Tag Archives: weeknight meals

Easy Spaghetti Bolognese

Everybody has a different definition of what “comfort food” means to them. For me, it’s spaghetti with meat sauce (otherwise known as spaghetti bolognese). It was my favorite meal in my school cafeteria, and you KNOW I made a spaghetti sandwich with my dinner roll (you did it, too, don’t deny it!). This spaghetti bolognese recipe takes only about 30 minutes from start to finish. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll make sure it becomes a part of your “comfort food” lexicon!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef (or ground turkey)
  • 1 lb spaghetti
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped 
  • 7 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jar pasta sauce of your choosing
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. anise seed
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle olive oil into pan. Saute onions and mushrooms until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for another 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.
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Add ground beef, cook until fully browned.
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Stir in jar of pasta sauce. Season to taste. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes.
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Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook until al dente.
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Drain pasta. Ladle bolognese sauce over spaghetti, and top with freshly grated parmesan. Enjoy!
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Chicken Pesto Pizza with Pine Nuts, Feta, and Spinach

I grew up in a small town in Louisiana, and while we didn’t ride gators to school, there are several rumors about the South that are generally true. The people are warm and hospitable, and bless your heart if you are frightened by physical contact, because the hugs are bountiful. You haven’t known humidity until you’ve spent a July in Baton Rouge, when you virtually swim through the air – or when you actually swim through the air, if a Category 5 packs the right-hand-punch. Above all, the rumors spread far and wide about southern food are as true as a heavy heart in the confessional. Nothing compares.

There weren’t many restaurants in my small town, but the ones that did exist made up for this deficiency – quality reigned over quantity. My favorite place was a restaurant built in an old gas station in St. Francisville: The Magnolia Cafe. I begged my dad every weekend to take me there so I could devour one dish in particular: a pizza, made with pesto, feta, pine nuts, spinach, and chicken. One of the saddest days of my life was when The Magnolia Cafe burned down, and you can bet one of the happiest was when it was rebuilt right next door. I have created a recipe that mimics it as best as I know how, and the results are quite similar to the real thing. Try a slice of this pie and imagine that you’re sitting at The Magnolia Cafe, listening to a blues band and slapping the blood-sucking mosquitoes from your shins.

Ingredients:

  • 2 packets active dry yeast
  • 4-6 cups flour
  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/4 cup of pine nuts, plus 2 Tbs.
  • 3.5 oz crumbled feta
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 12-16 oz mozzerella cheese
  • 6 oz parmesan
  • 1-2 chicken breasts
  • 1 cups basil
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1/2 of olive oil, plus 2 Tbs.
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

The dough is very simple. It makes about 6 personal size pizzas, or 3 pizzas to share. Stir two packets of yeast with 2 cups of warm water in the bowl of a standing mixer with a dough hook attached. Let sit for about 5 minutes until slightly frothy. Add 1 tsp. salt.

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Slowly begin stirring the dough on low speed, and add 1 cup of flour at a time until dough forms a ball and isn’t too sticky. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, until elastic. Form into a ball and place in a well oiled boil.

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Cover and let sit in a warm place, free from drafts. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. While the dough rises, prepare the rest of the ingredients.

To make the pesto, put basil, 2 Tbs. pine nuts, garlic, 2 oz parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste in a blender. Pulse and drizzle in 1/2 cup olive oil, more as needed, until smooth.

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Cut chicken into bite size pieces. Heat 1 Tbs. olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute chicken. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano. Remove from heat.

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By now, your dough may be doubled in size. Punch it down so it deflates. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

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Drizzle enough olive oil to lightly cover the bottom of a pan. I use both a cast iron skillet and a 9 inch round pan. Take a handful of dough and stretch it in your hands.  Put it in the pan and continue stretching until it reaches the edges. This will require some time, and don’t worry if there are some holes in the process – you can fill them in at the end. This will make a very thin, crispy crust.

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The first layer of the pizza consists of pesto, topped with pine nuts and feta. Evenly distribute the toppings, leaving a 1-inch crust on the outside.

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Top with spinach leaves. I used regular spinach, but you can also use baby spinach. It will become nice and wilted in the oven.

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Top this with mozzarella, chicken, parmesan, salt, and pepper.

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Place on the top rack of your oven for 15 minutes. Then move it to the bottom rack for 7-10 minutes. This will help the bottom crisp up.

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Mmmm mmmm good! Whoever said Louisiana folk can only cook Creole was a damn fool!

Stuffed Bell Peppers

This is a yummy meal that synthesizes all your food groups into one. Pick out 3-6 ripe red bell peppers (or you can mix in orange and yellow – just not green) and carve off the tops to fill it with our healthy and delicious turkey stuffing. You can also substitute brown rice for white rice to make it even lighter. Top it off with bread crumbs and shards of parmesan, and when you take it out of the oven, you’ll have a full meal inside of a pepper, with ooey-gooey cheese on top to make your mouth water.
Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. ground turkey (or beef)
  • 3-6 red bell peppers
  • 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 8 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce 
  • 1/4 cup of chicken stock
  • 2 Tbs. hot sauce (we use Crystal)
  • 2 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 cup of bread crumbs, plus 1 Tbs. per bell pepper
  • 3 Tbs. Parmesan cheese shards
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
    Makes 4-6 servings.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Carve the top out of the bell peppers. Clean out the insides.

Then, chop up the rest of the vegetables. In a large skillet, sauté in olive oil over medium-high heat until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. At the same time, cook rice in a separate pot.

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Add ground turkey to pan, and break up with a wooden spoon. Cook until browned.

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Add rest of ingredients up to (and including) the 1/4 cup of bread crumbs. Stir, uncovered, and let simmer for 5-10 minutes, until most of the chicken stock has evaporated. Spoon the filling into the bell peppers, and stand upright in a deep pan. You’ll want to pack them in tight so they don’t fall over. Top with extra bread crumbs and shards of parmesan.

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Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, and bake for another 15 minutes. You can broil it for the last 2-5 minutes to make the cheese bubbly.

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Enjoy!

 

Lemon Rosemary Salmon Filet with Rosemary Potatoes

This is a healthy and well-balanced meal that takes only about 30 minutes to whip up. I bought a frozen salmon filet because it was cheaper (about $8 for the whole thing!), but you can certainly use fresh salmon. I also used small golden potatoes that have a smooth, buttery flavor. While the salmon and potatoes were in the oven, I whipped up a salad with the greens I had on hand. You can use any variation of sides with this salmon; I just went with rosemary potatoes to tie into the rosemary I used to season the salmon.

Ingredients:

  • Filet of salmon
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1.5 lemons, sliced
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary, chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
    Makes 4 servings.

If using frozen salmon, thaw in fridge overnight, or in cold water for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place skin side down on a sheet pan, and season with olive oil, pepper, rosemary, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Top with lemon slices.

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Bake for approximately 20 minutes. Season with salt to taste.

Important: Do NOT season with salt until after it is baked. Doing so before can dry out the salmon.

Simultaneously, cook the potatoes in the oven.

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes:

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 small golden potatoes, quartered
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
    Makes 4-6 servings.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place all ingredients in a pan, and toss with hands. Bake for 30 minutes.

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For the salad, I simply mixed arugula, grapes (halved), slivered almonds, and feta, and topped it with a simple lemon vinaigrette (lemon juice, dijon mustard, honey, olive oil). You can use any greens and veggies you have on hand – I just thought the plate could use some vegetables. Enjoy!

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Penne with Spinach, Mushroom, White Wine Sauce

This is one of our go-to recipes for a quick and easy weeknight meal. We almost always have the ingredients on hand. It only takes 20 minutes, but it tastes like a gourmet pasta dish! Plus, we like to exclude meat from our diets at least one day out of the week, so this is a great meal for Meatless Mondays and for vegetarians. Follow these instructions for a dish you’ll come back to over and over!

Ingredients
Makes 3-4 servings.

  • 1/2 box of penne (or pasta of your choice)
  • 1.5-2 cups baby spinach
  • 1 cup of chopped button or crimini mushrooms
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

While penne is boiling, chop mushrooms and garlic. Sautee mushrooms in olive oil for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and saute for an additional minute.

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Add white wine, and let reduce for about 5 minutes. Then add spinach and saute until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and red pepper.

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Drain the pasta, and toss in the saucepan. Serve, and top with grated parmesan cheese.

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Notes: For some added protein, you can throw in some grilled chicken. You can also nix the pasta and cut the wine and garlic in half for a delicious spinach mushroom side dish!