Creamy Spinach & Tomato Pasta

Back in the States, I was very much an eat dinner around 7ish type of person. In high school I ate dinner with my family just about every night around the table (or counter I should really say) and in New York, I would either make a meal for myself or to share with my roommates. In Paris, I’ve found that eating anytime before 8 seems to be quite taboo. I walked into a pizza place on one of my first days in Paris around 7:15 and they said it was too early to order. How crazy is that? I guess eating later goes in line with the whole mentality of taking a much longer and enjoyable lunch here, so you’re satiated until an 8 o’clock dinner.

Trying to be the best Parisian I can while I’m here, I find that I’m falling into this pattern of eating later myself. Last night, after having a lunch around 1:00, I looked at my clock and saw that it was already 8:15 and I had yet to start making anything to eat. I had bought these tomatoes earlier in the week and didn’t want them to go bad, so even though it was late, I was still hungry and this was an easy, yet very delicious recipe to whip up in about 20 minutes. By 8:45 I was back at my computer watching some Breaking Bad. (Side note – everyone needs to watch this show. It’s so good!)

Cooking for myself if often challenging, which is why I love to bake, as baked goods are easy to transport the following day to give as gifts. Last year I at least had the option of giving my leftovers to my roommates. Now that I’m all by myself, I try to remember that whatever I’m going to make I’m probably going to have to eat for 3 or 4 days depending on how big the servings are. I guess in theory the answer to all this would be to make food in smaller quantities, but sometimes it’s easier to just use a whole onion or a whole pack of spinach instead of having small amounts of these ingredients left over, which I often find go bad before I get the chance to use again.
This is really simple pasta dish that I will not mind having in my fridge for a few days. I’ve been on a soy kick lately, as I was trying to limit my dairy intake a few weeks ago when I was feeling sick, so instead of half & half, I used soy and some ermante cheese I had in my fridge. I did notice that my cheese tended to clump up a bit, so using parmesan cheese (and possibly cows milk) the cheese mixture might combine with the pasta a little better. Cooked spinach is so delicious, especially when you add cheese. I still have some leftover, but it’s mostly pasta now, as I ate most of the spinach last night 😉 In the end, the leftovers somehow always manage to get eaten, but I can’t wait to have roommates again next year to eat it fresh!
Creamy Spinach & Tomato Pasta 

(Adapted from Eat Yourself Skinny)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 lb. whole wheat pasta (I used penne)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 (5 oz) package baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth broth
  • 1/4 cup milk, half & half or soy milk
  • 1 oz. grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/2 tsp. ground pepper
  • 1 (8 oz) container grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1 Tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS:

1) Cook pasta according to package directions.

2) While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add your sliced shallot; reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for about 1 to 2 minutes or until translucent.

3) Add spinach and broth; cover and cook for 1 minute.

4) Add milk, 3/4 of the Parmesan cheese and the black pepper.  Stir to combine; cook for 3 minutes and remove from heat.
 
5) Combine spinach mixture, pasta and tomatoes in large bowl.  Garnish with parsley and remaining cheese.

6) Enjoy 🙂

Boursin Stuffed Chicken

After a whimsical day of traversing Paris today with my friend Audrey, which included more than a few wrong turns, more to come on that later, we returned to my apartment to make this delicious dish for dinner and watch Julie & Julia. It was pretty much a perfect Paris day. I’d been wanting to make this chicken for ages – doesn’t anything stuffed with cheese just have to be good – and it was a wonderful way to inaugurate my new kitchen with a full dinner.

I was super excited to use my oven for the first time, which turned out to be a great success. I did realize though that I have no cookie sheet. Oh dear! It’s a good thing I didn’t end up making cookies last night, otherwise I probably would have ended up eating the cookie dough all by myself after discovering I had nothing to cook them on 🙂

Now this recipe calls for a meat mallet, but in my sparsely supplied kitchen, a book seemed to do the trick just fine. 

A good helping of cheese never hurt anyone!

This is such a simple dish, but so yummy!! The original recipe called for copious amounts of bacon and pancetta, but given that I eat neither of those, I just left them out and added some cut up vegetables and dill instead. It turned out just as good, although I’m sure the flavors of the bacon would have been delicious too.

We had a little baked cauliflower and a some Israeli salad that I had made the other day, and voila, the perfect little meal. Of course, we had our fair share of wine and bread too 😉

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 pckg. Boursin cheese (I used the generic type they had in the super market)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 10-12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cut up carrot
  • 1 cut up medium onion
  • dill for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Lightly oil the bottom of a deep oven pan, in my case a pizza pan.

3. Place one piece of the chicken breast on top of a piece of Saran wrap. Cover with another piece and gently beat it with the rounded end of a metal ladle or  a meat tenderizer – I used a book. Repeat with second piece until both are fairly thin.

4. Generously spread cheese over both chicken pieces – you could add additional spices here too if you wanted.

5. Roll both pieces up like a burrotio, keeping the seam down. Place onto pan and season with lemon, salt and pepper.

6. Add chopped up carrot and onion to pan.

7. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until chicken is tender.

Enjoy 🙂

Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins

Have I ever mentioned that I like pumpkin 😉 I think it goes without saying that ever since getting this cookbook for my birthday last month, I have been dying to make these muffins! It saddens me so much to think, that while you can buy canned pumpkin anytime of the year, it’s really a fall season flavor. I have decided that I will not let this pumpkin stereotype hinder me and I shall continue to bake with pumpkin all year long, no matter the weather!

These were super easy to make and would be the perfect breakfast muffin if one decided to wake up just 3o minutes early. Once all the wet and dry ingredients have been added together, the dough may seem a little dry, but not worry, as this is normal. Be sure to add some pepitas and extra cheese on top to give it that last boost of yumminess. These are definitely a little bit on the spicy side, but I’m sure one could leave out the cayenne and black pepper and they would still be quite enjoyable.

PUMPKIN CHEDDAR MUFFINS

Adapted from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Revisited

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups (about 4 ounces) grated sharp cheddar
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, optional

DIRECTIONS:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a 12-cup muffin pan.

2) In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and sour cream. Add the eggs and butter and whisk until combined.

3) In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper and brown sugar.

4) Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well, and fold until just combined. Fold in three-quarters of the cheese.

5) Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Sprinkle the remaining cheddar and the pumpkin sees on top of the muffins. Bake them for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

6) Let the muffin pan cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out the muffins. Serve them warm. Makes 12 muffins.

7) Enjoy!