Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta

There are lots of spinach and artichoke pasta recipes out there trying to take our favorite spinach and artichoke dips and turn them into pastas so we can enjoy that cheesy, salty, wonderful goodness as our main meal. I've tried some of those recipes and, to be honest, they weren't satisfying for me....

(WARNING: boasting below)

So tonight I was trying to think about what to make for dinner with what I had in the house and I remembered the artichoke hearts I got on sale last week and the spinach I had in the freezer. So I decided to tackle the Spinach Artichoke Pasta...without a recipe. And guess what?! It turned out great! So below you have my very own original recipe that I made up tonight to feed my family. I feel proud. I told my husband twice that I didn't follow a recipe. He wasn't as laudatory as I thought he should have been, but my 4 year old actually ate it, so there's that...

I always keep a bottle of minced garlic in my fridge to have on hand when I don't have fresh garlic. That is what I used in this recipe and it turned out great. I used approx. 2 tsp. Also, make sure you're using freshly grated parmesan cheese off the block. It's SO MUCH better than the pre-shredded or stuff in the green bottle. Trust me. Once you use the real stuff you'll never go back! And lastly, this recipe is NOT for the dieting crowd. BUT, you can always switch out the cream for milk in the sauce. If you really want to take out all the fat, go ahead and use skim milk, but I would recommend using milk with some fat in it. It just makes the flavor so much better.


Spinach and Artichoke Pasta
Prep time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 30 minutes Servings: 6

1 12oz box of bowtie pasta
2 TB butter
1/2 large onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 TB flour
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 14oz can artichoke heart quarters, chopped
1 10oz package frozen spinach, defrosted and water squeezed out
salt & pepper to taste

  • Start by bringing a large pot of salted water to boil and cook pasta according to package directions
  • While the water boils, melt butter in saute pan over medium high heat
  • Add onions to melted butter and cook 3-5 minutes or until onions are translucent, then add garlic and cook an addition 1-2 minutes. Do not burn the garlic. It is not a pleasant taste. 
  • Add flour to onions and garlic, whisking vigorously
  • Keep whisking and cook for 1 minute. The mixture will clump together (this is called a roux) but keep moving it around the pan so it won't burn. 
  • Then slowly add cream and milk to roux while you continue to whisk the mixture. As the mixture comes to a boil it will thicken
  • Once the mixture has thickened, add parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese (this is now a mornay sauce) and whisk into the sauce
  • If the sauce seems too thick at this point you can always add a little of the pasta liquid or some extra milk to thin it out to your liking
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste
  • Combine, spinach, artichokes and sauce with pasta and enjoy! 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Southwest Mango Quinoa Salad

This recipe is so yummy! This one comes from Gina at SkinnyTaste.com. I love her recipes. She's all about healthy, low-fat recipes and because of this, many of them are vegetarian friendly or easily adaptable. This one can be a great side dish or jazzed up a bit as a main meal. We really enjoy this one with tortilla chips, making it more like a "dip" but hearty. When we do it as our main meal, I will shred up some cheese and chop up some avocado to put on top. I've even thought about grilling up a few chicken breasts to have with it for the kids and I. And I think the flavor of this salad just gets better with a little time in the refrigerator, so it's perfect as leftovers.

Once again I made just a few changes to the original recipe to make it my own. First, I doubled the amount of everything in the recipe, except for the vegetables. I felt like this gave a better ratio of grain to vegetable, making it a more hearty meal. I also omitted the jalapeno pepper because I don't like heat in my food, so the husband just adds hot sauce to his. I also added a tsp of sugar to the dressing because I felt like it needed it to balance out the lemon and spices, but just omit it if you don't want the sugar; it shouldn't change the flavors at all. Lastly, just a quick note, I almost always use red onion in this recipe, but when I made it, as pictured above, I used a regular yellow onion and it was still delicious. Enjoy!

Southwestern Mango Quinoa Salad
Prep time: 10 min Cook Time: 15 min Servings: 6 (as a full meal)

1 cup dried quinoa, rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth
1 15 oz can corn, drained (or 1.5 cups frozen, defrosted)
1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 large mango, chopped
1/2 large red onion, diced
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
juice from 2 lemons
3 TB olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt and pepper to taste


  • Start by adding vegetable broth and quinoa to a medium sized pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and let summer for 10 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. 
  • While quinoa is summering, add corn, black beans, red bell pepper, mango, onion and cilantro to a large bowl.
  • Mix together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, cumin, chili powder and turmeric and pour over vegetables, mixing to combine.
  • After quinoa is done cooking, pour into a separate bowl and let cool to room temperature (you can always stick it in the refrigerator or freezer to speed this process up)
  • Add cooled quinoa to vegetable mixture and mix to combine. 
  • Add salt and pepper to taste 
  • Serve immediately or refrigerate until you're ready to serve

Monday, May 11, 2015

Easy Peasy Pizza Dough

In our family, Friday is Pizza night. We've been doing this for a couple of years now and we love it. I've made pizza dough so many times that I don't need a recipe. I just sort of do it and it goes fast. So this is my attempt to put the "recipe" down on paper. I'm sure there are superior ways to make and cook pizza dough, but this is what works for me.

I don't use anything fancy to cook my pizzas. Just a regular old cookie sheet. I have found that if I use a light colored cookie sheet that I need to pre-bake my crust for 7 minutes or so before adding the toppings and finish cooking it. But I have two, rather old, cookie sheets that were once light, but have been quite "seasoned" and are pretty dark now. With these I don't have to pre-bake my crust, which makes it go quicker.

I also don't roll out my pizza dough. The dough is soft enough to just press and stretch into the pan. (see below)

For our pizzas I almost always just use jarred pasta sauce and then grate a block of mozzarella cheese. I've found grating my own is so much better than the shredded stuff in the bag. But of course, pizza is so versatile that you could pretty much put anything imaginable on it and it would be delicious (well, almost anything).

Easy Peasy Pizza Dough
Prep time: 15 min. Cook time: 15 min.
Servings: 8 slices

Notes: The amount of flour you will need will vary depending on the humidity in your house, etc. The key is to start small and add flour small amounts at a time until you reach a desired consistency. Putting too much flour in will result in a thicker, denser dough. Also, I've done this recipe with whole wheat flour and half wheat/ half white. Both turned out great. Just know that with wheat flour, you may not need as much flour because it absorbs more water. 

1 TB Yeast
1 TB honey or white sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
2-3 cups all purpose flour

- Preheat oven to 400F
- In stand mixer with dough hook attachment, put in yeast, honey (or sugar), salt and water. Slightly mix together and let sit for a minute.
- Once the yeast looks like it's starting to bubble, start adding flour. Start with 2 cups, mixing on low-medium speed and gradually increase to high speed. Start adding flour in 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup at a time until the dough comes together and pulls away from the bowl, cleaning the edges of the bowl as it mixes.
- Knead the dough with the mixer for 3-4 minutes until its nice and smooth.
- Let dough rest for 10 minutes in bowl (I grate my cheese and prep my other toppings while it rests)
- Grease a large cookie sheet with cooking spray
- Press dough into pan, using flour on your hands if it's a bit sticky
- Top dough with desired toppings
- Bake pizza for about 15 min or until the cheese is slightly brown and bubbly.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Vegetable Corn "Chowda"

I came across this recipe by Kristen on SlenderKitchen.com and just had to try it! I made a few variations to put my own spin on it. First, I only used one green bell pepper and one red bell pepper and made up the remaining volume with yukon gold potatoes. It just didn't seem like "chowda" (said with thick Boston accent) unless I was going to have me some potatoes! I also attempted to "roast" my corn (which was canned and may have been my problem) and I don't think it made too much of a difference in the recipe. I do imagine though that if you grilled your corn, as the recipe suggests, and can get some good char on it that it would add some great smokiness to the chowder. But alas, I do not have a grill. It also seems like a lot of work to me and I'm all about simplicity in my cooking.

I'd like to put a little plug in for my all-time favorite vegetable broth. Pacific Organic Vegetable Broth. I've tried quite a few pre-made vegetable broths...some good, some awful, but I always come back to this one. Its on the pricier side, but I get mine in bulk from Costco when they have it in stock and it makes the price per carton much cheaper. I have attempted to make my own vegetable broth before, but it didn't turn out so well. It was very bland and didn't really add any depth to the dishes I used it in. If someone has a secret to homemade broth, let me know!

Seeing all those yummy vegetables makes me feel better about adding cream at the end....sort of.

I forgot to take a nice posed picture of the soup when it was done. So this is my half-eaten bowl, which looks less appetizing, but I promise is SO GOOD! It will make a solid addition to our dinner rotations. The soup is so creamy and flavorful and perfect with a side of freshly baked bread (recipe to come).

The recipe below is my recipe with the variations I made. If you'd like to try Kristen's recipe with roasted corn, just click on over here


Vegetable Corn "Chowda"
Prep time: 10 minutes  Cooking time: 6 -7 hours
Servings: 8

4 cups canned or frozen corn
4 cups vegetable broth
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1.5 cups yukon gold potatoes, chopped
2 bay leaves
1.5 cups skim milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper

-Add corn, broth, onion, garlic, carrots, celery, peppers, potatoes and bay leaves to slow-cooker. Cook on low for 7 hours.

-With one hour of cooking time left, puree half the chowder in a blender or food processor and then add it back to the slow-cooker. Add skim milk and continue cooking until done.

- When finished cooking, add cream, salt and pepper to the chowder. Mix until incorporated and serve.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Sweet Potato Vegetarian Chili

On a cold day there is nothing better than a warm bowl of something steaming and a side of bread. One of our family's favorites is chili and cornbread. This version incorporates one of my favorite vegetables...the sweet potato! They make a great meat substitution in many recipes, plus they taste good.

This recipe is super simple and can either be done on the stovetop or in the crockpot. I will include the crockpot variation as well.


Sweet Potato Vegetarian Chili
Prep time: 5 minutes  Cooking Time: 30 minutes (stove top) or 4 hrs (crockpot)
Servings: 6

Notes: Sometimes when I make this on the stovetop the chili gets rather thick, so I will sometimes think it out with vegetable stock about 10 minutes before its done cooking. Sometimes the reverse happens with I cook this in the crockpot and I will have to thicken it. When this happens I add a slurry of 1 TB flour to 2TB water 30 minutes before its done cooking and that usually does the trick. This recipe also freezes really well. We can usually get two meals out of this one recipes.

1 TB olive oil (stovetop only)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large sweet potato, diced
1-2 garlic cloves, minced (depending on your preference)
1 32 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15oz can chopped tomatoes, do not drain
1 1/2 TB chili powder
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black peppers
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1 TB honey
1 cup frozen corn
sour cream and shredded cheese for serving

Stovetop Directions:
- In a large pot (I use my 6 Q enameled cast iron dutch oven) over medium high heat, sauté onions and sweet potatoes in olive oil until onions are cooked and translucent. Then add garlic and cooked for another two minutes.

- Add crushed tomatoes, black beans, red kidney beans, chopped tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and paprika. Bring this mixture to a slow boil, then reduce heat to low and cover.

- Let chili cook for 20-25 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are soft and tender.

- Add honey and corn and continue to cook for an additional minute.

-Adjust seasonings to taste, adding more chili powder for more heat or paprika for more smokiness.

- Serve hot with shredded cheese and sour cream.

Slow-cooker Directions:
- Put all ingredients in slow-cooker, except corn and honey. Set the slow-cooker to high and cook for four hours. With ten minutes left in the cooking time, add the honey and corn and finish cooking.