Caprese Pasta Salad ~ ElephantEats.com

We’re down at my mother-in-law’s for the long holiday weekend, and her big, bright kitchen inspired me to finally do some cooking.

Making Caprese Pasta Salad ~ ElephantEats.com

I hope that I’m getting this to you with enough notice that you can make it for your big Memorial Day spread tomorrow!

Caprese Pasta Salad 2 ~ ElephantEats.com

Not sure if it’s pregnancy or the weather but I’ve been craving a tangy pasta salad, specifically one with all the flavors of summer. I combined my love of Caprese Salad with pasta into this tasty dish. It’s super easy and quick and can sit out for a decent amount of time, so it’s great for when you have a buffet at your bbq.

Caprese Pasta Salad 3 ~ ElephantEats.com

Also, figured I’d throw in my 23 week pic, although I’m at 25 weeks now ;) Getting bigger every day…

23 weeks ~ ElephantEats.com

23 wks front ~ ElephantEats.com

Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Caprese Pasta Salad
Serves 6
A quick and easy pasta salad, full of the flavors of summer!
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Ingredients
  1. 1 lb farfalle pasta, dried (or any shape you prefer)
  2. 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  3. 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  4. 3-4 cloves garlic, minced plus 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  5. 5-6 medium tomatoes (this really depends how much tomato you like), diced with half of the juives removed
  6. 2 handfuls fresh basil, chopped
  7. 16 oz. fresh mozzarella, diced
  8. 1 tsp salt (plus more to taste) and pepper
Instructions
  1. Cook pasta according to directions until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water, then put in large bowl. Put empty pot back on stove top.
  2. In a small bowl, mix vinegar and oil plus salt and pepper.
  3. In the empty pot, add a couple Tablespoons of olive oil and add garlic. Saute a min until fragrant and lightly brown. Remove immediately and add to olive oil mixture.
  4. Add chopped tomatoes, basil and mozzarella to bowl of pasta.
  5. Add in oil/vinegar mixture and toss well.
http://elephanteats.com/

Zesty Mac 'n Cheese Casserole ~ ElephantEats.com

Good news! I got back in the kitchen again this week and actually made and photographed a recipe!

Sorry I’ve been so lacking on recipe posts, I guess I’ve just been really lazy since my Christmas break and haven’t been able to get back into the groove.

This has been compounded by the fact that my computer is at death’s door and I dread having to use it because it’s SO SLOW and the battery dies in about 20 min. I’m going to start using Nate’s computer but it’s a Mac and I’m putting it off as long as possible since I’m a PC girl.

Zesty Mac 'n Cheese Casserole ~ ElephantEats.com

But anyway, let’s get to this recipe. I think we all know that homemade mac and cheese doesn’t hold a candle to the stuff in the blue box- although I’m partial to the Velveeta Shells and Cheese variety that comes with the pack of squeeze cheese.

Whenever I make macaroni and cheese from scratch, the cheese sauce looks so smooth, creamy and delicious in the pot, but then after you toss the noodles in it and put it in the oven, it kind of separates and turns to a texture I don’t like at all. It gets kind of dry (which I guess some people like) and just not cheesy at all.

Zesty Mac 'n Cheese Casserole ~ ElephantEats.com

Ever since I was little, I’ve loved Velveeta cheese. In fact I just remembered that for breakfast I used to eat an english muffins toasted with Velveeta melted on it and sprinkled with bacon bits. I don’t know how I came up with this, but MAN was it good….and I kind of want one of those sandwiches right now…

Anyway, I know Velveeta is artificially colored and probably so bad for you, but I’m convinced that in order for mac and cheese to be palatable, it needs to contain some of this delightful cheese product. Well this recipe is the best of both worlds. The cheese sauce is made using my favorite artificial cheese, keeping it smooth and delicious even after it’s baked, but then there’s real cheddar sprinkled on top for even more cheesy deliciousness.

Zesty Mac 'n Cheese Casserole ~ ElephantEats.com

This particular recipe gets a little kick from the tomatoes with green chiles, and I’ve made it extra healthy by adding loads of veggies. I also added tofu since Nate and I don’t love chicken but I wanted some added protein. You could definitely sub chicken if you’d like.

I could not stop myself from eating this!

Zesty Mac 'n Cheese Casserole ~ ElephantEats.com

Zesty Mac 'n Cheese Casserole
Serves 6
A spicy, cheesy pasta casserole chock full of veggies!
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Ingredients
  1. 16-oz. package corkscrew pasta (or whatever shape you like)
  2. 2 tablespoons butter
  3. 1 medium onion, diced
  4. 1 green bell pepper, diced
  5. 8 oz. mushrooms, diced
  6. 1 (10-oz.) can diced tomatoes and green chiles
  7. 10-oz. pasteurized prepared cheese product, cubed (like Velveeta, which comes in a box or shredded)
  8. 10 oz. frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
  9. 8 oz. super firm tofu, cubed and drained- i found a pre-cubed version (you could also sub chicken if you want)
  10. 1 (10 3/4-oz.) can cream of chicken soup
  11. 1/2 cup sour cream
  12. 1 1/2 cups (6 oz.) shredded Cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cook pasta for slightly less time than package recommends so it's al dente. It will cook more in the oven so you don't want it to be too mushy.
  2. Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms and sauté 5-10 minutes or until tender.
  3. Stir in tomatoes and green chiles and prepared cheese product; cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes or until cheese melts. Stir in broccoli, tofu, soup and sour cream and stir well. Mix in hot cooked pasta until blended.
  4. Spoon mixture into a 9x13 baking dish; sprinkle with shredded Cheddar cheese.
  5. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbly.
Adapted from Southern Living
Adapted from Southern Living
http://elephanteats.com/

Butternut Squash Pesto Grilled Cheese ~ ElephantEats.com

Guys, I’m so far behind! I have so many things I still need to share with you but just haven’t either made the recipes or assembled the posts- the recipes from my cooking class in Italy, and also the finished coffee table ottoman I made!

But in the meantime, you’ll have to settle for this grilled cheese, which is pretty darn delicious. I mentioned this very early on in my blog, but Nate is a creature of habit. He literally eats the same breakfast and lunch EVERY day of the week. So occassionally, on the weekend, he’ll request grilled cheese instead of his daily turkey sandwich. 

Butternut Squash Pesto Grilled Cheese ~ ElephantEats.com

I usually just use up whatever is in the fridge on these days, sometimes coming up with really good combos. That’s how this sandwich came about. I do often add pesto to his grilled cheese, but on this particular occassion there was some leftover roasted butternut squash.

The combo of the squash, the pesto and the melty cheese was just too good not to share. I think you could also use some thanksgiving leftovers for a very tasty grilled cheese combo- maybe with some sweet potatoes? some cranberry sauce? Oh man, the combinations are endless!

Butternut Squash Pesto Grilled Cheese ~ ElephantEats.com

On other fronts, I’m scrambling to make decisions on my house because it’s going much faster than I thought. The demo is complete and framing will apparently be pretty much done by the end of next week. Because of this, my contractor informed me that I need to pick out my roof color by this Friday (!). And then I need to pick out all my bathroom fixtures and cabinetry by the end of next week so that the plumber will know where to put the plumbing. I didn’t realize that the cabinet itself made a difference, but they need to know how high any shelves inside it are, etc, that would obstruct the pipes so they can plan accordingly.

Needless to say, for a decision-making-a-phobe like me, I’m getting quite stressed out :( I really thought I’d have more than 2 wks to decide everything!

Butternut Squash Pesto Grilled Cheese ~ ElephantEats.com

Also, this weekend we went down to Nate’s moms and I had him videotape me preparing a dish so I could enter The Great American Cookbook Competition. It’s some contest Rachel Ray is having that my aunt told me about. I highly doubt I’ll win, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to try :) Hopefully Nate can make me look better on the video through editing than I actually came across on tape, because I most certainly could never be an actress. 

I hope that you all have a very Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Chanukkah to those that celebrate!!!

Butternut Squash Pesto Grilled Cheese ~ ElephantEats.com

Butternut Squash Pesto Grilled Cheese
This isn't really much of a recipe, but more of an idea
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Ingredients
  1. Bread slices
  2. Cheese slices
  3. Leftover roasted butternut squash, cut into slices
  4. Pesto
  5. Butter
Instructions
  1. Spread the insides of the bread slices with pesto. Top with a couple slices of cheese and then then enough squash to cover. Using a knife, spread/flatten the squash as much as possible.
  2. Close sandwich and spread butter over the outsides of the bread. Cook in a pan or in a panini press (my favorite way to make grilled cheese) until cheese is melted.
  3. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. The possibilities of fillings inside grilled cheese are endless!
http://elephanteats.com/

Thanksgivukkah! Spiced Sweet Potato "Gelt" with Orange Honey Cinnammon Sour Cream ~ ElephantEats.com

As I mentioned in my last post, I have a Thanksgivukkah recipe for you guys today.

What is Thanksgivukkah you ask? It’s when Thanksgiving and Chanukkah coincide! Chanukkah goes by the Hebrew (lunar) calendar and so it’s not always in December like Christmas. It has been in November before, but it’s extremely rare that in falls on Thanksgiving. 

Thanksgivukkah! Spiced Sweet Potato "Gelt" with Orange Honey Sour Cream ~ ElephantEats.com

Nate is a lovely hand model

According to Wikipedia, the last time it happened since Thanksgiving was declared a U.S. federal holiday by President Abraham Lincoln was 125 years ago, in 1888. The next time Thursday, November 28 will fall during Chanukkah will be in the year 79811, assuming the Jewish calendar is not revised. Crazy huh?

Being that Jews love to eat, and food bloggers love to cook, you can guarantee that this Chanukkah will have some awesome Thanksgiving/Jewish inspired treats.

The traditional Chanukkah foods are latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (donuts). If you notice, both of these foods are deep fried in oil, which is no coincidence. Oil is very important to the holiday of Chanukkah. You can read more about it here if you’re interested.

Thanksgivukkah! Spiced Sweet Potato "Gelt" with Orange Honey Sour Cream ~ ElephantEats.com

I’ve already seen plenty of riffs on latkes for Thanksgivukkah, involving sweet potatoes rather than regular spuds. Honeslty I don’t think that’s so original, as Jews have been doing that already for years. Then I saw people made turkey donuts, which is just plain gross. I also saw a pumpkin rugelach or pumpkin kugel (pudding). 

But I wanted to be original. So I tried to think of other Chanukkah “things.” The other traditional food to eat on Chanukkah, if you can call it a food, is chocolate “gelt” or chocolate coins.Usually these coins are used to gamble while playing dreidel, a game involving a little spinning top.

Thanksgivukkah! Spiced Sweet Potato "Gelt" with Orange Honey Sour Cream ~ ElephantEats.com

Gelt is really just money, or coins, so I figured a recipe could look like gelt without actually involving the candy that we love to eat on this holiday. That’s when it occurred to me- sweet potato gelt! I thought about using carrots since they’re smaller and would look more like coins, but they’re not as Thanksgiving-y as sweet potatoes. 

I added the dipping to sauce to make it more kid-friendly (kids love dipping!) and also to inject some more fall flavor (citrus and cinnamon) into the dish. Obviously this dish goes way beyond Thanksgivukkah and would be a welcome addition to any dinner, or even as a fun pass-around appetizer. 

I hope you enjoy, and have a wonderful Thanksgivukkah! You know you want to celebrate it ;)

Thanksgivukkah! Spiced Sweet Potato "Gelt" with Orange Honey Sour Cream ~ ElephantEats.com

Spiced Sweet Potato "Gelt" with Orange Honey Sour Cream Dipping Sauce
Serves 4
A perfect appetizer or kid's food for Thanksgivukkah or just any day of the year!
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Potatoes
  1. 4-5 sweet potatoes/yams (try to find ones with a small diameter to make smaller "coins")
  2. Cooking spray or olive oil
  3. salt/pepper/cinnamon for sprinkling
Dipping Sauce
  1. 8 oz. sour cream (I used low fat)
  2. 1 Tbsp orange zest
  3. 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
  4. 1 Tbsp honey
  5. 1/4 tsp cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425. Cover a large baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.
  2. Cut sweet potatoes crosswise into 1/2" thick rounds. Either toss with oil or place on the prepared baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Sprinkle with salt/pepper/cinnamon.
  3. Put potatoes in oven and cook, flipping them halfway, 20-25 minutes or until cooked and soft enough to be pierced with a fork, but firm enough to be picked up without falling apart.
  4. While potatoes are cooking, whisk dipping sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.
  5. Let potatoes cool to room temperature so you can pick them up without burning your fingers and serve with sauce on the side for dipping!
http://elephanteats.com/

Orange Seitan with Green Beans and Peppers ~ ElephantEats.com

My friend Erica came over to dinner a few weeks ago and I cooked up this meal. It was SUPER easy and she liked it so much that she made it for dinner later that week too!

That was also the day I made the fluffy pb frosted brownies, which she got to sample. Lucky girl ;)

She brought one home to her bf and he apparently gave it a thumbs up!

Orange Seitan with Green Beans and Peppers ~ ElephantEats.com

Since Nate doesn’t like the taste of beef, and I hate touching raw chicken, I’m always experimenting with new protein forms. We both love seitan so I picked some up at Whole Foods assuming we’d find a use for it. I went to use it, thinking it was sliced in pieces, but it was actually ground.

I had never had ground seitan before but it was actually a really perfect substitute for ground beef! I love the texture it added to this dish and I’ll definitely be making it again. Be sure to serve it over a big bowl of white (my fave) or brown rice. Mmmm mmm!

Orange Seitan with Green Beans and Peppers ~ ElephantEats.com

Also, I finished another pet portrait! This one was a present for my parents of their long-haired mini dachsund, Sparky. I think it’s my best one yet!

Mini Dachsund Pet Portrait ~ ElephantEats.com

Orange Seitan with Peppers and String Beans
Serves 4
A healthy, vegetarian version of chinese take-out!
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Ingredients
  1. zest from one orange
  2. 1/2 cup orange juice (juice the orange you zested and add water to get to 1/2 cup)
  3. 1/4 cup brown sugar
  4. 2 Tbsp rice vinegar
  5. 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  6. 2 tsp chili garlic sauce
  7. 2 tsp grated fresh ginger
  8. 2 tsp cornstarch
  9. 2 tsp vegetable oil
  10. 3/4 lb fresh green beans, ends cut and trimmed into 2-inch pieces
  11. 2 red peppers, sliced thin and cut into 2-inch strips
  12. 1 lb ground seitan
  13. 2 scallions, chopped
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk the orange zest, juice, brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, chili garlic sauce, ginger and cornstarch.
  2. In a large nonstick pan, heat oil over med-hi heat. Add green beans and peppers and cook for about 3 min. Add seitan and cook til beans are crisp tender.
  3. With a slotted spoon, transfer everything to a large bowl.
  4. Give the orange juice mixture a stir and add it to the pan. Cook, scraping up any brown bits until thickened, about 2 min.
  5. Add veggies and seitan back to pan, along with any juices. Warm through.
  6. Serve over white or brown rice to soak up all that yummy sauce!
Adapted from Very Culinary
Adapted from Very Culinary
http://elephanteats.com/