Chicken and Zucchini Bow Tie Pasta

The zucchini at the Farmer’s Market is HUGE. So much that we needed a dish where this was the main component. Luckily, we found this Rachel Ray dish from her 365 No Repeats. With a few modifications, it was super easy to make, filling and a nice end of summer dish.

1 pound bow-tie pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons for the chicken.
6 garlic cloves, minced (we used more)
2 medium zucchini, diced (we used one HUGE zucchini instead)
Coarse black pepper
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (we omitted this)
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn or shredded, about 20 leaves (we used dried and added a few more Italian seasonings, like fresh oregano)
2 chicken breasts, diced

Bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta. While waiting for the water to boil, cook the chicken breasts in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Turn heat to medium low. Add the rest of the olive oil and the garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the zucchini. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and additional seasonings. Drain the pasta and add to the zucchini, reserving about a cup of the cooking liquid. Add the cooking water. Turn heat to low. Toss for 2 minutes, until the liquids are absorbed.

My opinion:
Next time we’ll add more garlic and some red pepper flakes. Maybe a few more vegetables. Good additions would include broccoli, onion, peas, and more.


J’s Lasagna

I’ll be truthful, I prefer simple, clean flavors. I don’t like meat in the pasta sauce and I’m not in love with Ricotta cheese. After years of eating my family’s version of lasagna, J couldn’t take it anymore. He had to make his own.

1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon dried basil
2 (14 1/2 ounce) cans whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
24 ounces cottage cheese or 24 ounces ricotta cheese (we used half and half to appease me)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 lb mozzarella cheese, divided
12 -15 lasagna noodles

Brown ground beef, onion and garlic. Add salt and next 5 ingredients; stirring until well mixed. Simmer 1 hour. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside. Combine cottage cheese, eggs, pepper, Parmesan cheese and 1/2 of mozzarella cheese; In a lasagna pan, layer noodles, meat sauce, and cheese mixture; repeat. Top off with layer of noodles; sprinkle evenly with remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until cheese mixture is thoroughly melted.

My Opinion:
I’m not 100 percent sure J followed this recipe exactly, but if he didn’t he followed it pretty close. He modified it from this recipe. All in all, it was pretty good. I would let him make it again. It was a bit light on the cheese, which is the part of the lasagna I like most. We’ll fix that. I’m sure over time, we can find a good blend of my version of lasagna and his version.

Don’t forget! #cookchat this Thursday, January 20 at noon! Hope to see you there!

Family Bran Muffins

These are a tradition for my husband’s family to eat on Christmas morning. Be warned, while the name is bran, the taste and nutritional values are regular, bakery inspired, delicious muffins.

2 shredded wheat biscuits (each is about 2 ½ by 4 inches)
1 cup boiling water
1 ½ cups sugar
3/8 cups butter
1 pint (2 cups) buttermilk
2 eggs
2 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups bran flakes
2 ½ cups flour

Pour boiling water over shredded wheat biscuits. Let cool. Cream sugar and butter-or-shortening together until light and fluffy. Add cooled shredded wheat biscuits. Add eggs separately, beating until well blended. Stir baking soda into buttermilk. Add buttermilk and soda to mixture. Add salt, bran flakes and flour. Stir just to blend. Store in refrigerator for three days. Do not stir. Spoon into muffin cups (1/2 -3 /4 filled). Bake at 400 degrees for 10 – 15 minutes.

My Opinion:
I actually ran out of flour when I made this a few days before Christmas. I didn’t add the rest of the 2 cups of flour until Christmas Eve. I also added more baking soda because I prefer fluffy muffins to scone-esque ones. Every year we make these they get better.

This week’s food posts are brought to you by#cookchat. My co-moderator, Matt LaCasse and I are announcing #cookchat’s triumphant return on Thursday January 20, a 8 p.m. CST. Join us for an hour of food filled conversation.

Salmon with Garlic, Basil and Tomato

Ingredients for Four People:
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole wild salmon fillet (also called a “side of salmon,” about 1 1/2 pounds) [I just used fillets]
1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, divided [chiffanade style]
2 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
(Modified from an recipe)

Preheat grill to medium.
Mash minced garlic and 3/4 teaspoon salt on a cutting board with the side of a chef’s knife or a spoon until a paste forms. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in oil.
Check the salmon for pin bones and remove if necessary (see Tips). Measure out a piece of heavy-duty foil (or use a double layer of regular foil) large enough for the salmon fillet. Coat the foil with cooking spray. Place the salmon skin-side down on the foil and spread the garlic mixture all over it. Sprinkle with 1/3 cup basil. Overlap tomato slices on top and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper.
Transfer the salmon on the foil to the grill. Grill until the fish flakes easily, 10 to 12 minutes. Use two large spatulas to slide the salmon from the foil to a serving platter. Serve the salmon sprinkled with the remaining 1/4 cup basil.

My Opinion:
This recipe looked so easy! And it was. The recipe suggests either baking or grilling this dish. If I make it again, I will likely grill it to try to infuse more flavor. I had to add more cooking time to the baking because the salmon was still nearly raw in the middle after about 20 minutes.

However, the truth is overall the dish was kind of bland. I also used fresh garden tomatoes which may have been the reason they got completely flavorless in the oven. I ended up taking them off and adding fresh slices as I ate. And the basil was overwhelming, next time I will use less.