Friday, June 28, 2013

Moroccan Chicken Thighs

With our beach vacation coming to an end, we've just about finished up our supply of groceries, so KK and I biked to Bagels International for breakfast.  They had a decent selection of bagels and cream cheese flavors, but Hoboken (and NYC) definitely has better bagels.  It was a bit chilly out, but my dad and I managed to get a few hours of beach time in on Friday.  KK opted to skip the sun today, and he made progress on our wedding album! One of these days we'll finalize the list of prints we want included... one day.  We had a late lunch at Fins.  The Mexican food hit the spot, and KK got a free cookie for checking in on Foursquare.  I'm currently using blogging as an excuse for not exercising - we'll see if I can muster up enough energy for one last bike ride!

Before completely running out of groceries, I made this Moroccan Chicken on Thursday night.  The spice combination of the Moroccan dish was new and different, and the blend of savory chicken/sauce with sweet fruit reminded me of Savory Peach Chicken.  No wonder there were no leftovers.  Based on commentary from Taste & Tell and Cooking Light, I decided to double the spices (already adjusted in the ingredient list below), and I'm glad I did.  I must say, the blend of cinnamon and cumin was unexpectedly appetizing.  I was a bit concerned when I finished cooking because the sauce seemed too liquidy, but I lived with it - mostly because I didn't have any cornstarch or flour to use as a thickening agent.  Luckily, there was no need to worry because the liquid was absorbed by the rice.  Another successful dinner - there were no leftovers! We paired dinner with a bottle of crisp white wine - a 2007 V. Sattui Sauvignon Blanc.

Moroccan Chicken Thighs
Adapted from Taste & Tell
Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Serves: 4-6

1/2 tablespoon olive oil 
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs 
2 large onions, thinly sliced 
2 tsp ground ginger 
2 tsp ground cumin 
1/2 tsp salt 
1 tsp ground coriander 
1 tsp ground cinnamon 
1/2 tsp black pepper 
5 garlic cloves, minced 
1 1/2 cups chicken broth 
1 cup uncooked basmati rice
2 cups water
15.5 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
7 oz. package dried halved apricots

1. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add half of the chicken and cook until all sides are browned, about 2-3 minutes per side.  Remove and repeat with the remaining chicken. 

2.  Add the onion to the Dutch oven and cook until tender, stirring frequently to avoid burning.  Add the ginger, cumin, salt, coriander, cinnamon, pepper and garlic.  Saute for 30 seconds, until fragrant.  Stir in the broth, and return the chicken to the pan.  Bring mixture to a simmer.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour, until chicken is tender. 

3. While chicken is cooking, combine rice and water in a medium sauce pan.  Heat for 15 minutes, bringing to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 3o minutes.

4. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, remove chicken from the pan and cut into bite-sized pieces.  Add chicken, chickpeas and apricots to the Dutch oven.  Cover again and simmer 10-15 minutes.  Serve chicken mixture over rice, using excess liquid as sauce.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chicken Tamale Casserole

Life is good! I don't remember if I mentioned it, but I brought my laptop and worked from the beach on Monday and Tuesday.  It was torture! The past two days, however, were spent on the beach - sunning, reading, and relaxing! There were a few rainstorms, mostly in the afternoons or overnight, but we were rewarded with a rainbow over the ocean (I should call it the "shore" though since we're in Jersey).  On Tuesday, we went to Customer Appreciation Night at Giamanos - almost everything on the menu was 50% off.  Our meal was accompanied with live, acoustic blues music.  The atmosphere and food were both fantastic.  Neither KK nor my dad had leftovers, and my small takehome container was consumed by KK for lunch on Wednesday.  Instead of ordering typical tiramisu (which wasn't half-off for some reason!), we stopped for ice cream at Beach Plum Ice Cream Parlor.  I had birthday cake ice cream with actual pieces of cake in the ice cream - amazing!

Remember that limited kitchen I mentioned the other day? It's so limited that we had to buy a 9x13 pan for this dish! If you have rotisserie chicken one night, you might think about using the leftover chicken for this dish.  Since I was unfamiliar with the oven, I erred on the side of caution, and only cooked the first layer of cornbread for ~10 minutes.  I should've let it cook longer because the casserole crust ended up being a bit dense.  Don't be afraid to leave it for the full 15 minutes! Nevertheless, KK and my dad made sure there were zero leftovers, so this meal definitely counts as a success! We paired this Mexican dish with one of our family favorites - a 2006 Claraval Garnacha.

Chicken Tamale Casserole
Adapted from myrecipes.com
Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 6
2 cups chicken breast
Cooking spray
1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese, divided

1/3 cup fat-free milk
1/4 cup egg substitute
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
15 oz. can cream-style corn
8.5 oz. box corn muffin mix
4 oz. can chopped green chiles, drained
10 oz. can enchilada sauce
Sour cream, for topping
Salsa, for topping

1. Heat large non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Cook chicken thoroughly.  Remove from skillet and plate; cool slightly.  Shred chicken using two forks.

2. Preheat oven to 400°.  Coat 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.

3. Combine 1/4 cup cheese, milk, egg subsitute, cumin, red pepper flakes, canned corn, muffin mix, and chiles in a large bowl.  Stir until just moist.  Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and cook for 15 minutes, or until set.

4. Pierce cornbread surface liberally with a fork; cover with enchilada sauce.  Top dish with shredded chicken, and sprinkle remaining 3/4 cup cheese.  Bake an additional 10-15 minutes, until cheese melts.  Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.  If desired, top with sour cream and salsa.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Stuffed Peppers

I'm back! The combination of a busy month of June and the fact that I do repeat recipes occasionally (gasp!) resulted in a week without blogging! After my last post, KK and I picked up takeout on Wednesday for Hoboken's Movies on the Pier (nevermind the fact that we didn't stay for the movie because we were not prepared for the chilly wind coming off the Hudson River); we noshed on apps on The Dubliner's rooftop bar for KK's birthday happy hour on Thursday; and then went on a birthday date on Friday at KK's favorite Mexican restaurant, Charrito's.

On Saturday, we stopped by Edison and then spent a few hours with KK's cousin and her 1-month old baby - what a cutie! Afterwards, we met my dad in Bradley Beach for summer vacation.  We've rented a beach house on Long Island's North Fork for the past few years, but decided to mix it up and try the Jersey Shore this year.  So far - so good.  Since Sunday was KK's actual birthday, we continued the birthday celebration by preparing one of his favorites, Skillet Chicken Parm, for dinner on Saturday.  Luckily, my dad brought a case of wine to choose from, so we paired it with a Wine Garage Pinot Noir

Before KK and I were married, I had a separate Gmail label for "KK apartment" recipes.  Aptly named - these were recipes that I could prepare at his apartment.  I'll leave it to you to imagine the limited cookware and ingredients found in a bachelor's apartment! These stuffed peppers met the criteria perfectly - one skillet, rice (a staple in KK's apartment), and only a few additional ingredients which were easily obtainable across the street at D'Agostino's.  I deleted the "KK apartment" label when we got married and moved in together, thinking it would no longer be of any use.  Last night, however, we discussed resurrecting it because that recipe list does come in handy when we're travelling and trying to cook in unfamiliar kitchens!! When I last made these stuffed peppers, I remember them being a bit bland.  Several dashes of chili powder, cumin, garlic salt, and pepper solved that problem! As the turkey mixture cools, there will be some excess liquid in the pan.  There's no need to drain the skillet because the excess liquid will be absorbed by the rice.  I was only able to eat one of these giant peppers, but KK and my dad both managed to have two! Again pulling from the mixed case provided by my dad, we paired dinner with a bottle of 2007 Three Hoots Consilium Cabernet Sauvignon.

Stuffed Peppers
Adapted from Start Cooking
Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
Serves: 4-6

2 cups cooked rice
1 lb. ground turkey
15.5 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
10 oz. can Rotel
Chili powder, to taste
Cumin, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
6 large bell peppers, any color
1 ½ cups shredded Mexican cheese
Salsa, for topping

1. If it isn’t already prepared, cook rice according to package directions.

2. Preheat oven to 375 F.

3. Brown ground turkey in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Once cooked through, drain fat and add Rotel and rinsed black beans to the skillet.  Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed.  Season mixture to taste with chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper.  Remove turkey mixture from heat and let cool about 5 minutes.  Stir in cooked rice and cheese.

4. While the mixture simmers, prepare the peppers.  Cut off tops of peppers, remove stem and seeds.  If peppers do not stand up on their own, cut a thin slice off the bottom of each pepper so they stand upright.

5. Fill each pepper tightly with rice/meat mixture.

6. Place stuffed peppers in a baking dish small enough to hold them snugly.  Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.  Remove foil, and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until tops are browned slightly and pepper skins are pierced easily with a fork.  Serve immediately, topping with salsa if desired.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Spinach Lasagna

What a weekend! KK and I had a low-key Friday night to ensure I was well rested for my friend's bachelorette party in New Orleans! I cooked up this spinach lasagna and we enjoyed it with a bottle of Pindar's Pythagoras from our NJ wine tour in April.  I'm thankful that we had a relaxing Friday night because the rest of the weekend was action packed.  It was such a great weekend that I had to take Monday off from work! Just kidding - our flight back from New Orleans was Monday morning, and I smartly took the rest of the day off from work (in advance) to catch up on much needed sleep!

We arrived in New Orleans on Saturday morning, and settled into our apartments.  If you're ever in NoLa with a large group, I highly recommend this apartment, and I will definitely stay there if I'm ever in town again.  From there, we headed over to Mother's Restaurant for po' boys and were not disappointed.  After a pit stop for mani/pedis, we headed to Bourbon Street and did a little bar hopping to experience the daytime scene.  We enjoyed Cajun for dinner at Muriel's Jackson Square, and then headed back to Bourbon Street.  The bars had been somewhat crowded during the day, but the streets were overflowing with people in the late evening and early morning hours.  The scene was so chaotic... I can only imagine what it's like during Mardi Gras!! Our favorite stop of the night was at the Cat's Meow where our bride-to-be wowed the crowd with her karaoke skills!

On Sunday, we brunched in the courtyard of Cafe Amelie.  After brunch, we enjoyed the outdoor patio at the Original French Market Restaurant, ventured into the French Market to enjoy the Creole Tomato Festival, and of course had beignets at Cafe du Monde.  We sipped our cafe au laits and strolled along the Moonwalk, enjoying the lovely views of the Mississippi River.  Although I'd never been to New Orleans, you can tell that the city's come a long way since the destruction of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.  For dinner, we lucked out with a private dining room and the best dedicated waiter a group of 12 girls could ask for (Clayton) at Maximo's Italian Grill.  We stumbled across a great jazz band at The Maison, took a quick peek into one of Frenchman Street's best-kept secrets (The Apple Barrel), and finished the night at Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop -  built sometime before 1772, it's the oldest continually occupied bar in the United States and one of the more haunted bars in the French Quarter.

Monday morning came too soon, and we were all sad to leave NoLa after such an incredible weekend! I hope to visit the Big Easy again; it is such a vibrant place, full of culture, mystery, and amazing food!

Spinach Lasagna
Adapted from Serious Eats
Time: 1 hour
Serves 6-8

9 dried lasagna noodles
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
15 oz. part-skim ricotta
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 eggs
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
24 oz. jar pasta sauce

1. Cook lasagna noodles until al dente.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute chopped onion until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

4. In a large bowl, combine drained spinach, ricotta, mozzarella, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, eggs, spices, and cooked onions; stir to combine.

5.  Coat the bottom of a 9x13 glass baking dish with 1/2 cup pasta sauce, and place 3 lasagna noodles on top of the sauce.  Spread half the ricotta mixture evenly on noodles, and cover with 1 cup pasta sauce.  Repeat layering with 3 more noodles, remaining ricotta mixture, and 1 cup pasta sauce.  Top with final 3 noodles, remaining pasta sauce, and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.

6. Cover pan with tin foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue baking for 10 minutes.  Remove lasagna from oven and let cool 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Easy Italian Herb Chicken

Happy weekend everyone! When this posts, I'll be in New Orleans to celebrate one of my best friend's bachelorette weekend! She was one of my bridesmaids and I am honored to be in her wedding party, too.  With three months to go until her big day, words cannot describe how excited I am to celebrate with her this weekend!!! We'll be exploring a new city, listening to jazz music, drinking hurricanes on Bourbon Street, devouring beignets from Cafe du Monde, and of course celebrating the future Mrs.! Luckily, there are tons of leftovers in the fridge so KK won't starve while I'm away.  And don't worry - KK's already menu planning for next week, so there will be no shortage of blog posts and new recipes to share as soon as I return.

KK clipped a coupon for Land O'Lakes Sauté Express® Sauté Starter months ago, and it was burning a hole in his pocket.  We finally found them in the dairy section of the grocery store, and picked up a package a few weeks ago.  To date, this is the most simple recipe I've posted on 3D Dinners.  The directions are: melt, sauté, serve.  That's it! The little starter squares are packed with everything you need (butter, olive oil, spices, salt, and pepper), making this one of the easiest yet flavorful dinners that you can whip up in less than 30 minutes.  I served up my Italian Herb Chicken with a side salad and Bear Creek Creamy Cheddar mac & cheese (another coupon purchase - despite the fact that it was a little salty, it still hit the spot and satisfied my mac and cheese craving of the week!).

Easy Italian Herb Chicken
Inspired by Land O'Lakes
Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 2

1 lb chicken breast - halved and butterflied into 4 pieces
2 Italian Herb Sauté Express® squares

1. Melt Sauté Squares in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.

2. Add chicken to the skillet.  Sauté for 10-15 minutes, flipping and stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through.  Remove from skillet and serve.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Taco Crusted Chicken Fingers

Ever since the previews aired, I've been dying to see The Great Gatsby.  KK and I finally found a showtime that fit our schedule last night.  Given my love for the original novel, I set my expectations a little too high and was mildly disappointed.  IMDB reviewers give the film a 7.5 right now, but my personal rating is closer to a 6/6.5 (out of 10).  Here are my thoughts:

     Pro: I appreciated that the film stayed relatively close to the book's original plot line
     Con: I feel as though the 1974 version of the film with Robert Redford was better

     Pro: Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby
     Con:  Toby McGuire as Nick Carraway - he really got on my nerves

     Pro: Fantastic costume design - makes me want to be a flapper for Halloween
     Con: Overall cinematography made everything seem over-embellished and garish

     Pro: Spectacular soundtrack, especially A Little Party Never Killed NobodyBang BangYoung And Beautiful, and Crazy In Love

Anyone else see it? What were your thoughts?

Rewinding back to Tuesday: I served these chicken tenders with a salad and cooked up the Mexican Rice recipe I received in my May FPP package.  The recipe was inspired by Allrecipes.com, upgraded to include 1 teaspoon onion powder (instead of onion) and a can of Rotel (instead of a regular tomato).  I think the ground cumin really put this rice over the top.  I also used instant rice instead of long grain rice to speed things up.  The side dish was fantastic and will definitely be repeated.  Thanks again, Haley!

The extra homemade taco seasoning I made for last weekend's Taco Pasta came in handy for the chicken fingers.  I suggest using the chip-cheese mixture a bit sparingly when you start coating your chicken tenders.  I had a mini fail - I coated my first few tenders in a fairly thick layer of chips, and ran out of mixture with about 4 tenders to go! I had to scrape off some of the chips from some of the tenders to get everything coated.  If chicken appears to be cooked through but the tortilla chip crust is not crispy, place baking pan under broiler for an additional 2-3 minutes.  As much as I dislike sour cream, combining it with salsa was a great pairing.  KK all but licked the bowl clean!

Taco Crusted Chicken Fingers
Adapted from
Plain Chicken
Time: 35 minutes
Serves 4

Cooking spray
1 cup finely crushed tortilla chips
½ cup shredded Mexican cheese
2 Tbsp taco seasoning
2 eggs
1 Tbsp milk
¼ cup flour
1 ½ lb. chicken tenders
2 Tbsp sour cream
½ cup salsa

1. Preheat oven to 400.  Cover a baking pan with tin foil and spray with cooking spray.

2. In a food processor, combine crushed tortilla chips, cheese, and taco seasoning.  Pulse into fine crumbs, then transfer to a shallow bowl.

3. In a shallow dish, whisk together eggs and milk.

4. Pour flour into another bowl, and coat chicken tenders with the flour.  Dip chicken tenders into egg mixture, and then coat in tortilla chip crumbs.  Place chicken tenders on baking pan.

5. Bake for 12-15 minutes.

6. While chicken bakes, combine salsa and sour cream in a small bowl.  Dollop over baked chicken tenders.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Homemade Pizza Dough

On Sunday, KK went into the city for brunch with some of his college buddies at The Smith at Lincoln Center.  Meanwhile, I went to Xtend Barre Stick class using a Groupon deal.  Afterwards, I took advantage of KK's absence and got some birthday shopping done for him! There may or may not have also been an impromptu dress purchase (in black) for myself from Target.  I swear - I cannot go into that store without spending at least $50.  How does that always happen!?

KK and I spent the rest of Sunday afternoon and evening making pizza crust.  It took a long time, but I promise you the homemade crust was well worth it! It came out thinner and crispier than a standard Boboli crust.  I can confirm that drizzling olive oil on the pizza pan does add nice flavor to the crust! With our homemade crust, KK and I recreated my first blog post: Corn, Pesto, and Tomato Pizza.  I also used this as an opportunity to update the original picture because my iPhone-photo-taking skills have improved a good deal over the last six months.

Homemade Pizza Dough
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Time: 4 hours
Yield: 1 standard round pizza
Serves: 2-4

1 tsp active dry yeast
Pinch of sugar
1 Tbsp + ½ cup lukewarm water
1 Tbsp olive oil + more for drizzling
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour + more for dusting
Heaping ½ tsp salt
Vegetable oil, for greasing
Cooking spray

1. Dissolve active dry yeast with a pinch of sugar and 1 tablespoon of lukewarm water.  Let sit at room temperature for 15 minutes, until the mixture has bubbled and expanded.

2. Combine dissolved yeast, ½ cup water, 1 Tbsp olive oil, 1 ½ cups flour, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using the dough hook, mix on the second speed until the dough forms a ball and is no longer sticking to the sides of the bowl, about 5 minutes.  Make sure not to over-knead the dough; it should hold together, but can still look fairly rough on the surface.

3. Lightly grease a large bowl with vegetable oil.  Place dough ball in bowl, cover with a towel, and allow to rise for 90 minutes until puffy.  If dough doesn’t look very puffy, allow to rise for additional time.

4. On a lightly floured surface, shape it into a rough circle – do not pat dough, simply stretch it lightly into shape.  Cover dough with an overturned bowl or lightly greased plastic wrap, and let rest for 15 minutes.

5. Spray pizza pan with cooking spray, and drizzle olive oil onto the bottom of the pan.  The pan spray keeps the pizza from sticking; the olive oil gives the crust flavor and crunch.

6. Place the dough in the prepared pan.  Press dough over the bottom of the pan, stretching it towards the edges, reaching about two-thirds of the way there before the dough starts shrinking back.  Cover pan with a towel and let rest for 15 minutes.

7. Return to the dough and pat dough closer to the edges of the pan.  If dough still does not reach edges, rest for another 15 minutes and stretch the dough one more time.

8.  Once the dough reaches the edges, cover with a towel, and allow to rise again, this time for 90 minutes.  Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

9. Bake pizza on the lower rack of the oven until it sets on the top and just begins to brown on the edges, about 8 minutes for thinner crust pizza.  If you've doubled the recipe, reverse the pans halfway through (bottom to top, and top to bottom).

10. Cover crust with sauce and arrange toppings of choice on top.  Return pan to the oven, and bake on the upper oven rack for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.  Pizza is done when the crust is lightly browned, and the cheese is melted.  Midway through the cooking time, move pizza to the bottom rack if the top is browning too much.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Italian Chicken

KK and I were social butterflies this week – there’s so much to catch you up with!

On Wednesday, KK found a Scoutmob deal so we had date night at Raymi in NYC.  Our first experience with Peruvian food was a success.  Thanks to KK’s advance research, we knew ordering pisco was a must.  We opted for the Pisco sampler and got to try four different cocktails.  KK’s favorite was the Raymi with aji amarillo pepper and mango, while mine was the Spiced Pear Cocktail with cinnamon and anise.  Dinner was served tapas style, and the Peruvian crispy donuts with chancaca honey we had for dessert were scrumptious! KK eventually plans to write a rave Yelp review.

Thursday was my official desk move date at work, so I celebrated with my Jersey City coworkers at Iron Monkey.  We enjoyed their extensive beer list from the rooftop bar.  Afterwards we grabbed a quick, yet excellent, dinner at Sky Thai.  Continuing with the outdoor drinks theme on Friday, KK and I met up with friends at Pier 13 in Hoboken.  The outdoor hangout opened summer 2012 and has a bar, food trucks, lawn chairs, and table games like Connect Four.  Unfortunately, they sustained significant damage from Hurricane Sandy.  Pier 13’s fate was in question for some time during early 2013, but they reopened last week and business looks to be booming! Friday’s visit marks the first of what I suspect to be many visits to Pier 13 this summer!

We returned to cooking on Saturday night, and whipped up this Italian Chicken which I found on Pinterest.  It was relatively quick, very easy, and equally as appetizing.  KK enjoyed the sauceless-ness of the dish (proven by the fact that he had seconds and thirds), while I opted to throw a bit of spaghetti sauce on top of my second serving.  Dinner paired nicely with a V. Sattui Family Red - a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot, and Cab with a touch of Syrah and Petit Verdot. 

Italian Chicken
Adapted from Our Story
Time: 40 minutes
Serves: 4
8 oz. spaghetti
5 roma tomatoes, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbsp flour
1 ½ lb. chicken breasts
Salt and pepper, to taste
¼ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
Dried basil, for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions.
3. Meanwhile combine tomatoes, garlic, artichoke hearts, olive oil, sugar, and flour in a medium bowl.
4. Butterfly chicken breasts into 6-8 thinly sliced pieces.  Season each piece with salt and pepper. Combine chicken and tomato mixture in a 9x13 baking dish.
5. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes, or until chicken is almost done.
6. Remove dish from oven, move oven rack to upper third of the oven, and heat broiler.
7. Sprinkle top of dish with mozzarella cheese and dried basil.  Return to oven and broil an additional 5 until cheese is golden brown.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Taco Pasta

My May FPP Reveal post has me posting all out of order this week! So now I'm rewinding back to Tuesday...

I’m a huge group exercise/gym class junkie.  I need the extra push from class instructors and I thrive from the friendly competition between classmates.  Since I’m far less motivated when working out by myself, I prefer to go to classes before work.  This ensures I get a good workout in without any last minute work firedrills getting in my way! The post-three-day-weekend-early-morning-alarm was not happening for me so I tried an evening class, and it turned out to be the best NYSC step aerobics class that I've ever been to! So long Tuesday AM workouts – I’m hooked on this class and will try my hardest to ensure my day job doesn't get in the way of me attending in the future!  Why, you ask, have I focused this post on the amazing step class and my love of group exercise on my predominately food-focused blog? The downfall is that I don’t get home 7:45, so getting dinner cooked before KK gets home is impossible.  Luckily (not really), KK was stuck in traffic this Tuesday, so I was still able to whip up this Taco Pasta before he got home, but KK will now have to consider my late gym class when he’s menu planning in the future!

I didn't make too many changes to Amanda’s original.  Why mess with a good thing? I used lean ground turkey instead of beef.  If you don’t use lean meat, you might consider draining the extra fatty juices from the pan before adding the garlic and diced tomatoes.  I read somewhere that store-bought taco seasoning has a ton of preservatives and salt, so I made a large batch of seasoning using a recipe posted by What Megan’s Making.  For more flavor, I included the diced tomato juices and used less reserved pasta water to reach the perfect sauce consistency.  The leftovers might be tasty cold, mixed into a salad.  I’ll have to try that this weekend! 

Taco Pasta
Adapted from Fake Ginger
Time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4

8 ounce small pasta shapes, such as shells or gemelli
Cooking spray
1 pound ground turkey
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
4 tablespoons taco seasoning
3 oz. cream cheese
½ cup sour cream
Salt and pepper

1. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, drain pasta, and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, spray a large skillet with cooking spray, cook the ground turkey over medium-high heat until no longer pink.  A few minutes before the meat is cooked through, add the chopped onion to the skillet.

3. Once the meat is cooked through, mix in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Mix in the diced tomatoes and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

4. Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and half the reserved pasta water, and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended.  Add additional reserve water if mixture appears dry.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Simmer over medium-low heat 3-5 minutes to reduce the sauce a bit.
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