Pasta with Butternut Squash, Pancetta, and Goat Cheese

The kitchen is more or less done! And by more, I mean construction and by less, I mean I need to finish putting everything away!

I am able to use it and for the first time in a long time, we had a real life home cooked meal. It was glorious. And delicious!

Pasta with Butternut Squash, Pancetta, and Goat Cheese

1 8oz box short pasta (I used Banza Rotini)

1 small to medium Butternut squash, cut into bit sized pieces (I used the Zig Zag precut from Trader Joe’s, which is 12 oz)

4 oz pancetta, diced

1-2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced

1 tablespoon fresh chives, minced

2-4 oz goat cheese depending on preference

Salt to taste

¼ tsp Cinnamon

Olive oil

Cook your pasta per package directions.

In a skillet over medium heat, add a little olive oil, the pancetta, and the butternut squash. You just want to make sure your squash is small enough so it cooks quickly and it’s bite size which makes it easier to eat.  Add a little salt and saute until the pancetta is crispy and the squash is soft with a little caramelization on the outside, about 10 minutes stirring occasionally.  I sprinkled a little bit of cinnamon in the last 5 minutes.

In a bowl, just toss together the cooked pasta, the squash mixture, goat cheese and herbs. Make sure to add the cheese while it’s still hot so it gets all melty and creamy and coats everything in goat cheese glory.

Done! Super tasty, super easy, and very fast to put together. The hubs had seconds and even the kids liked it, so I call this a real winner.

No Kitchen Dinner: Rotisserie Chicken with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

Grocery stores have such great options for when you can’t cook! This one almost made me feel like I wasn’t drowning in clutter around my house and things were back to normal.

Chicken: Grocery story rotisserie chickens are my jam, whether I have a kitchen or not. They are so insanely versatile, I buy them all the time. My favorite is when Pavilions has their $5 Friday specials, otherwise, the ones at Costco are my go-to because they are much bigger than the other ones. 

Sweet Potatoes: Trader Joe’s to the rescue again! Seriously, if you don’t have a TJs near you, you should move to where there is one and live happily ever after. I found these in the frozen section. They are little gems of mashed sweet potatoes that you cook in the microwave. You just take out however many discs you need (12 discs is 2 servings) and heat ‘em up for a few minutes.  I then add a little ghee and a touch of maple syrup. Perfection. I’ll buy these to keep on hand anyway!

Brussels Sprouts: I’ve been using my Instant Pot a lot as a substitute for my skillet, which has been met with mixed reviews. The saute function on the IP isn’t really meant for long-term cooking; more so for browning or thickening up a sauce at the end. I’ve made it work, but it isn’t ideal because you can’t control the heat. I made my usual brussels sprouts by sauteing bacon in a little bit of olive oil and adding chopped leeks and a little minced garlic. Add the brussels sprouts and cook until softened and browned to your liking.

No Kitchen Dinner: Microwave Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Bolognase

While perusing the aisles at Trader Joe’s, I came across these two items and I immediately grabbed them. They must be new-ish because I hadn’t seen them before and they are perfect for cooking without a stove/oven.

You just microwave the Spaghetti Squash in the bag and shred it, per the package instructions. I added some garlic salt and a little ghee to give it more flavor.  Then you microwave the Turkey Bolognase and top the spaghetti squash.

Done.  A healthy and delicious dinner ready in minutes.

Instant Pot Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats

I will use any excuse to use my Instant Pot, especially in the summer when I don’t particularly want to turn on my oven. This can easily be made in the oven if you don’t have an Instant Pot.

Note: I tried out a lactose-free cream cheese for this. I didn’t love it. I would just stick with a regular cream cheese next time. Or the Greek yogurt cream cheese I sometimes find at Sprouts.

Serves 4

5 small boneless, skinless chicken thighs (you can also use a couple chicken breasts instead, that’s up to your preferences)

1 bottle of your favorite buffalo sauce (I like Frank’s)

2 medium carrots, grated

2 green onions, chopped

4 oz cream cheese

8 large zucchini (you need to be able to cut them in half and scoop out the inside while leaving enough space for the filling)

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

parmesan or blue cheese for topping

In an Instant Pot, add your chicken and half a bottle of the buffalo sauce. Set to manual and cook for about 15 minutes or until done. Quick release.

If you don’t have an Instant Pot, cook the chicken with the buffalo sauce using your preferred method.

Meanwhile, cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the inside, leaving enough of a border to support the chicken filling.  Drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. Put in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes to start the cooking.

When the chicken is done, put it in a bowl and shred it. Add the grated carrot, green onion, cream cheese and more buffalo sauce, depending on how hot you like things.

Spoon the chicken filling into the hollowed out zucchini. I topped mine with some grated parmesan cheese, but you can use blue cheese crumbles if you’d prefer.  I cannot stand blue cheese, so that’s why I used parm.   Bake for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and gooey.

Sweet Potato Potato Salad  

I always like finding ways to incorporate healthier choices into my cooking, especially for holidays and special occasions. This potato salad is perfect to bring to summer BBQs and a few simple swaps helped increase the nutrition a little bit.

4 medium sweet potatoes

5 slices (6oz) bacon, chopped

1 cup thawed peas

2 green onions, chopped

2-4 tablespoons honey mustard

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

1 tablespoon greek yogurt

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper

Peel and dice the sweet potatoes and then boil them in salted water until they are fork tender. It doesn’t matter what size you dice them, just make them even.

In a skillet, cook the bacon until crispy.

In a small bowl, mix together the honey mustard, cider vinegar, honey, greek yogurt, Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper. I actually just did this right in the measuring cup.

In a large bowl, add your cooked sweet potatoes, crispy bacon, thawed peas, and chopped green onions. Season with salt and pepper and pour as much dressing over the top as you’d prefer.  I used all of it. Taste to see if you need to add anything.

Let it cool in the fridge for a couple hours and taste it again. The longer this sits, the better the flavors are.

Peach, Tomato, and Burrata Caprese

This has been a very hot summer here in Southern California.  I made this for dinner one night when I really didn’t want to cook and I just craved something refreshing. Peaches this time of year are usually pretty spot on, so I took advantage of the delicious peach season and made this yummy salad for myself.

Note: this served one as a main course. You can double it and make two salads. Serve with a glass of wine and you’ve got a really light dinner. Or you can leave it as is and it can be a side dish.

½ of a big heirloom tomato, sliced in half moons

½ to 1 whole peach, depending on size, sliced in half moons

4-5 pieces of prosciutto

1 ball buratta

Balsamic glaze for drizzling

Fresh basil, minced, for topping

You can really just chop everything up and eat it like that, but I liked the look of the circle.

Just alternate the tomato, peach, and prosciutto around a plate until the circle is complete. Place the burrata in the middle and drizzle the balsamic glaze and sprinkle the fresh basil over the top.

Eat the fruits with the buratta and feel like you are in heaven for a few moments.

Shepherd’s Pie Stuffed Baked Potato

We love shepherd’s pie in my house, so I wanted to find a way to shake it up a little bit.  This was just the answer and it was so easy since I didn’t have to make mashed potatoes to go on top!

The filling recipe is a slight variation on my other shepherd’s pie recipe that I use with turkey. I think I like it with ground beef better, but both are delicious.

Serves 4

4 russet potatoes

1 pound ground beef

Olive oil

½ onion, diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup peas

1 cup carrots, diced small

¼ cup worchestershire sauce

1 cup beef broth

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Grated cheddar cheese (optional)

Poke a few holes in each potato after you wash the outside. In a 425 degree oven, bake the potatoes for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until done all the way through. My potatoes were really big, so it took a long time. If yours are smaller, it may not take as long. Just keep your eye on them.

Meanwhile, in a skillet, Add the carrots in a little olive oil until they begin to soften. Add the onion, garlic, and ground beef and cook until the carrots are soft and the beef is browned and cooked through. Add the peas just before the end of cooking so they can thaw (if frozen) and warm through.  Sprinkle with the cornstarch and add the worchestershire sauce and the beef broth and bring to a boil, stirring consistently to mix in the cornstarch and form the gravy.

When the potatoes are ready, cut them open slightly and fluff up the inside.  Top with the shepherd’s pie mixture and a sprinkle of cheese.

Serve and enjoy!