Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Artichoke Dip Pasta Bake

I was inspired by this recipe. I decided to make a few started with my aversion to mayonnaise. I use mayo in dips and such, but couldn't bring myself to use 1.5 cups in a main dish. It's not a dietary thing, oh's an...I'm weird thing. So, off to tinker in the kitchen I went. I am thrilled with how this turned out, and I hope anyone else who tries it loves it too! Oh, a disclaimer...this recipe is not for the diet conscious. I mean, the title should probably give that away, huh? Also, this would be very easily vegetarian-ized; just omit the chicken!

Artichoke Dip Pasta Bake

1 cooked rotisserie chicken, shredded
2-13.75 oz. cans quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 lb. penne, cooked and drained
3 tbsp. olive oil
¼ stick of butter
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 8 oz. brick of cream cheese, cut into small chunks
¼ cup lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream (half and half would work, too)
2 cups Parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large skillet (I use my wok so I have room to mix the pasta and ‘sauce’ together later), heat olive oil and butter over high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant and starting to brown. Add artichoke hearts to skillet. Allow to warm through. Stir in cream cheese chunks and allow to melt completely. Add lemon juice and cream separately, stirring into skillet mixture. Add chicken and 1 cup of Parmesan. Stir until well-mixed. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the penne pasta. Spoon mixture into baking dish (appx. 13x9”). Sprinkle remaining Parmesan over top of pasta. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese on top of pasta begins to brown.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Italian Stuffed Peppers

This isn't a standard recipe of hamburger, rice, tomato sauce and green peppers, though it does still have rice and tomato sauce. It's a blend of ground chicken, grated zucchini, brown rice, tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese. Nothing drastic, just something a little bit different.

***Please note, these are easily reheated in the crockpot. I place 1 can tomato sauce in the bottom of the crockpot, then allow the peppers to simmer on the warming setting (low if you don't have a 'keep warm' setting) through the day for an easy dinner.

Another note, this is another recipe easily adapted for vegetarian diets. Either eliminate the ground chicken, or substitute a ground soy/vegetable product in place of the chicken. I like Morningstar Farms Ground Meatless Crumbles.

Italian Stuffed Peppers

12 red, yellow or orange bell peppers (tops and seeds removed, blanched in boiling water for about 1 minute)
8 cups cooked brown rice
1 can tomato sauce
1 packet powdered Italian salad dressing
1 tablespoon oilive oil
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, minced
1 lb. ground chicken
8 oz. pkg. of mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 small-medium zucchini, grated
Kosher salt
Garlic salt
Crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a very large skillet (I use my wok so it's easy to mix the rice in later), heat olive oil. Cook garlic and onion until lightly browned.
  • Add ground chicken. Season with Kosher and garlic salt.
  • Cook until nearly done, then add zucchini, mushrooms and tomatoes. Allow to cook for a few minutes.
  • Add tomato sauce and powdered dressing. Allow to simmer over low heat until flavors combine.
  • Mix in cooked rice and Parmesan cheese, stirring until combined. Season mixture with salts and red pepper flakes to taste.
  • Coat the inside of a dutch oven or other deep baking dish with olive oil, then stand peppers in pan. Fill peppers with rice mixture and bake for 30-45 minutes. Serve with Parmesan cheese (or sprinkle more on top towards end of baking time).

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Reconstructing Recipes...

Has this ever happened to you? You find a recipe that you think you'll love in a magazine, so you tear the page out, cook it, love it, and pencil in whatever modifications you have made. Then you make it some's in your regular rotation, but you don't make it enough that you have memorized the recipe. Then you flake out, or move, or someone breaks into your house and steals your recipe box...and *poof*'s GONE. That is me right now. I'm reconstructing a recipe for Banh Mi sandwiches of the beef variety. I am hoping this weekend to finish the project. I will post it here, save it to my hard drive, thumb drive, and perhaps I'll even print a copy and put it in our safe-deposit box. Yes, it's that good, and it's that important to me. And yes, I've printed out many other versions of this recipe, and they're just not the same as the one I found 3-5 years ago in, of all places, Real Simple Magazine. I've even emailed the magazine in hopes of recovering this little prize I've lost from my recipe repertoire. Aside from GA Pig pulled/chopped BBQ pork sandwich, it's my favorite, and I'm just lost without it. Wish me luck, and watch for some re-creation of Banh Mi soon!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Drunken Tuscan Pasta

This recipe was taken from Rachel Ray's 'Express Lane Meals' cookbook. I have made a few modifications, just to suit my personal taste better. I wasn't sure my husband would be thrilled with it, because he's not a huge fan of mushrooms, but surprisingly he loved this dish. I love the subtle flavor added by the nutmeg! Look how pretty the pasta is after cooking in the wine-filled water! Cooking pasta in wine (be sure to fill the rest of the pan with water though...I tried to just cook pasta in wine once and it was too strong...just...yuck!) adds great flavor that isn't too strong, but really adds to a dish. I joke that I'd like to change the name of this dish to 'Plastered Pasta'.

Drunken Tuscan Pasta

1 bottle Tuscan red table wine (I used Chianti--thanks Annie & Greg)
Kosher salt
1 lb. Fettucine Rigate (or regular fettucine if you can't fine the Rigate)
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 lb. sliced pancetta, chopped
1 lb. baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, minced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Red pepper flakes (pinch, to taste)
1 bag/box fresh baby spinach (about 4 oz.)
Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
Parmesan cheese, grated
Handful of pine nuts (you can toast these in a dry skillet; in this case I was in a hurry and did not)

Pour bottle of wine (minus one glass for the chef, of course) into a pasta pot. Fill the rest of the way with water and bring to a boil over high heat. When the water/wine boils, add pasta and a few pinches of salt. Cook as directed on pasta package to al dente. Please note you will be using some of the pasta liquid for the sauce later.

Heat a large skillet (I used my stainless wok) and add 2 tbsp. olive oil. Add the chopped pancetta. Cook until browned, stirring constantly, then place on paper-towel lined plate. Toss mushrooms into oil left in the pan, and add rosemary. Cook mushrooms until golden brown (about 5 minutes). Move mushrooms to the sides of the skillet, and put 1 tbsp. olive oil, garlic and a couple pinches each of red pepper flakes and salt to the center. Stir to cook newly added ingredients, then mix together with the mushrooms. Add the spinach to the pan and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Allow greens to wilt, then add a couple ladles of cooking water/wine. Stir all ingredients together and allow liquid to reduce.

Drain the pasta well and add it, the pancetta and pine nuts to the skillet. Mix together, top with Parmesan to taste and serve.

Serve with rustic bread. For dipping, mix olive oil, red pepper flakes, a few drops of balsalmic vinegar, some crushed garlic cloves. This is better if you let it sit a little while to allow the flavors to blend. All bread dipping oil ingredients are to taste. You know what tastes good!!!