Sun Dried Tomato Pasta with Chicken and Spinach

Sun dried tomato pasta 4

Tender chicken, barely cooked spinach, crunchy bacon and tangy parmesan … this pasta dish has it all,   It’s a meal in a dish.

It seems like many years ago I just L O V E D a recipe like this at a local restaurant, creamy yet intensely flavoured and tasty chicken bits.  It took a while, but I finally found this one from RecipeTin Eats, and it is perfect!

Ingredients

  • 300g / 10 oz fettuccine
  • 30g / 2 tbsp butter , separated
  • 2 chicken breasts , cut in half horizontally
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves , minced
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) dry white wine (sub more chicken broth)
  • 1/2 cup (125ml) chicken stock / broth
  • 1 1/4 cups (315ml) cream , thickened / heavy 
  • 3/4 cup (75g) parmesan , finely shredded
  • 70g / 2.5oz baby spinach
  • 100 g / 3oz sun dried tomato strips

SERVING:

  • 120g / 4oz bacon , cooked and crumbled
  • More parmesan
  • Parsley , for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  • Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water for time per packet minus 1 1/2 minutes.
  • Just before draining, scoop out a mugful of pasta cooking water. Then drain pasta.

CHICKEN:

  • Sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.
  • Melt half the butter in a large skillet over hig heat.
  • Add chicken and cook for 2 minutes on each side until deep golden.
  • Remove chicken onto plate, rest for a few minutes then shred with 2 forks.

ALFREDO SAUCE:

  • Turn down heat to medium high. In the same skillet, add remaining butter and garlic.
  • Cook garlic for 30 seconds until golden, then add wine.
  • Simmer rapidly, stirring to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. Once mostly evaporated, add chicken broth, cream, parmesan and sun dried tomato.
  • Simmer on medium for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring leisurely, until it reduces and thickens.
Sun dried tomato pasta 1

The most important aspect of this sauce is letting it thicken enough to be rich and glistening.

ESSENTIAL TOSSING:

  • Add spinach, chicken and cooked pasta.
  • Toss for 1 1/2 – 2 minutes on the stove, until sauce thickens and coats the pasta strands – Use pasta cooking water if needed if it gets too thick.
  • Serve immediately with parmesan, crumbled bacon and parsley (if desired).
Sun dried tomato pasta 2

Fresh herbs really pop with colour and freshness in this dish, I added some fresh basil out of the garden and it was a perfect touch.

Moist and tender meatballs

I’ve made meatballs for so many years I can’t even remember when I started.  Then, over the last few years we’ve tasted some pretty amazing meatballs, most notably and surprisingly – in Mexico!  I decided I better start rethinking my meatball game.  After research and the usual taste testing, these won out.  They are so moist and tender you won’t believe the difference.  I like to make a double batch and freeze a bunch for another day.

Spaghetti & meatballs

One perfectly moist meatball, set on a bed of saucy tangled pasta – heaven.

 

 

  • 2 pounds ground meat (equal parts ground beef & ground pork)
  • 1 cup panko-style breadcrumbs
  • 2/3 cup milk, any kind
  • 4 tablespoon finely chopped parsley, plus more to serve
  • 4 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
  • 2 teaspoons coarse or kosher salt
  • Red pepper flakes and/or freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic cloves

Heat your oven to 425 degrees F.

Line a large baking sheet with foil for easy cleanup, and coat it lightly with a nonstick spray.

Meatballs 2

Add the milk, eggs and seasonings to the panko first in order to have it all evenly distributed without overmixing your meatballs.

Meatballs 1

Next -get your herbs in there.

Meatballs 3

This is where the large fork comes in handy.  If you over mix the meatballs they will get tough, so this allows you to gently combine everything.

 

Place meat, crumbs, milk, parsley, cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, onion powder, eggs, and your minced garlic in a large bowl, and mash everything together with a fork (this keeps your meatballs from getting overworked) until evenly mixed. Using wet hands if needed, form mixture into 2-inch meatballs (I used a 3 tablespoon scoop) and arrange on prepared tray. Roast for 12 minutes, until cooked through (you can cut one in half).

Meatballs 4

Ready to pop in the oven.  These were on the larger size so they took about 18 minutes to cook through.  Don’t overcook them!  Break one open at that point and check.

Meatballs 5

If serving with spaghetti – submerge meatballs into tomato sauce and allow to simmer until pasta is ready.

Always cook the pasta for the last few minutes in the tomato sauce to allow the sauce to coat all pasta.

Serve with plenty of parmesan to grate over top.

Thanks to Deb at Smitten Kitchen for these meatballs!

 

Cafe de Paris Beurre

Cafe de Paris 8

How to enhance an already perfect medium rare steak?  Cafe de Paris Beurre.  It’s that easy.

What’s that, you say????  Only the most amazing flavour packed umami bomb you will ever create.  Don’t be alarmed by the list of ingredients.  This makes a whack of butter, which you can give away to your best of friends, or stash in your freezer to pull out when needed.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound, 5 ounces unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ounce ketchup
  • 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 ounce capers, rinsed
  • 2 ounces shallots, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chives, snipped
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon dill, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon tarragon leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 anchovy fillets, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • 1 tablespoon madeira
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne powder
  • juice of one lemon
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • zest of 1/4 Orange
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
Cafe de Paris 5

Just a few of the many ingredients needed.

Cafe de Paris 3

Okay, it might not look appetizing right now, but it smells incredible …

 

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large bowl, beat the butter by hand or use an electric mixer set to slow speed, until it has a slightly creamy texture.
  2. In a separate bowl, combine all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add this mixture to the butter and beat again until all the ingredients are completely combined.
  3. Place a double thickness of foil, about 12 inches long, on a flat surface and line with a similar-sized piece of silicone paper. Spread half the butter along one of the foil edges and roll up to form a long sausage shape — roll it with your hands like a rolling pin to get a tidy shape and eliminate any air pockets. Twist the ends to seal. You can also use plastic kitchen wrap, which I did this time.  Repeat this process with the remaining butter. Place in the fridge to chill before use.
  4. To use, slice a ½ inch thick disc of butter and place on top of a grilled steak (or a steamed spud). Traditionally, the steak is placed back under a hot grill (broiler) to soften and brown the butter, but I don’t reckon you need to do this, just let it melt from the heat of the steak.
  5. The butter can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few weeks or in the freezer for several months.
Cafe de Paris 4

Ready to roll into logs and pop in the freezer (or gift bags!)

Cafe de Paris 6

Don’t just think of steaks, top any chicken or fish dish, or use it in place of garlic butter on bread.

Cafe de Paris Beurre 1

I tried out quite a few recipes I found, and this one from Food Republic, is the definite winner, and the most like a butter topped steak we had a “Red Door” in Whistler.  If you aren’t a meat lover, don’t even worry – it’s just amazing on vegetables, scrambled eggs or melted and drizzled over popcorn!

 

CREAMY THAI PEANUT PRAWN & NOODLES

Noodles 3

Creamy, tangy and full of crunch this Peanut Noodle Dish is really a one pot wonder.  One of the few peanut sauces I’ve liked, that didn’t require cooking!

My BFF Jean made a version like this when we met up in Osoyoos for wine tasting, and it was just perfect.  She made it into a one pot meal by using quick cooking Ramen noodles, which cooked in a large pot of boiling water, adding veg and shrimp at the appropriate times to get it all cooked.  Drain it in a colander and pour the sauce over – presto, deliciousness!!!
Ingredients:
These are really just suggestions.  Tonight I used broccoli and sweet coloured peppers.
  • 2 servings of rice noodles
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • vegetables, such as :
  • 1 carrot, peeled and shredded
  • ½ pound snow peas, ends trimmed and shredded
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • sweet coloured peppers
  • onions
  • garlic

Peanut Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped fine
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 cup of chicken stock
  • Toppings:
  • chopped cilantro
  • chopped peanuts
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • lime wedges
  • sriracha sauce (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  • Mix ginger, garlic, peanut butter, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, chicken stock and chili flakes in a bowl, puree and set aside.
  • Soak rice noodles in very hot water until just al dente, drain and set aside.
  • Remove the ingredients from heat and drain with a colander.
  • In saute pan, stir fry vegetables until just crisp tender.  Remove and stir fry prawns just until plump and tender.  Be careful not to overcook them – that can happen in the blink of an eye.

Noodles 1Return all ingredients to saute pan and stir to mix.  Add in enough noodles just to get the balance right.

Noodles 2

  • Pour the peanut sauce over the noodles and mix well.
  • Top with cilantro, peanut, sesame seeds and lime wedges to serve.
You can use any noodle if you don’t want the rice noodles, just cook according to package directions.

Classic Mac …… & cheese

Meals on wheels Mac

Creamy cheesy elbow macaroni hiding under a crispy crackly coating of panko.

Classic macaroni and cheese is one of those comforting dishes for a cool night.  I like to serve this with either cubed ham baked right in with the pasta, or alongside crispy chicken tenders.  Kids love it either way!

I’ve done recipes with the pasta cooked right in with the sauce in the oven; they are great, quick and easy.  But for comfort food, creamy and delicious, it is classic all the way.

You can use skim or whole milk in this recipe, either works just fine.  We used gluten free elbow pasta and it also works just great.

BREAD CRUMB TOPPING

  • 3/4 cup panko crumbs
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning

Stir crumbs & seasoning into butter until well coated.  Set aside.

MACARONI & CHEESE

  • 1 tbsp (plus 1 tsp table salt)
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 6 tbsp unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • splash Worcestershire sauce
  • 5 cups milk
  • 5 cups shredded cheese, sharp or old cheddar works best

Grease a 9×13 baking dish

Preheat oven to 350

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 tbsp salt and the macaroni noodles.  Boil until just al dente and strain immediately.

Bechamel

Classic béchamel sauce ….. stir, stir, stir until it is creamy and smooth – so easy to turn into delicious cheese sauce for vegetables or this macaroni and cheese bake.

In the now empty saucepan, melt the butter, and stir in the flour, mustard, cayenne and remaining 1 tsp salt.  Whisk until mixture becomes fragrant and slightly deepens in colour, just around 1 minute.  Gradually add milk, drop in a splash of worcestershire, and keep whisking well so you don’t get any lumps and the milky mixture doesn’t stick to the pan.  Allow to come to a full boil in order for the thickening action to get going.  Reduce heat and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally until mixture has thickened and is the consistency of a thick cream.  Remove from heat, stir well and then add cheese.  Once cheese has been fully incorporated, add the macaroni noodles and combine it well.  (If you are adding ham cubes this is the time to do it)  Give the mixture a generous grind of fresh black pepper, to taste. (my grandkids aren’t crazy about pepper, so when it is for them, I’m lightly seasoning the pasta)

Mac & Cheese

Turn mixture into prepared baking dish and lightly cover with the panko crumb mixture.

Oven ready Mac

Ready for the oven, this classic dish will soon be crispy on top and creamy underneath.

Bake, just until you see the cheese mixture bubbling and the topping has browned.

Remove from oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Tart and Tangy Thai Pork Noodles

This makes for a quick and easy dinner, using one skillet (or wok), and just involves a bit of chopping.  As always, please please, taste your marinade before adding cornstarch.  If you don’t smack your lips and say yum yum, try adjusting.  Maybe you like it spicier?  – add chile flakes.  Maybe you like it more tart?  – add lime.  Any dish that has Thai in the title should be well balanced, with salty, sweet, spicy & sour in perfect harmony. Once you get that perfect balance add the corn starch.

Pork noodles

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb boneless pork loin,  cut into strips
  • tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • tablespoons soya sauce (reduced sodium)
  •  4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 1teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 ounces rice noodles
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided use
  •  broccoli florets
  • carrot, sliced 1/8 inch thick
  • 1 sweet red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  • bamboo shoots (optional)
  • water chestnuts (optional)

Realistically – – – all the vegetables are optional, use whatever you like, just make sure you have a good assortment of color and crunch.

DIRECTIONS

  1. Combine hoisin sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, honey, cornstarch, sesame oil and red pepper flakes.  Remove enough just to cover pork and place in bowl.
  2. Add pork, marinate while preparing pasta and vegetables or up to overnight.
  3. Cook (or soak) rice noodles according to package directions, drain.
  4. Heat 1 tsp oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute garlic & ginger for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add vegetables and saute until crisp-tender (about 5 minutes).
  6. Remove vegetables from skillet and keep warm.
  7. Add remaining oil and pork mixture to skillet. Cook until pork is nicely browned.
  8. Remove pork, keep warm and stir in remaining marinade to skillet.  Cook until bubbly so the cornstarch is cooked through and thickens.
  9. Return pork & vegetables to skillet, add rice noodles, heat through and serve.

Garnishes:  sliced green onions, toasted and chopped peanuts and roughly chopped cilantro.

This dish works equally well if you want to make it a vegetarian dish, or decide to change up the protein, try:

  • sliced chicken thighs
  • prawns
  • seafood

We like rice noodles, but you could easily use any type of pasta you have on hand like chinese egg noodles or spaghetti noodles.

Grilled Shrimp and Cauliflower with Romesco Dipping Sauce

Cauliflower & Shrimp with Romescu
The first thing you need to know is that this sauce is A M A Z I N G.  Put it on your sandwich, toss hot pasta with it, fresh veggie dip or meat skewer dip …. it wins every time.  Today’s appetizer included these grilled cauliflower florets, lightly marinated shrimp and green onions.

Ingredients for Romesco

1 1/2 CUPS SERVINGS

  • 1 large roasted red bell pepper from a jar
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1/4 cup tomato purée
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparation

Pulse first 8 ingredients in a food processor until very finely chopped. With motor running, slowly add oil; process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Romesco can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill.

romescu

To use as a dipping sauce, heat through until easy to stir and warm.

 

Shrimp and Vegetables

  • 1 head of cauliflower – cut into florets
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 lb jumbo shrimp – tails and shells on
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp lime juice
  • 1 bunch green onions

Lightly steam cauliflower until just tender crisp – be careful not too overcook it.

Season with salt.

In a large bowl, toss shrimp with vegetable oil and lime juice.  Allow to sit for 20-30 minutes.

Grill cauliflower, shrimp and green onions just until heated through (and shrimp is fully cooked) – try to get some pretty grill marks on there!

Arrange on a serving platter with the Romesco and dip merrily away.