Tuesday, April 24, 2012

mostaccioli with spinach and feta

WHAT is mostaccioli? well, i wondered the same thing. it's just a variation of penne pasta. what's the difference? penne is ridged tube shaped pasta, and mostaccioli is smooth tube shaped pasta. actually, in Italy, mostaccioli is called "penne lisce" (lisce meaning smooth), and penne is called "penne rigate" (rigate meaning ridged).

that reminds me... i really need to book that trip to Italy i've been dreaming of for YEARS.


this is a GREAT recipe. make some kind of italian marinated or garlic crusted meat dish to go with it, and dinner is set! it's another pasta dish with feta too... you may have guessed by now that i LOVE that combo. if you do too, read on...


8 ounces penne lisce/mostaccioli OR penne rigate pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups chopped tomatoes
10 ounces fresh spinach, washed and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4-6 ounces of parmesan or mozzarella, or a combo of both
8 ounces tomato basil feta cheese
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste

i didn't have tomato basil feta, so i made my own, like this...
cut up your own sun-dried tomatoes or buy some that are pre-cut. get out basil. add sun-dried tomatoes and basil with regular feta. mix it together and bam - you've got tomato basil feta.

onto the directions...

1. cook pasta according to package directions. drain and set aside.

2. heat oil in a large pot.

3. add tomatoes, spinach, and garlic.

4. cook and stir 2 minutes, or until spinach is wilted and is thoroughly heated.

5. add pasta, italian cheese of your choice, and feta mixture. cook 1 minute.

6. season to taste with salt and pepper. 

i LOVE LOVE LOVE this recipe! any recipe that combines a pasta and veggies in one pot makes me a happy girl. did she say in one pot?! YES! I DID! all the more reason to love it. 

and, as i always say... feta makes it betta!


Monday, April 23, 2012

feta, sun-dried tomato, and herb stuffed chicken

this recipe came about from a base recipe and then adding things i found in my pantry. it turned out fantastic. again, i love feta. i usually top pasta with it, but i loved this recipe, which used it in chicken. it feels like authentic italian, and i dig it.

3-4 chicken breasts, split down the middle
tomato basil feta
4 tbsp melted butter
italian breadcrumbs

i've mentioned this before on the blog, but if you don't have tomato basil feta, make your own. take regular feta, and add chopped up sun-dried tomatoes and dried basil. i actually prefer this method to the pre-flavored tomato and basil feta. you can even add a sprinkle of garlic salt. it gives it a great flavor.

1. preheat oven to 350.

2. lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.

3. spread 2 tablespoons of italian breadcrumbs in the bottom of the baking dish.

4. lay chicken breasts flat on a flat working surface, either a cutting board or a piece of wax paper. place a spoonful of feta mixture inside chicken breast. fold each breast in half.

5. arrange chicken in baking dish.

6. cover chicken with remaining breadcrumbs.

7. pour melted butter evenly over all the chicken.

8. bake 25-30 minutes or until juices run clear and chicken is no longer pink in the center.

end result:
beautiful presentation and great flavor. this is a great recipe to serve for company. it looks like a gourmet treat that you slaved over, but it's actually pretty simple. and by "pretty simple," i mean pretty and simple. :)


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

butterfinger brownies

i claim that this recipe is the reason why tyler proposed to me. (this and my spaghetti...) i made these for him one time when he came to visit me when i lived in montgomery, and the entire pan was GONE before the weekend was over. i even caught him in the kitchen eating brownies in the morning. it was too funny. so these have become a valentines tradition for him. instead of giving him a box of chocolates, i'll make him a pan of these brownies. to be honest, i don't really like them. they have too much of a peanut butter taste for me, but tyler LOVES it, so i'm blogging it...


2¼ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup butter, softened
2¼ cups brown sugar
3 large eggs
1½ tsp vanilla extract
 6 regular-sized butterfinger candy bars, crushed (separated into 3 and 3)

1. preheat oven to 350F. grease and flour a 13x9 inch baking pan.
2. in a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. set aside.

3. in a medium bowl, with electric mixer at medium speed, combine butter and brown sugar.

4. beat in eggs and vanilla until smooth.

5. stir in flour mixture and 3 crushed butterfingers.

6. spread in prepared pan.

7. sprinkle remaining crushed butterfingers over top of batter.

8. bake 30-35 minutes, or until the bars are a bit firm to the touch.

9. cool completely before cutting into bars.

this recipe makes 12 brownies. or, for my hubs, 1 giant brownie.

i used my brownie pan for this, but i recommend just using the regular 9x13 pan. the result is much better that way. and also make sure that you let them cool completely before cutting into bars. i didn't (because the hubs was being so impatient!) and it kind of made a goopy mess. but he said it still tasted delicious, so we'll let it slide. :)

try it out on your peanut butter fans!


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

sun-dried tomato and basil orzo pasta

if you have searched for a pasta recipe that actually tastes like something from an italian restaurant, i have the recipe for you! i can tell already that this is a recipe i will make repeatedly. the best part: i'm a sucker for sun-dried tomatoes, but the hubs hates them. but what he hates is the texture. but since this recipe requires use of a food processor, the texture is now a non-issue. in other words, my food processor helped reduce marital conflict. reason #2028340923482930234 why it was a worthwhile purchase.

moving on...

2 cups uncooked orzo pasta
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

don't get so picky about measuring out the salt and pepper. i just eyeballed it.

1. bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. 

2. add orzo and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente. drain and set aside. 

3. place basil leaves and sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor. pulse until well blended. (the original recipe says to pulse it 4-5 times on high... i went a bit overboard and did it at least three times that much, but i just love my food processor. and i also wanted to make sure that it was REALLY well blended b/c of the hubs's aversion to sun-dried tomatoes.)

4. go back to the pot. add the cooked orzo, the basil-tomato mixture, olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. mix together.

5. once on the plate, add feta as desired.
again... this is going to be a recipe i make repeatedly for the following reasons: 1) the taste is incredible. 2) it's so doggone easy. 3) it has feta... and anyone who knows me knows how much i love feta. thus my signature phrase: "feta make it betta!" 4) it allows me to use my food processor, which i LOVE!!! 5) i get sun-dried tomatoes and the hubs doesn't care!


when i made this, i had a feeling it would make quite a bit,and it did. so i put it in my meal plan for that week to have two italian main dishes back to back - one was italian crockpot chicken and the other was steak tips with italian barbeque marinade. it paired well with both! add some kind of veggie, and you have a fabulous balanced meal!


steak tips with italian barbeque marinade

i love a good marinade. and this one combines italian flavor with barbeque. i was intrigued when i saw that combination, and i had to have it. i'm so glad i did, because it tastes as wonderful as it sounds!


1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Italian-style salad dressing
2 teaspoons garlic pepper seasoning
1 cup barbeque sauce
2 pounds beef sirloin tip steaks

1. in a medium bowl, mix the Worcestershire sauce, Italian-style salad dressing, garlic pepper seasoning, and barbeque sauce. 

2. place the meat in the marinade, and turn to coat.

3. cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (i let mine marinate about 5 hours)

4. preheat grill for high heat.

5. brush grill LIGHTLY with oil to prevent sticking.

6. place steaks on the grill, and discard marinade.

7. grill steaks to desired doneness, about 5-10 minutes per side, depending on thickness.

these are beautiful when i'm done! check it out:
the flavor to the steaks is fantastic! it's something a little different while still feeling comfortable and familiar. i wasn't sure that these flavors would mesh well together, but they absolutely do. this is also a great marinade that you can make ahead of time and grill when you get home. if you have an outdoor grill, i'm jealous... but you can absolutely use that. since we live in an apartment, we use a grill pan and a stove. it works! but i'd love to taste these on a REAL grill. 

i paired this with a simple italian salad and sun-dried tomato basil orzo pasta, and it made for a DELICIOUS dinner.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

pesto chicken stuffed shells

earlier this year, my younger sister had a bit of a health scare and had to have a major surgery, which landed her in the hospital for about a week. luckily, she is doing great and is super healthy! (not to mention beautiful!) and the best part is that she's in no more pain! (YAY!) but while she was there, my parents got sick of eating hospital food... can't blame them for that... so i made these pesto chicken stuffed shells for dinner and took it to them. my family is comprised of some adventurous eaters and some supremely picky eaters. everyone that ate this loved it... i paired it with some steamed broccoli and dinner was done! check it out...

12-16 jumbo pasta shells
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago for filling
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago for topping
3 tablespoons prepared pesto (homemade or store bought)
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup alfredo sauce (the creamer you like your pastas, the more alfredo you should use)
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 cloves garlic, minced (or cheat, like i did, and use 2 tablespoons of already minced garlic)
a handful or two of italian seasoned breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste
p.s. i made my own pesto sauce from a seasoning packet, following directions on the back, and it turned out great. i love pesto, but i hadn't ever made it before... i usually buy it prepared, but i really prefer this method. give it a shot. and i had plenty of leftovers to use in pasta later. YUMMO!

i also boiled my own chicken and shredded it, so if you want to speed up the process, you can buy pre-cooked chicken, either shredded or cubed.

onto the recipe!

1. in a large pot over high heat, boil water and prepare pasta shells as directed on package until al dente. the pasta will finish cooking when the dish is baked.

2. drain the pasta shells and let cool.

3. in a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients (except the cheese for the topping). add alfredo sauce as desired until the filling is creamy.

4. fill the shells with the filling, and place each shell in a baking dish.

5. sprinkle the remaining cheese and breadcrumbs over the filled shells.

6. preheat oven to 350 degrees. bake shells uncovered for 30 minutes or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese melts.

you can make this recipe as a "make ahead meal" by preparing as directed but place the filled shells in a freezer proof oven dish. top with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese and breadcrumbs, cover, and freeze. when ready to prepare, defrost. then preheat the oven to 350 and bake shells uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until shells are bubbling hot and cheese melts.

typing this out made me hungry for these again. the compliments you will get for making these will blow your mind. especially for people who "don't like pesto". this recipe will change their mind!


Saturday, March 31, 2012

another easy italian crockpot chicken recipe

for the crockpot divas out there, this recipe may already be a "go-to" or may even be one that you look at and go "uh, duh..." but for those of you still learning crockpot recipes (like myself), i'm going to share this.

i already blogged once before about italian crockpot chicken, but i think this recipe really gets it right. this has some minor tweaks from the old recipe, and the result was way better than before.

4-6 chicken breasts (i used 4 frozen breasts... i love when i don't have to thaw chicken!)
half a bottle of zesty italian dressing (i used a whole bottle, but half a bottle will do)
1 can cream of chicken soup
4 ounces of cream cheese
2 bouillon cubes and 3/4 cup of water (or 1 can of chicken broth... but i didn't have that, so i improvised with the bouillon cubes)
italian seasoning
basil leaves
salt and pepper (to taste)

i didn't measure the seasonings, but i probably put about a tablespoon each. you don't need a whole lot of salt and pepper because of the other seasonings, so just a bit of each will work.

1. put everything in the crockpot. once all in, give it a good (but easy) stir. you don't want to splash a bunch of liquid around!

2. set on low for 6-8 hours.

3. shred the chicken before serving. some of the cream cheese may not melt completely. if it doesn't, put the cream cheese and juice from the crockpot on the chicken and spread it after it has been shredded.

pairs great with pasta or rice! i already can't wait to make this again! i hope you enjoy it too :)