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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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!  😀

Apple Stuffed Squash

Yesterday, I crawled out from under the huge pile of last week’s laundry and realized that I had no leftover turkey!  That just seems so strange.  I should be making turkey jambalaya, turkey soup, or turkey sandwiches this week.

I suppose it’s really good, though.  Usually by the time I’ve used up the left over turkey, I don’t care about seeing, smelling, or tasting another turkey until next Thanksgiving.

Because I ate about 7 different kinds of pie last week, and because I’m going on a bachelorette cruise in February (now only 2 months away!), I’ve decided to try and keep it light…at least during the Thanksgiving recovery period.  Yes, it’s bathing suit panic time, in the middle of winter.  😛

Thus, today for your viewing pleasure…stuffed acorn squash.

I’ve never cooked an acorn squash before, but they looked so pretty at the market I just had to get one.  I think I’m having a squash obsession this year, as I’ve put some kind of squash into every new thing I’ve tried lately.  Except the desert-y stuff.

Acorn squash is actually pretty awesome!  I did have a moment of “how the hell do you cut this thing?” at first, but it was a lot easier than I thought it would be.  I did sharpen the knife first, just in case.

Cut the squash in half and de-seed.  I felt like I was playing with tiny pumpkins!

Brush both halves lightly with olive oil, and bake at 350F, cut side down, for 30 minutes.

To make the stuffing, I used barley and brown rice, cooked to package directions…1 cup of each.  Add 1/2 cup cooked lentils, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup diced shallot, a couple of diced garlic cloves, 1/2 tsp grated ginger, 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground coriander, 1/2 tsp chopped fresh mint, 1 cup unsweetened applesauce, and 1/2  cup chopped granny smith apple with the peel left on.

Guess I’m inadvertently advertising for smartWater today.  🙂

While the squash is baking, combine the stuffing ingredients in a medium bowl, and toss to combine.

If it’s not moist enough, add a bit more applesauce.  This stuffing recipe will fill 2 or 3 squash.  I only made 1 because I didn’t know if I’d like the acorn squash.  What was leftover will be going in the squash I picked up at the market yesterday, as I really really liked this.  I think the stuffing would be great in a zucchini too.

After 30 minutes, remove the squash from the oven, stuff the halves, and bake another 20-30 minutes. this could be a meal in itself, or could be a groovy side!

It makes a very pretty presentation.  And is ridiculously healthy and yumtastic!  I’m making more tonight.

The grilled cheese was for Rat Boy.  He currently eats like he has 2 hollow legs!

Chicken and Squash Curry

Today, I went over to the house and hung out with Mum and Dad for a bit.  They are still bummed out about the whole dog thing, so I took them some pumpkin cake, too.

Maybe I won’t end up eating most of it now.  Rat Boy has been whining about the nuts, and Hubby is studying for a PT test. 😦

Another quick easy dinner tonight.  This took about an hour to put together!

I had l lot of squash in the fridge, and a couple of chicken breasts.

Butternut cubulets left over from the Moroccan Stew…

some zucchini and yellow…

and a bottle of curry sauce.  🙂

I sliced the chicken breasts into about 1 inch cubes, and threw them in the pan  (well, not literally) with a tablespoon of butter and some olive oil.

I’m not going to show the raw chicken.  A close up view of that tonight just isn’t in the cards.

Chopped some onion and bell pepper…I had red 😀 … into chunks about the size of the chicken pieces.

Into the pan it goes!

There’s even a decent pic of the nicely browning chicken.  🙂  I let it all brown together until the onions soften.

Then sauced it up.

Added my friend, veggie broth, to thin the sauce, and so it could stew longer without me having to stand over it and stir.

That was also not in the cards for tonight.

Stirred it and added the butternut squash.  Added enough broth so the squash is submurged, but not too much, as then the sauce is too thin.

We are walking a fine line here, y’all.  😛

The butternut  takes a bit longer than the other squashes, so added those after it had simmered about half an hour.

There should be plenty of juicy sauciness to get the squash down into the liquid.

Let it simmer about 15 minutes longer, and served with the rice I made while the butternut was cooking.

We think ahead and multitask around here.

Cuz that’s how we roll.  😛

Vegetable Soup with Chicken Sausage

Finally it feels like Fall in these parts.  Possibly even what passes for winter along the Texas Gulf Coast.  A lovely if brief thunderstorm (yes, rain!) followed by a temperature dip into the 40s last night!

Perfect weather for a nice hot bowl of soup!

I think me head got in the picture.  😦  But the soup still looks scrumptious!

As usual, I started by sauteing onion and garlic in a little olive oil.  This time, I added some diced celery.

Smells wonderful.

The other day at the market, I ran across this mix of barley, lentils, and split peas.  I thought it would be good as a side dish, but even better in soup.  Into the pot it went.

Then I added about about 6 cups of vegetable stock.

I love this stock.  I use it in practically everything that needs stock.  Of course, wine is good, too, but I really can’t see putting an entire bottle of wine into anything…except my mouth perhaps.  😛

The day before I set the grill on fire, I had grilled some corn.

I cut a couple of ears worth off the cob, and also diced some of the the red bell pepper that I had grilled.  I love the way grilling brings out the flavour of veggies!

After I added the corn and bell pepper, I also sliced and added the chicken sausage with spinich that I grilled when I was grilling the corn.  I had planned to throw it together with some rice, but this seemed like it would be SO much more interesting

I also added some jalapeno.  We like the spicy!

Stir the whole mess together, adding more broth if needed. Salt and pepper to your taste.  Cover, and simmer a couple of hours to blend the flavours.

After a couple of hours, add some sliced zucchini, and cook about 15 minutes longer.

It’s warm, and comforting, and actually healthy.  Perfect for our little cold snap.  I like bread with soup, and served cornbread with this one, as Hubby has been asking for cornbread.  Honestly, we just love bread.  And soup.

Another 1 pot meal.  🙂