Friday, September 25, 2015

Pumpkin Sage Pasta

Fall is here, and so that means we will be eating LOTS of pumpkin in my house for the next several weeks. My first post of the Fall season is a vegetarian pasta dish with a creamy pumpkin sauce, fresh sage, and melted cheese. My mom sent me the recipe and brought over fresh sage from her garden the other day, so I made the pasta and served it to everyone for lunch. It was really good! I have not cooked much with sage before, and after cooking this dish, I would like to try more recipes with it. This pumpkin sage pasta is easy to prepare, and it is a very satisfying meal. If you are not worried about making it vegetarian, you can top it with cooked bacon or a mild crumbled sausage instead of the crispy sage. I loved the crispy sage on top of it, but Greg really liked having bacon on his! Now that I have cooked my first pumpkin dish of the season, I am thinking about what my first pumpkin dessert of the season will be, and a pumpkin cheesecake keeps popping into my head. That will probably be my next post! I hope you like this recipe, and I hope you are enjoying the Fall weather where you live as much as I am loving it here in Maryland.

Recipe for Pumpkin Sage Pasta

12 ounces of pasta (good choices would be farfalle, penne, ziti)
3 Tbsp. of unsalted butter
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup of all-purpose flour
2 cups of whole milk
1 cup of canned pumpkin 
A couple pinches of nutmeg
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/3 cup of chopped fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 1/4 cups of sharp white cheddar cheese
For the crispy sage topping
1 Tbsp. of extra-virgin olive oil 
1/3 cup of fresh sage leaves, sliced thin

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter an oven-safe dish (9x13, 2" deep). 
Cook the pasta according to package directions to al dente, then drain in a colander.
While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Put the butter in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Once butter is melted, add in the garlic and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes. Add the flour to the pan and stir until the flour is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Then slowly pour in the milk and use a whisk to mix. When milk is mixed in and mixture is smooth, add in the pumpkin and continue to whisk. Cook until the sauce is thickened, about 5 - 7 minutes. Then remove from heat and add in the nutmeg, salt, pepper, fresh sage, and  1/4 cup of the Parmesan cheese. Stir in the pasta and coat it with the sauce. Spread the pasta into the prepared pan. Top evenly with the sharp white cheddar cheese and the remaining Parmesan. Cover the top of the dish with foil and place in the oven to cook. Cook for 15 minutes. A few minutes before the pasta is finished cooking, make the crispy sage topping, if using. Heat a small saucepan on medium high heat. Once hot, add in the olive oil and let it coat the pan. Add in the sage leaves and cook until crispy but not burnt, 2 - 3 minutes. Remove the pasta from the oven and sprinkle the crispy sage over it, or you can sprinkle it over each individual serving. 

You can also top the pasta with cooked bacon pieces or a mild crumbled sausage if you don't care about it not being a vegetarian meal!

Recipe Makes approximately 8 servings
Recipe Adapted from: Oh My Veggies

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

I like things in my life to be fairly simple. That is why this slow cooker chicken tortilla soup recipe is a winner in my book. The soup itself requires barely any prep time at all. If you want to really save time with this recipe, you can opt out of doing the tortilla crisps, and just use store-bought tortilla chips instead. I think the tortilla crisps add a nice touch, though. Greg and I enjoyed the chicken tortilla soup for lunch and dinner last week. We topped it with avocado, sour cream, white cheddar cheese, and the tortilla strips. I found that the soup actually tasted even better after being in the fridge for about a day, since it gave a chance for the flavors to meld together even more. I will definitely be making this soup many times this fall and winter! I hope you will give it a try, too. Enjoy!

Recipe for Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

For the soup
5 cups of chicken broth
1 (29-ounce) can of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup of diced yellow onion
4 cloves of garlic, pressed (or 1 tsp. of garlic powder)
2 tsp. of cumin powder
1 Tbsp. of chili powder
1 tsp. of paprika
1/2 tsp. of ground coriander
A pinch or two of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 (14.5-ounce) cans of  black beans
2 cups of frozen corn
2 Tbsp. of freshly squeezed lime juice
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro leaves, torn (buy U.S. grown)

For the tortilla strips
4 8-inch flour tortillas
2 Tbsp. of vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. of ground cumin
1/4 tsp. of cayenne pepper

For topping
Chopped avocado
Grated cheese (we used sharp cheddar)
Sour cream (or full-fat Greek yogurt)
A few cilantro leaves

For the soup
Put the chicken broth, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and spices into the bowl of a slow cooker. Add the salt and pepper. Drop the chicken into the mixture, cover with the slow cooker lid, and cook on low heat for 6 hours (or until chicken is cooked and shreds easily with a fork).
Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken from the slow cooker and transfer to a plate. Use a fork to shred the chicken into smallish pieces. Then add the chicken back to the slow cooker and stir in the beans, corn, lime juice, and cilantro. Cook for an additional 10 - 15 minutes. While it finishes cooking, make the tortilla strips.

Once tortilla strips are finished, ladle the soup into bowls and top with grated cheese, sour cream (or full-fat Greek yogurt), chopped avocado, and tortilla strips.

*If you make the soup later in the day like I did, ladle the soup into airtight containers and store in the fridge. Reheat in a pan over medium-low heat on the stove top. I actually found that the soup got even better leftover because the flavors melded together more in the fridge! 

For the tortilla strips
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet with Misto or Pam.  In a small bowl, stir the oil and spices together. Brush each side of a tortilla lightly with the oil mixture (about 1/2 tsp.per side - you will not use all of the mixture). Then stack the flour tortillas together on a cutting board and cut into desired sized strips.. Put the strips in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle salt over top. Place in oven and cook until crispy, about 10 - 15 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet until ready to use. Any leftovers can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days.

Chicken Tortilla Soup Recipe makes approximately 8 servings.

Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe adapted from: Cooking Classy
 Tortilla Strips recipe adapted from: