So…I’ve been terribly lazy.  I haven’t made a thing in the last week.  Mike’s been studying at school for his midterms (last 2 are this Thursday–thank goodness!) and I couldn’t bring myself to step foot in the kitchen if no one was going to be around to eat it.  Even worse–I’ve been eating out for lunch at work.  Not such a great start at saving money for the wedding.  So, after spending $7.50 on a mediocre boar’s head sandwich today, I decided  it was time to get my act together.

A few weeks ago, Mike and I were at Crema in Seal Beach for brunch.  Because he was being quite the party pooper, he opted to have lunch instead of breakfast.  What was he thinking?  Either way, needless to say, he was unsatisfied with the lack of eggs and syrup and noshed on my breakfast.  The highlight of his meal though, was a fantastic bowl of Italian Wedding Soup.  It was delicious!  There was no doubt in my mind i was going to give it whirl in my own kitchen.  And why not?  It’s a fairly easy dish to pull off.

Tonight, alone in my apartment and kinda missing his face, I decided to have a big pot of soup ready for his return at 11:15.  I’ll get a whole 30 minutes with him before I have to go to bed and get ready for work the next morning.  Wow, as I write this…I realize how much I miss him.  Okay, onward with this post.  Luckily, I had most of the ingredients in my fridge (with the exception of endive, but baby spinach is a great substitute in my book).

Preparation takes a tad longer than cooking time–but  you won’t be disappointed.  This is such a tasty and cheap dinner to put together on short notice.

Italian Wedding Soup

Ingredients

Meatballs:

1 small onion, grated
1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 large egg
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 bread crumbs
3/4  cup grated Parmesan
8 ounces ground beef
8 ounces ground turkey
Freshly ground black pepper

Soup:

12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
6 oz orzo pasta
6 oz baby spinach
2 large eggs
2 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan, plus extra for garnish
Salt, paprika,  and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

To make the meatballs: Stir the grated onion, Italian parsley, egg, garlic, salt, and bread crumbs in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the cheese, beef and turkey. Using 1 1/2 teaspoons for each, shape the meat mixture into 1-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on a baking sheet and set aside.

To make the soup: Bring the broth to a boil  in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and orzo and simmer  until the meatballs are cooked through and orzo is tender.  This should take about 8 minutes or so.  Add spinach.  In the meantime, whisk the eggs and cheese in a medium bowl to blend. Stir the soup in a circular motion. Gradually drizzle the egg mixture into the moving broth, stirring gently with a fork to form thin stands of egg, about 1 minute. Add 1 tsp of paprika, stir to mix.  Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis


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I’ve never had Hamburger Helper.  Not for any health related issue really, but because there was really never anything too appealing about it.  Why pay to toss your food into dehydrated cheese powder, loads of sodium, and who knows what?  Okay, okay…I still like Mac and Cheese from a box.  It’s a childhood thing…but even then, I probably have it once a year at most…with lots of sriracha.  Any how, I was at Ralph’s the other day stocking up on some butter and cream cheese (got hired to make cupcakes for a 4th of July Party!  But more on that later!) and the woman in front of me had a cartful of Hamburger Helper!  I think she must have seen the shock/curiosity in my face because she chuckled and told me, “When you have kids, you’ll understand.  And just so you know, I have 4 boys.  And it’s actually quite good.”

4 boys?  I could feel my ovaries shriveling.  Yikes.

Funny enough, I was looking for some ideas for dinner last night and came across a very Hamburger Helper oriented recipe that was rather interesting.  I don’t know what compelled me to Google “Homemade Hamburger Helper,”  but I did.   Homemade, yes.  Unhealthy? I’m thinking very much so.  But I was curious and Mike has a strange affinity for foods like this.  What do I mean?  I mean when there’s a sale on Banquet frozen foods, he gets excited.  And no matter how much I try talking him out of eating crap like that, he manages to win me over with his nostalgic references to his youth and how much he loved them as a child after having lived in Africa for 8 years.  Yes, when he wants something…he’s quick to talk about living in Africa.  I’m weak.  He talks about his life in Africa and I melt.

I digress. Where was I?  Oh right.  So after finding the recipe online, I thought it would be fun to give it a shot.  Plus, I’d we’d both have some to bring to work the next day.

Creamy Taco Mac

Ingredients:
1¼ lbs. lean ground turkey
12 oz. dry rotelli pasta (anything with grooves is nice–catches all sauce!)
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
4 tbsp. of your favorite taco seasoning
4 oz. cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper
dash of Tapatio
chopped cilantro

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Prepare pasta as directed on package.  Once al dente, drain, and reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet or sauté pan, cook the ground turkey over medium-high heat.  A few minutes before the turkey is cooked through (no longer pink), add the chopped onion to the skillet.  Once the turkey is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Mix in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Add cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and reserved pasta water, and stir until the cream cheese is melted and the everything is well blended.  Season with salt, pepper, and Tapatio to taste.  Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit.  Serve with chopped cilantro (makes all the difference!)

Adapted from Annie’s Eats

Sometimes you come home late at night, you have hungry, unexpected guests (you guessed it, my sister and her boyfriend) and you’re just tired.  Exhausted even.  And well, that happens to me quite often.  This time, I gave the pantry and fridge a good look over and was fortunate enough to have some great ingredients on hand.  And we all know that when you’re tired and have a limited amount of energy, pasta is always a lifesaver.

Spinach, Bacon, and Tomato Farfalle

Cooked farfalle
4-5 slices of bacon, coarsely chopped
2 cups baby spinach
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half
handful of fresh basil, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
dash of salt
dash of pepper
dash of favorite italian spice
dash of cayenne pepper

In a heavy sauce pan, cook bacon.  Once bacon is cooked, place on plate lined with paper towel.  Reserve 2-3 tbsp of bacon grease  for the dish.  If you want to be healthier, save the bacon grease for another day, and use olive oil instead.  Throw in tomatoes, spinach, and garlic.  Saute until vegetables are cooked.  Will take no more than 4 minutes.    Season with salt, cayenne, and italian spice.  Add farfalle and toss until evenly coated.  Add pepper.  Once dish is ready, throw in sliced basil and combine.  Cook for about another minute, remove from heat, and ready to serve.  Top pasta with Parmesan, if so desired. I prefer a dash of crushed chili peppers!

Simplicity can be good!

I tried--but I'm just not a food photographer 😦

I don’t say this too often–but man, am I sick and tired of meat.  My sister brought home a family meal from a local Hawaiian BBQ restaurant…and while it was quite nice of her…it made me feel a bit nauseous.  She complained that I wasn’t eating much of it (to be honest, I’m just not too fond of Hawaiian BBQ) but I’m sure Mike ate more than enough for the two of us.  The end result however, was really the same–we both felt like crappola that night.  I don’t know how long this “No Meat” movement is going to last–because I am a carnivore at heart and Memorial Day BBQ’s are only a few days away–but I can tell you that that my dinner last night was absolutely delicious!  So good, that Mike had a huge slice 5 minutes before bed.

Want to hear the kicker?  This is actually a quite healthy Vegetarian lasagna.  I know that most people tend to label anything Vegetarian as healthy–but that’s simply not always the case (especially with lasagna).  Face it, if you make a lasagna with gobs and gobs of cheese and saute everything with loads of butter–you can’t exactly feel good about eating something just because it lacks meat.  That’s part of the reason why I love this recipe so much (mucho thanks to my wonderful sister-in-law for sharing this recipe with me).   This is a wonderfully light dinner–and part of the reason lies with key ingredient–brace yourself, because it’s very anti-Italian–TOFU.  Yes, I said it.  TOFU.  Stop grimacing.  Tofu serves as a fantastic substitute for ricotta.  It adds a great lightness to the dish–and I promise you won’t miss the cheese at all. And it’s not to say that there’s no cheese in the dish–bc there certainly is.  There’s a fair amount of Parmesan and I like to throw in some Mozzarella (optional).

This is a super versatile recipe–I chose to use Italian squash, grape tomatoes, spinach and basil.

First layer

Zoomed in so you can see all the ingredients

Ready for the oven

There you go!

Vegetarian Lasagna

1/2 to 2/3 pkg. lasagna past (I use the no boil variety)
Jar of Marinara or spaghetti sauce
1 pkg. regular tofu drained
2 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
2 medium sized Italian squash, thinly sliced.
2 cloves garlic, diced.
1 cup of basil
1 cup grape tomatoes
Mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste
White Sauce
5 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
1 cup milk
2 cups baby spinach (optional)
More parmesan cheese for topping
Olive oil

Drain tofu by placing it on a colander; put a small plate on top as a weight. Let it sit about 30 min.  Crumble tofu with a fork; mix in an eggs and parmesan cheese.  Add ground black peppers.
To make white sauce, melt butter in a saucepan.  Once melted, add flour and whisk frequently.  Add milk and whisk evenly blended.  Remove from heat.  The mixture will be thick.  Stir in spinach and set aside.
In a pan with some olive oil, throw in the diced garlic and saute until fragrant.  Throw in squash and saute until tender (5 minutes).
Grease baking dish with olive oil.
Cut basil into thin strips. Cut grape tomatoes in half.
Build lasagna starting with marinara sauce, pasta, tofu mixture, white sauce mixture, squash, basil, mozzarella, marinara sauce……and repeat.
End with marinara sauce.  Top with layer of Parmesan and mozzarella cheese. I like the randomly throw in the grape tomatoes all over.
Bake at 400F for about 1 hour until you start to see some bubbling on the surface. (Cover with foil for the first 30 min.)