Penne With Vodka Sauce and Veggies

Featuring quick and easy food is becoming a way of life as I continue to clear brush hoping to finally create a clearing large enough for a house.  We did away with the last of the double-size garage brush pile last weekend…two more truck and trailer loads.

This weekend, I’m imposing on Aggie’s awesome hospitality while the blessed rain falls.  We really do need the rain, even though Swamp Nomstress, aka the front yard, will shortly reappear.  I will refrain from waxing poetic about the joys of slogging through shin deep mud while toting small trees and get on with the food.

In the interest of saving my sanity time, I used a jarred sauce, which was pretty good.  I’ll go ahead and include the recipe to make the Vodka sauce with actual vodka just in case you’re feeling like a glutton for punishment purist!

Beginning with the usual suspects, garlic and onion.  Chop and cook until tender.

Add some sliced mushrooms.

I used boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  Trimmed WELL.  Cut into about 1 inch pieces.

Stir together and brown.

When the chicken is browned, add the vodka sauce and a can or two of roasted diced tomatoes, drained.

Stir together well, and let simmer for at least 30 minutes.  Leave off the lid so it’s not too soupy!  Then, add zucchini, cut into half moon wedges.

Let the zucchini cook for about 15 minutes, until it’s just becoming a bit soft, and add the spinach and peas.

Wilt the spinach for another 10 – 15 minutes.  It cooks down quite a lot, and you’ll want to put the lid on at this point.

Uncover and stir well.

Serve over penne with some hot bread.  You’ll feel so warm and fuzzy, but you’re actually getting a lot of great veggies, too!

To make the homemade vodka sauce:

1/3 cup vodka

15 oz diced tomatoes

8 oz tomato sauce

1/8 tsp red pepper flakes

1/2 cup half and half

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (shredded)

Combine over low heat and stir until cheese melts and all ingredients are incorporated.

Fat free half-and-half is still creamy and rich, but keeps down the fat content.

Canadian bacon is an alternative to the chicken, also lean but loaded with flavor.

Enjoy!

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Lamb, Balsamic & Sundried Tomato Meat Loaf

Yes, I said lamb.  And loaf.  In the same sentence.  Generally speaking, I try to disassociate myself from any meat entitled “loaf”.

It’s a personal thing.  Like refusing to eat in the cafeteria in high school because I couldn’t identify the meat at first glance.  Actually, you couldn’t generally identify it even after a close and detailed investigation!

This, however, is a loaf worth eating.  It is heavenly, and easy, and lamby.  Did I mention I just love lamb?   😀

This is not your mamma’s meatloaf!  Although I’m sure your Mom’s meatloaf is totally awesome, this one has LAMB!!!

Obviously, you’ll need some ground lamb.  🙂  I had a 1 pound package, but it would have been even better if I’d used 2 pounds.  More lamb to love!  😛

You’ll need 1 lemon for zesting, 2 large eggs, 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 4 garlic cloves  thinly sliced, 2 large shallots, finely chopped, 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes chopped, and 1 tbsp fresh rosemary.

Preheat the oven to 375F.  Spray a large loaf pan (9 x 3 1/2) with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and vinegar.

Add the oats.

Then the tomatoes, shallots, garlic, rosemary and lemon zest.

Last, add the ground lamb.

Here is where you’ll want to put the camera down, as it is rather difficult to mix this all together using only one hand.

But I tried.

The hand is a little scary.

Dive in with both hands and mix until incorporated.

Transfer to the prepared loaf pan, and press into a loafy shape.

Bake 40 – 45 minutes.

For enhanced enjoyment, top with a drizzle of the balsamic vinegar.  Rat Boy doesn’t care much for balsamic vinegar.  Something about carrots and a horrid wonderful balsamic honey glaze I forced him to eat  made when he was about 7.  So I left it off.  🙂

More on the sour cream mashed potatoes tomorrow.  They are divine!

I think I might have died and gone to heaven.  Except the dishes are still dirty and the trash needs to go out.  Think I’ll just concentrate on eating for now!

Beef Tips with Mushrooms

I’ve come to the conclusion that posting every day is just not going to happen here.  I don’t cook anything new some days.  Some, I don’t cook anything at all.  If I did, I have no idea where I’d put it, as the fridge is usually stuffed to the point of exploding!

Over the weekend, I made some chicken vegetable soup with noodles.  Of course, I forgot to take any pictures of it until it was at the leftover stage, and not looking all that pretty anymore.  😛

Yesterday, I made beef tips with mushrooms.  It was delicious!  And easy!  😀

And warm and beefy, too.

The ingredients list here is fairly short.  Olive oil, red wine, beef, mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and carrots.  I forgot to put the carrots in!  Really, I probably shouldn’t drink and cook.  😛

You’ll need about 2 1/2 pounds of beef.  I got a boneless shoulder roast and cubed it myself.  Stew meat is always rather fatty, I think, and a roast isn’t that much trouble to cube.

Saute 1 cup of shallots and 4 garlic cloves in about 2 tbsp of olive oil.  This is my favorite part.  It smells SO good!

Add the cubes of beef, and brown.

They will get quite juicy!

When the beef cubes are brown, empty the skillet into the crock pot.

I decided to do the mushrooms separately, so they would be nice and brown without being mangled by the meat.

I do love browned mushrooms!

They go in the crock pot also.

Now, the wine.  Some for me…and you…

This was a really tasty Zinfandel, by the way…for under $10!  And my beautiful Christmas-themed glass by Lolita is always fun to use.

Add 1-1 1/2 cup wine to the crock pot.

Cover, and cook on low 6-8 hours.  When the beef tips are tender and almost ready to serve, add 1 bag of frozen carrots (12 oz), or a small bag of baby carrots.  Then, cook until tender.  Serve over egg noodles, or rice.

Bon Appetit!

I actually put some frozen peas into the crock pot, after I had served dinner.  As leftovers, this was even better.  I don’t know if it was the peas, or just because somehow the flavors always meld a bit more overnight.

Either way, this was a win with the family.  And that makes every day a good one.  😀

Chicken and Pasta

I realize I’m falling down on the job of posting every day.  Yes, already.  But I will offer up the only excuse I have at the moment…I’m a slacker BEEN BUSY COOKING!!!

LOL.  Kat meme pics are amusing, but that’s not what I intended for this blog to be about.  And while I’m trying to turn Groovy Noms into a real life business, I AM still feeding Rat Boy and Hubby daily.  Some days, it’s just nothing new or interesting.  😦

Today I have good stuff.  The Pioneer Woman gave me the idea, and this is a slightly twisted version of her Penne Pasta with Chicken ThighsDeliciously twisted!

We will begin with chopped onion.  I chopped one half, and diced the other…just to be different.

Add some garlic, of course.

And olive oil.  Saute until tender and glassy.  It will smell divine!

Insert chicken thighs, skin side down so they will brown obediently.  I used my fingers to scoot the onion/garlic mix out of the way.  You might want to use a spoon, however.

I know.  Raw chicken looks…well, raw.  But when it’s brown, it looks golden!

When they ARE brown, flip those thighs over, and drain most of the grease from the pan.  I accomplish this by using a wooden spoon to hold the thighs, and carefully pour out most of the liquid into the sink.

It’s best if the sink is clean, due to occasional unplanned thigh-flight.  Obviously, chickens are unaware they do not fly.

Once the pan is safely back on the stovetop, add a jar of pasta sauce and a can of roasted tomatoes.

Add about 1/2 cup of a nice red wine, and give everything a stir.

This one is very nice.  So I had to drink it.

Let the chicken simmer, uncovered, about an hour on low heat.

Then add zucchini slices, and whatever other veggies you might desire.

Veggies are looking lovely right now.  The corn is for today.  But it looked so pretty, I just had to take a picture while the chicken was simmering.

When the zucchini has cooked, about 10-15 minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove chicken, zucchini, and tomato chunks from the pan.

Turn up the heat, and stirring constantly, reduce what remains of the sauce.

Boil some pasta.  I was feeling the farfalle last night, aka bow tie pasta.  In whole grain, even!

After draining the pasta well, without rinsing, pour the reduced sauce over it and gently mix to coat.  The pasta will soak up the sauce and yummy chicken juices.

Serve chicken over saucy pasta.

Garnish with basil, if so desired.  Hubby and Rat Boy are getting a bit tired of basil this year, but it’s still going strong.  😛

Eat, enjoy, and LOVE that there’s only 2 pans to wash!  (And the collander.  but I’m not counting that one.)

Braised Pork and Potatoes

Realizing that I recently did a Herbed Pork Loin, I originally intended to slice this loin into thick chops and then grill them.  Faced with a blustering windstorm yesterday, I reevaluated the wisdom of tying myself to the porch rail with a safety line and playing with fire.

Really, I enjoy sharing yummy food, and other wacky stuff about my merry-go-round life.  Being blown halfway across Texas would not be conducive, I think.

So I decided to cook inside!  😛

Braising is one of the most wonderful ideas I’ve run across lately, and since it works so well with beef, I figured pork would work equally well.  And how can it possibly be bad to cook with beer?

Begin by browning the loin in a heavy pan, preferably one that can go right into the oven.  I lurves my Dutch Oven!

A little salt, pepper, and olive oil here.

I like to turn it onto the side so that gets browned also.  I prop it up with tongs so I don’t have to hold it!

Slice some onion.  I like the purple.

When the meat is a lovley golden brown, disperse the onion over and around it, and pour a bottle of beer on top.

Welcoming back an old friend is always fun, don’t you think!  😛

Cover, and bake at 250 – 300F.  About an hour before you want to serve, throw in some small new potatoes.  Make sure the potatoes are in the liquid, and continue baking until the potatoes are tender, and the meat is basically just falling apart.

The Holy Grail Ale did NOT disappoint.  This made a delicious gravy for the meat.  I could have sliced the potatoes in half to absorb a little more of the juices.  Maybe I’ll do that next time.  Because there WILL be a next time!  😛

Herb Crusted Pork Loin

A couple of weeks ago, I saw the Pioneer Woman doing a herbed pork tenderloin.  Fortuitously, the next week at the market, they had pork loin on sale!  Obviously, the stars were in alignment for me on that day.

I’m also happy when I get to make something for dinner that’s a little upscale, without using every pan in the kitchen!  😛

The trick to this is really getting the loin to cook without sitting in the juice at the bottom of the pan and getting soggy.  It’s really hard to call it a crust if it slumps off into the pan the minute you try to serve it!

I don’t have a roasting rack, which would be good for this, so improvisation was in order.

I sliced potatoes and onions very thinly and put them in alternating layers in the bottom of a 9×13″ pan.

The layers optimally will be about 2 inches thick.

Drizzle oilve oil, salt and pepper over your potaot foundation, cover, and bake at 350F for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are just beginning to get tender.

While the potatoes are baking a bit, deal with the loin.  😛

Rub the loin with olive oil.  For this, i eschewed my favorite roasted garlic infused oil, and just used a good grade of Sicilian olive oil.

Rub the loin generously with the oil, and begin to pat the herb mixture onto the meat.

The herbs should stick in a nice thick layer.  I used Herbs de Provence, because I particularly like the mix of rosemary, thyme, basil, savory, and oregano.  It also looks pretty.

If you notice some bare patches, just get a small handfull, and press it onto the meat.  Then lay the loin on top of the potato and onion foundation.

Do not cover, as you don’t want to steam it, you want the herb layer to form into a crisp crust.  Bake at 400F for about 35 – 40 minutes.

Cover and rest the whole thing for about 5 – 10 minutes.  Then slice and serve with the potatoes and onion base, which will have now absorbed a bit of the herb flavor, along with some pork drippings.  Yum!

The pork will be a little pink, and very juicy because the crust holds in the juices.  The potatoes around the edges will get a little browned, so altogether, it really makes a nice presentation.  And you only have to wash one pan after dinner!  😀

Random Food

It’s been a really busy day.  So I’ll leave you all with a bit of food pr0n.

Since I’ve committed to posting every day.

Breakfast.

Lunch.


And dinner.

I’m kinda sad panda they aren’t bigger pics.  But it’s making me hungry anyhow.