Pasta é Fagoli {Kale, Pasta & Red Bean Stew}

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One of the biggest blessings of this past year has been our puppy, Boone. He’s just the sweetest and has brought so much joy with his playful personality and all around adorableness. Recently, he has been begging for food. He doesn’t whine or anything, he just sits about 1 foot from the table and looks at us with his big brown puppy eyes and from time to time licks his lips. It’s really all my fault. It’s just that I want him to get to taste a little bread or bacon once in a while. I’ve never fed him directly from the table, I promise! I usually “accidentally” drop something on the ground while I’m cooking. I don’t think my trickery is working. He’s figured out that I’m a softy who can’t say no…to my dog. This does not bode well for one day when I have kids.
So of course, when making this stew, I may or may not have dropped a piece of Parmesan cheese on the ground. It’s my favorite food and I feel like in his little dog life, Boone should get to taste it.
Anyways, on to why you’re here: kale, beans, & pasta in a rich tomatoey stew seasoned by a Parmesan rind (don’t be scared!) and pancetta (again, don’t be scared). It’s Italian, it’s comfort food, it’s healthy, and it’s flavorful. With a big piece of crusty buttered bread for dipping, it’s the perfect winter meal. I like my soups and stews to have lots in them. I’m not a huge fan of creamy, evenly textured soups. I like to get different flavors and bites throughout. And this fits the bill!

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Pasta é Fagoli

adapted from My Favorite Things

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
5 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 2-ounce piece pancetta, minced
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock
Kosher salt
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 Tbsp dried bay leaves
1 piece parmesan cheese rind, (buy a block of cheese, cut off the rind!)
2 cups small pasta, I used Orecchiette but shells would work great
1 bunch kale, stems and ribs discarded, leaves chopped
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese for topping
Freshly ground pepper

To Make:

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, rosemary and pancetta, if using, and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook 2 more minutes; season with salt. Add the beans, chicken stock, the bay leaves and parmesan rind. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer until the beans are tender, 1 hour 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Uncover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Add the kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 6 more minutes.

Remove the bay leaves, parmesan rind. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with parmesan cheese and parsley.

P.S. In real life I topped my with significantly more of the beloved freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

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{One Year Anniversary} Shrimp & Roasted Asparagus Risotto

On Monday, Matthew and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary! I can hardly believe that we have been married for a whole year. This year of being married to my best friend has been a year full of joy.

We had a wonderful evening of celebrating: enjoying a delicious dinner, watching our wedding video and to our great delight our wedding cake tasted great! (Thanks mom for wrapping it up so expertly.)

One thing that I remember thinking on our wedding day is how absolutely crazy and absolutely miraculous it is that at one moment I was standing at the altar facing the man I love, but in that moment before the vows and rings and pronouncement and kiss, I was single, I had my maiden name; and then after the pastor said a few beautiful words and we promised each other rich and beautiful promises and placed on our fingers these lovely bands…voila! Married! One! Forever! I just couldn’t wrap my mind around the wonder of it.

And still it is such a wonder. A glorious miracle.

And yet, even after that moment I was still me and he was still him and here we are together. Maybe I thought that when the vows were said, the cake was cut, the garter was tossed, we would become older, wiser, more mature, more patient, more perfect people.

But we aren’t. And that is what I have learned this year. I’m not. I am just not perfect. Sometimes I’m quite impatient. Most of the time I can’t get the laundry done in less than four days. Usually I still struggle to be on time. And often my words come out too harsh, I overreact, and my tendencies leans towards selfishness.

But in the places that I am not, I am  learning that gloriously miraculous thing called grace. 

The gift of grace is free. This is a gift that when taken, is easier then to give. Because I am learning that life is a process, a journey, a struggle, and what I need each day is to breath in His grace so that I can extend a hand of grace to my husband, to my neighbor, to my friends, to the stranger.

And only, really only, when I allow myself to be filled to the brim with grace can I then take a step forward into the woman God has purposed me to be.

When grace fills me up, I spill grace onto and into the hearts of others.

And you know what, that really has nothing to do with risotto, but we all know that risotto is one of the most delicious foods in the whole world.

It is a bit time consuming, but don’t be intimidated! It’s not complicated and it’s flavor and creaminess are well worth the time commitment. We had a lovely risotto bar at our wedding which is why I made it to for our anniversary dinner. Make it for someone you love. It is truly divine.

Shrimp & Roasted Asparagus Risotto

adapted from allrecipes.com 

ingredients:

  • 6 cups chicken broth, divided
  • 4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 pound shrimp, pealed & deveined
  • 1 bundle of asparagus
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

to make:

Preheat oven to 425. Rinse asparagus and place on a large baking sheet, drizzle with two tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and one teaspoon pepper. Roast in oven for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool the cut into bite size pieces. Set aside.

Peal and devein shrimp. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt and pepper on both sides. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in pan over medium heat. Add shrimp and cook on both sides 1-2 minutes until pink. Allow shrimp to cool until easily touched, then cut into bite size pieces. Set aside.

In a saucepan, warm the broth over low heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet, and stir in the shallots. Cook 1 minute. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes. When the rice has taken on a pale, golden color, pour in 1/2 cup of broth, stirring constantly until the broth is fully absorbed. Add another 1/2 cup broth to the rice, and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continuously, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in butter,  parmesan, asparagus, and shrimp. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!


Chicken Meatball Sub Sandwiches

These Chicken Meatball Sub Sandwiches are deeeeelicious. When I was little I had really weird food preferences and oddly didn’t like the typical meat and cheese sandwich-I literally wouldn’t eat a turkey and cheese sandwich so my mom would pack my lunch with a pickle, mustard, and cheese sandwich. So, every time my family went to Subway, my siblings ordered turkey or ham like normal kids, but I always opted for the Meatball Sub with black olives and lots of parmesan cheese.

I haven’t had a Meatball Sub in probably 10 years, but these Chicken Meatball Subs will be a regular on our weekly menu.

The key to these is to get good bread-I chose the twenty-five cent “bolillos” at our grocery store’s bakery. Amazing. They are soft and especially good the day you buy them. Paired with thick tomato sauce, parmesan, a spread of roasted garlic, caramelized onions, and chicken meatballs with lots of herbs-these are a hearty and healthy weeknight dinner.

A lot of people get intimidated by the idea of homemade tomato sauce. But, you can make a simple and flavorful sauce with just a few ingredients. I used a 140z can of diced tomatoes, some tomato paste, olive oil, garlic, a few herbs and voila! Less expensive and more flavorful than what you can buy in a jar. Of course to get even more flavor you can let it simmer for a few hours with a few more ingredients, but when you’re in a hurry, the simple recipe is great.

Ingredients: 

Serves 4 (easily halved for two-use the leftover meatballs for another dinner or lunch the next day!) 

4 sub rolls

12 chicken meatballs

1 cup tomato sauce

1/2 cup chopped sweet or yellow onion

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 bulb of roasted garlic

chopped parsley for topping

Roasted Garlic: 

Turn oven on 425 degrees. Chop off the top of the garlic bulb, drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon olive oil and wrap in foil. Put in oven on the rack and allow to roast for 30 minutes. Set aside.

Chicken Meatballs: 

1 lb ground chicken breast

1 egg

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4  teaspoon pepper

To make:

In a mixing bowl, place chicken breast, crack in egg and mix together lightly. Add remaining ingredients, except olive oil, and mix with hands or fork to combine. Be careful not to over mix. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Make meatballs about 1.5 inches in diameter. Drop into oil and fry until chicken turns white about 8 minutes. It’s ok if they aren’t perfectly round as you’ll have to turn them on each side to cook through. Also, a little blackening is ok as well. Use a knife to cut into largest meatball to make sure there is no pink remaining.

For the tomato sauce: 

1 14oz can diced tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon fresh chopped parsley

1 clove garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

To make: 

Heat olive oil in a 1 quart pot over medium heat, add in all ingredients, mixing together to combine. Bring to a boil then allow to simmer for 10 minutes, mixing frequently. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

For the Caramelized Onions: 

Chop 1/2 cup of sweet or yellow onion. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium low heat. Add onions and allow mix until translucent, soft, and slightly brown, about 10 minutes.

Put it all together: 

Cut sub rolls in half. Lightly toast in oven or toaster oven if desired (I didn’t do this). Spread 2-3 cloves of roasted garlic on the inside top of each sub roll. Spread 1/4 cup of tomato sauce on bottom inside of each sub roll. Add caramelized onion as desired onto tomato sauce. Place three meatballs on each sub and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Add a bit of chopped fresh parsley. Eat and enjoy!

P.S. You know you’ve made a great plate of food when your husband doesn’t speak until he’s finished the whole thing, “mmmm”-ing the whole way.


Parmesan Polenta with Shrimp & Mushrooms

Today I accidentally cut a lady off in traffic. Note: accidentally. Anyways, I could see that this lady was MAD.  Major road rage, throwing hands up, disgusted expression-the whole shebang. So, as I drove past her, I got a glimpse of her face and realized I knew this girl! I wont’ say in what context so that her identity won’t be revealed. But this girl and I totally know each other. I really don’t think she saw me, but it made me laugh. A lot. And I think this girl would be totally embarrassed if she knew I saw her.

Anyways, polenta is delicious. And really cheap! I used to by the pre-packaged polenta (what was I thinking?!) that costs about $4.00, but I discovered that really the best option is to buy from the bulk section where the polenta costs less that fifty cents for a cup!

It looks so simple. And tastes so delicious! The consistency of polenta is similar to grits. If that doesn’t appeal to you, then I’d say it’s like mashed potatoes or even risotto. But my favorite things about polenta are its creaminess and the fact that you can flavor it however you like! Parmesan cheese and butter is my simple yet scrumptious flavor combo for this recipe. Can’t really go wrong with those two ingredients.

To accompany my polenta I sauteed some shrimp that were tossed around with a few seasonings.

And some mushrooms with just olive oil, salt, and pepper. In my opinion, they just don’t need much more than that!

All together this was a simple, filling meal with lots of yummy flavors. I hope you like it!

Recipe: 

Adapted from Gourmande in the Kitchen

Ingredients: 

1 cup ground polenta

2 cups plus 1 cup of water

2 cups of chicken broth (using water here is fine too)

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup parmesan cheese

1 lb shrimp, deveined and peeled

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

2 tablespoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon parsley

1 package of mushrooms, sliced

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

To make: 

After peeling and deveining the shrimp, put it on a plate and sprinkle with chili powder, parsley, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix together and let it just hang out for a bit.

In a 2 quart pot, put cold water and chicken broth, add polenta. Turn on to a medium-high heat and stir until it comes to a simmer, continue stirring and bring to a boil. The polenta will begin to thicken, add a little more water if needed to achieve desired thickness. Lower heat to low and cover the pot, stirring every ten minutes for about 30 minutes until polenta is creamy. Add butter and parmesan cheese, mix to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While the polenta is cooking, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a sauté pan and bring to medium heat. Add shrimp and cook, turning once for two minutes. Remove shrimp, place on a plate and cover with foil. Add one tablespoon olive oil to the same pan, add sliced mushrooms, sauté until soft and color darkens, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the shrimp back to the pan with the mushrooms. Serve on top of warm polenta.