Pasta with Goat Cheese, Asparagus, and Sun Dried Tomatoes

So yeah. I haven’t been here in a while. Life is a strange thing that often gets in the way of a lot of other things. We went on a West Coast vacation in July, Gemma started preschool in August, I started teaching two Zumba classes a week at our Y, Jake has worked on two Mark Wahlberg movies and is now back on the final season of Breaking Bad, there were debates and an election that merited wine-filled viewing (and victory!) parties, and I’ve been doing freelance language work while working steadily on getting my freelance translation business up and running. These are all good and happy things, but it’s been a busy few months chez nous. The blog (as well as my creativity in the kitchen) has definitely suffered, but I’m back. Because of Jake’s long hours, I’m back to working on dishes that can be put together in advance and popped in the oven or slow cooker when the time is right. I’ve made the dish that follows several times in the past few months, and I haven’t gotten tired of it! I usually make it with chopped spinach, but I didn’t have any the other night. I did, however, have a beautiful bunch of asparagus, so into the mix it went. Remember:  this whole thing can be put together well in advance (I think I’ve even done it the day before) and refrigerated until it’s time to get it in the oven!

Pasta with Goat Cheese, Asparagus, and Sun Dried Tomatoes
adapted from Pink Parsley

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces (or 1 bag/12 oz baby spinach finely chopped)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • olive oil
  • 1.5-2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, cut into small pieces
  • 1 lb pasta shapes, such as rotini or medium shells
  • 1 small log (4-5 ounces) of goat cheese
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • 2 oz finely grated Parmesan cheese (1 cup)

*Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

*Toss the asparagus with 1 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper.

*Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet, and roast for 6 minutes.

*Cook the pasta in a pot of salted boiling water, until just shy of al dente, 8 to 10 minutes.

*Soften the goat cheese in a large bowl (microwave for 30 seconds if needed) and season with salt and pepper

*Stir in the roasted asparagus until it is all incorporated. If you’re using spinach, use the heat from the cheese to wilt the greens.

*Reserve 1 cup of the cooking water, and transfer the pasta to the cheese mixture.

*Mix the pasta with the cheese until melted.

*Add the cooking water, just a bit at a time, until the sauce has thinned, but it’s not watery.

*Stir in the sun dried tomatoes, and check seasonings.

*Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish, add the pasta mixture, then top with the grated Parmesan.

*Bake 20 minutes, until the pasta is golden and bubbly.

photo (1)

This is one of our new go-to meals. The goat cheese feels decadent without adding the unwanted fat and calories of a cream sauce, and you can feel good about yourself with all of the veggies that are stuffed in there. I plan on trying it with artichoke hearts in the near future!

Omelette aux Fines Herbes

Before I start I need to get a few things off of my chest:

1)  I am entirely unsure of how to spell “omelette” in English.

2) Spell check does not recognize the existence of the word “omelette”.

3)  If I try to look it up in English in my French/English dictionary it just isn’t there (even though it is in the French side).

4) I’m pretty sure my dictionary is giving me the wrong spelling in English just to fuck with me, because honestly, I would TOTALLY do that if I were a dictionary and someone like me happened to be looking up a word as random as “omelette” (or however the fuck you spell it).

5)  I will be spelling it “omelette” for the entirety of this post.  Screw you spell check.

Well none of that had anything to do with anything, but I’m feeling pretty confident that it needed to be said.  The Anti-Omelette Lobby is out to get us and we need to gather our forces together to fight back.  So…omelettes.  Well if we’re going to talk about omelettes, we first have to talk about eggs.  If we’re going to talk about eggs, then we have to talk about how I HATE making breakfast at home.  (please see the rant in the Muffin Cup Huevos Rancheros  that I made for Jake last year for Father’s Day)  If we don’t go out to breakfast on the weekend, Jake will make breakfast, and it’s usually something with eggs.  Eggs that he cooks within an inch of their precious little eggie lives.

My husband, dear readers, is an…egg overcooker

You probably know one too…if you aren’t one yourself.  You very well may be.  Think about it.  I’ll give you a minute.

He burns scrambled eggs to the point where they don’t even taste like eggs anymore.  It grosses me out.  There is no respect in the preparation there, just getting it out on the table.  I’ve tried to steer him in the other direction, but he’s a man and he thinks that just because I’ve eaten his creations in the past, there’s nothing wrong with them.  Wrong.  Oh so very WRONG.  Eggs are delicate, and they deserve to be treated with a reverence that I usually reserve for champagne or really good cheese or diamonds or an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  A friend of Jake’s at work has hens and sent six perfect little eggies home with Jake on Friday!  We always buy free range/organic brown eggs at Trader Joe’s but I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some truly farm fresh eggs!!  And in case you were wondering, I am not letting Jake ANYWHERE NEAR these eggs!!!

Beautiful little eggs:

Perfect little eggies

Look at how they measure up to the eggs that we normally buy from Trader Joe’s!!!  TEENY!!

Perfect eggies next to the Trader Joe’s free range/organic that we usually buy!

An omelette doesn’t have to be stuffed with 87 different things to be good.  In fact, it doesn’t have to be stuffed with…wait for it…ANYTHING to be good!!  This is a meal to make if you actually want to taste your eggs.  I wanted to taste these, so this is what I found!

Omelette aux Fines Herbes

from Bonjour Paris

Ingredients:

*3 eggs (maybe even just 2 if you have really large ones)

*1 tbsp butter

*1 tbsp or so of fresh fines herbes (this usually includes herbs such as parsley, chervil, chives, and tarragon–I only had parsley on hand, so that’s all I used and it was still lovely.  All or just one of the above will work just fine!)

*Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

To Make:

*Beat the eggs together and then add the salt, pepper and whatever combination  fines herbes you choose.

*Heat the butter in a pan until almost bubbly and then gently pour in the eggs.

**Here is where I think most people go astray!  DO NOT COOK YOUR EGGS ON HIGH OR EVEN ON MEDIUM-HIGH!!  Give Medium-Low a try!!  I promise, it will change your life and the way you eat eggs!

*With the flat back of a fork, gently stir the eggs until cooked to your desired doneness. (I lifted the omelette a few times to check the underside just to make sure it wasn’t getting brown)

*Fold the omelette in half or into thirds and slide gently onto a plate.

*Yep.  That’s it.  No 87 fillings.  No 10 egg Fireman Special.  Just eggs, butter, salt, pepper, and parsley…ET VOILA!

YUM!

Survey Says:

Oh HELL yes.  This is omelette perfection.  In restaurants in France I’ve had this very omelette for lunch with a side salad and some gorgeous French fries.  Last night I had mine with tater tots and a glass of wine.  Don’t judge.   I’m going to make another one for dinner tonight using the remaining three eggs so as to ensure that Jake will not get his overcooking paws on them!

French Lentil Salad

I’m not sure I have a whimsical anecdote to go along with this post, but lets see what I can manage…

I’m tired in the evenings when we get home from the gym, and if Jake isn’t around to wrangle Gemma while I cook something up, my dinnertime ends up being somewhere around 9:30pm.  That’s usually about the time I decide that a bowl of cheese puffs and a big glass of wine will do because who the hell wants to cook right before they go to bed??  Not me.  It has been getting warmer here in the ABQ, which makes cooking even less palatable.  (Jake made a pizza on Monday night and having the oven on made me feel like I was back in my Bikram Yoga days.  Seriously.  Sweating.  To.  Death.)  I’ve been playing around with different kinds of cold salads that I can prepare earlier in the day (hopefully during a 3 hour nap) and have waiting for me in the fridge after the gym and after I’ve gotten my Schizophrenic Toddler Terrorist down for the night.  This is one of those salads.

French Lentil Salad

Adapted from French Vegetarian Cooking:  A Step By Step Guide

Ingredients:

*1 1/2 cups Le Puy lentils (you can always use another brown or green lentil, but the Le Puy have a great flavor!)

*2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed (still essentially whole)

*Champagne Vinaigrette (Combine 1 heaping tbsp of mustard with about 3 tbsp champagne vinegar.  Stream 1/4 of olive oil into the mixture while whisking steadily.  Salt and pepper to taste.)

*Several sprigs of fresh flat leaf parsley, minced

To Make:

*Simmer the lentils and the garlic cloves in a large, uncovered pot of water for 25-35 minutes (until the lentils are tender).

*Remove the garlic cloves after about 15 minutes.

*Prepare the Champagne Vinaigrette in a large serving bowl.

*Add the parsley to the vinaigrette.

*When the lentils are ready, drain off the liquid and add them to the vinaigrette.

*Gently incorporate the lentils with the vinaigrette and parsley and adjust seasonings to your taste.

*Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Survey Says:

This is incredibly easy and incredibly good!  Gemma ate it for dinner last night with her beloved tomatoes (the dish pictured above is hers) and loved it.  Just give it a try.  You’ll like it.  I promise.  There’s something about the vinaigrette with the lentils that is just so perfect!  It’s definitely hearty enough to stand on its own as the main part of your meal, but could also be a great side!

Swiss Chard with White Beans and Tomatoes…(and the Zombie Apocalypse)

I seem to have a neverending supply of Swiss chard in my garden. It didn’t die during the truly freezing temps this winter or during the freak Spring snowstorm that hit a few weeks ago after many days in the 70s and 80s. Yeah, so I can’t manage to grow tomatoes under perfect conditions, but chard?? Sure. Whatever. Good thing it’s so good and will obviously still be around to feed us all when the Zombie Apocalypse* finally rolls around.

Apocalypic chard: saving you from zombies since 2011.

Swiss Chard with White Beans and Tomatoes

Ingredients:

*1 bunch of Swiss chard (or whatever other hearty green you might have)

*1 can (or equivalent) white beans

*7 oz grape tomatoes, halved

*2 tbsp olive oil

*5 cloves garlic, minced or grated

*Splash of white wine or vegetable broth

*Salt and pepper, to taste

To Make:

*Heat oil in a large pan & add garlic.

*When garlic is just barely fragrant, add the greens & saute until they cook down.

*Add beans & tomatoes, salt & pepper and incorporate thoroughly.

*Here’s where you can splash in your wine or stock to make sure the mixture isn’t too dry.

*Simmer until heated through & you’ve achieved your desired consistency. (I usually let mine go for at least 25-30 minutes while I work on getting Gemma to bed)

Survey Says:

This has turned out to be a fantastic way to use up the Swiss chard!  Gemma asks for seconds every time she has leftovers for lunch.

 

*Some people think that having boats or weapons or huge stashes of food or toothpaste or deodorant or gold or power washers is going to save them from zombies. I, however, believe Swiss chard is the key. You can thank me later by not tearing me to bits when you turn into a zombie.  Is it that obvious that I’ve been immersed in The Bloggess’ book “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened”?  Seriously.  We should probably just pretend that this blog post never happened.

 

When Pants Chooses Her Dinner

Because Gemma eats before we go to the gym in the evening, she often has leftovers of what Jake and I eat the night before. It’s still working out pretty well for us. Tonight I asked if she wanted pizza (homemade and leftover from last night). She said “No thank you Mom.” I asked if she wanted Roasted Curried Cauliflower Soup. Same answer. When I asked if she wanted tortellini, she said “Yes, please Mom.” Here’s the meal she asked for.

Spinach tortellini, peas, feta cheese, and mini heirloom tomatoes.

Seems pretty happy with her choices, doesn't she?

Marinara con Lenticchie (because everything’s better in Italian)

So yeah…ummm…I haven’t been here for a while.  I started the new year full of grand plans and goals, and I’ve stuck with some of them.  I’ve been doing a Push-up Challenge where I started with 1 push-up on January 1st and I’m up to 65 as of today (March 5).  By Zumbaing (yes, it’s a verb) 5 days a week and being more mindful of what I eat (most of the time) I’ve managed to banish the last few pounds that were sticking around from France and Italy.  I’m using my yogurt maker to make yogurt and I haven’t bought canned beans since I figured out how to make them in the slow cooker.  The blog, however has been neglected as the cold weather sunk in around the ABQ and Jake, Gemma, and I craved our tried and true recipes rather than being more adventurous in the kitchen.  The unexpected death of a good friend on Valentine’s Day shook our little world, and I proceeded to eat and drink my feelings for several days in a row.  Fun fact:  did you know that my feelings happen to taste like red chile and white wine??  What do your feelings taste like?

But I’m back.  At least I’m trying to be back.  On Friday I willed myself to be motivated to cook something new, and you know what??  It worked!  The sauce that follows is another great way to break away from plain old marinara sauce.  I give you…

Marinara con Lenticchie (Lentil Marinara)

adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles

Ingredients:

*1 tablespoon oil
*9 garlic cloves, minced or grated
*¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
*¼ cup red wine
*1 can (28 oz) tomato puree (or your favorite variety of tomato)
*8 ounces brown lentils, rinsed and picked over
*1 cup water (this was for a thicker sauce, but please add more to reach the consistency you want!)
*salt to taste

To Make:

*Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.

*Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

*Add the wine to release (with scraping) any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

*Add the remaining ingredients and turn heat up to medium-high.

*Bring to a simmer and then reduce the heat to medium-low.

*Cook for 60-75 minutes (stirring occasionally) or until the lentils are tender and the sauce is at your desired consistency.

Beacuse even movie stars have to eat dinner.

And let's all marvel once again at the TERRIBLE lighting in my house!

Survey Says:

Gemma and I really enjoyed this sauce (and she’s having leftovers for dinner tonight)!!!  The lentils add good texture, great taste, and awesome nutrition!  I made mine thicker so as to avoid any major sauce related accidents on Gemma’s part.  If you like a thinner sauce, by all means, use some extra water.

Susie’s Red Chile

So chile.  No, not the country, but the food that rules New Mexico.  As I’ve mentioned before, the state question is “Red or Green?” and you had best have answer.  “Both,” or “Christmas,” (get it??  Red and green…) is also acceptable, but “neither” will make those around you suspect you of being a terrorist…I mean a tourist.  Chile is different from restaurant to restaurant and household to household.  Green chile tends to be bright, and sometimes a little tangy, while the red has a deeper and earthier flavor.  They are both hot, and you never know which one is going to be hotter until you try!  I love them both!

We were at a birthday party a few weekends ago for Gemma’s friend Astrid who turned 2, and there was a “Make Your Own Frito Pie Bar”.  Best. Party. Ever.  The best part was that Astrid’s mom, my friend Susie, had made a FANTASTIC (vegetarian) red chile with which to smother the Fritos and beans!  Jake and I could not get enough, and I knew that I was going to have to try my hand at this.  Susie sent me the recipe, and I made it for lunch yesterday.  Here it is…

Susie’s Red Chile

from my friend Susie!!

Ingredients:

*1/2 cup red chile powder (below is what I bought, but there are many different kinds)

Red chile powder

*3 tbsp butter

*3 tbsp flour

*2 garlic cloves

*2.5 cups water

*Salt to taste

To Make:

*Melt butter in pan or deep skillet over medium heat

*Incorporate flour and let the roux cook for a few minutes, whisking occasionally

*add garlic w/a garlic press or grater

*Add red chile, whisk it together w/roux, and let it cook in pan for a few minutes, whisking occasionally

*Add water while whisking until lumps disappear.

*Add salt to taste and let it simmer on stove top for 15 minutes or so.

*If it thickens too much add a little water to get your desired consistency.

Survey Says:

I now want to put this on EVERYTHING!!  We had sort of a taco salad with romaine, black beans, cheese, chips, and sour cream for lunch.  This was the perfect accompaniment!  As were my fingers as I was licking the chile out of the pot that I cooked it in!  We still have some in the fridge…I think I’m going to go stick my fingers in it right now!!

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