Tag Archives: pasta

Well hello Sun, nice to see you again!

Standard

I don’t know what the weather is like where you live, but it’s sure beginning to feel like Spring around here. I awoke this morning from my slumber to be greeted by something I hadn’t seen in quite a long time– sunshine! Oh glorious sunshine, how I’ve missed you. I was beginning to think we might never meet again, but alas, there you were. Peeking in through my curtains and shining your rays so intensely and bright. Growing up in the South, I pretty much took sunny days for granted because there were so many of them throughout the year and so few cold and rainy ones. Winter would come and go in the blink of an eye with my barely feeling the need to don one of my cute little sweaters. Now that I live in the Pacific Northwest, though, cold and rainy is used almost on a daily basis when describing the weather forecast. Definitely not ideal for a little guy from Mexico with very thin skin and a genetic-predisposition for shaking. News flash, it’s not because I’m scared. It’s because I’m f-f-f-f-f-reezing. My wardrobe has gone from being only for show and to increase my cute-factor, to being a total necessity and a matter of life or death. So sorry Papa, but I actually need to wear those clothes, so please stop trying to convince mi mama otherwise.

So back to the beautiful day that I found myself being able to enjoy this morning. I had originally planned to make some sort of soup or warm casserole for mis padres this afternoon for lunch, but given the blue skies and increase in outdoor temperature, I decided to switch it up a bit and save that idea for another rainy day (probably tomorrow, but oh well). Instead, I made a cold pasta salad which I kind of just threw together at the last minute using a bunch of ingredients I already had on hand, and it actually ended up being quite delicioso. Give it a try and you’ll probably agree.

Cold Vegetable Tortellini Salad

1 package Three Cheese Tortellini

2 cups broccoli florets, chopped

2 cups baby tomatoes, chopped in half

2 large red bell peppers, stems removed, seeded and cut into quarters*

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 tbsp low-fat mayonnaise

2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 tsp dried basil

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1) Cook tortellini according to package directions. Add broccoli to water during the last minute of cooking. Rinse with cold water, drain and set aside in a large bowl. Add cherry tomatoes to bowl.

2) Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Place peppers on baking sheet and coat with olive oil cooking spray. Roast in oven until peppers are blackened, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

*You could probably use pre-made roasted bell peppers from a jar too and save yourself some time. I just happened to have fresh bell peppers in my fridge calling out to me to be used for this dressing (yes, my food talks to me sometimes).

3) Place peppers, olive oil, vinegar, mayonnaise, cheese, garlic, basil, salt and pepper in a food processor. Process until smooth.

4) Pour dressing over pasta and veggies. Toss to mix well. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Top with more Parmesan just before serving.

So there you have it. Simple, tasty and perfect for a warm, Spring day when you don’t want to crank up the oven or spend hours over a hot stove. Plus it gives you more time to enjoy some of the outdoor activities you love but miss out on when it’s raining.

Like trying to balance yourself on only your front legs….

Grrr, almost there.

Cake for dinner? Why not

Standard

What’s up with all the crazy fad diets out there? One minute carbs are good. The next they’re the devil. Fat is your friend. Fat is your arch-enemy. Protein is the key to losing weight, therefore adding even more protein is the key to losing the most weight. Gluten-free is the best road to optimum health. Don’t eat protein before noon, and then, only eat protein for the rest of the day. And of course one can’t forget the craziest of them all (and I apologize to anyone who has ever gone on this diet, but seriously, it’s whack), the Master Cleanse diet which consists of only consuming a liquid concoction containing water, lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Yeah, that seems totally logical. The “scientists” behind this one claim that it helps the body to cleanse itself from every day toxins that build up in the body’s system and that it’s the fastest, most effective and organic(?) method of losing toxic body fat in the form of excess weight. I’m not sure where that research was conducted (CrazyLand perhaps) but I definitely don’t buy into this diet one bit. Granted, one will lose weight going on the Master Cleanse, so that claim is actually true. But that’s only because a person is pretty much starving his/herself during that first week of the diet due to consuming fewer than 800 calories a day. One could eat 600 calories of Oreos a day for a week and lost weight as long as that’s all he/she is eating. Come on people! Whatever happened to just eating real food, moderate amounts of it, and not going on some crazy diet that’s guaranteed to be quick fix but obviously can’t be sustained over a long period of time? I may not have taken away everything I was taught during those 4 (or was it 6) years at the Universidad studying nutrition, but I did learn a thing or two about food and diet and overall health. And one of those is that there is no quick fix. There is no secret pill that will magically melt away fat. And that if it seems too good to be true, it more than likely is.

Okay, that’s enough of my little soapbox rant for the day. If you don’t agree with me, that’s totally fine. That’s the fun thing about having your own blog. It’s your forum for voicing your opinion and others can either take it or leave it. And honestly, I’d love to hear your opinion on it. Especially since I can’t guarantee my little rants on diets and nutrition won’t happen again. In the meantime, though, what I can guarantee is that I will continue to post wonderfully delicious recipes containing real, whole foods that shouldn’t be considered “off limits” to anyone because of some wacko diet they’re currently on. And on that note, I have a really tasty recipe for you today that not only contains some delightful full-fat mozzarella and cottage cheeses but also some wonderful carbohydrate filled whole wheat pasta (oh no, the horrors!)

Cheesy Turkey Spaghetti Pie Cake 

(initially this was going to be a pie, hence the name, but I cooked too much pasta to fit in the pie plate… oopsies)

16 oz package spaghetti 

1 cup cottage cheese

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute

1 tbsp canola oil

1 lb. ground turkey breast, 99% fat-free

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

14.5 oz can tomato sauce

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree

6 oz tomato paste

2 tsp dried Italian seasoning

salt and pepper, to taste

shredded Mozzarella cheese

Directions:

1) Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9×13″ casserole dish with Pam and set aside.

2) Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and combine with cottage cheese, Parmesan and egg. Mix well. Spread evenly in bottom of casserole dish and set aside.

3) Heat canola oil in a large deep pan over medium heat. Add turkey, garlic, onion and bell pepper. Cook until turkey is no longer pink and onion is softened, about 5-7 minutes.

4) Add tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, pumpkin, tomato paste, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. Turn heat to medium-low and allow to simmer 15 minutes.

5) Pour tomato/turkey sauce over pasta and spread evenly. Bake 20-25 minutes or until bubbly.

6) Sprinkle shredded Mozzarella over top and allow to bake 5 minutes more.

7) Remove from oven and allow to sit 5 minutes before digging in. Holy yum-sauce! Serve with a nice salad and fresh loaf of bread and you got yourself a stellar dinner.

Definitely not part of the Master Cleanse, totally not Atkins-approved, but undeniably healthy and full of real, non-laboratory manufactured ingredients. Entirely Teeny-approved!

Well amigos, I must be leaving you now. I’m in the process of interviewing new musicians for my mariachi band and two of the young chaps have just arrived to sing-a-ma-jig.

Confession Sunday

Standard

I have a secret. Not a “haha I just pooped in mi mama’s shoe” kind of secret, but one that may cause my credibility as a superchef to falter. But since I want to be totally honest here on my blog, I might as well go ahead and admit my shame. Here goes…. one of the meals mi padre requests me to make for dinner on a pretty regular basis, comes almost entirely from aluminum cans. There I said it. And as much as I like to pride myself on cooking and baking things almost entirely from scratch, some of my tastiest concoctions require no more effort than heating up the oven and getting out the can opener. Now don’t get me wrong. I will never open a box of Hamburger Helper (hello long list of unpronounceable ingredients) and serve it to my friends or family. But I will occasionally open up a couple of cans of tuna and condensed soup, throw them into a casserole dish along with some noodles and frozen peas and call it dinner. Yes, even the most gourmet of superchefs sometimes make meals requiring little time and effort in the kitchen. I’m just trying to be honest with you people. And it actually feels really good to not have to keep this in anymore. In fact, while we’re at it I should probably admit some other things that I may or may not be somewhat ashamed of. My psycho-therapist and life coach told me this would be good for me:

  • I don’t always stretch before or after I work out
  • I only pretend to be afraid of the vacuum so mi papa will pick me up and cuddle me
  • I don’t always wipe after going to the bathroom, but I will scoot my tush on the floor if anything gets stuck
  • I don’t abide by the 5-second rule. I’ll eat it if it’s been sitting there for the past 5 years
  • I don’t know my home phone number, but I’ve memorized all the song lyrics on Shakira’s new album, “She Wolf”
  • I sometimes blame my flatulence on mi papa (it goes both ways)
  • That was me who pooped in your shoe last April Fools Day (Lo siento, Mama)

Hmmm, I hope I don’t get in too much trouble for my last confession. Maybe I’ll blame that one on my Tio Paul instead. She’d believe it.

Anyway, back to my original confession. Since the truth is already out there, I might as well let you in on the secret recipe for one of mi papa’s most frequently requested meals. And please, don’t judge. It’s simple, it’s easy, it’s inexpensive but best of all, it’s totally healthy too.

Easy Cheesy Tuna Noodle Casserole

8 oz pasta noodles, you can us macaroni, rotini, penne, no-yolk egg noodles etc.

1/2 cup milk, any kind just not sweetened

1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup, look for the lower fat/lower sodium variety

1/2 cup cottage cheese

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

salt and pepper, to taste

2 small or 1 large can of light or albacore tuna

1 cup frozen peas

2 cups reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

3) Mix milk, soup, cottage cheese, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, tuna and peas in a large casserole dish. Add noodles and stir well to combine.

4) Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes.

5) Uncover dish, sprinkle with cheddar cheese and bake 5 minutes, or until cheese is all melty.

6) Remove from oven and dig in. 

So there you have it. And now that you know the recipe, it’s no longer a secret anymore. Confession Sunday can now come to a close. Thank God (is that okay to say?)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must retreat to mi Papa’s favorite room of the house for a bit. Mi mama’s been feeding me a new type of dog food and apparently it’s filled with a good deal of fiber.

Stay loose my friends!

Comfort food at its best– and healthiest

Standard

Well it’s officially Fall. The time of year for the leaves to start changing, department stores to start putting up their Christmas decorations and birds/retirees to begin heading down south in preparation for the Winter. In our casa, it’s the time for the crockpot to maintain a permanent position on the kitchen counter, and stews and casseroles to be on the menu for most nights of the week. There’s just something about the cool, brisk weather of fall that makes people crave things deemed as comfort food. Be it Chicken Pot Pie, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy, whatever. Being the good southern boy that mi papa is, he answered quickly and with little hesitation that his idea of the perfect comfort foods are fried chicken, his mama’s green bean casserole and some ooey gooey macaroni and cheese. I’m sure most of Louisiana would probably list these same things (with a few fried alligator and a side of King Cake thrown in for good measure). And he made sure to note that when he says macaroni and cheese, he’s referring to the homemade kind with real cheese, whole milk and butter. Not the kind that mi mama grew up eating and considers delicious. Sadly, I’m sure there are others who would agree with her, but there’s just something about consuming a powdered cheese product that turns your pasta into a neon orange mess that just doesn’t seem right to me. Oh well, to each her own I guess. At least she’s getting in her calcium.

Anyway, back to the macaroni and cheese of mi papa’s youth. I could tell from the shine in his eyes after discussing his comfort foods that he was now seriously craving some of this stuff. And being the thoughtful and loving TeenyLittleSuperChef that I am, I decided to whip up a batch of this yummy goodness for him. But with a healthy twist, of course. I mean, I love the guy, but I also love having him around to give me cuddles and belly rubs, and I fear clogging up his arteries with a bunch of undesirable saturated fat might cause him to be unable to do those things anymore. Is that selfish? Possibly so, but I’m also trying to keep him around and healthy for mi mama’s sake too. Without him, who would open all those tricky jars or reach items way too high up on the pantry shelf? Who would laugh at all her lame jokes or have an impromptu dance party with her in the living room whenever an Air Supply song comes on the radio?  See, if anything, I do my acts of kindness and generosity out of love for her (and if you’re reading this now, Mama, I think I deserve an extra carrot or Greenie after dinner tonight… just putting it out there).

So as I mentioned, I wanted to healthify my macaroni and cheese casserole for mi papa and took to brainstorming different ways of doing so. I wanted to preserve all the flavor of a traditional mac n’ cheese without having to include all its heart attack inducing ingredients. Upon glancing around mi kitchen for inspiration, my eyes narrowed in on a funny and almost phallic looking item sitting on the counter. Ahh yes, the butternut squash! What  better way to replace some of the unhealthy elements of the casserole (i.e. the butter) than a delicious vegetable full of tons of wonderful vitamins and nutrients– the “butter”nut squash. Coincidence? Yeah, probably, but who cares. It got my creative juices flowing and I was able to create an incredibly mouth-watering dish that not only took mi papa back to the comforts of his childhood down South, but also provided him with nearly 200% of his daily recommended value of Vitamin A and 50% of his daily calcium requirements. Cha-ching!

Healthy Buttery-nut Squash Macaroni and Cheese Casserole

2 cups cooked butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes *(see note at bottom of ingredient list)

12 oz package of regular or whole wheat macaroni, cooked

1 cup milk, any kind

1 tbsp butter, Earth Balance or non-hydrogenated margarine

1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

1/4 cup lowfat Cottage cheese

1 cup shredded low-fat sharp Cheddar cheese

1/2 cu shredded low-fat Colby Jack cheese

salt and pepper, to taste

2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese, optional but you should go for it anyway

*To cook the butternut squash, I steamed the cubes in my steamer basket for about 10 minutes. You could also use canned butternut squash puree. Whole Foods is the only place I’ve ever seen it sold, though. (aka: not cheap)

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Puree butternut squash in a large pan with a potato masher or hand-held mixer until smooth but not watery.

3) Heat same pan containing butternut puree over medium-high heat. Add the milk, butter, yogurt and Cottage cheese and stir until well combined.

4) When mixture begins to simmer, slowly start adding the Cheddar and Colby Jack cheeses, mixing the entire time.

5) When all the cheese is melted and the sauce begins to thicken, season with salt and pepper to taste.

6) Begin adding in the cooked macaroni a little at a time, until all the pasta is coated with the cheese sauce.

7) Transfer mixture to an oven-safe casserole dish and sprinkle with the Parmesan, if using. Bake 20 minutes.

8) Remove from oven and allow to cool 5-10 minutes (if you can) before serving. Dig in and prepare to keep coming back for seconds.. and thirds.

I think I scored mucho belly rubbing points from mi papa over this dish which I’ll be cashing in on very soon. But first, it’s time for my daily walk to the park with mi padres. Looks like rain. I better dress appropriately.

I’m baaaaaaack!!!

Standard

Hola mi muchachos! The TeenyLittleSuperChef is back and boy does it feel good to be in the kitchen again. Mi best amiga, Bella, and I had a wonderful time together, seeing all the sights, going for long walks in the park, licking the insides of each other’s ears… so nice to have another culinary canine genius around again. She promised me that once she finds a decent picture of herself (oh women) she will write a guest post for the blog!

Enough about my absence though, time to get back to business. So last night, after mi amiga had left for the airport, I was feeling rather sad. So sad that I began drowning my sorrows in a large bag of Greenies and baby carrots. What can I say? I’m sometimes an emotional eater. Unfortunately, not only did I fail to feel any happier after eating my 13th carrot, but I also had a big stomach ache and knew I’d probably be paying later for all that fiber I had just consumed. So I put the bags away and decided instead of bingeing, I should create a new recipe that would remind me of my lovely friend and a trip to the Greek Isles we had taken a few years ago. Ahhh Greece. What a marvelous place for two little foodies to visit and explore. From the olives to the cheeses to the Spanakopitas, we were in total Mediterranean cuisine heaven. Not to mention all the nude beaches we came across. Finally we didn’t have to feel weird about being the only ones not wearing pants.

So after looking through the contents of our refrigerator and discovering we had an unopened container of Feta cheese, I came up with a delectable Greek recipe in honor of my petite Poodle friend.

Bella’s Greek Chicken Penne

16 oz Penne pasta

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup yellow onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces

14 oz. can artichoke hearts, marinated or just in water

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 cup crumbled Feta cheese

3 tbsp fresh Parsley, chopped

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp dried oregano

6 oz can tomato paste

salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1) Cook the pasta in a large pot until al dente. Drain and set aside.

2) Heat the oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic and chicken and cook until chicken is no longer pink.

3) Reduce heat to medium-low and add all other ingredients (including pasta) except Feta cheese. Allow to simmer 10 minutes.

4) Add cheese and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to individual bowls. Top with additional cheese if you wish. I did 🙂

Holy delicious-ness! Or as mi mama kept saying, “This meal is awesome-sauce!” (her vocabulary is very limited, as you can tell. Don’t worry, she will not be guest posting any time soon).

So the next time you’re feeling blue and the urge for Greek food suddenly hits, give this dish a try. I promise it’ll put a smile on your face. Or at least make you put down that bag of Greenies and baby carrots.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s a whole lot of housework needing to be done and the maid is off for the day. If only I could find something to keep the dirt and grime off my lovely fur.

 

Ahhh, much better. Adios my friends.