Penne with Chicken and Red Peppers in Light Cream Sauce

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Where did the last whole year go??! I simply can’t believe it’s been over a year since my last post back in November 2015! Thank you for those of you that continued to pop in to refer to my old recipes! I have no sound reason or excuse for not posting here over the past year. I thought about it almost every other day, felt guilty, but didn’t quite take the time to translate that to action. But, here I am today, with a renewed enthusiasm to post again – and what better way to kickoff the new season (both the Fall season and my season 2 of blogging) than share with you a simple recipe for a comforting dish of pasta with chicken and red peppers in a light cream sauce!

This dish really does together in a snap! All you need is some cut-up boneless/skinless chicken (thighs or breast), red peppers, some light cream, pasta and basic seasonings such as Italian herb mix and garlic. You can work on the chicken and red pepper sauce while the pasta cooks, so you can just toss the pasta into the sauce as soon as it is done! What is even more appealing about this recipe, since it is super quick to make, this could easily be a weeknight dinner recipe!

So, grab the few ingredients listed below and start whipping up a comforting bowl of pasta for tonight! And, oh, if you so desire, stir in some cut up spicy chicken Andouille sausage with the chicken for an extra special treat!

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Penne with Chicken and Red Peppers in Light Cream Sauce

  • Servings: 8
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Ingredients:
1 16-oz pkg of penne pasta (I used vegetable kind)
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, cut up into bite size pieces
1 1/2 pounds boneless/skinless chicken, cut up into bite size pieces
1 cup canned fire-roasted diced tomato
1/4 grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup light cream
Crushed red pepper, Salt and Pepper to taste
Extra cheese, if desired

Preparation:
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook pasta according to directions.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Saute onion and garlic for a minute and add the red peppers. Stir often and cook until the peppers are a bit charred.
3. Add chicken to the pan and continue to saute till it cooked through.
4. Slowly add the tomato to the pan and season with salt, black pepper and salt to taste. Continue to cook for another 3 minutes.
5. Mix in the grated cheese and light cream. Reduce heat and simmer till everything melds together (about 3 minutes).
6. Turn off heat and toss in the cooked, drained pasta. Serve immediately.

Tip: Leftover pasta can be transferred to an airtight container and kept in the refrigerator for another meal mid-week.

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Comfort Pasta with Kale and Ground Beef

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What is it with pasta and the gazillion ways in which you can prepare them! They truly are a star pantry item!

I know I said I am going to try to get back on my healthy wagon, so I think you will appreciate this recipe. Yes, yes, it’s almost the end of January when most of the resolutions fall to the wayside. But, after trying this recipe, eating healthy may not be that difficult after all.

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This recipe is pretty simple, something I concocted while recovering from a mini version of the flu (thankfully short-lived due to Tamiflu). I didn’t quite have the energy to spend an hour in the kitchen, but at the same time didn’t want to be bed sofa-ridden for another meal. So, there I lay making a mental rundown on the items I had on hand, especially the pound of extra lean beef I was going to make chili with before I fell sick.

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So, now that the chili making was off the table till next weekend, I figured I should use up the beef in some form rather than freezing it. Pasta dish it will be! Kale, carrots, mushrooms, beef and a touch of cream and garlic! Simple, yet comforting enough!

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What are you waiting for? Grab the handful of ingredients this recipe calls for and whip up this dish while the pasta cooks! Yes, it is that simple! Go ahead and try it, you might actually end up planning to make it again soon!

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  • Servings: ”4″
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Ingredients
1/2 package pasta of your choice (I used penne)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 pound lean (or extra-lean) ground beef
1 small bunch kale, rinsed and broken into small pieces
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 cups of slices mushrooms
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
dash of ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons of cream
1/4 cup grated parmesan
crushed red pepper, optional

Preparation
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Season with salt and cook pasta per directions.
2. In a large pot, heat a tablespoon of olive oil. Saute garlic and onion till translucent.
3. Add ground beef and brown the meat, breaking up any large clumps.
4. Add the carrots and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.
5. Now, add the kale and mushrooms and saute for another 3-5 minutes.
6. Season with Italian seasoning, black pepper and salt per your taste.
7. Add the cream and grate the nutmeg.
8. Toss with pasta and serve with a sprinkling of parmesan and crushed red pepper, if desired.

Weeknight Spaghetti in Spicy Diavolo Sauce with Shrimp

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Weeknight meals are tough, even for the most seasoned cook. You are dealing with kids’ after school activities, homework, house work, other errands etc., that even if you love cooking, it sounds like a grueling task! It doesn’t have to be an arduous task if you have a quick, delicious and not to mention rather healthy recipe!

That brings you to this spaghetti dish in a spicy tomato sauce. As an option, you can add in seafood of your choice – shrimp, mussels, lobster meat, or even scallops! I used shrimp in mine because I had it on hand.

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Instead of grabbing a bottled pasta sauce, I wanted to make something from “scratch” – in quotes because I didn’t quite blanch the tomato and crush it. I opted for a can of no-salt added crushed tomato, saving precious time in the kitchen! 🙂 Grated lemon zest, chopped fresh basil and a good sprinkling of crushed red peppers lend a wonderful blend of spicy, citrusy note to the sauce that goes so perfectly well with the seafood. Yum! The sauce itself is a keeper even for a simple vegetarian meal!

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You can save even more time if you already have leftover cooked pasta of any kind. If you are really in a pinch, use a low-sugar bottled pasta sauce AND add in extra basil, lemon zest and crushed red pepper. By using a can of crushed tomato, you can adjust the salt and other seasonings to your own specifications – now who wouldn’t want a tailored sauce??!!

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Weeknight Spaghetti in Spicy Diavolo Sauce with Shrimp

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients
1/2 package spaghetti of your choice (regular, whole grain etc.)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes (adjust to your taste)
1 1/2 cups no-salt added crushed tomato
Grated zest from half lemon
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Kosher salt to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1/2 lb large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley for garnish
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preparation
1. If not using leftover cooked pasta (a time saver), cook pasta according to package directions and set aside.
2. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium high heat and sauté the shrimp till cooked through. Sprinkle with a dash of salt. Remove from pan and set aside, covered to keep warm.
3. Heat a small sauce pan over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté onion and garlic.
4. Add crushed red pepper flakes, crushed tomato, basil, lemon zest, lemon juice and salt. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and let simmer for 12-15 minutes till all flavors meld well.
5. Stir in the basil and remove from heat.
6. Toss the pasta with 1/2 cup of sauce and shrimp. Serve on individual plates. Top with remaining sauce distributed among four plates. Garnish with a sprinkling of parsley and freshly grated parmesan cheese. Serve immediately! Bon Apetit

Whole wheat pasta in spinach and ricotta sauce

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! I really had all the intention to develop a complete St. Patrick’s Day dinner menu with a green color theme – including a mint, avocado or pistachio based dessert! But, alas, time just slipped by too fast!

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In an attempt to at least pull together a wholesome main entrée, I looked around my kitchen for appropriate ingredients. We enjoy pasta, so I decided to take the route of a pasta dish served with a pan grilled tilapia filet.

This recipe uses whole wheat pasta (pick any type you choose – spaghetti, rotini, penne….), frozen spinach, reduced fat ricotta, bit of garlic, sundried tomato, paremesan and white cheddar. For the meat/seafood component, you could go either with chicken, fish or shrimp to get the optimal flavor. I don’t think beef will be a good match for this pasta dish. Just my opinion! 🙂

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This pasta, as you can see from the picture, is very green! If green is not a favorite food color in your household, I would like to urge you to still give this a try. Spinach combined with garlic and ricotta results in such a delicate flavor, you will soon overlook the color. The color did not bother my family even a bit, and I must say, I will certainly prepare this dish again. I hope you will give this recipe a try and let me know your feedback.

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Whole wheat pasta in spinach and ricotta sauce

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients
8 oz whole wheat pasta
8 oz frozen spinach
3 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
3/4 cup low fat ricotta cheese
1/4 cup (or slightly more) cooked pasta water
1 tablespoon olive oil plus additional tablespoon
1/4 cup thinly slivered sundried tomato
1/4 cup grated white cheddar or mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan or pecorino romano cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation
1. Prepare pasta according to directions. Drain, reserving about 1/4 cup of pasta water.
2. Thaw frozen spinach, squeezing out excess water.
3. Heat a small sauté pan over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and lightly brown the garlic.
4. Blend spinach, garlic, ricotta and reserved pasta water in a blender or food processor till smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Pour the spinach sauce over cooked pasta. Add white cheddar or mozzarella cheese and sundried tomato and toss to mix.
6. Transfer the pasta/sauce mixture to an oven-proof baking dish and sprinkle parmesan cheese over it. Drizzle about the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
7. Place the dish under the broiler set at medium high/high heat and broil for about 5-7 minutes till cheese is melted and top is lightly golden.
8. Serve immediately with grilled chicken or fish.

Pad Thai Style Asian Noodles

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Pad Thai is probably the most common Thai dish enjoyed in North America! It is a dish that offers a perfect balance of flavors. One down side is that if you prefer spicy food, this probably won’t be your top choice at a Thai restaurant. I prefer Pad See Ew or other spicy options when we dine at Thai restaurants, but occasionally I do enjoy the delicate flavors of Pad Thai.

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This recipe is inspired by traditional Pad Thai. I say inspired because it uses different blend of sauces/seasoning and vegetables. Served with a side of crispy cucumbers, red onions and jalapeno in a sweet and sour dressing, this noodle will taste light and refreshing.

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Pad Thai Style Asian Noodles

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients 8 oz wide rice noodles
2 tablespoons oil
2 cups of shredded napa cabbage
1 large carrot, shredded
3 green onions, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 inch piece of ginger, minced
½ lb medium uncooked shrimp or boneless, skinless chicken, cut into bite size pieces
1 tablespoon corn starch

Sauce for the noodles 3 tablespoons sweet dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 dime sized ball of tamarind pulp dissolved in ¼ cup warm water
1 clove of garlic, minced,
¼ inch piece of ginger, minced
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 green onion, minced

Garnish
1 lime quartered
¼ cup toasted peanuts, crushed

Preparation
1. Bring a pot of water to boil and cook noodles according to instructions. Drain and set aside.
2. Prepare the sauce for the noodles by combining all the ingredients and simmering under low heat for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
3. In a large skillet or wok, heat one tablespoon of oil under high heat. Stir fry shrimp (or chicken) coated in cornstarch till cooked through. Remove to a plate and set aside till later.
4. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the wok and add ginger and garlic, followed by all vegetables. Stir fry the vegetables for about 3-5 minutes.
5. Add the cooked shrimp or chicken and follow with the sauce. Mix well.
6. Add the cooked noodles and gently toss to combine.
7. Serve immediately with a wedge of lime, a generous sprinkling of peanuts and a crisp cucumber salad!

Mafalde in Creamy Avocado Sauce

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If you are reading this, that means we share something in common – a love for avocados! Love as in anything with avocado in it – salads, smoothies, guacamole, desserts and whatever else.
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Going back to my childhood years, the only way I remember eating these velvety smooth fruits is in the form of an Avocado Fool – a sweetened and chilled concoction of mashed avocado, sugar and milk (or just condensed milk). Even now, I can recollect admiring the huge smooth green fruits (like the Florida type) hanging from trees waiting for someone to transform them into a Fool, the only way I think anyone there knew how to enjoy them! Fast forward to the present time and gosh only imagination is the limit!

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I love creamy pastas but cringe at the thought of consuming more than a day’s worth of fat in just a single meal. Needless to say, it is one of my kids’ favorites. Knowing that they don’t get treated to the full-fat version at home, they try their luck at restaurants and honestly, I feel like it is some sort of a dietary “abuse” every time I reluctantly allow them to order a creamy pasta dish. Now, being an aficionado of creamy sauces like alfredo, I look for ways to lighten up the recipes by substituting low fat milk for cream, less butter etc. Then I came across the idea for an avocado-based sauce at http://sweetlifebake.com. The original recipe calls for 2 ripe avocados for 4 servings but I found that just 1 worked perfectly.

Mafalde in Creamy Avocado Sauce

  • Servings: 4
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Ingredients
1/2 pkg of 16oz Mafalde* pasta or any other pasta of your choice
1 Hass avocado
1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup of chopped onions
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 cup of cilantro leaves
1 large Roma tomato, chopped
Salt to taste

Preparation
1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of pasta water.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet and sauté onions and garlic till lightly browned.
3. Transfer cooked onion and garlic to a blender.
4. Wipe the pan and add remaining tablespoon of oil.
5. Add chopped tomato to the pan the cook just until soft. Reduce heat to very low while making the sauce.
6. Scoop out pulp from the avocado and place in blender with the juice from 1/2 lemon, cilantro leaves and salt.
7. Start blending, incorporating just enough pasta liquid to make a thick sauce of desired consistency.
8. Transfer the pasta back to the pan with the tomato. Increase heat to medium.
9. Add the avocado sauce and gently stir to warm through.
7. Serve with extra sprinkling of cilantro and chopped tomato if desired.

* Mafalde pasta resembles a thinner version of lasagna pasta. It can be found in stores that carry a good variety of international ingredients. It can easily be substituted with other pasta of your choice.