Creamy Fall Pasta with Squash, Onions, Kale, and Goat Cheese!

2015-09-22 17.19.17I know I’ve been MIA – per my usual routine of being really excited about blogging, followed by an overwhelming about of work to do, and ending with complete neglect. Well, I’m back. At least for this one post. I am on a lighter rotation right now and was able to make a more involved, delicious dinner last night that I’d felt I needed to share with the work. Eli agreed, this dinner was hands-down delicious! He was picky all day and wouldn’t eat anything but bananas (or nanas as he calls them now). I placed a bowl of this goodness in front of his screaming face and viola! he was silent. It was glorious.  The end result was one super happy (and messy) kid. I am looking forward to when he figures out how to effectively use his silverware; until then I’ll deal with the mess since that means he’s actually eating.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Onion, and Kale over Pasta with Spiced Goat Cheese White Sauce

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Ingredients

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 large bunch of curly kale
  • 2 cups cooked pasta
  • 2 cups 1% or skim milk
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp all spice
  • 1/3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 4 ounces goat cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Peel butternut squash cut in 1/2 lengthwise. Remove the seeds. Cube squash and place in a sprayed cooking dish.
  3. Dice the onion and kale. Add to the cooking dish.
  4. Roast for 45 minutes, or until squash is fork-tender. Stir part-way through to prevent burning.
  5. Create a slurry (white sauce) by adding 2 tbsp to 1 cup of milk. Whisk well to completely dissolve. Add the remaining flour and milk, whisking while adding. Pour into a sprayed frying pan (not heated yet!). Place the pan over medium heat and stir continuously with a rubber spatula to prevent sticking. Add spices while stirring. Continue to stir until the mixture just starts to bubble. Add the goat cheese and continue to stir until melted and fully incorporated.
  6. Add pasta and roasted vegetable mixture to a pan. Pour white sauce over and stir completely. Enjoy!

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Grown-Up Mac and Cheese

gourmet mac and cheeseAs a kid, J and I both loved macaroni and cheese. How were we to know that it wasn’t made with real cheese? Thankfully, we’ve come to see how much more amazing this childhood favorite can be. I’ve made a number of takes off macaroni and cheese before, but this is probably my favorite. We don’t plan to feed Eli the box mac and cheese, so we’re hoping something like this will be his favorite go-to childhood meal. Give it a try – I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Grown-up Mac and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1  medium red onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 1% or skim milk
  • 5 ounces (1/2 package) of frozen spinach thawed or 1 bag of fresh spinach cooked down
  • 8 ounces gruyere cheese
  • 1.5 cups elbow macaroni (preferably whole grain)
  • 1 pound cooked chicken, diced

gourmet  (2)Directions

  1. Prepare pasta as directed on package; set aside to cool.
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add onion, salt, and garlic. Cook down until soft. Add vinegar and cook for 1 more minute. Set aside.
  3. Prepare the white sauce (slurry version)
    1. Pour 1/2 cup milk into a measuring cup. While whisking, slowly add flour, making sure none sticks to the bottom. Once fully incorporated, add remaining milk and whisk well.
    2. Spray a skillet with cooking spray and pour milk mixture into the room-temperature pan.
    3. Heat pan over medium-low heat, stirring continuously to prevent sticking.  Continue to heat until the mixture begins to bubble. Once slightly bubbling, allow to bubble while stirring for 3 minutes (this is the thickening stage) and then lower heat to low.
  4. Add cheese to the white sauce and stir until fully melted. Add onion, chicken, spinach, and pasta; mix well until well incorporated.

Butternut Squash Pasta Bake

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Oh, butternut squash – how I love you. As a kid I never was served butternut squash. While I became more adventurous the older I got, something about squash didn’t appeal to me (probably the texture – I hate mushy food). After hearing my dietetic friends rave about butternut squash this and butternut squash that, I figured I had to break down and give it a chance. How had I been missing out on this heavenly food for so long?!? I was in love instantly. Then I added sage to it and I was in heaven. Ever since I have been making squash dishes a regular occurrence in our house. Since I don’t like mushy foods, I usually use the squash as a sauce or a component of the meal, but don’t often eat it plain. Since I’ve fallen in love with squash, our garden is always full of winter squash and sage plants.

This dish is a simple way to throw together a delicious casserole. Using squash as the sauce cuts out the sodium and sugar often added to other pasta sauces. You don’t need to bake it in the oven unless you choose to put the cheese on to (and who doesn’t love cheese, right?).

butternut squash pasta bake2

Butternut Squash Pasta Bake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried whole grain pasta (8 ounces), prepare
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cups cooked butternut squash*, cubed
  • Milk (amount needed will vary)
  • 1/8 cup dried sage or 1/4 cup fresh sage, diced
  • 1 package frozen spinach (10 ounces), thawed
  • 1/4 cup pepitas or other seeds
  • 4 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Saute the onion in olive oil. Add the vinegar and mix well. Continue to cook down to desired consistency. Set aside.
  3. In a food processor, place all of the squash. Pulse/process until desired consistency. Add milk to think the mixture if needed.
  4. Add the sage and pulse to mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Add the spinach and pulse until combined. Add the onions and pulse until combined.
  6. Pour the sauce mixture over the pasta and mix well. Transfer to a the prepared dish.
  7. Top the dish with seeds and then shredded cheese.
  8. Bake at 350F for 25 minutes, or until the cheese is melted.

*Tip – preparing winter squash can be a pain. To save time, I dedicate 1 weekend day in the fall to prepare cups of squash. After they are cooked, I portion them into quart freezer bags, so they are ready to go when I need them. I usually portion 1/2 of the squash cubed and 1/2 of the squash already pureed or mashed up.

Zesty Summer Pasta Salad

Here is super simple pasta salad recipe for your Labor Day cookout!

Easy Pasta Salad

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces whole wheat pasta
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium head of broccoli, trimmed and chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup Balsamic vinegar or sun-dried tomato dressing
  • 2-3 ounces fresh parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Prepare pasta. While pasta is cooking, move on the the next step.
  2. Heat a little olive oil in a nonstick pan and add onion. Saute until soft. Add carrots and cook for 3-5 minutes. Add remaining vegetables (except tomatoes) and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes. 
  3. Drain water from pasta. Put pasta in a large dish. Add the vegetables and mix well.
  4. Add dressing and cheese. Stir to coat and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving.

Curried Cucumber Ranita

Cucumber Yogurt Curry SaladIt’s that time of year when there are more cucumbers than you know what to do with. We had six in the refrigerator and I wanted something other than sliced cucumbers and pickles. I was going through an old cookbook with loose recipes inside and Cucumber Ranita fell out. I love when that happens. The recipe wasn’t quite what I wanted (cream, whole milk yogurt, spices I didn’t have on hand, etc…), I just used the recipe as an inspiration for this recipe. We served it at a family party a few weeks ago and it was a hit.

Curried Cucumber Ranita

Ingredients

  • 4 cucumbers, about 6″ in size
  • 2 cups plain yogurt, regular or greek – the regular worked just fine and wasn’t too runny
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, diced
  • 1/2 cup Madras Curry Paste
  • 4 oz orzo pasta
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup peanuts

Directions

  1. Prepare the pasta per directions on package. 
  2. Finely shred 2 of the cucumbers. Mix with the yogurt and cilantro. Add the curry paste and stir well.
  3. Quarter the remaining cucumbers. You may want to remove the seeds or use seedless, but regular cucumbers worked just fine for me.
  4. Mix the yogurt sauce with the pasta. Add the cucumbers, raisins, and peanuts. Stir well. Serve cold.

Beef Stroganoff

Slow Cooker Beef Stroganoff by A Year of Slow Cooking

Ingredients

  • 2-3 pounds beef stew meat (my meat was fresh)
  • 1 (10-ounce) container PHILADELPHIA Cooking Creme — savory garlic flavor
  • 2 sliced yellow onions
  • 1 pound mushrooms (sliced, or whole button)
  • 1 large sliced bell pepper
  • Cooked egg noodles

Directions:

  1. Place the meat into the bottom of a 4 qt slow cooker. Add the cream and vegetables.
  2. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours, or until meat shreds easily with a fork. Stir well and serve over hot cooked pasta

Pesto Spinach Lasagna

Pesto Spinach Lasagna by A Year of Slow Cooking
(with some healthy modifications) 

Ingredients

  • 1 (26-ounce) jar prepared pasta sauce
  • 6 whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 1 (11-ounce) container pesto
  • 1 (12-ounce) package of soft tofu, crumbled up
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag baby spinach
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup water

The Directions

  1. Each layer will use 1/4 of the ingredients for a total of 4 layers.
  2. Use a 4 quart slow cooker. Add 1/2 cup of pasta sauce into the bottom of your cooker and swirl it around. Add a layer of uncooked, broken lasagna noodles. Add 1/4 of the tofu and pesto. Add a handful or two of baby spinach, and top with a layer of Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
  3. Repeat 3 more times until you’ve run out of ingredients. The spinach is fluffy, so you’re going to have to squish it down to make it all fit.
  4. Add 1/4 cup of water into the empty pasta sauce jar and close and shake. Pour this saucy water over the top of everything.
  5. Cover up and cook on low for 4-6 hours. You’ll know it’s done when the top layer begins to brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly. It will also pull a bit away from the sides. Taste-test a noodle to check texture.
  6. Uncover, and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

Will You Tofu?

When I go through a carb counting book with patients at the hospital I always get the same response when I get to the plant-based protein section. It goes like this:

ME: “Some plant-based proteins contain carbohydrates while others will not count towards your daily carbohydrate choices. These can be great additions to your diet so you stay within your carbohydrate range and get adequate protein. Tofu is one that does not have enough carbohydrates to count as a carbohydrate choice. Have you ever tried tofu?”

PATIENT (with a disgusted face) “Yuck, no. I don’t eat that stuff and I never will.”

ME: “I would encourage you to try it sometime. It has no taste at all, so you can put it in dishes and make it takes the way you want. The consistency can be like ricotta cheese or like cream cheese, depending which type you get, so you can use it in many dishes.”

PATIENT (looking unconvinced): “No, that is gross. I’m not going to eat that stuff. Plus, it’s expensive isn’t it?”

ME: “Actually it pretty cheap. Just a dollar or two for 12 ounces – A pound of ground sirloin is usually $4.”

The conversation re: plant-based proteins is usually done there. I wonder what it is about tofu that scares everyone so much. I really tastes like nothing and has a creamy texture, which most people like. However, I too am occasionally scared of tofu and need mor practice at preparing dishes with it. I have made tofu cheesecake before, which my roommates thought was real cheesecake until I told them otherwise. I frequently made spinach lasagna with tofu in the place of cottage cheese when I was in college, but have not made it recently. After a few more patient interactions like the one above I decided I needed to get back into using tofu (lucky Jason…). Not only because it is a great protein, but because I want to perfect some great-tasting recipes that I could try to convince some patients to try. This weekend I made the lasagna again. It turned out just like I remember and Jason loved it. I added ground sirloin for Jason (90% lean…so a healthy choice), so this is protein-packed meal.

His and Hers Spinach Lasagna

Ingredients

  • Crock Pot (4-6 qt works the best)
  • 1 jar spaghetti sauce (whatever kind you like – we just used traditional)
  • 6-8 whole wheat lasagna noodles
  • 1 packaged of frozen spinach
  • 3/4 pound ground sirloin
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 12 oz soft tofu
  • Pepper
  • Italian seasoning
  • 4 oz part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1-2 oz fresh parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Brown the sirloin with onion in a pan. No oil is needed. Drain off extra fat.
  2. Thaw out the spinach and drain the water.
  3. Place the tofu in a container. With a fork mash it up until it looks like ricotta cheese. Add 1-2 tsp of italian seasoning and some pepper. Add more or less seasoning depending on your preference.
  4. Pour 1/4 of the sauce into the bottom of the crock pot. Break 1/4 to 1/3 of the noodles to cover the bottom.
  5. Add some ground turkey, spinach and tofu mixture. Top with a layer of noodles. Top noodles with 1/3 of the cheese.
  6. Repeat this until all of the ingredients are gone. Be sure that cheese is the very top layer.
  7. Cook on low for 4-5 hours, on until the edges of the cheese begin to lightly brown.

A taste of heaven

A few weeks ago I sat down to catch-up on my favorite food blog, TheKitchenSinkRecipes, and search for a few new dishes to make. I have to admit, I have been in a cooking-rut lately and seemed to have lost the passion I once had for it. I knew some exciting new recipes might be just the trick to get me out of the slump. That is when I found it…

Butternut squash. I am one of the few and far between in the nutrition field who have never eaten butternut squash before. When I was a kid my parents never prepared dishes with winter squash and I can count the number of times I have prepared it in my lifetime on one hand. Something about the dense shell and overall size of the squash tends to be a little daunting to a novice. That challenge was what I needed to feel excited about cooking again. This dish is the most delicious dish I have ever, I repeat, ever made. The subtle sweetness of the squash paired with the spice of the spinach and topped with a light cream sauce makes every bite unexplainably delicious. I guarantee this dish is worth the somewhat lengthy prep time.

Spinach & Butternut Squash Lasagna
Cooking Light (found on TheKitchenSinkRecipes.com with slight modifications)
Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 3 cups skim milk
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup vidalia onion, diced
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 cups (3/4-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 2 1/4 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 18 ounces of fresh spinach
  • 9 cooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2 cup part-skim mozerella cheese

Directions

  1. Cook onion in 1 tsp olive oil and a pinch of salt for 2 minutes or until tender. Reduce heat.
  2. Create a white sauce by mixing  1/4 cup of milk with the 1/4 of flour in a glass measuring cup and whisk well with a wire whisk. Add the reamining milk and whisk well. Slowly add the mixture to the pan until the mixture is smooth, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and cook until smooth and thickened. Remove from heat. Cover surface of milk mixture with plastic wrap; set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 425°.
  4. Place squash in a large bowl. Add vinegar; toss to coat. Add 1 tablespoon oil; toss to coat. Arrange squash in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper,  and sage. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350°.
  5. While cooking, combine remaining 2 teaspoons of oil, red pepper, and garlic in a Dutch oven over medium heat; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add spinach, 1 bag at a time; cook until wilted, stirring frequently. Add remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook until liquid evaporates, stirring frequently.
  6. Mix the cheese together in a bowl. Spoon 1/3 cup milk mixture in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 noodles over milk mixture; top with spinach mixture, 2/3 cup milk mixture, 1/2 cup cheese. Arrange 3 noodles over cheese; top with squash mixture, 2/3 cup milk mixture, remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Arrange remaining 3 noodles on top of cheese; spread remaining 1/2 cup milk mixture over noodles. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Savory Pumpkin Pasta

It’s that time of year when chili, soup, pumpkin, apples, cranberries, and chocolate are in season. I have wanted to try pumpkin pasta recipes for the past few years but have been a little scared to. In my mind, pumpkin is a dessert food and I couldn’t fathom how it would taste. After seeing many recipes with 5-star reviews that sounded delicious, I decided it was time to step outside my comfort zone. I stumbled across GreenLiteBite’s Pasta with Pumpkin, Sausage, and Spinach recipe that sounded simple enough and decided to give it a try. I was also making soup and muffins at the same time, while trying to keep an eye on two cats who having been taunting each other all day, so I accidentally forgot to add the spinach…whoops! The dish is delicious and I only  made one minor change to the recipe to make the sauce creamier. Enjoy!

Pumpkin-Sage Pasta with Sweet Italian Sausage
by GreenLiteBites

  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 package of sweet Italian turkey sausage (I used Jennie-O)
  • 15oz chicken broth
  • 15oz can of pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup of non-fat plain yogurt
  • 2 TBSP fresh sage, shredded
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp  salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 8 oz pasta
  • About 1/3 of a bag of fresh baby spinach leaves (I left this out on accident but will keep it in the recipe in case you’d like to add it in)
  1. Cut the sausage into 1″ discs. The original author recommends freezing these a bit to make the easier to cut. Mine were fresh and were a little messy to cut but still worked.
  2. Prepare pasta per package instructions.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage with the onion and garlic in 1 tsp olive oil.
  4. Once brown, drain off the liquid fat – there will be quite a bit so I strongly recommend doing this (if your turkey sausages don’t have much fat this might not be necessary.
  5. *If you would like to add spinach, I would recommend adding it now. Cook until just wilted.
  6. Place sausage mixture in a very large dish. Add pasta to dish once finished.
  7. Return the pan to the stove and add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil.
  8. Lower to medium heat and add the pumpkin, yogurt, sage, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir to combine everything. Keep on medium until the sauce begins to boil again then lower to a simmer.
  9. Place hot mixture in a food processor and puree until smooth. Food processors can only handle so much liquid at once, so I did the sauce in three parts. After each part is finished, pour over pasta and sausage.
  10. The original author suggests serving with a sprinkle of parmesan!