Friday, January 7, 2011

Food For Thought

We're are getting back to our normal diet around here.  More fruits and veggies.  Less cookies and sweets.  More whole grains.  Less sugar.  Yeah ... kinda depressing. :)  Of course I write that while I nibble some dark chocolate Santa gave me in my stocking and sip my iced coffee ... so, not that much better, I guess!  :)

This week I thought I would share three pasta dinners that we enjoyed recently.  Three pasta dinners cooked three different ways:  crock pot, soup pot and skillet.  All tasty!

To make these recipes a tad bit healthier, I sometimes use noodles by Barilla.  They have a "Plus" product that is better for you than semolina noodles, but they don't get pasty like whole wheat noodles.  Check them out.  They cost a few cents more, but they're worth it.  Every little bit helps when we're looking to eat healthier!

Two-Step Stroganoff
(From Taste Of Home's "The Slow Cooker" cookbook, page 142 ... with a few adjustments.)

2 pounds ground beef, cooked and drained (you could use ground turkey)
2 medium onions, chopped
1 cup beef broth
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
3 T tomato paste
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
2 T. flour
3/4 cup sour cream (The fat-free option works great!)
Hot cooked noodles
(egg noodles are the traditional pasta to use with stroganoff)

In your crock pot, combine everything except the flour, sour cream and noodles.  Mix it well, cover it and cook on low for 6 hours.

Ready to cook all day

Six hours later

At the end of the 6 hours, combine the flour and sour cream in a small bowl.  Mix it until it is well combined.  Add this to the beef mixture and mix well.  Cover the crock pot and let cook for 1 hour or until thickened.  Serve on top of noodles.

Perfect with a green salad.

The kids went back for seconds on this one ... even with the mushrooms and onions.  Yeah!

Pasta & Sausage Soup
(From my friend, Kim.  Thanks for sharing!)

1 1/2 lb italian sausage
1 small onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 28 oz. can of chopped tomatoes (with juice)
3 cups of water
3 cups of chicken broth
1 T. Worchestershire sauce
1 t. basil
1 t. thyme
1 t. salt
12 oz. uncooked pasta

In a large pot, brown up sausage.  Drain off fat.

Ready to saute

Add onion, garlic and pepper and saute until soft.  Add all the other ingredients and bring to a simmer.  Simmer uncovered until pasta is tender - about 15-20 minutes.  A great meal for a chilly wintery day ... hint, hint! :)  Simple and scrumptious!

So savory and so simple!

It's even better the next day, but you will have to add a little extra broth as the noodles will keep absorbing the liquid.  

Pasta with Zucchini & Ham
(From Food Network Magazine, July/August 2010 ... with a few adjustments.)

16 oz. pasta (I used big tube pasta ... or, mezzi rigatoni, that's authentic name.)
1 medium zucchini
3 T olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 medium tomatoes, cut into chunks
1/4 lb. Black Forest Ham, cut into strips*
Freshly ground pepper
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled

* I went to the deli and asked for 1/4 lb ham cut thick and then sliced it into strips at home.

Simple ingredients

In a big pot, boil water and cook pasta according to directions.  When the pasta is finished, drain the noodles, but reserve 1 cup of the cooking water.  Set this aside for later.

Trim the ends of the zucchini and then grate it with your cheese grater.  Toss the zucchini with a little salt and then toss it into a colander to sit for a bit in your sink.  The salt will draw out the moisture in the zucchini.  Drip, drip, drip.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the sliced garlic, red pepper flakes and 1/4 t. salt.  Cook until the garlic is golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Add the tomatoes and cook them until they are softened.  Squeeze the zucchini of any extra moisture and add to the skillet, along with the ham.

This, alone, smelled wonderful!

Add the pasta and the reserved cooking water and toss together.  Heat over medium heat until warmed through.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper to taste.  Remove the skillet from the heat and fold in the cheese.

All those noodles with deliciousness nestled inside!

The added cooking water and the cheese make a wonderful sauce for this pasta ... light and delicious!

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