She Cooks: Creamy Tomato Pasta

This is a simple, quick lunch I make often for my toddlers. I change the vegetables according to what I have available, and don’t always have cream cheese, but they gladly eat it any which way!

Creamy Tomato Pasta
Serves: 12 (1/2-cup) portions

Ingredients:

1 lb. pasta (garden rotini & whole wheat bowties are favorites, here!)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 sm yellow onion, diced small
2 carrots, diced small
2 stalks celery, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning blend
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp Worcestershire
1 Tbsp ketchup
1 (15-oz) can tomato sauce
4 oz. cream cheese, softened, cubed

Process:

Put salted water on to boil, for pasta. In a separate pot, saute the onion, carrots, and celery in oil/butter for several minutes until very tender. Add garlic and cook briefly (less than a minute). Stir in Italian seasoning, bay leaves, Worcestershire, and ketchup. Add tomato sauce, bring to simmer, and cook on low about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cook pasta to al dente, drain, return to pot. Stir cream cheese into sauce until melted, then pour over pasta and stir together.

Modifications:

There are several ways to adjust this recipe.

  • add more vegetables to the onion/carrot/celery mix; try eggplant, zucchini, squash, or sweet potato (diced small enough to cook quickly)
  • add peas or chopped baby spinach to the sauce after simmering, before adding the cream cheese
  • add broccoli florets or fresh green beans to the boiling water for the last 2-3 minutes of pasta cooking time
  • substitute 1/4 cup heavy cream or 1/4 cup plain yogurt for the cream cheese
  • add fresh herbs instead of the Italian seasoning
  • like spicy food? replace the ketchup with hot sauce!

The sauce keeps well in the freezer. I only cook 4-6 oz of pasta at a time, and I store the extra sauce in the refrigerator or freezer for another day. That way, the pasta doesn’t swell with sauce and turn mushy!

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sauce on garden rotini pasta

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just the sauce

She Cooks: 2-Ingredient Toddler Dessert, Recipe

This is a recipe, if it can be called such, for a very simple dessert. My toddlers love it. It is healthy and delicious. It begins with just two ingredients, but there are many ways to boost the nutritional value, which I will give below the recipe.

2-Ingredient Toddler Dessert

Servings: 2

Ingredients:

1 cup frozen fruit, any combination

1/2-1 cup COLD plain yogurt or whole milk

Procedure:

Blend ingredients until smooth. That’s it! It should be the consistency of a very, very soft ice cream or frozen yogurt; similar to a smoothie but smoother. It can be eaten with a spoon or straw.

Optional additions (stir in after blending):

1-2 tsp sweetener (honey will clump; maple syrup is great); be careful if the fruit used is already sweetened!

1 Tbsp whole flax seed or chia seed

1 Tbsp wheat germ

The picture shows this dessert made with frozen strawberries, vanilla yogurt, maple syrup, flax seed, and wheat germ. The kids love it, and don’t mind the little seeds at all.

yum!

She Cooks: Slow Cooker Red Beans & Rice

I adapted a few red beans and rice recipes I found online, to suit our tastes. This is the result, and I love it. I don’t think it is particularly authentic to New Orleans cuisine, but it is tasty (and inexpensive)!

Slow Cooker Red Beans & Rice

Servings: 8

Ingredients:
1 pound dry red beans, soaked overnight, rinsed & drained
1-2 tsp olive oil or bacon grease
1 large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 rib of celery, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
2-4 cups water
14 ounces Andouille sausage, diced
sliced green onion as topping (optional)
2 cups cooked brown rice

Procedure:
Saute onion, bell pepper, and celery in oil or grease until tender. Add garlic and cook briefly. Add to crock of slow cooker along with beans, seasonings (except salt), and enough water to just cover. Cover and cook on Low heat about 8 hours. When beans are tender, mash some of the beans against the side of the crock with a spoon, to achieve desired consistency (mashed beans will thicken the cooking liquid). Stir in salt and cook another 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, fry sausage in small amount of olive oil, until browned.

Serve beans over bed of rice (about 1/4 cup per serving), topped with sausage and green onion slices (optional).

served with a side of bacon Parmesan sweet peas


 

She Cooks: Basic Fried Potatoes

I’ve been making these fried potatoes a lot lately and finally photographed the steps for you. These make a nice change from mashed or creamed potatoes and can be flavored various ways to complement the main dish. I’ll give some ideas below the recipe.

Basic Fried Potatoes

Servings: 2-3

Ingredients:
2 large baking potatoes, diced
1-2 Tbsp oil
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

Procedure
Heat oil in a heavy skillet (cast-iron is perfect) over medium heat. Add potatoes, salt, and pepper; cover and cook, without stirring, 5 minutes. Stir, recover, and cook another 5 minutes. When potatoes are just tender, uncover and cook until desired browning is achieved. Stir only occasionally while potatoes are browning, scraping up the potatoes with a firm spatula. (If stirred too often, they will just go to mush and not achieve those crispy browned bits that are oh-so-yummy!)

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in the pan, seasoned, about to cover

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tender, ready to brown uncovered

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about halfway there…

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… THIS is how I like them!

OK, I mentioned variations…

  • use shredded potato instead of diced — hashbrowns!
  • add more seasonings
    • chili powder, cumin, and oregano for a Tex-Mex twist
    • garlic powder, onion powder, and parsley pair nicely with a steak supper
  • add more ingredients like diced onion or minced bell/jalapeno/cayenne pepper (add these over top of potatoes at the beginning)
  • stir in grated cheese at the very end (about 1/2 cup per 2 potatoes)

Enjoy!

She Cooks: Refried Beans

These beans are probably nothing like authentic Mexican refried beans, but they are still tasty!

Refried Beans

Servings: 4

Ingredients:
1 can (15.5-oz.) pinto beans
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried cilantro
1/2 tsp dried oregano

Procedure
Place beans, with juice, in a skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and add remaining ingredients. With the back of a spoon (a gravy ladle works well), mash the beans to achieve the desired consistency. Cook until heated through and as thick as desired.

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These beans accompany Spanish rice┬ávery well as part of any Tex-Mex meal. It also makes a great filling for easy bean & cheese burritos, as follows…

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (F). Portion the beans between 4 soft-taco size flour tortillas. Add about 1 Tbsp shredded cheese to each. (Optional: add a few slices of pickled jalapeno peppers to each.) Roll into burritos and place on lightly-greased baking sheet. Spray tops with cooking spray and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until edges are crisp and golden brown.