Pappardelle Pasta with Lamb Ragu {Perfect for Valentine’s Day Dinner!}

Hey readers! I’m Elizabeth, your new culinary contributor. I’m a Hamilton College and French Culinary Institute graduate, and a longtime NJ resident. Even with my highbrow culinary education, I still enjoy a bowl of Kraft Mac & Cheese and a slice of Funfetti cake as much as the next food lover (my French chefs would cringe!). You’ll find me sampling and creating all kinds of food from all types of cuisines; cooking, baking, cocktail shaking – the works. I also write healthy living recipes for insurance companies; so I’ve got lots of gluten-free, dairy-free, and veggie-laden recipes in my repertoire. I love traveling, spicy food, farmer’s markets, champagne, and throwing dinner parties for friends and family.

This Valentine’s Day, why not forgo the expensive pre-fix menu and overcrowded restaurant in favor of a delicious dinner at home. This pappardelle pasta with lamb ragu comes together quickly and makes your kitchen smell delicious. Its light on your wallet but still packs big gourmet flavors to celebrate the night. Serve with a green salad and red wine, and you’ll be sure to please!

Pappardelle with Lamb Ragu

Pappardelle with Lamb Ragu

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb (you can use ground beef in a pinch)
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in puree
  • 3/4 pound pappardelle (get fresh pasta if you can)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Directions:

  1. In a large cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, the oil over medium heat. Add the carrot and the onion and cook over medium heat, five minutes or until the vegetables have begun to soften. Add the garlic and the mushrooms and cook for a minute more.
  2. Next, add the lamb, parsley, fennel, cinnamon, rosemary and thyme. Cook for five minutes, stirring often. Add the tomato paste and the wine and cook until mostly evaporated, 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their puree, and bring everything to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low, cover your pan partially and cook until the liquid is slightly reduced, 25 to 30 minutes. If your ragu gets over-reduced, add a splash of chicken stock to thin it out again. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
  3. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, per package directions. Save 1 cup of pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the sauce, along with the butter and toss over low heat. Thin the ragu with a splash of the pasta water if needed. Serve the pasta and ragu in bowls, topped with a scoop of the ricotta and a sprinkling of the chopped mint.

As a bonus- toast the night with a festive fizzy cocktail. Pick budget friendly Prosecco over pricey champagne, and mix it with 1-tablespoon pomegranate juice per glass. Serve in champagne flutes with a squeeze of lime juice and enjoy!

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Chefday: A New Yorker’s Dream Come True

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Hungry New Yorkers will have much to celebrate once they hear about Chefday. A new Brooklyn start-up, this company delivers fresh, pre-measured ingredients to your home in order for you to cook a custom recipe created by NYC restaurant chefs. Simply go to their website, choose your meal of choice, and all the ingredients will be delivered to you on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday between 3 and 5pm or 7 and 9pm. They can deliver it to your office or your home. Once you have your fresh ingredients, tune into the website and check out the video of the chef in action, cooking your meal. The videos are catered to cooks, pausing after each step so you can catch up. The ingredients can also be delivered in different quantities, so whether you are cooking for two or eight, you’re all set.

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Chefday is also philanthropic! Through their Cook One Feed One program, for each serving you order through the company, they will donate an equal amount to the Food Bank for NYC. They are also all about eating healthy! All ingredients are fresh and natural and all dishes come with a calorie count.

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Whether you are vegetarian, pescatarian, or a carnivore, they’ve got meals for you to choose from! You could try asparagus stuffed salmon, courtesy of Chris Leahy of Lexington Brass, Parmesan veal Milanese, courtesy of Victor Laplaca of Isola Trattoria e Crudo, or you can try the stir fried green bean vermicelli, courtesy of Jehangir Mehta of Mehtaphor – which is what I tried. It was easy to follow the step-by-step instructions and was fun to watch the video and make sure I was following the recipe correctly. Each ingredient was fresh and it was easy to identify each since they were all labeled.

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Yummy Chefday meal

I may love food, but I am not a cook – luckily, they made it so easy! Without having to go out shopping for such specific ingredients in the right quantities it took away half the hassle of cooking. In fact, my dish turned out great! This is such an ingenious idea – ideal for those who love to cook and for those who love a restaurant quality meal. Make cooking fun with Chefday!

Turkey-Bacon Avocado Sandwich

When I began working full time after I graduated from college, I loved going to Whole Foods for lunch.  It became a very guilty and delicious habit.  The funny thing was that the options I chose for my daily lunch were things I could easily make from home.  My wallet told me this was a good idea and I am so glad I listened.  😉

This sandwich is one of my favorites.  As much as I love the combo of bacon and avocado, I don’t eat pork.  So like most of my restaurant favorites, I recreated the standard Club Sandwich on my own terms.  This one fills me up, is low on processed ingredients, and lends itself to easy modifications.  Oh and it takes less than 10 minutes to throw together.  What more could you ask for?

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Turkey Bacon Avocado Sandwich

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices Oasis Low-Carb Flaxseed bread (use your favorite bread or whatever you have on hand)
  • 2 slices lean turkey bacon
  • 1/2 cup of shredded turkey breast
  • 3 slices tomato
  • 1/4 avocado
  • Handful of spinach

Instructions:

  1. On one slice of bread, layer the turkey and turkey bacon over the tomatoes and spinach.
  2. Smear the avocado on the other slice of bread.  If you want to add mayo, go for it.  But trust me when I say that all of these flavors together are perfect without it too.
  3. Put the halves together and wait for coworker envy.

What is your favorite thing to bring for lunch?

#SCBD Quick & Easy Spinach & Rice Casserole Recipe

This recipe has tons of memories for me, it brings me back about 15 years to be exact. I remember when I was roughly 8 years old and in the kitchen watching my mom cook dinner, we made this.  It’s incredibly delicious, economically friendly, and really easy to make. It’s also perfect for these cold winter days not to mention you can eat it for breakfast, lunch, or even dinner!

spinach rice cheese casserole

Ingredients:

  • 1 10 oz. box of chopped frozen spinach
  • 2 cups of white rice
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 bag of shredded cheese (your choice, I used what was on hand)
  • Onion Powder
  • Garlic Powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Butter flavored spray

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray a pyrex or casserole pan with butter flavored spray and a light layer of shredded cheese on the bottom.
  2. If you haven’t already cook the two cups of white rice. If you already have rice in your refrigerator you can use that and put it in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In the meantime, heat up frozen spinach in the microwave for roughly ten minutes. Drain it so that there is no water in it and put that into a smaller mixing bowl. Add your eggs, garlic powder, onion powder, some shredded cheese, salt and pepper and whip it up in the bowl with the spinach.
  4. Put the spinach and egg mix in the large mixing bowl with the rice. Feel free to add more garlic and onion powder, salt, & pepper, and more shredded cheese if you want for more flavor and binding.
  5. Spread mix onto your pan or pyrex and smooth it out. Top with your cheese of choice so it covers the whole entire mix.
  6. Put it in the oven for about a half hour and the top is brown.
  7. Let cool for 2-3 minutes
  8. Cut into pieces & enjoy!

This is such a great recipe and is super easy especially if you have cooked rice lying around. I’m thinking of even trying it with kale one day instead of spinach. If you make it let me know what you think!

Happy Eating! 😀

Sara SCBD Logo Edited

#SCBD Black Bean & Cheese Quesadillas Recipe

I find the best recipes ones that use a few, simple ingredients. Growing up I was always a fan of quesadillas and still am to this day. This past week, I realized I had a lot of black beans in my pantry so I figured I should put them to good use.

Here’s my quick & easy recipe for black bean and cheese quesadillas…

black bean and cheese quesadilla

Ingredients:

  • A bag of flour tortillas
  • A can of black beans
  • Bag of shredded cheese of choice preferably Mexican Mix
  • Salsa of choice
  • Oil or butter spray
  • Adobo Seasoning
  • Salt & Pepper, as needed

Instructions:

  1. In a separate small pot prepare beans over heat for about 20 minutes. Feel free to put in Adobo seasoning and salt & pepper for more flavor. 
  2. Once beans are done cooking let simmer on low heat.
  3. Take out a frying pan that can fit your flour tortilla on it, spray with oil or butter spray of choice and let it warm up.
  4. Put tortilla on it and let it warm up to your liking for about a minute.
  5. Add beans, salsa, and cheese on to tortilla and let sit for another two minutes.
  6. Once the cheese has melted enough take one side of the tortilla over the other and flip so both sides are heated evenly. If you’d prefer to use two tortillas instead of one put another tortilla over the mix & then flip it.
  7. Keep over heat for another minute or two.
  8. Put it on your plate & enjoy!

This recipe is really easy and if you are not a fan of beans you can always substitute it with your meat of choice. Feel free to top it off with your favorite sour cream and guac if you’d like.

Happy Eating! 😀

Sara SCBD Logo Edited

America’s Farmstand Offers Safe Choices

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As some of you may know, there have been an increasing amount of food recalls this years and it reminds us how dangerous some food products can be. The FDA documented 414 food recalls in the third quarter of 2012 alone and is largely due to mislabeling and contaminated ingredients. Luckily, America’s Farmstand, an e-commerce website, is offering an alternative to shopping in grocery stores.

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America’s Farmstand is an online retailer that is dedicated to providing a direct link between family farmers and consumers. Todd Greenfield, founder of America’s Farmstand, believes that independent, family farms are a largely untapped solution to the large-scale food recalls. The retailers offers organic, all-natural and pure farm-fresh artisanal foods that are shipped directly from independently run family farms.

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“On small plots of land from Maine to California the next generation of growers are innovating how we farm–without chemicals, carcinogens or contamination. At America’s Farmstand we are replacing the anonymous, placeless food of industrial agriculture with honest, thoughtful family farms that have been farming the same land for, on average, 75 years. We believe it is critically important to know where your food comes from in an era of genetically modified, pesticide-heavy industrial farming,” says Todd.

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The website brings you right up close and personal with the people who are providing you your food, giving customers the knowledge and satisfaction that their food is coming from the right place. Make sure you read all about the company, the farmers, and what you can purchase through the website. It’s the perfect time of year to give someone a gift that you know they will love. Happy shopping!

Crazy for Yonanas!

photo credit: unclutterer.com

Say bye-bye to Red Mango, 16 Handles, and PinkBerry, there’s a new froyo in town and you don’t have to leave home to get it. Introducing Yonanas, a do-it-yourself ice cream maker. Using frozen, overripe bananas, you can make your own soft serve ice cream…and best of all, it’s healthy! I just got one of these and it’s amazing. Pick any or all of your favorite fruits, add them into the Yonanas, and out comes ice cream! You can even add chocolate for some extra oomph. AND it barely takes up space on your counter.

photo credit: yonanas.com

This is the best way to curb your dessert cravings by having a dessert that is actually 100% fruit. If you don’t want to use bananas, you’ll get a refreshing sorbet. One of my favorite aspects of this kitchen gadget is that whenever I buy bananas, I am always left with one or two that are too brown and bruised to eat. Now I can just throw them in my Yonanas and out comes ice cream and I’m not wasting money. It even comes with recipes you can use to make the most delicious flavors…from pineapple mango, to mint chocolate chip, and even apple maple walnut. You can purchase a Yonanas for $49.99 here. If you have a sweet tooth like I do, you’ll love this machine.

See the video to how it works, here.