Mac & Cheese – Italiano!

Cacio e Pepe – Cheese and Black Pepper – that’s it!  It’s a Roman staple and the easiest most delicious dinner to make, any day of the week!  First things first – have about 2 cups freshly grated Romano and/or Parmesan cheese.  Either grate it yourself or buy it fresh grated.  (No green cans here!)

Dish of spaghetti with white cheese sauce

Cacio e Pepe

Bring a pot of water to a boil, and try using less water than normal when cooking pasta.  (One of the secrets to the ‘cheesy’ sauce is the starchy pasta water.  The less water, the more starch!)  Once you salt the water (like the sea,) add the pasta and cook to al dente.  Meanwhile, melt about 3-4 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat.  Once melted, add about a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper.  Simmer and whisk for about a minute, then add about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.  Whisk around and remove from heat.  Let stand about 3 minutes.

After about 3 minutes, start adding the grated cheese, little by little, and you’ll see a black pepper cheese sauce start to form.  (Do this too quickly after taking the butter/water off the heat and you’ll end up with glue!)  Keep adding the cheese until it’s all incorporated.  The cheesy black pepper sauce will be fairly thick.

Before draining the pasta at al dente, reserve about another cup of pasta water to the side.  Drain pasta and let stand about 3 minutes.  Again, too hot, the cheese will turn to glue.  Add the pasta, one bunch at a time and continue to toss around in the cheese sauce.  Add a little more pasta water, as needed, to lighten the sauce.  Once it’s mixed, you’re ready to eat!  A little extra grated cheese at this point won’t hurt anything!  Buon appetito!  Ci vediamo presto!

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Ready for the week ahead – and beyond!

Another fun day in the kitchen getting ready for the week ahead, putting a twist on an old favorite and sharing a nutritious breakfast cookie that’s perfect for those days you’re running out the door!

You know I’m a big fan of the versatile breaded chicken tender, so today I thought about preparing eggplant in the same way to make Eggplant Parmesan.  The original recipe shared back in 2011 starts by lightly frying the eggplant slices on the stovetop before assembling.  Today I decided to start with breaded eggplant slices that I baked in the oven before putting the layers together.  I even made some more of my favorite chicken tenders while I was at it!

Picture of breaded eggplant slices

Breaded Eggplant Slices

Picture of breaded baked chicken tenders

Breaded Chicken Tenders

 

 

 

 

As I was in and out of the refrigerator, I remembered I had some fresh basil that I bought last week to make the Basil & Goat Cheese Chicken Breasts, so in staying true to form with ‘never throwing anything away,’ in the food processor went the basil leaves and PRESTO, out come a few small containers of PESTO!

Picture of 3 small containers of basil pesto

Basil Pesto

 

 

 

 

Finally, I made another double batch of these delicious and nutritious Peanut Butter Power Cookies.  I found this recipe last August when I was looking for an ‘on the go’ breakfast treat to share as we headed out on a small group trip, and these have been a staple in our house from then on.  A double batch makes about 30 cookies, so I store them in the freezer and they are ready anytime.  I grab a couple to eat in the early morning hours on my way to the gym – feeling good about it all the way there!

Picture of Peanut Butter Power Cookies

Peanut Butter Power Cookies

 

Ready for the week ahead – and I hope you are, too!  Buon Appetito!


8 Home-Cooked Meals for under $20?? No Problem – I’ve got you covered!

As I’ve shared many times before, I spend a few hours in the kitchen every weekend and we’ve got fresh and delicious home-cooked meals throughout the week ahead – and beyond!  Today’s adventure in the kitchen (and this blog post) isn’t about a new recipe I’ve been waiting to try, but all about my regular routine of ensuring I can always answer the question, “What’s for Dinner?” (and lunch, too, for that matter!)

So what does 8 meals for under $20 look like?

Chicken Salad Roasted Chicken goat-cheese-basil-chicken

 

 

 

 

I reserved 4 of the chicken breasts to prepare the Goat Cheese-Basil Chicken that will go in the freezer for easy weeknight meals (2 [2 serving] meals) that can be on the table in 45 minutes.  Then I roasted the remaining 2 chicken breasts with all the dark meat pieces.  The roasted breast meat (and a few of the thighs) were used to make the Chicken Salad (Quart size container – Easily 4-5 servings), and the rest of the dark meat pieces to be served alongside a salad, rice or potato, for another 2 [2 serving] meals.  (I saved the back bones to make chicken stock, too!)

Although I’ve shared each of these food prep ideas before, I thought it worth another post to remind everyone that fresh and delicious home-cooked are always within reach – at a fraction of the cost of going out or stopping at the drive-thru window on your way home from work.

I’m reminded about what I wrote in the “About Joe” section of this blog nearly 7 years ago, and it’s still true today.  Here’s an excerpt from that section:

I’ll write about shopping smart and turning leftovers into delightful new creations.  I’ll share ideas on dishes that can be made ahead and placed in the freezer to ensure a hot healthy meal after a long day at work.

I believe everyone can enjoy home-cooked meals at a fraction of the cost of going out – and feel good about what you’re doing for yourself and others in the process!  Food is a great way to share a part of yourself – and it doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive.

Thanks for joining me on my adventures in the kitchen, and I hope you’re inspired to try some of the recipes and prep-ahead ideas to reduce stress, eat fresh, and enjoy great food together!

Buon appetito!