Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pasta Fresca

Nathan and I love eating at Noodles & Co. Our favorite dish is the Pasta Fresca. We figured we could easily make this dish at home so Nathan found a recipe. We've further refined it to match the dish at Noodles. This can be a vegetarian or add meat.

Serves 2

Sauté Instructions: In a very hot sauté pan, add:2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil 2 1/2 cups pre-cooked penne pasta, 1/4 c. (I just throw in however much looks good) thin wedges red onions, 2 shakes of kosher salt & cracked pepper. Sear noodles, stirring occasionally until steaming hot.

Add: 1-2 roma tomatoes cut into wedges, 1 oz. baby fresh spinach, 1 oz. fresca sauce (recipe below). Again, I just add tomato and spinach until it looks right. NOTE: add tomato near the very end or your tomato will end up pretty mashed up. Toss to combine.

Serve with freshly shaved parmesan cheese or feta cheese. Top with grilled or breaded chicken, beef or shrimp. Nathan likes parmesan breaded chicken and feta cheese on his. I like grilled chicken and fresh parmesan on mine. Personalize to your tastes. Enjoy!

FRESCA SAUCE:(for 2-3 batches depending on how much you use)
NOTES: I minced my own fresh garlic and found that I could use WAY less than called for. Keep extra sauce in a jar in your fridge for next time or make less sauce.

1/4 cup fresh garlic
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup sweet white wine
1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Mix well.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Cheesy Stuffed Shells

I used to get Kraft Kitchens magazine when it was free. It was full of quick and simple recipes that used an awful lot of Kraft products, but many were easily modified to make great dinners and desserts. And of course, I didn't always use Kraft products!

This recipe is probably our favorite from the magazine. My carnivorous husband loves it, and I think you could add either some cooked Italian sausage to the cheese mix, tuck a meatball in each shell, or just serve it as a side with a grilled steak or chicken. But it is also great on its own!

Easy Cheesy Stuffed Shells

Prep time - 30 min - Total time - 60 min
Makes 5 servings

1 container (16 oz.) 2% Milkfat Low Fat Cottage Cheese
1 pkg. (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, well drained (I use a bag of fresh spinach)
2 cups Shredded Mozzarella Cheese, divided
1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
20 jumbo pasta shells, cooked, drained
1 jar (26 oz.) spaghetti sauce


HEAT oven to 400°F. Mix cottage cheese, spinach, 1/2 cup mozzarella, Parmesan and seasoning; spoon into shells.

SPOON half the sauce into 13x9-inch baking dish. Add filled shells; top with remaining sauce and remaining mozzarella (and more Parmesan, if desired - I like it cheesy!).

BAKE uncovered 25 min. or until heated through.

Make Ahead
Assemble recipe as directed. Refrigerate up to 24 hours. When ready to serve, bake, covered, at 400°F for 35 min. or until heated through.

Freeze Ahead
Reserve 1 and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella. Assemble recipe as directed, but do not top with the reserved mozzarella. Wrap casserole in foil; freeze. When ready to serve, heat oven to 400°F. Unwrap casserole; cover with foil. Bake 55 min. or until heated through, removing foil after 30 min. Top with reserved mozzarella; bake 10 min. or until melted.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Heirloom Food

My grandpa's funeral is this week. He lived 93 full and interesting years and it was his time to pass. However, I feel like I've lost a valuable link to history - he was born during World War I, grew up during the depression, joined the Navy during WWII... it is astonishing to consider the events and eras he lived though.

I can't experience life the way my grandparents lived when they were my age, so I really enjoy making recipes that they ate, enabling me to both smell and taste some history. This is a recipe my grandma made, and everyone who tries it loves it. So put on your fabulous 50's dress, pearls, and heels and whip some up for yourself!


Caramel Filling

32 caramels
5 Tablespoons light cream or evaporated milk (or regular milk, or heavy cream)

Melt the caramels and milk together. If you use a pan on the stove, stir constantly. If you use a microwave, stir every two minutes at first, and then every minute until caramels are melted.


1 cup flour
1 cup oatmeal
¾ cup brown sugar
¾ cup melted butter
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt

1 cup chocolate chips

Mix together flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, butter, soda and salt and divide in half. Press half into bottom of 9x9 pan. Bake 10 minutes at 350F. Remove from oven; immediately sprinkle 1 cup chocolate chips on hot crust. Drizzle caramel filling over chips; cover with remaining oatmeal mixture. Bake 15-20 minutes at 325F. Allow to cool before cutting.

BONUS: for a quick and tasty dessert, you can pour a can of cherry, blueberry OR apple pie filling OR put fresh apples, peeled, cored, sliced, and shaken with 1/4 cup flour in a 9x9 pan. Shake some cinnamon sugar over the fruit and top with the bar mixture. Bake at 350F for about 25-30 minutes and voila – apple/cherry/blueberry crisp! I serve it hot with ice cream. (Obviously, you leave out the chocolate and caramels)

P.S. - S. Mehrens - I promise I prepared for this post before I saw your post! I guess it is Grandparents Week here at Cooking! Everyone else, did you have a favorite recipe from a grandparent?

Grandma's Goulash

This is one of my favorite meals from my childhood. Although my paternal grandmother passed away when I was 14 I still have many memories of time we spent together. As far as meals together I have a few scattered memories, but only remember one or two foods she served. My favorite was one I christened: "Grandma's Goulash". It is a very simple recipe and also very delicious.

Grandma's Goulash
1 lb ground beef (ground turkey or chicken could be substituted, though I've never tried it)
2 (10oz) cans of condensed tomato soup
1 bag of mixed frozen vegetables (fresh work too, but take longer to cook)
5 or 6 potatoes the size of your palm
Salt & Pepper

1. Peal and cut up potatoes. Put in boiling water to cook.*
2. Meanwhile cook ground meat in frying pan. When cooked drain fat and set aside to cool slightly.
2. Pour soup and frozen vegetables in bowl and mix together.
3. Add meat, stir.
4. Cover and microwave for 5 minutes. Stir and Heat for another 5 minutes.
5. Drain potatoes and mash adding salt and pepper and milk.
6. Move vegetable/soup/meat mixture to an oven safe container and top with mashed potatoes.
7. Add a dollop of butter and put under oven broiler for 2-5 minutes or until the top of the potatoes just begins to brown.

Great if served with fresh rolls, a garden salad or apple sauce as a side.

*Optional Substitute: Noodles can be substituted for the mashed potatoes. Instead of topping with potatoes cook noodles and mix with the vegetable/soup/meat mixture.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Victory Garden Casserole

One of my mom's good friends is an excellent cook and has shared multiple recipes with me. This is one of them. I'm not sure if she created it herself (she often does this) or if she found it elsewhere. If you are looking for a vegetarian meal with lots of veggies, this is for you.

Victory Garden Casserole

1lb. potatoes, sliced
1- 10oz. pkg. corn
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1/2 t. dried thyme leaves
3-4 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced
1- 10oz. pkg. green beans
1/2 lb. yellow or zucchini squash (can substitute lima beans)
1- 10oz. pkg. green peas
2 c. milk
1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2-3/4 c. unseasoned fine bread crumbs
2 T. butter, melted

Lightly grease a 3qt. glass casserole dish. In vegetable steamer or double boiler, steam potatoes until tender, about 10 min. Steam corn till hot, 3-5 min. Turn into casserold over potatoes. In cup mix salt, pepper, thyme. Sprinkle 1/3 of salt mixture and 1 c. cheese over corn. Steam carrots until tender, then green beans. Turn into casserold. Sprinkle with 1/2 of remaining salt mixture and 1 c. cheese. Heat oven to 350. Steam squash 3 min. Turn into casserole. Steam peas until hot. Turn into casserole. Meanwhile, in 1 qt. saucepan, with wire qhisk, beat together milk and flour until smooth; heat to boiling and cook, stirring, until sauce is thickened. Stir in remaining salt mixture. With a knife, make a well in the center of the casserole. Pour sauce into well and over top of vegetables. In small bowl combine crumbs and butter; sprinkle evenly over top of casserole. Top with remaining cheese. Bake 30 min at 350 or until golden brown and bubbly.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Peach Quesadillas

I forgot the photo and this was supposed to be posted mid-summer when peaches were in season.

8 tortillas
2 large peaches, peeled and thinly sliced
2 sweet onions
2 cups shredded gouda cheese (though I intend to try other cheeses)
Tablespoon olive oil
Olive oil cooking spray

Thinly slice onions. Heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute onions.
Divide onions, peaches, and cheese evenly between tortillas; put on one side.
Cook quesadillas in a skillet coated with cooking spray. Fold in half after 1-2 minutes and then flip. Sides should be golden brown. Cut into several sections.

Strawberry Shortcake: Hot Milk Cake

This past weekend my family and I were heading to some friends for dinner. I needed to pull together a quick dessert and I wanted to keep it light and yet sweet. In the end a sale on strawberries at my local grocery store (I know out of season, but BOGOF can't be beat) helped me to decide. I made strawberry shortcake -- a hot milk cake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. The dessert was everything I hoped - light, fluffy, sweet, and fruity.

Here's the recipe I used. It's not original I copied it years ago from something my mother had -- I think a cookbook, but I don't remember now. My apologies to the original author, I'd give credit if I knew where to give it.

Hot Milk Cake (a.k.a Hot Milk Sponge Cake)

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour (Whole Wheat flour tends to weigh cake down, if used proportion to 1/3 cup WW to 2/3 All-Purpose)
1 tsp baking powder
1 TBS butter
1/2 cup of hot milk

1. Beat eggs until light and thick
2. Add sugar
3. Heat milk and add butter to milk, set aside
4. Gently fold dry ingredients into wet
5. Add milk (buttered fully melted), fold into batter
6. Pour into lightly greased cake pan (9x9)
7. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Serve with fresh strawberries and whipped cream or chopped peaches.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sarah's Menu Plan Monday

I have been working to plan out menus for the month using mostly the food items I have in my fridge, freezer and pantry, but it's sometimes difficult. In the end I usually stick to planning out the coming week and throw in a selection here or there later in the month depending on schedule and availability.

This week I have planned:

Monday: FISH - Parmesan Flounder, Rice, Garden Salad
Tuesday: BEEF - Grandma's Goulash
Wednesday: VEGETARIAN - Homemade Mac & Cheese, Green Beans
Thursday: CHICKEN/CROCKPOT - White Chili with Corn bread
Friday: Leftovers or "Breakfast" food

I have some recipes from the other week as well as this week that I plan to post, so check back if you're interested in a particular recipe (I left my menu as a comment on Alison's Menu Plan Monday - Aug 30). Or leave a comment should you like to see a particular recipe.

Alison's Menu Plan Monday

It's Menu Plan Monday time again! We have drained our fridge of meals and it's time for me to grocery shop again. Check out more menus at


Many Bean Soup
Egg salad sandwiches and fresh veggies
Oriental Beef and Noodles
Hot Dogs
Breakfast Food
Home made pizza
Pasta Fresca
Vegetarian Taco Salads
I also plan on cooking chicken breast and beans for my freezer stash.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

German Style Potato Salad

Ever since I can remember, my Grandpa has been making this potato salad for every family get together. Obviously, he's German. ;-) It is a hot potato salad. I've posted this recipe as Grandpa has passed it down. You might want to scale it down to serve less than a huge family gathering.

German Style Potato Salad

5lbs. potatoes
1/3lb bacon, cut up
2/3 T. flour
1 c. water
1 c. vinegar
1/2 T. salt
1 c. sugar

Boil potatoes in skins. Peel and slice into a bowl.
Pour over potatoes: sugar, onion.
Brown bacon bits. Add flour, water, vinegar and salt.
Mix together.

The longer potatoes sit in the sauce, the more flavorful the dish. It is intended to be served hot, but I think it tasts just as good cold. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Chocolate Haystacks

With Autumn fast upon us I have been looking for some fun cooking activities that I can share with my daughter on those cold rainy fall days. I came upon this recipe on KRAFT's website and although it could be messy, it does look delicious and fun, especially if you have a child (or children) in the home... or are a child at heart. I've yet to try it, but wanted to post it anyway.

Chocolate Haystacks
prep time: 10 min
total time: 1 hr 10 min
makes: 3-1/2 doz. or 21 servings, 2 haystacks each

4 squares BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate
1 cup Butterscotch chips
2 cups Chow mein noodles
2 cups JET-PUFFED Miniature Marshmallows

MICROWAVE chocolate and butterscotch chips in medium microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2 to 3 min. or until almost melted, stirring after 1-1/2 min. Stir until completely melted.

ADD remaining ingredients; stir until evenly coated.

DROP tablespoonfuls of chocolate mixture onto waxed paper-covered baking sheet. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.

Substitute1 cup BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunks for the chocolate squares.

How to Store:
Store in airtight container in refrigerator.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Teach A Man To Fish...

It's still hot here. And this Labor Day, we ran errands and finished off with a trip to the local splash park. So by the time we got home, we were hot and hungry. And I decided to make ravioli.

Crazy, right? Not really. It took about 20 minutes, tops.

I can't publish the recipe here because it's copyrighted and I'm a lawyer so I'm kind of picky about that. Instead, I'll recommend the cookbook, because I use lots of recipes from it anyway.

You know how you can make Mac & Cheese without reading the box? And spaghetti, and a few other things without recipes? Pam (not Pamela) Anderson wants to expand your repertoire with How To Cook Without A Book. She is apparently an incredible cook who would always go out to eat with her family, because cooking was too much work and she didn't want to find and follow a recipe every night. Her mission in publishing this cookbook was to teach some basic cooking rules (i.e. how to sear a meat and make a pan sauce) and then expand on the recipes with different ingredients for different meals. In that way, you learn to make a recipe once or twice with the help of the book, and then can do it from memory.

Let me tell you, I'm reading Ad Hoc At Home by Thomas Keller right now, and that is not his philosophy. But Anderson's recipes really work for those non-special occasion, weeknight dinners. You probably won't need to make an extra trip to the grocery store for exotic ingredients. And her super-easy salad dressings have been a real hit!

How To Cook Without A Book is going on my Christmas list this year (I checked it out from the library), both to give and to get. And I am not a cookbook collector. Do you have it? What do you think of it?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Stuffed Pepper Lasagna

I regret to inform all of you that it's still hot here and therefore, still no baking. Here is a quick and easy summer favorite, especially now that peppers are in season! If you need meat, you could probably simmer some sausage or hamburger in a little tomato sauce (so it's flavored and moist but not soupy) for 20 minutes and mix it with the rice.

Stuffed Pepper "Lasagna"
(modified from BHG)


* 4 medium green and/or red sweet peppers - I cut them in to bit-sized pieces

* 1 8.8-oz. pouch cooked Spanish-style rice

* 1 14.5-oz. can stewed tomatoes - I used Muir Glen Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes for extra spice.

* 4 1-oz. slices Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeño peppers


1. Quarter peppers; remove stems, seeds, and ribs. Place in 2-quart square microwave-safe baking dish. Add 2 Tbsp. water. Cover with parchment. Microcook on high 4 minutes, until crisp-tender; turn dish once if no turntable. Remove peppers from dish; drain and set aside.

2. Cook rice according to package directions. Drain tomatoes, reserving 2-4 Tbsp. liquid. In baking dish layer half the peppers (cut sides up), the rice, drained tomatoes, Jack cheese, and remaining peppers (cut sides down). Drizzle reserved tomato liquid. Cover with parchment. Microcook on high 5 to 6 minutes, turning once. Let stand 5 minutes. Makes 4 servings.


Stuffed Flounder served with Parmesan Noodles and Lemon Parsley Carrots

(This was from last week's menu. I just got a chance to upload the photos.)

Flounder Spinach Roll-Ups

I actually posted this flounder recipe some time ago, but although we love flounder I wasn't too crazy about this particular recipe. I felt it needed some slight alteration when it came to seasoning. This time I added a little more seasoning (salt and pepper) and sauteed the mushrooms and spinach in butter instead of oil. Both of these changes went a long way to improving the dish's taste. We all really enjoyed it this time and I had fun adding some different sides.

Parmesan Noodles:
1. Cook any type of noodle. I used elbow macaroni for 8 min.
2. Add a little butter and toss with grated Parmesan cheese.
3. Serve with a little cracked black pepper and a dash of salt.

Lemon Parsley Carrots
(Adapted from Better Homes & Garden: New Cookbook, 1953, pg 360)

1. Cook carrots (I used canned, though next time I plan to use fresh). To cook add carrots to a small pan and cook covered in a very small amount of boiling, salted water for 15-25 minutes.

2. Combine 3 TBS butter, 2 TBS chopped parsley, and 1 TBS lemon juice.

3. Drain cooked carrots and toss with the butter/lemon/parsley sauce. Serve hot.

*Note: Butter might be reduced to 2TBS depending on the number of carrots used. Lemon juice could be reduced to 2 tsp for less tartness.

The finished dishes: