Weekly Winner:  Creamy, Dreamy, Green-y … Pasta??

It may not always be easy being green, to paraphrase Kermit, but sometimes it is and it is also incredibly tasty.  Friday’s spaghetti dinner was a surprisingly light, healthy take on pasta in a luscious cream sauce — one of my all-time favorite things.  And, to top it all off… It was vegetarian!  What is happening to us??

Amazingly I did not miss my usual pork product in the pasta, or the cream, or even the butter for that matter. Come to think of it, there wasn’t even cheese in this dish!  And, I went back last night to finish the leftovers when there was also leftover pizza in the fridge.  Pizza with bacon, I might add!  I don’t even recognize myself sometimes.

The recipe comes from Cooking Light and besides being wonderfully fresh and downright pretty, it is incredibly simple and comes together in no time.  My only alteration to this recipe is that it called for whole wheat pasta.  Yeah, that’s not going to happen in this house anytime soon.  I go for the real stuff.  The other funny thing about the recipe is that it specifically asked for one “peeled” avocado.  Really???  Has anyone out there ever attempted to eat an unpeeled avocado?  Thanks for clearing that up. Trust me…. It can be easy being green but only if you remember to peel the avocado.

Spaghetti with Spinach-Avocado Sauce

Serves 4 (or three in this house)

Ingredients:

8 ounces uncooked spaghetti

1 cup baby spinach leaves

1/4 cup rinsed and drained unsalted cannellini beans

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons grated lemon rind

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 garlic cloves

1 ripe avocado

1/4 cup chopped tomato

2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

Procedure:

1. Prepare pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking liquid. Drain pasta.

2. Combine reserved 1/2 cup cooking liquid, spinach, and next 8 ingredients (through avocado) in a food processor; process until smooth.

3. Combine pasta and spinach mixture; toss to coat. Sprinkle with tomato and almonds.

Weekly Winner:  Super Simple, Speedy, Sumptuous Satay – Noodles

I have made absolutely no secret of the fact that I dearly love anything with a good peanut sauce.  I’m also a complete sucker for noodles of any variety or nationality.  If there’s a noodle dish on the menu, I’ll probably order it. And if that noodle dish happens to include a peanut sauce. Ding-Ding-Ding!   We have a winner.

Beef Satay Noodles is a super easy, totally delicious recipe that can be whipped up anytime.  I tried it out at home first a little over a week ago and then made it for a client and both responses were the same — “keep this in short rotation”.  The thing that makes it so quick and simple is the use of pre-packaged broccoli slaw.  It can be adapted to various heat tolerances by adding more or not so much Sriracha and, if you’re like me, you can completely omit the cilantro. I didn’t miss it and I doubt you will either.  The recipe comes from Food Network Magazine.  Find it or copy it here because trust me: you need this recipe.

Beef Satay Noodles

Serves 4

Ingredients:

8 oz stir-fry rice noodles

1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter

2 Tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp grated peeled ginger

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1 lb ground beef sirloin

2 Tbsp roasted peanut oil (or 1 Tbsp each sesame oil and vegetable oil)

3 large shallots, thinly sliced

1 9-oz package broccoli slaw

1 tsp Sriracha, plus more for serving

1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Lime wedges, for serving

Procedure:

Put the noodles in a bowl; cover with warm water and soak at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the peanut butter, soy sauce, ginger, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of pepper in a large bowl. Add the beef and mix with a spoon to combine.

Heat 1 tablespoon peanut oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the broccoli slaw and cook, stirring, until it starts wilting, about 3 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a medium bowl. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil in the skillet, then add the beef mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, gently stir the noodles to separate. Reserve 1/2 cup soaking water, then drain the noodles. Return the vegetables to the skillet with the beef and stir to combine. Add the noodles, the reserved soaking water and the Sriracha. Cook, gently tossing, until warmed through, about 4 minutes. Serve with lime wedges and more Sriracha.

Weekly Winner:  All Hail Kale (again)

When you make a new kale salad for lunch and your husband not only willingly eats it but comments “Oh, wow this is good!” You know you’ve got a winner of a recipe.  That’s exactly what happened this past week.  Now granted, the name of this recipe gives great insight as to why we thought it was so spectacular:  Steak House Kale Salad With Hot Bacon Vinaigrette. Boo yah!

Yes it contained bacon and yes, that makes it tasty.  But this salad is one of those magical combinations of ingredients that just work.  Everything comes together beautifully for a yummy addictive salad.  And in my view, the kale and other veggies cancel out the three slices of bacon used in this substantial salad that feeds four.  That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!

The only problem is that, for the life of me, I can’t determine where I pulled the recipe from so I am unable to give proper credit.  But regardless, this is a salad that I will be making year-round on a very regular basis.

Steak House Kale Salad with hot bacon vinaigrette

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 strips thick-sliced bacon, diced

3 Tbsp canola oil

1 Tbsp minced shallots

1 tsp minced fresh garlic

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1 Tbsp sugar

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp dried thyme

Salt and pepper to taste

6 cups baby kale salad mix

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/4 cup slivered red onion

1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)

1 hard-cooked egg, grated

Procedure:

  • Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate and discard drippings.  Heat oil in same skillet; add shallots and garlic and cook until softened, 3-4 minutes.
  • Whisk in vinegar, sugar, Dijon, and thyme; season with salt and pepper.  Reduce heat to low and keep vinaigrette warm.
  • Toss kale mix, carrot, and onion with vinaigrette to coat.  Garnish servings with pumpkin seeds and egg.

Weekly Winner:  A Greek Take on Gooey Goodness

There is very little about Greek food that I don’t like.  Honestly, the only thing I can think of that is Greek that I don’t care for are stuffed grape leaves.  I usually adore the stuffing but find I’m just not a fan of the leaves themselves.  Everything else though? Sign me up!  In particular I love the Greek pasta pastitsio but find that it usually is made of ground lamb.  This is in no way a problem for me — my husband however?  That’s a different story.  He is not a fan of lamb.

I have had this recipe for Greek Baked Ziti in my archives for well over a year, and to my knowledge have never made it.  I’m not sure why.  It’s made with ground beef …and pasta …and cheese.  What was I waiting for?  Apparently I was waiting for this past Friday, when I had some time on my hands and was looking for a new take on our traditional Friday Pasta Dinner.  It was glorious!

I think what made this dish particularly yummy was that, while I’ve made hundreds of variations of bechamel sauce, I don’t think I’ve ever added Parmesan to it.  Well, that will definitely be changing!  It made for an even creamier and cheesier dish, which is always a good thing.  The recipe comes from Southern Living magazine.  I’m not sure what makes it Southern, but the oregano and cinnamon definitely give it a warm, Greek accent.  Opa!

Greek Baked Ziti

Makes 6-8 servings

Ingredients:

12 ounces ziti pasta

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef

2 (15-oz.) cans tomato sauce

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups milk

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Vegetable cooking spray

1 (8-oz.) package shredded mozzarella cheese

1/3 cup fine, dry breadcrumbs

Procedure:

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cook pasta according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, sauté onion in hot oil in large skillet over medium-high heat 4 to 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Add beef; cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until crumbled and no longer pink. Drain mixture, and return to skillet.

3. Stir tomato sauce, next 4 ingredients, and 1 tsp. salt into meat mixture. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

4. Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Whisk in flour, and cook, whisking constantly, 2 minutes. Gradually whisk in milk. Increase heat to medium, and cook, whisking constantly, 5 to 7 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Stir in Parmesan cheese, pepper, and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt. Add sauce to pasta, stirring to coat.

5. Transfer pasta mixture to a lightly greased (with cooking spray) 13- x 9-inch baking dish. Top with beef mixture, mozzarella cheese, and breadcrumbs.

6. Bake at 350° for 20 to 25 minutes or until mixture is bubbly and cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.