Baked Ziti

What’s better than some warm comfort food on a frigid day?  Also, this one provides for plenty of leftovers so you’ll get a few meals out of it.  A classic favorite.

Baked Ziti

Ingredients:
– 12 oz penne or ziti pasta [I used gluten free pasta for this, but regular wheat pasta would work]
– 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
– 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
– 2 tsp olive oil
– 4 medium garlic cloves, minced [I used the magical pre minced garlic]
– 1/4 cup yellow onions, finely chopped
– 2 tsp Italian Seasoning
– salt and pepper to taste

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This stuff is the BEST!  Definitely snag some for any Italian inspired meals you’re making.

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Instructions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.  Chop your onion.

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2.  Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat; add onions, garlic, and 1 tsp Italian Seasoning and sauté 2 minutes.

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3.  Add tomatoes and bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

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4.  Stir sauce into pasta and mix well.

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5.  In a casserole dish, create a think layer of pasta on the bottom of the dish.  Next, sprinkle a layer of cheese.  Then the rest of the pasta.  Then the rest of the cheese.  Top off with a little Italian Seasoning for good measure.

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6.  Bake until cheese is golden and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

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7.  Scoop and enjoy!

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Thoughts:

Perfect for some ol’ fashioned warm up food.  This one is quick during the week if you get out of work on time!  Also, Jacob suggests that if you add salt and pepper while you’re simmering the sauce, it will bring out the flavor.  Add some Parmesan at the end for a little extra flavor!

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Spicy Peanut Noodles

This recipe is one of my favorites when I don’t know what else to make.  There are a bunch of ingredients, but a little goes a long way, so even though you’re buying a lot of new things up front, they will last you a long while.

This one is a quick meal, but also super customizable.  In the recipe below, I used red and green peppers, but you can really throw in any fresh vegetables you have laying around (I sometimes use a cucumber or some green onions, but anything with a crunch will succeed here).   The original recipe is for shrimp, but I opt for some precooked chicken strips.  You could also forgo the meat all together and make this a vegetarian option.  Totally up to you!

Spicy Peanut Noodles

(Inspiration found here)

Ingredients:

Peanut sauce:

1/3 cup chunky peanut butter
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 to 2 teaspoons chile paste [Find this in the international foods aisle]

Noodles:

4 cups cooked spaghetti or linguine noodles(8 ounces uncooked)
1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 green pepper cut into strips.

1 box pre-cooked chicken strips

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Preparation:

1.  Boil a pot of water and add noodles.  Boil until noodles are ready, about 10 minutes.  Drain noodles.

2.  To prepare sauce, combine the first 5 ingredients; stir until smooth (There will be chunks due to the peanuts, but the rest of the mix should be combined well)

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2.  To prepare the chicken, sauté in nonstick skillet coat ed with cooking spray over medium-high heat for 3 minutes on each side or until crispy on the edges.

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3.  Slice peppers into strips.  Set aside.

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4.  Combine chicken, noodles, and peppers in pasta pot.  Stir together.

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5.  Add peanut sauce and stir.

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6.  Serve and enjoy!

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Results:

The sauce is sweet and yummy and this one throws together in about 10-15 minutes.  It’s great when you don’t know what to prepare or you need to whip a lot of food up quickly.  This one is consistently in my meal rotation, especially on busy weeks.

Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

So, this one is a bit of a doozy. It’s not something I’d make every day or even on a work night. This one is for a good and chilly Sunday where you want something savory and you have a bit of time to dedicate to it.  You’ll also be using a lot of your burners on your stove, so be sure it is ready to go.

Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto
(Inspiration drawn from here and here)

Ingredients
6 cups chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine [a Chardonnay works really nicely here]
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
A pinch of kosher salt
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup asparagus tips
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

ingredients

Instructions:
1.  In a medium saucepan with a lid, combine chicken broth and white wine and heat just to simmering. Keep warm.

2.  In a large pot, over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onions and a pinch of salt and sweat until translucent, about 5 minutes.

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3.  Add the rice and stir. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until the grains are translucent around the edges. Be careful not to allow the grains or the onions to brown.

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4.  In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the mushrooms and asparagus tips until cooked.  Remove from skillet and place in a bowl and cover with tinfoil.

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**Take a look at how full the stovetop will be.  If you have too many things going at once, you’re doing it right!

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5.  Get ready for an upper-body workout!   Reduce the heat of the pot to low, and add enough of the wine and chicken stock just to cover the top of the rice. Stir the rice mixture, until the liquid is completely absorbed into rice. Once absorbed, add another amount of liquid just to cover the rice and continue stirring or moving as before.

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Give yourself a good 35-45 minutes of stirring and pouring.  WARNING: If you dump all of it in at once, it will take twice as long and the rice will be too crunchy.  It is worth the wait/bicep improvement, I promise!

6.  At this point, there should be just enough liquid left to make it one more stir.  Add the asparagus and mushrooms back into the pot with the last bit of liquid and stir all together.

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7.  Mix in the Parmesan until melted.

8.  Add a little extra Parmesan for a garnish and enjoy!

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Results:

Like I said above, this is a good one for a chilly day where you have some time to dedicate to it.  The stirring takes forever, but without it, the rice won’t cook through correctly.

It’s a delicious pasta-like dish that is filling and will warm you up!  The mushrooms and asparagus complement each other really nicely in this dish.  If you have other veggies you prefer, anything goes well in risotto.