No Kitchen Dinner: Microwave Pasta

So, they make microwavable pastas and they are really good. Bird’s Eye has these veggie pastas that are really good. Perfect to keep on hand for a quick healthy meal.

I did discover though, that you can make any pasta in the microwave.  The texture wasn’t my favorite, but maybe I tried to make too much? I don’t know, but it worked and it’s worth having a new trick in your cooking arsenal.

Put your pasta in a microwave-safe bowl and cover it with water. Make sure the water is higher than the pasta by about an inch. Cover with a plate and put a plate underneath in case of spillage. Add 3-4 minutes to the suggested cooking time and microwave. Check for desired doneness.  I would suggest cooking by the serving. I did the whole package and it took forever. I think there was just too much pasta.

Then add whatever sauce you want. I love this Autumn Harvest sauce from Trader Joe’s.

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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.

Roasted Veggie and Goat Cheese Pasta

This dish makes a lot, which is good because it I makes for GREAT leftovers.  This is a good recipe to have on hand because it uses mostly pantry staples so you can make it anytime. I mean, I don’t usually have prosciutto just lying around, but this pasta is still really yummy without it too. The prosciutto was an added bonus this time around.

It all comes together really quickly, so it makes a good weeknight meal even when you’re busy.

Roasted Veggie and Goat Cheese Pasta

1 each red, orange, yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced

1 large zucchini, sliced

1 medium shallot, sliced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

Olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped

Goat cheese

4 oz package prosciutto, cut or torn into small pieces *optional

1 box small pasta, like penne or small shells

2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar

*Note: Prosciutto is a bit salty on its own, so if you are using it, you can go easy on the salt on the roasted veggies.

Toss the bell peppers, zucchini, shallot, and garlic in a couple tablespoons of olive oil and salt & pepper. Roast in a 425 degree oven for about 20 minutes, or until tender and a little caramelized on the edges.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, crisp up the prosciutto if you are using it and cook your pasta per package directions. I like using Banza chickpea pasta for this, but you can use any pasta you like.

When the pasta is done, drain and put it in a large bowl. Add the prosciutto and the veggies. Use any of the oil that comes off during roasting as well. That’s lots of flavor!

In a small bowl, whisk together a tablespoon of olive oil and the balsamic vinegar. Pour over the pasta mixture and toss.

Finally, add some crumbled goat cheese (as much or as little as you want; there are no rules here!) and the fresh herbs. Toss again and serve.

Red Lentil Pasta with Chicken Sausage and Veggies

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know how much I love a good quick weekday meal.  This one came together in about 10 minutes and I got all the ingredients at Trader Joe’s! And it is super healthy!  Winning all over the place!

Alternative pastas are having a major moment right now, but keep in mind they are not all created equally. Not all are as good as others. Studies* show this is one of the legit ones.

*Studies conducted by me.

1 bag of red lentil pasta

1 jar traditional marinara sauce (or your favorite tomato sauce)

1 package garlic and herb chicken sausage, sliced into coins

½ 12oz bag baby spinach

¼ to ½ bag frozen asparagus spears, thawed, cut into fourths

Grated parmesan cheese

While a pot of water is coming to a boil, slice the sausage and cut the asparagus.

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a hot skillet with a little bit of olive oil, sauté the sausage until golden brown and warmed through. Add the asparagus and cook until softened and warm. Add the spinach and cook until wilted (won’t take too long).

Drain the pasta and add back to the pot. Add the veggie/sausage mix to the cooked pasta. Add the jar of marinara sauce. Use as much or as little as you’d like.  Mix altogether and serve with a sprinkle of parmesan.

Avocado Pesto Pasta

About a week or so ago, I discovered Banza Pasta. It is pasta made out of chick peas and IT IS AMAZING!!!!!!!  I seriously can’t tell that it isn’t regular pasta. I’ve tried healthy pasta alternatives (brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta), and they just don’t cut it. This Banza pasta is 100% legit.

I promise. I mean, I’ve made it 3 times since I discovered it. I would not lie to you.

I recently bought some avocados, and as they usually do, they went from not ready to EAT ME NOW overnight, so I decided to make some avocado pesto. Yeah, there are lots of healthy ingredients going on here. But you’d never know, because it tastes sooooo good.

This made a delicious, healthy, and easy dinner that my whole family loved.

For the pasta
You can use whatever you want. I highly recommend the chickpea pasta. I found it at Sprouts and Target (if you can believe that), but I’ll bet they have it at Whole Foods too.

For the Avocado Pesto
1 whole ripe avocado
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons lime juice
olive oil

handful of basil

pinch of salt and pinch of pepper

In a food processor, add all the ingredients. I wanted to use fresh basil for this like I usually do, but the store was out, so I bought this basil paste. It is still fresh and it tasted good, so I think it’s an acceptable substitution.



Blend everything together until smooth and creamy. I didn’t give an amount for the olive oil on purpose. Start with a couple tablespoons and then add more to get the consistency you want.


Toss the pasta with the sauce and enjoy! For this particular dish, I added some caramelized leeks, but that is totally optional (although a delish addition!).


 

Spaghetti Carbonara 

I’ve always loved pasta. I mean, who doesn’t, really? But I feel like I’ve been taking it for granted my whole life. No matter what diet you decide to follow or how you plan on eating healthy, pasta is usually one of the first things to go. Sure, there are healthy alternatives to regular pasta like veggie noodles, whole wheat pasta, brown rice pasta, even garbanzo bean pasta. The problem is, it just really isn’t the same!

When I made a commitment to eat clean and healthy last year, it put me and pasta on the outs. Now that I’m in a good “maintaining” place (though those last 5 pounds would be nice to see gone!), I feel like I can reacquaint myself with my carby friend again. Every once in a while, of course. For special occasions, like New Year’s Eve, for example.

We don’t usually go out for NYE mostly because everywhere you go is super crowded, crazy expensive, and not nearly as much fun in practice as in theory. All the best New Year’s I’ve ever had were always spent at home or at someone else’s home. It’s warm, you can wear comfy clothes and it’s much cheaper. Plus, there’s still booze, so it’s still a good time!

Since we don’t go out, I always try to make a special dinner for the hubby and myself. This year I decided to make pasta from scratch and use it to make carbonara. Carbonara is one of my favorite pasta dishes and making it with homemade pasta was such a treat! 

I’ve made homemade pasta before when I first got my pasta attachment for my stand mixer, but I just never could quite get it right. This time I tried using Semolina flour and I really think it made all the difference. I used the Bob’s Red Mill brand from Sprouts, but I think you can get it at any grocery store.


It does take some time to make the pasta, but once you do, the rest of the dish just comes right together in minutes. If you don’t want to make your own pasta, go ahead and use store bought.

Spaghetti Carbonara (makes enough for 2-3 plus a little leftover)

For the pasta, I just followed the directions on the package:

1 ½ cups Semolina Flour

½ tsp Salt, optional (I included it in mine)

2 eggs or 3 egg whites, beaten (I did 2 eggs)

2 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Carbonara:

4 oz diced pancetta

1 leek, chopped, white and light green parts only

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup shredded parmesan cheese

2 eggs

Black pepper to taste 

Make the pasta according to the package directions. I tried to be fancy like on tv and just make it on my cutting board. It does work this way, but it is a MESS. This is the part that takes awhile, because once you have all the ingredients mixed together, you have to knead the dough for 10 minutes. It is well worth it though, so pop on some tunes and get to work.


Once the dough is kneaded, cover it in plastic wrap and let it sit for 20 minutes.

When you are ready to actually make the pasta, you can either roll it out to your desired thinness and cut it into the shape you want or you can use your pasta maker if you have one. I think pasta makers are worth it and they come in a wide range of prices and sizes. 

I used my attachment with the spaghetti noodle disk in place and got to pumping out some pasta. This time, I didn’t make the little nests that I did before, and they did not clump together, so WIN.

 

Once your pasta is cut (or during the process, if you can do both), make the sauce for the carbonara. In a bowl, whisk together your two eggs, parmesan cheese, and some black pepper. It is important to have that ready to go so that you can add it to the hot pasta right away. The pasta needs to be hot to cook the eggs.


Cook your pancetta and leeks in a skillet until the pancetta is brown and the leeks are softened. When they are almost done, add the garlic and cook until soft.

 

While the pancetta mixture is cooking, add your pasta to a pot of boiling water and cook until done. It only takes about 5 minutes to cook fresh pasta, so keep your eye on it. When it is ready, add it to the skillet with the pancetta and leeks over LOW heat and mix together.

Add in the eggs and parmesan and toss until all the pasta is coated. Some people say to do this off the heat so the eggs don’t scramble, but I’ve never had a problem with the eggs scrambling. I just make sure to keep tossing so the eggs cook through and I am left with a creamy, dreamy sauce.

Then, turn off the heat and serve it up with a little more parmesan on top.

When you spell it out, carbonara seems like a lot of work, but in practice it is actually pretty simple, but it makes a really rich, decadent dish that you will want over and over again.

Meaty, Cheesy Lasagna 

Recently, some friends of mine had a baby, a little boy. This was baby number 2 for them (their oldest daughter and my oldest son are the same age).

As someone who has had a couple of kids herself, I can attest to the fact that after having a baby, the last thing you want to do is worry about making dinner (or breakfast or lunch for that matter). Not only are you exhausted in the first couple weeks while adjusting to this new person now living in your house, but you are also just completely engrossed in the sweet, sweet baby snuggles that your newborn is providing you with. 

That’s why I think one of the best things you can do for someone after having a baby is to bring them food. Preferably something that will create leftovers that will last them a few meals. I’m talking some good comfort food here. It will give them one less thing to worry about taking care of and they will appreciate it more than you could even imagine. Trust me. 

There are many options that would make for a good meal to take to someone, but this is one of my favorites. This lasagna is so good. It’s meaty and cheesy and pasta-y (yeah, I said it…). Paired with some warm, buttery garlic bread and a nice salad (you gotta get a little green in there!) and you’ve got yourself the perfect comfort food meal. 

I’d like to point out that this lasagna freezes very well and lasts up to 2 months in the freezer. This makes it a good addition to any freezer meal plan you may have if you do the make-ahead meals, or if you know lots of other people will also be bringing someone food. This way they don’t have to eat it right away. 

Lasagna may have different components to prep, but it is very easy to put together: 

9 Lasagna noodles, boiled per package directions

1-1/2 to 2 pounds ground beef (you know those packages at the store aren’t exact. You can also use turkey if you want.)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tsp each salt and pepper

15 oz tub of ricotta cheese

2-1/2 cups of Italian cheese blend

2-3 cups tomato sauce (homemade or jarred; it doesn’t matter)

Boil your noodles per the package instructions and set aside. If the noodles are done early, drizzle a little olive oil on them so they don’t stick together.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown your ground beef. When it is almost done, carefully drain as much of the rendered fat as you can, put it back on the stove and add the garlic, oregano, basil, and salt and pepper. You don’t need much salt because of all the cheeses you are going to use. Mix together until the meat is cooked through.

Add the tomato sauce and let simmer for a few minutes.

Now assemble:

Spread a little tomato sauce on the bottom of your pan. (PS: I love these disposable aluminum pans for freezer meals and meals to take to friends.)

Add a layer of noodles, then 1/3 of the ricotta, 1/3 of the meat sauce, and a 1/3 of the Italian cheese blend.

Repeat the layers, ending with the cheese blend on top.

Bake covered at 350 for 40-45 minutes, then uncovered for another 10-15 until the cheese is all bubbly and golden brown.

 

Sorry I don’t have an “after” shot of the baked lasagna, but since I was giving it to a friend, I didn’t want to bake it first. I did receive a text message the next day saying they all loved it so much and everyone had seconds. They barely saved room for the chocolate cake I made them for dessert, which I will share in my next post because it was super easy and the frosting was to die for.

What’s your favorite take-along or freezer meal?