Sunday Afternoon Tomato, Basil, Cream Pasta

Sunday lunch, it always sneaks up on us right after church when the children are blood sugar vampires and there is no simple food in the house.

Today, I pulled this little gem out of thin air, and it was phenomenal. And easy; which seems to be my anthem lately. Yummy and easy.

1 box of thin spaghetti

1 small can of tomato paste

1 /8 to 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1 T. butter

3/4 t. garlic powder

1 t. oregano

1/4 t. black pepper

1/8 t. crushed red pepper

Salt to taste

3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup fresh basil

Boil and prepare one box of thin spaghetti noodles (or any pasta you have on hand, really).

In small saucepan open one can of tomato paste, and add two cans full of water. Whisk until it is well combined. Now add 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream (I didn’t measure, just drizzled it in), and 1 T. of butter. Then add 3/4 t. of garlic powder, 1 t. of dried oregano, 1/4 t. of pepper, 1/8 t. of crushed red pepper, and finally salt to taste. Allow to simmer while whisking lightly, then let it simmer on it’s own for several minutes over medium heat. Once it is well heated and combined, add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of shredded Parmesan cheese (not grated like Kraft). Whisk and allow the cheese to melt. Once melted, allow to keep warm over low heat.

Walk out front to your basil patch…unless you don’t have one, then you have to be prepared and buy some fresh basil leaves. You will want about 1/4 cup fresh cut basil. Clean the leaves and then using some scissors cut little ribbons of fresh basil.

Once the pasta is done, toss it with the sauce and sprinkle with fresh basil and more Parmesan cheese. This is going to knock your socks off. So easy, so good.

I’ve learned to keep heavy whipping cream on hand because a little bit works wonders in dishes like this, and I usually want it on a whim. You can buy a mini carton for about $1.50 and keep it for almost a month. It does great things for pasta sauces as well as cream soups. The flavor enhances well with very little cream added, so don’t stress out too much about the caloric content.

This dish is good hot or cold, and would be yummy with meat or sauteed veggies if you want something heartier.


Chicken Broccoli Cheese Casserole

We all have them, those favorite cream of soup recipes. This is one from my childhood that I remember and love, the only problem is that I really don’t care for cream soups. I hate the way they glob out of the can, I hate the strange ingredients on the list (mehcanically separated chicken anyone?) and so I have worked hard to replace them in my cooking.
Tonight was a huge success.

Ingredients:
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1 1/4 lb. of chicken breasts, cubed
1 small white onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
4 cups of chopped fresh broccoli
1 t. salt
1/4-1/2 t. pepper
1 T. chicken base
1/4 t. allspice
1/2 t. rubbed sage
1/4 t. marjoram
1 t. dried parsley
2 T. flour
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
2 t. cholula
2 to 3 cups of shredded medium/sharp cheddar cheese
1 package stove top stuffing
3 T. butter

I know that seems like a long list of ingredients, but once you start adding things to the pan, it’s quite simple, plus you are cutting back on the processed foods by cooking from scratch and gaining a knack for using spices in freestyle cooking.

Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

First, heat a large frying pan over medium high heat with the butter and olive oil, once hot, toss in the chicken, the onion, and the garlic and saute until the chicken is cooked through. Once cooked, add in the broccoli and top off with a small amount of water to saute the broccoli. Now, chicken base, the herbs and spices, salt and pepper, and flour, stir briskly to make a thick roux in the pan. Once the flour is mixed in, add in the whipping cream and whole milk, allow to heat, then add the cheese. Stir and add in the cholula. Once done, grab a spoon and check the flavor for salt and pepper.

Pour the mixture into a large 9×13 and set aside.

In a large microwave bowl melt the last butter, toss with the stuffing mix until evenly coated, then bake for about 20 minutes.

Pat yourself on the back and enjoy your lovely dinner.


Rusted Crust Pizza Ring

Look my first food photo! I'm growing up into such a beautiful young food blogger.

There was a time I wouldn’t have allowed pillsbury crescent rolls into my home. I made EVERYTHING from scratch. I was so awesome in my former life. I would start dinner prep about 3 pm and work on fresh ingredients and fresh breads all afternoon and produce grand meals.

But, then my kids grew, and now we spend many afternoons running around, lost in the mazes of roads in our mini-van. this has left me groping my refrigerator on many evenings looking for fast, yummy, and hoping to add a vegetable in somehow.

So, fast forward to a couple of nights ago. I found myself low on groceries, in possession of very few staples, with a hungry crew spread all over the neighborhood and a one year old, which pretty much ensured I would not be able to hit the grocery store in time for dinner. I texted the hubby to make a stop, but he was getting a cold and not feeling well and just wanted to come home.

On a whim I called my sister, who had been planning on heading to the store anyway. Which was awesome, so she picked up some pillsbury crescent rolls for me. Only she wasn’t sure which kind, so she bought the regular kind, and the big and buttery kind.

Which I (ab)used to make this pizza recipe after a foiled little league tournament game to feed a four hungry children and one husband.

And I must say, I hit a home run with this one.

So, after that long winded exploration in soccer-mom-ing, let’s get down to the bottom of the point.

Ingredients:

Big and buttery Pillsbury Crescent rolls

1 package pepperoni

8 oz. mozarella cheese

2 cups of fresh spinach leaves

1 cup of red sauce (pizza sauce or marinara sauce, from a jar if you must, I am learning some days we must)

1/4 cup of grated parmesan cheese

garlic powder

dried oregano

crushed red pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Stack the pepperoni on a cutting board, and slice or dice into small pieces. I sliced mine like mini pizzas into 8 little wedges. It was lots of fun. Then, stack your spinach leaves (or not if you don’t feel like a control freak…) and chop into small pieces. Toss the pepperoni and spinach into a bowl. Grate the mozarella cheese, reserving 1/4 cup for later, and add that to the bowl, finish with the sauce and stir until well combined.

On a round pizza stone, layer the opened crescent rolls into a sun burst pattern with the center having a diameter of about six inches.  Spoon the filling onto each of the crescent rolls, then pull the tapered end of the sun burst in and wrap it around the filling so that it now forms a ring of delightful deliciousness.  Sprinkle evenly with the saved mozarella cheese, then sprinkle liberally with parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and dried oregano (and lightly with the crushed red pepper if you like it spicy). Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve it up to your family. When your kids ask what the green stuff in the mix is, tell them “herbs” then smile like Bree Van de Kamp as they shovel fork fulls of spinach into their little bodies. Life is good, and sometimes it’s ok to (ab)use processed foods grown in funny tin tubes.


Chicken Dijon

This is a favorite from my childhood that relied on “cream of soup,” which I try to not use anymore. I decided to make this recipe over for dinner tonight, with great success.

Back in our low carb days, I searched for a good substitute for flour in creamy sauces.  In doing so, I discovered a new best friend. Maybe you’ve met her. Her name is cream cheese.

Here we go:

1 onion, diced

1 cup sliced mushroom

1 T. butter

2 T Dijon mustard

1/2 t. dried parsley

1/4 t. marjoram

1/4 t. white pepper

1/4 t. black pepper

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breast, cubed

8 oz. cream cheese

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup sour cream

salt to taste

egg noodles

 

In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 1 T. butter, then toss in the onion, mushroom, herbs and spices and when the onion is soft, add in the chicken and saute until cooked through. Add the cream cheese, and stir until nice and creamy. Once creamy, add in the cream, and when warmed, add the sour cream, then salt to taste. Serve over warm egg noodles.

 

*You could easily make this meatless by making the sauce and ditching the chicken.


Italian Cream Pasta Sauce

Do you love cream sauces with pasta? This is for you.

2 T. butter
2 T. flour
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 C. Whole milk (or cream)
1/2 C. Mozarella
1/2 C. fresh Mozarella, diced 
1/2 C. Parmesan Cheese
1 diced Roma tomato
1 T. Pesto
2 T. balsamic vinegar
1/4 t. crushed red pepper
1/2 t. Kosher salt 

1 Box penne pasta, cooked per package instructions

In large skillet, melt butter with garlic, then whisk with flour to make a thick paste. Slowly whisk in milk (or cream).  Once whisked in, add the Mozarella, Parmesan, tomato, pesto, vinegar, crushed red pepper, and salt. Allow to lightly boil until a nice smooth sauce forms. Toss with cooked penne pasta.


Chicken Margherita

You know when four o’clock hits, and you still aren’t sure what to make for dinner? I did that today. I was lounging around on the couch after my Jillian Michael’s workout not wanting to move. Then I remembered that I had fresh mozarella, pesto, and tomatoes waiting for me in the fridge.

Which left me feeling excited, and confused. Because suddenly, the possibilities seemed endless.
If you have never purchased fresh mozarella, then you are missing out on one of life’s great culinary pleasures. Mixed with good pesto, garlic, tomato, and balsamic vinegar it is divine.
1 recipe for Balsamic Baked Chicken balsamic sauce prepped
3 chicken breasts, thawed
6 oz. fresh mozarella diced (Use an egg slicer and slice it three different directions to get a perfect dice easily)
2 Roma tomatoes diced
2 T. fresh Pesto (I buy mine in the fresh foods section at Costco, it’s the best pesto I have found)
1/2 t. kosher salt

In 9×13 baking dish prep Balsamic Chicken sauce and set aside.  Lightly combine the mozarella, Roma tomatoes, pesto and kosher salt. Take thawed chicken breasts and lightly slice into the side, creating a deep pocket in the meat. Stuff the meat to the brim with the pesto mixture and place into the baking dish, careful turning to coat with the balsamic sauce. Sprinkle the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. I reserved my left over pesto mixture for a pasta side dish, it was awesome.
This will serve two adults and four children. If you need more, plan to double the recipe.
For easy variations, you can bake the balsamic chicken without stuffing it, and top with the fresh pesto mixture.

Cheese Enchiladas

Oh, how I love red sauces. This is another one of those sauces that I could drink.

Red Sauce:

1 cup water
1 T. butter
1/4 cup dried onion
1 t. garlic powder
2 T. chili powder
1 t. cumin
1 small can tomato puree
1-2 t. salt (to taste)

Combine in a saucepan and bring to a boil for five minutes. Set aside.

Enchiladas:

Corn Tortillas
4 Cups shredded cheese (Cheddar or a Mexican style blend)

To assemble, pour 1/3 of the sauce into the bottom of a 9X13 pan. Layer the corn tortillas across the sauce, then top evenly with cheese, reserving 1 cup for the top. Then layer more corn tortillas and smother with sauce, followed by reserved cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

Serve with shredded lettuce and sour cream, and beans and rice.