“In Italy, they add on work and life to food and wine.” ~ Robin Leach

There is nothing better for the perfect summer snack than a Caprese salad. Home grown tomatoes with fresh sliced mozzarella and basil topped with a high quality olive oil and a nice balsamic vinegar drizzle. So yummy and refreshing!

I wanted to extend this appetizer into a meal so with the addition of a few basic ingredients – that’s what I did.

Turned out to be a great light summer dinner.

Caprese Chicken Pasta

  • 2 cups frozen (drained) or tightly packed fresh spinach
  • 1/2 medium sized onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (jar kind is fine)
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans Italian seasoned diced tomatoes (must be the Italian style!)
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon corn starch
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 10 oz short pasta of your choice (penne, bowtie, elbow etc.), cooked to al dente
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 small bunch of basil, julienned
  • Mozzarella cheese, cubed
  • Balsamic vinegar, optional

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium high heat, add onion and cook for 5-7 mins or until onions are softened a bit. Add in garlic, cook for about 30 seconds, then stir in spinach and chicken and cook for an additional 5 mins.

In a small bowl, make a slurry (whisking together til smooth) with the heavy cream and cornstarch, add this along with the chicken stock and tomatoes to the pot.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and stir in pasta. Salt and pepper to taste.

Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve in bowls, garnish with chopped tomatoes, basil, cheese and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.


-abp

 

 

 

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“Do you know how helpless you feel if you have a full cup of coffee in your hand and you start to sneeze?” ~ Jean Kerr

I’m still enjoying the new kitchen so I’ve been spending quite a bit of time in there.

This has made the men in my life happy.

The following is a very simple recipe I can honestly say I wasn’t expecting to be anything special but it got rave reviews from the family.  Unfortunately, I have had a nasty cold and I couldn’t really taste it so I’m taking their word for it! These colds our little princess brings home from school really knock mommy on her butt.

I have caught every. single. one. Totally over it.

Shrimp and Spinach Pasta

  • 1 lb fresh shrimp, peeled and deviened
  • 5 medium, vine ripened tomatoes
  • 3 cups, lightly packed spinach
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced (jar kind is fine)
  • garlic salt
  • pepper
  • paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  •  A pinch of crushed red pepper, more if you light more heat.
  • 8-10 oz of cooked fettuccine
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

Season shrimp with pepper, paprika and garlic salt.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium/high heat.  Add shrimp and cook for 2-3 minutes per side, or until no longer translucent.

Once cooked add in garlic and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Next, add tomatoes, lemon juice, red pepper, Italian seasoning and the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

Finally, add in fresh spinach, cover for a few minutes  to wilt then stir to combine.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over cooked fettuccine and top with Parmesan cheese.

-abp

“Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.” ~ Robert H. Schuller

I have been on a quest for interesting, great tasting salads.

On Facebook I talked about needing to get more salads (with some kind of protein) into my diet.

But they had to be good!

As I have mentioned before – everything I blog about comes from something I have cooked to eat with my family. I only wish my blog was impressive enough that I actually cooked full time for it. But sadly, not yet. A girl can dream, though!  🙂

So when the thought of a serious diet started, I questioned it with – “What in the world will I be able to blog?” I can’t write about a bagged salad with grilled chicken and a bottled lite vinaigrette every week!

I received lots of great feedback from my friends on Facebook and I foraged Pinterest, because of this, I am starting to get a pretty good list going.

The following is an example.

Apple Harvest Salad

(adapted from Life Made Simple)

Salad

  • 6 cups of lightly packed spinach, torn
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
  • 1 large fugi apple
  • ½ cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • ½ Craisins
  • ½ feta cheese

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 2 tsp. minced shallot
  • 4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper

Add greens to a large dinner plate or salad bowl. Top with the cooked (and cooled) quinoa, apple chunks, pepitas and craisins.

To make the vinaigrette, combine the shallot and vinegar in a small mixing bowl, whisk to combine. Slowly add the olive oil by pouring in a steady stream, whisking vigorously until emulsified. Drizzle the salad with the dressing and serve immediately.

Serve alone or with a protein.

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-abp

“One man’s poison ivy is another man’s spinach.” ~ George Ade

Side dishes really are a thorn in my side.

That’s why a love a roast. You have your meat, carrots and potatoes all together and the most you have to think about is finding some kind of bread to go with it.

But, alas, you can not have roast every night.

Sometimes you just have to make sides.

Luckily, I have finally found a side that is almost as easy as throwing a bag of salad in a few bowls.

Sautéed Garlic Spinach and Tomatoes

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic (I used the kind in a jar)
  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
  • 2 bag of prepared (bagged) baby spinach
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil over medium/high heat in a large skillet.  Add tomatoes and cook until they begin to pop. (I then kind of squash them with my spatula). Add in garlic and cook for 2-4 minutes, or until fragrant.  Place the spinach in the pan and mix around until wilted. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

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This is so very simple, good and healthy. You could very easlily change up this up to fit your taste buds as well. Examples being  – add shallots or top with Parmesan cheese.

-abp

“The smallest seed of faith is better than the largest fruit of happiness.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

You wanna know a sure fire way that you are officially a “grown up”?

When you feel like a kid at Christmas, I mean pure giddy over getting a new appliance.

I realized this a couple years ago when I got a deep freezer for the garage. But that does not even compare to the excitement of getting my new Vitamix in the mail!! Fun times!!!

Remember this is coming from the same girl who has been known to clean out the pantry on New Year’s Eve.

And call it a very successful night.

But, come on ladies (and gents), you know what I mean!!

It also means my poor husband will be drinking half his meals for the next couple weeks or until the new wears off!

Here is an example:

Blueberry Banana Oat Smoothie

  • 1/3 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/3 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 Tablespoon flaxseed
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk

Place all ingredients into blender and blend until smooth.

(makes one smoothie)

Yum!

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-abp

“Everyone should have kids. They are the greatest joy in the world. But they are also terrorists. You’ll realize this as soon as they are born and they start using sleep deprivation to break you.” ~ Ray Romano

I have found that when I’m eating healthier, I have more energy and I’m not as sluggish.

I know, I know – everybody has always told me I would feel better the better I ate (my husband included) but now I can actually say I believe them…………as much as it pains me to say he was right.

Anyway – it’s good timing because we are living with a teething baby and sleep has been very limited. I’m a walking zombie and need all the help I can get!

Moroccan Chicken Salad Wraps

(adapted from Cooking Light)

  • 1 cup packed fresh spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh mint leaves
  • 1 small shallot, coarsely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 3/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 ½ cups of cooked boneless, skinless chicken (chopped)
  • 4 whole wheat wraps
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons pine nuts, toasted

Place first 4 ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, and process until coarsely chopped. Place spinach mixture in a bowl; stir in yogurt, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and black pepper.

Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, juice, and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper) in a medium bowl. Add chicken and nuts; toss.

Divide spinach mixture and chicken mixture evenly (or to your liking) among the wraps.

Roll up and eat. 🙂

*this recipe is for 2 servings – it can be easily doubled*

 

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Very different and very refreshing!

-abp

“In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet.” ~ Winston Churchill

I guess I’m going to have to eat a little crow.

I was for sure there was no way that I could find (or if I did, enjoy) any lighter (i.e. diet) meals to cook at home.

I’m a southern cook – I like butter and lots of bread. Both preferably fried.

But no need to fret because this leopard has not changed its spots. I have just expanded my horizons a bit and I’m so glad I did because I really needed to start working on this baby weight but cooking is my joy and I was afraid I would be bound to lettuce and grilled chicken forever.

Here is one of my new finds.

Greek Stuffed Chicken with Mango Sauce

(adapted from The Chew)

Chicken

  • 10 oz feta cheese
  • 1 cup packed spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 cup packed parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (the kind in the jar)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Greek seasoning
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin

Mango Sauce

  • 1 large or 2 small mangoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 14 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion
  • 1 teaspoon Greek seasoning
  • 1/2 Jalapeno pepper with ribs and seeds removed, minced

Preheat oven to 375º.

In a medium bowl, mix feta, spinach, parsley, garlic, olive oil and pepper.

Divide mixture between the 4 chicken breasts. Fold over, season with greek seasoning.

Place in greased pan.

Bake for 45 minutes or until cooked through.

Meanwhile, bring all sauce ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Serve over chicken.

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-abp

“Three Rules of Work: 1) Out of clutter find simplicity; 2) From discord find harmony; 3) In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” ~ Albert Einstein

Yes, I know.

This is my 3rd skillet meal in a row.

But OH MY GOSH they are easy.  I thought the crock pot was easy.  This is like insta-crockpot. Granted, I like anything with pasta, so I’m pretty much sold there but when you add in quick, flavorful and in one pan. Shoot, what’s not to like??

Sweet Apple Sausage Pasta

(adapted from Iowa Girl Eats)

  • 8 oz. short cut pasta (reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water)
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot or 1 small onion, chopped
  • 12oz Sweet-Apple Chicken Sausage, sliced
  • 1 sweet apple (about 1 cup), chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch red chili pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper
  • 15oz can Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6oz spinach
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

Cook pasta until al dente.

Heat olive oil over med high heat and brown sausage and onion in large non-stick skillet.  Add apple, garlic and seasoning and cook until apple is tender.

Then add in chicken broth, beans and spinach and warm/stir until spinach is wilted.

Pour in the sausage/apple mixture into pasta and add reserved little to get your desired consistency.

Serve topped with Parmesan cheese.

photo-13Ok, I told a little fib earlier – this took 2 pots but it was totally worth it!!! The flavors in this are totally different but totally amazing. I LOVED it!!!

-abp

“The countdown to success always starts when you make up your mind to take one step forward.” ~ unknown

Let the countdown begin!

We have around two weeks left until we get to see our sweet bundle of joy!!

This also means my husband has about 1 week or so left of me cooking at home for a while. 🙂

So when I ran across this recipe on Lindsay’s blog – Normal Cooking – I knew I must make it for him because one – it’s simple and two – it has Italian sausage in it and he loves Italian sausage.

This is his favorite Italian sausage:

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Italian Pasta Skillet

(adapted from Normal Cooking)

  • 12 oz Italian sausage, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) Diced Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic and Oregano, undrained
  • 1 can (8 oz) Tomato Sauce
  • 1-1/4 cups hot water
  • 8 ounces pasta of your choice
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian Seasoning
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 pkg (6 oz) baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Brown sausage in a non stick skillet.

Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, seasoning and pasta. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat; cover and simmer 15 minutes or until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally.

Stir in spinach until it wilts. Stir in cheese until melted.

Serve with more cheese sprinkled on top

photo-10He really loved it and I’m glad because it was so very easy to make!

-abp

“I’m one stomach flu away from reaching my goal weight.” ~ Emily (The Devil Wears Prada)

I made a meal I couldn’t eat.

But it wasn’t because it didn’t taste good!

The DH loved it! I actually made it at his request.

The thing was I had not been feeling very well that day (stupid bug that’s been going around) and was really puny when I started frying the sausage and the grease smell made my stomach turn – automatic food aversion.

So the Olive Garden knock off – Spicy Tuscan Soup was a hit – just not with me. I only had the salad (with bought bottled Olive Garden dressing 🙂 )

As you can probably tell – it was an Olive Garden themed night.  All I needed was their yummo garlic bread sticks.

Maybe next time.

(also – because of not feeling so great – there are not many pictures)

Spicy Tuscan Soup   (adapted from Tasty Kitchen)

  • 1 pound Spicy Breakfast Sausage
  • 1 whole Medium Red Onion, Diced
  • 2 slices Bacon, Diced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 3 whole Medium Potatoes, cubed
  • 1 quart Warm Water
  • 3 cubes Chicken Bouillon
  • baby spinach
  • ½ cups Heavy Cream
  • Salt And Pepper, to taste

In a large dutch oven, brown sausage, remove and drain on paper towel.

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In same dutch onion, cook onion and bacon until onions are translucent.  Add garlic and cook for one more minute.

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Add water and deglaze pan. Stir in Bouillon cubes and potatoes, cook at a simmer for 20 minutes.

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Stir in cream and spinach and cook for 5 more minutes.

Serve with shaved Parmesan cheese and crusty bread.

DSC03474 Spicy Tuscan Soup

This soup was really really good! I sure hate that I was not able to enjoy like I should have.

-abp