Chicken & Mushroom Marsala Pasta

Luke and I are still adjusting to living in a house.  So far it hasn’t been that much different than living in an apartment, but some changes are natural I suppose.  I stand on the porch and stare at the lawn, wondering how long it’ll take before the grass is so high I need to try out (read: hopefully not break) the electric lawn mower the previous owners left us.  I also think about where I can possibly plant a vegetable garden among the tightly landscaped flowers and how I will ever manage to get usable compost out of the bin out back.

There are changes indoors as well.  Obviously the one most worth mentioning is our house bunny.  Without the precarious, steep steps of a second floor apartment, our little bun is running free and loving it.

I am terrified of our basement and all the creepy crawlers that live down there.  I brave it nearly everyday to use the elliptical (where my head comes oh so close to the cobwebby ceiling) and to access stored goods and the chest freezer we just bought.  Still, I dread going down there.

Since Luke’s office is on the second floor, I have begun to receive texts from him…while we’re in the same house.

Oh pasta!  So we’re back to carbs now; I knew I couldn’t stay away too long, though this one is much more of a balanced meal.  This chicken mushroom marsala is light and flavorful, and could easily be served over rice or polenta.  It’s also incredibly easy to make, so pick your carb and have at it!

Chicken Mushroom Marsala Pasta

Adapted from Meals in Heels

Makes 4-6 servings

 2 lb boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into thin strips
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 large shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 Tbsp finely chopped rosemary leaves
16 oz white or cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp tomato paste

1 cup Marsala
14 oz beef or chicken stock
thyme leaves and parmesan cheese for garnish

Season the chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat half the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook the chicken, in batches, for 1–2 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove and set aside.

Add the remaining oil, shallot, garlic and rosemary to the pan, season with salt and pepper and cook for 5–6 minutes or until the shallot is softened. Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes more or until browned. Add the tomato paste, Marsala, stock and chicken, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 25 minutes or until the chicken is tender. Garnish with thyme and cheese and serve.



Pasta with Creamy Smoked Paprika Sauce

All the houseguests are gone, and our home seems so quiet.  We had a lovely weekend; full of memorable firsts.  First visits, first subway ride to Chinatown, first golf lesson in the backyard, first attempt at true housebunny-hood, first time we lost the bunny…

You know, all those things you go through as new homeowners.  What, you telling me you never lost track of your bunny after opening the ENTIRE first floor to her? Well, somehow she found a way to get upstairs and I found her sniffing around the laundry basket in our bedroom.

Silly rabbit, upstairs is for people.  For the most part though, she’s taken to her new life quite well.  My mom commented on how social she is.  While she won’t always let you pet her or pick her up, she won’t run away from new people, and lounged about in the living room with us while we watched golf.

And then I attempted to teach Luke how to play golf.  But that’s a story for a different day.  Let me tell you about this pasta.  As you may know, I love pasta, noodles and all things long, thin and starchy.  I also happen to love smoked paprika and roasted garlic.  I think you know where this is going.

This pasta is pretty easy to throw together and happens to taste amazing.  I used angel hair pasta, but you can use any kind of long pasta, just keep in mind that the thinner the pasta, the more you need to use to soak up the sauce.  I ended up using almost an entire pound of pasta.  Leftovers are always welcome.

Pasta with Creamy Smoked Paprika Sauce

Adapted from Bev Cooks

Makes about 4 servings (or more with thinner pasta)

1 head garlic with the end chopped off
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp flour
¼ cup dry white wine
1 tsp honey
1 cup milk
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
½ pound long pasta (more for a thinner pasta like angel hair)
¼ cup chopped parsley

 fresh parmesan cheese for garnish

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place the garlic head in a small sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with oil and a tiny pinch of salt. Wrap up and roast 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once the bubbling slows, whisk in the flour. Once fully combined, pour in the wine and whisk for about 30 seconds.  Add the honey and whisk another 10 seconds. Pour in the milk and slowly whisk until it thickens into a nice cream sauce, about 2 minutes. Add the cayenne, smoked paprika, a small pinch of salt and pepper; stir to combine.

Transfer sauce to a small food processor. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into the sauce. They should just slide out of their skins. Blitz the sauce until well combined. Transfer back to saucepan to keep warm and season to taste.

In the meantime, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain all but about 1/3 cup pasta water and return to pot. Pour the cream sauce over the pasta and toss to coat. If it’s too thick, add some pasta water to thin the sauce to your desired consistency.

Serve pasta garnished with chopped parsley and fresh parmesan.

Beef & Veggie Bolognese

I have a confession to make.  It’s really quite scandalous, but I feel like you all need to know this about me.  I can’t eat plain white rice.  Wow, I know, It’s like I’ve rocked the very foundation of all you thought you knew about me.  What?  The girl who loves all things Asian doesn’t even like to eat rice?

I hang my head in shame, believe me.  I tried to shake the habit in Taiwan, attempting to enjoy many bowls of the stuff, but to no avail.  If you serve a meal that is accompanied by rice, there’s an incredibly high chance that those tiny grains will never see my plate.

The reason I’m bringing up my strange aversion for this one carb is…well I’m not quite sure.  One thing I do know, is that this aversion does not extend to pasta, or bread for that matter.  I eat plain bread all the time, and have been known to start my meal of pasta directly from the steaming hot colander.  Something about pasta (and noodles!) are so appealing to me. Perhaps it’s their length, allowing me to slurp and suck in mouthfuls at a time, twirling them around my fork like yarn wrapped in a skein.

And you can’t forget the sauce.  You should have seen the look on Luke’s face when I announced the completion of a “beef bolognese” dinner.  “What’s the orange stuff?” he asked.  “Um…that’s carrot,” I replied happily.  “Oh.”  10 minutes later I was staring at a plate empty of everything except for the carrot bits.  Oh well, more Vitamin A for me!

I liked the addition of vegetables in this recipe, as I like my sauces to have more body and flavor.  Luke thought it was great too, even if his arch nemesis, carrot, was involved.  Feel free to take out some of the veggies, in which case, decrease the amount of crushed tomatoes so the meat flavor can still shine.

Beef & Veggie Bolognese

Adapted from Kitchen Trial & Error

Makes 4-6 servings

¼ cup olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

4 medium carrots, diced

1/2 pound ground beef or 1 pound quartered mushrooms

28 oz crushed tomatoes

¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

¼ cup fresh basil, chopped

1/4 cup freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

In a dutch oven or large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until the onion starts to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the carrots and cook until the vegetables are soft, about another 5 minutes.  Add the meat or mushrooms, and cook until meat is no longer pink or the mushrooms are soft, 6 to 8 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, and basil. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook about 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and stir in the cheese.  Serve over pasta, and garnish with extra cheese!

Adobo Mac n’ Cheese

Tomorrow I’ll be attending Diego’s graduation bright and early.  Though I don’t understand why a college would schedule their graduation for 10:30am on a Friday.  Especially when it’s located in a city.

But I will be there, and it better not rain.  There’s nothing worse than a rained out graduation in a gymnasium.

But I’m going to think about good things, and there’s nothing better than a big plate of melt-y, cheesy pasta.  Unless of course you’re super lactose intolerant, in which case, I am so sorry.

Both my father and brother are mildly lactose intolerant, but thankfully I was spared the evil gene.  I’m not sure what I would do if I could no longer consume cheese.  I practically run on the stuff.

And mac n’ cheese is one of my favorite ways to get cheese into my body.  But one can only make the same version so many times before wanting some variety.  So I decided to make my mac n’ cheese a little more interesting by adding adobo seasoning and using Monterey jack cheese.  The result is a forkful of cheese heaven that I hope will find its way into my life more in the future.

Adobo Mac n’ Cheese

Loosely adapted from Jo Cooks

Makes 4-6 servings

2 cups small pasta (like elbows or penne)

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 onion, sliced thin

2 Tbsp adobo seasoning, divided

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 Tbsp flour

1 1/4 cup milk

1 egg yolk, beaten

1 ½ cups Monterey jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.

Cook pasta according to the package instructions, be sure to cook a few minutes shorter than instructed.  Drain and set aside.

In a medium skillet, add the oil and sauté onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.  Halfway through, add in 1 Tbsp of the adobo and stir to coat evenly.  Finish cooking and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Sprinkle in flour and whisk to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat for 1 minute. Pour in milk, then cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until thick. Reduce heat to low. Add in other Tbsp of adobo seasoning.

Beat the egg yolk in a small bowl and drizzle 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the beaten yolk, stirring constantly. Stir to combine. Pour egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook for another minute.

Add half the cheese and stir until melted. Add 3/4 of the onions and stir.  Add cooked macaroni and stir to coat.  If your saucepan is too small to fit the pasta, pour the pasta into an 8X8” baking dish, then pour the sauce over it and stir to coat evenly.  Top with remaining onion and cheese and bake for 25 minutes or until sizzling and hot.  Let cool on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes and serve.

Pesto & Scallion Mac n’ Cheese

Sometimes you just need some comfort food.

Because you stubbed your toe on that stupid raised step into the kitchen that you know is there, but nevertheless you always seem to forget to pick up your foot that extra two inches.

Or maybe because it’s dark and rainy out, and that’s just a good reason in itself to do anything in the kitchen.

Or perhaps you whipped up an awesome batch of cupcakes, and wanted to top them with an equally awesome brown sugar marshmallow frosting.  Except no matter how long you hovered over your hand mixer churning away, the frosting never gets past the consistency of fluff, and so you give up and eat your cupcakes, slightly unsatisfied.

That’s reason enough for me to throw a nice, bubbly pan of mac n’ cheese in the oven.  And if scallions and pesto are added to the mix, my sad cupcake blues just melt away with each bite that feels like a hug in my mouth.  Excuse me, I have some more cheesy pasta to eat.

Pesto & Scallion Mac n’ Cheese

Adapted from How Sweet Eats

Makes 4-6 servings

4 cups pasta (smallish pasta works best, like elbow noodles, penne, rotini)

2 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 Tbsp flour

2 cups milk

1/4 cup heavy cream

10 oz grated cheddar cheese, and more for topping

pinch of nutmeg

salt and pepper to taste

1/3 cup pesto

½ cup scallions, chopped (optional)

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring water to a boil in a large pot and cook pasta according to directions.  Make sure to cook it a few minutes short as it will cook again in the oven.

While pasta is cooking, heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once sizzling, add flour and whisk until smooth to create a roux. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until golden and has a nutty aroma. Add milk and cream, bring to a boil while constantly whisking. Reduce heat to low and add cheese, then cook for a few minutes while stirring until cheese is melted and mixture thickens. Add nutmeg, then taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

Add pasta to a baking dish (I used an 8X8″) and pour cheese sauce over top. Stir to distribute sauce, then stir in pesto and scallions. Top with additional grated cheese. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until top is golden and bubbly.

Mushroom Marsala Pasta

When people ask me if I use a lot of vegetables in my cooking (well… let’s pretend people ask me that) I want to answer yes.  I really do.  I think vegetables are very important and obviously need to be included as part of a balanced diet.

But here’s my dirty secret.  I claim to like vegetables, but if you listed them out for me, I’d probably make an “ewww, gross” face for more than half.  I do not like tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, squash, kale, artichokes, olives….and the list goes on.  Sad I know.  I had a courageous friend in college who would eat cherry tomatoes at practically every meal in the dining hall because he wanted to make himself like them.  That’s too hardcore for me.

I like my vegetables starchy.  My Nana always tells me my favorite food as a young child was peas.  I still love peas.  And corn, potatoes and sweet potatoes.  And carrots, because they’re sweet.  I also like onions, garlic, shallots, peppers, spinach and of course, mushrooms.

When I saw the adorable, and well manicured lawn behind our prospective house, I couldn’t help but fantasize about the garden I wanted to have there.  But then I thought about my disdain for most vegetables…an herb garden perhaps?

Then I would have fresh thyme for this dish.  Marsala and thyme are totally best buddies; like the peanut butter and jelly of the savory world.  Their flavors are distinct, yet they meld together in the most delicate and delicious way.  Add some mushrooms and cream, and you have yourself one delectable pasta topping.

Mushroom Marsala Pasta

Adapted from The View from Great Island

Makes 2-4 servings (and can easily be doubled to feed more)

1/2 lb fettuccine (or other pasta)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 large shallot, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
8 oz button mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup Marsala wine
1/3 cup chicken stock
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/3 cup heavy cream
several sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stalks, or 1 Tbsp dried thyme
salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Cook your pasta of choice according to the instructions on its packaging.  Meanwhile, make your sauce.

In a Dutch oven or similar pot melt and butter and olive oil and saute the shallot and garlic for a few minutes until fragrant.

Add in the mushrooms and saute, stirring often, for about 5 to 8 minutes, until the mushrooms are just tender.  If the pot seems too dry, add a little more olive oil.

Add the Marsala and let it evaporate for a minute, then add the chicken stock, thyme, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Let the sauce simmer and reduce for 5-10 mins.  If it still seems too liquidy at this point, add 1 Tbsp cornstarch and stir to help the sauce thicken.

Add in the cream, and bring back to a simmer.  Check for seasoning, adding salt and pepper.

When the fettuccine is just al dente, either add it to the sauce and toss well, or put it in a serving bowl and top with the sauce. Garnish with grated cheese and parsley if desired.

Shrimp Scampi

Monday, oh Monday.  How quickly you sneak around the corner and leer at me.  I’ve seen a posting fad on other blogs that make Monday more interesting, it’s called Meatless Mondays.

Bloggers try to cook tasty, easy meals without the use of meat at least one day a week.  Seems simple enough, and I would totally do it…if the man of the house would eat any sort of meat alternatives.  I’m not exactly a lover of tofu or tempeh myself, but I’d eat them.

I love beans and lentils and other foods like that, but trying to sneak a chickpea past Luke would be difficult.  So I don’t try.  I fantasize about all the awesome lentil recipes I’ll make one day with my legume loving children, but until that day, I’ll be making my dishes with meat.

Or shrimp.  Another fun fact: Luke loves shellfish but hates fish, and I love fish but hate shellfish.  The only overlap in our venn diagram is shrimp.  I do like shrimp, but only if it’s cooked.  I don’t do shrimp cocktail…cold shrimp creeps me out.

And shrimp scampi is just so good.  I like this version because it is light and lemony, while still maintaining a good balance of garlic and shrimp flavors.  Plus it’s easy to prepare and is on the table in less than 30 minutes.

Shrimp Scampi

Makes 3-4 servings

Adapted from The Girl Who Ate Everything

12 oz linguine (or any other pasta really)

3 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound large shrimp (about 16 shrimp), peeled and deveined

1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 lemon, zest grated
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Boil a large pot of salted water, add the linguine according to the directions on the package.
Meanwhile, in another large skillet, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute, stirring constantly to keep the garlic from burning.  Add the shrimp, salt, and the pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Toss to combine.

When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve.