Lightened up Veggie Pasta Bake

What should I make for dinner? It’s probably one of the tougher questions I face on a daily basis. When last facing this decision, I stumbled upon this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens on Pinterest and knew I had a solution (at least for this week.)

The recipe doesn’t specify whole wheat tortellini, but that’s what I opted for. I also lightened it up by using almond milk and Greek yogurt instead of cow’s milk and cream cheese.

The Food: Veggies on veggies, tortellini

Ingredients:

2 9 oz packages refrigerated cheese tortellini (I found a whole wheat kind)

2 1/2 C fresh sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved crosswise

1/2 C thinly sliced carrot

1 T butter

1 C sliced fresh mushrooms

1/3 C vegetable broth

2 t  flour

1 1/2 t dried oregano, crushed

1/2 t garlic salt (I used 1/4 t garlic powder and 1/4 t salt)

1/2 t ground black pepper

1 C milk (I used almond)

8 oz package cream cheese, cubed and softened (I used plain Greek yogurt)

1 T lemon juice

1 C quartered cherry tomatoes

1/2 C coarsely chopped red or green sweet pepper

2  T grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Cook tortellini according to package directions and add peas and carrot for the last minute of cooking; drain.

While the tortellini is cooking, in a 12-inch skillet melt butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook until tender – about 5 minutes – then remove from skillet.

In a screw-top jar combine veggie broth, flour, oregano, garlic salt and black pepper. Cover and shake until smooth. Pour into the same skillet and add milk. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Add cream cheese (yogurt) then cook and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice.

Finally, stir tortellini mixture, mushrooms, tomatoes and sweet pepper into skillet mixture. Spoon it all into an ungreased 3-quart baking dish. Bake, covered, about 30 minutes or until heated through. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.

The Fare: Veggie Pasta Bake

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This was so tasty and made enough for a few meals. I topped mine with sea salt, garlic powder and crushed red pepper. You could use any number of vegetables in this recipe – spinach, zucchini, asparagus.  Next time I would also consider sautéing some minced garlic with the mushrooms for added flavor.

Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

There’s just something comforting about devouring a warm, cheesy casserole from the oven. What’s even better is when you know it’s a slightly healthier alternative to the original.

I first spotted this recipe for a broccoli quinoa casserole on Pinterest and knew I wanted to try it. Swapping out rice for protein-packed quinoa? Genius. I made it as is the first time around and it was delicious. When I  decided to add some embellishments the second time, it was still just as delicious.

The original recipe called for 1/3 cup of mayonnaise, but I used plain Greek yogurt instead. Can’t taste a difference. I also used almond milk instead of cow’s milk because that’s all I had in the fridge. Again, no difference. The recipe calls for a can of condensed cream of broccoli or cream of mushroom soup, but I found a roasted garlic cream of mushroom soup that I prefer. (I might even toss in some minced garlic to the casserole next time for added flavor.) The original called for 2 cups cooked broccoli, but I just bought a large head of broccoli and chopped it up and cooked it. Surely a little extra broccoli can’t hurt. 🙂 Finally, I added a can of sliced water chestnuts and about 2 cups of fresh spinach.

The Food: Broccoli, Quinoa

Ingredients:

One 10 oz can condensed cream of mushroom/broccoli/roasted garlic & mushroom soup

1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt

2 tablespoons milk (I used almond milk)

1 1/4 cups shredded cheese (I used colby jack, but you could use whatever you prefer)

1/2 teaspoon sugar (or sugar substitue)

1/4 teaspoon(ish) black pepper

Dash nutmeg

2 cups (approximately) cooked broccoli

1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained

2 cups fresh spinach

1 1/2 cups  cooked quinoa

Grated Parmesan cheese

Breadcrumbs (optional)

Directions:
To cook quinoa, combine  3/4 cup quinoa with 1 1/2 cups water and a dash of salt in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover for about 20 minutes or until quinoa tails show. Fluff with a fork.

Meanwhile, place chopped broccoli in a steamer and cook 8-10 minutes until tender.

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine soup, yogurt, cheese and milk. Add sugar, pepper and nutmeg. Then add spinach and water chestnuts, broccoli and quinoa. Mix well.

Pour mixture into a casserole dish coated with cooking spray. Grate a little Parmesan cheese on top, and if you want, add some breadcrumbs for a little crunch. Bake for 35-40 minutes and enjoy!

The Fare: Cheesy Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

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Confessions of an Organizer

All daughters know that you eventually become your mother. In some way, shape or form it happens. It’s inevitable, I swear. Once upon I time I scoffed at the idea, but then I grew up and realized that guess what? my momma is one heck of a lady and if I can be a little more like her, well, I’ll take it.

My mom has always had a flair for organizing. When we were younger she made little marks on the bottoms of our socks so she could pair the right kid’s socks together. She also used to get me to organize the Tupperware drawer for her, and I never complained. It wasn’t until I was sharing these anecdotes and her latest early morning pantry organizing escapade with my roommates that they pointed out the truth. I have become my mother, and I’m past the point of no return. I am my mother’s daughter. I am an organizer.

My philosophy: Everything has its place, and it should be in said place unless it’s being used for something. It’s quite simple, really. I have folders for each class on my hard drive, folders in my gmail for holding onto various class-related or sentimental emails, and folders organizing all the Google documents in my Google Drive. Socks go in the sock drawer, linens in the linens box, craft supplies have the craft drawer, utensils have the utensil crock and spices belong in the spice cabinet – all perfectly reasonable, right? There’s more. Over winter break my mom suggested I go through the books on my bookshelves and get rid of some. HA! Get rid of books, like I would ever do such a foolish thing. Instead, I took them all off their shelves, dusted them, arranged them alphabetically, cataloged them on my computer and put them all back perfectly organized. There was also the morning over break where, per Mom’s suggestion, my sister and I made a spreadsheet of whose ornaments were whose as we decorated the tree, thus ensuring that they would all be put back in their appropriate boxes after Christmas.

bookshelf

An organized life is a good one. You just feel so accomplished when you’ve organized something, and who doesn’t want to feel accomplished? Don’t get me wrong I get busy just like everyone else. Everything is not always spick and span, but within a few days, everything will be put back where it belongs and I can breathe a sigh of relief. And honestly, life is just easier when you embrace the fact that you are your mother.

Ice Cream with Raspberries and Raspberry Balsamic Reduction

There’s a fantastic spice shop we frequent at home called allspice. They have delicious olive oils and vinegars in the store that you can sample before you buy, and they are frequently getting new flavors. Over break I noticed a raspberry balsamic flavor sitting in our pantry and then this idea was born. Simple vanilla ice cream with fresh fruit is such an easy, delicious dessert, but I was thinking embellishments.

The Food: Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar, Raspberries

Ingredients:

Vanilla bean ice cream

Fresh raspberries (you could probably use frozen too)

Cocoa powder

1/4 c. Raspberry balsamic vinegar (this was enough for three servings)

Directions:

The only thing that really needs instruction is making the reduction. This can be a tricky process. I did mine in the microwave this time, but I’ve done it on the stove before too. In the microwave, I did 2 minute increments on high until it reached the right syrupy consistency. It was about 6 minutes for me, although it may have been a minute too long because it hardened very quickly. Once the ice cream has been scooped into dishes, I put a handful of berries on each and dusted cocoa powder over the top. Finally, drizzle with the reduction and enjoy!

The Fare: Ice Cream with Raspberries and Raspberry Balsamic Reduction

razzleberries

MMMMM.

Once the cocoa powder mixes with the reduction you get a nice hint of chocolate in each bite, which is really delightful. My dad loved this.

Roasted Garlic and Rosemary French Bread

There is nothing more enticing than warm, fresh-from-the-oven bread. It’s just so simple. And delicious. A few months ago, my mom made some homemade French bread, which although scrumptious, I immediately started thinking about how to embellish. So when I was home last time, we decided to get a little creative.

The Food: Rosemary and Garlic

The recipe my mom uses is a simple food-processor recipe much like this. For the garlic, we roasted 4 cloves, still in their paper, coated in olive oil and wrapped in foil at 400 for 30 minutes. Once they’ve been roasted they just slide out of the paper. We chopped up two sprigs of fresh rosemary and chopped the garlic too, (which is a little tricky because it’s sticky). We added the rosemary and garlic to the dough while kneading it, although I think we could have added it in the food processor stages. The hardest part about this recipe is the time it takes for everything to to proof and rise and bake, but the end result is totally worth it.

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The Fare: Roasted Garlic and Rosemary French Bread

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This bread was so yummy! The recipe we used yields two loaves, so next time I would add more rosemary and garlic to enhance the flavor. I used the leftovers the next day for a grilled cheese and added a little fresh rosemary inside. Homemade bread is a really exciting thing to make.

Primped and Polished

Sometimes I look into my nail polish bag and all the colors seem the same to me. Last week was one of those times. I just wanted something different. Inspired by this color from Pinterest, I went on a hunt for an emerald-like polish. Although I didn’t end up with the original emerald color that spurred this purchase, I did find a similar polish and a bonus color. Here’s what I ended up with.

polish(c)

“Chinchilly” by Essie and #330 “Emerald” by Revlon.

emerald(c)

I liked the emerald a lot. Darker colors on my pale, skinny fingers at this time of year don’t always look great, but this wasn’t bad. If I had used a better top coat and it stayed on for more than a day, I really would have liked it.

essie(c)

I loved this Essie color. It was a nice blend of a lilac and a gray and a lovely neutral to have on my fingers for a whole week. I used my mom’s Zoya brand base coat (“Anchor”) and top coat (“Armor”) with this one and it stayed on chip free for such a long time. I was blown away by the great shape my nails were still in after five days. So much so that I’m going to invest in both base coat and top coat for myself.

Next up? Emerald re-do with the Zoya advantage.