My husband used to be a consultant which meant a lot of his weekdays were spent in a different city or country. On those days I would usually foodnetwork.com my meals. That means spending hours searching recipes, reading reviews and walking to the neighborhood Rabba for ingredients. This Mushroom Stroganoff from Alton Brown was a favourite, but it got supplanted by the Garlicky Mushroom Pasta my kids love.
November 1st. There is something about that date that I find positively intimidating. It is a little silly I know, but somewhere over the course of the next few weeks is my older ones birthday party, my younger ones birthday party, a possible trip out of town, the usual pre Christmas madness, and Christmas itself. While we don’t celebrate Christmas per se, Santa does come to our house with something for the girls. Why you may ask. Well, because this Mama is all about any kind of magic.
I grew up reading this Enid Blyton series called the Wishing Tree in which these two children would visit the extraordinary inhabitants of the Enchanted Tree and explore the lands that came to visit the tree. Even then I was too old to believe in this notion, but it was such fun to play what if. I want my kids to have that – that life full of what ifs and possibilities, a half belief in a world where magic is around the corner, where a kindly figure magically appears and leaves them a special present.
Now I know that this sounds like it has nothing to do with 30 Minute Fajita Pasta, but it kinda does.
One day. Just one day of I need a light jacket weather is all it takes for me to start craving some serious comfort food like this Chicken Tetrazzini for Four. When I was growing up in Jeddah my mother would throw lots of dinner parties, elaborate affairs with many mains and an almost equal number of desserts. Or so it seemed. For a while Chicken Tetrazzini was part of the regular rotation. It eventually went out of vogue and became replaced by her Chicken & Cheese casserole, but for some reason I thought of it recently and decided to make it. I had her recipe which I scribbled all over and as well as other recipes for Chicken Tetrazzini and I remembered why it is that I don’t make it.
I am not that good with crowd pleasing dishes – most things I make don’t quadruple well and if you’re Pakistani a small family dinner easily means 40 people and a whole bunch of quadrupling. Over time this cooking for a crowd has become a lot easier and I have fewer meltdowns (lol). However, that is in part because I have started building an arsenal of delicious recipes that are easy to whip together, make in advance, and double if need be.
This Taco lasagna is the latest addition to that collection. The components come together quickly and since you bake it the day of the event it tastes fresh and delicious. I make it with a side of a cheesy spicy garlic bread loaf (recipe to be posted) and a nice bean salad.
The best part is you can actually make this (minus the dicing bit) with a 1 yr old hanging off one hip as long as you give her a little bit of cheese to snack on. Oh and keep her away from the jalapenos if she is convinced all green things are delicious.
1/2 cup diced onion
1 lb ground chicken (or beef)
Spicy taco seasoning – 1 packet or make your own and use 3 tbsp
24 ounces salsa
1 cup corn kernels
15 oz carton ricotta cheese
1 jalapeno diced
2 cups shredded cheese – I used Monterey Jack + Mozzarella
Generous pinch of coarse salt and pepper
1 box oven ready lasagna noodles (you can sub w regular, just parboil first)
2 cups shredded cheese for topping the lasagna
Chopped green onions for garnish
Note: Most pans and lasagna noodles aren’t friends. There is usually some rejigging and some swearing involved. To mitigate some of this lay out your (uncooked) noodles once in the pan to figure out how many noodles you will need and how many layers you will get so you can readjust layers accordingly. I am giving instructions for a roasting pan (what I use) and a 9*13 below.
Saute the onion in a little bit of olive oil until translucent, add the ground chicken and the seasoning then cook until the meat is browned. With chicken this is v quick. Add in the corn kernels and salsa and warm through.
While the meat is warming empty the ricotta container into a large bowl and mix in the egg, seasoning and diced jalapeno (deseeded or otherwise). Once well combined mix in cheese.
Drizzle a little oil on the base of your pan layer as follows – a ladle or two of bolognese, 6 lasagna noodles vertically across, 2/3 taco meat mix, lasagna noodles, 2/3 ricotta mix, lasagna noodles, then lasagna noodles, then the meat mix dotted with the remainder of your ricotta mix, top with cheese.
In a 9×13 baking dish, start by layering 4 lasagna noodles on the bottom of the pan. Next, layer ⅓ of the ricotta, ⅓ of the beef mixture, ⅓ of the salsa, and ⅓ of the cheese. Repeat the layers 2 more times.
When ready to bake preheat the oven to 350, cover the dish foil (tent to prevent it from sticking to the cheese) and bake for 35 minutes. If you don’t use foil then you will end up with what I like to call extra crispy edges (I was out of foil the day I took pictures). Remove foil and bake until the top is nice and bubbly and broil for a minute or two.
Frantic. That is the word that comes to mind most evenings when I am trying to cook, feed the girls, bathe them, change them and put them to bed. I always think of things I would like to cook the night before, elaborate things, yummy looking things – things that would take more than 15 minutes, but when it is crunch time those dishes hardly ever make an appearance. Fortunately for me – and you – there are many yummy from scratch dishes out there that can come together pretty quick. The fact that I have made this particular one three times in the last week speaks for itself.
I like the ‘usual’ basil/parm/pinenuts pesto, but the price of pine nuts and the amount you usually need keeps me at bay. This sun dried tomato pesto with it’s more humble composition of pantry staples packs an even more delicious punch of flavour and is as versatile as it’s greener counterpart. Add it to your grilled cheese, smear it onto your chicken and bake, or just keep mixing it into your pasta over and over again like I do 🙂
The recipe for this pesto comes from the beautiful blog Simply Scratch. It is intended to feed two people and that makes it perfect for me and my girls (daddy is a desi food kinda guy). Because it makes such a small amount you are best off using a mini blender like the Magic Bullet. If you are to double it and make it ahead then I suggest using only 1 garlic clove not two as the raw garlic flavour tends to get stronger over time.
Okay people I know it’s summer and you’re thinking “Mac and Cheese? Really???”, but trust me on this one. Or rather, trust Vaish at Chefette Spicy on this one.
When I saw this post of hers I knew I had to make it. I frantically added the ingredients to my grocery list and went out that night (at 9) to do groceries so I could make this pasta happen asap. Also my fridge was weirdly empty and that was just freaking me out. Just fyi, I am now at the other extreme and equally freaked out.
Corn, spinach, and cheese. What’s not to love? I usually find that ‘lightened’ up versions of dishes just don’t work for me, but Vaish clearly knows what she is doing because this recipe is DELICIOUS. Like really, really freakin’ good. And you know the desi in me couldn’t help, but add a few green chilies – and then the desi of me remembered she had a jar of Sambal Oelek in her fridge…I am not a fan of hot sauce on everything, but on this it really works.
I like recipes that are quick, easy, and spicy. When this one at A Small Snippet checked all three boxes then I knew I had to give it a try. I tweaked it a little and have written the recipe as I made it. I do confess though that the ‘dressing’ for the noodles made a lot more than I needed. What I love though is that I have been able to keep it in the fridge, shake it up and add to noodles with whatever veggies I have on hand and some lime and it’s delicious every time.
This recipe is infinitely adaptable, feel free to play with it as you go along, especially with spice levels, my family (minus the tot) likes things pretty spicy which is why I use a full 2 tbsp of chilli flakes and add in diced green chillies. If you wanted to make it more ‘substantial’ then you could even add protein to the mix in the form of shrimp, tofu or chicken. Or, for a purely vegetarian version, omit the fish sauce.
The original recipe calls for cooling the dressing and noodles, I had mine warm – it was raining and warm spicy noodles really hit the spot.
Some time ago when I had posted the Jamie Oliver Cheat’s Fresh Pasta recipe a friend of mine had asked about the pasta with mushrooms that I had made when she was visiting. While I was meandering through the grocery store (which is what happens when I leave my list at home) I saw a box of mixed mushrooms and figured why
And I am so glad that I did. I had forgotten just how incredible this simple dish can be. I usually make this with the meatier Portobello mushrooms, but for spring time I like it best with a mix of shiitakes, chanterelles and baby portobellos. Flavorful, but not too over the top, satisfying yet I could still move from point A to point B after. This recipe is a modified version of a Jamie Oliver recipe that I tried several years ago and have made countless times since. The original recipe is at the food network site here – yes, I am a gigantic wimp and scaled down the red chilli. Those dried red chillies are really spicy okay! Do I get points for increasing the garlic? Well, given what it does for this dish, I certainly think I should 🙂
Cherry Tomatoes. Pasta. Balsamic Vinegar. Ten minutes. One Meal. Sold yet?
Okay so when I say ten minutes I am not factoring in the time it takes my pasta water to boil, but really ten minutes of active cooking time for one meal is pretty amazing as far as I am concerned. This recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution book, also known as, the start of my love affair with J.O. I am not a fan of the ‘cheffy’ dishes as he calls them, I do not grow pea shoots in my back yard, I am not entirely sure I want to make a dish that requires many lengthy steps (lasagna is a notable exception), and at the end of it I want my food to be homey and flavorful so for the longest time J.O. and I did not see eye to eye. This book/show changed things. I have tried many recipes from the book and they have been mostly home runs.
I once made the mistake of using suspiciously watery grocery store brand balsamic vinegar in this dish and it did not work at all. Currently we have some really good balsamic vinegar that we bought at a specialty store in the Distillery District in Toronto. It has a very deep flavor and as such I only used about a tablespoon and a half and found it to be perfect as is. I also make this with whatever pasta I have on hand. Check out how fun the shape I used today is – it is like the edge of a lasagna noodle!