Eleni’s Special Pasta

My three year old absolutely loves to watch cooking shows. From those little one minute clips on Facebook by pages like Delish and Tasty to The Great British Bake Off, she is all about it! A few days ago we were watching Giada at Home (one of her favorites) on Netflix, and she decided that she wanted to make Giada’s Calabrian Chile Pasta. As Giada says on that episode, the pasta is a bit too spicy for little eaters, so Eleni and I decided to make our own version. We took away ingredients, and added ingredients, until we came up with something that was ridiculously delicious. This meal tasted like it came from a true Italian restaurant, it didn’t cost much to make, and it was ready in less than 20 minutes! For an even cheaper and easier meal, you could happily leave out the chicken and it would still tastes as good! I hope you enjoy.

elenis-special-pasta

1 box (1lb) penne pasta

Half an onion, chopped

2 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed or finely chopped

1 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese

A punnet of baby tomatoes, quartered lengthwise

About 3-4 tbsp canned tomato sauce

The zest of 1 lemon

The juice of half a lemon

About 3 large chicken breasts, cooked and sliced (I roasted three big chicken breasts earlier in the afternoon with olive oil, italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and a light sprinkle of chili powder)

A handful of fresh spinach, finely chopped

A glug or two of extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

– Bring 4 cups of water with some salt to a boil in a roughly 10-inch, high-sided, shallow saucepan. Once the water is boiling, add in your penne pasta and keep it at a loose boil for about 9 minutes, until the pasta is just al dente. Meanwhile, saute the garlic and onion in a glug of olive oil in a separate pan.

When the pasta is cooked lower the heat, add in your garlic and onion, and then throw in the parmesan cheese to coat the pasta, until the cheese is just about melted.  Then add the quartered tomatoes, the tomato sauce, the zest and juice of our lemon, and the chicken. Stir well and allow to heat through (especially the chicken, as you don’t want to reheat chicken halfway – that could be dangerous!). Right at the very end, add another small glug of olive oil, the spinach and salt/pepper, and serve with some more fresh parmesan grated on top! Enjoy… our family sure did!

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Eleni’s Special Pasta

Italian-Style Chicken Quinoa Bake

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I got the original recipe for this on the Alida’s Kitchen blog, but I’ve made a few of my own tweaks. This is another great recipe to share with friends – I often take this to people who need a meal after having a baby, or surgery, or just an intense season of life! One of the things I love about it is that it can be made up and assembled in advance, and then the recipient (or you!) can just store it in the fridge until they’re ready to throw it in the oven and eat! You can even make it the night or the morning before…..can I get a hallelujah?! We like to serve this on a bed of fresh spinach for extra goodness and difference in texture. This recipe serves four to six, so I usually double it if I’m taking it to someone, that way we can eat some too! In fact, Chris took the leftovers on a climb the other day and said it was perfect for that kind of situation – providing plenty of protein and fuel for energy!

Ingredients:

4 or 5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 cups quinoa, cooked

1 and 1/2 cups of pasta sauce (like a marinara…or I used Tomato Basil)

1 red bell pepper, chopped small

1/2 an onion, chopped small

A lug of olive oil

1 cup baby tomatoes, halved

A handful of fresh basil, chopped

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Salt & pepper to taste

– Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a baking dish (something like a 9×13 inch) In a pan, sautée the onions and red bell pepper in olive oil. After a few minutes, add the chicken. After the chicken is cooked, shred or chop it up. 

Combine the cooked quinoa, chicken, seasonings, pasta sauce, about half of the basil and 1 cup of the cheese. Put half of the quinoa mixture into your baking dish, and top with half of the tomatoes and half a cup of cheese. Top with the remaining quinoa mixture, the remaining cheese and tomatoes, and the rest of the basil. If you want you can add a little grated parmesan too. 

Cover with foil and bake for 15 mins, then uncover and cook for another 10 or so minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly. (I always put this last sentence on a note for the family I’m taking the meal to, so they know that they can eat it on their own schedule) Serve on a bed of fresh spinach if you wish and enjoy!

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Italian-Style Chicken Quinoa Bake

Fiesta Rice Salad

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This “salad” is my go-to at the moment to take and share at potluck type meals with friends. Every single time I make it I have people asking me for the recipe, so I figured it was time to put it on the blog! Not only is it something different, it’s also good for you and it contains one of Eleni’s all time favorite foods – chickpeas! I’ve had people tell me that they really thought they hated chickpeas until they ate this….so don’t knock it ’til you try it! I often double the recipe if we’re going somewhere with a big crowd, since it’s quite cheap to make too. At home we’ve had this with thick juicy steaks, chicken or burgers, but honestly it’s quite good by itself for lunch!

Ingredients:

4 or so cups of cooked basmati rice (which is like 2 cups uncooked)

1 can whole kernel sweetcorn, drained

1 can chickpeas, drained

1 can black beans, drained

1/2 red onion, chopped very small

1 red bell pepper, chopped small

3 or 4 big handfuls of raw spinach, chopped

The juice of 1 lemon

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

– Mix all together in a big bowl, and serve or refrigerate until you’re ready to eat. Easy peasy! If it seems sticky or too dry, add a drizzle or two of olive oil or an extra squeeze of lemon before serving.

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Fiesta Rice Salad

Potato, Pea and Bacon Pie – A Fall Must-Have!

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This is one of my favorite pies ever….this is high in comfort and indulgence! I’ve adapted this recipe from Jamie Oliver’s Puffy Pea ‘n’ Potato Pie – the original concept came from him, but I’ve changed quite a bit and added my own flair. Serve all on its own as a main dish, or leave off the puff pastry at the end and you’ve got a beautiful side dish that guests will adore.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp all purpose flour

One sheet of puff pastry (they usually sell boxes of two sheets in the frozen section)

1 egg, beaten

1 onion, chopped

2 large potatoes, chopped into small cubes

500g frozen peas (a regular sized pack)

1 large knob of butter (probably about 2 tbsps)

1/2 a large iceburg lettuce, finely shredded

1 cup chicken stock

4 heaped tbsps ricotta cheese

A pack of cooked bacon, chopped into small pieces

– Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Throw your onions in a pan with a generous lug of olive oil. Cook for about 5 minutes until starting to soften, then add the potatoes into the mix. Stir pretty well and cook for a few minutes more before adding the peas, butter and flour. After a few minutes add the lettuce and the bacon and cook over low-medium heat for about another 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for another 10 or so minutes until the potato is cooked. Stir in the ricotta cheese well and season with salt and pepper to taste.  

Pour the entire mixture into a pie dish and cover with the puff pastry. With a pastry brush, paint the pastry with the beaten egg and use a knife to cut a slit into the middle of the pie. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown and puffed up. Enjoy!

Painting the pie

Potato, Pea and Bacon Pie – A Fall Must-Have!

Creamy Chicken and Spinach Pasta Bake

The original recipe is from mylifewellloved.com but I made a few changes. This was such an easy and yummy meal! I actually made double the recipe and took one load to some friends who just had a baby – a great meal to share with others since it’s all in one dish and easy to reheat!

Chicken spinach bake

 

8oz cooked rigatoni pasta (or really any kind!)

Olive oil

Clove of garlic, minced/chopped finely

Half an onion, chopped

3 or 4 handfuls of fresh spinach, torn up

About 3 cups of cooked chicken, shredded

14oz can of diced tomatoes

8oz packet of cream cheese, softened

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Salt, Pepper

– Preheat your oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. 

Saute the garlic and onion in olive oil until soft. In a large bowl combine the onion, garlic, pasta, spinach, cream cheese, tomatoes, seasoning and chicken. 

Transfer to an oven proof dish and sprinkle the mozzarella cheese on top. Cover with tin foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes more until cheese is golden and bubbling. 

Enjoy with some good bread!

Creamy Chicken and Spinach Pasta Bake

Chicken Burgers for Everyone!

The Pruetts’ new spring/summer obsession: chicken burgers! Healthy, juicy and packed full of flavor – not to mention super easy to make from scratch. We always have ours on wholewheat buns with spinach instead of lettuce and some kind of cheese! On sunny days we take Eleni’s high chair outside and eat on the porch – absolute bliss. These chicken burgers are the cherry on top of our already-sweet dinnertime memories!

Eleni spring

Basic Chicken Burger Recipe

1lb ground chicken (we always, ALWAYS buy organic, hormone & antibiotic free chicken)

A mixture of half Panko breadcrumbs, half normal breadcrumbs (I honestly eyeball the amount, it just needs to be the right consistency for burgers – not too moist and not too crumbly, able to hold a patty shape on it’s own)

Salt & pepper

1 egg, beaten

– Mix all these together, and you’ve got the perfect chicken burger base! Now you can leave these as they are, throw them on the grill or in a skillet on the stove and they’ll be delicious, but below are two variations that we absolutely love!

Cilantro Lime Chicken Burgers

chili lime cilantro chicken burgers

Basic chicken burger recipe

1/2 a red onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped

A handful of chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you like it hot!)

The juice of about half a lime

Wholewheat buns

Pepperjack cheese, sliced (to go on top)

Avocado, mashed or sliced, if you want (Chris hates it, I love it!)

Fresh spinach (to go on top)

– Mix all the ingredients except for the last three together in a bowl. Form into good sized burger patties and either throw them on the grill (Chris does the cooking part for me) or in a skillet on the stove and cook until done. If you want, you can put the buns on the grill to toast them for about 30 seconds to a minute too. Build your burgers by adding pepperjack cheese (for a little extra kick), fresh spinach, avocado – anything you want! We usually serve these with tortilla chips and a yummy black bean salsa.

 

Chicken & Mushroom Burgers

chicken mushroom burgers

Basic chicken burger recipe

About half a pound of mushrooms, finely chopped

1/2 a white onion, finely chopped

Wholewheat buns

Fresh spinach (to go on top)

Provolone cheese, sliced (to go on top)

– Mix the first three ingredients together in a bowl. Form into good sized burger patties and either throw them on the grill (Chris does the cooking part for me) or in a skillet on the stove and cook until done. Build your burgers by adding fresh spinach, provolone cheese, mayonnaise – whatever you think would go well! We served these with baked sweet potatoes (with butter, wrapped in foil and cooked on the grill until soft) and salad. So yummy, so easy and so healthy!

 

Chicken Burgers for Everyone!

Homemade Chicken & Dumplings

Dumplings

Okay, so my husband Chris is a Southern boy – born and bred. He grew up on macaroni and cheese (from a box, YUCK), mashed potatoes, fried chicken, sweet tea, pulled pork…the works. I on the other hand am still not the biggest fan of Southern food; it’s mostly unhealthy, fried, greasy, processed and bland. I have been making more of an effort though, and some of the food can be made from scratch so I’ve kind of forced some of these menu items to be healthy. The other day I tried making chicken and dumplings for the first time and they were so easy – a complete success! Chris even said they were the best he’d ever had! I did add a couple seasonings that were not traditional to make it a bit more interesting, but overall I really enjoyed this meal too! I’ve actually made it twice already. So below is a pretty standard recipe for chicken and dumplings, plus a few moderations:

Homemade Chicken & Dumplings

Two or three good-sized boneless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped/shredded

8 cups chicken broth (to save money, I always buy the chicken bouillon cubes and make my own broth with boiling water)

2 cups all purpose flour (plus extra to flour your surface)

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp butter

3/4 cup milk

Chicken & Dumplings 2

– In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the butter – I usually just shave it into the bowl with a knife or spoon, and then rub it into the dry ingredients with my fingertips, the way you would make shortbread. Make sure the butter is well mixed in. Stir in the milk until it forms a ball of dough. Depending on how it’s looking, I usually end up adding extra flour or extra milk until I get that dough-like consistency. You definitely don’t want it to be too sticky or crumbly. 

Roll out the dough onto floured waxed paper (the waxed paper you can skip, but it helps prevent the dough sticking to my counter top) until it’s about 1/4 or 1/2 an inch thick. Then, using a pizza cutter (or a thin knife), slice the dough into squares. I would say no bigger than 2×2 inches but mine always end up various shapes and sizes! Put the cut dumplings onto a plate or more waxed paper, if you need to stack on top of each other make sure there’s enough flour in between to prevent them sticking. 

Bring the chicken broth to a good rolling boil. This is when I add my seasoning – salt, pepper, a little italian seasoning, a little ground coriander. It can really be whatever you want. The rest of the dish is pretty bland so that’s a great base to work from! Once the broth is boiling well (and that is very, very important) drop the dumplings in one by one as it boils, stirring constantly. 

Once all the dumplings are in, you can turn down the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. As it’s simmering if the broth looks a little watery (we like ours to be thicker) you can mix a little flour with a little milk and add that to the broth to thicken it up. Just do a little at a time and let the heat help, otherwise if you add too much all you’ll taste is flour. 

Add the cooked chicken to the mix, make sure that’s heated through and serve! What a comforting, cheap and easy dish to make  on a blustery day.

 

 

Homemade Chicken & Dumplings