27 December 2006

Easy-peasy Pesto and Penne

This is one of our all-time favorite dishes, and it is so simple which makes it even better. Anytime you are looking for a great pasta recipe that you can whip up in a flash and impress anyone - this is your dish. Just follow these few key rules and you can't go wrong:

1. You need a food processor - the small one seems to work best for this, but only because I think the large one is too big so I haven't used it for this.
2. You must use fresh basil (or the fresh in a tube basil) - dried will NOT work.
3. You must use fresh parmesan, the canned spaghetti cheese is not a good substitute.


12 ounces penne pasta
1 (8.5-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
2 garlic cloves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan


Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Meanwhile, blend the sun-dried tomatoes and their oil, garlic, salt and pepper, to taste, and basil in a food processor and blend until the tomatoes are finely chopped. Transfer the tomato mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the Parmesan.

Add the pasta to the pesto and toss to coat, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper and serve. (I never add the extra liquid)

09 December 2006

Not-So-Ordinary Meat Loaf

As a kid, I remember meat loaf night in a rather unpleasant sense - well basically, I hated it. That dry, cake-like meat with the ketchup top in almost a gel form - ick. It was definitely one of those meals which I swore I'd NEVER make when I grew up and cooked for myself, NEVER. The years continued to pass and while my mother quit making it, I still never forgot my feeling of disgust when the term "meat loaf" was brought up. Oddly enough, one of my Cooking Light magazines arrived one month and there on the cover was the dreaded meat loaf. It was a rather disappointing day in my home, since I have come to treasure the day each month when my Cooking Light arrives and to see that awful item some people call FOOD on the cover, well, it really ruined the moment. However, as a faithful reader, I scanned through the issue and quickly arrived at the page with the meat loaf recipes - yes, plural. Hmmmm. Several recipes for that blasted concoction called dinner? Now I was intrigued, so I continued, reading through list of ingredients after list and it hit me - with this many different options, I'm sure I could find ONE which might actually be good. As soon as the thought entered my mind I saw it, no pictures, just the title - Italian-Style Meat Loaf. I love Italian food, and this looks easy enough, so why not? Cooking Light hadn't let me down yet, so I'd keep trying! I prepared this along with some mashed potatoes and was totally shocked with the first bite - I actually liked it. Me, the one who avoided meat loaf like the plague, the one who couldn't say the term Meat Loaf without making a face, the one who swore she'd never make it, I actually took the challenge and won. Amazing. Not only was this dinner a huge success, but this menu has made it into our normal rotation and fills our bellies twice a month. Any skeptics, please, give this a try - I promise you will NOT be sorry!


3/4 pounds 92% lean ground beef
3/4 pounds lean ground turkey
1 cup fat-free tomato-basil pasta sauce, divided
1/2 cup Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup (2 ounces) preshredded fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 large egg whites
Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine beef, 1/2 cup pasta sauce, and remaining ingredients except cooking spray in a large bowl. Shape beef mixture into an 8 x 4-inch loaf on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Brush remaining 1/2 cup pasta sauce over top of meat loaf.

Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a thermometer registers 160°. Let stand 10 minutes. Cut loaf into 12 slices.