Tag Archives: dinner

Formula for perfect pasta

Formula for perfect pasta

I’ve always been a “by the seat of my pants” cook.  I love flipping through recipe books but what keeps me going in the kitchen is an internal GPS for what works in the kitchen.

This article from Bon Appetit magazine a couple years ago covers the basics of making great pasta dishes and is one of the best I’ve ever run across.  Yeah, you can slave all day over a stove and make an incredible tomato sauce — and there are times when I really want to do that.  (And have the time.)

But mostly I just want dinner on the table in <30 minutes, and I have to do it with what I’ve got in the larder already. So check out the article, print it, save it, memorize it…. and have fun cooking awesome food. 🙂

Some favorite flavor mergers in our household:

* bacon, onion, garlic + sundried tomatoes & balsamic vinegar (to deglaze the pan) + leftover cooked chicken, tomatoes, & spinach  …. finish with a splash of cream

* roasted summer vegetables like yellow squash, zucchini, and tomatoes (roast in oven at 400deg for 15-20 min while pasta cooks) + garlic & olive oil & grated cheese

* bulk sausage + onion, tomato + fresh spinach (till it wilts) + a jar of alfredo sauce 


Recipe: Creamy Southwestern Crockpot Chicken

Notice I did not say “crackpot” chicken. *chuckle*
This recipe is adapted from one I saw online and then fiddled with, as I always do. Feel free to fiddle yourself as well…. This version came out absolutely delicious.


black_beans5-8 pieces of chicken — can be frozen, can be bone-in our boneless, skin or not, whatever. Use what you’ve got
Cooking spray OR oil (I used 1T of the oil from a jar of sundried tomatoes — yum!)
Minced garlic
Optional: chopped onion
Marinade of your choice (see mine below)
1 can corn (mine was Green Giant & had bits of chiles in it); could also use a bag of frozen
1 can black beans
1 can Rotel or other mexican diced tomatoes OR 2 cups of salsa
1 container Philadelphia Cooking Cream in the Southwestern/Mexican flavor OR use a block of cream cheese + 1 cup salsa
Egg noodles — about 1/3 of a bag (uncooked)
Some sour cream if desired for garnish

Marinade note: Instead of making a traditional marinade, I threw in the remnants of a quinoa/blackbean/edamame salad I’d made the week before — it was dressed in a vinegar/sugar/olive oil/ground mustard dressing, the same one I use for 3-bean salad. I liked the combo a lot in this recipe, but it won’t ever happen again LOL

Acceptable marinades should bring many flavors to the party — Follow the Rule of Three and make your own: something acidic & flavorful (like a good vinegar or citrus), something spicy or seasoning (preferably Southwestern in this case), and something a bit sweet (honey, sugar, juice, a very sweet wine, etc).     Or in a pinch, just use a bottle of Italian dressing.  Or whatever dressing you can find buried in your frig.

Oil the crock pot with a little oil or cooking spray (or in my case, some of the sundried tomato oil).

Add the chicken pieces, garlic, and marinade. (Can add onion too, if desired.)

Leave the crock on the counter for about 30min so chicken can marinate — if you have time.

Add the corn, beans, and tomatoes (or salsa) to the crock and turn it on to cook.

Cook on HIGH for about 4 hours, or on LOW for 5 or 6 (depends on how much chicken).

To finish (30-60min cook time):
At the end of the cooking time, about an hour before dinner: Add the contained of Philadelphia Cooking Cream (or a block of Phila Cream Cheese and some more salsa) during the last 30min of cooking. Let cheese melt into the sauce & leftover marinade.

Once the sauce has formed from the melted cheese etc, add the dry egg noodles (or whatever pasta you desire) — adjust portion according to the amount of liquid in the crock (lots of liquid? add more pasta…. not much liquid? skip the pasta & cook it separately).

Allow pasta to cook through… then stir & serve!

If you have more chicken than “sauce,” reserve the cooked chicken to be chopped & add to pasta or quesadillas or tacos. It’s fall-apart tender & very flavorful.