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entree

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Summer Bounty Pasta Bake with Fresh Homemade Tomato-Basil Sauce

August 25, 2014

Summer Bounty Rigatoni Bake 3 | Espresso and Cream
As I’ve grown in my faith over the years, I’ve learned more and more that what we get in this life (both good and bad) is so rarely directly related to how many good works we do or how many times we stumble and make mistakes along the way. Of course that’s not to say that when we make mistakes there aren’t consequences, but I think that subconsciously I’ve lived with the mentality that if I do enough good in this world, then good things would happen to me.

Along the way I’ve realized that this simply isn’t true and that God doesn’t work on a system of tallies and check marks on a to-do chart. Our stories are mapped out by Him with purpose and intention, specifically designed to grow us in different ways.

This past year has been difficult, filled with lots of tears and more than my fair share of fearful moments. Many times along the way I asked God, “Why not us? Why don’t we get a baby like so many other people? Why do we have to lose our little ones?” But now that we’ve been blessed with this little miracle baby, I’ve been overwhelmed with feelings I didn’t expect. More than a couple times I’ve broken down in tears asking God, “Why me? Why do we get this miracle?” I feel so incredibly undeserving of this gift God’s given us and of the prayers people have prayed on our behalf.

Summer Bounty Rigatoni Bake 1 | Espresso and Cream
I guess my garden is an appropriate example of how you don’t always get what you “deserve” in life. We’ve given our little garden everything it needs to grow and be fruitful, including plenty of water and weeding and the like, and yet our harvest has been completely disappointing. Just a handful of zucchini and yellow squash, no peppers, the rabbits ate our green beans and our spaghetti squash never came up.

Thankfully our tomato plants have done relatively well and we’ve just started experiencing the overflow of tomatoes from our garden. I can’t tell you how many batches of this homemade tomato-basil sauce I’ve made (maybe 4 or 5 in the last handful of weeks?) but it’s quickly become a staple in our house, transforming even the most basic pasta dish into something special.

When I served this baked rigatoni pasta to Joe last week, his eyes lit up and he quickly declared this one of the best things I’ve ever made. Considering how much I’ve cooked for him over the years, that’s saying something, friends. An added bonus? It’s easy to prep this dish in advance, cover and then cook it up when you get home from work at the end of the day!

Summer Bounty Pasta Bake with Fresh Homemade Tomato-Basil Sauce
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups seeded and chopped Roma tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (my cloves were on the larger side)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons chopped fresh basil
  • ¾ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • ¾ teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • Pasta Bake
  • 2 cups rigatoni pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped into small pieces
  • 4 oz feta cheese, cut into small cubes
  • 2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 1 cup shredded rotisserie chicken)
  • ½ cup shredded Italian cheese blend
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350F. Spray an 8x8-inch baking dish with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. In a medium skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add in the tomatoes, garlic, salt, pepper, sugar and herbs. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 to 15 minutes or until the tomatoes are completely broken up and the sauce begins to thicken slightly. Remove from heat and stir in the cream.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the pasta, tomato sauce, zucchini, feta cheese and chicken. Spoon into prepared baking dish. Top with the Italian cheese blend and grated Parmesan cheese.
  4. Bake 20 to 22 minutes or until cheese is melted and zucchini is tender. Spoon into bowls to serve.

 

 

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Green Chicken Chile Enchiladas

July 12, 2014

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas (1) | Espresso and Cream
Over the past week and a half I feel a little like I’m just barely keeping my head above water. Between the doctors visits (which have been numerous) and the morning sickness, which has been getting stronger, to the demands of a busy work schedule, it feels like I’ve got a lot going on. Emotionally, I’ve been a little bit maxed out, so cooking at home has taken a back seat. Thankfully, Joe is extremely flexible and not at all picky, but this weekend I felt the need to re-commit to making dinners and lunches that were worth writing home about.

My manager, Ann, and I were talking last week about favorite family meals and she mentioned that she makes green chicken enchiladas that her family is crazy about. Although I didn’t get the recipe, I got the general idea of what she tossed in her enchiladas and it sounded amazing. So on a rainy Saturday with a little time on my hands, I got to making my own version.

I was pleasantly surprised when it only ended up taking me 15 minutes to put together a pan of these enchiladas and toss them in the oven. While they baked I wrote thank-you notes and did laundry and 20 minutes later our house smelled amazing! I’m pleased to report that these enchiladas also tasted amazing and were a huge hit with both me and Joe. If you’re looking for an easy weeknight dinner, these should definitely go into a regular rotation. You can mix-up the heat level depending on the spiciness of your salsa and green chiles. And if you’re a real spice lover, I would suggest adding in some diced jalapeno to the filling.

Green Chicken Chile Enchiladas
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (or cooked and shredded chicken breasts)
  • 2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 jar (16 oz) salsa verde or roasted tomatillo salsa (I used Target's Archer Farms brand)
  • 1 can (4.5 oz) diced green chiles
  • 6 medium whole wheat tortillas
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • Lettuce, salsa and sour cream for garnish, if desired
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 375°F. Spray a 13x9-inch baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the chicken, 1¼ cups of the cheese, 1 cup of the salsa and the diced green chiles. Stir until well combined.
  3. Spoon a heaping ⅓ cup of the chicken mixture onto each of the tortillas. Roll up tortillas and place in baking dish. In a small bowl, combine remaining salsa and the ½ cup heavy cream. Pour mixture over enchiladas, spreading evenly over enchiladas in pan. Top with the remaining cheese.
  4. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and filling is bubbly. If desire, broil the last 1 to 2 minutes to brown cheese. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Serve with desired toppings, such as lettuce, salsa and sour cream, if desired.

 

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Vegan Thai Chopped Salad

June 23, 2014

Thai Chopped Salad (2) | Espresso and Cream
Last month I developed a Thai Chicken and Kale Chopped Salad recipe for the Tasteseekers Kitchen blog at work that I’ve since made a handful of times. Big, colorful salads are one of my favorite things to make for lunch and dinner, especially when the salad is substantial enough to keep you full and satisfied hours later.

This past weekend Joe helped one of his friends paint his house. It was a two-day ordeal that involved quite a few hours out in the sun so when they got done on Saturday night and headed to our house for a late dinner, I was in charge of preparing a side dish to go with their very large grilled steaks. Steaks and a vegan salad: It goes together, right? I didn’t exactly set out with the intention of making this recipe vegan, but as I chopped and tossed things together, I realized that’s just what I did.

Don’t be intimidated by all the ingredients, chopping and making of your own dressing. I promise that it really is quite simple, and the flavors of all the fresh veggies paired with the thai peanut dressing is nothing short of amazing. The recipe itself serves quite a bit, enough for four main-dish portions or six to seven smaller side-dish sized salads. I highly suggest chopping all the ingredients in advance and making the dressing, then tossing everything together just before you plan to eat. And since the ingredients in this salad are heartier than, say, a Romaine lettuce salad, dressing the salad a little early won’t leave your salad soggy.

Thai Chopped Salad (1) | Espresso and Cream

Vegan Thai Chopped Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree, Side Dish
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • SALAD INGREDIENTS
  • 10 cups finely chopped kale, stems removed
  • ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bag (16 oz) coleslaw mix
  • 4 miniature red sweet peppers, thinly sliced (or ½ cup chopped red sweet pepper)
  • 3 medium carrots, grated
  • 2 green onions, sliced (white and green parts)
  • THAI PEANUT DRESSING
  • 3 tablespoons peanut butter
  • ⅓ cup hot water
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha or other hot sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
Instructions
  1. In a very large bowl, combine the kale and olive oil. Work together the kale and olive oil with your hands until kale is evenly coated with the oil. Add the remaining salad ingredients to bowl.
  2. To make dressing, whisk together the peanut butter and hot water until smooth. Whisk in the remaining ingredients until well combined. Drizzle dressing over salad and toss until well combined and salad is evenly coated.

 

 

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Quick and Easy Bacon-Tomato Penne

April 24, 2014

Bacon Tomato Pasta 1 | Espresso and Cream

Before I share this recipe with you, I should clarify that while a lot of my recipes are on the healthier side, this recipe isn’t winning any awards for being health conscious. However, when I threw this meal together last week for Joe after a trip to the gym, he raved about how delicious it was and demanded that I blog about it. Usually Joe isn’t one to demand I blog about anything, so when he insisted I obliged. In fact, I made a batch of this pasta earlier in the week and put it into lunch containers immediately so that Joe would be able to enjoy lunches at work that were better than turkey and cheese or PB&J.

If you’re a fan of meals that are quick and easy to throw together and require very few ingredients (and really, who isn’t?) then you will love this recipe. I’ve tried it both warm and cold and can say that both ways are delicious, although I do prefer it warm since the flavors are more pronounced.

After making this dish a couple times, I’ve been thinking of ways to add a little freshness to this dish, mainly something green. Although I didn’t add any, a couple handfuls of arugula or a little fresh basil would be a great addition. Let me know if you try it and add anything different to your version, since I’m always looking for ways to adapt dishes and keep things fresh.

Bacon Tomato Pasta 2 | Espresso and Cream

Quick and Easy Bacon-Tomato Penne
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
This is Joe's new favorite dinner, and I don't mind making it because it's so incredibly easy! This makes enough to serve two generously, or three smaller portions. It's usually enough for Joe to eat for dinner one night and have leftovers to take to work the next day.
Ingredients
  • 4 strips of bacon
  • 2 cups whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano or basil
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain.
  2. Meanwhile, cut bacon into small pieces. Place bacon in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until bacon is very crispy and deeply colored. Use a slotted spoon to remove bacon from skillet and transfer bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
  3. Add tomatoes to skillet with bacon drippings and cook tomatoes over medium high heat 2 to 4 minutes or until tomatoes are softened slightly. Add butter, oregano and red pepper flakes to skillet along with cooked pasta.
  4. Divide pasta mixture among two bowls. Top with the bacon. Serve immediately.

 

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Cheesy Farro-Broccoli Bake

April 14, 2014

Cheesy Farro Broccoli Bake 2 | Espresso and Cream

Let’s be honest, the amount of cooking that’s been going on in our house lately has been minimal. But as life slowly transitions back to “normal” (and no, it still doesn’t feel normal if you really want to know) it feels good to do things that come naturally, to create something out of raw ingredients and nourish the body. Plus, eating take-out and snack-y type foods can only keep you going for a certain amount of time. Sometimes you just have to get in the kitchen and cook.

I didn’t grow up in a house where we ate a lot of casseroles, and consequently I don’t cook a lot of casseroles to this day. However, there is something about being able to toss all your ingredients together and throw it in the oven when hunger strikes that I find so comforting. Dinner is ready when you need it to be, cheesy and comforting and semi-healthy, too, minus the cheese part. The cheese is absolutely not healthy, but makes this dish taste amazing.

My favorite use for a casserole is to make it on Sunday and have lunches for Joe to take to work for the rest of the week. I grilled up a package of chicken breasts and made this casserole, then divided the chicken and casserole among four containers, a complete meal ready to be tossed into a lunch container when we’re busy and running out the door in the morning.

Cheesy Farro Broccoli Bake 1 | Espresso and Cream

Cheesy Farro-Broccoli Bake
Recipe type: Side Dish/Vegetarian Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Make this dish a meal by topping with grilled or baked chicken breasts.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup farro, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 cups broccoli florets, blanched
  • 2 cups Italian blend cheese, divided
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup 2% or full-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, if desired
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350F. Spray a 9-inch pie plate or square baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the all the ingredients until well-combined. Spoon mixture into baking dish.
  3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Serve immediately.
  4. Alternate method: If you're looking for a more traditional casserole-type dish, I would suggest substituting the Greek yogurt for a can of condensed cream of mushroom soup.

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