PROJECT RECIPE: Spinach and sundried tomato pasta

Now that the busy time of my real job is over, I’m slowly getting back into actually cooking. And posting. And just in time for us to get busy with softball games. Yes, I play on 2 teams and Jeremy plays on 3. We are full-on crazy. We have pretty much no time for anything else. So, this time of year, I start looking for quick and easy meals that I can make on the fly before or after a game.

I stumbled across this recipe for Spinach, Sundried Tomato and Goat Cheese Pasta a while back. I am trying to slowly work through, not only my big binder of recipes I print from other blogs, but through my pinterest pins. That’s a lot of recipes. But I never find myself without a plan for dinner, that’s for sure.

In keeping with the softball theme, I’d say this recipe was a “home run!”

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Cheesy, I know.

Actually, it was cheesy–goat cheesy.

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: It’s a keeper. It was super fast and filing. And vegetarian, so it was my weekly “Meatless Monday” offering. It was so tasty, I didn’t notice there was no meat in it. You can click through this link to the recipe I found, but below is how I made it.

Spinach, Sundried Tomato and Goat Cheese Pasta (serves 2 generously)

  • 8 oz. dried pasta (I used penne)
  • 2-ish Tb extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp minced garlic (or 3 cloves minced)
  • About 4 cups of fresh spinach
  • 10 – 12 sundried tomato pieces
  • 3 oz. goat cheese
  • freshly grated parmasan cheese

Cook pasta according to package. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add garlic and saute a minute or two, until it becomes fragrant. Add spinach and turn down heat to low. Give it a good stir to coat the spinach with the oil. Place a lid on the skillet. Stir occasionally, until spinach wilts, about 3-4 minutes. Place sundried tomatoes in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let sit about 15 minutes until tender. You may want to cut the tomatoes into smaller pieces. I do this with a pair of kitchen scissors. Add to the spinach in the skillet. Reserve the water. When the pasta has finished cooking, drain it well. Add the spinach and tomato mixture to the pasta. Add the goat cheese and stir well to melt the goat cheese. You may need to add a little bit of the tomato-y water to the mixture if it doesn’t seem saucy enough. Serve immediately and top with grated parm cheese.

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This recipe came together in less than 25 minutes. Fast, easy and delicious. Perfect for a busy weeknight. I didn’t have any sour cream, like the original recipe called for, so I didn’t add it in. I just added an extra spoon full of goat cheese and some of the water from soaking the tomatoes, and it didn’t seem to matter.

Here’s a funny story. I like to think I kinda know what I’m doing in the kitchen. I mean, I watch the FoodNetwork, for Godsakes. (That’s a joke…) But a few weeks back, I made some mac and cheese with sundried tomatoes. It was pretty good, but the tomatoes were a little… off. Chewy and really strong tasting. The Hubs wasn’t a fan–and this mac and cheese even had bacon in it! Well, I happen to read the back of the package some point just a couple weeks ago when I was using them to make bruschetta. Der! Jennelle, you’re supposed to soak them in water!!! That makes so much sense. That’s why they were so chewy and overpowering. Lesson learned. Soak you sundried tomatoes in water first, as per the package instructions, or your husband will tell you they taste like tobacco leaves!

Morels, Ramps and Wild Turkey–Spring is delicious in West Virginia!

Earlier this week, I took a couple days off work to get some much-needed work done around my house. I had plans to finish up a a few small painting projects and clean out the garage of a winter’s worth of salt, dirt and grime.

But Tuesday morning, I took a happy diversion. The Hubs brought home this:

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I was so excited because I still haven’t used the cookbook I got for Christmas, Afield, even once yet.

Now, I had something to make.

When the Hubs has killed turkeys in the past with his dad, they only took off the breasts and discarded the rest of the bird. But I’m into “snout to tail” — or rather “beak to tail feather” eating, and I didn’t want to waste anything. And Afield has a step by step guide to butchering a turkey, along with recipes of how to use the various cuts a turkey yields.

So we plucked the bird. It wasn’t nearly as hard as you’d imagine. The tail and wing ends are cut off, which are where the big, sturdy feathers are. The body is covered in small, finer feathers that come out with a strong grip by the handful. It only took us about 20 minutes to pluck the thing, cut off the parts that we would discard (I know that some cultures probably eat the head and feet, but I’m not quite ready for that…), and gut it. We sprayed it off with the water hose, and I took it inside to clean it better and get down to the business of butchering it following the steps in the book. I didn’t do quite as neat of a job as the instructions show, but it wasn’t too shabby.

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I was most excited for the random chunks of meat that are in the white quart-size containers. I am going to grind them up into turkey burger. I haven’t had turkey burger in about 3 years, since I stopped buying meat at the grocery store (occasionally, I do still buy free-range organic chicken at the grocery store). Tons of recipes call for turkey burger as a lean alternative to ground beef. While I do use ground venison and ground grass-fed beef, turkey burger has a totally different flavor, and it’ll be nice to have something different. I also cut up one of the legs into chunks for grinding, since it had some buckshot in it. There is a recipe for whole turkey leg in Afield, so I’ll definitely make it with the remaining leg.

For dinner, I kept some of the breast meat out. The first turkey recipe in Afield is for pan-fried turkey breast cutlets. And, they paired perfectly with ramp potato hash and fried morels.

My father-in-law, who spends his days in the woods as a logger, gave us a small batch of morels and a bag of ramps he “foraged” Sunday morning. I say “foraged” because that’s such a trendy term these days, and he gets a kick out of people hopping on the foraged foods bandwagon in recent years. He’s been bringing these things out of the woods and eating them his whole life. And what a tasty life that is!

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I made hash with potatoes, ramps and pancetta. I used pancetta because I didn’t have any bacon, and that’s what I had. Bacon probably would be better since it is smoked. But the pancetta crisped up nicely.

I pounded the turkey breast cutlets to about 1/2 inch thickness and breaded the turkey very simply in a mixture of flour and breadcrumbs, according to the recipe in Afield.  The recipe included a creamy wine and mushroom gravy, but I didn’t make it because I didn’t have any mushrooms–well, I didn’t have any button mushrooms. I did have morels. But I wanted to lightly bread and fry those as well.

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And, to make the whole thing even more decadent, I topped the hash with a simple poached egg. Good gawd, that gooey orange yolk dripping down through the hash was the best thing I’ve eaten in a long, long time. I think it’s because ramps and morels have such a short season and aren’t readily available at the store that they tasted so good. It’s the anticipation of their arrival that adds to their enjoyment. A rare delicacy!

Now, because ramps are available more widely and are at many farmers markets, you might have seen them and wondered what to do with them. Their reputation is probably overstated that you’ll smell them for days if you eat them. They are in the allium family, and a close cousin to green onions. At any rate, here’s my hash recipe. If you don’t have ramps, you can always sub leeks or green onions.

Potato and Ramp Hash (serves 4)

  • 2-3 large thin skin potatoes (I use kennebecs)
  • 4 oz. pancetta or bacon, chopped
  • 2 – 3 Tb. olive oil
  • a handful (about 10) ramps, cleaned
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large skillet with a lid on medium heat. Add pancetta, and cook for a few minutes before stirring. Meanwhile, dice potatoes (leaving skin on if you prefer). Cook pancetta over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it begins to crisp and a good bit of fat renders out. Push it to the sides of the pan and add diced potatoes to pan. You may need to add oil at this point. Shake the pan a few times to get the potatoes coated with the oil pretty evenly. Place the lid on the skillet. Chop the ramps into small pieces, white parts and green. After 3 or 4 minutes, check the potatoes and stir well. Add the ramps to the skillet and recover. Continue checking ever 3 or 4 minutes to make sure the potatoes aren’t beginning to stick. Stir often to distribute the ramps and pancetta throughout the potatoes, and to get them brown on all sides. The potatoes should take about 20 minutes to get a nice golden brown crisp throughout. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately topped with a pan-fried sunny side up or poached egg.

PROJECT RECIPE: Campanelle with Pale Ale Cream Sauce

I stumbled on a fantastic blog from Pinterest a few weeks back. It was right around St. Patrick’s Day, actually.  I remember because there was a recipe that used Guinness. Several actually… It was The Beeroness. The Beeroness cooks and bakes with beer. I love beer. And cooking. So, naturally, I was instantly a fan.

Work has been super-crazy. We just finished up our busy time of year. I was working long hours. And when I got home (long after dinner) I didn’t do anything but crash. And the next day, I did it all over again. The Hubs said he does not want to see a frozen pizza for a long, long time.

Last week, I found myself home while it was still light outside. And wanting to cook something for dinner. I printed off the recipe for Orecchiette Pasta with Pale Ale Cream Sauce a while back, but I just never got around to making it.

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PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Keeper! It was super easy, quick and versatile. You could easily sub in carrots or mushrooms and add some chicken or something. The pale ale in the sauce makes it different. If you didn’t know it was in the sauce, you be saying “There’s something about this sauce I just can’t put my finger on…” It’s a very subtle bitter hoppiness, and contrasts beautifully with the sweetness of the peas and the nutty saltiness of the parmesan.

How I changed the recipe: I used campanelle instead of orecchiette, obviously. I also added a little bit of roux made with 1 tablespoon each of butter and flour to the sauce to thicken it up a bit. I substituted half and half for the cream since that’s what I had on hand. I also think I made too much pasta. I used a whole pound of dried pasta. When I make this again, I’ll use less. It wasn’t saucy enough.

I’ll let you jump over to The Beeroness blog and look around for yourself. If you’re a craft beer fan like me, there are enough recipes to keep you busy (and keep your mouth watering) for a long time. Here’s the link again to the recipe I made: Orecchiette with Pale Ale Cream Sauce.

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Of course, I had the rest of the pale ale I opened to make the sauce with dinner. Can’t be wasting that!

#ProjectRecipe : French Breakfast Muffins

Since kicking the processed food habit a year or two ago, one of the hardest things was figuring out what to eat for breakfast. Muffins and quick breads are my go-to now. The Hubs has a picky palate when it comes to breakfast and I usually need something I can grab on my way out the door and eat on the way to work (not the safest practice, I know). I have an old stand-by blueberry muffin recipe that I rotate around regularly. But I am always looking for something new to try to keep weekday breakfast from getting boring. 

Let me assure you, these French breakfast muffins are NOT boring.

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I can’t remember what caught my eye about this recipe to begin with. I know I found it on Pinterest. But it’s crazy good.

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Def a keeper.

What I changed about the recipe: I used half all-purpose flour and half whole wheat flour, which gave it some texture, and of course made it healthier. I also substituted coconut oil for the butter in the topping. Butter would be good, but coconut oil gives it that little extra sweetness.

I couldn’t resist trying one warm when it came out of the oven. I seriously had to walk away from the pan to keep from eating two or three… These are addicting, and best warm, so if you make a batch to eat on all week, like I did, just pop them in the microwave for no more than 10 seconds.

Here’s the recipe how I made it:

French Breakfast Muffins (makes 8 or 9 regular-sized, or 10-12 small)

1/3 cup of butter, melted

1/2 cup sugar (I use Florida Crystals Organic Cane Sugar)

1 large egg, beaten

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 cup whole milk

In a medium bowl, mix all the dry ingredients well. Add butter, egg and milk and stir until just combined. Be careful not to over mix. Grease a muffin pan (I use coconut oil) and fill the cups 2/3 of the way full with the muffin mix. Bake 20-25 minutes until tops get golden brown.

Topping:

1/2 cup sugar (I used Florida Crystals demerara–it’s more coarse)

1/3 coconut oil

1 tsp. cinnamon

Mix sugar and cinnamon together in a saucer or small bowl. I another small bowl, heat coconut oil until it is in liquid form (if it’s not already–takes like 10 seconds in the microwave). Dip each muffin top in the coconut oil and roll in the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Careful–you might find yourself eating them as you do this. It’s very dangerous…

Here is the link to the recipe I found. There are a number of similar recipes on pinterest, though. I’m sure all just as delicious. I will definitely keep this recipe in my rotation of breakfast muffins.