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.

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!

 

Mussels with White Wine Tomato Saffron Sauce

Back when I got pregnant a YEAR ago (because what’s up: you’re pregnant for 10 months, hello, fifth grade health class you’ve got some curriculum updates to do) I became wildly uninterested in anything that wasn’t bread. Or cheese. Or melted cheese on bread. For a while, I think the Husband thought he had basically won the lottery.  Pizza every night sans those pesky vegetables.  Holler.

However, even though I slowly re-introduced important food groups into my diet (thanks, Ben & Jerry’s, for all the support), mussels — something I have loved since I was a very small child — never made it back to the rotation.  In fact, until about three weeks ago, the very thought of mussels made me feel unhappy.  This made my husband feel unhappy.

To celebrate two months sans pregnancy, we had mussels, and they were delicious.  (Thanks to the one & only Ina for the recipe.)

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Mussels with White Wine & Tomato Saffron Sauce

  • 2-3 pounds mussels (or at least a pound a person)
  • big scoop of all-purpose flour
  • big pinch saffron threads
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • olive oil
  • 3-4 large shallots, chopped OR a large sweet onion
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15 oz  can chopped tomatoes, juice drained
  • lots of chopped parsley
  • fresh thyme
  • about a cup of white wine
  • salt, pepper
  1. Clean your mussels: add them to a large bowl or pot with lots of cold water.  Add the flour, and let soak for 45 minutes.  Drain and then remove the beards by hand, bringing it toward the hinge and then pulling it gently off.  Throw out any noticeably bad mussels and give the whole batch another good rinse.
  2. Meanwhile, add the saffron to a half a cup hot water and let soak for about 15 minutes.
  3. In a large pot, add butter and olive oil and melt down over medium heat.  Add shallots or onion; cook until translucent and then add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes.  Add the tomatoes, saffron & saffron-flavored water, parsley, thyme, wine, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil.
  4. Add mussels, stir it all together and then cover the pot.  Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, or until the mussels open up.  You don’t want to undercook them – gross – and you don’t want to overcook them, either – rubbery.  Discard any that do not open. Another sprinkle of parsley won’t hurt anyone, either.
  5. Serve immediately, with garlic bread for the critical step of dipping into the sauce.

 

The Verdict:

More, please!

 

 

 

 

Lentil & Kielbasa Soup

I know I complained about the weather in my last post, and my ploy seems to have worked.  It’s now gloriously sunshine-y, and creeping up into the 70s.  Hello, DC that I love – all glorious three weeks before it becomes so hot and muggy you start walking around with a scarf and a fleece again – to protect yourself when you enter the arctic tundra that is DC office buildings in the summer. #firstworldproblems

Of course, the one downside to the beautiful change in seasons is the slow creep away from those hearty, soul-filling foods.  When my sister visited a few weeks ago (how surreal is this: the LAST time I will see her before I become a MOM), we spent almost a full day planning out a menu (clearly, we’re sisters, and daughters of our mom), and took full advantage of one of the last cold blasts of the winter season.  OK, now I’m really ready for summer.

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Lentil & Kielbasa Soup (an Ina Garten special)

  • 1/2 pound green lentils
  • olive oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 2 leeks, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt, pepper, red hot chili flakes
  • 8 stalks fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 4-6 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 10 cups chicken stock
  • a big squeeze tomato paste
  • 1/2 – 1 pound kielbasa
  • big splash red wine
  • to serve:
    • parmesan cheese
    • parsley
    • green onions
  1. Wash the lentils, and then, in a large bowl, cover them with boiling water.  Allow them to sit for about 15 minutes.  Drain.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil and then saute onions.  After a minute or two, add the leeks, the garlic, salt, pepper, red hots, thyme and cumin, and cook for about 15-20 minutes.  Add celery and carrots; saute another 10 minutes.
  3. Add chicken stock, tomato paste, and drained lentils.  Cover and bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer (uncovered) for about an hour – until the lentils are completely cooked through.  Add kielbasa, red wine, and simmer until the kielbasa is hot.  Adjust seasonings – and serve with your choice of topping.

 

The Verdict:

As you can imagine, this soup gets even better when it sits overnight, soaking up all the goodness.  If it’s not spring/summer yet where you live – make this.  It will NOT disappoint.

 

 

 

 

 

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?!