Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ladies Who Lunch

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta Bake
A few weekends ago I ended up hosting an impromtu ladies lunch at my apartment. It was a casual, laid-back affair and I didn't want to spend a ton of time in the kitchen.  This casserole received rave reviews and was simple to assemble!

When I first found this recipe, I was put off by the cream cheese and the sour cream mixture in the sauce, but was able to modify and cut the quantity (and fat!) without compromising taste. I even added another vegetable (mushrooms) to amp up the nutrition content. Serve with a side salad or fruit, and you have a tasty, simple and impressive meal. Enjoy!

Spinach and Artichoke Pasta Bake
Cast of Characters: Small-shaped pasta, frozen spinach, artichoke hearts (canned, jarred or frozen), mushrooms (optional), reduced-fat cream cheese, reduced-fat sour cream, parmesan cheese, garlic, lemon, onion and olive oil.

Cook pasta as directed on the box.

Chop onions, garlic, artichoke hearts and mushrooms.

Saute the onion and garlic.

Add frozen spinach, mushrooms and artichoke hearts.

Drain the pasta and put in a large bowl. Add a 1/4 cup of cream cheese and sour cream (more or less depending on your preference) and lemon zest. Fold together.

Put in a casserole dish coated with cooking spray and top with parmesan cheese. Bake at 425.


Here's the original recipe from Budget Savvy Diva:

  • 14 oz of Orecchiette Pasta ( or short pasta)
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup of Chopped Onion
  • 3 Cloves of Garlic ( Minced)
  • 1 Cup of Sour Cream
  • 4 oz of Cream Cheese ( Room Temperature)
  • 3/4 Cup of Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Juice + Zest
  • 10 Oz of Spinach ( Make sure to squeeze excess moisture, after it has been thawed of course)
  • 13.5 Can of Artichoke Hearts rinsed and chopped
  • 1 Cup of Mozzarella
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon of Pepper
  1. Preheat Oven To 425
  2. Cook pasta according to the box. Keep 1/4 Cup of the Pasta Water before youdrain the cooked pasta.
  3. Heat oil in pan and cook onions for 8 – 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for one minute.
  4. In a large bowl – Mix Sour Cream, Cream Cheese, Parmesan, Lemon (juice and zest), onions, and garlic. Add Pasta and mix.
  5. Stir in spinach, artichokes, 1/4 cup of cooking liquid from the pasta, salt, pepper, and 1/2 Cup of Mozzarella
  6. Place mixture into greased 2.5 – 3 qt casserole dish and place the rest of mozzarella cheese on top
  7. Place in the oven till golden brown on top – about 10 – 15 minutes.
  8. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

It's Easy Being Green

Pesto Risotto with Roasted Zucchini

There are a ton of pictures today, so I'm gonna keep the written portion of this post short and sweet. Once again, I've found a fantastic recipe on the Post Punk Kitchen. My last experience with them was the recipe I blogged about here. Those curry fries were a hit, and I had several folks email me that they tried them and loved them!

Today's recipe, Pesto Risotto with Roasted Zucchini will be entered into the  (fictitious) *From Scratch Hall of Fame. It's creamy and flavorful, and doesn't require a lot of ingredients.

Short-grained arborio rice is toasted in a pan and then coaxed into creamy perfection by layering in pesto and vegetable broth. Top it off with simply prepared roasted zucchini that's been tossed in salt, pepper, garlic and EVOO, and you have an amazing dish. Enjoy!

Pesto Risotto with Roasted Zucchini
Cast of Characters: Fresh zucchini, onion, arborio rice, pesto, vegetable broth or bouillon, salt, pepper and olive oil (not pictured: garlic).
Warm broth or bouillon cubes.

Add diced onion, evoo, s/p to pan. Saute until onions are translucent.
Add the rice to the pan and toast up the rice. Add white wine here if you want (I didn't have any so I skipped that step). 

Start gradually adding the warm broth and stirring until it's absorbed. You do this cupful by cupful, not all the broth at the same time.

Once half of the broth is absorbed, add half of your pesto and stir it in. Layering great flavor!

Keep stirring and adding the broth. Mr.*From Scratch leant a hand when my arm got tired:-)

When the broth is gone, add the last of the pesto and do a taste test. If the rice is still crunchy, add a little more warm water or heat up some more broth. We had to heat up one more bouillon cube b/c ours was a little crunchy. In retrospect, I think this is because I skipped adding the white wine.
Whilst you are preparing the risotto, cut up your zucchini, toss with s/p, evoo and garlic. Roast in the oven for about 10-15 minutes.
Layer some rice in a bowl and top with the roasted zucchini. I added some fresh tomatoes for garnish.  I fully intended on garnishing with parmesan cheese but once I tasted the dish, it needed absolutely NOTHING else. It was perfect!
Recipe From The Post Punk Kitchen:

For the risotto:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups or so vegetable broth
3/4 cup pesto (I recommend Bestest Pesto, it makes plenty)
1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less depending on how salty your broth and pesto are, so taste for salt often)
Fresh black pepper
For the zucchini:
1 lb zucchini, cut on on a bias into chunky half moons
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
Extra toasted pinenuts
Extra pesto for drizzling
Warm the vegetable broth in a saucepan. Keep it warm on the lowest setting possible as you prepare the risotto.
Preheat the oven to 425 F for the zucchini, and have ready a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Now let’s make the risotto! Preheat a heavy-bottomed 4 quart pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion in oil and a pinch of salt until translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the rice and use a wooden spoon to stir and coat with oil. Add the white wine and stir occasionally, until wine is mostly absorbed, 4 minutes or so. Add a few dashes fresh black pepper, and half of the salt. Turn the heat down just a bit to medium-low.
Add the broth by the cupful, stirring the risotto after each addition until the broth is mostly absorbed (6 to 8 minutes). After 2 cupfuls, add about half of the pesto and stir well, then continue to cook, adding broth by the cupful, stirring, and letting the liquid absorb.
At some point in there, your oven will be preheated. Toss the zucchini with oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Roast for about 6 minutes on each side, or until softened and lightly browned. Remove from oven and set aside.
With your last addition of broth, add the remainder of the pesto. Taste for salt and add the other 1/4 teaspoon if needed. Risotto is ready when the rice is chewy but still firm, and the sauce is very creamy. For a firmer risotto, just cook a few minutes extra to absorb more of the liquid.
To serve: scoop risotto into each bowl, and top with zucchini. Drizzle with extra pesto and garnish with a few toasted pine nuts.
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Not only is this dish delish, it's vegetarian, vegan and gluten free. Can it get any better? Let me know what YOU think of this pesto powerhouse.