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!

Cheese Tortellini Soup

I made this last fall, and since the weather actually got cooler over the weekend (again), I thought I’d give it another go.  Last time, Hubby and Rat Boy decided it should be called kale soup, as I went a bit wild with the kale!  I thought it was great, but the boys grow suspicious of dishes with too many green things.  😛

I must mention here that a little kale goes a long way!  This time, I only used 2 stems out of the bunch.  I do try to keep the peace.

This ended up being an experiment in “everything but the kitchen sink” cooking, which can be good if you’re looking to use up some miscellaneous veggies.

Start with 1 onion, some garlic cloves, and a couple stalks of celery, chopped and sauteed.

I added mushrooms, too.  🙂

I decided to let this finish off in the crock pot, trying to get to yoga, and still not burn down the house!  😛  Next time, I’ll be using a larger pot, however, as my crock pot was full to the brim at the end.

Brown a package of sausage, any will do.  I used chicken for hopefully less fat!

Add 1 tbsp thyme, 2 cartons broth (veggie here), 2 cans of beans (I used 1 of cannellini and 1 navy), 1 bunch of asparagus or whatever other veggie you might be craving.  Don’t forget the kale!  For this batch I used 2 stems, approximately 2 cups as it’s fluffy.  🙂

Simmer on low about 2 hours, or until your veggie is slightly soft, then add 8oz. cheese tortellini, and cook according to package directions.  I prefer to use the fresh pasta, but any will do.

Top with shredded Parmesan or Assagio cheese, and enjoy!

I’d just like to share here, that Hubby has been behind me while I’m writing this, watching funny vids on You Tube.  So just in case it somewhere didn’t make sense….

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.  😛

Orange Chicken

Monday, I had some boneless, skinless chicken breasts hanging out in the fridge.  I didn’t really know what I was going to do with them, but they needed to move along.  So I threw them in Tupperware with about a cup of orange juice.  I figured that would at least give them some flavor, and maybe some juiciness also, and me some time to figure out what the heck to do with them.

So last night, after yoga and pilates and mostly conquoring the HUGE basket of laundry that Rat Boy dumped in my laundry room (I really wonder if he had ANY clean clothes left in his room but  that is a story for another universe time)…after all that, I realized I hadn’t made dinner.   And it was 9 PM!!!  Hubby leaves for work about 10-10:15.  CRISIS MODE!!!

Then, I remembered the chicken and started rummaging to see what else I could find.  I had an onion.  A red bell pepper was hanging out in the back of the produce drawer.  I always have rice and pasta.  And I located some broccoli that looked like it was ready to get up and leave the room.  On its own.

I started by slicing the marinated breasts pretty thinly.  Pretty unimpressive looking raw chicken.

 

I have an electric stove 😦 so I don’t use a wok.  Instead I started the large skillet heating, and drizzled some basil infused olive oil into it.  When it was hot…REALLY HOT, I tossed in the chicken to brown.

You want this to cook quickly so it doesn’t dry out, and stir frequently, so it doesn’t cook unevenly or stick.  Non-stick is my friend.  🙂

 

Keep tossing until all the pieces are nicely browned.  Mmmm…browned chicken is so pretty!  🙂

Then thinly slice an onion and toss that in also.

 

The chicken will juice as it cooks so keep up the heat and the stirring.  Add red pepper flakes to taste.  We like it HOT!

 

Keep stirring!  While some of the liquid was steaming off, I started thinking sauce.    I just had to use the orange juice, so I whisked that together with about 1/2 cup of light soy sauce, a couple of dashes of rice wine vinegar, and a tbsp of corn starch.  I ❤ corn starch…since I finally moved out of the Dark Ages and started using it!  Add all the liquid to the pan and stir, stir, stir!

 

Add the other veggies you want to include.  Last night it was red bell pepper and broccoli.  Nice red/green combo!  And, yes, that’s basil.  Don’t tell Hubby.   🙂  Had to trim the plant yesterday…again.

 

You’ll want to turn down the heat and stir until the sauce thickens, then cover the pan, and let the steam work on the last veggies so they aren’t completely lifeless and wilted.  I totally hate soggy broccoli!

 

You’ll note everything has a nice glaze to it.  That’s the corn starch at work.  If you stop stirring too soon, it WILL burn and stick, creating the gooey gelatinous mess from the Black Lagoon, which by the way, IS actually in Texas.  East Texas.  A whole different world out there.  I know.  I have relatives.

Back to the chicken.  I decided to serve it with rice, as it had taken on a distinctly Oriental flavor in the creative process.  The basil was a nice, slightly peppery addition.

 

And Rat Boy went nom nom nom nom…and then he came back to see if there was any left.  And went nom nom nom again!  Success!  And I really only had to wash the one pan.  (And one for rice, but it’s small.)   😀

I didn’t use any garlic, but I’m sure it can do nothing but improve any dish, so I’ll probably add some next time, and maybe some real hot peppers if I have them.  This didn’t turn out too spicy, regardless of the quantity of red pepper flakes I used!

Basil Basil Everywhere

or so Hubby has started to think.  He asked the other day, “Are you going to put basil in everything now?’  Good idea, I thought.  But the continuing heat has me SO lethargic (along with the frequent trips back and forth across Texas lately)!

Yesterday was a good day to not turn on the stove…again.  So we did dinner a la snack!

Veggie goodness, with a bit of cheese and hummus for protein.  I happen to LOVE blood oranges, though I can’t get them all the time here.

Hummus is actually the Arabic word for chickpea.  They’re also called garbanzo beans, which is Spanish, or cece, which is Italian.

To make the hummus, which is much less expensive than getting it from the market (and really not much effort either), you’ll need 1 can of chickpeas (about 2 cups if using rehydrated beans), 1/4 cup liquid from the chickpeas,  3 tbsp garlic, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 2 tsp parsley, and 1  1/2 tbsp tahini (optional).  Mix together until smooth in food processor or blender, adding liquid as needed.  Add spinach, red pepper,  roasted garlic, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, or pine nuts…or basil, whatever flavor floats your boat.  About 1/4 to 1/2 cup will do, depending on how much flavor you like.  Mix to incorporate.  You can also drizzle a bit of olive oil over the top to serve as it looks pretty!  🙂

I like to serve hummus with naan for dipping.  It’s kind of Indian flatbread.  Dots, not feathers.  You can also go with pita, which is almost as good.  Heat it in the oven, or toaster oven if you are practicing oven avoidance.  It’s even better still warm!

And no, I didn’t take this picture last night.  Because the memory card was in the pc upstairs, and I forgot it wasn’t in the camera…again. 😛  Last night we has pineapple instead of blood oranges, and sugar snap peas.  And the hummus was tomato and basil (go figure).  Hummus in the photo is spinach.  But the idea is a winner no matter the season!  😀