Pasta

You guys, this is one my favorite things I’ve made in a long time. I only tell you that because when I’m searching the internet for inspiration on what to cook, I get lost in the 603 million recipes there are out there. Probably more. Sometimes I just want someone to say: cook Suzy’s hot beef for dinner. It would simplify everything and there wouldn’t be so much wasted time on the net playing culinary mind games. 

So I’m telling you, try this! It won’t disappoint. The inspiration behind this recipe is that we love Italian food, but sometimes aren’t in the mood for tons of pasta. Also my husband can be a bit of a broken record sometimes, and every time we eat spaghetti squash, he says “I don’t even miss the pasta. If I was at Terrilli’s enjoying a glass of wine with this I wouldn’t even know the difference.” (Terilli’s is our favorite local Italian joint). 

So, I wanted lasagna…but wondered if we could try a version without the noodles (i.e. without the carbs, without the gluten. I had to redeem myself after eating these all week. Though I did eat one after for dessert).  I also wanted it to be relatively healthy so used part-skim mozzarella, low fat cottage cheese, and 96% lean ground beef.  You guys, I thought this recipe was enough for like 24 people and we literally ate 1/3 of it in one night. So, I don’t know whether to tell you this serves 12 or serves 6. Totally depends on your noodle-less lasagna capacity.

Recipe

Meat Sauce

  • 1 lb 96% lean ground beef
  • ~1/3 lb reduced-fat Jimmy Dean sausage
  • 3/4 cup diced white/yellow onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (jar), or 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small can tomato pasted
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (14.5 oz)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes, drained (14.5 oz)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh chopped basil 

Cottage Cheese Layer

  • 2 cups lowfat cottage cheese (not nonfat)
  • 6  tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (from the cheese section rather than Kraft)
  • 1 egg
  • S&P

Other Layers

  • About 4-5 medium summer squash – zucchini and yellow squash
  • Salt
  • 4 cups part-skim mozzarella
  • ~1/4 cup grated parmesan

Start by making the meat layer.  Brown the beef and sausage over medium heat. While cooking, add the diced onion and garlic. Stir and cook until meat is no longer pink.  You shouldn’t have much fat here so no need to drain, but if you used fattier beef or more sausage – drain the fat. Stir in the tomato paste, canned tomatoes, and remaining ingredients.  Simmer on low for about 25 minutes. Sauce should be thick and meaty, not watery. 

Meanwhile, we need to get the excess moisture out of the squash so the lasagna isn’t soggy. This is the most time consuming part of this recipe. First, slice them lengthwise as thin as you can. This would be easier with a mandoline, but I don’t have one so just used a sharp knife and played chicken with my fingers. About 1/8 in thick. But like I said, just as thin as you can.  Lay them out on paper towel, and salt them very generously.  The salt will draw out some of the moisture. Let sit for 15 minutes, then pat them dry.  Next, place the squash into a bowl and microwave for 2 minutes. This will bring out more moisture. Drain the bowl, lay out the squash again and pat them dry. Set aside until ready to use.

In another bowl, mix the cottage cheese, Parmesan, egg, and season with salt & pepper.

Preheat the oven to 375 if ready to cook. I assembled my lasagna and then refrigerated for an hour until I cooked, but either is fine. I was busy putting two tiny humans to bed so wanted to eat later – no advantage to waiting.

Get out a 9×12 inch dish and start to layer:
1st layer: 1/3 of the meat sauce, then 1/3 of the squash (this doesn’t need to be perfect, just lay them side by side, covering most of the dish), then spread 1 cup of the cottage cheese, then ~1.5 cups of mozzarella
2nd layer: 1/3 of the meat sauce, 1/3 of the squash, rest of the cottage cheese, ~1.5 cups mozzarella
3rd layer: Rest of the meat sauce, rest of the squash, and the 1/4 cup parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Reserve remaining mozzarella (about 1 cup).

My last layer of squash doesn’t totally cover the top, but that’s ok!

Cover the lasagna with foil and bake for 40 min.  

Remove foil and bake for 15 more min to remove any excess moisture.  

Then top with remaining cheese (1 cup mozzarella) and broil for 3-5 minutes

Take out of the oven, and this step is important – let sit for at least 20 minutes before slicing. This will ensure the lasagna stays in tact and you can cut nice clean pieces.

And guess what guys? Even sitting at home, eating this without a glass of wine, we didn’t miss the noodles.

healthy-weeknight-broccoli-mac-n-cheese

My cravings for mac n’ cheese lately are out of hand.  I really wanted it last week for dinner, but felt like I should eat something a tad more nutritious than the Kraft version (though I loooove the Kraft version).  So,  I made a few substitutions and wound up with a very tasty mac n’ cheese that does offer some nutritional value. I kept it pretty cheesy because I needed it to be, but if you wanted to trim that down you could cut back on calories there. My husband loved this!

Recipe

  • 3 cups dry whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • 1 3/4 cup skim milk
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Dash dry mustard
  • Dash nutmeg
  • 2 cups shredded sharp or extra sharp cheddar
  • 2/3 cup low fat cottage cheese
  • 2 cups cooked broccoli

Cook pasta according to directions in generously salted water. Meanwhile, steam broccoli (you want 2 cups AFTER the broccoli is cooked).

In another pot, bring 1 1/2 cups of the milk to a simmer. Whisk the corn starch in the remaining milk, and stir into the simmering milk until thickened. Add salt and seasonings. Turn off heat, and add in the cheddar and cottage cheese.

Drain pasta and mix with sauce and broccoli.  Place in 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

Green Chile Mac ‘n Cheese

green-chile-mac-n-cheese

I’m on the hatch chile bandwagon.  I’ve always been perplexed why grocery stores in Texas incorporate the New Mexican hatch chile into EVERYTHING this time of year, but now I’ve figure out why: they are good in everything. Yes, everything. And this recipe is probably my fave, by far. Cheese, corn, a bit of green chile spice…it’s like these flavors were meant to be together.  Like Peanut butter and jelly.  Like ham and cheese. Like bread and butter. Like cookies and milk.  Like me and all food.

Recipe

  • 4 cups pasta – shells or macaroni
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 small diced onion
  • 6 tablespoons flour or corn flour
  • 2 cups freshly shredded jack cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups freshly shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1 can corn
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted hatch chiles or jalapenos, seeds removed
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • S&P
  • 1/2 cup unseasoned breadcrumbs

Start by cooking the pasta until almost done in heavily salted water (a couple tablespoons).  Cook about 2-3 minutes less than the cooking time, then drain.

In a saucepan,  melt the butter over medium heat and saute the onion until translucent.  Turn heat to low. Whisk in the flour to create a roux.  Slowly whisk in the cream and milk. Stir in all of the jack cheese, 2 cups of the cheddar, and about 1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste).  Squeeze in the lime juice, then stir in the corn and chiles.  Add the pasta.  Spray a large baking dish with nonstick spray, add the pasta, then top with the remaining cheddar and breadcrumbs.  Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes.

You will love,  I think! These people did! I think.

 

creamy-pasta-with-roasted-corn-veggies

I love a good light, creamy pasta.  Toss in some charred corn, veggies, top with grilled salmon… and you have a perfect summer meal.  This was also great leftover, though the pasta soaks up a lot of the sauce so you might want to make a little extra to keep on hand.  This was a brilliant meal to make for my husband who declared the week earlier he was going to try to cut back on carbs, and then ended up eating this Sunday-Wednesday.  I don’t try to sabotage people’s healthy eating goals, it just seems to come naturally sometimes. Like every Sunday when I bake a batch of cookies large enough to feed a family of 47.

Recipe

  • 4-5 cups pasta shells (dry)
  • 3/4 cup white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • Several dashes nutmeg
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 3/4 cup skim milk
  • Half lemon
  • 1 cup corn
  • 3/4 cup peas
  • 3/4 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • Parmesan and Parsley

Start by browning the corn in a skillet – high heat, not stirring too often to get that nice charred look/flavor.  Next, make the pasta according to instructions and start the sauce.  Reduce wine in a saucepan for a few minutes, then turn the heat to low and add in cream, S&P, and nutmeg. Allow it to thicken for a minute or two.  Whisk together the flour and milk, then add into the sauce and bring to a really low boil.  Remove from heat, and squeeze in the lemon juice.  Stir the sauce into the drained pasta, then stir in the veggies.  Top with Parmesan and parsley.  Highly recommend with blackened salmon!

risotto-balsamico-with-grilled-chicken

Do you like that name? Risotto Balsamico? It just sounded right, and was more fun than calling it risotto with balsamic glaze.  I want to purse my lips and roll my tongue when I say it.  I want to make this again. Now. It was inspired by my husband’s favorite dish at the italian restaurant Taverna in Dallas, and is shockingly easy and fancy at the same time.  In fact, my husband didn’t want it at first because ‘chicken is too boring for a Sunday.’  What? What was he expecting? Pork belly?

Actually I really want to make pork belly soon. Maybe this Sunday.

Turned out, he said it’s his new favorite dinner.  This recipe is really simple. I made my risotto recipe here, but without the mushrooms.  Then I marinated a few boneless skinless chicken breasts in a cup of balsamic salad dressing (I used Newman’s Own), a quarter cup of olive oil, S&P, and some herbs from our garden (a few pinches of minced rosemary and thyme).  Only for an hour or two because that’s all the time I had. Then we grilled it, and put it on top of the risotto and topped it with lots of balsamic glaze (store bought).

I’m telling you guys, make this.  And limit your simultaneous italian bread intake to a normal amount so you don’t end up in a carb coma like myself.

pasta-with-asparagus-and-lemon-butter

Did you think I quit? I didn’t. I have just been in a bit of a rut.  A rut of every kind, actually.  A cooking rut (lack of time and motivation), an exercise rut (something very bad is happening to my feet), and a work rut (the deal I am working on is quickly going south and my commute is killing me). Luckily I’ve had several fun social events that are getting me through, but unfortunately they are wedged tightly in between an intense travel schedule  so I show up to most things looking like I’m recovering from mono and in desperate need of a facial. Anyway.

I have two good posts for this week though.  This one, which is a great weeknight meal that I think you should make tomorrow, and a balsamic risotto that I will post later this week that you should make for your dinner party this weekend. If you’re having one.

This was an awesome side dish to our perfectly blackened salmon last week – very quick and a good way to get some veggies.  The pasta was just very lightly sauced, though you could certainly double the sauce recipe to make it a bit heartier if you wanted.  You could also serve it as a the main dish and add in some grilled chicken or shrimp. Oy! I will do that next time.

Recipe

  • ~1lb spaghetti or linguine
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 lb asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice from 1/2 large lemon
  • 1/4 cup half and half
  • 3-4 tablespoons grated parmesan

Start by steaming the asparagus in the microwave for about 2.5 minutes (covered microwave safe dish with a pinch of water).  Drain water, then add cold water and ice cubes (to retain the bright green color). Set aside.  Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted water until el dente. Drain.  In a sauce pan, melt the butter and add the olive oil, then lemon juice, and slowly whisk in the half and half. Bring to a low boil to thicken for a minute or two.  Mix in the pasta, then stir in the grated parmesan.  Add the asparagus, and serve with fresh Parmesan. Lots of it.