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.


Spicy Chicken Pasta

Guess today is an unintentional 2-for, as I posted the Christmas Cake last night around 10, and it was already today on server time.  I am now convinced the server must be out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean somewhere, since I am so far behind server time!

It’s still cold.  Amazing in Texas to have the same kind of temperatures for 4 or 5 days, but the sun is back, so doubtless it will warm up soon.

Meanwhile, a bit of spice was in order to keep us warm, at least on the inside.  😛

Let’s hear it for the comfort food!

Slice boneless, skinless chicken breasts into thin, about 1 inch pieces, and brown with garlic, onion and celery.  Brown in a skillet with a bit of olive oil.  I used the Dutch oven, as I was planning to finish this off in the oven.

Wow!  Did I actually just say planning?  That’s a word that doesn’t see much use at our house!  😛

The cast of players tonight, include squash (of course), tomato, and chicken.

Thinly slice the chicken, and brown in olive oil with diced garlic, onion, and celery.  I used 3 cippolini onions I happened to have on hand for a sweeter flavor, but really couldn’t tell the difference when everything is smothered in tomato!

Salt and pepper to taste while browning.

Thinly slice some peppers.  I matchsticked these, a poblano and 2 jalapenos, just to be different.  🙂

Drop in the peppers when the chicken is almost finished browning, so they get a bit charred, too.

Then add 2 cans of diced tomoatoes.  I’m using the fire roasted with garlic variety.

Stir the whole mess together well, and add a cup or two of broth, veggie or chicken.

Stir together well, and pop the whole thing into the oven at 250F for a couple of hours.  I had planned to add red wine to this, but didn’t.  So I drank it instead!  😛

About 20 minutes before you want to serve, slice some squash, and add it to the sauce, making sure the squash is down in the liquid.  I used yellow squash and zucchini this time.  Stir in some tomato sauce, if you want thicker gravy.


Back into the oven for 20 minutes, while you make the pasta, and it’s ready to serve!  2 thumbs up from Rat Boy!  😀

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.)

Meat Sauce for Any Pasta

Did I mention we eat a lot of pasta?  Rat Boy thinks this is the best thing I cook.  So I do it a lot…just because he’s the resident rodent.  🙂  Plus, it’s easy, and generally makes at least two meals!

Dice onion and finely chop garlic.  Saute on medium using a bit of olive oil until the onion is translucent and it starts to smell delicious.

I use a LOT of garlic.  We lurves the garlic!

Add about 1 pound of ground meat.  I’ve made this sauce with beef, grass fed beef, buffalo, and pork.  It all works!

Coarsely chop a tomato or two and throw them in as well.  This is a great end for the tomato that’s just a little too ripe to eat, but not so ripe that it’s headed for the dust bin.

Finding uses for overripe fruit makes me happy.  It’s not much, but I’ll take what I can get!  😛

When the meat is browned, pour in a jar of pasta sauce.  My favorite is Classico tomato and basil.  Yes, more basil.

I also add a couple of cans of fire roasted, diced tomatoes.  I like the variety that has olive oil and garlic.  Yes, more garlic.

I think this is the part that gives the sauce its special taste.

Pepper to taste, stir well, cover and simmer on low heat for at least 2 hours.  This really makes the sauce.  I do it on the stove, because I’m home, and because it only makes 2 pans for washing this way.  However, for the simmer you can use a crock pot as it will do the job just as well without burning down the house.

Give it an occasional stir.  Make sure it’s still simmering, but not cooking too hot, as it will burn if too much liquid evaporates.

And burned pasta sauce makes everyone a sad panda.

Serve over any pasta.  It’s equally good with any kind.  😀

I’ll garnish with coarse chopped fresh basil.  Yes, more 😛  And some lots of  Parmesan.

This is actually the Einkorn pasta that I mentioned to the Queen in a previous comment.  It’s whole grain, and quite tasty, lacking that cardboard character that some of the whole wheat pasta has.

About Last Night…

I think most Americans have a love-hate relationship with food.  We love to eat it while most of us hate to cook it.  We dine out more than we dine in.  We’re too tired, too busy, too untaught, or just too uninterested.  Weirdly, I find that among my non-cooking friends, any sort of “Food TV” is a popular choice for viewing for adults and kids alike.  I mean, who can resist the Iron Chef and the battle of the…whatever usually weird ingredient that the Chef is sure to incorporate somehow into ice cream?

Sometimes time gets away from me, and I have one of those days where I look up, it’s after 8 p.m., and I’ve done nothing for dinner.  Yes, there’s usually leftovers, and about once a week, I pull them all out and everybody chooses something to finish off.  But sometimes there’s no such luck, and a quick meal is in order.  Around here, that usually doesn’t mean a call to the pizza guy (although sometimes pizza is just good for the soul).  Usually, it means throwing together whatever I can find lurking, hiding, forgotten in the back and bottom of the fridge and cupboard!

Lucky for hubby, last night this ended up being tortellini with a light Alfredo sauce, grilled asparagus, red bell pepper, and apple smoked chicken sausage, tossed and served all together.  I was planning for a beating down harvest of my basil today, so didn’t think to grab a few leaves to slice on top for garnish, and we just happened to be out of Parmesan.  Altogether, a pretty tasty meal thrown together in about 30 minutes (and part of that was waiting for the grill to heat up!).  Plus, only 1 dirty pan to wash! 😀

Grab that leftover glass of wine and try very hard to look like this took hours to prepare. 😛