Tag Archives: easy cooking

Easy “Baked Spanish Penne”

I have this great recipe, Spanish lasagna, that uses artichoke hearts and black olives for the filling. As I am mad for those two ingredients, not to mention pasta, tomato sauce, and cheese, it’s a favorite,  a “treat” dish that I make once in awhile (since Ricotta & artichoke hearts can be a bit pricey). I also occasionally make Baked Ziti or Baked Penne, so, since I didn’t have any lasagna noodles, I got the idea to make a combo of the two dishes. Here’s the ingredients.

IMG_20180316_082943_kindlephoto-714806

That’s a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes. I only used half of the 2 lb Ricotta (it was on sale and larger sizes are generally cheaper per pound anyway). That’s 6 slices of Mozzarella pictured but you could also use shredded. The artichoke hearts in the jar were marinated; you could use unmarinated, typically sold in cans, but using the jarred marinated type meant I didn’t have to add any additional seasonings (I am ALL about shortcuts). This is a large jar; you could also use two small 6 oz ones which are more readily available in stores.

 
I boiled and drained a 1 lb box of Penne.

IMG_20180316_085043

Trust me that there’s a pound of Penne somewhere in there

IMG_20180316_085614

Next I rinsed and broke up the black olives. The easy way to break them up is by hand, plus it’s knd of fun.

IMG_20180316_083935_kindlephoto-4821281

My best, or one of my best kitchen tricks, is mixing things in the sink. It’s easier on the arms  and any slopping goes in the sink.  Here is the tomato sauce with black olives and drained artichokes added to a medium size bowl. I didn’t use quite all the artichokes since I wanted to save a few for salads.

IMG_20180316_084512_kindlephoto-1492950

I used clean kitchen scissors to cut up the artichoke hearts right in the bowl.

IMG_20180316_085100_kindlephoto-2779536

In a large 4 qt bowl I put the cooked Penne and then the sauce mixture, topped by a pound of Ricotta and broken up pieces of Mozzarella.

IMG_20180316_090147_kindlephoto-2715898

I then mixed it all up. (It kind of turns pink, do not be alarmed!) I added no extra seasonings except fresh ground pepper. As I mentioned, marinated artichoke hearts come with seasoning and the cheese and tomato sauce both contain salt.

IMG_20180316_090452_kindlephoto-2738241

I then spread the mixture into a 9×13 pan. It was risky making a huge pan of an experimental recipe but I gambled that I’d like this. On top I drizzled a bit of olive oil and sprinkled on a modest amount of shredded Parmesan.

IMG_20180316_091430

I topped it with a loose sheet of foil.

IMG_20180316_091935

I baked the dish about 35 minutes at 325°.  Basically you want to heat it through – since there is no egg added there’s no worry about undercooking.

IMG_20180316_102613_kindlephoto-5617271

Was it good? Hell yes it was good! In order to not wolf it all down in a matter of days and to have the pleasure of spreading ny treat out over time, I habitually freeze lasagne portions.  That worked now too. The easy way is to slice portions and freeze them on a cookie sheet. After they’re frozen you just wrap them in individual portions.

IMG_20180316_105847_kindlephoto-4674563.jpgIMG_20180316_111838_kindlephoto-4582289

Advertisements

Easy Vegetables with Rice Noodles

In January I tried a dairy-free week. I didn’t mention it then but I didn’t have high cholesterol or anything – tested in the fall at a health fair – but dairy was just something on my mind. (Somewhat after the fact I heard there was a “sugar-free month” afoot in January but honestly, I cut back on sugar long ago and that really wasn’t where I needed/wanted to focus.) As a result, I’ve since cut back noticeably on cheese, oh love of my life.

Another resultant, although not exactly predictable change was that I started eating MORE vegetables. I needed to tweak my thinking to embrace or at least accept the idea that you really can’t over eat vegetables. I.was in no danger anyway. Mostly I think vegetables are too much trouble for the end result (HALF disappears on cooking for one point) so the easier they are to fix, the better the chance I’ll eat ’em.

This dish, made of ingredients on hand, was easy and very tasty. In the past I don’t think it would have occurred to me to combine fresh and frozen (or even CANNED) vegetables but now I think why not? I sauteed onions, fresh red pepper, frozen green beans, frozen diced green peppers, and a handful of unsalted peanuts in canola oil.
IMG_20180207_102831_kindlephoto-4459234

I need FLAVOR to entice me, not just plain vegetables. To season I added a splash of lime juice, a tad of sesame oil (a recent splurge cuz that ain’t cheap, Sally) and a little bit of Liquid Aminos. Liquid Aminos are a healthier alternative to soy sauce with less sodium and actual nutrients in the form of Amino Acids. Do I really know what amino acids are and how they’ll add to my life? No but who cares. The taste is similar not identical to soy sauce. Initially it takes a little getting used to, but I figure it’s worth it.
IMG_20180207_113036_kindlephoto-7019908
IMG_20180207_113554_kindlephoto-7301795

If I only ate vegetables, I’d be starving in no time. I need some carbs to round out a vegetable dish but in this kind of entree I try now to have at least as much vegetables as carbs. I LOVE noodles. Rice noodles, if you don’t know them, are just rice and water.


Here is the combined ingredients.
IMG_20180207_105147_kindlephoto-5493390

Easy Kale chips

The word kale used to make me shudder. The way my mother served it when I was a child was to blame. My memory of it was a bitter, boiled, unseasoned soggy mess that pooled discolored water on your dinner plate which floated over and infiltrated the other foods, a further insult to trying gag the vegetable down. It was a LONG time before I went near the stuff again. It’s good I did because kale is nutrient packed (high in fiber, Vitamins A, C and K with lesser amounts of protein, Vitamin B6, calcium, folate, magnesium, copper, potassium and iron) and it does not have to be disgusting!

Kale is a cool-weather annual and tastes best in season. My opinion is that kale grown in warmer weather is more likely to be(come) tough and bitter. It should be a beautiful deep green. If it’s yellowing it’s old.

IMG_20170323_194418_hdr_kindlephoto-22425401

I took a kale chip recipe and simplified it. I am ALL for short cuts in cooking. First I wash the kale. I use my salad spinner and break it up into roughly bite-size pieces, tearing off the toughest, thickest stems closest to the bottom. If you want an extra step, you can first put the kale pieces in a mixing bowl but I put them directly onto a large cookie sheet. I add a capful of canola oil, a capful of cider vinegar, a bit of cayenne pepper and a little coarse sea salt and mix them up so that all the kale is coated. Adjust the seasonings to your taste; I love spicy/hot but if that’s not for you, just eliminate the cayenne. I’ve just discovered the easiest way to mix is by hand (it keeps the kale from leaping off the cookie sheet) but a spatula works too.

IMG_20170323_194316_hdr_kindlephoto-22455852

I cook the kale in a 400° oven for about 15 minutes, stirring a few times. The goal is crispy but not burnt so it’s important to keep an eye on it. A higher oven temp speeds things along but necessitates more stirring as we aren’t aiming for carcinogenic kale chips.

IMG_20170323_200402_hdr_kindlephoto-22384574

Kale clearly has high water content  – see how much it cooks down (and don’t look at my discolored pan)

Now I’m not gonna kid you. These aren’t anything like potato chips but they DO have a delicate, satisfying crunch. Completely different from steamed kale, say. This is now my favorite way to cook kale.

IMG_20170323_200536_hdr_kindlephoto-22349337

Isn’t that pretty? And nothing is floating around!

 

White Bean Tomato Soup

We’re almost out of the major soup season but not quite, and you can eat this soup hot or cold anyway. This blender soup is so quick & easy. Healthy and delicious too.

Here’s our ingredients.
P_20150404_175154

I used chickpeas but you could use any white bean. I cook my own beans because it’s cheaper and eliminates salt and any added preservatives, but you could substitute canned beans for expediency. I really like “chunky” crushed tomatoes, but regular crushed works too.

The herb is sage. I happened to have some of my own, but store-bought is fine.

Put 2 cups of water in blender.

Add 3 cups rinsed chickpeas (or white beans).

Add 1.5 to 2 cups canned tomatoes. (I used 1.5 cups because that’s what was left in the open can after I made spaghetti for lunch!)

If you, like me, love the kick of lemon juice, add 3 tablespoons lemon juice. If you’re not sure or want a milder flavor, start with 2 tablespoons or less.

Add your sage. I had about 2 teaspoons left so that’s what I used.

Add 1 teaspoon olive oil (it adds a nice flavor touch but can be eliminated to avoid any added calories/fat).

Lastly, I added a bit of freshly ground pepper. I add no salt because the canned tomatoes already have salt (and likely so would canned beans).

Blend! You can heat a cup in the microwave or eat cold.
P_20150404_180107

Easy Squash & Red Pepper Soup

The rule of thumb for vegetables is that the deepest, richest colors – dark green, deep red, bright orange – are the most nutritious. I used two, squash and red peppers, to make this easy, no-cook, delicious soup.

I only recently discovered that squash is sold frozen, which is great if you don’t have time, space, or inclination to buy and cook your own. Here’s the ingredients I used:
IMG_20150301_155649

I used these canned peppers but you could buy fresh ones and cook them too.

I used these canned peppers but you could buy fresh ones and cook them too.

I cut up half an onion and a clove of garlic and sautéed them in a bit of oil.

I cut up half an onion and a clove of garlic and sautéed them in a bit of oil.

I put a cup of water in the blender, added the defrosted squash, 5 rinsed red peppers, and the sauteed onions & garlic, and blended till smooth. I heated a cup of the soup in the microwave to eat. That’s it! So good.

Look how gorgeous that color is.

Look how gorgeous that color is.

A Healthy Microwave Brownie (anyone can make – really!)

Recently I saw a recipe for a microwave brownie on a a blog. It had a lot more sugar & oil than I use in my diet and baking, but it gave me the idea to experiment with making a healthier version that I’d still actually want to eat. If you’re used to typical brownies, this much less sweet version will be an adjustment, but if you’re like me and don’t want or have a lot of sugar or sweets in your diet, this brownie is a treat.

The ingredients are all typically found in the baking aisle of the grocery store:
Whole wheat flour
Canola oil
Cocoa powder
Cinnamon
(Sugar)

It’s not essential to buy the specific brands pictured. I use Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa but the regular cocoa is fine too.
IMG_20150212_150416

You’ll need a (microwave-safe) small bowl or a cup, and a spoon. I use an oversize mug.
P_20150212_151013

And a quarter cup water.
P_20150212_150917

Mix together in the bowl or cup:
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
P_20150212_151517

Stir in till smooth:
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon canola oil
P_20150212_151751

Microwave on high for 2 minutes.
P_20150212_152105

I like to eat mine right out of the cup, but here’s how it looks on a plate.
P_20150212_152216

Close-up.
P_20150212_152451

An even healthier version, pictured below, can be made by omitting the Canola oil and/or cutting back on the cocoa powder to 1 or 2 teaspoons.
P_20150212_160336