Brussels Sprouts & Bacon Pasta

Q: What do you make for dinner the night before you go back to work after having a baby?

A: Anything you have in your fridge already, so you don’t disturb the good people at the grocery store with your heaving sobs. Oh, and pasta, because that always makes me feel better.

Somehow it’s October.  Four months have flown by and my baby is big enough to hold up his own head and smile and generally make my heart sing like those baby animals in Snow White.  Naturally, I’m feeling sad and anxious about going from spending all day, every day with him, to only the hours after dark.  More about that some other time, I guess.

Anyway, the night before I recommenced working outside the home, we still had to eat and I hadn’t been to the store in quite some time.  A perusal through the fridge revealed: half a lemon, half a container of chicken stock, a going-bad-very-quickly package of brussels sprouts, and some Parmesan cheese.  Bacon from the freezer and half a box of pasta and presto, dinner in about 30 minutes.

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Pasta

  • half box pasta (I used whole wheat penne)
  • about four slices bacon, chopped
  • a few sprigs thyme
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt, pepper
  • a good amount crushed red pepper
  • 1 bag (or 1 branch, or however you buy your sprouts) brussels sprouts
  • olive oil or butter
  • about 1/2 cup chicken stock, white wine, or just the starchy pasta water
  • Parmesan cheese
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil; cook your pasta according to directions and drain, reserving about a cup of the starchy water (if using).
  2. As your pasta cooks, prep your sprouts.  Chop off the tough end of each sprout and add to your food processor. Finely shred all your sprouts.
  3. Heat a deep, large skillet over medium heat and then add bacon.  Crisp it up a bit and then add garlic, taking care not to burn it.  Add a pinch of salt, pepper, and your crushed red peppers (note: if you like spice, add a fair amount.  The crushed red peppers get a bit lost among all the brussels sprouts).  Add a few sprigs thyme, as well.
  4. Add brussels sprouts to pan; spread them out evenly so the shreds start to crisp up underneath a little bit.  Don’t be afraid to add a bit of olive oil or butter at this stage!  After a while, stir the mixture up to let all the sprouts cook evenly.  Add a bit of white wine, stock, or some of the starchy pasta water to start creating a sauce.
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and give the whole thing a toss; add lemon juice and Parmesan & season to taste; serve hot.

The Verdict:

Make sure to carefully season your pasta throughout the cooking process.  I was a bit afraid to oversalt, given the bacon, so I had to make up for this at the end.  But this is delicious, and a big bonus is that it makes enough to take for lunch the next day, too.  The only remaining question: what do you make for dinner AFTER the day after you start working..and the day after that, and the day after that?

Answer: you marry into literally the best family ever and your MIL brings you a delicious lasagna.

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Almost Greek Tortellini Salad

For the last four or so years that we’ve lived together, my husband and I have spent weekend mornings lazing around in bed. Around 10 AM, our bed became think tank HQ for plotting out weekend days and nights.  There were big, strategic decisions to be made: where might we want to go eat for dinner?  with whom should we try to make plans?  what fun things did we want to do?

Now weekend mornings are just a little different.  For one: they begin earlier, as the newest member of our household doesn’t understand the concept of sleeping in.  For another: it’s a lot less think tank, a lot more operations management.  When and where and how are we going to squeeze in naptime and feeding time and cleaning all the things time?  For one more: we spend a lot less time planning Saturday night and more time planning Monday night. As in, what can I make for dinner that will be quick and easy and also quick and easy?

The husband came up with the below.  Bonus: it’s good hot or cold and even sneaks you some veggies.

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Almost Greek Tortellini Salad

  • 1 package tortellini
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • about 3-4 oz sundried tomatoes, preferably packed in oil
  • 1 container cherry tomatoes, cut in half or quartered
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • about 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • a big handful spinach
  • obviously optional – olives. I hear some people like these.
  • for the dressing:
    • olive oil
    • red wine or balsamic vinegar
    • dash cumin
    • salt, pepper
    • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
    • dash oregano
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the tortellini according to the directions; drain.  While this gets going, prep all your veggies and put them into a large bowl.
  2. In a small side bowl, whisk all of the dressing ingredients together.  (Note: the cumin adds just a hint of sweet that I really like against the general saltiness of the dish.)
  3. Add the warm, drained tortellini to the veggie bowl and give it a toss.   Add the feta and give it a thorough mix before adding spinach and dressing.  Serve warm or cold.

The Verdict:

This was deliciously easy, which is a good thing since the pictures didn’t come out (see above, obvi).  Which means I’ll get another crack at posting something a little more light-friendly.  Also: the fact that you can serve this warm or cold makes it a perfect dish to bring to your new mom friends.  Just saying: heating things in the microwave can be a challenge.

 

Pesto & Ricotta Gnocchi with Spicy Tomato Sauce

A long, long time ago, when our budget for fun far outstripped our budget for Amazon Prime diaper delivery services, I planned a little bachelorette party for my BFF, Jessica. And because we both have the same definition of fun, i.e. pasta, cheese, and wine, a cooking class was in order.

Now I know how to make pasta out of cheese.  Serve this with a glass of red wine and just tell me you’re not having fun.  I dare you.

 

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for the gnocchi

  • 15 oz container whole milk ricotta cheese, drained
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • pinch salt
  • pinch white pepper (black pepper also works)
  • optional – very small pinch nutmeg
  • fresh chopped herbs – parsley or basil
  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (a bit more if the dough is too wet)
  1. Stir together ricotta, pesto, eggs, cheese, salt, pepper – and if desired – a very small pinch of nutmeg.  Very slowly add the flour, stirring gently to form a soft, wet dough.
  2. On a well floured surface, divide the dough in half, and then in half again.  Roll out a quarter of the dough into long rope and then cut crosswise into one inch pieces.  If you want little ridges, press each gnocchi with the back of a fork.  Stick them on a piece of parchment paper (to avoid them sticking) while you turn to the next section of dough.
  3. Repeat step 2 with the next section of dough – two ropes is probably more than enough for two people, so feel free to freeze the rest.
  4. Bring salted water to a boil in a deep skillet (to give you more surface area) and drop each gnocchi in individually, taking care not to drop them on each other.  They will sink to the bottom, rising to the top when they’re done (about five minutes or so per batch).
  5. Lift out cooked gnocchi with slotted spoon and proceed to the next batch.  Serve with tomato sauce below.

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for the spicy tomato sauce

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 red or sweet onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • crushed red peppers
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • pinch sugar
  • a few sprigs basil
  • optional – big scoop of pesto
  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onion and cook down 3-4 minutes; add garlic and cook another minute or two.  Add crushed red peppers – as much as you can stand!
  2. Add tomato paste, red wine, and tomatoes.  Stir the whole thing together and cook a few minutes.
  3. Add salt, pepper, sugar, basil and pesto, if using.  Bring to a boil, and then cover, simmering over low heat about 30 minutes.  Discard sprigs of basil before serving over the gnocchi.

 

The Verdict:

This was a veritable party in our mouths…all fun & games until the Little Man woke up.  But no worries – we have more gnocchi dough in the freezer!

 

Butternut Squash & Chard Lasagna

This month’s issue of Cooking Light is killing it.  Granted, it could be the preggo hormones talking, but I dog-eared almost every single page in the magazine when I got it.

Not that you asked, but here are my general thoughts on Cooking Light:

CL to me = what I imagine Pinterest is to other people.  (Pinterest is far too complicated for me to ever figure out.)  Take the recipe and then add your imagination (and more butter).  Also, I will never use anything but full fat ricotta.  So, of course this “lightened” vegetarian lasagna is really just vegetarian lasagna.  Still, way to go, CL.

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Butternut Squash & Chard Lasagna
  • 3- 4 cups cubed + peeled butternut squash
  • approx 1 cup veggie broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • salt, pepper
  • dash nutmeg (really, small dash – I find nutmeg overwhelming)
  • 1 cup shredded Gruyere/Swiss
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 boxes mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 big bunch Swiss chard or other leafy green
  • half box no boil lasagna noodles
  • a little less than a cup ricotta cheese
  • parsley
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Combine squash, broth, milk, and garlic in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and then simmer until squash is tender (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat.
  3. Place squash mixture in a blender OR – use your immersion blender!! Add salt, pepper, and nutmeg and blend until smooth.   Add the Gruyere and about half the mozzarella to the mixture; stir until it melts all the way in.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and mushrooms; cook about 5-7 minutes or until browned and liquid evaporates. Add chard and a splash of broth. Cover and cook until chard wilts.  Drain the mixture – you want all that excess moisture out of there.
  5. Spread about a cup of the squash sauce in bottom of a glass/baking dish, arrange noodles over the sauce, and top with half of the the chard/mushrooms.  Dollop and spread a bit of ricotta all across.  Then, repeat the process – squash sauce, noodles, chard mixture.  Then, more squash, and finally, mozzarella cheese (and parm, if you feel like it).
  6. Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 375 for 35 minutes.  Uncover and bake another 10 minutes – and then turn the heat up and broil the whole thing for the last 3 minutes.  Serve topped with parsley..and a side salad to cut all that cheese!

 

 

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The Verdict:

This is a cheese-fest. Which obviously means it’s an A+ in my book.  Bonus: it makes servings for dayyyyyyys.

 

Brown Butter Sage Ravioli with Roasted Vegetables

I’m sad to report that the last couple of meals chez nous have not been worthy of a post.  There was a failed curry.  There was a frozen pizza…and then pizza delivery.  And then for the last couple of days, there has been Lipton’s soup, as I struggle to fend off a cold.

But this meal redeems me to me.  And to my husband.  And based on the punches I received to my uterus, baby as well.  I guess butter + pasta will do that.

 

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Brown Butter Sage Ravioli with Roasted Vegetables

  • olive oil
  • 1 package pre-cut butternut squash
  • 1 package cremini mushrooms, sliced in half
  • 8 leaves fresh sage
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 package ravioli (I used root vegetable ravioli from TJ’s)
  • splash dry white wine
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • pepper, salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Spread the butternut squash evenly in a jelly roll pan, drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper and give the whole thing a toss.  Stick in the oven for 20 minutes – use this time to slice up your mushrooms and prep your garlic.
  2. At the 20 minute mark, add the mushrooms to the pan with the squash, give the mixture a toss, and then stick it back in the oven for another 20 minutes.  (This is actually the perfect amount of time to do the rest of the steps below!)
  3. Start boiling water for the ravioli – add a bit of salt for flavor.  Cook the ravioli according to directions; drain and reserve just a splash of the starchy water.
  4. While water boils, heat a small skillet over medium heat – when hot, add the butter.  When the butter starts to turn lightly brown at the top, add the garlic, cook for 30 seconds, and then add the sage.  Cook for 1-2 minutes, and then remove from heat.  Add a splash of wine, the lemon juice and just a touch of pepper.
  5. Take your veggies out of the oven.  Serve raviolio topped with veggies, and then drizzle the sauce over the top.  Don’t forget to garnish with the sage – this is delicious.

The Verdict:

HOLY DELICIOUS.  How have I never been taken aside before for an explanation of the glories of brown butter sage sauce?  Mom, where were you on this one?!