Butternut Baked Ziti

It’s officially fall in Philadelphia.  The leaves are turning, frost is on the ground in the morning, Uggs are pulled on over skinny jeans… and pumpkin is everywhere.  While everyone is grabbing their PSL’s this pumpkin season, I’m looking at the less popular fall favorite of mine:  Butternut Squash.  I’m a sucker for the underdog.

I’ve tried out Butternut Squash a few other times, one of my most interesting in the post Butternut Squash Tacos.

Anyway, had to share this butternut recipe with you, it’s warm and comforting and feels like fall.

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The thing about this recipe that is different for me, is that it’s actually pretty complicated compared to my normal posts.  Don’t be intimidated though, the recipe isn’t difficult… the steps are easy, it’s just that there’s a lot of them.  To keep yourself from getting overwhelmed, I recommend roasting the squash while you cook the rest of the meal, and it will break it up pretty nicely for ya.  Another tip, I also ALWAYS try and wash dishes/spoons, etc while I am cooking, so I’m not left with a bunch of pots and pans and cutting boards in the sink.   Continue reading

Eggplant Bolognese

Well hello again, my friends.  It’s almost been a year since my last post!  I have been extremely busy with life and my good old little food blog got away from me.  New job, got married, bought a house, you know, the basic things that keep you away from a computer once you’re finally home!

I can promise you though, that I have been spending that last year building up a repertoire of tons of fun new and exciting recipes to share.  As life is starting to settle down for the moment, I made it my goal to bring those recipes to you and start writing again.  So, here we are!

I wanted to start us off with a really solid, versatile recipe that you can really do a lot with.  Take out the beef and make this meatless for your Monday, or for your favorite vegetarian!  Don’t like eggplant?  Swap it out with Zucchini or Squash!  That really is the best thing about cooking, you can do WHATEVER YOU WANT!  BUT, if you do like eggplant, and you are a carnivore like myself… please do yourself a favor and try this one out, you won’t be disappointed!

Eggplant Bolognese
Recipe Adapted from:  Cooking Light 

Ingredients:
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Large Sweet Onions, chopped
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt, divided + 1 Tablespoon
1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper, divided
1/2 lb Ground Beef, I used 85%
1.5 lbs Eggplant, chopped
3 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
1/2 cup Red Wine- I used Pinot Noir so I could drink some while I cooked 🙂
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, undrained
1 Tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
10oz Whole-Wheat Fettuccine
1/4 cup small fresh basil leaves

Directions:
1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and beef; cook 10 minutes or until beef is browned, stirring to crumble beef. Add eggplant, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 20 minutes or until eggplant is very tender, stirring occasionally. Add tomato paste; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add wine; cook 1 minute, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes too. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and red wine vinegar.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions, adding 1 tablespoon kosher salt to cooking water. Drain.
3. Toss pasta with sauce; sprinkle with basil leaves.

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Well, that’s all for today, goal of posting in October ACCOMPLISHED!  Huzzah!  Now, go comment, like, share… do it!

Buffalo Chicken Lasagna

One of my all-time favorite stories about Dave’s horrendous spelling, is that he once spelled “Lasagna” “Liggisana”.  Every time I see the word I say it the way he spelled it.  It just cracks me up.  I literally can’t think, spell, or say the word “Lasagna” without thinking about him.  I love it… too funny.

I suppose the reason for my inspiration to try a Buffalo Chicken Lasagna was perhaps because that Liggisana spelling Dave was in the back of my head telling my subconscious to make a new Buff Chick creation… they’re his favorite.  First we tried Buffalo Chicken Dip which is a classic in our house.  Then we did some Buffalo Spiced Peanuts (yum!), my favorite- Buffalo Stuffed Baked Potatoes, and a new hit- the Buffalo Chicken Soup.  We’ve got a whole lotta buffalo goin’ on over here.  This Liggisana takes our Buffalo Chicken loving to a whole new level.  

The inspiration for this recipe took me to googling some yummy treats.  My favorite out of the few that I found came from one of my go-to healthy recipe bloggers, Prevention RD.  I have saved so so many of her recipes, they are out of this world.  

Check out the recipe for the lasagna below, but also make sure you read my notes afterwards… my lasagna didn’t turn out as perfect as Nicole from Prev. RD’s did!  I think I need to read up on some “do’s” and “don’t’s” on Lasagna… hmmm……

Buffalo Chicken Lasagna

Ingredients:

1 lb White Meat Chicken Breast, cooked and cubed (I boiled mine)

3 cups Low-Sodium Marinara Sauce

1 cup Frank’s Hot Sauce or Buffalo Wing Sauce

1/3 cup Water

15oz Fat Free Ricotta Cheese 

2 Large Eggs

1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

1/2 teaspoon Ground Black Pepper

Cayenne Pepper if desired

16 Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles, uncooked

9 slices Pepper Jack Cheese

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.

2.  Combine chicken, marinara, wing sauce, and water.  In a separate bowl, combine ricotta cheese, eggs, salt, pepper, and cayenne if using.

3.  Spray a 9×13 inch pan with cooking spray.  Spread enough sauce to coat the bottom of the pan.  Arrange 4 noodles over the sauce before spreading more sauce, then a layer of the ricotta mixture.  Add another layer noodles and of sauce repeating the process until you end with a final layer of sauce.

4.  Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight or bake immediately for one hour.  Uncover and place the pepper jack cheese slices on top.  Bake an extra 8-10 minutes uncovered so the cheese gets nice and melty.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving to firm up so you can get nice slices.

Recipe barely adapted from:  Prevention RD

Sauce on the right, ricotta mixture on the left.

Sauce on the right, ricotta mixture on the left.

Layered and baked!

Layered and baked!

Gotta love the lasagna cross-section shot

Gotta love the lasagna cross-section shot

Served these babies with a plate full of Ceasar Salad- the creamy dressing was a nice compliment to the spicy sauce.

Served these babies with a plate full of Ceasar Salad- the creamy dressing was a nice compliment to the spicy sauce.

So as I fairly warned you earlier… mine did NOT turn out as gorgeous and perfect as I’d liked it to.  Lasagna failures is a common topic in my foodie magazines, so I don’t feel that alone… right?  I’ve done some research and figured out I have a few problems that I’d love to tell YOU about so you don’t make the same mistakes that I have.

First of all… silly little me… all this time I thought my big pyrex was 9×13… it WASNT!  My dish was way too long for this lasagna.  I just couldn’t figure out why it didn’t stack right!  That’s why.  DUH.  I really shouldn’t have told you that, it’s really embarrassing.

One of the KEY tips that will help make your lasagna perfect and not dried out… is the sauce.  Make DOUBLE if you’re worried.  Have extra on hand.  Spreading the sauce on the bottom is key.  Even more key?  The sauce ontop.  You want this sauce to completely coat every inch of pasta on the top of the stacks.  This is what will keep the lasagna noodles from drying out.  

Also, I’ve commented on the original recipe at Prevention RD, and she highly recommended the refrigeration process before baking the dish.  I’ll try that next time!

Roasted Grape Tomato, Garlic, & Poblano Ragu

I feel like I’m living in an episode of Seinfeld or Friends.  You know… when something happens and then something else happens and then a third thing happens that somehow ties it all together.  I’m pretty sure some recent events are really just my subconscious is trying to tell me that I’m losing my mind.  Literally.

friends

I’ve always had this panic thing where I really think I lose my cell phone and once I start the panic mode, I find it under my leg in my seat in the car, in a fold in a blanket, or under the dog.  This happens like, literally all the time.  At least once or twice a day.

What’s going on with my recent misplacement of really important belongings isn’t this panic-mode.  It’s real.  I don’t know what’s going on (with the exception of me losing my mind)… but in the past two weeks I have somehow managed to misplace not one but TWO jackets, leave my car keys in my Mom’s car, and forget my purse in a restaurant.  WTF?!

Rather than just thinking I’m a moron, I’m going to take this as a sign that I need to take a step back and relax.  Take a minute and breathe and STOP LOSING ALL OF MY CRAP!

In an attempt to go back to my normal routine, I decided to make dinner last night.  It’s been rare since Dave and I got engaged… life has just been too crazy and busy to make fun dinners.  I was inspired by the surplus of Grape Tomatoes in the house and wanted to try to make my own tomato sauce.

This sauce is so good… I almost could not believe myself.  Don’t leave out the roasting of the veggies in this recipe… it gives the sauce such a rich flavor.  It’s very easy to do!

Roasted Grape Tomato, Garlic, & Poblano Ragu

Ingredients:

1.5 pints Grape Tomatoes

1 Head Garlic

1 Poblano Pepper

8oz Lean Ground Beef

1 Green Bell Pepper

1/2 Large Sweet Onion

1 can Diced Tomatoes 

1/4 cup Fresh Basil Leaves

1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder

1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder

1/2 teaspoon-1 teaspoon Sea Salt

1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper

1/8 teaspoon Cumin

1/2 teaspoon Dried Parsley (or 1T fresh)

Directions: 

1.  Roast the Veggies:  Preheat the oven to 400.  On a baking sheet COVERED with foil and prepared with cooking spray, spread the tomatoes.  Put the poblano on the sheet too.  Cut off the tip of the garlic exposing the tops of the cloves.  Wrap the garlic in a small piece of foil and pour a few drops of Olive Oil in and close.  Put the foiled garlic on the baking sheet too.  Either drizzle or spray the tomatoes and poblano with just a bit of Olive Oil, sprinkle with salt, and pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes.  Flip the poblano halfway through and remove if the skin becomes charred.

2.  Cook the meat:  While your veggies are roastin’, cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat.  If frozen, scrape into small pieces or chop if fresh.  Season with a little salt and pepper.  Remove from pan.

3.  Cook the veggies:  Chop the pepper and onion and saute with cooking spray in the same pan the beef cooked in.  Cook for 5-10 minutes then set aside in the same bowl as the beef.  

4.  Make the sauce:  When the tomatoes are a little browned ontop and nice and soggy looking, remove them from the oven.  Unwrap the garlic and let cool.  Cut the poblano in half and scrape out the seeds.  Scrape off the skin too, if possible.  Chop half of the pepper and reserve the remaining half for another use.  Using the back of a spoon, press the bottom end of the garlic until the cloves slide out.  Place the chopped poblano, 1/2 of the garlic cloves, and all of the tomatoes in a blender with the rest of the seasonings, the can of diced tomatoes, and fresh basil.  Blend until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.  

5.  Eat the Sauce!  Combine the tomato mixture from the blender with the beef, pepper, and onion.  Heat in a medium saucepan over medium heat until warm.  Serve over spaghetti and top with a little bit of fresh parm.  Enjoy!

Everything in the blender and ready to whirl!

Everything in the blender and ready to whirl!

Cookin' up the pepper and onion.

Cookin’ up the pepper and onion.

Sauce!

Sauce!

The sauce all ready to go

The sauce all ready to go

beautiful!

beautiful!

So delicious.

So delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fettuccine w/ Cauliflower Pesto

One of my favorite memories when I was little would have to be when my Mom would let my sister Melissa and I put food coloring in our mashed potatoes.  We could choose any color and do it ourselves.  Any of you  who know my mom probably don’t find this surprising.  Mom LOVES color.  She even has a Pinterest Board called “Rainbow” which I just love.  It’s obvious where I come from.

Directly from the Rainbow Pinterest page... don't you wish these existed, I do!

Directly from the Rainbow Pinterest page… don’t you wish these existed, I do!

Remember how gross these were??

Remember how gross these were??

Some fake colored food looks gross like the ketcup, but this Ice Cream is calling my name!

Some fake colored food looks gross like the ketcup, but this Ice Cream is calling my name!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mom didn’t let us color our taters because it was more fun of course, she did it because it made us eat our dinner!  Another favorite trick for this was Mom’s veggie dipping sauce.  The magical sauce made from fat free sour cream, a little bit of mayo, parm, garlic, salt and pepper made my sister and I eat all of our green veggies every night.

What kind of tricks do you use to get your kids to eat right?  What do you remember your mom doing?

Today’s trick is my new favorite way to get Cauliflower into the mix… and it’s not cauliflower mash- that’s just so 5 years ago.

Fettuccine w/ Cauliflower Pesto

Ingredients:

1 small head or 1/2 large head Cauliflower, trimmed, cored, and cut into chunks

3 cloves Garlic

1/8 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (large pinch)

1/2 cup Almonds, toasted and cooled

2oz Parmesan Cheese (plus more for serving)

1/2 jar Sun-Dried Tomatoes, chopped (I used trader joe’s which are strips, packed in oil.  Make sure you rinse the oil off very well)

1 Tablespoon Drained Capers

3 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley

1/3 cup Olive Oil

1/2 – 1 teaspoon White Wine Vinegar

1lb box of Fettuccine (I used whole wheat)

Directions:

1.  Prepare pesto.  Pulse 1/2 the cauliflower chunks in a food processor until it looks like couscous.  Transfer to a bowl and repeat with the second batch adding to the bowl when done.  You should have 3.5 cups of fluffy cauliflower bits.  

2.  Pulse the garlic, pepper flakes, almonds, cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and parsley in the food processor until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs.  You may have to stop a few times and stir.  Add to the bowl with the cauliflower.  Add the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar, a few pinches of salt, and stir until combined.  Taste and adjust seasoning, adding vinegar if necessary.  I had to add salt and some black pepper.  

3.  Cook the pasta.  Heat a very large pot of highly salted water and bring to a boil.  Add pasta and cook until al dente (check box for timing).  When you drain the pasta, reserve a cup or so of the cooking water.  

4.  Assemble the dish!  Toss the hot pasta with the cauliflower pesto and half of your reserved pasta water.  If the pesto looks too thick, add more pasta water.  Top with some additional Parmesan cheese when serving.  Enjoy!

Recipe barely adapted from:  Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

This is what your cauliflower should look like after you pulse it in the food processor.

This is what your cauliflower should look like after you pulse it in the food processor.

Now it's time to mix the rest of the ingredients.

Now it’s time to mix the rest of the ingredients.

Not going to win any awards for being the prettiest, but here is the pesto mixed together and ready to be added to my hot pasta or some crusty bread.

Not going to win any awards for being the prettiest, but here is the pesto mixed together and ready to be added to my hot pasta or some crusty bread.

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Cauliflower Pesto

This pasta had so many tasty flavors and textures.  I just loved the crunch from the bigger pieces of almonds that wouldn’t pulse any smaller.  Along with the nutty taste from the almonds and olive oil, the sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and parm cheese left little room for the pasta to taste like cauliflower.  It all just worked so well together that you would never know there was a whole head of cauliflower in there!

While I rarely cook for enough people to make an entire box of pasta, I did cook enough to have some leftovers.  Dave and I enjoyed this pasta without reheating it the next day for lunch.  We also took Deb’s advice and saved some of our large batch of Cauliflower Pesto and spread it on top of some cut up crusty bread the next day.  What a great use of leftovers!

I’m so loving Deb’s Smitten Kitchen cookbook.  Here are a few more of her recipes that I’ve tried out so far…

Sweet and Sour Brisket

Sweet and Sour Brisket

Shaved Asparagus Pizza w/ a Cauliflower Crust

Shaved Asparagus Pizza w/ a Cauliflower Crust

Berry Coconut Macaroons

Berry Coconut Macaroons

 

 

Pipette w/ Bacon & Peas

​​What’s funny about this recipe is that the inspiration came from a Bon Appetit article called “12 Ways to Cook w/ Ricotta“.  I bookmarked this pasta dish along with the hundreds of other recipes I save.  The other day, it caught my eye and I decided to make this for dinner but whoops… I had no Ricotta!  I improvised and ended up with a really yummy pasta without the starring ingredient.
The original recipe also used a really pretty pasta shape called Campanelle which I didn’t have.  I chose to use my Pipette since it was also cute and different from your typical Penne, Elbows, or Shells!  (I’ve always had a huge crush on pasta shapes… it’s strange)
Photo Cred: finecooking.com

Campanelle, Photo Cred: finecooking.com

vs.

Photo cred: thekitchn.com

Pipette, Photo cred: thekitchn.com

Pipette w/ Bacon & Peas

Ingredients:  

1/2 box Pipette Pasta

4-6 Pieces of Center Cut Bacon, chopped

1/4 Onion, sliced

3/4 cup Frozen Peas

1 Tablespoon Cream Cheese 

2 Tablespoons Fat Free Sour Cream

1 Tablespoon Fat Free Plain Greek Yogurt

1/4 cup Parmesan Cheese

Fresh Black Pepper, Parsley Leaves

Directions:

1.  Cook pasta in salted water to al dente according to the directions on the package.  Drain and set aside.

2.  Meanwhile, cook the chopped bacon, stirring occasionally until it starts to crisp up.  Add the sliced onion and cook, still stirring until the onions are softening up a bit.  Add the frozen peas and continue to cook making sure you don’t burn the bacon.  

3.  Melt the cream cheese, sour cream, greek yogurt, and most of the parmesan cheese over the drained and hot pasta.  Stir to combine.  

4.  Once the peas are heated through and the bacon is cooked crisp to your liking, pour the mixture over the sauced-up pasta.  Sprinkle with black pepper and parsley.  Enjoy!

Recipe inspired by:  12 Ways to Cook w/ Ricotta

If you cut the bacon into this size, it will shrink up nicely but still maintain a large enough piece to really notice it in your dish!

If you cut the bacon into this size, it will shrink up nicely but still maintain a large enough piece to really notice it in your dish!

This is the point where the mixture is just done... the bacon is crisp and the onions are just starting to brown

This is the point where the mixture is just done… the bacon is crisp and the onions are just starting to brown

So pretty!

So pretty!

photo 4 (14)

Woo-Wee!  This recipe is so yummy!  I have to appreciate the rare occasion where I am allowed to eat bacon for dinner.  Both Dave and I devoured our portions and I had to be careful we didn’t over eat since this wasn’t the healthiest meal!  While I assume making this dish with ricotta cheese would be delicious, I didn’t miss it at all.  The rich bacon grease drippings mixed with the creaminess of the pasta sauce was more than enough flavor to make this recipe spectacular.  It might sound strange, but try it!  It just works.

Oh, and i left the salt out on purpose, you totally don’t need it when there’s bacon involved!!

Check out some of my other BACON recipes!

Breakfast Baked Potato

Breakfast Baked Potato

One-Pan Hashbrown Breakfast

One-Pan Hashbrown Breakfast

Corn & Potato Chowder

Corn & Potato Chowder

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

I’m finally back on track with the blog people.

I’ve been running around like crazy (as always) but this time, I was getting ready for my first vacation with Dave in a year and a half!!  We just returned late last night and I cannot wait to tell you all about it soon.  Our trip took us to Seattle and Vancouver… and was full of lots of fun sightseeing, exploring, family time, and of course good food & drink.

The view from our run in Vancouver.  Absolutely gorgeous!  Worth torturing myself for a few miles while on vacation...

The view from our run in Vancouver. Absolutely gorgeous! Worth torturing myself for a few miles while on vacation…

I just wanted to make you really jealous and give you a preview… this beautiful picture was taken on our run along the beach one morning in Vancouver.  How gorgeous?

Feeling selfish lately after basically neglecting you all, I thought it’d be only fair to give you a new recipe today… a really awesome one.  I saw this recipe on a blog that I’m just loving, it’s called Iowa Girl Eats.  Check it out!  I think Kristin’s pictures on her blog are absolutely amazing.  Anyway, I saw her Mediterranean Orzo Salad in March and realized that I had all of the ingredients at home… my favorite type of recipe.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Makes 4 Servings as a side dish

Ingredients:
4oz Orzo
1 handful Grape Tomatoes, halved
1 5oz container Reduced Fat Feta Crumbles
1/4 cup Olives, sliced 
1/4 cup Parsley, chopped (I used my handy dandy freeze-dried herbs again)
2 Tablespoons Capers
1/4 cup Lemon Juice (2 Lemons)
1 teaspoon Honey
1 Tablespoon Minced Garlic
Sea Salt, Black Pepper
1/4 cup EVOO or other Oil (grapeseed)
Directions:
1.  Cook Orzo in a large pot of salted water, boiling until al dente as the box instructs.  Drain, set aside.
2.  Make the dressing.  Whisk or blend the lemon juice, honey, garlic, salt, and pepper (pinches of each, taste test).  Slowly drizzle in the oil while pulsing the blender or whisking if you’re not using the blender.  
3.  Combine tomatoes, feta, olives, parsley, and capers in a large bowl.  Add cooked orzo and the dressing.  Toss to combine.  
*This can be served warm or room temp.  Also, if you’re planning on not eating right away, save some dressing on the side so you can top it off before you’re ready to eat it.  The pasta will probably have soaked up a lot overnight.*

Recipe slightly adapted from: Iowa Girl Eats

photo 1 (15)

I decided to make this to eat as a side for both lunch and dinner.  It was a delicious change of pace for us, since I rarely ever make pasta salads.  The pasta salad had such great flavor from the freshness of the lemon juice and the salty from the olives and capers.  Yummy, simple yet special.

You should be warned though that I don’t like my pasta salad drenched in oil, so I halved the oil that the original recipe calls for.  If you don’t like yours on the dry side, I’d recommend doubling the dressing.

Be on the lookout for my post in the next week or so about our trip!