Mar 05 2015

Artichoke and Spinach Pasta Bake

 

I’ve been trolling Pinterest again. This time I was on the search for some healthier pasta dishes that I could portion out into easy grab-n-go lunches for the week. I’ve shared many times on this blog that I have a slight macaroni and cheese obsession/addiction. I do still indulge in the occasional full fat mac-n-cheese meal, but that’s a bit too heavy for my everyday eats. 

IMG_9079

I did find several recipes that looked decent. I ended up altering one a bit to come up with my own version. It was ingredient heavy, but since it’s “thrown together” casserole style, it turned out to be easy and well worth it in the end. 

IMG_4764

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces Whole Grain Rotini Pasta
  • 1 1/4 Cups Milk
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 3 Dorat Crushed Garlic Cubes
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Basil
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt and Black Pepper – to taste
  • 1 1/2 Heaping Cups Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
  • 1 (14-ounce) Can Quartered Artichoke Hearts – drained
  • 1 (10-ounce) Package Frozen Chopped Spinach – thawed and well-drained
  • 1/3 Heaping Cup Julienned Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Oil – drained
  • 3 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Panko

IMG_4783

Yes, “heaping” is a measurement theme with this recipe. I knew I wanted a little more sun-dried tomatoes than the original recipe called for and in my world you can never have too many vegetables or cheese. 

IMG_4781

I ended up cutting each quartered artichoke heart in half – I thought they were too bulky and wanted to enjoy them with every bite. I set my oven for 350° F. then lightly coated my baking dish with nonstick spray. You can also use oil or butter, whatever rocks your world. I then cooked my pasta according to the package instructions. I drained it immediately and set it aside.

IMG_4784

I whisked together the milk, eggs, garlic, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper.

IMG_4788

I then added the Monterey Jack cheese, Parmesan cheese, artichokes, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and pasta. Gently stir all ingredients.

IMG_4793

This is not a super creamy dish, the sauce is rather light. If you are hoping for a super creamy texture, I suggest adding whipping cream or half and half instead of milk and you might want to increase the amount of cheese you use. I really liked the lighter consistency, it was just what I was looking for. The original recipe I looked at said to bake until golden brown. I found that there wasn’t enough cheese to make that happen, so I baked it for approximately 20 minutes. I took it out before the pasta on the top layer started to get crispy.

I toasted my panko in a pan with olive oil while the dish was baking in the oven. I ended up keeping the toasted panko in a tupperware so I could add it to each lunch portion after re-heating.

IMG_9081

The weather has been in the 70’s and this is why I LOVE California and will probably never leave. Dining alfresco by the pool, yes please!

IMG_4823

I was so pleased with how the dish turned out. I will definitely be making it again. Some modifications to consider for next time or to make it your own. Experiment with different cheeses, add chicken if you are looking for more protein, increase the red pepper flakes if you want to turn up the heat or try using different veggies. This recipe will also be filed under – so and so just had a baby, I need to make/take them a dish.

Artichoke and Spinach Pasta Bake
A light and easy baked pasta dish with artichokes, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes.
Write a review
Print
Ingredients
  1. 8 ounces Whole Grain Rotini Pasta
  2. 1 1/4 Cups Milk
  3. 2 Large Eggs
  4. 3 Dorat Crushed Garlic Cubes
  5. 1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
  6. 1 Teaspoon Dried Basil
  7. 1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  8. Salt and Black Pepper - to taste
  9. 1 1/2 Heaping Cups Shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
  10. 1 (14-ounce) Can Quartered Artichoke Hearts - drained
  11. 1 (10-ounce) Package Frozen Chopped Spinach - thawed and well-drained
  12. 1/3 Heaping Cup Julienned Sun-Dried Tomatoes in Oil - drained
  13. 3 Tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese
  14. 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  15. 1/2 Cup Panko Crumbs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat baking dish with nonstick spray, oil or butter.
  2. Cook pasta according to package instructions and then drain well.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, garlic, oregano, basil and red pepper flakes; season with salt and pepper. Add Monterey Jack and Parmesan cheese, artichoke hearts, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and pasta.
  4. Add pasta mixture to uncovered prepared baking dish. Place into oven and bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.
  5. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium to high heat. Add Panko and stir until toasted, about 3-5 minutes; set aside.
  6. Serve pasta immediately, sprinkled with Panko.
Adapted from DamnDelicious.net
Adapted from DamnDelicious.net
Foodiddy http://foodiddy.com/
 Enjoy!
foo

Permanent link to this article: http://foodiddy.com/?p=10341

Jan 23 2015

SusieCakes makes Sac a little sweeter!

I had the wonderful opportunity of joining fellow media professionals and bloggers at the new SusieCakes Sacramento location in the upscale Pavilions Shopping Center for a special preview event.  We had the opportunity to meet the face behind SusieCakes, founder – Susie Sarich. I was really impressed by her story, her business model, and her interest in our own personal stories.

IMG_4578

IMG_4562

SusieCakes is an all-American, homestyle bakery specializing in a variety of dessert favorites. From their cakes to their cookies, all items are made by in-house bakers, offering one-of-a-kind – made from scratch, treats. 

IMG_4567

Susie grew up with fond childhood memories of baking alongside her two grandmothers, Mildred and Madeline. She shared with a few of us that her bakery’s “Susie Blue” signature color was actually inspired by the color of her grandmother’s Pyrex bowls. Pretty sure we had the same blue set in my house, circa 1970. I love that she cherished her kitchen time with her grandmas and that some of their recipes still remain a huge part of her bakery today.

I know I too cherish the hours spent at the bar stools in my Mom’s kitchen watching her prepare meals. As a working mom, she had everything down to a science – at times she’d leave instructions, and as I got a little older, I’d start dinner before both of my parents got home from work. I too have a wooden box filled with family recipes. My grandmother’s Kitchenaid sits proudly on my kitchen counter and is a reminder of how the role of family and cooking/baking traditions have continued to fuel my own passion for spending time in the kitchen and enjoying good food.

IMG_8781

Susie opened her first location in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles back in 2006. The bakery became an instant neighborhood hit. Susie’s husband shared that their customers return again and again to celebrate important family events – from birthdays, baby showers and weddings, to customized sport themed cupcakes – SusieCakes became part of others’ family traditions and that meant a lot to them. 

Their Carlsbad and Laguna Niguel stores will be the next two to open. Carlsbad is slated for March 2015 and Laguna Niguel will follow in May 2015. For my Willow Glen peeps – Susie shared that they were looking at Lincoln Ave. as a possible new location – so hopefully that happens, because I think this type of bakery would be an excellent fit. Raviolis at La Villa, followed by dessert at SusieCakes – sign me up!

Other Northern California locations include Greenbrae (Marin), Chestnut Street (San Francisco Marina), Menlo Park, Lafayette and San Carlos.

IMG_4584

I couldn’t get over the cuteness factor of the store’s decor and the employees that worked there. It was a little slice of retro heaven. From the Susie Blue painted walls to the cherry and floral fabric on the white metal bar stools – I loved all of the store’s design details. The merchandise for sale was very Pinterest worthy and totally “my thing” – I had to refrain from buying enough candles to light up a year of birthdays. 

IMG_8778

Susie took a few of us at a time through the kitchen where we got to see the employees working. They were decorating custom cookies with logos from businesses all over Sacramento. The bakery has big glass windows that customers can see all the bakery action through. 

IMG_8786

We were each given a tasting plate of cake. We sampled seven different cakes while sipping champagne. The cakes are all made from scratch. No mixes, artificial preservatives or trans fats are used. What they do use is European-Style butter, Scharffen Berger Cocoa, Ghirardelli & Callabaut Chocolate and Tahitian-Bean Vanilla.  

IMG_4581

We sampled the Carrot Cake, Tropical Coconut Cake, Vanilla Celebration Cake, Classic Marble Cake, Old-Fashioned 6-Layer Chocolate Cake, Famous Southern Red Velvet Cake, and the Luscious Lemon Cake.

IMG_8785

My favorite was the Vanilla Celebration Cake, six layers of vanilla cake with confetti, covered in Susie Blue colored vanilla buttercream frosting. It was like butter on a spoon. In fact, I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what it was – frosted butter :). 

IMG_8784

My second favorite was the Luscious Lemon Cake, followed by the Old-Fashioned 6-Layer Chocolate Cake. The fresh lemon curd is also used in their lemon bars. 

We were sent home with a box of treats – a giant chocolate chip cookie, a whoopie pie, a heart shaped iced cookie and a 7-layer bar cookie. I will be diving into those as soon as my sugar coma subsides. 

IMG_4570

SusieCakes Sacramento family-friendly grand opening celebration is scheduled for this upcoming Saturday, January 24 from 1-4 p.m. Guests will be treated to complimentary mini desserts, photo ops in a classic car, face painting, a balloon artist, and a coloring contest for the kids. The kickoff celebration continues all week long with special promotions – a cupcake happy hour and two-for-one slices of cake, just to name a few.

IMG_4571

IMG_4583

A big thank you to Susie and her husband for hosting such a fun evening and to Jairo at Bouchard Communications and Jessica with SusieCakes for inviting me to the special preview event. I had a wonderful time and look forward to placing many customized cake and cookie orders in the future. This design girl was sure impressed and energized by this new addition to Sacramento. 

IMG_4585

Cheers to Susie and her newest Sacramento location!

SusieCakes – Sacramento

564 Pavilions Lane
Pavilions Shopping Center
Sacramento, CA 95825
(916) 865-2250
Mon-Sat – 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

 

Permanent link to this article: http://foodiddy.com/?p=10307

Jan 07 2015

The Perfect Wedge Salad

I really enjoy a good wedge salad and order them on occasion at a few popular chain restaurants – BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, Outback Steakhouse and Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Not sure what side of the steakhouse vs. steak house fence I reside on, I just know that nothing beats a good, crispy wedge salad on a chilled plate. Whether there is a space or not between “steak” and “house” doesn’t get me all fired up. Just bring on the wedge.

IMG_4486

I started searching for copycat recipes online and found a couple and tweaked the ingredients to my liking. I’ve not always been a huge blue cheese fan. I’ve come to realize that there is a HUGE difference between blue cheeses and paying a little extra for quality is worth it. I am strangely also not a fan of blue cheese dressing on my wedge salads – I’m a simple gal that prefers ranch with chunks of blue cheese sold separately :).

IMG_8363

I braved Costco 2 days before the holidays to score some Point Reyes Original Blue™ and it was totally worth dodging pumpkin pie toting holiday shoppers to get some. The above wedge was just under $15.00 – sorry I forgot to note the actual weight. I know I was able to use it in several other recipes as well. An additional bonus to braving Costco was scoring two awesome dog beds for the fur kids. 

I was first introduced to Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese at a Foodbuzz festival in San Francisco. It was being served at one of the sponsored parties I attended. It was velvety smooth and had more of a medium to strong flavor punch compared to some that tend to overwhelm your palate. I have also tried their White Cheddar and would love to try their Point Reyes Toma.

IMG_8498-Wright_bacon

My next wedge salad ingredient find was this Limited Edition – Wright Brand – Honey Bourbon Flavored Bacon. I found it at a Walmart Neighborhood Market for $8.99. This is SCREAMIN’ good bacon. I baked it on parchment paper in the oven and it crisped to perfection, while still leaving me with a center cut – meaty texture – easy for crumbling onto my salads. I’ve since gone back to stock up – I’ve got a package in the freezer and another one ready in the fridge for random BLT delights. Dan is a big fan.

The one thing I like about Outback’s wedge is their use of a balsamic reduction. I knew I needed to recreate that in my own version, so I ended up using that portion of one of the copycat recipes I found on Pinterest via Lexie’s Kitchen and Living blog.

IMG_4500

Balsamic Drizzle Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/8 Cup Honey
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 Head Iceberg Lettuce – quartered
  • 1/4 to 1/2 Medium Sized Red Onion – finely diced
  • 1-2 Medium Tomatoes – seeded and diced – could also use grape or cherry
  • 8 Bacon Strips – 2 per salad
  • Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese
  • Ranch Dressing – I made a pack of Hidden Valley Original Ranch

Directions

  1. Chill plates for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.
  2. In small sauce pan, bring Balsamic Drizzle ingredients to a gentle simmer and reduce to a thick syrup.
  3. Make ranch dressing and chill. Could also use pre-made/bottled.
  4. Cook, crumble and set aside bacon. Note: I baked mine in the oven at 350º F. on parchment for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Cut lettuce into four wedges and place on chilled plates.
  6. Drizzle with ranch dressing and then add tomato, red onion and crumbled bacon to each wedge.
  7. Top salads with balsamic glaze drizzle and blue cheese crumbles and serve.

IMG_4492

 

The Perfect Wedge Salad
Delicious "Outback" like wedge salad with ranch and balsamic drizzle, bacon, tomato, red onion and blue cheese crumbles.
Write a review
Print
Balsamic Drizzle Ingredients
  1. 1/2 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
  2. 1/8 Cup Honey
  3. 1/4 Teaspoon Sea Salt
Salad Ingredients
  1. 1 Head Iceberg Lettuce - quartered
  2. 1/4 to 1/2 Medium Sized Red Onion - finely diced
  3. 1-2 Medium Tomatoes - seeded and diced - could also use grape or cherry
  4. 8 Bacon Strips - 2 per salad
  5. Point Reyes Original Blue Cheese
  6. Ranch Dressing - I made a pack of Hidden Valley Original Ranch
Instructions
  1. Chill plates for at least 30 minutes prior to serving.
  2. In small sauce pan, bring Balsamic Drizzle ingredients to a gentle simmer and reduce to a thick syrup.
  3. Make ranch dressing and chill. Could also use pre-made/bottled.
  4. Cook, crumble and set aside bacon. Note: I baked mine in the oven at 350º F. on parchment for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Cut lettuce into four wedges and place on chilled plates.
  6. Drizzle with ranch dressing and then add tomato, red onion and crumbled bacon to each wedge.
  7. Top salads with balsamic glaze drizzle, blue cheese crumbles and serve.
Adapted from Lexie's Kitchen and Living
Adapted from Lexie's Kitchen and Living
Foodiddy http://foodiddy.com/

I made the salad several times over my holiday break and know that it will continue to be a “go to” recipe for me. I also stopped in at an Outback just to try theirs again and I like being able to control the amount of dressing used – they get pretty generous. I prefer it on the lighter side, especially when used in combination with the balsamic drizzle. Sure, I can ask for dressing on the side, but it’s all about how things are layered my friends… the ranch goes first, always FIRST. :)

In other news… I had a fabulous Christmas/winter break and I’m pretty excited to see what’s in store for 2015. It’s definitely time to get back in the kitchen. I took advantage of easy dinners and tried some new restaurants with friends, but I also started the new year off right by getting back to my usual Sunday meal prep for the week. Now I just need to get back to exercise, baby steps… baby steps. 

foo

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Permanent link to this article: http://foodiddy.com/?p=10275

Older posts «