Quick and Easy Chicken & Veggie Pasta Bake (gluten free!)

A few weeks ago, my sister and I ended up both being home at the same time on a Sunday night. We had been texting earlier in the day with regards to what we should make for dinner. She had picked up some new-to-her pasta at Target, so I suggested that we use that and the veggies I had leftover in the fridge to make a pasta bake. She was bummed that she bought a gluten free pasta on accident, but we both agreed that you couldn’t tell the difference whatsoever!

The beauty about pasta bakes- similar to stuffed peppers– is that you really can’t go wrong. You use what you have in the fridge for veggies and go from there. If you don’t have meat, no biggie- make it a vegetarian dish! I happened to have half a pound of ground chicken in the freezer so I was able to defrost that and it was perfect.

gluten free chicken and veggie pasta bake

Ingredients

  • 1 package of gluten free pasta (regular, if you didn’t accidently by gluten free like my sister did 😉 )
  • veggies of your choice- we used onion, red pepper, zucchini and summer squash- probably 1/2 cup of each
  • Ground meat- we used 1/2 lb. of ground chicken, but you could use turkey or beef or none if you wanted to have a vegetarian dish
  • 1/2 jar of marinara sauce
  • 1/2 cup of cheese (mozzarella was our choice)

Directions

1. Pre-heat oven to 350*. Cook pasta according to the back of the package.

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2. While the water is heating and the pasta cooking, cut up and sauté your veggies. When the veggies are soft, remove from the pan and add in the ground meat. Sauté until completely browned.

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3. When the pasta is cooked, drain and add to a big bowl. Add in the veggies, meat and sauce and mix so that everything is coated with sauce. Pour in a 8X8 or 9X9 casserole dish and bake at 350* for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese has a golden brown appearance.

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We broiled ours a little and this was the end result:

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This meal hit the spot on a cool Sunday evening. It was also a dish that- surprisingly- reheated really well! I’m not a huge pasta person, but every once and a while I crave and enjoy a nice pasta dish.

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Questions for you: Do you ever make pasta bakes? What are the ingredients you like to add? Have you ever had gluten free pasta?

 

Tomato, Cucumber, Corn & Spinach Quinoa “Salad”

Well that’s a mouthful, huh? In an attempt to amp up my boring lunches, a few weeks ago I whipped up a batch of this quinoa dish. I based it off of this Caprese Orzo Salad recipe, but changed quite a few things. What I loved about this dish was that it was filling, super flavorful and chock full of good stuff!

quinoa salad

Ingredients

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  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 1 cup chopped seedless cucumber
  • 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes
  • Corn from 1 ear of corn
  • 1 big handful of spinach
  • Goat Cheese (I just used maybe a tablespoon?)
  • Âœ cup EVOO
  • ÂŒ cup White wine vinegar (or red wine)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Few big shakes of crushed red pepper
  • Juice from Âœ a lemon

Directions

  1. Cook quinoa according to the back of the package. While that’s cooking, chop up your veggies.

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2. Sautee or wilt the spinach as the quinoa is cooling.

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3. Combine the EVOO, vinegar, S&P, crushed red pepper and lemon juice in a separate bowl.

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4. Once the quinoa has cooled, add the spinach, corn, cucumber, tomato and cheese and mix together. Add in the ‘dressing’ and refrigerate for an hour before serving.

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This dish lasted me throughout the week and I loved eating it alone, on top of my salad and even with some chicken mixed in.

Questions for you: What’s your favorite non-traditional salad? How do you “spice up” your salads?

Weekending: Moving, moving & more moving

Yup. Moving was the jist of my weekend starting on Thursday night. I keep telling everyone that moving to a new floor in the same building is just as hard, if not harder, than moving to an entirely new building! Instead of packing things up and doing a few big trips, I ended up not packing and just making a million trips up and down the stairs every time I needed something. It was a bad way to go about the move, let me tell you that!

After a few hours of strenuous moving on Thursday night, I had a glass of wine then treated my helpers to pizza and wine from Santarpio’s.

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#prioritiespeople Clearly wine is the first thing that should be in a fridge. Booze helps moving suck less 😉

I hadn’t been to Santarpio’s since my birthday weekend, and boy was I craving it! Per usual, Santarpio’s did not disappoint. Look at these bad boys!

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My parents came down on Friday to help my sister with her stuff (she’s moving in with me for a few months), so I rushed home after work to join the party. I was pleasantly surprised when I walked in and saw this beautiful bouquet of flowers from RM. For those of you who don’t know, he’s actually my landlord and that’s how we met 🙂 Last year, when I was just his tenant, he knew I was nervous about moving and surprised me with a bottle of wine and little note in my fridge. This year, as my boyfriend, he left flowers… I’m a lucky girl!

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I took a quick break for dinner (we ordered from Jeveli’s) and continued working until 8:30.. yuck! It was fun having my parents around, though. Dad broke in my new deck, I toasted to the new apartment and we all indulged on delicious food!

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I didn’t sleep a wink on Friday night, so I was up and making trips up and down the stairs at 7am on Saturday. This wasn’t a good idea before teaching cardio kickboxing! I was such a space cadet in class 😩 and tired- physically really tired!

Once I got back, it was nice to do some more organizing and a few additional trips. My downstairs neighbor, Lauren, came up for wine and snacks later that evening- it was such a fun night! It felt weird to sleep at home by myself on a Saturday night, though… and even more weird to wake up on a Sunday and have a quiet place to myself… I took advantage of it and watched tv and blogged. I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve done that! I was even able to eat lunch out on my deck- such a beautiful day.

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The rest of Sunday was spent moving the final pieces of stuff from my old place, cleaning it and doing the last bit of organizing in my new place. I went to Target and picked up some new curtains and a lamp- what do you think of the place so far?

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I finally decided it was time to put together some dinner. Salads have been making me gag lately, so I knew I needed to prep enough food to bring for lunch and eat throughout the week. Since my dad brought me all these veggies, I tried to put them to good use.

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I made a big ol’ batch of roasted veggies, including carrots, parsnips and onions from my dads garden and sweet potato and butternut squash (side note: I originally typed SQUAT instead of squash… i have issues) from the store. I just put coconut oil, salt, pepper and garlic salt on them and roasted them at 400* for about an hour.

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On the side, I made some stuffed peppers with the peppers that my dad gave me. I put onions, summer squash, zucchini, broccoli, black beans and ground chicken in them. SO good!

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I made some ground chicken burgers with the leftover ground chicken. Thank goodness I had wine to keep me going through all that food prep!

So, there’s my weekend. I have to say- it was really nice being around on Sunday without a million plans. My sister was gone all day, so even though I got lonely by 7ish, it was a super relaxing day where I was able to do what I wanted when I wanted. I need more days like that 🙂

Questions for you: What was the best part of your weekend? Did you make any good meals? Do you food prep for the week? What’s a way to spice up a salad?

Quinoa, Black Bean, Veggie & Spinach Stuffed Peppers

For me, Sunday mornings usually consist of getting up, having a relaxing breakfast while watching TV and then thinking about what I want to make for dinner. It’s easy to always think back to the same things, but I try to make something new each week because my list of things “to make” is, seemingly, never-ending. This past Sunday, though, I wasn’t in the mood for anything labor intensive, but I knew I wanted something healthy and “homey”. After a little brain searching, I decided I would make stuffed peppers! I’ve made stuffed peppers before, but since I never make the “stuffing” the same way, I figured it would be like trying a new recipe!

The best part of the recipe? It was so easy! As I was making it, I actually thought to myself “wow. Not a lot of chopping or simmering or dishes. Awesome”.

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Quinoa, Black Bean, Veggie & Spinach Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients (my recipe makes 2 stuffed peppers)

  • 2 Green Peppers
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1tbsp minced garlic
  • 1tbsp EVOO
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn
  • 1/4-1/2 black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • Big handful of spinach
  • 1/2 cup marinara sauce
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese (1/4-1/2 cup… or as much or as little as you want!)

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Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350*. Cut the tops off of the peppers and remove the seeds. Place on a tray and set aside. (Tip: I cut up the tops of the peppers and use that for the stuffing, too.)

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2. Cook the quinoa according to the package (1/2 cup quinoa, 1 cup of water, bring to a boil and let boil for about 12-14 mins or until the water has been absorbed). Cut up your onion and pepper tops and sautĂ© with 1tbsp minced garlic and 1tbsp EVOO. I also added a few dashes of white wine… because, well, wine why not?

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3. Rinse your beans and add those, the corn, diced tomatoes (drained) and spinach. Sauté until the spinach has wilted.

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(Note: I made way more stuffing than needed… I could’ve made 4+ peppers. whoops. The amounts above should be good for 2 peppers)

4. Add 1/2-1 cup of the cooked quinoa to 1/2-1 cup of the veggie and spinach mixture. Mix together with 1/2 cup marinara sauce and a small sprinkling of cheese (1/8-1/4 cup to keep everything together).

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5. Stuff the peppers and top with additional cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cheese starts to brown. I also broiled mine for 2 minutes to get extra browning 😉

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Mmm. Now doesn’t THAT look delicious! What I love about stuffed peppers is that they are a complete meal on their own. Veggies, protein, dairy… Love it!

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I had lots of stuffing mixture leftover and have been adding it to salads all week. I also see myself making a quesadilla with it!

Questions for you: What’s your favorite stuffed pepper stuffing? What’s your favorite meal that has all the food groups in it? When do you meal plan?

Zucchini & Summer Squash Parmesan

Hey there! Are you sick of me posting recipes revolving around zucchini and summer squash? I am 😉 This will be the last one- promise! I have just about used up all of the zucchini and summer squash that I grew in my garden, which is a really good feeling!

Both my mom and her friend, Jean (not to be confused with her other friend, Jeanne, haha), suggested that I make zucchini parmesan back when I posted my Summer Squash and Zucchini Lasagna recipe a few weeks ago, so I decided it was finally time to do that! I had a perfect zucchini to use (not too small and not obscenely big) and also decided to cut open one of the HUGE summer squash to see if it would be edible; good news- it was!

Even though the zucchini and summer squash parm would have been enough if they were just placed atop pasta, I’m trying to up my protein (still trying to figure out what protein powder to buy!) so I decided to make a meat sauce, too. Now, when I say “make a meat sauce” all I really mean is browning ground turkey and adding it to a jar of store-bought sauce. I swear, I will make REAL homemade sauce, but when you’re in a time crunch in the middle of the week, cheating a little is necessary. I also decided to add MORE veggies to the sauce because we can never have too many veggies, right? I put together the meat and veggie sauce right away so that it could simmer on the stove while I prepared the rest of the meal; this is a great way to enhance all the flavors and thicken everything up so it feels like you’re really eating homemade sauce.

Zucchini and Summer Squash Parmesan with a Veggie and Meat Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb ground turkey (or beef, if you prefer)
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 large summer squash
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup broccoli, chopped
  • 1/2 a box of whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2-1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • fresh mozzarella cheese
  • herbs/seasonings

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1. Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the spaghetti according to the directions on the back. While that is cooking, chop your veggies and cook them until they are mostly cooked (about 5-8 minutes). Remove from the pan and add the ground turkey to that same pan and cook until the meat is no longer pink.

2. Add 2 cups of marinara sauce, 1/2 cup of white wine, veggies and ground turkey to a pot. Add about 2 tbsp of Oregano, in addition to any other herbs/seasonings you may want to add (sea salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, etc.). Keep the heat low and let the sauce simmer while you prepare the zucchini and summer squash medallions.

3. Slice your zucchini and summer squash into 1/4-1/2 inch slices (you want them to be thick enough to feel “meaty”, for a lack of better words).

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4. Whisk the eggs together in 1 bowl and add the panko bread crumbs to another. Take each piece of zucchini and summer squash and coat them in the eggs first and then the panko bread crumbs. Meanwhile, have a big pan (coated with EVOO) heating on the stove. I like to brown up each side of the medallions to “crisp” them up before baking them in the oven. I did about 3 minutes on each side.

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5. Once they are all browned, layer them in a casserole dish, placing thin layers of mozzarella cheese in between layers (you can never have too much cheese!). Bake at 350* for about 30 minutes, or until the zucchini and summer squash are cooked. Broil at the end for a few minutes to brown up the cheese.

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6. Place a serving of spaghetti on the bottom of a bowl, top with the veggie/meat sauce and then the zucchini and summer squash parmesan medallions. I also added some red pepper flakes because I love them!

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This meal was delicious! There’s just something about eating veggies from your own garden that is really cool, and fresh mozzarella makes everything better 😉 Already looking forward to leftovers!

Questions for you: What’s growing the best in your garden this summer? What type of recipe would you like me to make next?? I’d love suggestions!