Category Archives: comfort food

Spinach and Artichoke Dip Pasta Bake (with Chicken)

There are certain things that just go together. Bacon and Cheddar. Sour cream and Onion. And of course, Spinach and Artichokes. What is it about that combo that’s so delicious?? I remember being a kid, and having it for the first time at probably the Ground Round or someplace like that, and feeling like my 8 year old culinary world had been blown wide open. There are so many different recipes that I make now, but spinach and artichoke dip is still one of my go-to favorites for a crowd.

This recipe lets you feel like you’re indulging in a classic appetizer for dinner, but actually lightens up everything by replacing the cream cheese with Greek yogurt and halving the sour cream, using about 1/2 of the cheese and adding protein-y chicken. Plus – pasta!!!  This makes a ton, keeps really well, is able to be thrown together in 30 minutes, and will have your dinner companions full and happy in an hour and a half total, tops.

SPINACH AND ARTICHOKE DIP PASTA BAKE (WITH CHICKEN) makes about 10 servings
– 1 lb. chicken tenders, chopped
– 1 box orecchiette pasta, or similar (you want something kind of small that will stand up with this bake – bowties, mini penne or mini rigatoni would also be good)
– 2 9-oz. boxes creamed spinach (creamed is key)
– 2 15-oz.cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
– 1.5 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded
– 1/3 c. parmesan cheese
– 1 5.3 oz container plain greek yogurt
– 1/3 c. sour cream
– 1 cup pasta water (reserved)
– 1 tbsp. EVOO
– Kosher salt & pepper
– 1 tbsp. butter
– 1/3 c. panko bread crumbs

1. Set your oven to 375.

2. In a large pot, boil water, then salt it kind of heavily. Add pasta and cook until 2 minutes before its “al dente” stage. BEFORE YOU DRAIN IT, grab a cup of the pasta water out and set aside to let it cool. Drain the pasta.

3. In the same pan, heat 1 tbsp. EVOO over medium heat. Add chopped chicken, which has been seasoned with kosher salt and pepper.


4. Cook until the chicken is almost all the way cooked through, stirring occasionally but letting it get a little browned.

5. While the chicken is cooking, heat up the creamed spinach in a microwave.

6. In a large bowl (use one bigger than you even expect will be big enough), combine the creamed spinach, 3/4 c. shredded mozzarella, and the chopped artichoke hearts. Add a little of the parmesan cheese and combine everything.


7. In a separate bowl, combine the greek yogurt, sour cream and a little more of the parmesan cheese.


8. Take the almost-fully cooked chicken off the stove and put the chicken on a plate.

9. Add chicken and pasta to the spinach/artichoke mixture. Combine well.

10. Mix the greek yogurt/sour cream blend with the cooled pasta water, a little at a time, until the sauce is pretty thin but still has enough consistency to coat a spoon.


11.Spray a casserole dish with a little olive oil. Add about half the chicken/pasta/spinach/artichoke mix. Top with 1/4 c. of the shredded mozzarella, then half of the greek yogurt/sour cream blend.


12. Add the rest of the chicken/pasta/spinach/artichoke mixture. Top with the rest of the greek yogurt/sour cream blend, then another 1/4- 1/2 c. of the shredded mozzarella and the rest of the shredded parm.


13. In a small pan, melt 1 tbsp. butter, then toast the panko breadcrumbs. Top the casserole with the breadcrumbs.


14. Cover with aluminum foil, then bake for about 20 minutes. Uncover, put on the lowest rack, and cook for another 20 minutes – just make sure the chicken is cooked through.

15. Serve and feel like you got away with getting to eat a big bowl of healthy-ish spinach and artichoke dip for dinner!

Pasta with Vodka Tomato Cream Sauce

What’s better than being able to cook a great vodka cream sauce while trapped inside the house in a snowstorm?  Cooking a great vodka cream sauce while trapped inside the house in a snowstorm, with your sister. Two winters ago Collyn was visiting me and we had a huge snowstorm and couldn’t leave the house. We were craving comfort food and – amazingly – had everything in the fridge that we needed to make this. Even the half cup of Kettel One (which has never been put to such delicious use).  Eating pasta is always better when your sister is snuggled on the couch next to you with a bowl of her own.

PASTA WITH VODKA TOMATO CREAM SAUCE (adapted from the gorgeous Smitten Kitchen)
– 1 lb. good pasta (I used cavatelli for this which was so fun to eat)
– 3 garlic cloves, chopped
– 1 red onion, diced
– 2 tbsp butter
– 2 tbsp EVOO
– 1 8-oz can chunky crushed tomatoes
– 1/2 c. heavy cream
– 1/2 c. vodka
– couple leaves of basil, chiffonaded
– freshly grated parmesan

1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter and EVOO over medium heat. When combined, add chopped garlic and saute until fragrant, approx. 90 seconds.


2. Add chopped red onion – I know people usually use white onions, but I actually like how the red onion sort of loses its color and gains a sweetness. You really want to make sure these are sauteed enough though…they’ll continue to soften as you cook, but make sure they’re pretty much already there before you start adding the other stuff.


3. Add the vodka, then cook it down, about 4-6 minutes.


4. Add the tomato sauce, then heavy cream. Use the correct amounts here – I’ve tried to use a little bit more of one thing, a little bit less of another, but that gives me some derivative of tomato soup, which I’ll leave to The Kitchen.


5. Turn the heat down to low and let this simmer while you make the pasta.

6. Salt the pasta water pretty heavily – this may be the only seasoning you need for this, which is pretty incredible. Cook the pasta.

7. Throw a bunch of freshly grated parmesan cheese and the chiffonaded basil into the sauce when pasta is about halfway cooked, then give it a good stir.


8. Drain the pasta, then add it to the saucepan with the sauce. Serve and top with a little more freshly grated parm. Sistas.  <3



Cheesy Cauliflower-Potato Soup

Oh weird, it’s snowing again. Let’s make some soup to warm things up!  I love cauliflower in just about  every form imaginable, and this soup was no exception. It was the perfect thickness, completely delicious for how little went into it, and any time I get to add cheese to anything is just fine by me. As with most soups, this was even better the next day, and someone liked it so much that they basically stopped breathing in order to spoon this in as fast as possible. So you know it’s good.

CHEESY CAULIFLOWER-POTATO SOUP (makes an enormous pot of soup)
– 1 large head cauliflower, broken into florets
– 2 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
– 5 cups chicken broth (I thought this made the perfect soup consistency, but if you like a thinner soup, add another cup or two)
– 1 vidalia onion, diced
– 2 cups freshly-shredded cheddar cheese
– 1 tbsp. nutmeg
– 1/4 c. heavy cream
– 1 tbsp. butter
– 1 tbsp. EVOO
– Kosher salt – about a tablespoon to start, then as needed
– Chives, for topping

1. In a French oven, melt the butter and EVOO over medium heat.

2. Add the diced onion, add a pinch or two of kosher salt, and “sweat” the onion until soft, approx. 10 minutes.


3. When soft, add the cauliflower florets and potato pieces. Mix it all up.  Don’t panic when you see all of this basically filling the pot to the top. Think of all the delicious soup you’re going to have!

4. Add chicken broth. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for approx. 30 minutes. You’ll see that the florets and potato pieces get soft and fork-tender.

5. With an immersion blender, blend the soup to your desired consistency. Taste, then add the cheddar (it was great to find DiBruno Brothers cheese in a store around here, but any cheddar you can find that you like is good, too). Stir it in so that it melts, then taste it. 


6. Add nutmeg, heavy cream and kosher salt to taste.

7. Serve a bowl topped with a little more shredded cheese and chives.  Snuggle up and enjoy.

Brrrrr

My Dad’s “Better than Any Other You’ll Ever Have” French Onion Soup

For years I tried – and failed – to find a french onion soup that rivaled my Dad’s. It’s not just that he makes it and it’s so comforting it makes me feel like home, but it’s just hands-down delicious: perfect balance of onions and broth, flavor and cheese. There is nobody – no restaurant, no chef, no person – who makes this better than he does. It’s been FREEZING with this polar vortex lately – this is a perfect time to try one of the best soups you’ll ever have.

As a side note – I can’t stand soggy bread, so I just dump some shredded swiss in this and it melts on contact, but this soup does look so pretty with that little island of bread and melted cheese!

FRENCH ONION SOUP (serves at least 6)
— By the way. This is not exactly a recipe you’d file under “healthy”.  Enjoy.
– 1 stick butter (yup, I said it)
– 2-3 red onions and 2-3 vidalia onions, sliced into thinner half moons
– 3 cans beef broth
– 2 cans beef consomme
– 3 bay leaves
– 1/4 C. red wine
– 1.5 C. shredded swiss cheese
– rounds of toasted baguettes 

1. In the largest pan you have, melt the butter over medium heat. 


2. Slice the onions into thin half moons, then add to the melted butter. You don’t want to sweat them, you just want them to soften a little. So no salt needed.

3. When onions are softened but still have some bite to them (that’s the master at work, right there!), open up the cans of beef broth and beef consomme and add to the pan.


 4. Add the bay leaves, then the red wine.

5. Bring the whole mix up to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer. Simmah.

6. Shred the swiss, cut and toast the french baguette rounds in the oven.  Turn the oven to broil.

7. Scoop some of the soup into an oven-proof bowl. If you don’t like the soggy (but pretty) island of bread and cheese, you can just mix the cheese right into the bowl. If you do, though, place a round of bread on top of the soup, then top with shredded cheese. 

8. My Dad swears the key to melting, not burning, the cheese is to leave the oven door open. I’m taking his word for it.


 



9. When cheese is melted, let cool a bit (it’ll be super hot) and enjoy!!!  You’ll never go back to restaurant french onion soup again.


Mom <3
If you get the bay leaf, it’s good luck!

Chili with Chipotle and Lime (Homemade Chili Seasoning, too!)

There are few better comfort foods during the winter months than a bowl of chili.  It feels like it’s been snowing for weeks here, so I yesterday I made a big pot of this, and let it simmer for hours. I also made my own chili seasoning for 2 reasons: 1. I’m not a huge fan of spice, so this lets me control the amount of heat that goes into it (although I think this mix was a good middle ground for both Brad and me); and 2. Pre-packaged seasonings are full of preservatives and other gross stuff, and it’s so much easier, and healthier, to throw a “seasoning packet” together using whatever’s in your pantry.

I’ve made this a couple of times with a few tweaks, but this is going up on the site now because last night, after a couple of bites, I asked Brad what he would change about it. He answered: “I would eat this faster, and with a bigger spoon.”  So…I think we’ve found the recipe.

CHILI WITH CHIPOTLE AND LIME (and homemade chili seasoning, too!) Serves 7-10
– 1.25 lbs. ground beef
– 14.5 oz can navy beans, rinsed and drained
– 14.5 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
– 14.5 oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
– 14.5 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
– 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
– 14.5 oz can petite cut tomatoes with chipotle chilis (chipotle salsa will also work – use 2 cups of this)
– 6 oz. can tomato paste
– 5 stalks celery, chopped (approx. 2 cups)
– 1 green pepper, diced
– 1 medium onion, diced
– 1 tsp. chili powder
– 1 tsp. cumin
– Juice of 1/2 lime
– 1 1/2 C. water
– sour cream, shredded cheese, green onions, avocado for garnish

HOMEMADE CHILI SEASONING
– 1/2 tsp. cumin
– 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
– 1/2 tsp. coriander
– 1 tsp. chili powder
– 1/2 tsp. oregano
– 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
– dash paprika

1. In a large skillet, brown the beef.  If it’s lean, you won’t need to drain it, but if it isn’t, drain the excess fat that collects.

2. In a large pot (I used one of my trusty Le Creusets – I really don’t think I’d be able to cook as well without these), heat 1 tbsp. EVOO over medium high heat. Add the diced celery, green pepper, and onion, add a heavy pinch of kosher salt, and let them sweat for approx. 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

 

3. Add the tomatoes & tomato paste, stir to combine, cook another 5 minutes.

4. Combine all the ingredients for the chili seasoning.

 


5. Add the beans (if you can find them, Eden Organics make one of the best canned products on the market – they are truly organic, their cans are BPA-free, etc.) and meat to the pot with the veggies and tomatoes, mix all of this together. Next, add the chili seasonings. Stir well.

 


6. Add 1.5 cups water, then stir this all together, cover, and let simmer for approx. 4-6 hours.


7. Just before taking this off the stove, stir in the lime juice, then let sit to combine.  Taste, adjust seasonings (I’m a huge fan of adding Herbamare to this – it’s a great, natural blend of sea salt and herbs/minerals – and usually I add about another tablespoon of this to bring everything together), then pour yourself a bowl.  Top with sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado chunks, scallions, etc.


A small confession – I ate this again for breakfast this morning.  So delicious!


The Kitchen’s Tomato Soup

The Kitchen, one of my very favorite restaurants in Boulder, is everything that’s right with the world.  The space is warm and welcoming.  Their food is outrageously, ridiculously delicious.  They highlight local & organic farms, farmers, and Colorado ranchers. They’re committed to sustainability, financially generous to their community, and environmentally conscious to the point where the restaurant’s leftover cooking oil is used to fuel the car of one the servers.

And.

They make the world’s greatest tomato soup. Enjoy.

THE KITCHEN’S TOMATO SOUP (serves 8-10, or 2 very lucky people who will eat this for lunch & dinner for 2 days straight.  Ahem.)
– 1 & 1/3 sticks unsalted butter. 
– 1 large vidalia onion, sliced into half-moons
– 3 16-oz. cans whole peeled organic tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
– 1/3 cup heavy cream
– Good quality EVOO or Basil Oil, for finishing
– Kosher salt

1. In a large saucepan (or, better, a Le Creuset dutch oven, which I use for just about everything), melt butter over low heat.  Add the half-moons of onions and stir to coat with the butter.  Add a good pinch of salt to help them “sweat”, not brown, and stir to incorporate that.  Reduce heat to lowest possible setting, cover, and cook for approx. 30 minutes or so, until the onions are translucent. Stir occasionally during the 30 minutes these are cooking.


2. When onions are soft, add the tomatoes & their juices.  Increase heat a little bit – to a simmer – and gently cook these for another 30 minutes.


3. Add cream, stir to combine.  Then, with an Immersion Blender – I’m amazed by how much I use this in cooking – puree the soup until the texture is smooth but still has a little texture to it.  Taste, adjust seasonings, and taste again.

pre-stirred, pre-blended
 4. Pour yourself a bowl, drizzle a little EVOO or basil oil over the top, serve alongside a grilled cheese sandwich, and add The Kitchen to your list of places to eat at the next time you’re in Colorado. 

Oscars tonight!!!