Chicken Alfredo Pasta

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If you have left over roasted or cooked chicken pieces, this is a dish that can come together in less than 30 minutes. How wonderful, right? Recently I happened to watch an episode of The Pioneer Woman on Food Network and she was making a pasta Alfredo with chicken. Later that evening I was scratching my head thinking of what to make for dinner and then opened the freezer to see some roasted chicken pieces that I had stashed there from the week before. The Pioneer Woman’s Chicken Alfredo popped into my mind! Of course, I said and got a pot of water boiling.!

Before I give you the recipe though, I have to tell you the story about the roasted chicken. My 80 year old neighbor surprised me the other day when she called me to tell me that she was going to bring dinner for us. She is a loving and very friendly lady whom I really admire and like. Over the years we have had several chit-chat sessions mainly standing outside next to our driveway. When I had told her last month about my RA diagnosis, she had really empathized. Her mom had RA and so she knew what it was like. “And so I thought I can make it easier for you for at least 1 day” she told me when she brought over the dinner of a full roasted chicken, baked potatoes, boiled sweet corn and a large salad! She made it easier for me for the whole week actually since there was so much of everything! I was so touched by her kind gesture that I had tears in my eyes. I feel so grateful and blessed.

OK so back to the recipe.  I added some Kale and cherry tomatoes (just like the Pioneer Woman’s recipe) however for the sauce I added some flour so i could reduce the cheese and the cream. Turned out lip smacking delicious!

Chicken Alfredo Pasta

 

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups pasta (I used bow tie but you could use any other)
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup heavy cream or whole milk (I used half cup cream and half cup milk)
  • 1 cup mozarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper powder
  • 1 tsp salt (or as needed)
  • parsley, finely chopped
  • Cooked chicken pieces, 2 cups
  • 1 cup chopped Kale or spinach
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes

Method:

Heat a large pot of water. When it starts boiling, add the pasta and a pinch of salt and let cook for about 10 minutes (or per package instructions). Drain pasta and keep aside uncovered (or else it will continue to cook in the steam)

In a large sauce pan, melt the butter and then add the flour to it. Stir on low heat for about 2 minutes until the flour is cooked. Then add the crushed garlic and suate for another 30 seconds.

Next add the cream or milk and stir slowly till the milk warms up and the whole mixture begins to thicken. Add the two cheeses and stir to blend. Next add the red chili (if adding), black pepper and salt and parsley.

Add the chicken pieces and the greens and the tomato. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes on low heat until the vegetables get softened. (If mixture gets too thick, add a dash of milk). Now add the pasta and mix. Serve hot!

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Summery Pasta with a pesto sauce

DSC_0542Happy 4th of July folks! July is here and there are so many things to love about summer! For me the best things in summer apart from the lovely weather are arrival of fresh vegetables and fruits – the berries, fruits and all the summer vegetables. This year I didn’t do much vegetable gardening since we have a landscaping project going on making my backyard not amenable to any sort of gardening. Alas! But I still planted a couple tomato and a basil in pots. And what I did do was to sign up for our local CSA (community supported agriculture) program through one of local farms and that gives me farm fresh produce every week for the entire summer! I am so psyched! I find it particularly exciting to wait for the weekly basket and not knowing what I might find there makes it so enthralling! Oh the endless possibilities! I feel like a little kid waiting for her christmas presents! 🙂

So this last Friday my bounty consisted of zucchini, beets, cherry tomatoes, cherries, blueberries, raspberries and some fresh basil pesto! How lovely isn’t it? As soon as I saw the beets with their greens I knew I had to put them in either a soup or a pasta. That way the kids would eat them without even noticing! And how right I was! I made this wonderful wholesome pasta dish with zucchini, beets, beet greens, cherry tomatoes in a basil pesto marinara sauce!  It is amazing how using fresh ingredients can make such a big difference to an ordinary meal . In our case the humble pasta became the star attraction of our dinner meal where we also had a couple guests with us who enjoyed this dish as much as we did.!

I am bringing this delightful and colorful pasta dish to Fiesta Friday where Josette from thebrookcook and Jule from Hostess at heart are co-hosts this week!

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Summery Pasta with a pesto sauce

  • Servings: Serves about 8-10 people
  • Time: About 40 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups rotini pasta (or any other type of pasta)
  • 2 tbsp light olive oil
  • 2 medium size zucchini, cut into thin slices
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp red chilly flakes
  • salt
  • 2 medium size beets with their greens, (shred the greens and slice the beets into thin slices)12-14 cherry tomatoes, cut into halves lengthwise
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 2 tbsp basil pesto* (see note below)
  • 1 cup marinara sauce or tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt as needed

Method:

Boil the pasta in boiling water and salt for about 10 minutes (or according to package instructions). Drain the pasta and keep aside uncovered.

Take a large skillet or non stick flat pan.  Add 1 tbsp of the olive oil and heat it for about 30 seconds. Add the zucchini pieces and the crushed garlic and the chili flakes and sauté for about 2-3 minutes. Add a dash of salt and cover and cook on medium for about 4 minutes. Open lid and transfer the zucchini onto a plate.

Next add another tbsp of the love oil and then add the beets along with the greens and sauté for 2-3 minutes. then add the cumin powder and a pinch of salt and cover and cook for about 3 more minutes until the beets are tender. Open the lid and transfer the beets and the greens to the plate with the zucchini.

Next add the sliced onions and the cheery tomatoes to the same pan and let cook for about 2-3 minutes or until the onions are slightly translucent but still a little crispy. Turn heat off.

Take a large serving dish and add the cooked pasta to it. Add all the cooked vegetables and the pesto sauce, marinara sauce and the extra virgin olive oil and toss well.  Sprinkle additional salt or pesto sauce if needed.  Serve the pasta warm or cold.

*: I used the pesto sauce that came in my CSA packet. But the ingredients were fresh basil, parsley ,garlic and olive oil. You can blend all of these in a proportion that suits your taste buds!

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Shrimp and Vegetable Linguine with sun-dried tomatoes

DSC_0812 Oh boy, its summer vacation! Can’t believe how an entire school year is gone. Whoosh. Just like that. Unbelievable. And with the relief also comes a slight panic attack. How am I going to keep them entertained and busy for the next two months? I guess we will figure something out. Maybe I can get them to do some of the household chores everyday 🙂 Keeping them busy is one thing and the other thing is to feed them. For some reason being at home seems to make them extra hungry. Well I am definitely going to rely on pasta – cartloads of it!…to come to my rescue! Pasta with meatballs usually does the trick and they are quiet for a few hours! I usually get different kinds of pasta to vary things up a little bit. Throw in a different mix of vegetables each time. I sometimes add chicken or shrimp to make it a complete meal and they just love it.  This time I added a new ingredient that took the pasta to a whole new level! Sun-dried tomatoes! Yup. They imparted the pasta this unbeatable smoky and tangy flavor. With the added shrimp and a white wine reduced marinara sauce, this was one wholesome pasta dish that all of us thoroughly enjoyed.! Sun-dried tomatoes are ripe tomatoes that lose most of their water content after spending a majority of their drying time in the sun. The tomatoes are high in lycopeneantioxidants, and vitamin C but usually contain a good amount of salt and so when using them in a recipe, make sure you cut down on the salt. The drying concentrates the flavor and hence sun-dried tomatoes are incredibly tangy and flavorful! I came across this great post which shows how to make sun-dried tomatoes at home using your oven. I cant wait to try that this summer using tomatoes from my garden! I am bringing this wholesome pasta dish to Fiesta Friday this week.

Shrimp and Vegetable Linguine with sun-dried tomatoes

  • Servings: Serves 4
  • Time: About 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
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  Ingredients:

  • 1/2 box of linguine pasta (from a 1 pound box)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 4 large garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 tbsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli pow ( optional)
  • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes chopped fine
  • 1 tsp salt or as needed
  • 25-30 medium size shrimp (about 3/4 pound) de-shelled and de-veined
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, cut into long thin slices
  • 1/2 cup peas
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms chopped
  • 1 cup spinach chopped
  • 2 tbsp lime juice/ lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 tbsp marinara sauce or tomato sauce
  • 1 cup reserved pasta stock
  • 1/4 cup parsley chopped (optional)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling on top

Method: Boil water in a  large cooking pot. Add pasta to the water along with the salt and cook uncovered for about 8-9 minutes or till al dente. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the stock. Keep the pasta uncovered otherwise it will get overcooked with the steam. While your pasta is cooking, place a large sauté pan or a heavy bottomed cooking pan on heat. Add the olive oil and butter. Add the crushed garlic cloves, crushed red pepper, red chili pow (if adding), salt and the sun dried tomatoes. Saute on medium heat for about 1 minute and then add the shrimp and all the vegetables. Saute on medium heat for about 2-3 minutes. Then add the lime juice, white wine, the marinara/tomato sauce and the pasta stock. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 2-3 minutes until you get a slightly thick sauce. When you are ready to serve the pasta, add the linguine to the shrimp and vegetable mixture and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and fresh parsley. Toss the linguine in the sauce well to evenly coat with the sauce. Serve immediately while warm!

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Pasta with vegetables in a creamy peanut sauce

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When you have  young children at home, you have no choice but to be innovative and come up with interesting twists to existing dishes just to entice them and basically make them feel as if you are creating this ‘restaurant style’ dish just for them!  This weekend we decided to finally start our ‘spring cleaning’ routine and of course the kids had to help out too.  Starting soon after breakfast pretty soon a couple hours had passed while the clutter in the garage had reduced only by half. However the helping hands started to complain about feeling ‘famished’ already.  OK so what were the options for lunch – How about a quick bread and omelette sandwich? Nah. OK how about a veggie grilled cheese? Nah, not in the mood.!  Finally exasperated I said ‘Mom will make something and you will just have to eat it. Too bad.!’

I picked up the pasta box from the pantry and got to work.  In about 30 minutes flat, I laid out this fabulous creamy pasta in a bed of vegetables and asked my kids to guess the secret ingredient.  Well they dug in and loved the creamy sauce but could not guess what the mystery ingredient was.!  Who knew how versatile peanut butter could be!  Goes without saying that I will be making this more often going forward ! 🙂

I used cauliflower,spinach,broccoli and red pepper. But you could use any combination of vegetables.  Adding a few shrimp would make this truly spectacular! I am going to share this at Fiesta Friday even though I am pretty late this week for the party! 🙂

Pasta with vegetables in a creamy peanut sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 30 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

2  1/2 cups penne pasta

1 tsp salt

1 tsp oil

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 medium onion, chopped

2 cups vegetables cauliflower, broccoli(or any other veggies)

1/4 cup red pepper,chopped

1/2 tsp garlic salt

1/4 tsp red chilli(cayenne pepper)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup spinach,chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

1 tbsp all purpose flour

1 cup whole milk

1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

2 tsp unsalted peanut butter

1 cup marinara sauce

grated parmesan cheese (while serving)

Method:

1. In a huge stock pot boil water and when it starts boiling add the pasta along with salt and a dash of oil. Cook according to package directions – about 10-12 minutes until ‘al-dente’.  Drain the pasta and reserve some of the stock.

2. While the pasta is cooking, heat a non-stick pan or wok with the oil and then add the onions and saute for about two minutes on medium heat. Now add the cauliflower,broccoli and the red pepper (or any other vegetables). Stir for a few seconds and then add the spices – red chili powder,garlic salt and salt. Cover with a lid and cook for about two minutes until the vegetables are cooked.  Then add the spinach and again stir and cook for another couple minutes or so. Turn the heat off and keep aside.

3. To make the pasta sauce, take a medium size cooking pot and add the olive oil and butter to it. When the butter is melted fully add the flour and stir vigorously for about two minutes on low to medium heat.  Then add about half of the milk and again continue to stir until the flour belnds fully with the milk to form a thick homogenous paste. Now add rest of the milk and again continue to stir slowly until all of the flour mixture is fully blended with the milk. Next add the cheese and continue mixing and finally add the peanut butter and the marinara sauce.  Now add some of the reserved stock (from cooking the pasta) and add to this sauce until you get a medium thick consistency (add more or less stock to get the consistency that you like). Check for seasoning.

4. Finally just toss the pasta and the vegetables in the creamy sauce and serve warm with greater parmesan cheese on top!

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Stepwise pictures:

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'Home-made' Pizza night: 2 Healthy Veggie Pizzas delivered!

Home-made Pizza

Gourmet style Pizzas at home from scratch and that too on a weeknight? Yes, it is possible and I don’t even have a stand-mixer!!! Once in a month we have home-made pizza nights.  I used to until very recently get fresh pizza dough from the local bakery and then bake the pizza with different toppings and it was always a huge hit with my kids. Then I started experimenting making the dough at home too. Now I regularly make home made pizza dough too substituting about half the flour with whole wheat flour and  the pizzas taste awesome  – nice and crusty on the outside and soft and cheesy on the inside. Adding whole wheat actually makes it easier on the hands too to roll the dough! Did a spinach and mushroom with ricotta cheese and an another one with black beans-tostada style!.  So many options for toppings abound – anytime you are running out of ideas just gloss over the menu of your local pizza place!. In my case, the ‘black beans’ one was inspired by California Pizza Kitchen’s tostada pizza.  Most important question that you may have – How did I accomplish all this on a weeknight after work? Well I started at 5 and kneaded the dough and kept for rising for about 1 hour. I prepared the topping stuff while the dough was doing its stuff. And so at 6.15 the pizzas went into the oven (one after the other) and both pizzas were ready by 6.45. Dinner eaten and plates wiped clean by 7.15 ! 🙂

Healthy Vegetable Pizza

  • Servings: 2 large 14 inch dia pizzas
  • Print

This recipe will make 2  14 inch dia pizzas.  
You will need a pizza pan or a pizza stone.  
I used two round pizza pans(14 inch dia) - the ones
which have holes in them
Ingredients:
For the crust:
1/2 tbsp yeast
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tsp honey
1 tbsp warm water
1 tsp salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking pow
2 tbsp olive oil(extra light)
about 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
For the spinach mushroom ricotta pizza
3/4 cup marinara sauce or pizza sauce (or
tomato sauce)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup onion
1/2 cup tomato
1 tsp garlic powder
2 cups spinach
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 tsp red chilli
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
For the black beans pizza
1/2 cup cooked black beans (or canned
black beans washed and drained)
1/4 cup chopped red onions
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup cheddar cheese or mexican cheese blend
1/4 tsp chipotle seasoning
2 tbsp marinara sauce or pizza sauce (or tomato sauce)
1 tbsp taco sauce
1 tbsp chipotle ranch dressing (Marie Calendar's)

For the pizza crust:

Take a large mixing bowl and add about 1 tbsp warm water and add the yeast, sugar,honey and the salt. Stir well. Then add the flours slowly and the baking powder and the oil. Now slowly add the water (it should be slightly warm) and mix with your hands to form a nice soft dough.

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Divide the dough into two equal portions and place in two separate bowls oiled well with olive oil. Cover the dough with a wet cloth or a wet paper towel and then cover with a lid and keep aside in a warm place to rest for about 1 hour.

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After 1 hour, the dough would have risen a little (about 1.5 times its size not too much)

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Now take the pizza pan and oil it well with olive oil. Also dust some flour on top.  Now take the risen dough and stretch it to form a round shape using your hands.  Then place it on the center of the pizza pan and press with your fingers and keep pulling it towards the end s thus making a circle that fits the pan completely. Using a fork make dents all over the crust.

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Pre-heat oven to 475 deg F.

For the black beans pizza

Spread the black beans, onions, tomatoes,cheese and tomato sauce over the pizza base. Sprinkle the chipotle seasoning on top.  Place the pizza into the oven in the middle rack and Bake at 450 deg F for about 12-15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and crispy on the bottom. (Bake times will very depending upon the type of pizza pan used)

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Black Bean Pizza

Drizzle taco sauce and  or chipotle ranch dressing on top before serving! Enjoy!

For the Spinach and mushroom pizza:

Take a medium size non stick pan or a wok style pan and add the olive oil. When hot add the onions and saute for a couple minutes and then add the tomatoes and cook for another 2 minutes. then add the garlic powder, salt, the red chilli powder and the oregano. Next add the spinach and mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes on medium.

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To the pizza crust as prepared above, add the marinara sauce and spread evenly. Then add the above mixture and spread to form an uniform layer. Scatter dollops of ricotta cheese here and there.  When the first pizza comes out, bake the second one exactly the same way (at 450 f for about 12-15 minutes)

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Notes/Tips:

Do not worry if you are not able to handle the dough professionally like Mario Batali 🙂 The pizza will still taste good as long as you are able to stretch it thin enough to fit the pan completely. Patch working is ok!

I like to cook the spinach and mushroom mixture beforehand so that they get a better flavor than just using them raw.

As soon as the pizzas are done, make cuts on the pizzas using a pizza cutter while it is warm.