Posts tagged ‘pasta’

Vinegar Braised Chicken and Vintage Cast Iron

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My husband and I have a new vacation hobby – browsing antique stores. While we are in no way knowledgeable about what we are looking at, we enjoy looking around at old furniture, imagining what old kitchens looked like, and reading old letters or signs. We like to look for unique old pieces to mix in with our new and more modern furniture to give our home an eclectic and lived in feel. So far, we have only made two purchases from antique stores, mainly due to limited space and a tight budget.  Our rule is that the item we select must be usable or repurposed in some way. So far, we have gotten a hand painted planter set for a kitchen herb garden and a cast iron dutch oven – both of which we have already put to use! I was so excited about the dutch oven because it is pre-seasoned from years of use, and came at a far lower price tag than the pretty enameled ones that I have always looked at. I like using dutch ovens over regular pots when meals require long cooking time, since the thick bottom holds the heat evenly and results in less sticking to the bottom. So far, I have used my pot to make Frugal Feeeding’s Greek Lamb with Orzo (I made this for Easter but it would make a lovely Mother’s Day meal!) and Bon Appetit’s Vinegar Braised Chicken.

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For my braised chicken, I served it over homemade pasta to recreate a favorite restaurant meal. It was delicious, and would be another great meal to honor the special women in your lives! I used leg quarters and picked the large bones out prior to serving to create an easier to eat pasta dish. The ratios in the dish can be easily reduced if you do not want to make 5 lbs of chicken (I halved it to serve 4 people). The chicken would also taste great over rice, cous cous, or quinoa if pasta is not your mom’s favorite! Either way, I hope you all get to spend a beautiful weekend celebrating mothers, grandmothers, daughters and good friends who have helped to shape and mold you. I am especially thankful for my mom and the time we have gotten to spend together over the past two months!

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Question: What are you doing to celebrate Mother’s Day?

May 9, 2014 at 10:02 am Leave a comment

Greek Pasta Salad

You guys remember my awesome roommate, right? She has made her appearance a few times on this blog, mostly during our crazy roommate dinner adventures… You may recall the voluminous winter melon soup mishap or this tasty sugar-free apple crisp we created together. She is getting married in less than a month (yay!) and I was excited to think of creative ways to make her feel loved for her bridal shower a week ago.

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First, the non-food details! I had the week leading up to the shower off from school and studying, and so unleashed a bit of my crafty side in making these party favors. The small potted plants were her original idea for wedding favors, but the dirt and the size made them a bit impractical at her venue. Since we held her bridal shower in a park, I decided to make her idea a reality! The 4-inch pots are cheap, about $1 each at the hardware store. The flowers were also bundled in bulk, and so came at a steep discount. The signs also came together easily with some cardstock, popsicle sticks, and gel pens. My grandma and sister were a great help and sat for an hour on the patio with me, making each of the 25 “Let Love Grow Wild” signs in assembly line fashion. I think they came out well, and everyone loved them!

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Another paper craft, this time made by a good friend’s mom. On the shower invitations, we asked everyone to bring a recipe for my roommate and her fiance to try out in their new kitchen! We gave her this book to help organize the recipes she has collected, as well as her new ones to try! This book is brilliant: there are blank cardstock pages to paste in printed recipes or ones cut out from magazines, and there are envelopes to store cards from friends and relatives. I have one of my own and I love it! I use it often to write down what I am making for the blog, which helps me to stay organized. If you are interested in getting one for yourself, contact Debbie at Life Is A Special Occasion (liasofavors@gmail.com)!

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Now, onto the food. Since it was an afternoon affair, we served light picnic fair. I picked up a veggie platter at Costco, enlisted my wonderful boyfriend to carve me a watermelon basket for fruit salad, and threw together a quick Greek pasta salad. This salad has no mayonnaise, which makes it an ideal picnic and cookout side without fear of food poisoning. It also has some great bold flavors from the onions, feta, and olives. The dressing, borrowed from Ina Garten, brings the whole salad together. I made this in bulk, but halved the recipe below for more family-style cooking. If you are confused on the quantity of ingredients, I used entire standard-size jars of each ingredient labeled in ounces for the bulk recipe. (For example, a 6-oz jar of olives.)

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Use your creative license with this salad – add some chickpeas, stir in some celery. Make it yours and bring it to your next summer party!

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Greek Pasta Salad

serves 6-8

1 boxes whole wheat elbow macaroni

3 oz pitted kalamata olives, drained and sliced

6 oz roasted red peppers, drained and diced

5 oz cherry tomatoes, quartered

1/2 red onion, halved and thinly sliced

1/2 cup artichoke hearts, roughly chopped

1/2 c feta

1 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (1/2 tbsp fresh)

1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup olive oil

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Meanwhile, slice the olives, red peppers and red onions and add to a large mixing bowl. Quarter the cherry tomatoes and chop the artichoke hearts; add to the bowl. In a separate small bowl, mix together the garlic, herbs, oil and vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the vegetables. Stir to combine. Add the dressing and stir until well coated. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours, then add the feta. Serve cold or at room temperature.

May 28, 2013 at 12:00 pm Leave a comment

Comfort Food Craving

Some days, comfort food is a necessity. Specifically, rainy days filled with grumpy patients, impossible automated phone calls, and traffic. After a rather benign but somehow still intolerable Friday, I dreamed up this comforting pasta bake while stuck in traffic on my way home. I had a bunch of leftover tidbits of ingredients from my Girl’s Night and a lot of leafy greens from my Boston Organics box that seemed to scream out for a creamy pasta dish. At first, I had an idea to make a grown-up version of my Mom’s amazing mac n’ cheese, which was inspired by our favorite white pizza. However, I saw the tomatoes and sauce calling out to be used and morphed this into a Tomato Basil Pasta bake. (I will have to come back to that other idea though!) To me, comfort equates to carbs and cheese, but done in a way that avoids the bloaty, to0-full feeling that plagues me after most rich pastas. For this dish, the ricotta adds the rich creaminess without making it too heavy, and the 1:1 pasta and greens ratio helps make this a healthier version of a typical cheesey pasta. Try this the next time a long day at work leaves you craving comfort!

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Question: What comfort food do you crave after a long day at work?

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Tomato Basil Pasta Bake

serves 3-5

1/2 box whole wheat rotini

1 large bunch kale, stemmed and chopped

4 on-the vine tomatoes, diced (about 1 cup)

3/4 cup fat-free ricotta

1/2 cup low sodium pasta sauce

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella

1/2 +1/4 cup parmesan cheese, separated

1 tbsp basil, chiffonade

2 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Cook pasta according to directions, but stop 1-2 minutes shy of recommended cooking time for very al dente pasta. Meanwhile, prepare the kale and place in your pasta strainer. Strain your pasta over the kale, allowing the hot water to slightly steam the kale. (You don’t want to cook it, just soften it so that it stirs into the pasta better). In a separate bowl, mix together the remainder of the ingredients, except for separated 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. Mix in the pasta and kale. Stir until well combined. Pour into an 8×8 brownie pan coated with cooking spray. Top with remaining parmesan cheese. Bake at 350F for 12 minutes or until heated through and the cheese has fully melted. Cut into rough squares and serve!

September 30, 2012 at 7:15 pm 1 comment

Lentil “Meat” Sauce

Roommate dinners are back in action! Life is busy for both of us, but it is so great to be able to relax – cook real food, enjoy conversation and share life together – at least one night each week. Marie had a spaghetti squash begging for roasting, so we planned to enjoy that for our first roommate dinner of 2012. She said to me this morning, “Oooh, maybe we can make it with pesto! Did you and I eat that together once?” Ha, yes! I made and shared vegan pesto early in January in fact… Her response, “Oh, I thought maybe I was just getting really food smart and creative.” Reason number 3709384 I love my roommate, and proof that our brains are so opposite!

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Unlike Marie, I have a ridiculous memory for details. Helpful for med school, I guess, so I am not complaining. Also helpful when you are brainstorming a new sauce for spaghetti squash! I remembered seeing a lentil red sauce from The Smart Kitchen a few weeks ago, and decided to try a riff of that out for dinner. We also looked at another recipe and kind of made an amalgam of the two, with great results! The lentils took longer to cook than we expected, but we liked them a little on the al dente side for extra texture. This also made the meal much more filling and hearty, so is definitely a great vegan pasta sauce!

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Dinner isn’t complete without dessert, right? Enter Hu-Mousse: a chocolate version of hummus, great spread on apples. Before you go “Ew, gross” remember that some of my favorite vegan pizookies and blondies are made with a chickpea base! I loved this dessert, and Marie eventually got on board after her expectations of a creamy chocolate peanut butter sauce slipped away. I would definitely make this dip again, and may even spread it on toast for breakfast one of these mornings!

Question: Do you usually remember details, or are you a more “big picture” kind of person?

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Lentil “Meat” Sauce

inspired by The Smart Kitchen and The Confused Homemaker, serves 4-6

1 tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 small onion, chopped

3 carrots, diced

3/4 cup lentils

2 cups vegetable broth

1/2 tbsp dried basil

1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning

1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato paste

In a large saucepan, sautee onion and garlic in olive oil until the onions are soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add the diced carrot and cook for 3-4 more minutes. Add the lentils and vegetable broth and cook until 1/2 of the liquid is absorbed. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and herbs. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Serve over pasta or spaghetti squash.

January 27, 2012 at 9:30 am 1 comment

The Best Thing I Have Ever Made

My roommate and I invited a few friends over for dinner the other night, with the alluring promise of “the best dinner Jen has ever cooked.” That is a lot to live up to, my friends! But she wasn’t lying, this homemade pasta with brown butter, sage and butternut squash sauce was just as good as we remembered. I made it to celebrate finishing my anatomy course last year, and Marie and I were speechless at how absolutely decadent and flavorful this was. It is funny that we decided to make it again almost exactly a year to date later! To make it completely from scratch will take some time (I pulled the pasta, sauce and a salad together in just under an hour and a half) but there are some simple substitutions if you wanted to make this for a faster weeknight meal! Simply use prepped butternut squash (they sell peeled halves in the grocery store, or frozen cubes might work) and boxed pasta to simplify your prep time. Dinner will still take an hour, but most of that will be from roasting and not from active prep time. No matter which direction you take this recipe, be sure to give it a try. It lived up to my friends high expectations, and Marie and I still agree this is the best thing I have ever cooked! The recipe is not my own, however, so head on over to These Peas are Hollow to check it out. I followed the recipe exactly, but used fresh linguine (just narrower noodles than tagliatelle) and light instead of heavy cream, since it is what we had on hand. (I also left off the gorgonzola and parsley garnish.)

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We even broke out the fancy plates to match the fancy food ;)

With a good dinner and good friends comes lots of laughter, music, good conversation, but few pictures. Not wanting to detract too much from our time together, I only snapped one picture of our meal! However, I did use the opportunity to learn a few things from my photographer friend. I really want to start working on improving my photography skills, which requires a little bit of equipment. My friend showed me how to use a napkin to diffuse some of the spotlight (aka a desk lamp creatively angled by my accommodating roommate) when taking pictures at night in my dining room. Lighting is as, if not more, important than the quality of your camera, and poor lighting has ruined many of my best meals. A project for Christmas break is to build my own light box, using this tutorial from (never)Homemaker. I am going to simplify the construction a bit, but really think that this is the most important (and inexpensive) first step I can take! The next problem is my camera. I am currently using a 6-year-old Cannon point and shoot, which has held up pretty well. It takes good pictures in sunlight, but is starting to fail if a flash can’t be used. I am slowly starting to research new cameras, but on a student income (read: <$0), this is a huge investment to make. My friend was telling me a little bit about micro 4/3 cameras, which sound like an interesting option. They aren’t named 4/3 because they are smaller (yes, my friends, 4/3 is greater than 1… oops), but because of the patented lens system. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) They are kind of a stepping stone between point and shoot and larger DSLR cameras. I need to continue to do some research, but there are so many options to consider! This is where your advice could come in handy!

Questions: What kind of camera do you currently use? Are there any brands/technologies/cameras that you would recommend? Do you think the micro 4/3 camera is a worthwhile investment, or would it be smarter to pay more up front for something of better quality that might last longer? Any advice from blogger/photographer/hobbyist friends would be greatly appreciated!

December 1, 2011 at 4:00 pm 3 comments

Carbo-loading

Everyone has their own theory on how to best prepare for a big race. One camp: Eat a lot of carbs the week before, but carbo-loading the night before is a bad idea. Another group: Eat as you normally do, changing nothing from the way you have been training. Traditional opinion: Carbo-load. There are so many schools of thought, and I have no real opinion. I am, however, a firm believer that friendship and support the night before a big race is the best medicine.

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That being said, I invited all of my Boston friends running the half-marathon over for a homemade pasta party the night before our half-marathon. Some were running their first race, while others have run half and whole marathons (one even qualified for Boston!) We made fresh pasta, enjoyed a good meal, swapped stories from previous races and tips for race day. We laughed and joked, getting nervous energy out before the big day and bonding over our collective goal of running 13.1 miles.

Before my friends arrived, I started on the pasta sauce. I roasted some garlic in the oven, then chopped that and sautéed it with some onions. I added whole, peeled tomatoes with the paste they were canned in, and let it all come to a boil. I used the immersion blender to get a nice smooth base, and then added one more can of tomatoes, as well as some salt, pepper, parsley, and bay leaves for seasoning. To make it sugar-free, I added a few spoonfuls of apple sauce, simply to cut the bitterness of the tomatoes. I left it uncovered and let it continue to simmer, allowing the whole tomatoes from the last can to break down into chunks. The sauce came out perfectly, and was really easy to make!

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Rolling out pasta for 10 people is a big job, but many hands make light work! It was fun to show my friends how to make the dough, then roll it first into sheets and the cut it into strips. For a basic pasta recipe, see here. As they took over the rolling process, I pulled together a simple veggie side of kale with Balsamic vinegar, white beans and dried cranberries. The cranberries were an afterthought, but really made this dish. I will definitely make this again – over cous cous or quinoa, this would be a perfect weeknight meal for kale!

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Everyone left full and happy, ready for our big race! I have shared the recipes from the evening, pared down into normal family sized meals. Feeding 10 hungry athletes required 3x this amount! This post is scheduled to go up as I am running. Wish us all luck and I will be back tomorrow with the race day recap and results!

Question: Have you run a race before? What are some of your pre-race traditions?

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Classic Tomato Sauce

adapted from here, for 1 lb pasta

2  28 ounce cans whole tomatoes, packed in paste

3 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 tbsp unsweetened apple sauce

1 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

1 tbsp dried parsley

1 bay leaf

2 cloves roasted garlic

Wrap garlic cloves in foil and roast in toaster or conventional oven at 350 degrees for a half hour. Mince the roasted garlic finely, along with the onion. Saute in olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until the onions begin to soften. Add the red wine vine vinegar and one of the cans of tomatoes. Allow to come to a boil, and then reduce the heat. Using an immersion blender, create a smooth base for the sauce. Add the second can of whole tomatoes, including the paste. Add the apple sauce and season with salt, pepper, parsley and a bay leaf. Allow to simmer uncovered until the sauce begins to thicken. Occasionally, use your spoon to break the whole tomatoes down into chunks. Serve over cooked pasta, fresh or dried, with fresh chopped basil and grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

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Kale with White Beans and Cranberries

serves 2 as a main dish (with a grain) or 4 as a side

1 bunch kale

1 can white beans

1/4 cup dried cranberries

3 cloves roasted garlic

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Roast the garlic as instructed above. Mince, and saute in a large pan over medium heat. Meanwhile, remove the kale from the stems and tear into bite sized pieces. Rinse well, and add to the saute pan. Add the rinsed beans and Balsamic vinegar, cover with a lid, and allow to steam for 4-5 minutes. Add the cranberries and stir to combine. Serve hot, alone as a side dish or over a bed of cous cous or quinoa as a main dish.

October 9, 2011 at 9:00 am 5 comments

WIAW While Sick

It’s amazing how fast a head cold can strike you down. I was feeling fine on Saturday – studied, met a friend for coffee, ran 11.5 miles. Then I sneezed, and all of the sudden all I wanted was my bed and a tissue box. I slept 9 hours Saturday night and 10 hours Sunday night in hopes of shaking this cold early. Here is a glimpse into my Monday eats while I was sick! Make sure you check out Peas and Crayons to see other bloggers creative meal ideas!

Breakfast: 9:15 am

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Coffee makes my throat even more scratchy than it already is, so I decided to have some chai tea with a splash of rice milk instead. I had a whole grain English muffin with a bit of homemade peanut butter (my second batch, since we used the first up hiking!) and an orange on the side. Load me up with fluids and vitamins please!

Lunch: 1:45pm

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My fridge is looking pretty sad right now. My Boston Organics delivery is on Tuesdays, so I only had white and sweet potatoes in my veggie drawer by Monday. Time for some back up green stuff from the freezer! I saw this recipe for Coconut Curried Potatoes with Peas on Daily Garnish a few weeks ago and couldn’t wait to try it. It was so good! I ended up following the recipe more loosely, using what I had on hand rather than running out to the store. I cooked the potatoes in a bit of water, used regular coconut milk, used a little less curry powder (because I ran out), added some curry paste, and used fresh instead of powdered ginger. Even so, this turned out amazing, and now I have lunches for the rest of the week! I enjoyed my lunch with more tea – this time, green tea with slivers of fresh ginger.

Magic nap: 3:30pm

I slept for an hour and a half, choosing to listen to my body rather than my self-imposed study schedule. I went to bed sick and woke up feeling so much better! Still with a runny nose, but no longer feeling sick.

Dinner: 6:15pm

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I made plans to meet a few friends from undergrad who are still in school at BU. We met up at my old favorite study spot, the student union. Of course there is a food court there, but it is a bit overpriced if you are no longer on the meal plan. Creature of habit, I packed my dinner into a Tupperware, threw it in my backpack, and biked over to campus! Remember the freezer pesto cubes from yesterday? I threw one in with my hot pasta to let it melt a bit, and then fully mixed it in when I re-heated my meal before eating it. A little broccoli to follow the 1:1 pasta rule… yum! Apple for dessert (the no-sugar thing is much easier this week than last!) Like my veggie supply, my fruit is also running low. I always eat my apples and oranges at the end of the box, since they have a longer shelf life than bananas, berries and stone fruits. Seasonal fall apples are always a treat!

Snacks: 10pm

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A handful or two of peanuts and raisins before bed to keep my stomach from rumbling, and a cup of Sleepy Time Tea! Sleep and tea – the best cure for the common cold.

I have been thinking a lot about last week’s post and love the feedback I have gotten so far! I would love to hear more thoughts, and will be back tomorrow or Friday with an update of some of my own thoughts and musings about the problem of obesity in America and how doctors should address it.

Question: What was the best thing you ate today?

September 28, 2011 at 7:43 am 13 comments

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