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

Spinach, Apple & Mushroom Salad with Maple Vinaigrette & What we are Eating

DSC_0606 DSC_0604I hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend. It is officially time to put away the white pants and linen and begin to enjoy football, apples, and pumpkins. It may not be fall per the calendar as yet, but in the South we have rules.  I just love this that I found while perusing my social media last night. I guess I really am a southern girl as I do in fact live by most of these.  I will admit to continuing to wear strappy sandals and sundresses for another week or so, but really how can you not when the thermometer is inching up to the mid 90’s.  White however is a no and I completely agree with the author of this piece as I struggle with whether or not white jeans work.  Regardless of what the fashion industry said, us southern girls remember what our mom’s taught us.

So to kick our fall off, we went apple picking this weekend.  We had a great time, though I wish it had been a few degrees cooler.  It is hard to enjoy yourself and get ready for fall when you are sweating your way through the apple orchard.  Apple Cider YES please, just make it a cold one.  There is no way to enjoy hot apple cider when it is a blazing 88 on top of a mountain.  Regardless of the weather our family tradition still stands.  We had a picnic lunch, picked a bushel of apples, bought and enjoyed some apple cider, and indulged on apple cider doughnuts.  Not a bad way to enjoy the long weekend.  Now back at home the apples have been sorted and stored.  I prefer to refrigerate most of the apples as they keep for longer.

DSC_0608Tips for Storing Apples

1.  Sort apples by variety, as different varieties ripen at different rates

2.  Make sure to check apples for bruises and punctures as these apples need to be eaten first

3.  Apples will keep best if stored in a cool environment cellar or the refrigerator fruit drawer are good choices.  Most apples will keep 3-5 months when kept this way.

4.  Be sure to keep apples away from onions and potatoes as they hasten the ripening.

We have made apple picking a tradition for the past five years or so.  With about 30lbs of apples in the house  we have learned to enjoy them in a variety of ways.  Little Miss Mixtures lunch included fresh apple slices with peanut butter and honey for dipping.  Sometimes we eat them with a slice of cheese.  I baked them with cinnamon and raisins to enjoy with yogurt.  I mix them into salads, make cakes, and applesauce.  Aside from just biting into them, this is how we enjoyed our fresh Jonagold apples this weekend.

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Spinach & Apple Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

3 cups fresh spinach

2 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/4 cup red onion, sautéed in the bacon fat

1/4 cup sliced mushrooms

1 small apple (jonagold, gala, or other sweet variety work best)

Maple Vinaigrette

1 oz Maple Syrup

1 Tbsp Shallots, minced

1 Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard

1 tsp garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients for vinaigrette and whisk together.  Allow to sit while you prepare the rest of the salad.

In a skillet over medium heat, cook bacon until 3/4 of the way done.  Add the sliced red onion and continue sautéing together until bacon is crispy and onion is soft.  In a large salad bowl mix spinach, apple slices, and mushrooms.  Top with bacon and onion mixture.  Pour vinaigrette over salad and toss well.  Serve and enjoy.

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* adapted from Spinach Salad with Maple Dijon Vinaigrette in Cooking Light Magazine

 

What we are Eating (August 24 – August 30)

Sunday – Italian Chicken Sausage Pepper & Onions,  Made from Scratch Sweet Potato Fries, Heirloom Tomatoes

Monday – Better than Take Out Pizza

Tuesday – Nachos with Black Bean Corn Salsa

Wednesday – Taco Salad

Thursday – Cilantro Serrano Pasta with Chicken

Friday – Anytime Salad with Chicken

Saturday – Date Night Out

Treasure Chest Thursday Recipe: Gnocchi with Spinach & Pine Nuts

IMG_3708How have I not written about this meal yet?  This meal is regularly requested and I try to keep the ingredients on hand as it is a great way to use up a green that has been sitting around a little too long.  I tend to make this recipe most often with spinach, but I have been known to toss in some chard, kale, arugula, or even collard greens.

This recipe is definitely worthy of being a Treasure Chest Thursday post.  This is one of those simple meals that has just the right amount of flavor.  It is quick and easy to prepare making it a great weeknight (aka school night) meal.

As I am writing this post I really hope my search feature is working, as I could have sworn I have already posted this recipe but each time I have searched it comes up empty for gnocchi.  I guess I have written it in my head more than once because as I am typing the thoughts sound too familiar.  I have always been a fan of gnocchi since I first had it in a pesto dish years ago.  It has also been one of those items I swear I will try and make one day, but last winter I tried what I thought would be the easier version of gnocchi to make – gnudi.  Well turns out either I totally bombed the recipe or I really did not like gnudi.

I have never seen gnudi on a menu but I keep telling myself I have to try it again and try it somewhere out to see if it was me, the recipe or if I am just not a fan of gnudi.   Gnudi is really just gnocchi made with ricotta rather than potato. The mere switch to ricotta, an ingredient I love makes me worried it was me rather than the gnudi.  I have never brought myself to make gnocchi as I am not a big fan of complex recipes with a lot of steps.  Really to make gnocchi you then have to also prepare a meal using it.  Not my favorite type of cooking.  Besides after the gnudi incident a part of me thought maybe store bought is just what I prefer when it comes to pasta.  Now don’t get me wrong I have had fresh made gnocchi as well as the vacuum packed that is great for keeping on hand and I like them both.  It is just another excuse I keep giving myself on why I do not want to try to make gnocchi from scratch.

Enough of my gnocchi and gnudi tangent.  Okay one last thing what fun words.  I wonder if anyone has ever named their animals gnocchi and gnudi – filing that idea away for when I finally have to give in to a fish or something that comes in pairs.  I can just picture two cute little dogs with those names, but we have one cute little dog now and that is ample, especially since she is not high on my list this morning.  Really now enough on to the recipe that is a treasure chest recipe in our house.IMG_3701

Gnocchi with Spinach & Pine Nuts

1 pkg gnocchi (16oz.)*

6 Tbsp. butter

4 Tbsp Toasted Pine Nuts**

3 Garlic Cloves, minced

1 1/2 – 2 bags Fresh Baby Spinach

1/4 tsp Black Pepper, optional

Parmesan Cheese, as desired

 Directions

Cook Gnocchi in boiling water according to package directions, about 5 minutes.  Omit any salt or oil.  Drain.

In a skillet over medium heat melt butter  and cook approximately 3-5 minutes stirring constantly.  The butter needs to start to turn golden brown.  Add garlic and pine nuts to pan and continuing stirring for 1 minute.  Add gnocchi and spinach and cook stirring occasionally until spinach wilts.  Season with pepper if desired.  I like to decrease my stirring once spinach is almost wilted and try to get the gnocchi to brown slightly.  Serve with parmesan cheese on top as desired.IMG_3706

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* I prefer whole wheat gnocchi, but any type works

** I use pre toasted pine nuts from Trader Joe’s, but if yours are not toasted add the pine nuts with the butter so they toast while the butter is browning.

Adapted from a recipe that appeared in Cooking Light MagazineIMG_3708

 

 

Spinach & Cantaloupe Smoothie

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In continuing with my Smoothie week, I made one a couple weeks back that though not exactly picture worthy, the flavor and nutritional value were high.

Again the luck of not getting the best cantaloupe struck again.  The first day it was delicious, but as much as I enjoy cantaloupe this family of three cannot eat an entire melon in 24-36 hours.  Unfortunately the ripeness of this melon was great at first taste and when I decided to slice it and store it, but as it sat for two days it started to become more ripe and mushy.  As much as I enjoy melon I am a bit particular as to they need to have some texture to them if I am going to simply eat and enjoy.

I had my taste buds set on making a green smoothie that morning as I had some fresh baby spinach and I had not had one in awhile.  So as I do so often I simply started adding ingredients to my Vitamix container.

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Spinach Cantaloupe Smoothie

3/4 cup Milk of choice

1 Tbsp. Greek Yogurt

1 banana

1 cup spinach

1 c. Frozen Pineapple

1/2 -3/4 c.. Cantaloupe

Blend to a smooth and enjoy.

 Printable Recipe & Nutritional InfoIMG_2302