Easy Slow Cooker Broccoli Mac-n-Cheese

This recipe is all my own; created out of love for both macaroni and cheese and my slow cooker! I used chick pea pasta for added protein as well as broccoli to help get more nutrients into my kids! My version of slow cooker mac-n-cheese is super creamy, delicious and sure to please! Enjoy.

Ingredients: Feeds 6 – 8

  • cooking spray
  • 12 oz frozen broccoli florets
  • 8 oz uncooked pasta (I use Banza chick pea pasta)
  • 1, 8 oz block of cream cheese
  • 1/4 lb of butter sliced into 4 – 6 pats
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • dash of pepper
  • dash of paprika
  • 3 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Spray the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray.
  2. Place the frozen broccoli in the bottom then add the pasta.
  3. Nestle the block of cream cheese in the center and place pats of butter throughout.
  4. Pour milk and stock over the mixture and sprinkle with seasonings.
  5. Spread the shredded cheese on top, keeping it from touching the sides of the slow cooker.
  6. Cook on LOW for 2 – 3 hours or until pasta is cooked to your liking. One hour into cooking, give everything a good stir. Stir once more before serving!

Note:

  • Chick pea pasta can get mushy… quickly, and in this recipe tends to lose its shape/consistency. If you want your mac to remain intact/whole I suggest you use regular pasta!

Meatball Marinara with Gnocchi and Burrata

This is a semi-homemade, one skillet, made in under 30 minutes masterpiece that will wow everyone at your dinner table! Simple shortcuts make is quick and easy while still maintaining authentic flavors and textures. This will make you feel like it’s Sunday at Grandma’s (when it’s only Wednesday night)!

Ingredients: Feeds 6 – 8

  • 18 – 24 prepared meatballs (I used Shady Brook Farms All Natural Turkey meatballs)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp minced minced
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1, 15 oz can diced tomatoes, do not drain!
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flake
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1, 25 oz jar of your favorite marinara sauce
  • 16 oz mini gnocchi potato pasta
  • 8 oz burrata, chunked

IMG_5444

Directions:

  1. In a large, shallow, enamel coated saucepan with lid, heat the oil over low – medium heat. Add the meatballs and brown them for about 5 minutes. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.IMG_5442
  2. In the same pan, sauté the onion and garlic until soft and then add the tomato paste. Mix in the diced tomatoes and spices and let simmer for a few minutes allowing flavors to develop. Add the marinara, mix well and allow it to heat up.
  3. Next, add the uncooked gnocchi to the sauce and stir to distribute them evenly. Add the meatballs back in, nestling them evenly as well. Cover, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring gently half way through.
  4. Turn heat off and right before serving, drop the chunks of burrata into the mixture, in and around the meatballs and gnocchi. Close the lid one more time and allow them to melt, taking approximately 2 – 3 minutes.
  5. Serve immediately in bowls with crusty bread and a green salad.IMG_5446

Monday Minestrone

Sometimes I find it difficult to cook on Monday nights… just because it’s Monday, after all!? But this easy Minestrone soup comes together quickly, feeds a small crowd and will leave you not only full but proud of how you started off your week of suppers!

Ingredients: Feeds 6 – 8

  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1, 15 oz can diced tomatoes with juice (I like Muir Woods, Fire Roasted)
  • 1, 15 oz can dark kidney beans, drained
  • 1 bunch of celery, chopped
  • 3 – 4 carrots chopped
  • 1 cup chopped kale (I use Lacinto)
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 2 cups uncooked pasta (something small in size like Pipette)

Directions:

  1. Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta and cook according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat, combine the other ingredients and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 – 30 minutes or until veggies are fork tender. Remove rosemary stem.
  3. Drain pasta and add to the soup. Taste and add additional salt and/or pepper if desired.

Suggestions:

  • This soup can be made ahead and reheated. If planning on doing so, leave out the pasta until you’re ready to reheat and serve or it will soak up all the liquid!
  • Try adding additional protein like meatballs! Leftover meatballs work great but if not, I always have Trader Joe’s mini party meatballs in my freezer and they work like a charm!

 

Lobster Luvah Mac-n-Cheese

I make home made mac-n-cheese all the time so adding lobster meat didn’t seem like a stretch when my daughter asked me to jazz things up for her special birthday meal! Although I used Monterey Jack cheese, you could try a mix of cheddar and jack or even something creamy and decadent like mascarpone. I added truffle oil to my sauce just because it seemed like the right thing to do as well as Old Bay seasoning to the breadcrumb topping! Overall, this dish was an utter hit and everyone at the table, including the birthday girl, was blown away! 

Ingredients: Feeds 8 – 10

  • 1 1/4 lbs of steamed lobster tail meat*, chopped
  • 1 lb. Cellentani macaroni (or any medium spiral shaped pasta)
  • 5 tbsp unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/2  small yellow onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 pint light cream (at room temp)
  • 1 1/2 cups of low fat milk (also at room temp)
  • 1 tsp truffle oil
  • 12 oz Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (plus additional for topping)
  • 1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to box directions. Drain and set aside when done cooking.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt 3 tbsp of butter over low to medium heat and sauté the onions until they begin to soften. Add the mustard and the garlic. Then add the flour to the mixture and whisk to combine. The mixture will appear lumpy.
  3. Slowly add the cream and the milk and then the truffle oil. Whisk until well incorporated and mixture has little to no lumps. Leave sauce to simmer over low heat. Stir frequently while allowing sauce to thicken. Do not let sauce boil over!
  4. While sauce cooks, combine 2 tbsp butter, the Panko and Old Bay seasoning in a small lidded pot. Cook over low heat until butter melts and bread crumbs are saturated and lightly toasted. Remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Preheat oven to 325.
  6. Once the sauce has begun to thicken and has reduced some, start adding small amounts of shredded cheese as you continue to stir. Once all the cheese has been blended in, add the fresh pepper and salt to taste.
  7. In a large prep bowl, combine drained pasta, cheese sauce and steamed lobster meat. Mix well and transfer to a lightly greased glass 9×13 casserole dish. Top with additional shredded cheese if desired. Sprinkle with toasted/seasoned breadcrumbs. Cover with aluminum foil.
  8. Bake for 30 minutes, covered. Remove foil and broil 3 – 5 minutes to crisp up the bread crumb topping.
  9. Serve immediately and prepare yourself for the onslaught of compliments sure to follow!! Enjoy 🙂

Suggestion:

* I bought three, 7 oz,  frozen lobster tails from my local seafood market. I unwrapped them and defrosted them in a colander in my kitchen sink. Once thawed, I steamed them in a large pot for 10 minutes, then rinsed them under cold water directly to prevent them from continuing to cook. Once they could be handled, I used my kitchen shears to remove the shells and then chopped the meat using a large chef’s knife. 

Pasta Salad with Pesto

Made this for our neighborhood Fourth of July gathering in our cul-de-sac. We are so fortunate to have great neighbors who are more like friends and family than simply people living in close proximity! This is an easy pasta salad with a mediterranean twist, perfect for sharing and feeding a small crowd! Enjoy!!

Ingredients: Feeds 8-10

  • 1 lb rotini pasta
  • 1, 15oz can artichokes hearts, drained and quartered
  • 1 small cucumber chopped
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
  • 8 oz mozzarella pearls (or feta, cubed)
  • 6 tbsp prepared pesto
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (plus additional if needed)
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions. Drain/rinse with cold water and set aside to partially cool.
  2. Meanwhile in a medium bowl, combine the artichokes, cucumber, tomatoes, olives and mozzarella.
  3. Once pasta has cooled some, toss it in a large bowl with the prepared pesto, olive oil and vinegar to coat. Gently fold in the artichoke mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Cover and let chill at least 30 minutes. Toss before serving and season with additional salt/pepper/oil if needed.

*Adapted from Pioneer Woman Magazine

Turkey Veggie Lasagna

This is what you get when you’re torn between making meat lasagna and veggie lasagna; an omnivores delight! There’s something for everyone in each layer of this delicious no-boil, oven-ready casserole.  The ground turkey and pepperoni satisfy the carnivores in your family while the veggies please the herbivores at your table. It’s cheesy, it’s flavorful, it’s easy to make and will feed a hungry crowd with leftovers to spare.

IMG_2721.jpg

Ingredients: Feeds 4 – 6

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
  • cooking spray
  • 1, 25 oz jar of your favorite marinara sauce (I use Lidia’s Organic)
  • 9 no-boil lasagna noodles (I use Barilla, oven-ready)
  • 30 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • kosher salt
  • fresh black pepper
  • 3/4 cup shredded carrot
  • 2 cups fresh baby spinach (packed loosley)
  • 16 slices (thin) turkey pepperoni (I use Hormel, low sodium)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a frying pan, brown the ground turkey over medium heat.  Add the minced garlic and Italian seasoning half way through the cooking process.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, egg, parsley, Parmesan, oregano and a pinch of both kosher salt and fresh black pepper.
  4. Meanwhile, lightly spray a 9×13 casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour approximately 1/4 cup of the marinara into the dish and spread it out to cover the bottom.
  5. Line the dish with 3 of the lasagna noodles. They do not need to touch.
  6. Spread about 1/3 of the ricotta mixture over the three noodles.  Top with half of the browned ground turkey using a slotted spoon to drain off any fat. Layer turkey with   half of the shredded carrot, spinach and pepperoni slices. Sprinkle 1/3 cup of mozzarella on top of everything.
  7. Repeat steps 3 – 5, starting with the marinara and layering three more lasagna noodles, 1/3 of the ricotta, the remainder of the turkey, carrots, spinach and pepperoni and 1/3 cup of mozzarella.
  8. Pour 1/4 cup of marinara over the top, layer with the last three noodles, spread the remaining ricotta on the noodles and sprinkle with the mozzarella.
  9. Bake covered for 40 minutes.  Remove foil and bake an additional 5-10 minutes until top is bubbly and lightly browned.
  10. Let rest approximately 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Don’t worry, it’ll be plenty hot!!

Suggestion:

When covering a dish topped with cheese with tinfoil, I usually lightly spray the underside of the foil before covering the dish.  This way even as the cheese melts, the foil can be removed without sticking to the top layer which is arguably the best part!

Vegan Peas and Pas(ta)

This was a first for me! While working on the menu for an upcoming yoga retreat (which I am catering), I was told the meals not only needed to be vegetarian but that one participant doesn’t eat cheese! Bottom line, I had to come up with a substitute for parmesan which is featured in one of my favorite dishes on the menu! After finding a highly rated recipe for a vegan parmesan substitute, I wanted to see how well it performed so I put it to the test! Basically I pulled out all the stops and used all my tricks to create my favorite “parmesan cream sauce”. The final product included fresh black pepper and parsley which I usually add, but it’s the added lemon zest that really brought it home! I think you’ll agree (even if your not a vegan like me) that this is a really tasty dish and that the real parmesan isn’t missed!!! Check it out!!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 1 tbsp (heaping) of flour
  • 3/4 cup white wine (I use Pinot Grigio)
  • 1  1/4 cup mushroom stock
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 2 tbsp vegan parmesan (recipe below) plus additional as garnish
  • kosher salt
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • 3/4 lb cooked rice pasta (spaghetti style)
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest

Directions:

  1. In an enamel coated cast iron saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and and cook for 3 – 4 minutes allowing it to soften and begin to caramelize. Add the garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes stirring frequently.
  2. Add the flour and mix to form a paste.  Slowly add the wine and whisk to incorporate. Allow mixture to cook and alcohol to burn off for 2 – 3 minutes. Mixture will begin to thicken.
  3. Slowly whisk in the mushroom stock.  Once added, bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Continue to stir. Add the peas and heat until peas are cooked through, approximately 2 – 3 minutes.
  4. Add 2 tbsp vegan parmesan* and season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Toss the cooked pasta (reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water) in the saucepan with the sauce, adding reserved pasta water if needed to thin the sauce to desired consistency.
  6. Serve immediately (family style is fun!) with fresh chopped parsley and lemon zest.

Vegan Parmesan:

In a food processor or coffee grinder, pulse 2/3 cup unsalted cashews, 3 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder and 1/2 tsp salt. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks. Makes approximately 3/4 cup.

*Recipe for Vegan Parmesan is from karissasvegankitchen.com