Baked Ziti with Spinach

So the hubby is still hanging in there with me, at least on the vegetarian front.   One of his favorite dinners is baked ziti.  I decided to substitute the meat for spinach.  He would have preferred plain baked ziti, but I prefer to add vegetables whenever and wherever I can when I cook at home.  I KNOW he makes bad food choices when he travels and since he travels approximately 40 weeks a year, I have to make every home cooked meal count!

ziti

I used frozen chopped spinach, which I defrosted in the fridge overnight then drained.   Once the pasta was cooked, I tossed it with the spinach tomato sauce, parmesan cheese, mozzarella cheese, sauce, and garlic.  I baked it for 40 minutes, added some more mozzarella cheese to the top of the dish and baked it another 10 minutes.  I loved it and I will be taking it for lunch at least two days this week.  The hubby was OK with it, this time he didn’t complain about the lack of meat, just the addition of spinach!  Progress folks, progress.

Dinner for One

Last week, I got a text from one of my neighbors.  It seems she and her daughter took a cooking class and made homemade pasta.  They wanted to recreate the pasta for the rest of the family, but didn’t have a pasta roller – would I possibly have one and if so, could they borrow it? Absolutely, I have a pasta attachment for my kitchen aid mixer, I lent them both the mixer and the attachment.

Imagine my surprise last Sunday morning when they returned the equipment and presented me with a container of homemade pasta in alfredo sauce.  I was thrilled!  The hubby was leaving for a business trip that afternoon which meant I was going to be alone for dinner.   I got to enjoy a lazy Sunday afternoon on the couch, reading a book, AND I didn’t have to worry about fixing myself dinner.

Homemade Pasta

When I got hungry, I transferred the pasta and sauce into a pan and added a splash of heavy cream.  I turned the pan on low and gently heated up my dinner.  It was really delicious.  I will take this kind of thank you any day of the week!

Sloppy Joe’s

The hubby’s travel plans this week were a bit crazy.  He was supposed to be early in the day on Friday but the  airlines had other ideas.   Originally I was going to have salads with grilled salmon for him and grilled chicken for me, but not knowing for sure what time he would be getting home, I bit the bullet and went with a dinner that could simmer on the stove until he walked in the door.

sloppy-joes-with-mac-and-cheese

I picked up a two pound package of ground beef at the store along with a green pepper.  I had celery, red peppers, and carrots at home already.   I try very hard to incorporate a TON of veggies in whatever I am making.  The hubby isn’t overly fond of veggies so I tend to sneak them in to meals.  For the sloppy joes, I made sure they were half meat, half veggies.

I diced up the three peppers (two red, one green), two carrots, three stalks of celery, two onions, and six cloves of garlic.  I sauteed all of them in a pan, seasoning them with salt and pepper, then removed them to a bowl.  I added the meat and fried it until it was done.  I added the veggies back in and started building the sauce – tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, ketchup, and a little brown sugar.   I let it simmer for an hour while I made the cole slaw and got started on the mac and cheese.  Originally I wasn’t going to make the mac and cheese, I have been trying so hard to stay away from carbs…but this past week has been an insanely stressful one at work, I found myself with time on my hands and a serious craving for pasta.  Sigh…..it was SOOOOOO worth the calories!  The picture above is of the hubby’s plate.  I chose to eat my sloppy joes minus the bun, I skipped the cole slaw, but I did add a generous helping of mac and cheese to my plate.  Thankfully, I only made a small batch so I don’t have to content with a huge amount leftover in the fridge, taunted me with its cheesy goodness.

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

The weather forecast was calling for intense thunderstorms so I knew grilling our dinner was out of the question.  I wanted pasta, so I gave the hubby a choice: Lasagna, Baked Ziti, or Spaghetti with Meat Sauce.  I was totally surprised when he choose the latter.  He is a BIG fan of baked ziti and lasagna so I was sure that was what we were going to have.

spaghetti with meatsauce

I used a combination of hot Italian sausage and ground beef.  I diced a onion and a few garlic cloves and added it to the meat as it was cooking.  I love the jarred pasta sauce by Mario Batali, it is really tasty and makes getting a pasta dinner on the table a snap.

Once the meat was browned, I added in the sauce and let it simmer while I boiled a pot of water.  Once the pasta was done, it was a simple matter of plating the pasta, adding a generous helping of parm cheese and digging in!

While we were eating the storm raged outside, but as soon as we finished, the sun came out and a double rainbow could be seen for miles.  Nothing like the sun shining through the rain to end to make for a spectacular night at home!

School’s Out For Summer….

Well, technically we offer two summer sessions so I guess school is really only out for one week.  The summer sessions have far less students, especially the first one, so campus feels like a ghost town right now.   It makes for easier parking, but that’s about the only plus.

I decided to celebrate the end of the school year by making a recipe that I had bookmarked a while back – Giada’s Chicken Marsala Meatballs

Whenever I make regular chicken marsala, I usually double the sauce so we can serve it over pasta, so I went ahead and did that with this recipe too.  It was the only change I made.  They turned out DELICIOUS!  I took some leftovers into one of my coworkers and he LOVED them, said they were his new favorite dish.  I definitely think I will be making these again soon!

Because I am really, really picky about my ground meats, and since I wasn’t able to get to the butcher, I pulled out my trusty meat grinder (thank you Momma!) and ground the chicken myself.

The recipe calls for making the meatball mixture ahead and letting it rest in the fridge to get super cold.  Since I partially froze the chicken before grinding it, I think I could have skipped this step.  Before I cut and froze the chicken, I diced the shallots and mushrooms and stashed them in the fridge for later.  It really made it disgustingly easy to throw dinner together.

While the mushrooms and shallots browned in a pan, I fried up the meatballs.   I put on a pan of water for the pasta and roasted off a whole spaghetti squash for me.  I finished making the sauce, added the meatballs and cleaned up some of the prep dishes.

It was a simple matter to boil off the pasta, make a salad, and serve dinner.

It was so good!  I have to say, there were quite a few dished to wash after making this dinner, but it was totally worth it in the end.  You should definitely try this recipe!

SPRING IS HERE!

Whoo hoo! Glory Hallelujah! Spring has SPRUNG!  Gee, I am not too excited, am I?  I decided to celebrate with a big bowl of vegetable pasta.

veg pasta

I sauteed onions, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, and spinach.   While that was cooking I boiled up a pot of water and cooked the pasta.   I drained the pasta and tossed it with the vegetables and a nice helping of grated Parmesan cheese.  It was quite tasty and colorful.   I was so happy to be eating a plate full of vegetables (well….OK, a plate full of vegetables and PASTA!).

I can’t wait for the spring vegetables to start arriving at the local farm stands.  I am so excited by the thought of tender asparagus and sweet lettuce, I could just swoon!  Spring is here, finally, spring is HERE!

Cream of Potato Soup with Ham

I have been craving potato soup, but the weather during winter break was just so darn warm, I wasn’t in the mood for soup.  Winter has finally decided to rear it’s ugly head, so it was a good time for soup.  I mean really, soup is one of the only things I look forward to in winter!

I  love lots of veggies in my soup, I used three stalks of celery, four carrots, two onions, and five potatoes.  I started by sweating the onions, celery, and carrots in olive oil after seasoning them with a bit of salt and pepper.  Once they were soft, I added a box and a half of chicken stock and three sprigs of fresh thyme, turned it up to a boil, then down to a simmer.  I let it cook for thirty minutes, then added the potatoes.  Once the potatoes were done. I fished out the thyme stems, added in one ham slice, diced, and two cups of heavy cream.

It was delicious!  So I wouldn’t be tempted to eat the entire pot, I drove down to visit my great aunt and took her a container.   I made her a loaf of zucchini bread to go along with the soup and we had a lovely afternoon visiting.  I was glad I made the soup, it was exactly what I was craving and I was more proud of myself for not eating the whole pot.  Everything in moderation.