Four Cheese Drunken Sun-Dried Tomato and Spinach Pasta Bake

This is one of my new favorite dishes. Not only because it's delicious but you just mix everything together, lay it in a casserole dish, and bake it. That's it! It's got so much flavor and depth to it that you would think you spent more time in the kitchen. It's perfect for the weeknights where you get home late and just don't want to cook anything. It's great for those times when you are having guests over and don't want to spend all your time in the kitchen cooking. It's great when you're just being lazy. I just love this recipe.

I did make a couple of changes from the original recipe. I was unable to find burrata cheese. So, I bought fresh mozzarella and sliced that up instead. Don't get the pre-grated or dry mozzarella cheese. Trust me on this. You will want that wet round ball of cheesy goodness for this. It just melts and tastes so much better than the dry stuff. I was also unable to find fontina and asiago cheese. Let's just say my grocery store doesn't know how to order stock... it's always out of things. Anyways, since I couldn't find those, I did end up buying a bag of mixed pre-grated cheese that had the blend of cheeses I needed. Then I just added in a touch more of fresh parmesan. In the end, the dish was still amazing and is definitely something that I will be making on a regular basis.

recipe adapted from Half Baked Harvest

  • 1 (28 ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, oil drained but reserved
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess liquid
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt and pepper, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta
  • 8 ounces fontina cheese, cubed
  • 1 1/2 cups asiago cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese*, grated
  • 8 ounces burrata cheese
  • fresh basil or parsley, chopped for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Grease a 9x13 inch baking dish. Add the whole can of san marzan tomatoes, crushing the whole tomatoes with your hand. Add the tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes + about 2 tablespoons of the oil left in the jar, thawed spinach, garlic, dried basil, dried oregano, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, wine and 1 1/2 cups water. Give everything a good stir to combine and then add the dry pasta, fontina cheese, asiago cheese and parmesan cheese, toss everything to evenly coat. Push down gently on the pasta to get most of it under sauce.
  3. Tightly cover the baking dish and bake for 40-45 minutes. Uncover and break the burrata cheese over top of the pasta. Bake an additional 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from the oven and garnish with parsley and or basil. Cut and serve.
*be sure the parmasen cheese doesn't have animal rennet in it 

Slow cooker Mexican quinoa

I can't believe I have not put this recipe up on the blog yet. It's one of my favorite go-to recipes for a big potluck. It's really cheap to make, it's vegetarian and vegan friendly, and it's super simple to make. You just dump everything into the slow cooker and walk away.

The most tedious part of this recipe is peeling and chopping the butternut squash. I've made this a handful of times and have made it with canned enchilada sauce (not a huge fan of the canned, there's just no flavor), homemade enchilada sauce (highly recommended), butternut squash, and sweet potatoes. So, if you aren't a fan of having to peel and cut a squash, then go with the sweet potatoes instead. Personally, I like it both ways.

The only thing you will need for this is a 5-6 qt slow cooker. When I first started making this I only had a 2 qt slow cooker and a small one Let's just say it was a mess. I found myself mixing it together in a massive bowl, and then trying to pour the mixture between two separate slow cookers equally. Which, didn't always happen. So yeah, you are going to want a big slow cooker for this recipe.

Enchilada sauce 
recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup chili powder
2 cups vegetable stock
12 ounces tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

  1. In a medium saucepan heat oil, add flour, smoothing and stirring with a wooden spoon. Cook for 1 minute. Add chili powder and cook for 30 seconds. Add stock, tomato paste, oregano, and cumin. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. The sauce will thicken and smooth out. Adjust the seasonings.

recipe adapted from Chelsea's Messy Apron 
  • 1.5 pounds  butternut squash, about 4 cups
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 can (15 oz) black beans, about 1.5 cups cooked beans
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 can (14.5 oz) fire-roasted petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 small jalapeno, optional
  •  enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup vegetable
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • Optional toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, fresh lime juice, sour cream, chopped cilantro

  1. Spray your slow cooker with nonstick spray.
  2. Peel and scoop the seeds out of the butternut squash. Cut it into cubes and place in the slow cooker.
  3. Add in the corn, drained and rinsed black beans, rinsed quinoa (I rinse mine in a fine mesh sieve), minced garlic, undrained fire-roasted petite diced tomatoes, diced jalapeno, the enchilada sauce, the vegetable broth, and the packet of taco seasoning.
  4. Give everything a really good stir, cover and cook on high for 3-4 hours or until the quinoa is cooked and the butternut squash is tender.
  5. Remove the lid and stir everything together really well. Allow the liquid to absorb while on low for another 30 minutes or until mostly absorbed.
  6. Season with any additional spices and/or salt and pepper if desired.
  7. Top bowls with optional toppings.

Quinoa burger topped with gruyere, sweet potato fries, beer caramelized onions & fried egg

Ever come across a burger that blows all the other burgers out of the water? You know, the one that the second you bite into it, your brain just shuts down and your sole focus is trying to fit as much of the burger in your mouth as possible? Well, for me, this is that burger. I saw it when cruising the internet for new recipes to try. Being someone who likes to try new and weird things, I immediately gravitated to it when I saw that there was a fried egg on top. Then I noticed the sweet potato fries, the beer caramelized onions, Gruyere cheese, and a quinoa burger that has cheddar mixed in, and I was hooked. I immediately went out to the store and bought all the components to make this. I even had to make a special trip to a certain over-rated hipster grocery store the day after pay-day just to get my hands on Gruyere cheese since my local grocery story didn't have it. And let me tell you, it was well worth the trip because this burger is the best thing to ever grace my taste buds.

My pictures do not do this burger justice. Trust me, this burger is amazing. I wish I could say that it's a quick throw together meal that takes little to no work but I'd be lying if I did. Hold on though! Bear with me here. It's most definitely worth the work. When I looked over the recipe and realized what goes into making this, I made triple the burger recipe so that I could put them in the freezer to cook up at a later date. Which, I may have already done two days after making the burger for the first time. What?! They are THAT good! Plus, having the burgers already made made the rest of the process go faster. So, trust me, make a huge batch of the burgers, form them into patties, wrap them in plastic wrap, and store them in the freezer for a later date. ;)

recipe adapted from Half Baked Harvest

*makes about 4-5 burgers

quinoa burgers
  • 2 cups cooked red quinoa
  • 1 cup cannellini beans, mashed
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 of your favorite burger buns
  • 4 eggs cooked to your liking

sweet potato fries
  • 4 medium sweet potatoes, cut into thin 1/2-inch thick strips
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1/4-1/2 cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 tablespoon olive oil

caramelized onions
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup beer

  1. In a bowl combine the quinoa, mashed cannellini beans, bread crumbs, egg, garlic, chipotle chile powder, salt and pepper. Mix well to moisten the ingredients and then mix in the shredded cheddar cheese. Mix well again and form into 4 or 5 equal burger patties. Place on a plate and put in the fridge.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  3. Place cut potatoes in a large bowl and drizzle with oil, chipotle chile powder, cayenne, smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Gently toss with your hands or two spatulas to evenly coat. Spread on a baking sheet in one layer. Bake for 15-20 minutes, then flip and bake for 15-20 minutes more. You want the sweet potatoes to be crispy, but not burnt. If you want perfectly crisp fries I recommend spreading the sweet potatoes on a greased wire rack and baking them as directed above. But this way is a bit of a pain. Keep the sweet potato fries warm until ready to top on the burgers.
  4. While the fries cook caramelize the onions. Heat large skillet. Add 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened.
  5. At this point you want to slowly add the beer, let it cook into the onions, add more and let it cook. Do this until the 1 cup of beer is gone or the onions are caramelized to your liking and the beer has evaporated. Remove from the skillet and keep warm.
  6. In the same skillet add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Grab the quinoa burgers and cook until golden and crisp, about five minutes per side. During the last minute or so of cooking add the Gruyere cheese, cover the pan and cook 2-3 minutes or until the cheese has melted.
  7. To assemble the burgers, place each burger on a bun, top with equal amounts of caramelized onions and sweet potato fries. Add you egg.

Minestrone Verde

The weather is still a bit unpredictable here. I find myself always being over or under-dressed for it. It doesn't help that we live literally by the ocean and it's a lot cooler here than it is out in town. So, I've found myself on more than one occasion bundling up in a coat only to sweat my butt off while out running errands. Then I come home and it's cold again. Needless to say, our dinners this past week have ranged from soups to BBQ. I'm not complaining though. I could be in NY under a foot of snow. So, I mean, there's always that.

One of my favorite food blogs is Joanne's Eat Well With Others. I've made a few of her recipes and have loved them. So when I saw that she made this soup with a pesto twist, I was all on board. I LOVE pesto. Heck, I love the color green. No, I'm serious. I own a lime green car. So, she totally got me with this minestrone verde recipe. Like everything I've tried from her site, this recipe did not disappoint. The best part of this whole recipe is that it's all made in ONE POT! Gah. I love easy recipes with an even more easier clean-up.

recipe adapted from Eats Well With Others

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 leeks, clean and thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 medium zucchini, trimmed, quartered lengthwise, and cut horizontally into wedges
  • 6-7 cups vegetable broth, divided
  • 1 lb small pasta
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 5 oz baby kale or spinach
  • ½ cup pecorino romano (look for vegetarian cheese w/o rennet in it)
  • ½ cup basil pesto

  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and salt to the pan and saute, stirring frequently, until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir the zucchini into the pot and season again with salt and black pepper. Saute until soft but not yet falling apart, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.
  3. Pour the broth into the pot and bring to a boil.
  4. Stir in the pasta and return to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the peas and kale. Continue to simmer until pasta is al dente. Remove from the heat and stir in the pecorino romano. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  5. Divide among serving bowls topped with dollops of the pesto.

Gluten-Free Cheesy Veggie Bake

While my family back home on the east coast is getting hit with below zero temperatures and snow, us on the west coast are getting hit with El Niño rains. Not that I'm complaining though because we are in some serious need of rain. I'm pretty sure the palm trees outside are actually clapping with joy and dancing in the rain and not getting whipped around in the wind.

Needless to say, the next two weeks (or however long this stretch of rain lasts) I will be making casseroles and crock-pot meals to help combat the dark and gloomy days ahead. Last night I made one of my favorites and realized that I haven't even shared this on the blog yet. I make it all the time, even in the summer. It's easy to make. The most time consuming part is baking and shredding the spaghetti squash. Otherwise, you just mix everything in your baking pan and pop it in the oven. I've been known to assemble the casserole the day before, store it in the refrigerator, and then pop it in the over the next day. Plus, this is perfect if you are counting calories. It's only 273 calories per serving and this makes 6 huge servings.

recipe adapted from PopSugar

1 whole spaghetti squash
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 carrot, shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
16 ounces tomato sauce
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. shredded Parmesan

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Poke spaghetti squash all over with a knife and place the poked squash on a baking pan and bake at 375ºF for 45 to 60 minutes. If you are short on time cook the squash in the microwave for eight to 12 minutes until soft. While it's cooking, add the oil, garlic, pepper, zucchini, and carrots to a pan, cooking over medium heat.
  3. Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and with a fork, scrape the flesh from the peel. It should flake off easily in strings, resembling spaghetti. Place the spaghetti squash flesh in a casserole dish. Add the cooked veggies, diced tomato, sauce, and most of the cheese and mix well. Sprinkle leftover cheese on top and bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.
  4. Allow to cool for five minutes, serve, and enjoy.