Antipasto Spinach Pasta Salad


Hello all– What is the easiest, freshest, yummiest way to have friends in for dinner in the summer??  A big bunch of Bible study friends came couple weeks ago for a salad/dessert pot luck.  As they trickled in the door, brimming bowls of chicken salad and fresh fruit and Asian slaw… lined up in the kitchen.  Plus pies– beautiful pies!

We sat down with plates full and settled into easy conversation that you have with old friends.  Love a summer evening with these ladies.

And this was my salad contribution– so much flavor from the sun dried tomatoes and garlicky salami, played against chewy pasta and creamy fresh mozzarella.  I think it would be good on your summer able too.

ANTIPASTO SPINACH PASTA SALAD
8 oz. Cellentani pasta (or your favorite pasta)*
salt
3 cups spinach leaves, chopped
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1/3 cup red onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes
1 cup cured olives
1 cup fresh mozzarella balls (or cubed)
4 oz. salami, cut to pieces
14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed

Dressing:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup parmesan romano cheese, grated
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package (mine was 11 minutes in boiling water).  Drain, rinse and cool the pasta to room temperature in a large bowl.

Add in the spinach, red, pepper, red onion, dried tomatoes, olives, mozzarella, salami and garbanzo beans.

To make the dressing, put the olive oil, white balsamic, cheese and salt & pepper into a container with a tight fitting lid.  Shake well until it’s all blended.  Pour over the salad and mix to coat all the ingredients with dressing.

Stick it into the fridge until you’re ready to serve it up!

*I used Barilla Cellentani in the blue box– nice and chewing and soaks up the dressing.

Broccoli, Chicken & Bacon Pasta


Hi friends–  We sat down to a luscious dinner at Paul and Sue’s house last week– and this pasta was on the table–  So back home, I had some Cappellacci pasta  that I’d picked up at Homegoods (Don’t you love that place??) and a huge Costco bag of pine nuts (thanks to my mom), and  I thought I’d try to recreate Sue’s wonderful meal.

It’s rich and savory and filling– the best sort of comfort food.  Add a bright salad and a chunk of sturdy bread.  Perfect.

BROCCOLI, CHICKEN & BACON PASTA
1 pound of your favorite pasta*
6 slices bacon, chopped to bits
1  1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, cut to bits
1/2 cup red onion, chopped fine
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 small heads of broccoli, cut to bite size bits
1/2 cup parmesan
1/2 cup pine nuts

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.

Cook the chopped bacon in a large skillet until it just crispy and a lightly browned.  Remove it from the skillet, but leave the bacon droppings.

Cook the pieces of chicken in the same skillet, about 4 to 5 minutes until it’s browned and cooked through.  Remove it from the skillet.

Then drop in the chopped red onion and cook for 3 or 4 minutes until it’s tender and add in the garlic and cook a minute more.

While all that is happening, put the broccoli bites until a bowl of salted water and microwave it for about 4 minutes, until it’s done but still a little crunchy.  Drain off the water.

Now is the fun part.  Into the skillet with the onion & garlic, add the drained pasta, broccoli, chicken and bacon.  Then sprinkle on the parmesan and pine nuts and stir it all together over low heat to warm it through.  (If it seems a bit dry to you add a drizzle of olive oil as you stir it up).  Delicious!!

*I used Cappellacci, thin round discs that look a little like sunflowers, but any pasta will do.

 

Simple (& Delicious) Ground Pork Ragu


Hey all– This recipe started with my cleaning the fridge– you know that can turn out to be a Big Job!  Not the least of which was scrubbing the congealed maple syrup off the back of a shelf.  Ugh.  And sorting out things too long.

So when this lovely packet of ground pork turned up in the bottom of the freezer, It got it’s chance to be the start of our pork ragu dinner.  So much rich flavor and easy enough for everyday.

GROUND PORK RAGU
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound mild Italian sausage
1 tab. olive oil
1 medium carrot, grated
1 medium onion, chopped fine
6 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. can crush tomatoes
2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tab. tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1 pound of your favorite pasta
parmesan for serving

Heat a large skillet (one that has a lid) with the olive oil.  Break up the pork and sausage with a wooden spoon in the skillet and cook until it is lightly browned.  Remove the meat from the skillet and set aside, leaving the drippings in the pan.

While the meat is cooking, peel and grate 1 carrot and finely chop an onion.  When you take the meat from the skillet, drop the onion and carrots into the pan and cook about 3 minutes on medium heat.  Add in the garlic and cook a minute more.

Then pour in the crushed tomatoes, basil, pepper flakes, salt, tomato paste and water.  Add in the cooked pork.  Bring it all to a simmer and then turn down the heat to the lowest possible simmer and cook for about an hour.

When you’re ready to eat, cook the pasta according to the directions on the box.  Pour 1/2 cup of pasta water into the sauce, if it looks a little thick.

Drain the pasta and turn it onto a pretty platter.  Top with the ragu and a sprinkle of parmesan.  Enjoy!

Lemon Piccata Chicken & Pasta

Hello all–  New version of an old favorite here.  Had it with our new “housemate,” Kendall, a seminary student from Australia who’s staying with us for his last semester.  Larry enjoys talking theology with him and I just like having such a great guy around the house.

This chicken is salty from the parmesan, tart from the bit of lemon and garlic savory.  And the sauce melds just right with a big plate of pasta.  Real comfort food.

LEMON PICCATA CHICKEN & PASTA
8 to 10 oz. pasta
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced horizontally to filet
2 tab. flour
3 tab. parmesan cheese
1 tsp. garlic salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tab. olive oil
2 tab. butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz. can chicken broth
1/2  cup whole milk (or half & half)
1/3 cup parmesan
2 tab. capers (drained)
3 tab. lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1 tab. cornstarch
1/3 cup water
1 tsp. rosemary, minced and sliced lemon for garnish

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.

In a shallow bowl mix together the flour, 3 tab. parmesan cheese, garlic salt and pepper.  Dredge the chicken filets in the flour mixture and set aside.

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet.  Cook the coated chicken 3 to 4 minutes on each side over medium-high heat, until they are nicely browned and cooked through.  Remove from the pan and cover to keep warm.

Drop the garlic into the same skillet and cook for a minute.  Then add in the chicken broth and milk and bring to a strong simmer.  Add in the parmesan and capers and simmer for 3 minutes or so to thicken.  Stir in the lemon juice.

If you want the sauce to be thicker, shake the cornstarch and water together in a container with a right fitting lid until it’s thoroughly blended and stir it into the simmering sauce for 3 or 4 minutes more until it thickens.

Return the chicken to the sauce in the skillet and simmer a couple minutes to warm the chicken.  Then spread the pasta on a platter, top with the chicken and sauce.  Garnish with the minced rosemary and lemon slices.  Serve it up hot!

Summer Pasta Salad

 

Hello all– This weekend we’re happily stacking all the things we need to pack up for early Monday morning, when we fly off for our Laurel & John’s wedding in the woods of Wisconsin!  Party dress,  check. Sunblock, check. Grandma Lo’s wedding cake bride and groom, check.  Surprises for grand-girl Jobay, turning 6 on the wedding date, checkity check.

And meanwhile, around here, we’re cleaning out things lingering in the kitchen before we go.  Had a 1/3 bag of egg noodles, a ready to eat avocado, MORE of Larry’s sweet tomatoes…  Throw them in with some corn, a couple slices of bacon and a little chicken.  Summer Pasta Salad  –just right on a hot summer evening!

SUMMER PASTA SALAD
4 oz. pasta (I used egg noodles)
1 boneless chicken breast
1 tab. olive oil
5 slices bacon
2 ears of corn, cut from the cob
3 green onions, sliced thinly
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 avocados, cut to nice chunks

Dressing:
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tab. tarragon vinegar*
1 tsp. seedy mustard
1 tab. honey
salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.  Drain and let it cool.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet.  Cut the chicken breast into 3 flat filets and saute in a skillet until it’s nicely browned and cooked through (3 or4 minutes on each side). Remove to cutting board and cut into nice polite size pieces.

Wipe out the skillet and cook up the bacon.  Crumble it to small bits.

Cook the corn cobs in the microwave 6 or 7 minutes.  Cut the corn from the cobs with a large knife.

To make the dressing put the oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, salt & pepper into a container with a tight fitting lid and shake it up until it’s completely blended.

When the chicken and pasta have cooled, put them in a large mixing bowl and mix in the bacon, corn, tomatoes, green onion and dressing.  Then gently fold in the avocado.  Put to chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes or more before serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

 

Zucchini & Tomato Pasta

 

Hi all– Still “tomato time” around here.  So many tomatoes!  We are eating them twice a day–lunch and dinner (so far no tomatoes have slipped into our breakfast cereal!)  And this is my favorite use of our “crop” so far.

The little cherry tomatoes burst and shed their juices.  And this mixed with parmesan and garlic makes a lovely rich sauce.  Throw in some pasta and its a pretty perfect summer supper.  I was excited that we had leftovers to enjoy it all over again!

ZUCCHINI & TOMATO PASTA
8 oz. of your favorite pasta
6 oz. pancetta (or 6 slices of bacon), chopped
2 medium zucchini, chopped to bits
garlic salt & freshly ground pepper
4 cups cherry tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup parmesan romano
1/2 cup fresh basil, cut to shreds

While you are making the tomato topping, put the pasta on to cook.

Cut the pancetta to small bits and cook it in a large nonstick skillet.  When it’s cooked crispy, remove the bacon from the skillet, leaving the fat in the pan.

Put the chopped zucchini in the skillet.  Sprinkle with garlic salt & freshly ground pepper.  Cook 4 or 5 minutes until the zucchini starts to brown, but is still crispy (not soggy!).  Take out the zucchini and set aside.

Then add the tomatoes to the skillet.  Sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper and cook on high heat, 7 or 8 minutes, until the tomatoes are tender and release their juices.  Add the minced garlic to the skillet the last couple minutes the tomatoes are cooking.  Stir in the parmesan romano, stirring to melt it a bit.

Finally add the zucchini & bacon back to the skillet. Stir in the shredded basil.   Spread the drained pasta on a platter and then top it with the tomato mixture.  Enjoy!

Beef & Eggplant Ragu

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Hello Pasta Loving Friends– We were talking about–“If you had to eat just one ethnic cuisine for the rest of your life, what would you pick?”  There were Vietnamese fans (those noodles!) and Chinese (so much variety!), but I was torn between Italian (pasta & gelato, of course) and Mexican (just because that’s what we eat in So Cal).

So for you who love pasta as much as I do, here’s a rich, thick, savory sauce to pour over the top of your favorite angel hair or rigatoni.

And thanks to Suzanne from A Pug in the Kitchen for this recipe — been reading her warm and friendly posts for years…

BEEF & EGGPLANT RAGU
2 tab. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound ground sirloin
salt & freshly ground pepper
1 Chinese, eggplant, cut to small pieces
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup red wine
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. finely minced rosemary
16 oz. pasta
garnish: parmesan romano, grated

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Heat the olive oil in a soup pot and then add in the chopped onion.  When it starts to wilt, add the garlic and cook a minute more.

Then add in the beef, chopping it in the pan with a wooden spoon, until it is all crumbled.  Cook until it is browned and then add the eggplant.  Cook 4 minutes more.

Pour in the crushed tomatoes, red wine, bay leaves and rosemary.  Leave it uncovered on a low simmer or 20 to 30 minutes until the flavors are melded.

While that’s simmering, cook your favorite pasta according to the directions on the package.

Drain the pasta and layer it on a large platter, topped with the ragu.  Sprinkle on the parmesan romano and serve it steaming hot.

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Parmesan Pasta with Mushrooms & Spinach

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Hey there– We’ve been eating our share of salads and light summer suppers– but once in a while you get into a mood and only a plate of pasta will do.  This one is delectable– creamy and cheesy and garlicky– with all those mushrooms and spinach.  So satisfying.  ( I won’t admit that I had a little bowl for breakfast the next morning!).  I think you might really like it too– when that pasta craving hits.

PARMESAN PASTA WITH MUSHROOMS & SPINACH

8 oz. pasta*
3 to 4  tab. olive oil
8 oz. crimini mushrooms, cut in half
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
4 cloves garlic
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup whole milk (or half & half)
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1 tsp. cornstarch
3 cups spinach, cut in shreds

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Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box, using lightly salted water.

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet.  Drop in the cut mushrooms and cook, stirring a bit for 3 or 4 minutes until they are tender.  Salt & pepper them while they cook.  Add in the garlic and cook one 1 minute more.

Then pour in the chicken stock and milk.  Bring to a low simmer and cook 2 minutes.  Stir in the parmesan cheese.  Mix the cornstarch with 1/4 cup water in a container with a tight fitting lid and shake it up until the cornstarch is completely dissolved and stir it into the simmer sauce until it thickens.

Drop in the shreds of spinach and cook 1 minute more until it is wilted and tender.  Then drain the pasta and spread it onto a platter.  Top it with the mushroom-spinach sauce.  Serve it up hot, maybe with another sprinkle of parmesan on top!

*Used my very favorite angel hair pasta, pick your own fave.

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Pasta e Fagioli

IMG_3793Hi friends– here’s a steamy chunky soup that I had for dinner last weekend and leftovers for lunch all week.  That’s a big pot of soup!  With a sturdy loaf of bread and a bright salad slathered with balsamic vinegar, you can pretend you’re eating in an Italian village (or just sitting in the teacher’s lunchroom at school).

PASTA E PAGIOLI
1 cup macaroni*
1 pound milk Italian sausage
2 tab. olive oil
1 onion, cut fine
2 carrots, cut to small bits
3 cloves garlic
4 cups chicken broth
2 14oz. cans petit cut tomatoes with garlic
1 cup water
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 cup roasted red pepper, chopped
1 can cannellini beans (small while beans)
garnish: basil (or marjoram)** and parmesan

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in your soup pot, heat the olive oil.  Then crumble and cook the Italian sausage til it’s well browned.

Remove the cooked sausage from the pot and drop in the onions and carrots.  Cook 3 minutes, until they soften a bit and add in the garlic.

Next stir in the chicken broth, tomatoes, water and basil.  Cook at a simmer for 10 minutes.  Then add in the white beans, pasta and roasted pepper and cook just a couple minutes more to heat it all through.  Serve it up hot with a sprinkle of grated parmesan and some shredded basil or  marjoram.

*The recipe I worked from called for digitali pasta– but I used the smaller version, macaroni salad pasta because I had it in the cupboard.
**I used marjoram, because it grows like a week in the side yard.

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Simple Tomato Compote on Pasta

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Hi friends–  A couple Saturday’s ago, a bunch of us carpooled down to Roger’s Gardens for a morning cooking class.  We sat in a little amphitheater, surrounded by aisles of luscious plants and flowers.  The chef cooked up a few tomato/pepper dishes and passed around samples.  It was a whole lot of fun!

I picked up a new thyme plant for the side yard and sweet pea seeds to plant just ahead.  And then we all headed over to Lemonade for noisy talkative lunch together.  Thanks Lynn for organizing us all– it was a grand day out!

Here’s one of the things that came out of the cooking class.  The chef served it to us on toast as bruschetta, but here at home, we just poured it over pasta.  So quick and easy!!

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SIMPLE TOMATO COMPOTE ON PASTA
16 oz. of your favorite pasta
1/4 cup olive oil
1 red onion, cut fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 points cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig thyme
salt & freshly ground pepper

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Cook your favorite pasta according to the directions on the box.

This is fast, so you can do most of it while the pasta is cooking!  Heat 2 tab. of the olive oil in a skillet.  Drop in the red onion and cook just until it is translucent.  Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.

Then add in the cut tomatoes, rosemary and thyme and cook it on medium for about 8 minutes until the tomatoes “wilt” and release their juices.

Finish it off in the skillet with the rest of the olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Remove the rosemary and thyme.

Drain the pasta and spread it on a pretty platter.  Then scrape all the tomatoes, onion and oil onto the pasta.  Garnish with another sprig of rosemary if you have it on hand.  Enjoy!

And the flowers at Roger’s Gardens were a photo-takers paradise–  They just made yu want to go home and muck about in the garden.  Here’s a few:

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And we wound our way down to lunch at Lemonade, a new style cafeteria of little plates– every kind of veggie, grainy, fruity salad you can think of.  Plus sandwiches and hot dishes and several flavors of lemonade!

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Lunch at Lemonade– a few of the friends set to lunch away and  my fig topped flatbread & berry iced tea.

Chicken & Noodle Meatball Soup

IMG_3291Hello friends– I like this bowl of polka dot soup– rolly little meatballs, round slices of carrot and circular little pasta bits.  It’s just cute– as well as warming, savory and delicious.  Just a nice light meal to slip in to the middle of all your holiday eating…

CHICKEN & NOODLE MEATBALL SOUP
8 oz. ground chicken*
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese -plus more for garnish
1 egg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 tab. olive oil
1 leek, sliced into rounds
4 cloves garlic, minced**
4 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup ditalini (or other small pasta)
2 carrots, peeled and sliced thin into rounds
1 cup baby spinach, cut to shreds
green onion, chopped and grated parmesan for garnish

In a mixing bowl thoroughly combine the ground chicken, breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup parmesan, egg, salt and pepper.  Form the mixture into tiny 1/2″ meatballs (makes about 30), rolling them with your hands.  And set them on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Pop them into the oven at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are browned and cooked through.

Meanwhile as the meatballs are cooking.  heat the olive oil in a soup pot.  Drop in the slices of leek and cook them about 3 minutes.  Add in the garlic and cook a minute more.  Then pour in the chicken broth –plus 3 cups of water.  Bring it all to a boil.

When the both is boiling, add in the carrots and pasta and cook 7 or 8 minutes until the pasta is al dente.  Then drop in the meatballs and the spinach and cook 3 minutes more until the spinach is wilted.

Spoon it hot, hot into bowls and top with grated parmesan and sliced green onion.  And serve it up with a chunk of sturdy bread.

*This week at the market, ground turkey was on sale– so I made it with turkey instead of chicken.  Either would be just fine.
**The recipe I worked from asked from 2 cloves of garlic, but I used 4– because, well, I just love garlic!  You might like less.

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Asparagus Lemon Chicken & Pasta

IMG_9462Hi all– Yet another pasta recipe.  I can’t help it.  I love a noodle-y meal.  This one tastes light and fresh for summer.  We had it for a Sunday lunch with the family– but I’m picturing a rerun on a summer evening out under the maple trees with a table full of hungry friends.

ASPARAGUS LEMON CHICKEN & PASTA
2 boneless,skinless chicken breast
2 tab. olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper
1 bunch asparagus
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup parmesan-romano
grated rind from 1 lemon
5 tab. lemon juice
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 green onions, green parts sliced to bits
16 oz. pasta

Cook the your favorite pasta according to the instructions on the box. (I usually end up with angel fair– my fave)

Heat the 2 tab. olive oil in a skillet, while you cut the chicken into nice polite chunks.  Then cook the chicken in the skillet, dousing it with a few good shakes of salt and grinds of fresh pepper.  Remove the chicken from the skillet to a plate for later.

Break the woody end off of the asparagus stalks. Cut off the tender asparagus tips and set aside.  The slice the stalks on the diagonal into small bites.

In the same skillet, cook the sliced asparagus stalks and the garlic  in the oil left from the chicken for just 2 or 3 minutes until they are tender.

Then mix in the asparagus tips, 1/4 cup olive oil, parmesan, lemon rind, juice, chicken and pine nuts.  Heat just a minute or two to warm it all through.  The stir in the green onion and serve it all up on a pretty platter over the cooked pasta.

Add in a bright summer salad and some sturdy bread, a glass of wine and some friends in the backyard.  Perfect.

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Eggplant & Pasta

IMG_9233Hello there–  With small 3 girls in the house, you can’t have noodles too often.  Those noodle-y dishes are always well received at dinner time.  So in my never ending search for new pasta  recipes, here’s this weeks version:

EGGPLANT  & PASTA
6 slices of bacon, cut to small bits*
1 large yellow oven, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Chinese eggplants, cut into nice chunks
(splash olive oil)
dash salt
2 14 oz. cans petite cut tomatoes with garlic & herbs
2 tab. fresh basil  (or 1 tsp. dried)**
16 oz. pasta

Cook the cut up bacon in a large pan for about 5 minutes.  Add in the onions and cook a few minutes more until the bacon is almost crispy.  Drop in the garlic and cook a minute more.  Then remove it all from the pan.

Leave in the drippings to cook the chunks of eggplant.  Stir and cook until they are cooked through– just 3 or 4 minutes.  Give it a couple shakes of salt as it cooks.  If it seems dry, add a splash of olive oil.

About now you might put the pasta on to cook according the the package instructions.

To the eggplant in the pan, add in the can tomatoes*** and the bacon/onions.  Heat and stir a few minutes until the sauce heats through.  Chop the basil and stir it in at the last minute.

Serve over the pasta with a bright salad and sturdy chunks of bread.  It’s just fine for small noodle eaters.

*If you want to skip the bacon, just brown the onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
**I used marjoram in place of basil, just because I have it growing in the yard.
***I’m serving this to the grand-girls, who would be happier without chunks of tomato in their sauce, so I blend the canned tomatoes with a stick blender to smooth them out a bit before pouring them into the pan.

Saucy Tomato Chicken with Pasta

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Hello there– We all know that actually cooking up a  dinner isn’t nearly as hard as figuring out what to fix for dinner and making sure you have all you need to fix it.  That’s why I like this simple dish– Look at the ingredients.  Chances are you have everything you need already sitting in your kitchen.

So when I come in the dinner about 5:00 and just start thinking oh yeah–dinner.  This dish saves the day.  Bright and fresh, it’s a good one.

SAUCY TOMATO CHICKEN WITH PASTA
2 boneless chicken breasts
splash olive oil
a few shakes of garlic salt
1 onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tab. cornstarch
2 cans petit cut tomatoes*
14 oz. can chicken broth
1 tsp. dried basil
8 oz. of your favorite pasta
garnish of parmesan

Heat the olive oil in a skillet while you slice the chicken breasts horizontally to make thin fillets.  Cook the chicken in the hot oil for 2 minutes on each side to brown it, giving it a sprinkle of garlic salt.  Remove the chicken from the pan.

In the hot skillet cook the onion (add a bit of oil if it seems dry) for 5 minutes, adding the garlic to cook the last minute.  Then stir  the cornstarch into the pan coating the onions.  Keep the heat on high and add the chicken broth, can of tomatoes and dried basil.  And keep at a low simmer while the sauce thickens– about  5 minutes.

Put the pasta on to cook and while that cooking, return the chicken to the skillet with the tomato mixture and cover the top with a lid.  Simmer on the lowest setting for about 10 minutes until the chicken is tender.

Serve up the pasta topped with the chicken and sauce– You can grate a bit of parmesan on top to finish it off.

Meatball Soup

IMG_5415Hello there–  I love meatballs.  They’re a lot more diverse than you might think.  Pork, sausage, beef or chicken…  Spices of all kinds.  Onions, pepper, herbs…  You can go a lot of directions with these friendly little guys.  For this soup, I just kept it simple.  Instead of my old favorite beef and sausage meatballs, I used turkey (my feeble attempt at eating more heathily).  But I put up the old recipe too, just in case you wanted it to have those flavorful little meatballs rolling around in your soup.

MEATBALL SOUP

Meatballs:
1/2 pound ground beef*
1/2 pound Italian sausage*
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup bread crumbs
dash pepper
1/3 cup roasted red peppers, minced
1/4 cup onion, chopped fined

Dump everything into a mixing bowl and stir it together.  To really blend it well, squish it all together with your hands a few times before you start forming the meatballs.  Make mini meatballs, about 1″ across and set them on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Cook them about 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven until they are browned and cooked through.  It makes about 5 dozen mini meatballs.

*The beef and sausage combination is perfect together, but tonight I used a pound of ground turkey, trying to be a smidge healthier after overeating all weekend with our kids in San Francisco.

Soup:

1 large onion, chopped fine
splash olive oil
2  14 oz. cans petit cut tomatoes**
6 cups water
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tab. brown sugar
1 tab. chili powder
2 tab. cider vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. mustard
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups tiny shell macaroni (about 8 oz.)***
1 cup red & green bell pepper, cut up fine
shredded parmesan

While the meatballs are cooking, heat the olive oil in a soup pot and brown the onions in it.  Then add the tomatoes, water, garlic, brown sugar, chili powder, vinegar, salt, oregano, basil, mustard and pepper.  Put in the meatballs and let it simmer gently for about 5 minutes.  Then add the macaroni and chopped peppers and cook 10 minutes more.  Serve it up hot with a sprinkle of parmesan and a chunk of substantial bread.

*I substituted 1 pound of ground turkey for these 2 ingredients.
**I love the S&W petit cut tomatoes with garlic and onions.
*** I used tiny shell macaroni because it was in my cupboard.  You can use you own favorite, of course.

Linguine with Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

IMG_4342Hello all–  We’re finally into the hot days of summer here.  And there are tomatoes out there ripening on the vine as I write. It’s lovely to pick them out in the side yard and carry them right in to use at dinner time.  We’ve been taking brown bags of tomatoes to family–wish I could send off a bagful to you…

LINGUINE WITH OVEN-ROASTED TOMATOES
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
3 tab. olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper
4 oz. dry salami, cut to bits
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup pitted dark olives
1 tab. capers, minced
1/2 cup basil or marjoram, chopped
8 oz. linguine

IMG_4331Cut the tomatoes in half and in a bow, toss them with 2 tab. of the olive oil and a good spinkling of salt and pepper.  Spread them on a baking sheet and pop them in the oven at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes until they look roasty (but not yet mushy!)

While they are cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and add in the salami bits and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes until the meat starts to crisp a bit.  Remove the salami from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil.  To the same skilllet add the wine and simmer until it reduces, about 3 or 4 minutes.  Then stir in the tomatoes, capers and olives and toss them in the wine and oil in the pan.  Stir in the salami and basil (or marjoram).

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.  Drain it and spoon the warm tomato mixture over the linguine.

Serves 4 a delicious warming supper.

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Pesto Pasta Salad

IMG_3727Hey there–  It’s the end of those lazy summer days.  On a warm evening I love this simple supper out under the maple trees, when the evening breeze starts up.  Serve it up with a hunk of sturdy bread with butter and a glass of something delicious and cold.

PESTO PASTA SALAD
8 oz. elbow macaroni*
8 oz. tub of pesto
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 can cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
3 cups baby arugula
8 oz. tub of fresh mozzarella pearls (small balls)
1/4 cup pine nuts.

Cook the macaroni according the package directions.  Cool to room temp.  (a little visit to the freezer for a few minutes helps this along!)  Then add in all the other ingredients except the arugula. Set it in the fridge to cool it and meld the flavors.  Stir in the greens just before you set it out to eat.  It’s that simple.

*Any small macaroni will do.  I used the tiny elbow macaroni from the Mexican food aisle at the grocers– only 33 cents!

Easy Eggplant Marinara

IMG_0917Hello all–  A couple of those bright shiny purple Chinese eggplants found their way into my shopping cart again this week–too pretty to pass by.  And then I found a homey, simple marina sauce recipe browsing in a magazine.  Put them together– dinner!  It’s lovely that you can make it in about 20 minutes, hot and savory.

EASY EGGPLANT MARINA
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 Chinese eggplants, cut in nice chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 carrot, grated
1 tsp. dried basil
14 oz. can crushed tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh basil*

Heat the oil in a large pan.  Cook the onions about 2 minutes while you cut up the eggplant and grate the carrot.  Then add the eggplant, garlic and carrot to the pan.  Stir and cook about 5 minutes until the eggplant begins to brown around the edges.  Then stir in the crushed tomatoes and dried basil.  Salt & pepper just a bit til it tastes just right.  Cut the basil into bits and add it into the sauce just before you serve it up over pasta (I used 8 oz. of angel hair multigrain pasta– yummy and cooks in jut 6 minutes).

Makes enough for 3-4 servings– Dinner for us and leftovers for 2 lunches.
I think the grated carrot is the “secret ingredient” that gives it some sweetness!

*It’s cheaper to buy your own basil plant and keep it on your back porch or on a window sill and snip the leaves as you need them, than to buy cut basil at the market– and it lasts for weeks!

Spinach Almond Pesto

IMG_9200Hello all-  I’ve grown up in the last 35 years.  When I married old Larry, I wouldn’t have touched spinach.  But I married Mr. Healthy Eater, so I’ve changed my ways.  And this here is a pretty darn yummy way to eat your spinach!  You can make it in the time it takes to cook up your favorite pasta –and it’s bright and pretty on your plate.  I think you might love it too.

SPINACH ALMOND PESTO
8 oz. of your favorite pasta– I used Orecchiette here
2 cups fresh spinach, washed and stems cut off
1/2 cup toasted almonds*
1/4 cup parmesan romano cheese, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tab. olive oil
1/8 tsp. salt
a good dash of freshly ground pepper
a sprinkle of pine nuts
1/4 cup, red bell pepper, diced to nice little bits

Put the water on to boil and cook your pasta according to the package directions.  In the food processor blend the spinach, almonds, cheese, garlic, oil, salt and pepper.  That’s it!

If you want to, you can warm it in the microwave just a few seconds (don’t cook it!) Serve the pesto spooned over your favorite pasta and garnish with the red pepper and pine nuts.

*you could also use walnuts or pine nuts, traditionally used in pesto.

Turkey Alfredo

IMG_8911Hey there–  I’m thankful for the person who first thought to team up butter, garlic and parmesan and load it onto pasta.  They were brilliant!  I love this simple little dish that helpfully used up the left over cooked turkey stashed in the freezer.  You could used chicken just as well.  I’ve been enjoying the leftovers all week for lunch at school…

TURKEY ALFREDO
8 oz. pasta –whatever is your favorite
2 cups cooked turkey, cut in chunks
8 to 10 crimini mushrooms, cut in nice little chunks
2 tab. olive oil
1/4 cup butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2  cups whole milk*
1/2 cup parmesan reggiano cheese
salt to taste (about 1/4 tsp.)

Put the water on to boil and cook up the pasta.   Then sear the mushrooms in the oil.  Remove them from the pan and wipe it clean.  Then melt the butter in the pan along with the garlic.  When it’s starts to simmer, stir in the flour to make a paste.  Then gradually mix in the milk, stirring all the while.  When it thickens into a creamy sauce, add in the cheese and turkey.  That’s it!  So much flavor for so little work.

Serve it up with a crispy salad and a sturdy chunk of good bread.  Dinner.

*We only had nonfat on hand and it worked just fine (although I’m sure whole milk could have/would have been creamier).