Who Wouldn’t Want This?

Remember me? You know, the long-lost blogger who has been MIA most of the summer? I’m going to blame my latest absence on our two-week vacation to Maine and New Hampshire, OK? And, for what it’s worth, I thought about blogging on our trip, but somehow never got around to it. (It’s the thought that counts, right?) We thoroughly enjoyed our time off and did our very best to eat New England out of seafood, ice cream and wild blueberries. I kid you not – we picked this vacation solely because blueberries were in season. See?

Pickingblueberries
Andy and his brother picking blueberries for our pancake dinner.

We were lucky enough to pick up some tomatoes from Andy’s parents on our way home from Maine, and we spent a steamy Friday evening processing tomatoes. (Literally. It was 80+ outside when we got started, and with three cauldrons pots of boiling water, our kitchen turned into a sauna in no time at all.) We put up 7 quarts and 27 pints of tomatoes, so I think we’re going to call that good for the year.

In other news, I feel like this has been the summer of the zucchini for me. I don’t remember receiving nearly as many zucchini and summer squash in our CSA last year. And while we love our fritters, I can only handle so much of the same thing. (Unless that same thing is chocolate. I have yet to reach my limit there.) So when this  recipe popped up in my Facebook feed, I figured it was worth a try… after I made a few modifications, that is. I eliminated the mushrooms (still don’t like them, sorry Mom!), added sausage (I tried it with bacon as well, but it’s better with sausage), added some broccoli and onions, and used Swiss chard instead of spinach.

And… we have a keeper here. It’s filling and hearty without being too heavy. It’s loaded with summer veggies, which helps keep the crisper drawer under control. The leftovers reheat well too. As Andy likes to say, “Who wouldn’t want this?!” 😀

ZucchiniPastaBake
First thing, you’ll have to forgive the questionable picture. I was hungry. This picture is from the time I used bacon, but you get the idea…

Zucchini / Summer Squash Pasta Bake

8 ounces penne pasta, uncooked
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium-large zucchini or summer squash, sliced and cut into half-moons
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium head of broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
6 ounces spinach or Swiss chard, chopped
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup chicken stock
3 ounces cooked sausage, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 ounces cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, cut into 1″ chunks
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly oil a 9″ x 13″ baking pan.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the oil to the pan. When the oil is hot, saute the onions until they begin to soften, about 3-4 minutes. Add the zucchini and garlic and saute for another minute or two, until the zucchini begins to brown. Add the flour to the pan and cook for a minute or so, stirring often. Add the spices to the pan, and then add the stock, scraping up all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the broth has thickened and cheese has melted, about 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions, adding the broccoli about 3 minutes before the pasta is done. Drain the cooked pasta and broccoli and set aside.

Spread the pasta and broccoli mixture into the prepared baking pan. Stir in the zucchini mixture, sausage, Parmesan cheese, 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and spinach/chard. Gently stir until pasta is coated and everything is well-combined. Sprinkle the remaining mozzarella cheese on top of the pasta.

Bake, uncovered, until cheese is browned and bubbly and mixture is heated through, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and serve hot.

Adapted from Taste of Home

Click here for a printable version

Mac & Cheese, Upgraded

Apparently, I can’t leave well enough alone. (See also: grilled cheese.) I mean, did macaroni and cheese really need changing? It’s carbs (yum) with cheese (double yum). But when you have extra bacon in the fridge and broccoli in the freezer, why not take things up a notch? 😀

I have several mac and cheese recipes saved in my Google reader, but this one from Confections of a Foodie Bride really caught my attention, mostly because it didn’t start with a flour/butter roux. As much as I love a standard “white sauce,” eliminating a step sounded like a good idea for a weeknight meal. I didn’t have plain yogurt on hand, so I ended up substituting sour cream. (I was a little unsure of that step, since Andy is NOT a fan of creamy white “sauces,” but after it cooked together, he had no idea it was in there.) 

In my attempts to eliminate steps (and dishes!), I cooked the broccoli with the pasta. While it seemed like a good idea at the time, I don’t think I’ll go that route again. Each little broccoli floret became a cheese magnet, grabbing the shreds of cheese and refusing to let go. While it wasn’t the end of the world, it made the sauce a little thinner. So, learn from my mistakes and stir the cooked broccoli in AFTER the cheese.

BroccoliBaconMac&Cheese

Broccoli & Bacon Mac & Cheese

4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled*
8 ounces of short pasta
12 ounces frozen broccoli
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sour cream
4 ounces freshly shredded cheddar cheese
4 ounces freshly shredded fontina cheese
salt & pepper to taste
olive oil

In a small skillet, heat a splash of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the sliced onions until they are soft, golden and fragrant.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions.Drain the pasta, reserving about a cup of the pasta water, and return the pasta to the pot.

In a separate pan (or in a bowl in the microwave), steam the broccoli until it is crisp-tender. Drain and set aside.

Stir the sour cream and cheese into the pot with the pasta. Mix together until a smooth, creamy sauce forms. If necessary, thin the sauce with the reserved pasta water, adding about 1/4 cup at a time, until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.

Mix the onions, bacon and broccoli into the pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

*My friend Bethany turned me on to the idea of cooking bacon in the oven. I line a baking sheet with foil and bake the strips at 375. It takes about 20 minutes in my oven for the bacon to reach our desired level of “crispiness.” There’s no splatter, no mess, and I don’t burn the bacon anymore! I do turn the slices about halfway through baking, but other than that, it’s completely hands-off. Consider me converted. I’m never pan-frying it again. 

Click here for a printable version.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

I pack 10 lunches each week (five for me, five for Andy). We usually take leftovers with some yogurt and fruit, or a PB&J sandwich with yogurt and fruit. It’s very rare for either of us to go out for lunch, and that’s OK with me. Brown-bagging it saves us a few dollars and a couple of calories. (Or so I tell myself… some days I’m not sure our leftovers fit into the “light” category – I’m looking at you, spinoccoli pizza!)

On the rare days that we do eat out for lunch, I am likely to pick one of two places, Chipotle or Panera Bread, and I almost always know exactly what I’m getting. At Panera, it’s broccoli cheddar soup. In a bread bowl. And sure, give me a baguette on the side. More carbs please. And nine times out of 10, I eat it all. Because I have no self-control. 🙂 (Curious about my other “usual”? Carnitas fajita burrito bowl, with white rice and black beans, topped with corn salsa, hot red salsa, lettuce, cheese and sour cream. I’d add guac, but it’s almost $2 a serving. I can buy two avocados for that price!)

I like the soup too much to limit myself to only enjoying it at Panera though. I’ve made it before, and while it was all right, I wanted to give a different recipe a shot. This one was pretty tasty – so much so that I made sure that these leftovers went into my lunch. (What?! Andy took leftover pot roast that day, so he wasn’t TOO deprived…) 

BroccoliCheddarSoup

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil (I’m guestimating this amount; I just swirled some into the bottom of the pan.) 
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, diced
3 medium carrots, finely diced
4 cups chopped broccoli (I used mostly florets, but I did throw a few of the stem pieces in.) 
3 cups chicken or veggie stock
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
4 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk (I used a combination of half and half and skim… it’s what I had on hand.) 
2 cups freshly shredded cheddar cheese
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Stir in the onion and carrots and saute until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the broccoli and then add the stock and garlic powder. Bring to a simmer and cook until the broccoli is tender.

Meanwhile, in another pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, until it is golden in color. Whisk in the milk and continue to whisk the mixture until it thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in the cheddar cheese. When the cheese has melted into the sauce, pour the sauce into the stock pot with the broccoli.

If desired, puree the soup with an immersion blender until desired consistency is reached. Add the red pepper flakes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm (bonus points if you dish this one out in a bread bowl).

Adapted from Annie’s Eats

Click HERE for a printable version!