Spaghetti with lemon cream sauce

For some reason, I’ve been in a creamy pasta mood lately. Maybe I’ve been needing comfort food, maybe it’s just a phase, or maybe it’s seeing everyone’s Pinterest posts about creamy pasta. Who knows? In any case, I wanted something to go with our salmon fillets for dinner tonight, so I perused my Cooks Illustrated pasta cookbook and came across a simple dish of fettuccine with lemon cream sauce. We don’t typically have fettuccine, but spaghetti worked just fine. The finished dish was more than I could ever hoped for. Creamy and decadent, yet light at the same time. It went perfectly with our pan-seared salmon and steamed broccoli with butter and lemon zest (left over from the pasta dish).

Spaghetti with Lemon Cream Sauce

1 pound of dried spaghetti
1 1/3 cup plus 1/3 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (do yourself a favor and get the good stuff), lightly packed
2 teaspoons lemon zest
Salt
Pepper

In a large 6 quart pot, bring water and 1 tablespoon salt to a rolling boil. Cook pasta to al dente (or preferred tenderness) and drain. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water to thin sauce as needed (we didn’t need it).

Meanwhile, in a pot large enough to accommodate pasta, heat 1 1/3 cup cream, butter, and lemon juice over medium heat until cream just starts to simmer. Turn off heat.

Add drained pasta to sauce and add remaining 1/3 cup cream, cheese, lemon zest, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Agitate pasta using a pasta spoon or tongs and cook over low heat until sauce has thickened slightly and pasta is coated. Serve immediately.

Notes: This dish goes well with any firm fish or perhaps thinly pounded chicken breasts that have been lightly coated in flour and sautéed in olive oil or butter. Broccoli, asparagus, or any other vegetable that goes well with lemon works, too. The pasta alone was delicious enough and could easily be a meal by itself.

Hamburger Helper-style Beef (or meatless) Stroganoff

I first tried this recipe when I had a few pounds of meat I had ground up after realizing the cut of beef I bought wasn’t useful for very much.  It was an eye round roast from Costco and we had tried making roast beef with it, but it didn’t turn out very well.  So I rough-ground it to use in chili or other recipes that called for ground beef.  I like the ease of Hamburger Helper, but really hate the junk that’s in it and the amount of salt.  So a homemade version is perfect for a quick dinner.  There are other skillet meals similar to this one out there, but this one has become a favorite.  The original recipe didn’t include onions, only 4(!) mushrooms, and no mustard powder.  I think this one’s a bit better, but you can easily customize it to your liking.  We’ve also made this using Gardein meatless crumbles and it’s really good, too.

Hamburger Helper-style Beef Stroganoff

Ingredients

8 ounces white or crimini mushrooms
1 medium onion, halved and sliced (optional)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 lb ground beef or meatless crumbles
8 ounces wide egg noodles
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups hot water or beef stock
1 teaspoon Better than Bouillon Beef Base (omit if using beef stock)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4-1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, optional
2/3 cup sour cream

Directions

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and brown the mushrooms. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

2. Add the ground beef and onions, if using, and brown. Bring back to medium high heat and add the noodles, milk, beef stock, mushrooms, cornstarch, salt, pepper, paprika, and dry mustard, if using. Stir to combine and cover.

3. Lower the heat to medium and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the noodles are cooked through.

4. Add the sour cream and simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve immediately.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tinga

I’ve been searching for a really good Mexican shredded a chicken recipe for a long time now – you know that deliciously tender and moist shredded chicken you find in Mexican restaurants. I had yet to find one when I was faced with a huge chicken breast and two chicken thighs we had taken out for dinner, but were still frozen solid. I’ve been cooking various Mexican dishes for a long time (and eating them even longer), so I knew what flavors went into most basic recipes. I decided to take a chance and just combine a few things I thought would work. Let’s just say it turned out to be the juiciest, most flavorful shredded chicken I’ve ever had. I will definitely make this again and again. It’s great in burritos, tacos, on top of rice, or anything else you’d use shredded chicken for.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tinga

(See note below) Frozen or thawed boneless, skinless chicken (whatever combination of pieces you want. I recommend breasts and thighs for a mixture of flavor, fat, and texture). Use anywhere from 1-3lbs of chicken, depending on desired yield. Broth is strained and can be reserved for other things like soup.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1-2 tablespoons chili powder, to taste

1 15oz. Can tomato sauce

1 4oz. Can chopped green chilies

3 chicken bouillon cubes or 3 teaspoons chicken base

Sauté onion, pepper, and garlic in olive oil until softened and translucent. Place chicken pieces on top of onion and pepper. In a bowl, combine remaining ingredients, crumbling bouillon cubes into mixture. Pour over chicken and cover. Cook on high for 3-4 hours. Shred chicken in slow cooker. Use a slotted spoon to remove shredded chicken from broth. Broth may be saved for another use or poured over burritos for a wet burrito (which was scrumptious).

NOTE: This recipe makes quite a bit of broth, so you have some flexibility in the amount of chicken you use. I used about a pound and a half of frozen chicken, but could have used up to three pounds. You may want to add a little extra cumin and chili powder if you use more chicken.