Broccoli, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomato pasta

Some nights I like to try new, exotic, fancy dinners with a million ingredients. Recipes that require me to watch a YouTube video or two, mess up every dish in the kitchen, and listen to pronunciations to make myself sound legitimate. I love to cook and I thrive on new challenges and techniques.

That said, sometimes at 6:30 it is just not possible.

Sometimes at 6:30 I’ve been up for too many hours with hyper, obnoxious children and am only running on leftover coffee fumes. Sometimes I come in from yard work or playing with kids in the yard and barely have time to wash my hands before jumping into cooking because all of my grannies come over for dinner on Tuesday. Sometimes I’ve been breaking up sibling fights and getting whacked with cars and have dried cheerios stuck to my pants and just need to make something so easy that I can do it AND send kids to the naughty chair at the same time. Sometimes the kitchen is already a disaster and I have a sink full of dirt, a dishwasher full of dirty dishes, and a barbie convention taking place on the counter. Tonight ALL of those things happened, and I made this pasta.

Also, it has 5 ingredients and they’re mostly in the title, so you can remember them even when a 4-year-old uses your grocery list to spit something gross into and you’re racing through the store with a screaming toddler who stuck his complimentary magic pop (sucker) in his hair and thus can’t lick it and you have to pee so bad because you quit drinking diet coke and replaced it with iced tea, which causes you to always need to pee.

So basically this dinner is cheap, easy, fast, requires only a few dishes and ingredients, and has vegetables in it so you can just serve it without any pesky sides or anything. It’s also vegetarian and grandma/kid friendly.

Broccoli, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomato pasta

Serves about 6

6ish cups of fresh broccoli (about 3 heads)

3-4 large cloves of garlic

1 lb dried orecchiette pasta (you could easily use bowties, too)

8 oz jarred sun-dried tomatoes (TJs makes an 8.5oz jar, I just use that)

6 oz goat cheese

Salt, pepper, olive oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°, and bring a large, salted pot of water to boil for the pasta.
  2. Chop the broccoli into bite-sized florets and peel the garlic cloves. Toss the broccoli and whole garlic cloves with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, arrange onto a baking sheet, and bake for about 15 minutes.
  3. Cook the orecchiette according to package directions (10 minutes or so). When you drain the pasta, reserve about a cup of the pasta water. Chop up the sun-dried tomatoes if they are whole, if they come julienned just grab a glass of wine and pretend to be busy.
  4. When the broccoli and garlic are done, roughly chop the roasted garlic. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and pour in about a tablespoon of the sun-dried tomato oil. Cook the garlic in the oil for 30 seconds or so, then stir in the broccoli and the sun-dried tomatoes cooking it all together for about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir the cooked pasta and the broccoli mixture together in a large bowl. Crumble the goat cheese on top and stir to melt the cheese in. If the mixture is too dry, add in some of the reserved pasta water to loosen it up (I typically add in 1/4 to 1/2 a cup). Season with S&P to taste.

Chicken Pad-ish Thai

Pad Thai is one of my favorite dishes of all time.  The tang of lime, crunch of peanuts, savory noodles – it’s my go-to at any new Thai restaurant.  Ross requested Pad Thai for dinner last week and, after scouring about a hundred recipes, it seemed like all of them required specialty ingredients.  I’m sure that using one of those recipes would yield a more authentic taste, but I couldn’t really picture dragging my toddler and baby across town to an Asian market where I was unfamiliar with the layout, restrooms, and exit strategy.  So I wanted ingredients I could easily find at Safeway or, better yet, my pantry.

I came up with this recipe and it is really delicious, but you could hardly call it authentic.  It lacks tamarind paste, rice noodles, tofu (due to my sucking at cooking tofu, not availability), and bean sprouts.  But if you’re looking for a noodle dish that’s spicy, a little sweet, and has a lovely peanutty taste, then this is your dish.  You could certainly substitute any protein here – I had intended to make it with shrimp, but the ones at our store looked pitiful this week, so I used two leftover grilled chicken breasts.


Chicken Pad-ish Thai

12 oz. linguine noodles (or spaghetti or vermicelli)

1/3 cup fish sauce

2T honey

2T sesame oil

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2T lime juice

1 tsp sriracha

1/2 cup water

1 shallot (or half an onion, if that’s what you have)

3 cloves garlic

2 eggs

4 green onions

handful of fresh cilantro

1/2 cup chopped, roasted peanuts

lime wedges for serving

oil for cooking

1. Boil the pasta according to package directions, I usually boil for 20% less time than it suggests (so 8 minutes if it says 10 – taste and see).  Meanwhile whisk the fish sauce, honey, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sriracha, lime juice, and water together in a small bowl and set aside.  Mince the garlic and shallot, slice the green onions.  Lightly beat the eggs.

2. In a large pot or wok, heat 2T of oil over high heat.  Add the shallot and garlic to the pan and cook for a few minutes until fragrant, about a minute.  Add the eggs and stir constantly to scramble the eggs – about 30 seconds.  Add the cooked noodles, green onions, and chicken, then toss the mixture together.  Pour the sauce over the top and allow it all to cook together for a few minutes.

3. Chop the cilantro and peanuts for garnish.  Serve warm with cilantro, peanuts, and a lime wedge.


Tortellini Salad

When I became a stay-at-home Mom, lunch took on a whole new meaning.  On one hand, it was awesome – I wasn’t restricted to 30 minutes with only a microwave for cooking.  I could use a stove!  Any ingredients I wanted!  I could eat whenever!  It was all fine and good until I found myself with 2 screaming kids who also wanted to eat and a menu that basically varied between taco bell and peanut butter sandwiches.  Something had to change.  Once I had my head above water with 2 kids, I made an effort to improve my lunches.  It’s nothing fancy – typically a wrap sandwich, salad, leftovers, etc.

This tortellini salad is a great lunch option whether you work or stay at home.  It’s good cold and actually improves during it’s time in the refrigerator.  You can add or subtract anything from the recipe – depending on what you have.  I like to make a big tupperware full of this and eat a bowl for lunch every day.  As the dressing soaks into the veggies and pasta, they get better and better.

Tortellini Salad

1 large package cheese tortellini (I use the 20oz. Contadina)

1 small container feta cheese (or goat, if that’s what you have)

1lb. cherry tomatoes

1 cucumber

1/2 to 1 cup kalamata olives

1/2  of a red onion

1/4 cup olive oil

3T red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp dried oregano

salt and pepper

1. Boil the tortellini according to package directions, but subtracting about 20% of the cooking time (if it says 10, only go 8).  Half the cherry tomatoes, chop the cucumber, kalamata olives, and onion.

2. Whisk the olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic powder, and oregano.

3. Run the tortellini under cold water.  In a large bowl stir the tortellini, olives, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, and crumbled feta.  Pour the dressing over the top and toss to distribute evenly.  Chill before serving.

Rigatoni with Blue Cheese and Butternut Squash

I always associate butternut squash with baby food.  Mushy, bland, orange – not incredibly appetizing.  However, as a mother of a 5-month-old who is just beginning to enter the world of culinary goodness, I thought it was time to see what an adult could do with butternut squash.  As soon as I saw that this recipe contained blue cheese I was hooked – I love blue cheese!  I realized though that I’ve really never cooked with it – usually I just use it in salads and salad dressing.  Whatever your relationship with butternut squash or blue cheese, give this simple dish a try.  Bonus points in that it’s vegetarian, gives you a healthy serving of veggies, and, above all – it uses a small amount of wine (which is pretty essential) so you’re gonna need to drink the rest of the bottle.

One major change I made from the original recipe was omitting the pine nuts.  Though I adore them and think a cup of toasted pine nuts would be excellent, one tiny box costs 1/10th of my grocery budget for the week.  I don’t think the dish suffered from a lack of overpriced pine nuts.  This meal requires very little work, but the squash needs to cook down for a while, so plan to start about 45 minutes before you serve.


Rigatoni with Blue Cheese and Butternut Squash

Serves 6

1 butternut squash

1 onion

1/2 tsp paprika

2T olive oil

1T butter

1/2 cup white wine (I used Chardonnay)

1/2 cup water

1lb rigatoni pasta

5oz. crumbled blue cheese

1tsp dried marjoram

1tsp dried oregano

salt and pepper

1. Peel, seed, and cube the butternut squash into 1″ pieces.  I don’t know of a great way to do this, so I just hacked away at the thing.  Dice the onion.  Heat the olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over high heat and cook the onion until it begins to become golden and translucent.  Stir in the paprika.  Add the butternut squash and butter and stir it all together.  Pour the wine and water over the top and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat, put a lid on the pot, and cook for about 15 minutes.

2. Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Before draining, reserve a little of the pasta water.  When the squash is fork tender, but not mushy add the marjoram and oregano.

3. Pour the strained rigatoni into the pot with the squash and onion and stir together.  Mix in the blue cheese until it melts and is evenly distributed.  Add some of the pasta water back in if it seems too sticky.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with the remainder of the white wine.

Source: adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Nigella’s Kitchen