The BEST Healthy Pasta Casserole!

This was supposed to be my birthday lasagna… and it turned into an amazing birthday pasta casserole because all 3 of my grocery stores didn’t have brown rice lasagna noodles! (Gluten free) This is a great, simple dish to prepare for a large group, or, great for meal prep! You can totally put this in the freezer in individual servings. Great for gluten free or vegetarian guests! A healthier version of lasagna for sure. Feel free to substitute the pasta for lasagna! I made it in layers so it can easily be switched!

For 12-16 servings, you’ll need these ingredients. Feel free to chop them in half!

36 oz pasta

16 oz raw spinach

1 egg

16 oz of ricotta

1/2 tsp salt/pepper

1 onion

3 green squash

4 cups mozzarella

Handful of fresh basil

48 oz tomato sauce

Directions:

  1. Put a large pot of water up to boil for pasta. In another pan, heat up the olive oil and saute the spinach.
  2. Once it has cooked down, you need to drain the liquid. Put the spinach in a colander and use a spatula to  squeeze it out.
  3. In a bowl, beat an egg, add the ricotta cheese and mix together.
  4. Add the spinach, salt and pepper, and mix until all ingredients are well combined.
  5. When your water boils, add the pasta and cook al dente.
  6. Cut up the opinions, add olive oil and saute in the same skillet you used to cook the spinach.
  7. Slice your zucchini thin and saute with the onions.
  8. When your pasta is al dente, drain it and put back in the pot. Make sure to add a bit of olive oil so it doesn’t stick together.
  9. Once the zucchini has cooked down, add in the sauce. Stir together and cook for a few minutes
  10. Now we build. First layer is 1/3 of the pasta, next is the sauce, fresh basil, half of the ricotta mixture, 1/3 of the shredded mozzarella, and half of the zucchini.

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  1. Then another layer of pasta, sauce, basil, the rest of the ricotta, 1/3 of the mozzarella, and the rest of the zucchini. Top it off with pasta, sauce and the rest of the mozz.
  2. Add some fresh black pepper to the top and cover the tray with tin foil.
  3. Place in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. When the timer goes off, take the tin foil off and bake for another 10 minutes.
  4. Then, put the broiler on high to get the cheese toasty, leaving the oven open a bit so you can watch it. It will only take a minute or two.
  5. casserole 2
  6. Once it comes out, let it sit for a few minutes before cutting.

BOOM! Everyone will love it!!

casserole 3

Let me know how it comes out and if you made any substitutions!

Make it a great week,

Stephanie

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Pasta Primavera – One Pot Meal!

Doesn’t get easier than this! 15 minute meal – all made in ONE POT! Healthy, gluten free, dairy free and absolutely delicious! This pasta primavera recipe will become a staple in your house, everyone will love it! And whoever is cooking will love it, because it’s no hassle to make and even better, no hassle to CLEAN!

Do not make this in advance or it won’t be creamy. Make it and be ready to serve as soon as it’s finished! Feel free to double the recipe. These amounts will comfortably serve 3-4 people.

8 oz pasta (gluten free, brown rice pasta, whole wheat, etc)
4 cups vegetable broth
1 yellow onion
2 cups broccoli florets (about 1 head)
1 bunch of asparagus
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbls olive oil
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1/3 cup coconut milk
8 oz white beans
1 tbls lemon juice (plus extra for garnish)

1. Cut up the onion, broccoli and asparagus.

2. In a large pot, add the pasta, broth, onion, broccoli, asparagus, salt, pepper and olive oil. Stir, cover and bring to a boil.

3. Once it boils, set a timer for 7 minutes and continue to boil.

4. After 7 minutes, add in the parsley, beans and coconut milk. Boil for another 2-3 minutes and when most of the liquid has absorbed and the pasta is al dente, you’re ready to serve! Toss with the fresh lemon juice before serving.

If you’re not a vegetarian and want to add some protein, go for it! Chicken, shrimp or salmon would be delicious! If it’s already cooked, add it in at the last second just to warm it. If it hasn’t been cooked yet, you can add it in raw and it will cook when your pot boils! I’ve done that in some of my other one pot meals, check them out!

Enjoy!

Stephanie

 

 

 

Stuffed Shells with Ricotta and Spinach

I think stuffed shells deserve more credit. They are so easy to make and absolutely delicious! As soon as I tried one after making it the first time, I immediately said, “wow, this is special.” They really are! Easy and absolutely delicious. The spinach and ricotta filling is just divine. Enjoy!

1 tbls olive oil

14 shells

4 oz raw spinach

1 egg

½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

8 oz ricotta cheese

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

20 oz tomato sauce

Fresh basil (optional)

Grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Hardly any preparation. The majority of the time it took was the fact that it had to cook 40 minutes. These ingredients will make 14 shells, which is more than enough for two people. If you’re serving more, just double the recipe!

1. Boil water for the pasta shells. Cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Do not cook all the way, because the will continue to cook in the oven!

2. In the meantime, sauté the spinach. Once it has wilted, place in a colander and press out any excess liquid. Spinach is a very watery vegetable!

3. In a small bowl, beat the egg. Add the mozzarella, ricotta, spinach, salt and pepper. Mix until well combined.

4. Place about half of the sauce at the bottom of a small, shallow baking dish.

5. By now, the pasta should be ready. Drain the water and get ready for the fun part of stuffing the shells!

6. Stuff the shells with the mixture. Place in the baking dish. Add some more sauce and mozzarella to the top. Cover with tin foil and cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Then, uncover and cook another 10 minutes.

7. Place on a serving plate and add fresh basil, cracked black pepper and parmesan cheese.

Great for Valentine’s Day!!

Send some pictures!! Enjoy.

Stephanie

Rosemary Lemon Chicken with Asparagus

I absolutely love this dish in the summertime. My dad is growing a rosemary plant and it smells soooo goooood! Makes me want to cook with rosemary constantly!

I came home very late a few nights ago, absolutely worn out, and I was ready to just eat anything, especially if it was unhealthy. I hate when that happens! I decided not to let my exhaustion get the best of me, and besides, that’s what I preach as Chef Stef, that you can cook a healthy meal quickly, so stop eating food that is NOT good for you!! 🙂

Put up a pot of rice, or water for pasta.  Start prepping your other ingredients.

Grab some chicken breasts, one per person. Or, make extra for leftovers! Cut into pieces. Rinse a quarter of a bunch of asparagus per person.  I made half a bunch, enough for two people, which is about 10 stalks. Snap off the end parts and discard. Snap the rest of the stalks into small, 2 inch pieces.

When your rice or pasta has 10 minutes left on the timer, in a saucepan or wok, heat 1 tsp of olive oil and 1 tsp of rosemary. Saute until fragrant, about a minute. Add the chicken. Add 1 tsp of salt and pepper, and the juice of half of a lemon, which is a little less than 1/4 of a cup. Stir together and cover.  Let the chicken cook on medium/low heat for 3 minutes. Uncover and place the chicken in a bowl on the side. Leave some of the lemon and chicken juice in the pan.

Add the asparagus to the pan with some of the leftover juice. Cover and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.  Add the chicken back in.  Stir and it’s ready!!

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Super simple and SOOO delicious. Not only will your nose be thrilled, but your tastebuds will certainly be thanking you 🙂

Have a classy week!
Chef Stef

 

Pesto Shrimp Pasta

Gourmet meal in 20 minutes! Under 500 calories, under $7 a serving and it’s deeeelicious!

My friend Brad sent me a recipe a few weeks ago.  I was busy when the message came through, but glanced quickly and thought, “asparagus and shrimp and pesto??… weeeird”.  I tried it a few days ago, with some modifications, and it was amazing!! Very simple and as Brad called it, “Chef Stef worthy”. Thanks, Brad!

You’ll need:

1 asparagus bunch

1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 lb. pasta

3 tbls olive oil

2 cups fresh basil

1/4 cup lemon juice

3 garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 tsp of salt

Put up a pot of water to boil, with salt, for the pasta.

Rinse the asparagus and snap off the ends.  They will break where they should, if you cut them, you may cut off more than necessary! There’s no need to dirty a cutting board and knife! Once you snap off the rough ends, snap the rest of the spear into thirds.

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In a large skillet, heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add the asparagus and 1/4 tsp of salt. Stir and cook on medium heat. By now, the water should be boiling, so add the pasta!

Time to make the simple pesto sauce. In a small blender, add the basil, lemon juice, garlic and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Blend until smooth, just a few seconds.

When your pasta only has 4 minutes left to cook, add the shrimp to the asparagus. Spread them out so they are evenly distributed. After 2 minutes, flip the shrimp to the other side and then mix together with the asparagus.

Drain the pasta and add the pesto sauce. Gently toss to coat. Add the shrimp and asparagus to the pasta and again, gently toss. That’s it! IMG_8713

Serve with grated cheese and squeeze some lemon on top! IMG_8719

Doesn’t get much easier than that! You can do it, I believe in you 🙂

Happy cooking!

 

 

 

Chicken Thighs with Garlic, Thyme and Lemon

So, once upon a time, when I went to buy my weeks supply of chicken breasts at the grocery, I saw a giant package of chicken thighs and thought, “These are so cheap, but what could I do with all thighs?”  Watch the video, find out what I came up with, and then continue to read below!

As you just saw, it’s pretty simple!  I’ve made it for a party of 9, and I’ve also only made 2 for myself.  It’s a good thing to learn how to season and prepare meat.  That goes for any type of meat! It’s a good skill to have and the sooner you learn it, the sooner your food will taste even more delicious!

I got the idea from my grandma, who has a vague memory of a recipe from her mother of how to make lemon chicken thighs.  The skin is always so crispy and the meat is so tender, but every time she makes it, she complains, “It doesn’t taste like my mothers.”  I’m serious people.  The most important piece of information you can take away from this blog post is, write down recipes from your elders.  Especially recipes that they know from their elders!  Even videotape it for prosperity!  I promise one day you’ll be so thankful you did.

Ingredients:

6 Chicken Thighs (make 1-2 per person)

1 lemon, or 3 tablespoons of lemon juice

Head of garlic

Olive Oil

Salt/Pepper

Thyme Seasoning (about 2 tablespoons)

3 Carrots

6 Tomatoes

1 lb. Pasta (if making a different side dish, go for it!!)

Directions:

1. Set oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut up your tomatoes and carrots. Cut the carrots lengthwise, and then in thirds.  Or, you can buy baby carrots and save the step of cutting them up.  The tomatoes, you can cut in quarters.  Lay them on one half of your baking tray.  Or, if you want to make more of the vegetable, you can use any veggie you want, cut them up and put them in a separate tray.  Fill the entire tray!  You can use eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, carrots…whatever you can think of to make an awesome tray of roasted veggies!!

3. We need to take the moisture out of the skin on the chicken by patting each thigh with paper towels. By doing this, the skin will be crispier. No need to rinse off the chicken. It is a common old practice that began because people believed it was a way to wash off bacteria. However, the USDA has stated that when you cook your chicken, all of the bacteria will die off.  So, you can save yourself the time of washing off chicken.  It will also save your sink, faucet and countertops from being splashed with bacteria! (Here’s the link to the info I found on the United States Department of Agriculture’s website, http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/2ceaa425-0488-4e86-a397-e2d9c470fc4a/Washing_Food.pdf?MOD=AJPERES)

4. Now, we season the chicken. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil on the thighs.  Adjust accordingly if you’re making more! Drizzle a tablespoon of lemon. Add about a teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Use your fingers to rub the seasoning into the chicken. Cover your chicken with the thyme, about one tablespoon, but feel free to use more! Gently press the thyme into the skin with your fingers.

5. Season your veggies.  Use the same seasonings.. the thyme, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Make a light coating.

6.  Time to get cookin’!  (Haha, see what I did there?)  Put up your pasta pot if you’re making the pasta as a side. Take out the biggest frying pan you own. Put a tablespoon of olive oil in it. Mince or crush 1 clove of garlic per chicken breast you’re cooking.  Cook the garlic for a minute.  Add a teaspoon or 2 of lemon juice.

7. Be cautious when you put the chicken in the hot oil.  To be safe, I always put my flame on low when I put anything into a hot pan that has oil in it.  It really doesn’t feel good when the tiniest little drops of oil splash out onto your arms!!  Place the chicken on the pan, seasoning side down.  Once they are all in, put your flame back up to medium.  Season the naked side.  Cook until slightly brown, about 3 minutes, then turn over.  Cook another 3 minutes.

8. When your pot is boiling, you can put your pasta in.  No need to worry about timing it just right with the chicken.  We need to cook it and then when the chicken is almost ready, we will prepare it. Whenever it’s done cooking, drain and put it back in the pot you cooked it in. Drizzle with olive oil so it doesn’t stick.  Or, if you prefer, you can use butter.

9.  Place your chicken on your baking tray.  Spoon the juices out of the pan and pour some over the chicken and some over the veggies.  (Don’t wash this pan yet!) Place in the oven for about 25 minutes.  If you have a thermometer, they are done when they are between 165-180°.  Or, you can stick a fork in them and if the juices run out clear, they are ready!

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10.  When the chicken has 5 minutes left to cook, use the frying pan you cooked the chicken in and add another tablespoon of olive oil.  Crush more cloves (about 3) of garlic and cook until slightly brown. Add seasoning. The first time I made this, I had fresh basil in the house and it was absolutely delicious.  If you don’t have any, you can use the thyme again, it will still taste great! Add your pasta and mix it around with the oil.  Then, leave it on medium heat and let the pasta fry up.  It turns into crispy pasta, and honestly, it’s SO addicting.  If I ever have leftover pasta, I usually head it up by throwing it in a pan and doing this trick!  Love it.

11.  When your tray comes out of the oven, you can put pasta on the plates and put the roasted tomatoes on top (which is why the basil tastes amazing… oil, pasta, basil and tomatoes, yum) with your chicken and carrots on the side.  Add grated cheese!!

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I loved this enough to make a video out of it.  I’m sure you’ll love it too!  It’s always good to mix it up to excite your taste buds!  I definitely think they get bored sometimes. Ever notice that something you made the same way you always do doesn’t taste as good?  I’m convinced… it’s because your taste buds are bored 🙂

Enjoy! Have a great week!

Chef Stef

Pasta with Chicken, Tomato and Basil

What I vow to do in this new blog I created:

A) write out recipes from my videos for you to see in text format http://www.youtube.com/classychefstef

B) share behind the scenes fun facts

C) give advice on different ingredients you can use to substitute in case you are missing an ingredient

Let’s start with my most recent video!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hDP0nB-jxE

My mom literally walks around singing my jingle. It gets stuck in my head. Her head. Everyone’s heads. I had the idea for the gags in this video because so many people told me how they can’t get it out of their heads either!  For that, I apologize.

So here’s the thing.  I never measure anything unless, of course, I’m baking.  But for cooking, I taste test, throw stuff in and just go with the flow.  I think everyone needs to start doing that more.  Again, I’ll reiterate, baking IS ALWAYS about being exact.  In cooking you have a lot more creative opportunities.  I will give you a few measurements, but feel free to add an extra chicken breast or two, add less tomatoes and more basil… it’s up to YOU.

You are the chef, have fun and just… go with the freakin’ flow!

-3 Chicken breasts, or if you don’t feel like cutting up chicken because it’s “icky” or you’re feeling lazy, use 1-2 pounds of GROUND CHICKEN. Works the same way, follow the recipe as is, just substitute chicken breasts for ground chicken!

-olive oil, salt and pepper

-a yellow (or red) onion, slice either a half of one or a whole one, up to you!

-basil, FRESH basil makes a huuuuuge difference.  Buy a package or a plant.  You can never have too much basil.

-1-2 cups of tomatoes, dice them up, not too small or they will cook down to nothing leaving you with tomato skins

-package of pasta, or rice or quinoa, whatever floats your boat

Yes, that is me playing piano.  Yes, I made up some silly fanfare.  My 85 year old grandfather is convinced there is no way that’s me playing, since he can clearly see me on the screen without a piano.

“You edited it? Ugh, I can’t keep up with all these confound it electronics.”

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Isn’t he the cutest? You’ll meet him later on when he makes some appearances on the show! And I know what you’re thinking… No I have no African American heritage.  It’s okay, I was confused too until I was probably 7 or 8.  He’s just really, really Sicilian and sits in the sun all day long.  I was not fortunate to inherit the Italian skin, so I avoid the sun, hence my lily whiteness.  Skin cancer is serious, be safe people!

All comedy aside, the tip of the day was supposed to teach you to figure out what your plan of action is before you start anything.  That’s how things like your chicken gets overdone or the pasta turns cold. Cooking is mostly about timing. One of the timing issues I always have, is figuring out when the perfect time is to call everyone to the table. Are they going to come right this second?  Are they going to mosey on down here?  You never know!  I usually end up screaming from the bottom of the stairs, “I’M EATING WHILE IT’S STILL HOT!”

For this specific recipe, put up the pot of water first.  Turn it on high.  Throw salt in your pot.  If you’re using sea salt, use less than you would regular salt, because it tends to be much saltier.  You can always add salt, however you cannot, no matter how hard you try, take it away.

Dice your onions, tomatoes, basil and chicken. Do it in that order. Why?  So you don’t have to clean the cutting board or dirty another one for the chicken…Genius, I know.

Once everything is cut up, put a tablespoon of olive oil in your pan.  Put the onions in and cook them for a minute or two until they become translucent.

Now, put in your chicken and mix it around.  Put your pasta in the (boiling) pot of water.

Cook the chicken on medium heat, mixing it around consistently.  Add the salt and pepper.  Pay attention the entire time.  You never want overcooked chicken, YUCK!  As soon as it seems like the chicken pieces are no longer pink, cut one in half.  If it’s still slightly pink, cook it another minute. Same goes if you’re using ground chicken.  Just make sure it’s cooked fully.

Now add in the tomatoes.  Put your flame on low. Add the basil.  Don’t mix vigorously, just lightly.

If you want the healthy version, take out the pasta, put some olive oil on the pasta, and serve! It should look like this..

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If you want the naughty version, use a cup of heavy cream and a tablespoon (or 6) of parmesan cheese.  Mix in with the chicken and let the cream boil for a minute on medium low heat.  It should appear thicker.  Serve on top of pasta, and ladle the sauce over it and it is to die for.

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Simple, no?

If you like my videos and recipes, please subscribe to my channel and spread the word!  This is only the beginning, there is SO MUCH to come that I can’t wait to share with you!

http://www.youtube.com/classychefstef

Thanks for reading!

Chef Stef