Sunday, May 30, 2021

Ina Garten's Penne with Five Cheeses


I know that I've been going on and on about lightening up and being more healthy, but every once in awhile there is going to be a splurge.

There are a couple types of food that I seem to buy endless quantities of: pasta, granola, eggs, and about every single cheese known to man. You will never catch me running out of any of those ingredients. I buy these ingredients like it's my job. Lately, my cheese drawers have been exploding and cheese is waging war on the rest of the fridge.

I stumbled across Ina's Penne with Five Cheeses and it's a dish I've always wanted to make. Who can resist a dish of pasta swimming in a light tomato sauce and bubbling with cheese? 

I had everything on hand. All 5 cheeses and then some: Pecorino, Gorgonzola, Ricotta, Fontina and Mozzarella. This dish was finally going to happen!

This recipe is so easy and delicious! The pasta comes together in no time. All you have to do is preheat the oven, parboil some penne for a few minutes, and mix together the cream, cheeses, and tomato sauce. I added a few pinches of herbs and garlic powder to liven things up a bit. Then you mix the parboiled pasta into the cheese mixture and bake for about 10-12 minutes. The result is absolute perfection! I love how the tips of the pasta turn a crispy golden brown. The whole dish is so inviting!

My daughter came down as this was coming out of the oven and she said, "This pasta looks way better than anything from a restaurant and I have to get some pictures of it."  Upon first bite she was like, "oh my...this dish is dangerously good." So, if you're up for a splurge,  then this is definitely worthy. It is beyond decadent and delicious.


Penne with Five Cheeses

Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa website

by Ina Garten

Serves 6


2 cups heavy cream

1 cup crushed tomatoes in thick tomato puree

1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano 

1/2 cup shredded imported Italian Fontina

1/4 cup crumbled Italian Gorgonzola

2 tablespoons ricotta cheese

1/4 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced

6 fresh basil leaves, chopped

1 pound imported penne rigate pasta

4 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Bring 5 quarts of salted water to a boil in a stockpot. Combine all the ingredients except the penne and butter in a large mixing bowl. Mix Well.

Drop the penne into the boiling water and parboil for 4 minutes. Drain well in a colander and add to the ingredients in the mixing bowl, tossing to combine.

Divide the pasta mixture among 6 shallow ceramic gratin dishes (1-1/2 to 2-cup capacity). Dot with the butter and bake until bubbly and brown on top, 7 to 10 minutes.



Thursday, May 27, 2021

Cold Soba Sesame Salad {Summer Slim Down Series #2}

One of my goals with my Summer Slim Down Series is trying out fresh and healthy recipes that will keep well for lunches throughout the busy work week. This recipe for Cold Soba Sesame Salad from Gina Homolka's Skinnytaste Meal Prep Cookbook definitely falls into that category. This is a light and exciting meal that can be enjoyed at home, packed up for a picnic, or prepped into containers for lunches throughout the week.

This recipe wins an award for versatility. You can trade out any of the vegetables and make this your own. For example, I didn't have broccoli so I used fresh sliced cucumber instead. You can keep this all veggie and serve it with crushed peanuts and/or a soft boiled egg. You can also add some flaked salmon or shredded chicken or thinly sliced steak. I think you could easily make a new version of this salad each and every time!

This is a stunning salad, so vibrant and inviting with all the colors of the rainbow. I also love that it is served cold, which is very light and refreshing on a hot summer day. This is one of those meals that is the perfectly balanced, managing to be both light yet filling. I will definitely be making this again!


Cold Soba Sesame Salad

Recipe adapted from Skinnytaste Meal Prep

by Gina Homolka

Serves 4


8 ounces dry soba noodles (I used buckwheat)

1 cup bite-sized broccoli florets*

1/2 cup sugar snap peas, cut into thirds*

1 small red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 cup grated or shredded carrots

3 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

crushed roasted peanuts, for serving


1/4 cup soy sauce or tamari

2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar

2 tablespoons mirin

1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger*

1 garlic clove, minced*

1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce, plus more for serving

2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds, plus1 teaspoon garnish

Notes: This is an extremely versatile recipe. Use whatever veggies you have on hand. I didn't have broccoli so I subbed in sliced cucumber which worked nicely. I also think the dressing is somewhat mild and next time I would use more fresh ginger and garlic to pump up the flavors. 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil (do not add salt). Add the noodles and cook according to the package directions. Add the broccoli and peas about 1 minute before the noodles are ready, then drain together in a large colander and rinse with cold water for about 30 seconds, agitating with your hands.

Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, rice vinegar, miring, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, Sriracha, and sesame seeds.

To serve: Divide the noodles, broccoli, and peas among 4 shallow bowls, about 1-1/2 cups each, and top with bell pepper, carrots, scallions, and cilantro. Top each with about 2-1/2 tablespoons of the dressing, a sprinkle of sesame seeds and peanuts, and serve right away.



Sunday, May 23, 2021

Giada's Red, White, And Blue Salad {Summer Slim Down Series #1}!


With the Memorial Day holiday coming up this weekend, it is officially the beginning of summer, which also means....NO WORK FOR ME UNTIL MID AUGUST! Woohoo! After a whirlwind year of teaching during the pandemic, I am over the moon for a break!

I'm also in the middle of a pretty big lifestyle change, hence the Summer Slim Down Series. In an effort to get more healthy, I'm going to be experimenting with some healthier ingredients and new recipes over summer break, while I have the time.

So, this recipe marks the beginning of my Summer Slim Down Series and this recipe for Giada's Red, White, and Blue Salad is Summer Slim Down Series #1.

Originally I had this salad tagged to make for July 4th, but I was actually on the ball and realized I could make this for Memorial Day. Yeah, me!

One goal that I have this summer is to make some interesting main dish salads and this salad is a perfect example of that, a hearty mix of fruit, cheese, and nuts. This perfect summer holiday salad gets the red from the grapes, blue from blueberries, and white from the Gorgonzola. It also has some crunchy and salty pistachios and some diced quick pickled cucumber and is tossed in a champagne and mustard vinaigrette. It is healthy and beautiful but also light and satisfying at the same time.

I love a good salad with fruit, cheese, and nuts and this one doesn't disappoint. It has sweetness from the fruit and some acidic tanginess from the dressing and the cucumber quick pickles. I love the little nubs of sharp Gorgonzola and the salty crunchy bites with the pistachios. 

I would take this to any summer potluck and toss it with the dressing right before serving. I would definitely make this again! 

Red, White, And Blue Salad

Adapted from Eat Better, Feel Better

by Giada De Laurentiis

Serves 6

For The Quick Pickle

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 English cucumber, peeled and diced (about 1 cup)

For The Salad

1 tablespoon champagne vinegar

1 teaspoon whole-grain or Dijon mustard 

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 heads of radicchio, chopped*

1-1/2 cups red grapes, halved

1 cup blueberries

1/2 cup chopped roasted and lightly salted pistachios

1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola Piccante

Notes: I couldn't find radicchio in the shops so it was omitted.

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, vinegar, 1/4 cup water, and the salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Place the cucumber in a small bowl. Pour the brine over the cucumbers and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, olive oil, and salt. Add the radicchio, endive, grapes, and blueberries. Toss well to coat. Drain the cucumber and sprinkle it over the top along with the pistachios and Gorgonzola. Toss one last time and serve.