Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

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Pasta is the best right? If I could live solely on pasta I probably would. Well, technically I could live solely on pasta–but I do care about my general health and well-being a little bit, so I try to moderate my pasta in take. (TRY is the key word there.) And this dish is one of those that helps with the whole pasta moderation thing. Spaghetti squash does not taste like pasta. Don’t let anybody fool you  in to that bologna. BUT it does pair fantastically with pasta-perfect flavors like marinara sauce and meatballs. So you get the “pasta experience” when really you’re just shoving your face with squash (which is good for you right?) so really, it’s a win-win.

2014-09-031Get yourself a spaghetti squash and big-ole sharp knife. OR if you don’t have a big-ole sharp knife, get your weenie little dull-chopping knife and pray that you don’t hack off a finger in the process of getting this thing sliced. (And try to decide if you could walk yourself to the hospital across the street if you happened to hack said finger off–no? just me?)

Okay, now that we’ve got that thing in two and all of our fingers are still attached, throw some olive oil on there, sprinkle on some salt, pepper and garlic and roast ’em up for about 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Once it’s roasted, use a fork to shred it into pasta like strings.

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Top with marinara sauce and a few frozen meat balls. Dump some more sauce on there and top with lots of mozzarella cheese. Top with  a bit of Italian seasoning and bake for 20 more minutes.

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Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

Can we talk about the magical things happening to the weather lately. Fall has arrived even though it’s still (technically, officially) summer. I couldn’t be happier. The leaves are changing, the trench coat is out and temps are dipping in to the 50’s (40’s after dark!! weeeee). There’s talks of a high in the 80’s later this week, but I’m ignoring them. This wonderful seasonably-sound weather calls for cozy, comfy food–like these easy chicken pot pies!
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These guys are semi-homemade with canned soup and pre-made pie crusts, you could certainly make your own pie crust, but my pastry-making skills just aren’t there yet. I want to try them with homemade soup and if the rumors are true, I have a long, cold season ahead of me just calling for many pot pie recipe tests. But before I get ahead of myself, here’s the recipe for this easy-peasy, yummylicious belly-filling dish.

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Ingredients:
1 package pre-made pie crusts (I used these ones)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast
olive oil
2 cups chopped red potatoes
2 cups chopped carrots
1 cup chopped fresh green bean
1 small yellow onion (or 1/2 of a large one), chopped
1/2 soup can milk
salt and pepper to taste.

Directions:
Rub chicken breast with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, cook on stove until no longer pink. Shred and set aside. Put potatoes, carrots, green beans and onions in a large pot, cover with water. Season with salt and pepper, bring to boil. Let simmer until tender, about 20 minutes, drain any remaining water. Add soup and milk, bring back to a boil. Add chicken, let simmer for a few more minutes. Add more salt and pepper to taste (if needed). Unroll pie crusts, use a pizza cutter or knife to slice into strips. (You will probably have left over pie crust. I only sliced 1 and 1/2 and used the remaining half to make an apple hand pie–yum!). Ladle chicken and veggies into 5 15oz. ramekins or small baking dishes. Top with a lattice pie crust pattern–I was sure I learned how to do this from Cupcakes and Cashmere, but I can’t seem to find the post, so I might have made that up. But here’s a pretty good tutorial. But really you can just throw the crust on top however you please. Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes, until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown on edges.

I only bake what I’m going to eat then either freeze or refrigerate the others. They’ll keep for a few days to a week in the fridge and until the end of time a few months in the freezer. Be sure to let the frozen ones thaw before baking–I suspect the baking dish would crack if you baked it frozen. You’ll have to adjust the cooking times for the leftovers too if they go in cold.

Chicken Taco Chili

DSCN0668IIIIIt’s Slow-Cooker Season!! Okay, maybe not quite–but almost. I found this recipe on Pinterest (one of those mysterious pins that go nowhere, but have the recipe in the comments) a few years ago before I had my own slow-cooker. You can easily make this on the stove–just cook the chicken beforehand. But man, if you have a slow-cooker–use it! They’re like magic. But we all know that already so let’s move on. I love chili, but after eating an entire of batch of my standard chili I’m so over it for the season, so this is a nice little twist on the classic fall-favorite. And since it’s not classic chili it feels August-appropriate. DSCN0635llYou need a chicken breast–about 1 pound, a can of corn, two cans of diced tomatoes, a can of tomato sauce and a can of black beans. You can add a can of kidney beans too to make it a bit hardier, but I opted out for the sake of being less chili-like and more August appropriate (aka I forgot to get them at the store). Season with one packet of taco seasoning. I like the less-sodium version, but I couldn’t find it at the store this week. You also need a little kick (not pictured above). I usually use a few teaspoons of chili powder, but I was all out so I threw in some red pepper flakes. If you’re not into the spicy thing you could probably do without. Dump everything in your slow-cooker and set on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-6. I consider it done when the chicken is cooked through and is bubbling. Take out the cooked chicken and shred it–shreds like a dream–then throw it back in and give the whole thing a good stir. I like to leave it on low for another 30 minutes or so after just for good measure, but you can serve it right after shredding the chicken too. DSCN0661As you can see by all the variations and options here–it’s really hard to mess this up. Top with shredded sharp cheddar cheese and crushed tortilla chips. And enjoy! 

Caprese Pasta

DSCN0619There is nothing revolutionary or creative about this recipe. But tried and true spice combos + in-season produce + fresh grated cheese = one deliciously simple dinner. I love pasta but sometimes it seems too heavy for the warmer months (not that it stops me from eating it) so I love to tossing it with fresh veggies and just a smattering of cheese. DSCN0605llI made just one serving, but you could easily make a bigger batch to serve a family or guests. DSCN0609Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil. Half a handful (about a 1/3 of a pint or so) and toss in the hot olive oil with Italian seasoning, garlic and basil. I had dried on hand, but it would be even better with fresh basil and garlic. While tomatoes are cooking, boil water and cook pasta. Once tomatoes start to wrinkle a bit remove from heat. Toss cooked pasta and just a tish of pasta water with the tomatoes. Transfer to a plate and top immediately, while still hot, with cheese.
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Honey-Balsamic Dressing

DSCN0180I whipped up my first batch of this dressing earlier this week and there was a small part of me that thought I had brilliantly created a delicious new kale-and-spinach-drenching sauce. Then I googled honey-balsamic and my dressing dreams were quashed…turns out Martha and her friends have been doing this for years, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious. DSCN0161As an avid baker–used to  measuring out precise (okay, usually not all that precise in my case) cups of flour and sugar–I quite enjoyed the little-of-this-little-of-that method that this dressing calls for. So if you’re looking for an exact recipe I recommend asking Martha. But if want to join in on my crunchy veggie-eating adventure–let’s get started. First get some EVOO action going on.DSCN0162Add in some balsamic vinegar–go easy here, you can always add more, but its tough to fix once you’ve got too much.DSCN0163My favorite part–the honey! Give that little bear a good squeeze.DSCN0164Sprinkle in some pepper–be sure to be fancy here and use freshly ground.
DSCN0166Give it a good wiskDSCN0167Taste…then add some more honey (or whatever flavor its callin’ for)

DSCN0190Toss together a bowl of crunchy-fresh-goodness and drizzle this stuff on top. I’ve been taking it in my lunch this week and let me tell you–there really is something to this whole eating real food thing. (There’s also something to the being addicted to sugar thing–I’ve had my fair share of deliciously processed un-real food in the form of Smokey Row sugar cookies this week too.)

BLT

BLTI love seasonal things–especially food! I suppose you could have a BLT any time of the year. But really, who slaps one together in the middle of February? They’re such a summer thing, and with the unofficial start of the season just a week away I thought it was only fitting. I picked up a loaf a bread and tomatoes this weekend at the farmers market. And man, did they make a tasty sammie!
BLTWhat’s your favorite summertime fare?

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza

Chicken Bacon Ranch PizzaA few weeks ago I made a homemade version of my favorite hometown pizza, so I thought I’d give my favorite college-town pizza a try. A night out in Ames is never complete without a 2am stop at Jeff’s Pizza. One of my dorm-mates introduced me to the delicious, cheesy, as-big-as-your-face slices freshman year and I was hooked. I like to think my homemade version is a tish healthier than those $3 slices…it’s probably not, but it is pretty darn tasty.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza

Ingredients:
Pizza Crust
Mozzarella and cheddar cheese (appx. 1 cup each)
Ranch Dressing
8 slices Turkey bacon, cooked and chopped
1/2 pound chicken, cooked and shredded

2014-05-11Slather some ranch dressing on your crust just as  you would pizza sauce. Sprinkle just a bit of each kind of cheese on top of the ranch. Spread chicken and bacon evenly on top of that. (Note: I seriously overestimated the amount of toppings I would need so now I have leftover shredded chicken and chopped bacon in my fridge…chicken bacon omelet anyone? no?) Top with more cheese. Bake at 475 degrees 12-15 minutes. Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza

 

Bon Appetit!