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Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree

3 Mar

I wanted to make a pasta dish that had sauce different from pesto, marinara, or bolognese, and Giada de Laurentiis’s healthy eggplant-based sauce sounded interesting!  The original recipe calls for mint instead of basil, but I thought basil would pair better with a protein.  I picked shrimp for this dish, but I think chicken would go just as well.

Here is the recipe as adapted from Giada’s.  If you want to eat this with meat, simply cook your meat through separately, cut into bite size pieces, and mix it in with the pasta and sauce.  I sauteed a pound of shrimp in a little oil, salt, and pepper and added it in during step 5.


  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 pint (2 cups) cherry tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
  • 1 pound dried rigatoni pasta
  • 1 cup mushrooms, stems removed and cut in half
  • 1/4 cup torn fresh basil leaves, plus a couple extra, slivered, to finish
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts


  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl combine the eggplant, cherry tomatoes, garlic, 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Spread the vegetables out in an even layer on the baking sheet. Roast in the oven until the vegetables are tender and the eggplant is golden, about 35 minutes.

    Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes

  3. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water (salty like the ocean!) to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but a bit under done, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta but reserve 2 cups or so of the cooking water.
  4. Transfer the roasted vegetables to a food processor or blender. Add the torn basil leaves, mushrooms*, and additional 3 tablespoons olive oil. Blend until almost smooth.

    Ready to Pulverize

  5. Return the pasta to the cooking pot, pour sauce over it and about 1/2 cup of cooking water and cook together over medium-high heat for 1 to 2 minutes, tossing occasionally to coat pasta evenly. Add more pasta cooking water a little at a time if needed to loosen the sauce.
  6. Transfer pasta and sauce to a serving bowl; garnish with extra herbs, pine nuts and parm, and serve.

*The original recipe didn’t call for mushrooms, but I had bought a package to throw in a vegetable soup and had some left over.  I had meant to roast them with the eggplant and tomatoes but forgot. I threw them in raw, and they soaked up all the sauce-y goodness once pureed, and cooked enough in step 5.  The mushrooms added a nice earthy compliment to the sauce, but simply omit if mushrooms aren’t your thing!

You can easily make this vegan by forgoing the cheese.

This was earthy and delicious!  I made this the first time a few months ago, while you could still get local eggplant and tomatoes.  I made this again recently, and the produce was from South America.  I didn’t enjoy it as much the second time around, as I think all that distance traveled to get to me made a difference in the taste.  I can’t wait for summer eggplant and tomato season to come around when eggplant and tomatoes are in their peak!!

Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree


Boeuf Bourguignon

28 Jan

Ever since I saw Julie and Julia years ago, I’ve wanted to try making boeuf bourguignon.  When Kevin and I visited Paris a couple years ago, we made sure to taste the authentically Parisian version of the dish.  As a new mom, “me time” these last few months has consisted of grocery shopping alone, working out once a week, and cooking.  My mother-in-law volunteered to watch Mia one Sunday morning so Kevin and I could have some time to ourselves.  Kev graciously used that time to scrub our house sparkling clean, and I decided to try my hand at the aforementioned quintessential French supper.  We are very exciting people, I know.

I had originally committed to using this recipe planning to use the slow cooker to finish the dish. However, Kevin kindly reminded me that I had yet to christen the Le Creuset dutch oven that we received as a wedding gift, so I decided to go that route.  It worked out because the prep took so much longer than anticipated that I would’ve missed the dinner window using the slow cooker anyway.  I’m also convinced that the dutch oven method yielded better results than the slow cooker would have.

This recipe is for the dutch oven method, so if you want the slow cooker version, you can find it here.


  • 8 ounces thick-cut bacon (5 to 6 slices), diced
  • 2 1/2 to 3 pounds beef chuck roast, round roast, or other similar cut (don’t cut into cubes yet)*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for the meat
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups red wine, divided*
  • 2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium carrots, diced
  • 3 medium celery stalks, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken stock, plus more if necessary
  • 1 pound white button mushrooms, sliced

To serve:

  • Chopped parsley, to garnish
  • Cooked pasta
  • Crusty baguette


  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until the fat has rendered and the bacon is golden and crispy. Remove the pan from heat and transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the pan into a heatproof bowl and set aside.
  2. Pat the beef dry with paper towels, cut into steaks large enough to fit in your pan, and sprinkle with with salt and pepper. Return the skillet to medium-high heat until the bacon fat is shimmering. Add one steak at a time and sear on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side.

    Brown on All Sides

  3. Cut the beef into two inch cubes. Yes, two inches is larger than bite size, but tender meat is more important! Transfer the meat to the slow cooker or a large bowl. Deglaze the pan with 1/4 cup of the wine. Simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon, until the the browned bits are completely loosened. Pour the wine over the seared meat.

    Meat with Deglazed Wine

  4. Add 1 tablespoon bacon grease to the pan. Repeat with another cut of the beef, then deglaze with wine, and continue until all the beef is seared and cubed.
  5. When all the meat is seared, add 1 tablespoon bacon grease to the pan and reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions and 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the carrots and celery, and cook until softened, about 4 minutes more. Add the garlic and tomato paste, and cook for another minute. Transfer the vegetable mixture to the dutch oven with the meat.

    Ready for the Oven

  6. Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel and warm 1 tablespoon bacon grease over medium heat (if no more bacon grease remains substitute with vegetable oil). Add the mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have release all their liquid, the liquid has evaporated, and the mushrooms are golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms to a clean bowl and set aside — keep the mushrooms separate from the meat and onion mixture for now.

    Cook Until All Liquid Has Evaporated

  7. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 300°F. Transfer the beef and vegetable mixture to a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed 6-quart pot with a lid and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Tuck the sprigs of thyme and the bay leaf into the mixture. Pour the stock and the remaining wine over the beef and vegetables — the liquid should not quite cover the beef and vegetables; the ingredients should still be poking from the surface of the liquid. Add additional stock if necessary.
  8. Cover the pot and place in the oven. Cook for 2 hours, then begin checking the meat every 15 minutes. The dish is done when the meat falls apart easily with a fork. Exact cooking time can vary.
  9. Once the meat is cooked, stir in the reserved bacon and mushrooms. Simmer in the Dutch oven over medium heat until the mushrooms are warmed through, about 10 minutes.
  10. Serve in bowls over noodles or with crusty bread on the side. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

    Beef Bourguignon


  • Cubing the meat later: Instead of cutting the beef into cubes, I cut the roast into three steaks and browned each before cutting into cubes.  Browning the beef enhances the flavor, but it also dries out the surface of the beef cubes so the meat doesn’t fall apart as easily once cooked (even stewed in liquid!).  This extra step ensures good browned flavor and tender meat.

Gorgeous Chuck Roast

  • Choosing the wine: I used a dry pinot noir that I enjoy drinking that didn’t break the bank for this dish, but I’ve read that wines from Burgundy or Côtes du Rhône work well. The rule of thumb is to choose a wine that you also like to drink and you can’t go wrong.
  • Make ahead: The meat and vegetables can be prepared up to 1 day ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to cook.
  • Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days or in the freezer for 3 months.  I doubt you will be able to resist not finishing this up in a couple of days!

Creamy Leek and Potato Soup

19 Jan

The season of soups and stews is in full swing!  I’ve always been curious about trying a leek and potato soup, with its earthy flavors and creamy texture.  However, let me preface the rest of this post by saying that this isn’t Julia Child’s famous recipe.  I wanted a healthier version that didn’t use heavy cream.  I came across a vegetarian version of the soup on Life As a Strawberry, but used chicken broth instead of vegetable stock and also changed up the way I dealt with the potatoes.  On a gloomy day like today, I thought I’d share my version below!


  • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 leeks, roughly chopped (rinsed thoroughly to remove any dirt)
  • 4 large yukon gold potatoes, roughly chopped  (I used 3 red potatoes and 1 russet for this post because…that’s what I had in the pantry)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups chicken broth or stock
  • 1 cup milk


  1. In a large saucepan or pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. When oil is hot, add leeks, potatoes, garlic, salt and pepper. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes or until leeks have softened.

    Saute Leeks, Potatoes, and Garlic

  3. Add vegetable stock to pot and stir to combine.
  4. Strip leaves from thyme sprigs and add to pot. Stir to combine.
  5. Bring soup to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes until potatoes are cooked through and easily pierced with a fork.
  6. Add milk to soup and stir to combine.
  7. Remove soup from heat and carefully remove potatoes from the soup, and place them in a large bowl.  Mash potatoes with a potato ricer (or pastry blender in a pinch!).  Blend the remaining liquid contents of the soup in a blender until smooth, or use an immersion blender.

    Puree Leek Mixture

  8. Stir riced potatoes back into the soup, and season with salt and pepper as needed.*

    Mash Potatoes Separately

*I don’t like the idea of blending potatoes, because the blending process changes the potato texture to be gummy.  This soup won’t be silky smooth, but I prefer that texture to that of gummy potatoes.  That being said, if you don’t mind that glue-y texture and really need the soup to be silky smooth, use an immersion blender to blend all ingredients together in step 7 instead of removing the potatoes and mashing them separately.

Yes, I am fully aware of how very not photogenic this soup is.  We can toss this into the as-tasty-as-it-is-ugly category!

If your soup is too thick after blending, thin it out with a splash of milk or vegetable stock. Too thin? Bring it back to a simmer and cook until it’s reached your desired consistency.

This soup is easy to make in advance and it freezes well.

To make this soup vegan, replace the milk with additional vegetable stock, coconut milk, or almond milk, and omit the heavy cream.


Curry-Poached Chicken with Rice and Scallions

9 Jan

Continuing to chug along on the healthy eating train, I wanted to share another chicken and rice recipe, this time from Bon Appétit.  Anything with an overload of green onions always appeals to me, and I’d never made a poached chicken breast before.


  • 8 scallions (about 1 bunch), divided
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 2 1/4 lbs)
  • 3 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled, smashed to pieces, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons mild curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons Morton kosher salt, divided, plus more
  • Juice from 1 orange (about 1/4 cup)
  • Juice from 1 lime (about 2 tablespoons)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Warm jasmine or brown rice (for serving)
  1. Coarsely chop 4 scallions and transfer to a medium pot. Add chicken, garlic, ginger, curry powder, 2½ tsp. salt, and 4 cups water. Slowly bring to a bare simmer over medium heat. Once liquid begins to simmer, reduce heat to low and cook until juices run clear when thickest part of chicken is pierced, 10-12 minutes.

    Poaching Liquid

  2. Meanwhile, thinly slice remaining scallions. Whisk orange juice and lime juice in a small bowl; season with salt and 8 turns of a pepper mill, or about 3/4 tsp. (you want a lot of pepper!).
  3. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Strain poaching liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. Cut chicken crosswise into thin slices.

    Curry Poached Chicken

  4. Divide rice and chicken among bowls and top with sliced scallions. Spoon poaching liquid and some of the citrus juice over chicken and rice before serving.

    Drizzle Poaching Liquid and Citrus Mixture

NOTE:  Be extra careful when dealing with the poaching liquid. Yours truly managed to splatter a bit on herself and on the carpet runner in our kitchen.  There unfortunately is now a permanent curry powder stain on every piece of fabric that little splatter touched.

This was definitely a very “clean” dish, but I personally prefer dark meat over white. If I were to make this again, I’d probably use chicken thighs. However, you definitely wouldn’t get the pretty slices of meat with dark meat, if that matters.

We had this with a side of baby bok choy sauteed in a bit of ponzu.  We also had way more of the poaching liquid leftover than we needed for the sauce, so we used 2 cups of it to cook another cup of rice.  It was really tasty and I think it’d also be a great base to make fried rice with!

Curry-Poached Chicken with Rice and Scallions


Tomato-Glazed Meatloaves

6 Jan

The brief cold spell we had last month had me pining for comfort food, and I turned to who better than Smitten Kitchen.  A photo of her Tomato-Glazed Meatloaf and Browned Butter Mashed Potatoes popped up on my Instagram feed, and I pulled up the recipe immediately.  I did make a batch of mashed potatoes to go with this, but I didn’t use the recipe paired with the meatloaves on Smitten Kitchen – it was a bit too rich for me.  I went for a lighter version and used a pastry blender instead of a potato ricer to mash the potatoes.

Aesthetically and practically, I liked that the recipe separated the meatloaf into individual giant meatball-like servings instead of your typical bread-loaf shape making it much more freezer friendly.  I had originally intended to wrap a few up in plastic wrap and freeze for another time, but Kev and I loved them so much we polished them all off in just a few days.

Here’s the recipe as adapted from Smitten Kitchen for just the Tomato-Glazed Meatloaves!  Instead of using sandwich bread, I used panko breadcrumbs.



  • 4 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons smooth dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt


  • 2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 medium stalk celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
  • Olive oil, for cooking
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea or table table salt, plus more for vegetables
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 pounds ground beef (I used 1 lb 90% lean ground sirloin, and 1 lb 85% lean ground beef)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup milk


  1. Combine glaze ingredients in a small saucepan, and simmer, whisking constantly, for 2 minutes until and glaze is satiny smooth. Set aside.

    Make the Glaze

  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat 2 9×13-inch baking dishes with nonstick spray, or line with nonstick foil for easy clean-up.
  3. Add the onion, garlic, celery, and carrot to a food processor, and pulse until finely chopped. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once the skillet is hot, coat the bottom with olive oil, and heat the oil for a minute; add the finely chopped vegetables. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes.

    Brown the Pureed Vegetables

  4. Add the vegetables to a large bowl with the panko breadcrumbs, then add the remaining ingredients.
  5. Stir the ingredients together with a fork or your hands until evenly blended.

    Get Your Hands Dirty!

  6. Form the meatloaf mixture into twelve 3-inch meatballs; each will weigh about 4 ounces. Arrange 6 in each prepared baking pan, evenly. Drizzle or brush each meatball with a teaspoon or so of the tomato glaze you made earlier, and bake until cooked through, about 20 to 25 minutes (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a cooked meatball will register 160 to 165F).

    All Dressed Up and Ready to Go!

We ate this with the aforementioned mashed potatoes, and some parmesan roasted cauliflower and garlic lemon asparagus.

Perfect on a Cold Night