Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ditalini with Mushrooms and Artichokes

I love The Food Network. I don't watch it all the time, but I do have a few favorites whose shows I watch for recipe ideas and tips on cooking. One of them is Giada de Laurentiis, or, as we like to refer to her in our house, The Boob Lady. (Seriously, the lady has some impressive curves)

In 2007, Evan and Elisabeth bought me this cook book for Mother's Day:

Oh my goodness, I do so love this cookbook. I read it cover to cover the day I got it. Not only is it filled with amazing pasta recipes, Giada has soooo many excellent tips about pastas--how to cook them, different flavors, different varities--and gives a summary of the meal and even what sides would compliment them.

Today's recipe that I will be sharing from her cookbook is one I'd never tried before. Now, I have tried quite a few of them, and there hasn't been one yet that we haven't loved. The recipe calls for the pasta ditalini, but I had a heck of a time finding it at my grocery store. Thankfully, before I shop, I read my recipes thoroughly, and this one was no exception. Giada said that with this recipe, she likes all of the ingredients to be the same size. So, knowing that ditalini is a relatively small pasta (cause I googled it), I substituted the ditalini with mini penne. And? It was perfectly delicious!

So, let's make it!!!

The Ingredients:

3 Tbsp. olive oil; 1 small onion, finely chopped; 1 pound mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and finely chopped; 1 tsp. plus 3/4 tsp. salt; 1 C. dry Marsala wine; 1/2 pound frozen artichoke hearts, thawed (but I used one can, drained); 1/2 C. heavy cream (but I used half & half); 1 pound ditalini or other small, thimble-shaped pasta, such as penneti; 3/4 C. freshly grated Parmesan cheese (but I cheated); 1/2 C. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley; 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper.

I started with my chopping first. So, I chopped my onion up.

Then I started on my mushrooms.

Did you know that you're supposed to clean mushrooms by gently scrubbing them with a wet paper towel and not under running water? Oh, you did? Well, you're so smart!

I poured some oil into my hot skillet and let it get warm.

While the oil was warming, I started boiling my water for the pasta.

Once the oil was hot (which I check by putting my hand OVER the skillet and seeing if heat waves hit it. I never put my hand IN the oil because that would be stupid), I dumped in my onions and cooked them for about 3 minutes, until they were soft and tender.

Then I dumped in my mushrooms

and a teaspoon of salt.

Stir them together until the mushrooms are cooked down, which was about 5 minutes or so for me.

Once the onions and mushrooms were happily cooked, I added the Marsala wine.

Now, this will need to simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated. Maybe 10 minutes or so.

Now, since we're still waiting for the water to boil, I started getting the last of the ingredients ready for my sauce. I drained the artichokes and patted them dry.

Then I cut them all length wise. You are more than welcome to cut yours up more, but they'll fall apart once they are stirred into the sauce.

I measured my half & half.

And then, once the Marsala wine had pretty much evaporated to my liking, I added both ingredients.

Now they will simmer with the other ingredients for another 5 minutes or so.

I got the final ingredients ready. I measured 1/2 a cup of un-chopped parsley.

And then chopped it. I find it easier to do this way, because then I am not wasting any parsley.

Oh my goodness, it took FOREVER for my water to boil. In fact, I had to take my sauce off the burner because I was scared of over cooking it, moved my pot of water to the big burner and cranked it so the ding-dong water would boil already! Then I dumped my pasta in. I cooked it about 7 minutes.

Once it was cooked al dente, I drained the pasta, moved my sauce back on to a low-medium heat, and dumped the pasta on top.

Then I added the pepper, parsley and parmesan cheese and stirred gently until it was all mixed in nicely.

Ooh...look at it. Can you smell it? Oh, you can't? Well you should make it just to smell it, cause it is lovely, I tell you. Lovely!

Look at how the mushrooms, onions and parsley are sticking to the pasta. Look how the cheese melted. Mmmmm....

Evan is a giant fan of tomato sauces, so he's always a little skeptical when I put pasta on the table with nothing red to put on top of it. But, after he ate this, he reported that it was indeed delicious and needed no red sauce. And he's right. The flavors were all so subtle (so that no one was over powering) but you could taste all of them. I would change nothing about this recipe and will definitely be making it again.

Oh, and when reheated, it tastes just as good!!!

I will probably share more of Giada's recipes from this cookbook over time, but I highly encourage you to check it out yourself. It has some of the most simple pasta recipes that are delicious!!! It is definitely in my top three favoritest cook books!

Frugal Giveaway

I follow a blog by a lovely lady who creates meals and gives awesome tips and advice on how to be frugal. Since that is what I would like to be, I enjoy reading her site daily. Plus, she has great recipes (and you all know I love me some recipes).

Anyway, visit her site at And check out her $50 WalMart gift card giveaway for the Super Bowl. I know I will!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Easy Ziti

This is one of my cook books.

Evan bought it for me when we were first married and were forced to cook for ourselves since we no longer had our moms to take care of us. We had it so rough.

When I first started reading through it, I found the recipe titles intimidating. It is a cookbook meant, not only to give you meals that are actually healthy, but quick, diverse meal options. So, they use some fancy words like "Lyonnaise" and "Fricassee" and "Bonne Femme". Okay, so they were mostly the French sounding words that were scaring the daylights out of me.

As I got more comfortable in the kitchen, I started to branch out and tackle some of the more intimidating recipes. Turns out, the title of the cook book is correct--a lot of these recipes are quick to make and just take actually having most of the ingredients on hand to do so.

Today's recipe comes from this cook book and was one of the first recipes I ever made from the book. Not only are there barely any ingredients, it takes next to no time to bake and everyone loves it in my house.

The Ingredients:

1 (16oz.) jar marinara sauce; 1/2 C. ricotta cheese; 1 (16oz.) box ziti; shredded mozzarella cheese. Preheat your oven to broil.

Start by boiling your water for the pasta. I always end up forgetting to do that until it's almost time to actually add the cooked pasta, then I'm waiting eons for the stinking water to start boiling.

Okay, now dump your marinara sauce in a mixing bowl.

Next, dump the ricotta cheese into the sauce.

Stir together until it's blended and the prettiest orange concoction in the universe.

Wanna see my apron? Okay! My mother-in-law made it for me. I love it. It helps my whites stay white while I'm cooking.

Hooray! Your water is boiling. Now dump in the ziti and cook it until it's al dente (which means still has some bite to it and isn't all soggy).

The pasta's done! Be careful of the steam, please.

Now, mix the sauce with the pasta.

Dump the whole thing into a 9x13 dish or, if you're like me and just grabbed whatever dish you felt like grabbing, a 9x9 baking dish.

Cover with cheese. Put this in your broiler hot oven for 5 minutes. We just want the cheese melted and slightly browned.

Oh my goodness. Is there anything better in the world then browned cheese topped pasta?! Ugh!

So easy to make. We ate ours with a salad. We love salad with Italian food.

This is also perfect for freezing as well. Freeze it before you cook it or after. Just throw it in the oven at 300 for around 20-30 minutes (checking on it). If you freeze it before baking it, then turn it to broil for the last 5 to make sure the cheese browns. Enjoy!

Monday, January 25, 2010

This Week's Menu

Monday--Chicken & Barley Soup
Sandwiches or Salad

Tuesday--Chicken & Black Bean Tacos

Wednesday--Southern Barbecue Sloppy Joes
Oven fries

Thursday--Tuna Steaks with Pesto


Saturday--Broccoli Cheese Chicken

Thursday, January 21, 2010

U-G-L-I, you ain't got no alibi...

I love the produce aisle. It is my favorite part of going grocery shopping.

First off, it is so stinking colorful. Every shade of the rainbow. There's a reason why these things are so good for you--they're soooo pretty. I can not help but buy at least one produce item when I am at the grocery store. (Although, lately, that would be because my baby eats at least an apple and a banana EVERY DAY!)

Recently, while browsing the beautiful fruit section I saw something...well...not so beautiful. I had seen them before, but hadn't ever bought one. Since they were only a dollar, I picked one up.

It's an ugli fruit.

No, seriously, that's it's name. And for good reason. It's not pretty. It looks like it didn't get enough tummy time as an infant.

But, I am all about trying new things and I decided to bring this one home. Elisabeth was most intrigued by it. She loves trying new things too. No, really, she does. I trained her that way.

Anyway, I googled the ugli fruit and found out that it's an accidental fruit. In that, it's an accidental cross between a grapefruit, Seville orange and a tangerine. They were found in Jamaica growing wild about 80 years ago. Now they grow them on purpose, and I am so happy they do.

Want to see what it looks like on the inside? Okay!
First I cut off the top...

and discovered that the skin is super thick.

But, once I started peeling it, it was easy.

Look! It looks like a pumpkin!

I served with the pork chops Evan grilled for lunch and some cottage cheese. If I was my Grandma, I would have put the ugli fruit on top of my cottage cheese and eaten it together. However, I think that is yucky. Sorry, Grandma.

I loved it. They were way juicer than an orange (so don't eat them on a first date...or with your boss...or in front of the old ladies at church) but a bit tarter. But a good tart. I was pleasantly surprised with how tasty they were.

I asked the girls for their opinions. Elisabeth was a bit distracted with a commercial during the football game. But when I screamed her name and threatened to take her toys and throw them all in the garbage disposal, she finally gave me her opinion.

Julia? Well, let's remember who we're talking about here. The girl LOVES fruit. But, nevertheless, I asked her if it was good and she nodded her head so enthusiastically, I thought it would fall off.

So, if you like citrus fruits, I highly recommend the ugli fruit. Despite its sad name, it's a delightful addition to your fruit bowl. We will definitely be buying more.