Week 35 – Italian Sausage and Kale Baked Pasta

Another crazy week!  Where does time go?  And how is everything going to get done by April 15??  Highlight of the work week was Friday – I went to NYC for meetings at the Google office all day.  In case you haven’t seen, PwC is going google, and I’m on a team that has given feedback during the process.  On Friday we were invited to the Google offices for an innovation lab.  We basically discussed some pain points in our daily lives at work and tried to come up with Google-enabled solutions.  The group of about 20 was split into 4 teams to do this and my team’s idea won, no big deal.  It was an exhausting and packed day, but so great to be able to get our ideas out there and to be encouraged to come up with ideas for solutions that will greatly improve the way we do work.

Due to the timing of my work I worked on Sunday this weekend, so Saturday was a relaxing day with Matt.  Much needed quality time and apartment cleaning (and Easter decorating!) 🙂

Our new recipe for the week was quite delicious!  We kept is going with the Kale this week since we had leftovers from the casserole on Sunday (much to Matt’s over-exaggerated distaste).  We did a repeat recipe of the Zuppa Toscana Soup on Monday and then made this casserole with the leftovers from that on Saturday.  We just did a half batch, and it was plenty for a night and leftovers!

Italian Sausage and Kale Baked Pasta (Recipe from here)

Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces ziti (or any pasta shape)
  • 1 lb. ground Italian sausage (I strongly recommend using “spicy” Italian sausage)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 large handfuls roughly-chopped kale leaves, stems removed
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Optional: Sun Dried Tomatoes, about ½ cup chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Heat a large stockpot full of well-salted water for the pasta.
  2. In a (separate) large skillet, sauté the Italian sausage over medium-high heat until browned (about 8-10 minutes), breaking the sausage up with a spoon into bite-sized pieces while cooking.
  3. When the sausage has browned, add in the minced garlic (and sun dried tomatoes, if desired) and sauté for 1-2 additional minutes or until the garlic is fragrant. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
  4. While the sausage is browning, cook the pasta al dente in the stockpot of boiling water according to package instructions. Drain.
  5. Return pasta to the stockpot and add the sausage, garlic (and tomatoes) and kale. Gently toss with a little olive oil to combine until the kale is dark green and slightly wilted.
  6. Pour half of the pasta into a greased 11×7-inch or 9×13-inch baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with 1 cup of cheese. Layer the remaining half of the pasta evenly on top. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining 1 cup of cheese.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the cheese is melted and just barely starts to turn golden. Remove and serve immediately, sprinkled with parmesan or red pepper flakes if desired.

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Week 34 – Skinny Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Casserole with Kale, and Mini Zucchini Quiches

Welp, better late than never I guess…

Last week was crazy busy – I was in Tampa for work all week.  Dang, that place was lovely.  I’ve never thought about how people actually live and work in Florida.  Any time I’ve been there it was for vacation so I never thought about people having the same job as me living there.  I can’t imagine that year round!  It was a busy week with work, but I made a point to watch the sunset over dinner a couple nights:

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I mean come on, people in Tampa can see this every night?! Gorgeous.

Because I was gone during the week, we did our new cooking last weekend.  The casserole was pretty good.  A healthy version of the typical cheesy broccoli chicken casserole.  I will say that the one that my mom made for us growing up, was better.  But when trying to be healthy because busy season doesn’t allow for much time to work out, this one was a good substitute, we’ll make it again if Matt can get over the Kale…

The mini quiches aren’t new, but they’re amazing and I had to share.  They’re perfect for busy season breakfasts because they freeze well and can be heated up in the microwave once I get to work!  I made a double batch last weekend and forgot to take a picture until I was eating some at work one day (thus the paper plate).

Skinny Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Casserole with Kale (recipe from here)

Makes: 6+ servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup basmati brown rice, rinsed & drained
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 5 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1″ size pieces
  • 4 cups kale, coarsely chopped & packed
  • 4 cups broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 1 cup milk (we used skim milk, any kind of milk should work)
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp thyme, dried
  • 1 tsp salt + a pinch
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 1/2 cup low fat mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 2/3 cup Colby Jack/Tex Mex cheese, shredded
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, add rice, water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20 mins. Remove from heat and set aside. There will be some water left in the pot, do not drain. We need it to continue cooking rice in the oven.
  2. While rice is cooking, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  3. Also, preheat large skillet on high heat and spray with cooking spray. Add chicken and cook for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Transfer to a pot with rice, along with kale and broccoli.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together milk, garlic powder, cornstarch, thyme, salt and pepper.
  6. Pour into a pot with rice, chicken and veggies. Also add 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and gently mix to combine.
  7. Transfer mixture to a 9″ x 13″ baking dish, level with spatula and sprinkle with 2/3 cup Colby Jack/Tex Mex cheese.
  8. Cover with foil tightly and bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Storage Instructions: Refrigerate covered for up to 3 days or freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

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Mini Zucchini Quiche

Makes: 12+ mini quiches

Ingredients:

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 2 small uncooked zucchini, finely chopped (I grate mine on a box grater)
  • 1 large uncooked onion(s), finely chopped
  • 1 cup(s) shredded parmesan cheese, about 3 oz
  • 6 large egg(s)
  • 1/2 cup(s) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup(s) basil, fresh, finely chopped
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil, extra virgin
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Coat one regular size muffin pan with cooking spray.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Spoon egg mixture into each prepared hole, filling about ¾ of the way, making sure to stir mixture in bowl after filling each one.
  4. Bake until bottoms are golden brown and quiche are cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. Remove pan(s) from oven and let quiche cool for a few minutes in pan(s); remove quiche to a wire rack to cool more.
  5. Repeat with remaining ingredients if necessary.

These freeze well!  Just bake, and let cool completely.  Then I put them in a gallon sized ziplock bag (in a single layer) and freeze.  Take two out of the freezer and leave in the fridge overnight, then pop in the microwave for 1-2 minutes in the morning and enjoy!

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Week 33 – Brussels Sprouts, Cranberry and Quinoa Salad, Creamy Pasta with Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomatoes , and Flourless Fudge Cookies

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I am so ready for Spring!  And it’s not because of the cold or the snow.  I grew up in Syracuse New York and lived in Chicago for the first 6 years of my adult life, I can do snow and cold.  It’s the fact that the DC area cannot handle snow.  At all.  I am so sick of having a 10 minute walk take 15 minutes because I have to go so slow because nobody understands the importance of putting salt on the darn sidewalks!  Again,  I lived in Chicago, I know it is possible for me to not feel like I’m going to wipe out with every step I take on the way to the train.  And then it snowed a whole 6 inches during the day on Thursday, was done by dinner, and somehow people still had nightmare commutes on Friday morning? I don’t get it.  I hope today’s 50 degree weather sticks around because the DC area NEEDS Spring.  For the safety of walkers everywhere.

We tried a few new recipes this week, and dang all of them were so so good!  We made the cookies because our small group had a dessert night this Wednesday and on Tuesday night we realized we needed to make something for it and this was the only recipe on my pinterest dessert board that we had all of the ingredients for.  These cookies are delicious, but SO rich.  And who knew that gluten free just means a buttload of powdered sugar?!  Not us… The salad and pasta were Saturday night’s dinner.  Pure deliciousness.  Matt looked in the bowl of the salad when I was making it and goes “that looks like a nightmare!”  But he tried it and then had some of the leftovers today, and I think this is another instance where he didn’t think he liked brussels sprouts, quinoa, or some other weirder healthier food, but he just needed to have it prepared deliciously (see the blue apron side salad here, the roasted chicken with veggies here, and the breakfast quinoa here).  The pasta was sooooo good and the cream sauce being made with almond milk instead of cream is healthy genius!  We didn’t even notice, and trust me, we’re the type of people who would notice.  In summary, all three of these recipes will definitely be made again and are highly recommended!

Brussels Sprouts, Cranberry and Quinoa Salad (recipe from here)

Makes: 4-8 servings, depending on size

Ingredients:

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, rinsed and ends trimmed, then halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • orange vinaigrette (see below)

Orange Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Mix the dressing ingredients in a container until combined.
  2. Toss the dressing and all salad ingredients together until combined.

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Creamy Pasta with Chicken and Sun-Dried Tomatoes (recipe from here)

Makes: 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

Pasta Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces pasta
  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 (6-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped or julienned fresh basil, loosely-packed
  • creamy garlic sauce (ingredients below)
  • optional toppings: crushed red pepper flakes, extra Parmesan, toasted pine nuts

Creamy Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups Almond Breeze original unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

  1. Cook pasta in a large stockpot of (generously) salted water according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  2. While the pasta water is heating, begin making your cream sauce – Heat olive oil (or butter) in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and saute 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fragrant.
  3. Stir in the flour, and saute for an additional minute, stirring occasionally.
  4. Slowly add in the almond milk, whisking to combine until smooth. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches a simmer and thickens.
  5. Stir in Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper until the cheese is melted.
  6. Reduce heat to low until pasta reaches al dente and you are ready to toss the sauce with the pasta.
  7. Once the sauce and pasta are cooked, toss them together with the chopped chicken breasts, sun-dried tomatoes and half of the fresh basil until evenly combined. Serve immediately, garnished with the remaining fresh basil and optional toppings (if desired).

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Flourless Fudge Cookies (recipe from here)

Makes: 20-30 cookies, depending on size

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder, optional but good
  • 1 cup cocoa powder, Dutch-process preferred*
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets. Or line with parchment, and grease the parchment.
  2. Whisk together the dry ingredients, then stir in the egg whites and vanilla. Or, to save time, simply stir together all of the ingredients until smooth. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, and stir again until smooth.
  3. Drop the soft, batter-like dough onto the prepared baking sheets in 3″ circles (for large cookies), or 2″ circles (for smaller cookies).
  4. Bake the cookies for 6 minutes (for smaller cookies), 8 minutes for the larger cookies. They should spread slightly, become somewhat shiny, and develop faintly crackly tops.

Remove the cookies from the oven, and allow them to cool right on the pan. When they’re nearly cool, carefully loosen them from the pan with a spatula.

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Week 32 – Pasta with Garlic, White Cheddar & Wine Sauce

Sunday night already?!  Another week flew by.  Work is still manageable-ish.  Not losing sleep yet, but definitely working more hours than I’d like.  But tax day is less than 7 weeks away, and you can do anything for less than 7 weeks, right?  Especially when the April deadline is SO much better than the September and October ones…

The new recipe for the week was a good one, I was SO excited for the leftovers and can’t wait to make it again!  Matt did most of the work since he beat me home, but I helped stir!  It was a pretty quick meal to make too, totally do-able on a week night.  Highly recommended.

Pasta with Garlic, White Cheddar & Wine Sauce (recipe adapted from here)

Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. tube shaped pasta, such as penne
  • 1½ tbsp. butter
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1½ tbsp. flour
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
  • 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets and blanched until crisp-tender
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, grilled and cut into bite size pieces
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente according to the package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet or saucepan set over medium heat, melt the butter. Once the butter is melted, whisk in the garlic and cook just until fragrant, 30-60 seconds.  Whisk the flour into the mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture begins to turn golden brown, 1-2 minutes.  Stir the white wine and broth into the pan.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.  Whisk in the cheddar and stir until melted.  Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Mix in the broccoli florets and chicken pieces, and cook just until heated through.
  4. Mix in the cooked pasta until evenly coated with the sauce. Serve warm.

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