Pasta


I love when I find new, easy recipes that also taste great!

Sorry, let’s back up. How was your weekend? I hope it was relaxing and fun. I was excited to put away my suitcase since I’m done traveling for a little while. It’s the simple things. Now, I just have laundry to tackle.

During the weekend, I went into Boston and got a new car! It was a fun few days. I even had a chance make a tasty pasta dish this weekend. As I mentioned earlier, it was easy to toss together and made leftovers for lunch! Perfect.

The recipe for Easy Penne and Tuna Salad came from the May 2010 issue of Cooking Light.  Meant to be served cold, it’s going to be a great addition to my summer meals. The dish is light with a nice touch of Mediterranean flavor (I love red peppers!). I used whole wheat pasta for extra fiber but followed the recipe as written otherwise. It was my first time using  tuna packed in oil and I really liked the moistness.

I honestly don’t know how people give up carbs as I swear I gravitate towards pasta and bread. I enjoy these types of foods so as long as I choose healthier options (whole grains) and limiting my portions (to one), I’m okay with it.

What’s your carb of choice?

Happy Thursday, everyone! Even before writing this post I was thinking how obsessed my readers are going to think I am with yet another Ellie Krieger recipe. I know I need to switch it up but honestly, Ellie’s recipes are quick, healthy and tasty. What more can I ask for?

I’m going to get more creative, I swear. But, for now, Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta. And since Lent has just begun, this would be a great Friday recipe these next few weeks – if you follow Lent, that is. This dish was a hit!

This recipe comes from The Food You Crave and is a great weeknight meal. I bought all the ingredients ahead of time which included frozen shrimp from Trader Joe’s, canned diced tomatoes, feta cheese and fresh dill and parsley. I cooked the recipe as instructed, just incorporating a longer cooking time due to the frozen shrimp (vs. fresh).

I used one of my oven-proof Calphalon pans to cook the dish on the stovetop then in the oven. While cooking the shrimp, I boiled some whole grain pasta to complete the meal. All and all, it was easy to prepare and turned out great! I love the flavor combination of tomatoes and feta. The addition of shrimp created a restaurant-worthy meal (although probably a lot healthier).

This one’s a keeper!

We’re almost at the weekend! What are your plans? I am going to see Valentine’s Day Friday night, have you seen it? One of my favorite movies is Love Actually so I’m hoping it’s similar to that. I know, I’m probably dreaming!

I never remember eating Brussels sprouts growing up but discovered them once I was living on my own. I’m always looking for healthy and simple side dishes!

I’ve made Brussels sprouts a bunch of times, always the same way. I first cut them in half and place them on a baking sheet. I then brush them with olive oil and minced garlic and sprinkle a little salt and pepper on top before roasting them at 350* for about 20 minutes. They turn out perfect, if you like Brussel sprouts that is!

Last night, I expanded my use of Brussel sprouts by including them in a pasta dish. I actually saw a recipe for Penne with Brussels Spouts and Bacon on Boston.com. Boston.com actually has a pretty decent Food section online but this is the first recipe I’ve tried from the site. Based on the results, I already have another recipe from the site lined up for tonight.

I love pasta dishes and bacon makes anything better so I figured this would be a tasty dish and it was. I recently discovered that Whole Foods sells center cut bacon by the strip at the meat counter. This was an exciting find for me because when I normally buy a package of bacon, some of it normally goes to waste. Not this time, I just ordered what I needed for this recipe. 

This weeknight dish was easy to prepare and had a nice light flavor. Brussel sprouts have a distinct taste on their own but worked really well in this dish. And, as expected, the bacon was a welcome addition!

What’s your favorite vegetable side dish?

This pasta dish incorporates some of my favorite things including cheese, summer squash and spinach! It’s full of fiber thanks to the veggies, white beans and whole wheat pasta which means it’s filling. Don’t worry, it’s really flavorful and healthy too!

Quick & Easy Summer Pasta

Servings: 2

Ingredients:

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 summer squash, sliced and quartered

2 c. dry whole wheat pasta

1/2 c. white beans (canned is fine)

2 c. fresh spinach

2 tbsp. goat cheese

1 tbsp. pesto (bottled is fine)

Cooking spray (olive oil, if possible)

salt and pepper to taste

parsley to taste

Preparation:

1. Cook pasta according to directions

2. While the pasta cooking, spray a saute pan with olive oil.

3. Add minced garlic and saute for a minute or two so garlic browns.

4. Add summer squash to saute pan and stir on occasion for five minutes.

5. Add spinach and white beans to pan and saute for another minute. Remove pan from heat.

6. When pasta is done, drain well and then add the pesto to the cooked pasta. Mix well to coat pasta.

7. Add the sauteed vegetables to the pasta and stir.

8. Mix in a sprinkle of salt and pepper as well as the goat cheese and stir gently.

9. Transfer pasta to individual plate or bowl and sprinkle parsley on top for presentation and flavor.

10. Enjoy!

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PS – Regarding my “5 pounds in 7 days” weight loss plan, I’ve dropped a pound as of this morning. That being said, I didn’t follow the plan exactly so I wasn’t expecting a five pound loss. As long as my weight isn’t going up, I’m happy! 🙂 Hopefully the plan will keep me eating healthy!

Yesterday I spent some time in the kitchen preparing a spaghetti and meatball dinner for friends. Over the weekend, I was given my grandmother’s recipe for her “famous” meatballs and spaghetti sauce so I put them to the test. On last night’s menu:

  • Spaghetti
  • Sauce
  • Meatballs
  • Garlic bread

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It goes without saying that this was a traditional Italian meal (aka delicious but heavier than my normal weeknight dinners). There are plenty of ways to lighten up this meal but I chose to cook it the REAL way. I’ve got to say, it tasted pretty darn good! 😉

Here is the breakdown:

Spaghetti

I’ve only made my own pasta once, which was in a class at the Cambridge Culinary Institute. During the class, I kneaded the pasta by hand then fed it through an attachment on a Kitchen Aid mixer. It was pretty easy and fun and tasted great!

That said, I chose to buy fresh pasta yesterday. In Somerville, MA, there are several places that sell homemade, fresh pasta. One of those places is Dave’s Fresh Pasta in Davis Square. It’s a specialty shop focused on fresh pasta, wine, cheese and gourmet foods. They also make unique sandwiches and salads so it was busy when I visited at lunchtime.

This was my first experience buying fresh pasta (and by fresh, I mean they cut it while you wait). Of the many flavors, I ordered a pound of whole wheat and a pound of sweet red pepper (which was the special yesterday). Once I ordered, the woman behind the counter then asked, “How do you want that cut?” I must have looked confused as she then pointed up and hanging above the counter were a variety of sample pasta shapes including angel hair, spaghetti, and linguini. How cool! On a whim, I chose the spaghetti for both flavors.

Sauce

As I mentioned before, my grandmother (my Dad’s mother) made excellent spaghetti sauce (and meatballs) for many years. She was Irish but when she married my grandfather (who was Italian) she quickly learned to cook Italian dishes for the family. While I’m not going to post the family recipe, I’ll give you an idea of what her sauce is all about. It starts with onions sautéed in olive oil and, as you can imagine, the sauce includes a lot of tomatoes, tomato paste and seasoning. However, the trick is to include several types of meat for flavor as well as allowing the sauce to simmer for hours. Here are a few photos of the process. (You can email me if you have specific questions.)

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Meatballs

Again, this is my grandmother’s recipe. While I’ve made meatballs before, I never made my grandmother’s meatballs and I was nervous they wouldn’t turn out as moist as hers always were. The process is pretty simple and the ingredients include ground meat (beef or a variety of beef, pork and veal), Italian bread, grated cheese, egg, and spices. Again, I don’t want to give away our family recipe but if you have questions, email me!

Once I blended the mixture, I rolled it into balls and placed them on an oiled baking pan. I baked the meatballs for 10-15 minutes then added them to the sauce to simmer for several hours. Photos…

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Garlic Bread

I didn’t have a specific recipe for garlic bread but I found a fairly simple recipe on allrecipes.com for Roasted Garlic Bread. This was my first time roasting garlic. Have you ever done it before? It’s so easy! I cut the tops off of three garlic bulbs, placed them on a baking sheet and drizzled them with olive oil. I baked the garlic bulbs for 30 minutes then let them cool a bit. Once the garlic is cooked, each clove pops right out of the bulb with a little squeeze.

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From there I mashed the garlic cloves and added the other ingredients (including butter, parmesan cheese and parsley). I broiled the plain pieces of fresh Italian bread for 3-5 minutes then turned them over, spread the garlic mixture on each piece and broiled them for another 3-5 minutes. I may smell like garlic for days but it’s worth it!

Results

I think the meal turned out really well, especially for my first attempt at my grandmother’s meatballs and sauce. The fresh pasta was stickier than I would have liked so I kept adding olive oil to it. It was tasty but just a little sticky once cooked. My friends really liked the meatballs and actually mentioned how moist they were. Woohoo! I thought the sauce also turned out well. My friends noticed the sauce was a bit sweet, exactly how I remember it. It was full of flavor, due to the long cooking time (I’m guessing). The garlic bread turned out well except I noticed the center of the bread was a little mushy while the edges were crispy. It could have been my crazy super oven but next time I would try to get the centers a bit crispier. My friends said they didn’t mind the centers being too soft as it was covered in butter/garlic. It was definitely flavorful.

All in all, this was a filling and delicious meal. Phew! It’s been raining in Boston for (what feels like) three years now, so a nice dinner of comfort food was well received.

Now it’s time for leftovers. Meatball subs, anyone?

Time for a question…What is your favorite family recipe?

Leftovers were the name of the game today. I had a good amount of grilled veggies left over from last night’s dinner. I made a spinach salad for lunch, topped with the grilled veggies, cucumbers and goat cheese. For a little dressing, I mixed a little olive oil and red wine vinegar. It was tasty for a random mix!

salad

For dinner, the grilled veggies made yet another appearance. (But, I think I’ll take a little break from them after today).  I whipped up a little dish of whole wheat spaghetti, grilled veggies, olive oil, goat cheese and a spoonful of pesto. I just popped it all in the microwave for 2 minutes and dinner was served.

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I have to say my dad would be very proud of my use of leftovers since he’s normally the leftover man in the family. 😉

PS – I came home to working cable and Internet tonight plus Comcast has reached out to me twice today. You know what they say about the sweaky wheel! Anyway, I still don’t understand why the issues keep happening but my opinion of Comcast is better than last night.

Last night, I finally cooked dinner (rather than continue my dining out trend). I’ve been craving shrimp scampi, weird, I know, so that’s what I made.

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Shrimp scampi is normally not very healthy in restaurants becuase of the refined carbs (white pasta), loads of butter, and the portion size – usually enough for the whole table. One of the nice things about cooking at home is the ability to see what actually goes into your meals and modify the ingredients as you see fit.

I had bookmarked a few shrimp scampi recipes on allrecipes.com but in the end, I created my own. I have to say, it was delicious! As you can see in the recipe below, I used whole wheat pasta which contains more fiber than white pasta, used olive oil instead of butter for healthy fat (and less saturated) and added tomatoes.

It took me less than 20 minutes to prepare and cook dinner (which is great because Thursdays are usually my long day at work) and it was of restaurant quality – if I do say so myself. 😉

 

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shrimp

Here’s the recipe:

Quick and Healthy Shrimp Scampi for Two

Adapted from multiple recipes at allrecipes.com.

Serves: 2

Prep and cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

4 oz. whole wheat spaghetti

1/4 c. olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 lb. fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/3 c. white wine

1/8 tsp. black pepper

10 cherry tomatoes, quartered

1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

2 tbsp. grated reduced fat Parmesan cheese

1 tsp. chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add spaghetti and boil uncovered until al dente.

2. While spaghetti is cooking, add olive oil to a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for one minute.

3. Add shrimp and stir while cooking 4-5 minutes, until shrimp is pink.

4. Add wine to sauté pan and bring to a boil for one minute. Stir in tomatoes and lemon juice. Sprinkle pepper on mixture. Continue to stir for one minute.

5. Drain pasta well. Add pasta to dishes and top with shrimp mixture, including the sauce. Top with Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.

Enjoy!

For those who are interested, I am estimating that there are about 450 calories in this meal, which is a good amount for a dinnertime meal.

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