Apple, Spinach, and Blue Cheese Nachos

IMG_4245This is not your average nacho and I know a number of readers are going to turn up their nose before they even read the post.  Nachos are typically a fan favorite, but blue cheese is definitely a love it or hate it food.  I never really hated it, but I definitely did not consume it often and really still do not.  However I do think blue cheese works well with certain foods and apples are one of those.

I have a weakness for a couple types of food.  You know the types of foods that no matter what you are willing to eat.  Sort of my own type of comfort foods since I have never been a meatloaf and mashed potato type of girl.  We have already established in previous post my love for pizza, or anything resembling pizza.  If you did not realize that here are a few of my pizza creations BBQ Chicken Pizza, Swiss Chard Naan Bread Pizza, Grilled Peach and goat cheese pizza.

Another love of mine is mexican food.  I have not posted that many mexican type foods aside from tacos and my mention of taco salad that we eat quite often.  We probably eat more mexican food in the winter, but I eat it year round.  I love nachos.  Typically my nachos are classic in nature containing beans or meat for protein, diced onion or pepper, and topped with cheese.  There used to be a favorite local restaurant of mine that served nachos as an appetizer.  Their appetizer nachos were not your typical nacho.  I remember ordering the spinach dip ones multiple times and I think they may have had a thai chicken one as well.  Recently I have thought about that restaurant and how their uniqueness in nachos is not found at many places.  I am not sure I have ever come across another restaurant they put such a twist on the mexican staple chips and dip.

Well my thoughts of that restaurant might have been the inspiration for this dish or maybe it was my yearning to use up the blue cheese I had in the refrigerator and the thought in the back of mind that I really should eat something healthy… fruit.

Nachos are one of those foods that I love because I can give you a recipe, but really you make what you need.  On the particular day I created this dish, I was home alone and it was one of the first cool days so I wanted a warm lunch.  Since then I tried it on Little Miss Mixture for a quick weeknight dinner.  Individualizing and making a plate full, whether a small plate for one or a large one to share with others, nachos are a go to type of food in a pinch.

Apple, Spinach, and Blue Cheese Nachos

White Corn Tortilla Chips

1/2 Cup Fresh Baby Spinach*

1/2 Granny Smith Apple

3 Tbsp. crumbled blue cheese

2 oz. Mozzarella cheese

Arrange nachos on a microwave safe plate.  (Note nachos can also be done in the oven, but I chose the microwave to decrease the cooking time for melting the cheese in order to keep the apples crisp.)  Chop the spinach and apples and arrange on top of the tortilla chips.  Sprinkle with blue cheese and top with mozzarella.  Microwave on high 30-45 seconds.  I served Trader Joe’s corn salsa along side for a cool, yet spicy contrast.

* You could substitute arugula or chard for the spinach.

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Pasta and Sausage Two Ways

IMG_3919Last week was busy and we really did not have many family dinners.  In fact between after school activities running late and Mr. Mixture being out of town I got quite a reprieve when it came to cooking dinner.  We were able to enjoy several leftover type meals and breakfast for dinner, as it seems to always be a hit.  When Friday rolled around and I knew we would all be enjoying dinner together after a busy week, I decided to try something off our Recipe Must Try List.  I figured a pasta dish that Little Miss Mixture had picked would be a nice way to end a busy week.

On my initial attempt at Quick Rotini with Sausage and Tomato Sauce, I made some changes that fit into our eating style better.  As it indicated in the initial recipe we found in Cooking Light May 2014, you could substitute spinach for the Arugula.  Well in the last few years, we have become fans of all greens, so when I found an organic spinach arugula mix at the store, I decided it would add a nice touch of flavor to the pasta dish.  I substituted whole wheat pasta for the original called for rotini, as I rarely eat anything else.  I made a few other changes as well as I created the dish for Friday evening.

In the end the dish came out nicely, it had a little heat to it from the crushed red pepper and adding more greens that originally called for provided a nice color to the dish as well as increased the nutritional value.  But the greatest value in this meal was as a family of three there was plenty left over for another meal.  I do not have a problem with leftovers in fact there are some foods that I think are even better the second time around, but leftovers can be hit or miss with the other members of the Mixture family.  So when I decided to revamp the pasta dish for a nice week night meal, I was pleasantly surprised with its versatility.  The pasta dish became a perfect casserole and hit the spot on a dreary overcast day.  In fact it might have been better received and enjoyed than the first go round.

Quick Rotini with Sausage & Greens**

8 ounces Whole Wheat Rotini

Olive Oil

3 (4oz) Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage links, casings removed*

2 1/2 cups Greens (I used arugula spinach mix)

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried crushed red pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups canned crushed tomatoes

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1. In a large saucepan boil water.  Add pasta and cook 7-9 minutes.  Drain pasta over a bowl so that you can reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid.

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2. Heat about 2 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add sausage to the pan and cook about 5 minutes or until browned.  Add 1 cup greens, onion, oregano, crushed red pepper, and garlic.  Cook 2 minutes stirring frequently.

3. Add reserved cooking liquid, tomatoes, sugar, and black paper.  Bring to a boil and add pasta to skillet.  Cook about 2 minutes and add remaining greens.  Toss greens throughout pasta and serve.  Top with fresh parmesan cheese, if desired.

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Pasta and Sausage Take Two Baked

Leftover Quick Rotini with Sausage, and Greens

1/2 cup Ricotta or Cottage Cheese

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup spaghetti sauce ( I used trader joe organic tomato & basil)

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/4 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 cup sliced or grated mozzarella cheese

1.  Preheat Oven to 350 degrees

2.  In a large bowl mix the pasta dish with Ricotta cheese and next five ingredients.  Once mixed well, pour into a ceramic or glass baking dish and top with mozzarella cheese.  Bake at 350 for about 20 – 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and pasta is bubbling.  Serve and enjoy.

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**We are a family of three so the original recipe that served four actually stretched to serve us twice since we enjoyed salads with it both times.  In order to get the benefit of this pasta dish two ways, you may want to double the original recipe.

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If you enjoy pasta dishes, here are some others you may like as well

IMG_3029 Red, White & Greens Pasta

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Snap Pea & Tortellini Pesto

My kind of comfort food

Fancy Grilled Cheese

Yesterday I spoke to soon.  I indicated Spring had sprung, but then I stepped outside and it was another cold and wet day. Let me remind you it is now early April and I have had enough. We had a glimpse of spring, almost summer with temperatures in the upper 70’s to low 80’s and then what happen not even out of the 50’s, overcast, with periods of rain. I can remember days in March when we wore tank tops and one spring break I broke out the sprinkler it was so warm. Not so this year each week for the past few weeks we have had a glimpse of spring and then old man winter shows himself again. Weather like this does not help me motivate to get out of my desk chair and workout, but it does wonders for my dreaming of cheesy goodness. The dog desperately sits by the window dreaming that I will take her for a walk. Sorry but under 60 and wet that is not happening the most you get is a quick jaunt to relieve yourself.

I have always been a weather checker, not sure that is a phrase, but you understand. When it was the weather channel I would wait for local on the 8, now a days I check my phone, ipad, or whatever is handy to see the next ten hours or ten days. When I begin thinking about meals for the week, which I am constantly doing but typically focus on it on one or two times a week for the next 4 days or so.  I always need to know the weather. This week again it showed cold and wet though never leaving the 50’s was colder than expected.

I am a big grilled cheese fan and can have it a number of different ways, but remember I said my daughter was adventurous with food. She is, but ironically she was not a fan of grilled cheese until I made it fancy. So now when she asks for grilled cheese she expects it to be on the lines of something like this
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Basically a fancy grilled cheese on this particular evening consist of multi grain bread spread nicely with arugula pesto on piece of bread. I love pesto but to lather both slices of bread with this spicy concoction could be a little overpowering. Depending on your cheese taste, Little Miss Mixture prefers Munster to Fontina each sandwich receives a slice atop the pesto and one on the other slice. Before closing the sandwich top one slice of cheese with some Caramelized onions. Close and toss into the cast iron skillet that has butter simmering and cook until perfectly browned and cheese melts.
Flip to ensure both sides are nicely browned, almost burnt if like me you are trying to manage the kids, the dog, and getting the final items for dinner this will happen without trying. Enjoy warm.

The pesto that apparently transforms a regular grilled cheese sandwich into a fancy grilled cheese and a food Little Miss Mixture will eat is simple. I must warn you if you are compelled to measure everything and get anxiety reading about recipes that require a dash, pinch, or to taste, stop reading now. Go find a blog that may be better suited for you. I am not a person who measures. On occasion the first time I make a recipe I measure, or at least some of the ingredients, but as a general rule I do not measure. In fact I am believer that you can bake and not measure perfectly. More about that another day.

So if you want to enjoy a Fancy Spread here is a basic guideline. This recipe was adapted from http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/arugula_pesto/

Arugula Pesto 

1 1/2 – 2 cups Arugula
1/4 cup Olive Oil
2 Tbsp (small handful) Walnuts
1 garlic clove
1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese

Toss all ingredients into a food processor or vitamix and blend until desired consistency. NOTE: If using Vitamix be sure to put the olive oil in first and the arugula on top and slowly increase your variable speed. Taste and season with pepper and salt, if you must – this is a rarity in my recipes. I only use salt in a handful of items such as baking that I feel it is necessary. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use. Pesto can also be frozen in small batches for use at a later date. I find the small mason jars are fabulous for putting just under 1/2 cup and thawing whenever you want a fancier sandwich.