Archive for the ‘Casserole’ Category

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!


Baked Panettone French Toast

Panettone is one of those holiday items that pops up right around Thanksgiving every year!  I didn’t buy one for a long time because they traditionally have bits of candied fruit in them and that’s just something that I’m not a fan of.  A few years ago, however, I started seeing chocolate chip versions in the store and I couldn’t resist.  What does one do, however, with a big loaf of chocolate chip bread?  I don’t really have a sweet tooth, so it would sit around and get stale as I worked on it a little bit at a time.  This year I resolved to not let my panettone go unloved and went on a search for an easy casserole recipe that I could put together the night before.  I found it!  I assembled the casserole before our New Year’s Eve guests arrived so it would be ready to pop into the oven whenever we managed to crawl out of bed the next day!

Baked Panettone French Toast

adapted from Parents Need to Eat Too


*1 large loaf chocolate chip panettone, halved vertically and sliced about ¾” thin

*4 egg whites

*4 whole eggs

*2 cups milk

*2 splashes of vanilla extract

*pinch of salt, 2 dashes of cinnamon, and 3 pinches of unsweetened cocoa powder

To Make:

*Coat a large baking dish with cooking spray and layer the panettone slices into it. (Don’t be afraid to manhandle them a bit to get them in there!  My whole loaf fit into my 9×13 baking dish)

*In a large mixing bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients.

*Pour evenly over the panettone.

*Spray a sheet of aluminum foil with cooking spray and cover the tray, oil-side down (the casserole puffs as it cooks so this will help keep it from sticking).

*Refrigerate overnight. About 90 minutes before you plan to eat, turn on the oven to 350.

*Remove tray from the fridge while the oven warms up and when it  reaches 350, put in the French toast (still covered with aluminum) and bake for 45 minutes.

*After 45 minutes, remove foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until top is golden brown.

Survey Says:

Delicious and so incredibly easy!!  I put a little bit of butter on mine, but I think (in my non-sweet tooth opinion) that syrup or powdered sugar would be complete overkill and mute the subtleties of the panettone.  I used the cocoa powder to complement the chocolate, but the original recipe calls for orange juice in conjunction with the candied fruit.  This would also be great with brioche or any dense bread.

Slow Cooker Zucchini Ziti

I am the biggest blog slacker!  Well not really…I mean we’ve had stuff going on around here.  I started doing some freelance translating and then we went on a last minute trip to Long Beach to see family and friends.  It’s hard to work on the blog with stuff like that going on!  I vow to be better.  Jake goes back to work in the middle of the week, which will definitely make getting time at the computer (when Gemma is napping or has gone to bed) much easier!

So here we go with another slow cooker creation that will help get you through the winter!  I found this gem on Pinterest, of course, and it seemed so easy that I just couldn’t pass it up!!  You already know that I am addicted to zucchini, but zucchini and pasta…YUM!!  The original recipe touts itself as “Skinny Zucchini Ziti” with the hopes that you will keep your portions in control.  I hope that for you too, but this is too good limit yourself too much!!  I have learned that I am damn near physically incapable of following a recipe exactly (the original call for zucchini slices as a layer, but I decided to grate it and mix it in with the cheeses), but I’m pretty sure that there’s nothing wrong with that as long as it tastes good!  I present you with my version of:

Slow Cooker Zucchini Ziti



*8.5 ounces Barilla Plus Penne, uncooked.

*1 large can (28 oz) of crushed tomatoes, or the equivalent in your favorite tomato-based sauce.  (I used an extra 1/4 of another can because I was afraid that it was going to be too dry…it wasn’t.  If you have some extra on hand, use it if you think you need it, but I don’t think you will.)

*2 cups cottage cheese (I use lowfat rather than fat free)

*2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

*1 large zucchini (2 medium or 3 small), grated and water pressed out. (I usually take my grated zucchini in paper towels over a colander and squeeze.  Zucchinis have a TON of water in them, and you just don’t need it all in this.)

*Garlic powder, dried oregano, salt, and black pepper to taste.

To Make:

*In a large bowl, combine the two cheeses, the grated zucchini, spices, salt, and pepper.

*Spray the slow cooker with cooking spray (or coat with olive oil) to prevent sticking.

*Add about 1/4 of your sauce to the bottom of the cooker.

*Add 1/3 of the penne.

*Add 1/3 of the cheese mixture.

*Repeat until you have three layers and top with the remaining pasta sauce (and cheese if you wish and/or have any extra).

*Cover and cook on high for 2 hours.  (Cook time will totally depend on your machine, so I would check every so often after 1 hour just to see how it’s coming along.  A true whole wheat pasta will probably add cooking time too.  Once you know how your machine and your ingredients behave, feel free to leave the ziti to its own devices!)

Survey Says:

This was a PERFECT dinner for last night!!!  It rained almost all day long, and it was freezing outside!  Jake had taken Gemma out to run errands so I could get some work done on this new translation project, and it was really nice to have this all ready to go when they got home.  Gemma loved it and she’s eating leftovers for lunch right now!  This is super easy to throw together, and is one that you can do at the last minute since it doesn’t need to cook all day long!

Week 1 Of Pinterest Challenge: “Dirty” Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

Pinterest is a beautiful thing.  That’s all I can really say.  If you don’t know what it is, let me know and I’ll pass an invite on to you (I have 4 left)!  Feel free to check out my boards!  Julie at decided to launch a 52 Weeks of Pinterest Challenge to get us to try the magical things that we have “pinned”!  I’m not so inclined toward the “crafty” side of Pinterest (but I’ll probably give something a try in the near future), but it’s also a great resource for new recipes!  I have been wanting to try Mac & Cheese in the slow cooker for a long time, but I just never got around to it!  I “pinned” one, but I guess it comes down to the fact that I have a really hard time these days making a meal that has little to no nutritional value.  Mac & Cheese is delicious, but it is cheese and fat.  Yum, but hmmmmm.  My friend Dana has been talking about a “Dirty” Mac & Cheese that he makes (on the stovetop I believe) with kale, and that got me thinking.  We actually have swiss chard in our garden right now!!  I decided to add that to the original recipe!  I absolutely don’t have to hide veggies in things to get Gemma to eat them, but sometimes it makes so much more sense to mix everything together rather than to have a totally separate side dish!  So, faithful readers, I give you…

“Dirty” Slow Cooker Mac & Cheese

adapted from A Whisk and a Prayer (with major inspiration from Dana!)


*8 ounces Barilla Plus Elbows

*3 cups of shredded cheese (I used an Italian blend)

*1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

*3 eggs

*1 1/2 cup of milk

*1 12 ounce can of evaporated milk (I used fat free) 

(*1/4 cup of room temp butter–I totally forgot to add this)

*1 bunch of swiss chard

*4 cloves of garlic, minced or grated

*2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

*Salt and pepper to taste

To Make:

*Chop swiss chard into bite sized pieces.

*Heat oil and garlic in skillet until garlic starts to turn fragrant.

*Add chard and sauté until soft.

*Spray slow cooker with non-stick spray.

*Add milk, evaporated milk. eggs, (butter), salt, pepper, and swiss chard.

*Use immersion blender to blend mixture so there are no large chunks of greens and all ingredients are incorporated.

*Parboil pasta for about 5 minutes.

*Add pasta and cheese blend (not the Parmesan) to the slow cooker.

*Incorporate thoroughly and then add Parmesan cheese on top.

*Cook on HIGH for 30 minutes.

*After 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to LOW and cook for 2-2 1/2 hours (until the custard is set in the middle)

*After 2 hours I removed the lid to let some of the moisture air out for a bit.

*I toasted some bread crumbs (3/4 cup breadcrumbs, dash of dried oregano, dash of “Italian Seasoning,” 1 tbsp olive oil) to add to the top.  I grated some more Parmesan cheese on top of the breadcrumbs and put the cover back on for 15 more minutes.

Survey Says:

This was FANTASTIC and we didn’t even miss the butter and the 8,000 calories that it would have added!  The next time I make it, however, I’ll probably use a different cheese blend.  The Italian blend is a little bland, but a Gruyere/Emmenthal mix would be great as would something like Cheddar & Pepper Jack!  YUM!!  Now I’m thinking about all of the other sauteed and roasted veggies that could be blended up and added to this to enhance it:  cauliflower, spinach, zucchini, green chile…the possibilities are endless and I’m going to have to start going to 8 Zumba classes a day to keep up with the Mac & Cheese!!

Potato, Zucchini, and Tomato Gratin

I am notorious for buying fruits and vegetables and promptly forgetting that I have them.  This results in a LOT of produce that has to be tossed, and this is a trait of which I am truly ashamed!  I have been doing my best to only buy what we are going to use, but sometimes we cut it a little close.  We had zucchinis, tomatoes, and potatoes whose time was running out and I stumbled upon a gratin recipe that would kill all three birds with one delicious stone!  I did, however, realize that I do in fact need a gratin dish for the next time I make this.  Obviously my glass baking dish (that I usually use for lasagna or cobblers) worked just fine, but it was a little deep and something oval-shaped would have made the assembly much easier and might have made the whole dish a bit prettier.

Potato, Zucchini, and Tomato Gratin



*5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

*2 garlic cloves, minced

*1 pound Yukon gold potatoes, peeled

*1 medium zucchini (about 8 ounces)

*2 or 3 ripe tomatoes (about 3/4 pound), sliced into 1/4-inch rounds (I used 3:  1 red, 1 orange, and 1 yellow)

*1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

*Freshly ground pepper

*1/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

*2 oz freshly grated Parmesan cheese (or any other good grating cheese)

To Make:

*Preheat oven to 375 degrees with rack in upper third.

*Coat a 9×13 inch gratin (or glass baking) dish with 1 teaspoon oil, and sprinkle it with the garlic.

*Using a mandoline (or a very sharp knife) slice potatoes and zucchini into rounds as thinly as possible.

*Arrange potatoes, zucchini, and tomatoes in overlapping layers around dish, and season each layer with a bit of the salt and pepper.

*Drizzle remaining 4 teaspoons oil over the assembled dish.

*Sprinkle dish with thyme and cheese and cover with foil.

*Bake until potatoes are tender (35 to 45 minutes).

*Remove foil and continue baking until top is golden brown (about 25 minutes more).

*Serve while hot!

Survey Says:

Definitely not the most beautiful thing that I’ve ever made, but certainly one of the tastiest!!  Jake and I inhaled the entire 9×13 pan in less than 30 minutes.  This gratin took much more prep than I usually like to commit to, but it was most definitely worth it!

Red Potato and Red Kale Gratin

My husband has never made a fuss about being an “at-home” vegetarian, and it is for this reason that I try to keep my ingredients simple, familiar and not frightening.  I figure that it’s the least that I can do for him.  The other day, however, my sister-in-law posted a Facebook link to a recipe on the blog of a friend of hers and I knew immediately that Jake and I would be delving into the unexplored (at least to us) world of hearty, leafy greens.  This takes a bit more prep than I am used to, but it is SO worth it in the end!

Red Potato and Red Kale Gratin

from Kale and Quinoa


*8 medium red potatoes (unpeeled and washed)

*1 small bunch red kale (cut into bite sized pieces)

*1 cup milk

(*Approx. 3 1/2 tablespoons of butter—I actually forgot to add this before I put it in the oven and it still turned out great!  Might add it the next time just to see!)

*Salt and pepper to taste

*Garlic (optional)

*Cheese (optional) I used shredded Emmental because the Gruyere at Whole Foods was prohibitively expensive.  A soft goat cheese might be good too…play with it and find the flavor combos that suit your palate!

To make:

*Spray a 9 x 12 gratin (or casserole) dish with non-stick spray or rub with butter

*Thinly slice the potatoes (I rarely peel potatoes because I am very very lazy and because there are nutrients in the peels, but peel them if you would like).

*Make a layer of potato slices in the gratin dish, overlapping them slightly.

*Make a layer with the chopped kale. (You could really use any kind of vegetable here)  Season with salt and fresh pepper

*Continue making alternating layers of potatoes and kale.  I ended up with 3 layers of potatoes and 2 layers of kale.

(*I grated 4 cloves of garlic into the 1 cup of milk to add more flavor)

*Carefully pour 1 cup milk over the layers.

(I forgot to do this—>Generously dot the top of the potatoes with 3 tablespoons of cut butter.)

*Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour until browned and bubbling.  After 30 minutes, take the dish out and press the potatoes flat with a spatula to keep the top moist.  (I am assuming that my top layer of potatoes was dry and not really cooked at this point because I forgot to add the butter.  I did, however, at this point pour another ¼ cup of milk over the top and it seemed to do the trick.)  Return to the oven for another 15 minutes.  Remove and assess the cooking of the top potatoes, add cheese, and return to the oven for another 15 minutes or so.  You may need more or less time depending on the size/thickness of the potato slices.  The gratin is done when the potatoes are soft and the top is golden brown (but try not to burn the cheese 🙂 ).

Survey Says:

We are no longer frightened of kale!  It goes really well with the potatoes and cheese, and I think that it’s a really good way to introduce heartier greens to a perhaps apprehensive audience.  I was sorry to have forgotten the butter, but in all honesty it was not missed!  The extra milk and the cheese were enough for us.  Please give this a try while the weather is still cool and these greens are still in season.  This was delicious!

Deliciously Simple Marinara + Penne Lasagna

There are a few dishes that I really don’t like to make unless I have people coming over.  If left unattended with said dishes I have been known to make a fair attempt at eating them in their entirety…on my own.  I don’t do it on purpose, but when the husband is at work until all hours of the night and Gemma and the cat are both trying their best to drive me crazy, it happens.  This is why I was SO happy that our good friends (and their baby) agreed to join me and Gemma for dinner this past Friday night!  I have not made my Penne Lasagna in such a long time (and have been craving it for weeks)  because it doesn’t really fit into the plan of “Look Cute at Cousin’s Wedding Memorial Day Weekend in Santa Barbara”, but it’s perfect for entertaining hungry guests!  What’s even better is that it’s a slow cooker recipe!!  I even make my own Marinara Sauce…yep…I’m awesome.   Deal with it.


Deliciously Simple Marinara

adapted from Dave Lieberman


*1 large can crushed tomatoes

*1/4 cup olive oil

*Garlic, chopped finely or grated (I used 4 large cloves)

*1 cup water

*1 tsp sugar

*Italian herbs to your taste (I used dried parsley and oregano)

*Salt to taste


To Make:

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

*Add the garlic and cook until you can just smell it…no longer than a minute.

*Add the tomatoes CAREFULLY!  Splattering is entirely possible if you just dump them in.

*Add the water, sugar, spices, and salt and bring to a simmer.

*Reduce heat to medium and let simmer for 15-25 minutes longer.


Survey Says:

This sauce is awesome!  Jarred sauce has never really done it for me, but after Jake and I spent three weeks in Italy a few years ago I refuse to spend money on it!  I love that I can tweak it to my particular tastes and that there isn’t a bunch of crap in it…I HATE chunky sauces.


Penne Lasagna (in the slow cooker)


*1 pound of penne pasta (I use Barilla Plus)

*24-28 oz (or 1 large jar) of tomato sauce (or a batch of the Deliciously Simple Marinara).  The husband insisted on buying this jar of pasta sauce the last time we were at TJ’s and I’m not sure why since he is never home to fix himself spaghetti and I will most certainly never use it!

*1 container ricotta cheese

*1 bag frozen chopped spinach

*1 1/2-2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

*1/2 cup Parmesan cheese


To Make:

*Thaw spinach and squeeze out excess moisture. (I like to do this by putting it in my colander and pressing)  Mix thoroughly with ricotta cheese.

*Coat the slow cooker with olive oil or cooking spray.

*Layer pasta, sauce, ricotta mixture, and mozzarella like you would a lasagna until all ingredients have been used (do not include the Parmesan here…it’s for the end)

*Cook on low for 5-6 hours and add Parmesan to the top about 30 minutes before serving.



Survey Says:

How could this be bad?  I love lasagna but have always lacked the patience to deal with those infernal noodles and cheese always ends up overflowing and then making my oven smell like I never clean it (which I don’t, but no one needs to know that).  The slow cooker remedies both of these problems.  Like I said before, this is a good meal for guests because it is hearty and looks pretty impressive.  We were so hungry by the time it was ready that I forgot to take a photo of it intact, but I think that you get the idea!

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