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It’s that time again, time to use up what I’ve got in the pantry and fridge. I always end with lots of leftover half boxes and bags of things in the cabinet, or things that I’ve bought and just forgot about. The result of this is having crammed cabinets. So I’m trying to use up some of those things in our meals this week. I’ve had a box containing exactly six lasagna noodles in the cabinet for a few months now.  It was leftover from when I made a lasagna sometime ago. Now you can’t make a real lasagna with only six noodles so I decided to make lasagna rolls. When trying to think of what to roll inside them, I automatically assumed I would make a ricotta filling and then remembered I had half a bag of baby spinach in the veggie drawer of the refrigerator. So I decided to chop that up and mix it in. I had never made a bechamel sauce, but knew it wasn’t difficult so I decided to do that instead of a marinara sauce. It turned out amazing! My husband and I both enjoyed this dinner. It was a bit time consuming because there are a few steps involved but definitely something I would make again.

Spinach Lasagna Rolls with Bechamel Sauce

For the lasagna rolls:

6 lasagna noodles
1 15 oz container part skim ricotta
1 egg
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup chopped baby spinach
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Begin by boiling the lasagna noodles whole, in salted water for 8-10 minutes. They should then be pliable but not quite done. Remove them from the water and lay on a lightly oiled baking sheet to prevent sticking. Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl and then spread 2-3 Tbsp of the mixture onto each lasagna noodle and roll. Place in a greased baking dish with the open end of the noodle down.

For the bechamel sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, heated
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until the paste cooks and bubbles a bit, but don’t let it brown — about 2 minutes. Add the hot milk, continuing to stir as the sauce thickens. Bring it to a boil. Add salt and pepper to taste, lower the heat, and cook, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove from the heat. To cool this sauce for later use, cover it with wax paper or pour a film of milk over it to prevent a skin from forming.

Source for bechamel sauce: Epicurious

Pour the bechamel sauce over the lasagna rolls. Top with shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheeses if desired. Cover the baking dish tightly with foil and baking for 30-35 minutes. Top with chopped parsley if desired.

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Here’s proof again that weeknight meals don’t have to be difficult. As soon as I saw this in the October issue of Cooking Light, I added it to my weeknight menu. Not only is it quick (took me maybe 20-25 min) but it is so good, too. The other plus is that I have leftovers for lunch. I just love it when a meal comes together so quickly and actually serves as two meals!

Pasta with Prosciutto and Spinach

Ingredients

1 (9-ounce) package fresh cheese tortellini (such as DiGiorno)
1 tablespoon pine nuts (I omitted)
1 teaspoon olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup (1 ounce) preshredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced

Preparation

1. Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Transfer pasta to a large bowl.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add nuts to pan; cook 1 1/2 minutes or until toasted, stirring occasionally. Add nuts to bowl.

3. Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add garlic to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add spinach to pan; cook 2 minutes or until spinach wilts, stirring constantly. Add spinach mixture, cheese, and remaining ingredients to bowl; toss well.

Yield

4 servings (serving size: 1 cup)

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Nutritional Information

CALORIES 292(28% from fat); FAT 9.2g (sat 3.2g,mono 2.3g,poly 1.1g); IRON 1.8mg; CHOLESTEROL 32mg; CALCIUM 103mg; CARBOHYDRATE 38.8g; SODIUM 618mg; PROTEIN 14.6g; FIBER 3.8g

Alyson Haynes, writePublicationAppearance();Cooking Light, OCTOBER 2008

Chicken Parmesan Pasta

August 14, 2008

This is one of those dishes that isn’t fancy and it’s not pretty. But when you eat it you just think “comfort food”. It’s also one of my husband’s favorite kind of meals. Pasta with cheese and sauce. What can I say, it’s the simple things for him. A local place here makes a dish similar to this that my husband always orders when we go there, so I decided I would make up my own rendition. It’s very simple but very good and one of the few foods which he will actually eat the leftovers.

Chicken Parmesan Pasta

For the chicken:

2 chicken breasts, pounded thin
1 cup italian style bread crumbs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper

For the pasta:

8 oz penne
24 oz jar of marinara sauce
1 cup chopped baby spinach (You can omit this if you like. I add this to most pasta dishes because it’s a good way to get my picky husband to eat a vegetable.)
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 375. Set up three shallow bowls; one with the parmesan cheese, one with the eggs, and one with the bread crumbs. Salt and pepper both sides of your chicken breasts. Dip one chicken breast in the parmesan and pat to coat it with the cheese. Then dip it in the egg and then the bread crumbs. Be sure to coat it well. Do this for the other remaining chicken breast and place them in a baking dish. Bake for 20-25 min until chicken is no longer pink. Broil on each side 2 min for a crispier crust. Remove from the oven and let sit about 10 minutes. Cut into 1″ cubes.

While the chicken is cooking, you can prepare the pasta. Boil water for the pasta and cook until al dente and then drain. In a large pot, combine the jar of sauce, chicken that has been cut into cubes, penne, and spinach. Stir to coat the pasta with the sauce. Add mozzarella cheese and stir. Let heat through about 5-10 minutes.

Whoa, the name of this recipe is a mouthful, but I couldn’t think of of any other way to describe it other than, well, what it is. I was first inspired to make this when I saw this recipe on Elly’s blog. The idea sort of rolled around in my head for a while because I wasn’t exactly sure how I wanted to make it. I had seen someone on Food Network make a sauce using crushed grape tomatoes and I was toying with the idea of incorporating that into this dish. So, I’ve had it on my menu for a couple weeks, but it sort of kept being pushed further and further down the list. Tonight I finally decided to bite the bullet and make it.

It’s always a little scary for me when I go into the kitchen to make up a recipe as I go. It’s scary for my husband too because of the mounds of dishes I create for him to wash while figuring out my recipe for a dish. I always end up running around like a chicken thinking of things I want to add to the recipe. Sometimes it works out for me and other times it turns into a mini disaster. Luckily, this turned out very good! My husband really enjoyed it and he’s always a bit leary of things I just concoct out of my head. Now let’s see if I remember what all I put in. : P

Baked Shrimp with Feta and Tomato Basil Orzo

14-16 medium shrimp (give or take, cleaned and deveined-I used frozen uncooked)

1/4-1/2 cup chicken broth

1 large clove garlic, minced (Use 2 if they are small)

2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped (or 2 tsp dried basil)

1 cup grape tomatoes, washed

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup orzo, uncooked

1/2 tsp each salt and pepper (or to taste)

crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 400. While the oven is preheating, boil water for the orzo and cook until just al dente. Set aside. In a skillet over medium heat, add 2 Tbsp olive oil, enough to barely cover the bottom of the pan. Add the minced garlic and grape tomatoes. Stir the tomatoes around to coat in the olive oil. Let cook about 2 minutes and add about 1/4 cup chicken broth. Let cook another 3 minutes. Press one of the tomatoes with a fork to see if it pops. Continuing mashing all the tomatoes to make a sauce. Add salt, pepper, and chopped basil and stir. Add additional chicken broth if the tomato sauce looks to thick/dry. Stir in the uncooked shrimp and let cook about 1 minute. Stir in the orzo. Pour into a baking dish or into individual serving dishes. Top with feta, as much as you like, and bake for about 10 minutes or until feta begins to soften and shrimp are pink.

Makes about 3 servings.

I also made some baked creamed spinach to go along side our main dish. I’ll spare you the pictures because creamed spinach just doesn’t photograph well. But it was really good. I promise! I’ve had this recipe saved for a while and I’m not sure who or where I got it from. If you happen to know, please let me know! Thanks.

CREAMED SPINACH

(with my alterations)

1/2 cup heavy cream (or sub. half and half)

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (I omitted)

1 clove minced garlic

black pepper and salt to taste

1 pound fresh spinach

*1/4 cup grated parmesan

*1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

DIRECTIONS

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, mix heavy cream, butter, garlic,
nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil, then reduce
heat to simmer. In a separate bowl combine parmesan and bread crumbs.

Coarsely chop spinach in a food processor (I just used a knife), and gradually stir into the heavy
cream mixture. Sautee on medium-high heat and return to boiling, then remove
from heat. Pour into ramekins or a baking dish. Top with parmesan and bread crumbs mixture. Bake at 400 for about 10 minutes or until bubbly.

Here’s another terrific recipe that I snagged from another food blog, Annie’s Eats. I have gotten several great recipes from this blog. What can I say, the girl knows good food! And as I expected, this recipe definitely didn’t disappoint. What’s even better is it uses ingredients that I almost always have on hand; chicken, spinach, and tortillas. I also made some simple black beans to go along with my quesadilla tonight. I seasoned them with garlic powder, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. This meal also gave me a reason to pull out this amazing salsa that I bought while we were in Houston, TX last month. It’s not your traditional tomato based salsa and is made only of fire roasted peppers. And it is HOT! A little of this stuff goes a long way. It went so well with these delicious quesadillas.

Chicken and Spinach Quesadillas

Ingredients:

1-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 tbsp. lime juice

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

¼ tsp. red pepper flakes

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

fajita seasoning, to taste

1 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for brushing

3-4 oz. button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced

1 cup packed fresh spinach

3-4 flour tortillas

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Directions:

Combine the lime juice, vegetable oil, red pepper flakes and garlic in a plastic bag. Seal and shake well to combine. Add the chicken breast to the bag and allow to marinate at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours.

Place the chicken in a nonstick skillet and sprinkle to taste with fajita seasoning. Cook on medium-high heat until cooked through. Cut into small pieces and set aside. In the same skillet, heat 1 tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken and spinach and sauté just until the spinach is wilted, about 30 seconds. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.

Brush a grill pan with olive oil and heat to medium/medium-high heat. Divide the chicken mixture among the tortillas, spooning it onto half of each tortilla and leaving a border uncovered near the edge. Sprinkle evenly with the cheese. Fold the tortillas in half over the chicken mixture to enclose loosely. Place on grill pan and cook until dark grill marks have formed on one side of the tortilla. Flip over and repeat to achieve grill marks on both sides. Repeat with remaining quesadillas. Serve as desired with sour cream, salsa and guacamole.

Source: adapted from Williams Sonoma

Dave’s Pepper Palace Five Amigos Salsa

As I was wandering the aisles of the grocery store last week looking for orzo, I came across couscous on the shelf. I had never had it before so I decided I’d pick some up to try this week. I opted for the pre-seasoned roasted garlic and olive oil kind since this would be my first time making it. So I stuck it in the cabinet and sort of forgot about it. Tonight, I was trying to think of a side for my pork roast and then I remembered that I had bought the couscous so I figured, what the heck, I’ll give it a try. I figured it would be pretty boring on its own so I decided to add about a 1/4 cup of chopped spinach and a tablespoon of lemon juice to it. I had seen this on a blog earlier this week (although I can’t remember which one). I’m pretty sure there was more involved in that recipe, but since I was using the already seasoned couscous, I just left it at that. I have to say it was pretty good and even my picky husband ate it, but I wouldn’t say it was my favorite thing ever. But even if it hadn’t been good, the roasted pork loin I made would have more than made up for it. It was so moist, flavorful and delicious. I’m really enjoying coming up with ways to use the fresh herbs I’m growing and this recipe couldn’t be simpler. It’s definitely quick and easy enough for a weeknight meal.

Garlic and Herb Roasted Pork Loin

2 lb pork loin

2 Tbsp chopped basil

1 Tbsp chopped parsley

1 tsp dried thyme (I didn’t have any fresh)

1 tsp Pampered Chef citrus basil seasoning (you could omit this but I really like it)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus 2 more Tbsp

Begin by cutting 4-5 slits diagonally across the top of the pork loin about 1/2 ” deep. Sprinkle the citrus basil seasoning, salt and pepper on the pork roast. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl to form a paste. Rub the paste over the top and bottom of the roast, making sure to rub it into the slits as well. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 1 day. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 375. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil to a dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pan and heat over medium high heat. Place the pork roast in the pan and sear on all sides. Place the pan in the preheated oven and cook for 25-30 minutes or until the internal temp is 160-165F. Remove from the oven and place aluminum foil over the roast. Let set for about 10 minutes. The temperature will rise another 5-10 degrees. Slice and serve.

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Here’s a little variation on classic lasagna. It’s a dish comprised of things I had leftover in the fridge and pantry. I had a bunch of chicken, some baby spinach that needed using up, and 1/2 a large box of lasagna in the cabinet. So out of that came this meal. I prepped it all yesterday on my day off so all I had to do tonight was throw it in the oven. It turned out so amazing! I mean, it was one of those dishes where you could just stand over the pan with a fork taking bite after bite until you made yourself sick, which I may or may not have done. It was really a nice change from regular lasagna. I’ll definitely be making this again.

Chicken and Spinach Lasagna

1 box lasagna noodles, uncooked

2 24 oz jars pasta sauce (or 1 large jar, not sure of the size) (I used Bertolli Five Cheese)

8 oz ricotta cheese

1 egg

1 tsp italian seasoning

2 chicken breasts

1 cup mozzarella cheese

2 cups baby spinach, chopped

1/2 a large onion, diced

extra virgin olive oil

Begin by baking the chicken breasts at 375 until done, about 25 min. Shred into bite size pieces. Set aside. In a skillet, add 1-2 Tbsp olive oil and add the onion. Cook 3-5 minutes or until the onion starts to soften. Add the chicken to a skillet with the sauce and heat over low heat until simmering. While the sauce is simmering make the ricotta filling. Mix the ricotta with the egg and stir in the italian seasoning. Set aside. In a baking dish, put a thin layer of the chicken pasta sauce. Next, add a layer of uncooked lasagna noodles. Add another layer of sauce then a layer of the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle one cup of the chopped spinanch over the ricotta. Add another layer of noodles and repeat layers as before. End with a layer of noodles and a layer of sauce. Top with the mozzarella. Cover the dish with foil and place into the preheated 375 degree oven. Bake for 45 minutes, remove the foil and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Time to Catch Up

February 4, 2008

I’ve been a little lax with cooking lately which ultimately is the reason for my lack of blog posts. But, now it’s time to catch up. After a short hiatus, I’m back in the kitchen and this is the first of a few new recipes I’ve tried recently! Now, as I’ve mentioned before, my husband isn’t a real big fan of veggies. His idea of getting his veggies is a side of fries with his burger. Surprisingly, I have found that he will eat spinach though. After discovering this I have tried to think of 100 ways to incorporate spinach into our meals so that at least he gets one green leafy vegetable during the week. So I had some baby spinach in the fridge and my favorite cheese, feta, so I figured I would combine these to make a stuffing for some boneless, skinless chicken breasts. It turned out to be very good and we both really enjoyed it.

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups baby spinach, washed and dried
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 large clove garlic
1 egg
pinch of salt and pepper

Begin by preheating the oven to 375. Then, make a pocket in the side of each chicken breast using a small paring knife. Don’t cut all the way through though. In a food processor, combine baby spinach, feta, garlic, egg, salt and pepper. Carefully spoon the spinach mixture into the pocket you cut into each chicken breast. Salt and pepper the tops of the chicken breasts. From here, you can sear the chicken breasts in a skillet and then transfer to the oven to finish baking for about 20-25 min or just pop the chicken right into the oven to bake.

Shrimp Pasta

January 12, 2008

If you can’t tell from these last two posts, seafood was on sale at the store this week. While I’m not always the biggest fan of seafood, I do love shrimp. Fried, steamed, grilled, all kinds. It’s a good thing I love it because I’ve got a ton of it in my freezer right now. I thought a simple pasta dish would be good for dinner tonight and what better way to use up some of my shrimp. I thought I would throw some spinach in there for good measure, too. So that’s how I came up with this easy and delicious dish. Dinner was ready in about 20 minutes. This is a perfect example of a quick and easy dinner with basic ingredients, and just goes to show that dinner doesn’t have to be hard!

Shrimp Pasta with a lemon butter sauce
(for 2)

10-12 small shrimp, defrosted if frozen
4 oz vermicelli pasta
1/2 a lemon
1 cup baby spinach, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)
1 tsp dried parsley

Begin by chopping the spinach and placing it in a serving bowl. Boil water and cook pasta until al dente (about 5 min for vermicelli). Drain the pasta and place in the bowl on top of the spinach. The warm pasta will help the spinach to wilt down a little. In a non-stick skillet, melt the butter. Add garlic and juice of half a lemon. Cook the garlic 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the butter over the pasta and spinach and toss to combine. Toss the shrimp in the same skillet and cook about 3 min or until pink. Place the shrimp on top of the pasta and sprinkle with parsley. Squeeze additional lemon juice over the shrimp if desired. Serve warm.

An Update at Last!

December 5, 2007


I know, I know. I have been MIA since Thanksgiving. To be honest, I haven’t felt much like cooking and when I have cooked it’s been very basic things or things I’ve made before. So here’s my first new post in a while. I wish it were more exciting but this is what I’ve got. Quiche. It’s actually the first time I’ve made quiche. I planned on making it weeks ago but never got around to it. I’ve been trying really hard to not go to the grocery store until the end of the week so I decided to use what I had to make dinner tonight. That resulted in me finally making this dish. I thought it turned out really well. My husband didn’t like it, but I think it’s more of a texture thing for him. He’s just not a quiche kind of guy. But for me, it was really tasty. Hopefully I’ll be back to blogging in full swing pretty soon and have lots more exciting recipes to post.

Spinach Quiche

1 9″ frozen pie shell, defrosted 15 min
2 cups chopped baby spinach, washed
1/4 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 whole eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1-1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Place pie pan on a baking sheet. Begin by sauteing the garlic and onion together in a skillet with olive oil for about 3-4 min. Set aside. In a bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Stir in cheese, onion and garlic, salt and pepper. Place chopped spinach in the bottom of the pie shell. Pour egg mixture over the spinach. Next, place aluminum foil around the edge of the pie shell to keep it from burning. Then, place the quiche in the oven and bake 35-45 min or until set. Remove foil from the edge of the pie pan the last 10-12 min to brown the edge of the crust. Let sit 5 min before slicing.