Manicotti Pasta Bowl

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Clean Plate Club: Manicotti Pasta Bowl! Comfort food. We all have our favorites. Some include melted cheese, rich chocolate, home made soups, or peanut butter sandwiches. And then there’s pasta; guardian of the energy boost. Not only is pasta a healthy option, it satisfies by keeping hunger pangs at bay. Being affordable, versatile, and nutritious make it even more enjoyable. And a little pasta goes a long way. We all know that. Sure, pasta is a carb…but in a good way. It partners well with low fat protein and veggies. Go, Team Pasta!

MANICOTTI PASTA BOWL

Ingredients:

6 manicotti shells

3/4 pound lean ground beef

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon marjoram

1/4 teaspoon basil

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

3 cups prepared spaghetti sauce, chunky

1 ounce cream cheese, softened

1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Fresh basil

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook manicotti shells according to package directions. Drain shells; rinse in cold water. Set aside. In a large skillet, brown ground beef until cooked and crumbled. Remove from heat. Drain liquid. Add sea salt, oregano, marjoram, basil, and garlic powder. Pour prepared spaghetti sauce over meat. Mix well. Spoon 1/3 of meat mixture into the bottom of two single-serving casserole dishes. Add softened creamed cheese and mozzarella cheese to the remaining meat mixture. Stuff each shell with filling. Arrange three filled manicotti shells in a row over sauce. Repeat in second casserole dish. Spread remaining filling over the tops of the stuffed shells. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover; bake 15 minutes longer until cheese is melted. Remove from oven; serve in casserole dish. Garnish with fresh basil.

Alphabet Soup

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Color of Food: Alphabet Soup! Remember when you were a kid and your mom placed a steaming bowl of alphabet soup in front of you? The first thing I did was grab the spoon and search for the letters in my name. My mother, in her wisdom, would say, “Begin by eating the letters you know don’t count.” Not only was it a lesson in letter recognition, but I ultimately ended up finishing my soup before it got cold. Smart lady. How do you eat Alphabet Soup?

ALPHABET SOUP

Ingredients:

8 cups chicken broth

1 pound boneless chicken tenders

1 cup yellow onion, chopped

1 cup mixed vegetables, frozen

3/4 cup celery, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 cup dried parsley

3 bay leaves

1/4 cup butter

1 cup alphabet pasta

Instructions:

In a slow cooker, combine chicken broth, boneless chicken tenders, yellow onion, mixed vegetables, celery, seasoned salt, black pepper, dried thyme, dried parsley, and bay leaves. Cook on high for 4 hours. Remove chicken and shred. Return it back to the slow cooker. Add alphabet pasta and butter. Gently stir to combine. Cook 30 minutes longer. Remove bay leaves before serving.

Organic Red Lentil Pasta Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? The Chow Down: Organic Red Lentil Pasta Salad! Every once in awhile it’s a good idea to serve up gluten-free meals. This one, in particular, is packed with protein and fiber, plus non-GMO red lentils. You don’t need to have allergic restrictions to appreciate its natural goodness. The texture is firm while providing an amazing taste sensation. Eat it cold or warmed up a bit. You decide. Either way, the health benefits will have you patting yourself on the back for making such a healthy choice.

ORGANIC RED LENTIL PASTA SALAD

Ingredients:

8 ounces organic red lentil pasta

1 cup broccoli florets

1 cup cauliflower florets

1/3 cup red onions, sliced

1 tablespoon pimento, diced

1/3 cup Kalamata olives, pitted

1/4 cup garlic wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon dry Italian dressing and seasoning mix

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon natural honey

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:

Cook red lentil pasta 8-10 minutes, according to package directions. Water will turn cloudy and foam up, so be sure to use enough water. Remove from heat. Drain, rinse, and set aside. To make dressing, combine garlic wine vinegar, olive oil, Italian seasoning mix, Dijon mustard, and natural honey. Whisk together until nicely blended. Fill a large bowl with pasta, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, red onion slices, diced pimento, and Kalamata olives. Pour dressing over all. Toss gently to coat ingredients. Serve cold.

Antipasto Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Foodstuff Redefined: Antipasto Salad! This recipe is for those of you, like me, who choose a zesty salad every time they visit a Deli. In a few simple steps, you can throw this together and let it marinate in your own refrigerator. Make it the night before, or first thing in the morning. By the time you’re ready for the next meal, it’s done. The flavors blend so well when refrigerated, you’ll think it was store-bought instead. Be kind to yourself. Permission granted.

ANTIPASTO SALAD

Ingredients for Pasta:

1 cup dry rigatoni

1 Roma tomatoes, quartered

6 slices Italian salami, quartered

2 orange sweet mini-peppers, seeded and sliced

1/3 cup pimento-stuffed olives

4 pepperoncini, whole stemmed

3 basil leaves, chopped

For Dressing:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon Italian seasoning dry mix

1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

Bibb lettuce leaves

Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

Cook pasta in a pot of boiling salted water, according to package directions. Drain pasta; rinse with cold water and set aside. Combine pasta, Roma tomatoes, Italian salami, sweet mini peppers, olives, pepperoncini, and basil. Toss to mix. In a measuring bowl, whisk together olive oil, Italian seasoning mix, grated Parmesan cheese, and balsamic vinegar. Drizzle over pasta mixture. Spoon into Bibb lettuce leaves. Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese.

Lemon Pepper Pasta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Sunshine Eats: Lemon Pepper Pasta! Have you ever had one of those days when things just fall into place and you cook like a gourmet chef? And then, because everyone is starv-ing, you are halfway through the meal before you realize you forgot to take the food photo? Well, this is what an (almost) clean plate looks like! lol Perhaps it’s absent-mindedness, or maybe….yes, maybe…it’s just that good!

LEMON PEPPER PASTA

Ingredients:

8-ounces lemon pepper pasta

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon bacon fat

1/4 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

2 Roma tomatoes, quartered

1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 green onions, chopped

8-ounces ricotta cheese

1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

10-ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

Instructions:

Cook pasta as directed on package. Set aside. Meanwhile, warm olive oil and bacon fat in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shiitake mushrooms sprinkled with garlic powder; cook until soft. Add Roma tomatoes. Sprinkle with Herbes de Provence and kosher salt. Reduce heat and stir gently. Add chopped green onion. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add ricotta cheese and Parmesan cheese. Cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Fold in spinach and heat on low 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain lemon pepper pasta. Add to spinach mixture. Toss to coat. Heat through and serve immediately.

Yummy Parmesan Alfredo Sauce

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? After the Holidays: Yummy Parmesan Alfredo Sauce! If ever there was a universal sauce, this is it. Alfredo sauce isn’t just for pasta any more. Pizzerias began using it to substitute the tomato base on pizzas, pairing it with bacon, spinach, artichokes, and chicken. It makes a creamy addition to grilled seafood, poultry, or pork dishes, as well. Some enthusiasts even slather alfredo sauce on baked potatoes. It’s pure genius to pour it into a freshly baked bread bowl for dipping crudités, if you’re into that sort of thing. No matter how you spin it…butter, cream, and cheese are the star attractions. These are the ways to a woman’s heart. That, and a bouquet of fresh flowers.

YUMMY PARMESAN ALFREDO SAUCE

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, unsalted

1 1/2 cups light cream

2 teaspoons garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 tablespoons Neufchâtel cheese, softened

2 cups parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions:

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm butter. Add light cream. Reduce heat and simmer over Low heat for 2 minutes, stirring gently. Whisk in minced garlic, Italian seasoning, sea salt, and black pepper. Add Neufchâtel cheese; stir to incorporate. Slowly add parmesan cheese; whisk until completely melted. Keep warm prior to serving.

Yarrow Bowtie Pasta

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Splurge-Worthy Goodness: Yarrow Bowtie Pasta! Every time I passed by my front porch, I got a pleasant whiff of licorice. It seemed to come and go, but I couldn’t figure out which plant produced it. Imagine my delight when I discovered the previous owners had planted the decorative flowering herb, Yarrow. I pinched off a fern-like leaf, rubbed it between my fingers, and bingo, that was the familiar scent. When it comes to cooking, a little yarrow goes a long way. Because the leaves are feathery and soft, high heat will destroy the flavor. It is very important to wait until the dish is prepared before utilizing the essence of yarrow. The taste is so distinct, it must be used sparingly.

YARROW BOWTIE PASTA

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon yarrow leaves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 ounce dried bowtie pasta

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon truffle oil

2 tablespoons garlic, chopped

2 anchovy fillets in oil, rinsed and chopped

2 tablespoons dry white wine

Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Instructions:

Combine yarrow leaves and red pepper flakes. Mince together. Set aside. Cook bowtie pasta in salt water, according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, warm olive oil and truffle in a skillet on low heat. Add chopped garlic and anchovies; cook until fragrant and lightly browned. Do not burn. Remove pan from heat; swirl to cool. Add dry white wine to pan. When pasta is done, drain well. Add pasta to skillet. Toss to coat, cooking on low heat for one minute. Remove from heat; add yarrow mixture. Toss to incorporate. Transfer pasta to individual serving bowls. Garnish with fresh parmesan cheese. Serve with a tossed garden salad.

Xanadu Pasta Salad

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Xanadu Pasta Salad! At first glance, this may appear as a five-minute throw-together meal. Think again. In actuality, the magic begins once half the ingredients are combined and tucked away in the refrigerator for a couple days to marinate. At this point, the pasta actually transforms into a gourmet dish you are likely to have tasted at a family-owned sandwich shoppe or small town deli. One forkful may leave you wondering if this is all a dream. Is that music I hear in the background? Xanadu. Quickly, store those thoughts in your memory bank. I have no doubt you’ll return there for more.

XANADU PASTA SALAD

Ingredients:

16 ounces vermicelli spaghetti pasta

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons seasoned salt

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 pint red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved

8 ounces small mozzarella balls, halved

1 teaspoon crushed oregano

Fresh basil, for garnish

Instructions:

Cook vermicelli according to package directions. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Combine cooked pasta, kosher salt, seasoned salt, lemon juice, and vegetable oil. Pour mixture into a gallon ziplock bag. Refrigerate for two days, turning a couple times to marinate flavors. Then pour seasoned pasta into a large bowl. Spoon in red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Add small mozzarella balls. Sprinkle with crushed oregano. Gently toss. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately. Refrigerate leftovers.

Vegetable Enriched Pasta Meatballs

What’s Cooking in Gail’s Kitchen? Table Food: Vegetable Enriched Pasta Meatballs! For a clever way to increase vegetables into your diet, think pasta. The next trip you make to the grocery store could reveal the variety of homemade pasta noodles made with puréed tomatoes, carrots, spinach, and zucchini. Many are cholesterol-free and all-natural, if that sort of thing is important to you. Read the labels carefully. The last thing you want is food coloring instead of the real deal. Chop up fresh onions, green peppers, and garlic, as you normally would. By the time you add marinara sauce and meatballs, I guarantee you the family will be asking for seconds.

VEGETABLE ENRICHED PASTA MEATBALLS

Ingredients:

14 ounces vegetable mix homemade noodles

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

1/2 green pepper, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

24-ounce jar pasta sauce, prepared

26-ounce bag frozen Italian-style meatballs, thawed

Instructions:

Bring 3-4 quarts of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the bag of vegetable in homemade noodles. Cook for 12-15 minutes, or until tender. Rinse and drain. Set aside. In a large skillet, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions, green peppers, and minced garlic. Sauté until tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add prepared pasta sauce and Italian-style meatballs. Reduce heat and cover. Cook until heated thoroughly, 15-20 minutes. Add drained vegetable pasta. Toss to coat. Keep warm until ready to serve.