutes of cooking, add in the green beans.
  • Serve warm on a cold day!

OK, so this doesn’t photograph very well as a finished product. Trust me when I tell you it’s even BETTER as leftovers! 

This is a great recipe to pair with the Maple Dijon Pork Chops I posted about a couple of weeks ago when you’re meal planning for the week, because you can buy one bag of potatoes and use half in this meal and half with the chops; the same goes for the green beans.

Are you all set for Halloween?? We are in full Spooky Swing. Last weekend was the “Boo at the Zoo” event at the same place where we hosted Georgia’s birthday party this year, and we had a blast with friends riding the kiddie rides, seeing the animals in their exhibits, dancing to some monster tunes and of course picking up some toys and (healthy) treats along the walking paths. Monday we had a trick-or-treat in my office, which was another hit, and tomorrow G has her preschool Halloween party. It’s an exhausting life when you’re three — and the actual holiday hasn’t even hit yet! I’m not sure Rapunzel’s wig will make it to Monday intact… 🙂

Have a great rest of the week everyone. 

Recipes

Baked Ziti

Heads up — this is a Weight Watchers recipe! I wish I could say it’s because I’m finally losing my last 5 baby pounds, but (typical) it’s because Mark booked a role for the summer that involves several shirtless scenes, so he ran right out and bought a FitBit and is now on a health crusade.

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(I’ll just point out that those crescent roll biscuits you see in the background are not part of the health-food diet.)

This is an easy pasta dish, made more healthful with reduced fat ricotta and mozzarella. You can use ziti, penne or any other tubular pasta that stands up well to being baked. I always undercook the pasta when it’s boiling so that it doesn’t get too soft in the oven. And I find that using canned tomato sauce is just fine as long as it’s a quality brand and ideally organic as well.

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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound pasta
  • cooking spray for the baking dish
  • 3/4 pound part-skim ricotta
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 4 cups marinara sauce, divided (you could also use diced tomatoes)
  • 1/2 pound shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
  • red pepper flakes (add more or less to your taste)
  • fresh basil for garnish (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350. Prep a casserole dish or any oven-safe baking dish with cooking spray.

Cook pasta according to package directions, taking off the heat a bit early so the pasta doesn’t overcook; drain and rinse under cold water.

While pasta is cooking, combine ricotta, 3 TBSP Parmesan, red pepper flakes (if using; I just added a dash) and 1/3 C marinara sauce in a medium bowl.

To assemble, spoon 1/2 C sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish, add half the cooked pasta, spoon the ricotta mixture over, then spoon remaining sauce on top.

Top with remaining pasta, spoon the rest of the sauce on top, then sprinkle with mozzarella and remaining Parmesan.

Bake until cheese melts and is bubbly, about 20 to 30 minutes. Allow dish to sit for another 10 or 15 minutes before plating.

Optional: garnish with fresh basil ribbons.

If portioned into 12 servings, each one will have a 7 points value for those on Weight Watchers.

We had this with extra sauce on the side, plus some meatballs and Italian sausage and also those yummy biscuits and organic corn from Trader Joe’s. You could also add lean ground beef to the sauce (real or imitation) to make it meatier but still healthful. Simple and satisfying, perfect for Sunday dinner with family.

 Did you like this recipe? Share it! 

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Recipes

Spicy Penne Rosa with Shrimp

This has a nice subtle heat that will call to mind shrimp fra diavolo. Made with whole wheat pasta, spinach and a creamy sauce of fire-roasted tomatoes and non-fat Greek yogurt, it packs a healthy punch that will keep you feeling fuller longer. Tons of great protein and flavor in here!

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Ingredients

  • 1 package whole wheat penne
  • 1/3 cup 0% Greek yogurt (I used Fage)
  • 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes, such as Muir Glen
  • 4 cups fresh spinach (eyeball it to your taste)
  • frozen shrimp, deveined and without tails (about 1 cup)
  • small jar of marinara sauce or tomato soup
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (add more if you like heat!)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil for the pan
  • parmesan, shaved, for topping

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Directions

In a good-sized skillet, heat a couple swirls of olive oil over medium heat until warm. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes (more or less to your taste) until the garlic begins to soften but hasn’t browned. Meanwhile, put a pan of water on to boil for the penne.

Once the garlic and red pepper flakes are ready, add the tomatoes to the pan with salt and pepper. You can also use fresh tomatoes, chopped (about 2 medium tomatoes, or 1/2 a pound). Cook about 5 minutes.

Turn up the heat to medium-high, and add the shrimp. Next, add the spinach until it starts to wilt. You might, like me, find yourself wanting to add more once you see how much it wilts down.

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Cook for a few minutes, until the spinach have just wilted and the shrimp are pinkish and see-through. Add the cooked penne, the Greek yogurt (adding more from the container to taste, if you like it) and then add either the marinara sauce or a splash of tomato soup (I thought of this in a pinch) to loosen the sauce.

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Stir until it is well mixed, taste for seasoning and desired thickness, and top with grated parmesan cheese. Divide into pasta bowls and serve warm. Voila!

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Inspiration for this recipe came from Back To Her Roots. I only altered one thing in the original recipe: Mark hates mushrooms, so I omitted them.

ENJOY!

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!

Recipes

Multi-Grain Spaghetti with Spinach & Chickpeas

I made a whole mess of this on a Saturday night (just like the blogger who inspired my recipe) and had tons of filling leftovers for my upcoming workweek, which promises to be hectic. If I had to do this one over again, I’d probably use that new Philly Cooking Creme to add an extra punch of flavor instead of plain old cream cheese. But, it’s a little bit healthier the way I made it, with a few scoops of lite cream cheese and pasta water as a sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 package of whole grain pasta (I used Barilla Plus)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, sliced or chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans)
  • 1 package frozen spinach, or a couple bunches fresh
  • Pecorino cheese, freshly grated
  • Olive oil
  • A touch of butter for sauteeing
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: red pepper flakes or chilli flakes, to taste (I used a touch)

Directions

Set pasta to boil. I like Barilla Plus because it has high fiber but tastes almost identical to regular pasta. I used a little less than a whole package (1 lb. of spaghetti).

If you are using frozen spinach, defrost it in the microwave for about four minutes and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a saute pan. Add a touch of butter to keep the garlic and onion from burning, then add the chopped onion and minced garlic (because seriously, garlic that burns can ruin your entire dish). Saute 5 minutes.

Add the chickpeas and spinach, stirring. Season with salt and pepper and, if using, red pepper/chilli flakes to taste. Cook, stirring, for several minutes.

Add the cream cheese to the edge of the pan, letting it melt along the edges so that it doesn’t clump up in the middle of the pan as you stir it into the spinach mixture.

Drain pasta and set aside, reserving at least one cup of pasta water.

Add the pasta water bit by bit to the spinach mixture, stirring and adding more as necessary to achieve desired consistency.

Toss with pasta; taste and adjust seasonings (I added more salt and pepper).

Serve with freshly grated pecorino cheese. Voila!

Now, obviously this would taste best with fresh spinach and high-quality olive oil to drizzle on top before serving. But if all you have on hand is a block of frozen spinach and supermarket olive oil for cooking, that’s fine! It’s better to experiment and try new recipes than to hold back because you don’t have premium ingredients. In fact, next time I might even try it with Ricotta to give the dish some light fluffiness. This blog is about appreciating the freshness of natural food, but it’s also about fitting home cooking into your crazed schedule. So go ahead and adapt. And more importantly, enjoy!