Skillet Gnocchi with Brussels Sprouts

We’ve talked before about how we can roast gnocchi instead of boiling it – you can see the recipe for Roasted Veggies and Gnocchi here.

Did you know you can also cook shelf stable gnocchi in a skillet? You can, and I’m going to show you how. 😉

First, you pour your favorite wine into your favorite wine glass.

10 oz shaved brussels sprouts
500 g shelf stable gnocchi, uncooked
Zest from 1 lemon
4 T butter (in 1 T pats)
Olive Oil
Kosher salt
Red pepper flakes
3/4 c shredded parmesan cheese

Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil into the pan and add the brussels sprouts. Sprinkle with about a teaspoon of kosher salt and cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often. Add 1/2 the lemon zest and cook for another 5 minutes or until done. Remove to plate.

Into the same skillet, add another drizzle-1 tablespoon olive oil and add gnocchi in a single layer. Cook for 3-4 minutes without stirring. Continue cooking, stirring often until soft and golden on all sides. Add butter the skillet (separate it through the pan, though, don’t drop it all in one spot. 😉 ) and allow it to cook down until it’s browned and smells a bit nutty.

Add brussels sprouts back to skillet, add salt and pepper to taste. To serve, top with red pepper flakes, lemon zest, and fresh parmesan. Enjoy!

Creamy Salsa Verde, but not really

Look, I will try to cook anything at least once.

I’ve never made a salsa verde or tomatillo sauce or green sauce or or or…

After a friend shared a food memory with me, I had to try it.

Hello, beautiful.

To make this gorgeous dish, you’ll do a few simple things with a few simple ingredients. 😉 One note before you start, I used my Vitamix blender and would recommend a heavy duty, large capacity blender for this recipe.

About 2 pounds tomatillos – I think I had a bit more than that
2 serrano peppers, remove seeds if you’d like it less spicy
4-6 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
about 1 cup cilantro
1 – 8 oz block of cream cheese, softened
about 1/2 – 1 cup crema*
1 pound spaghetti, cooked

Turn oven to broil – mine has a high and low setting, I used the high setting, and my oven rack is in the middle.

Remove outer layer of tomatillos and toss in a sink of water – they can be quite sticky, if you’ve never worked with them before — and wash them well. Cut the tomatillos in half, not top to bottom, though, but through the middle like you might cut open a biscuit. Place them on a baking sheet, flesh side down, drizzle with olive oil, and pop them in the oven for about 12-14 minutes. You want them to have a bit of char.

If you’re not quite as obnoxious as me, and you choose to make a smaller batch, you can use one baking sheet for all of it, but I’m extra.

While those are in the oven, cut the tops off the peppers and remove seeds, if you want. The more seeds you leave in, the spicier it’ll be – you do you. Rough chop the onion. Add the peppers, onion, and garlic to the other baking sheet.

Remove the tomatillos when they’re soft and have a decent char. Pop in the sheet with the peppers, for about 12 minutes, and remove when they are soft and have a nice char.

Wait about 10 minutes for the peppers to cool and rest a bit and then begin adding to the blender – tomatillos (and all their juices), peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro, and cream cheese. Pulse until well blended. Remove from blender into a large saucepan or skillet. Add the crema beginning with about 1/2 cup. Season with a bit of kosher salt and warm through. If it’s still a bit too spicy, add more crema. The consistency should be a bit thinner than alfredo sauce and a little chunky. Taste and season as you see fit.

This sauce can be used over chicken enchiladas, as a dip for nachos or tortilla chips, on top of burritos or tacos, or like I did it here – over spaghetti.

If I’d had some monterey jack cheese, I would’ve added it on top, I didn’t, but you should. 😉

*crema is table cream and can be found in the refrigerated area of the grocery store near the Mexican cheeses. If you can’t find crema, you can use sour cream, but please look for the crema. It’s worth it.

Penne with Chicken and Alfredo Sauce

My son will eat lots of things. He’s not particularly picky. His favorite dish and most requested for his birthday dinner is Taco Salad. He’s easy to please in the food department! Another favorite of his is “Chicken Alfredo” — so delicious.

When I was getting processed foods out of my diet a zillion years ago, it forced me to learn how to make lots of things that were really easy to buy already made. Alfredo sauce was surprisingly easy to make, much easier than I expected due to it’s decadent taste. I always make mine with chicken, but that can be skipped, obviously, if chicken isn’t your jam!

This is also one of those dishes that is hard to measure out and I’m pretty positive I’ve never measured any of it. So, exactly everything below is an estimate! Alfredo sauce is very much a feel and taste recipe!

Olive oil
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Italian Seasoning
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick, I used a bit less, but I want you to live your best life)
1 c heavy cream, warmed
1 c milk (I used 2%), warmed
2-3 T flour
2 c parmesan, freshly grated
Penne pasta, cooked according to package directions

Wash and pat dry chicken breasts. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season one side of the chicken with salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of Italian seasoning. Once the oil is warm, lay the chicken, seasoned side down in the skillet. While it’s cooking, season the other side the same way. Cook for about 5-6 minutes each side – the chicken will NOT be done. Remove from pan to a cutting board.

While the chicken cools off, begin the alfredo sauce in the same pan. Cut up the stick of butter and add to the pan, add the garlic and cook for about one minute. Now we’re making a roux – add the flour – start with two heaping tablespoons and stir, scrapping up any bits left from the chicken in the pan. If it’s still a bit runny, add a tiny bit of flour at a time. We want it to have the consistency of … uhm, wet or kinetic sand? LOL
We’re cooking off the flour so it’s not raw… it should turn a light tan.

Once there, start adding the warmed cream. (I just blast it for a minute or so in the microwave – I don’t want to add cold cream to a hot pan.) Stir. Add milk. Stir. Add more cream. Stir. Add more milk. Stir. Add cheese (please don’t use the stuff in the can or the bag, grate it fresh from the block, please and thank you.). This is where the feel comes into play. We want it to be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, but not stick there. It’ll take some practice. Season with salt and pepper. And maybe Italian seasoning if that’s how you wanna roll. It’s definitely how I wanna roll.

Cut chicken into chunks or slices or star shapes if that’s how you wanna do things – add to pan with sauce. Mix well. Reduce heat to low-medium, and cook for about 15 minutes, until the chicken is done. Taste your sauce. Adjust to your taste. Serve over pasta of your choice. Top with more fresh cheese. Or eat it straight from the pan – do you, boo boo. Enjoy!

Enchilada Stuffed Shells

There is something incredibly comforting about pasta – amiright? It comes in various shapes, flavor combos, and toppings – it’s so versatile, and that’s part of its charm.

I’ve been making this recipe for decades and, for the first time, I tried to measure out the ingredients so I could share it here. I confess that it feels like it’s going against everything that seems natural. I’m focused on the greater good of pasta lovers everywhere, though, so I’m just gonna suck it up. 😉

2-2 1/2 lbs ground beef
1/2 an onion, diced
Salt and pepper
12 oz box of jumbo pasta shells
16 oz can refried beans
28 oz can red enchilada sauce (you won’t use all of it, maybe)
2 cups shredded cheese (you can use cheddar, Monterey Jack, Colby Jack, whatever you like!)
1 t seasoned pepper
1/2 t garlic salt
2 T chili powder
1 t cumin
Tad more salt and pepper (that’s my official measuring tool)
1/2 t red pepper flakes (or to your liking, don’t let me boss you around in your own kitchen)

Cook noodles according to package, about 15 minutes. While noodles are cooking, in a large skillet, brown ground beef with some salt and pepper. After it begins to brown throughout, add the onion. Cook until done. Spoon off the excess grease—return pan to burner.

When noodles are done, drain (reserving 1 c of pasta water) and rinse under cold water.

Add refried beans to ground beef and mix until combined. Add seasonings. Mix in the pasta water, start with 1/2 cup, and add more as needed. The consistency should be a bit wetter than taco meat – unless you like really wet taco meat… then, I don’t know how to help you – but not runny. Mix until it’s heated through; taste to see if you need a bit more salt or garlic or pepper. If you do, add it! The best thing about cooking is making it taste exactly how we like it to taste. 😉

Let the ground beef mixture cool some – unless you’re like me and have already burned your fingertips enough to not care about burning them some more.

Preheat oven to 375. Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray for easier cleanup, and pour enough enchilada sauce to cover the bottom.

Now you’re going to set up a bit of an assembly system. I put the pasta on the left, the 9×13 pan in the middle, and the ground beef on my right. It makes sense for me, but adjust it however you like. Pick up a shell, open it with thumb and forefinger, and then use a spoon (I use the one just above the cereal spoon, but not quite the serving spoon sized one) to fill it with the meat and bean mixture. Don’t overstuff it, but don’t be shy either. I initially put them in rows in the pan and then just squeeze them in to use up every bit of space. Once you have a single layer, you can either grab another pan or be super classy like me and add a double-decker layer in the same pan. I’m okay with that decision.

Once they’re all stuffed, pour enchilada sauce over all of them. You’ll mostly want to make sure all the pasta has some sauce on it, so it doesn’t dry out in the baking process. You will likely not use all the sauce, but the large can allows you to be more generous with it. Someday, I’ll share the recipe for homemade enchilada sauce, but we’re just gonna do this version for now because it’s easy. Mkay…

Place in the oven, uncovered, for about 15 minutes until the cheese is melty and lovely. You’re welcome to garnish with fresh cilantro, crema, diced tomatoes. I didn’t do any of that because I just didn’t. I have no excuses. Enjoy!

Probably too close of a closeup! :p