Veggie-Loaded Baked Pasta

I was wanting something beyond pasta with sauce and was thinking I’d make some tweaks to up the veggie quotient. I used wheat pasta. Gasp! I never do that. Never. This was a good spot to do so. You can’t even tell here – otherwise, I really wouldn’t have.
The Three Bite Rule - Veggie Baked Pasta

Veggie-Loaded Baked Pasta

Ingredients (for 5-6 servings):

28 oz can Kitchen Ready tomatoes
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 sweet potato (fully cooked)
1 large zucchini, diced
1/2 pound wheat pasta (penne, ziti, rigatoni)
2 cups fresh spinach
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup ricotta

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees.
In a large pot, add in the canned tomatoes, Italian seasoning, garlic, and mashed sweet potato. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low.
Chop then roast the zucchini in a single layer on a sheet pan, drizzled with olive oil for 20-30 minutes – until golden. Stir a few times & leave the oven on.
Bring salted water to a boil for the pasta. Then cook to al dente, according to the package. When cooked, mix about a cup of the tomato sauce into the pasta.
Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray. Spoon a cup of sauce onto the bottom, add a 1/3 of the pasta, then sprinkle with spinach and zucchini.
The Three Bite Rule - Veggie Baked Pasta
Sprinkle with 1/3 of the mozzarella and a few spoonfuls of ricotta.
The Three Bite Rule - Veggie Baked Pasta
Spoon half of the remaining pasta on top, then add remaining spinach, remaining zucchini, half of the shredded mozzarella, and remaining ricotta.
Top with remaining pasta and some more sauce (reserve the remaining mozzarella for the last few minutes of baking).
The Three Bite Rule - Veggie Baked Pasta
Bake 40 minutes, covered.
Remove the cover, top with remaining cheese, and bake about 5 more minutes, until melted.
The Three Bite Rule - Veggie Baked Pasta
Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

I loved this! Count ‘em: sweet potato; spinach; zucchini. Plus wheat pasta. It is delightfully cheesy and flavorful without seeming veggie focused. The sweet potato thickened the sauce and added a bit of sweetness. It was leftover from the little one and I popped it into the freezer awhile back…not even sure what I was going to do with it!
The Three Bite Rule - Veggie Baked Pasta

Gyro-style Wrap with Chicken Sausage

Chicken sausages are a regular go-to for dinner at our house. They’re fully cooked, so they’re just so speedy for a weeknight dinner. I was thinking I’d quickly sear them for that caramelized exterior to suggest gyro. I used weird wraps for this but the premise of this sandwich was good!
The Three Bite Rule - Gyro Wrap

The wraps were lavash wraps which are fantastic for roll-style wraps, but not so much for this wrap-like-a-pita.

Gyro Style Wraps with Chicken Sausage

Ingredients:  (for 2 wraps)

2 chicken sausages
2 cups/handfuls of frozen seasoned fries
2 wraps: tortillas, pitas, etc
1 cup lettuce
creamy caesar dressing (optional, or use Italian dressing, or a schmear of hummus, or balsamic vinegar)
1 small tomato

Directions:

Bake the fries, according to the package.
Pan sear the chicken sausages (or cook through if not fully cooked). Then slice into coins.
The Three Bite Rule - Gyro Wrap
Lay out the wrap and top with lettuce, creamy caesar, tomatoes, chicken sausage slices, and fries.
The Three Bite Rule - Gyro Wrap
Roll and enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Gyro Wrap
I trimmed these lavash breads as they’re really best suited with the filling spread all over it and then rolled like a pinwheel. Wrap the bottom in foil for street-food eatability. Is eatability a word? WordPress seems to think so and isn’t correcting me!

I admit this isn’t my most signature dish ever. I liked the seasoned fries in there. It was a great use for a very itty bit we had in the freezer. I’d use different wraps next time, but these totally hit the spot and I think the fries + chicken sausage + creamy caesar makes this. Plus, the fries only needed 20 minutes so in the time I plopped them into the oven, I then just seared the sausages and prepped the filling and they were done. Poof! Din-din!

Chicken Caesar Pasta

I needed a win in the kitchen, and this was it! I was SO HAPPY with this chicken caesar pasta! I made a few things recently that I just wasn’t thrilled with. One was a sandwich which was pretty good and I prob will still blog it. The other. Ugg. It just wasn’t great and I plan to remake it for you. It just had such porky potential!
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Caesar Pasta

This Chicken Caesar Pasta was perfect! I love watching the little one eat spaghetti and he was very into the chicken. It was freezing, otherwise we might have grilled the chicken. It was quick (or could largely be made in advance) and is a crowd pleaser for sure. Win. Win. Win! Caesar begs for anchovy paste…don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. That is absolutely what gives that Caesar flavor…plus the pepper and Parmesan don’t hurt either.

Chicken Caesar Pasta (serves 4)

Ingredients:

~3 chicken thighs/tenders/breasts (I used thighs, of course)
1/4 cup salad dressing for marinade (I used creamy Caesar)
1 clove garlic
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
2 cups Parmesan
cracked black pepper
tiny dab (1/8 of a teaspoon, 1/4 inch squirt from the tube) Anchovy Paste
2 cups greens (I used a spinach/baby kale mix that go into my smoothies)
1/2 pound spaghetti

Directions:

Heat all the things: a large pot of salted water to a boil (for the pasta), preheat the oven to 350 (to keep the chicken warm), heat a large pan to medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil (for the chicken).
In a medium pot, add in the heavy cream and grate or mince the clove of garlic. Heat over medium for about 10 minutes.
While the cream and garlic are cooking together, use the large pan with oil to pan sear the chicken.  Brown it on each side, then pop into the oven to keep it warm or finish cooking it.
Add the pasta into the boiling water.
Slice the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Caesar Pasta
Add the cheese, pepper, and anchovy paste to the cream sauce stirring well. Cook for about 5-10 minutes.
Chop the greens.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Caesar Pasta
Drain the pasta and return it to the large pot. Add in the greens & cream sauce (ladle the sauce in and stir so you can add what you like).
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Caesar Pasta
Add in the chicken and toss to coat everything.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Caesar Pasta
Enjoy!

The sauce was a trick from Sunny Anderson’s Instagram: 123 sauce – 1 garlic clove, 2 cups heavy cream, 3 cups cheese. I took a little liberty on the ratios since I knew I didn’t need too much. Love it.
The Three Bite Rule - Chicken Caesar Pasta

In a hurry? Use leftover grilled chicken and doctor up a jar of alfredo with the Parm & anchovy paste. Add in any greens you have (spinach will cook enough from the hot pasta, or saute any you have on hand). Boom. Dinner = done. Next time I might top it with some toasted panko/parmesan/drizzle of caesar & butter for a super crunchy topping!

Sweet Potato & Bacon Quiche

I had every intention for this to be a meatless meal but the bacon seemed just so necessary. Roasted bites of sweet potato with salty bits of bacon and buttery cheese come together to make this quiche substantial and so full of flavor. If it had to be meatless, I’d have substitute the bacon for sage. Bacon makes everything better so it felt important here. The sweet potato really called out for some salt.
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Potato Quiche

Ingredients:

Pie crust
1 large sweet potato
3 strips of bacon
6 oz fontina
6 eggs
2/3 cup cream or half & half
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375-degrees and par bake the pie crust for 10 minutes.
Chop the sweet potato and toss in a coating of olive oil, salt & pepper and then roast for about 20 minutes, until cooked through.
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Potato Quiche
Pan fry the bacon until crisp, then drain.
Grate the fontina.
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Potato Quiche
Whisk together the eggs, cream, salt, pepper, and cream of tartar.
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Potato Quiche
Layer cheese, potato, and bacon into the pie crust.
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Potato Quiche
Pour the egg and milk mixture on top of the filling.
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Potato Quiche
Bake for 40 minutes.
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Potato Quiche
Enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Sweet Potato Quiche
I like the buttery crust here. Make it yourself if you’re so inclined, or unroll a frozen one and marvel at how quick this dinner is. I got the whole thing prepped and into the oven annnnnnd cleaned up by the time it was done baking.

The little one just wasn’t into it. I can’t figure out why he won’t eat things cooked together. Much like the components of my chicken pot pie, he loves these ingredients but didn’t eat much. He’s into sweet potatoes and loooves bacon but this wasn’t his thang. I on the other hand, was thrilled to have leftover quiche for breakfast following this dinner!

Grain Bowl: Honey Mustard, Chicken, Bacon & Avocado

You know how I’m obsesssssed with grain bowls? This one was on my list for awhile and we all loved it. In the words of Joey Tribiani: what’s not to love? chicken? good! rice pilaf? good! avocado? good! bacon? goooood!

My other favs: Italian Grain Bowls with cracked wheat & Falafel Grain Bowls with couscous. The little one likes the challenge of eating rice. This would also be a good way to use any leftover grilled chicken and it is an easy way to stretch chicken since you wouldn’t need much at all here. We used our fav: chicken thighs.

The Three Bite Rule - Rice Pilaf & Honey Mustard Grain Bowl

Ingredients:

Marinaded & grilled chicken
Rice Pilaf
3 strips of bacon
1 avocado
cucumber
tomatoes
honey mustard dressing

Directions:

Marinade the chicken in salad dressing or your fav marinade for 4+ hours, or all day. Then grill the chicken to cook through.
Cook the rice pilaf according to the package and fluff with a fork.
Chop the bacon and then pan fry until the bite-sized pieces are crisp. Then remove and drain on paper towel.
Slice the avocado, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Slice the chicken.
Assemble and drizzle with honey mustard.

The Three Bite Rule - Rice Pilaf & Honey Mustard Grain Bowl
This was a hit. It worked out perfectly to grill on an unseasonably warm night. I liked this twist since I’d been thinking more Mediterranean/Thai. This was comforting and felt casually fun. Bring on all the grain bowls! Plus, it is so amusing to see the determination of a toddler scooping and then spooning rice into his mouth!

February 2017 Recap

Feb wasn’t the speediest month to pass. So often I’m caught in time as a whirlwhind but Feb felt like the right speed. We had some snowy days and then some unseasonably hot days. I got to read a bunch and we’re totally caught up on DVR (which feels like a serious accomplishment). Our poor Bailee dog isn’t doing well. She’s been without an appetite, lost a lot of weight, and is severely anemic. We’re not sure what’s up but just hope she feels ok.

Hands down, my fav meal this month was a little Valentine’s Day surprise charcuterie and tips to build a better charcuterie board.
The Three Bite Rule - Build A Better Charcuterie Board
I was loving this healthified peanut butter, banana, and nutella smoothie…just as good as the original!
The Three Bite Rule - Healthified Smoothie
This super quick gnocchi with roasted tomatoes was the ideal, hands-free dinner. Perfect for chasing a toddler…or whatever you might be doing.
The Three Bite Rule - Tomato & Basil Gnocchi


Let’s bring on March! My birthday month!!

The Little One:
His 2-year-old molars came in promptly! He had a rough few days but was just so dang cute saying “cheek huuurts”. He is loving painting & coloring. We’re marveling at what he knows. He coughed and I asked, “where did that cough come from” thinking he hadn’t been sick at all the day before. He answered “mouf”. True story. His fav food right now is jelly. Although rice is a tricky one to eat, he loves the challenge. He is hating coming inside from playing. He watched Mr. J cut his own hair and was mesmerized. Now he likes to make a buzz sound running his hand over people’s heads. The little one is quite concerned about “Bab-ee sick?” so let’s all cross our fingers we all do ok.


Monthly goals:

Year of the seasonal decor: I missed Feb, let’s see what I can come up with for March
do more dinner prep more in advance: Yes! I’ve prepped some doubles and got to pull a frozen one out once a week.
read more (and always carry my book on me): I read The Invention of Wings with bookclub and The Royal We
watch more movies: Snowden left me befuddled. I was impressed by the story for Sully.
cook more fish: struggle-bus
focus on clothes that I really like: I capitalized on some Loft points + $20 off +a 10% off night. I took home a mixed media top, some clearance herringbone dress pants, and a sweater that’s more like a shirt.
monthly grocery store ingredient:

Healthier PB, Nutella, & Banana

I decided to give my most-pinned-smoothie a healthified-twist. This smoothie started with peanut butter, nutella, banana, and yogurt. I put a few tweaks to it and loved it just as much!

The Three Bite Rule - Healthified Smoothie

Ingredients:

2-3 tablespoons flaxseeds or 2-3 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1 cup spinach
1/2 cup milk
1 cup ice cubes
1 banana
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons nutella
5 oz vanilla Greek yogurt

Directions:

In a coffee grinder, grind the flaxseeds into powder.
The Three Bite Rule - Healthified Smoothie
Blend the spinach, milk and then add ice and blend more.
Add in the banana, peanut butter, nutella, yogurt, and flax seeds.
The Three Bite Rule - Healthified Smoothie
Blend again until smooth.
Enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Healthified Smoothie
Twists to up the nutritional value:
Greek yogurt versus regular yogurt: Greek yogurt adds more protein, and is an easy change for this smoothie.
Greens: who doesn’t need another serving of veggies? The spinach is so mild that it literally doesn’t add any flavor, just more veggies.
Flaxseed: I got these when I was breastfeeding but they add fiber and omega-3s. I learned they’re best absorbed when ground. Noted.

Or try the original Peanut butter, Banana, and Nutella smoothie.

Lasagna Rolls

I make lasagnas at least once a year, and make enough to have it several times. This time, I made it as roll ups and loved how beautifully portioned it was! I made 1- 9×12 lasagna and 2- 9×9 pans of lasagna rolls. One dish of lasagna rolls got slated to my very awesome friend who is now a mom of infant twins with 2 bigger boys. The fam could prob could use freezer food, right?

The Three Bite Rule - Lasagna Rolls
I made my own pasta this time too! It was so easy since it only takes the rolling on my Kitchenaid, and no cutting. I cleared a ton of room on the kitchen island and spread these out. I rolled the dough on the mixer, cut them a bit, cooked them, and then let them cool enough for the filling. I’ll totally make my own again!

Here are my other lasagnas, if rolls aren’t your thing: Traditional Lasagna or Lasagna Soup or Butternut Squash Lasagna or White Lasagna w/ Chicken & Spinach.

Ingredients:

1 pound lasagna noodles, cooked (not the “no-cook” or “oven-ready” variety this time)
8 oz ricotta
1 egg
1/3 cup chopped Parsley, Oregano, Basil or Arugula
1 cup mozzarella
~1 1/2 cups ground meat (optional)
1 cup tomato sauce (I like Pastene Kitchen Ready Tomatoes + a tablespoon of tomato paste + tablespoon Italian Seasoning)
(additional sprinkle of cheese after it bakes)

Directions:

Prep the meat, cooking through and seasoning with salt & pepper if including meat. Mix together the ricotta, egg, and herbs.
Lay out the pasta and spread the ricotta & herb mixture and top with mozzarella & meat mixture. Be sure to get the filling spread pretty evenly in a thin layer.
The Three Bite Rule - Lasagna Rolls
Add on the cooked ground meat, if using any.
Gently roll up from one end to the other. Aim for each roll to be about 2 inches high, any bigger and it’ll be a massive serving. Then place into a baking dish sprayed with nonstick spray.
The Three Bite Rule - Lasagna Rolls
Top with sauce and freeze (or bake to eat right away).
The Three Bite Rule - Lasagna Rolls
When serving, bake frozen lasagna rolls for 75 minutes at 350, adding additional cheese on the top for the last 5 minutes. Or let lasagna rolls defrost over night, or for 24 hours and then bake for 45 minutes with cheese for the last 5 minutes.
The Three Bite Rule - Lasagna Rolls
The pan I’ll bring to my friend was in a disposable heavy-duty pan. I topped it with sauce and covered it in plastic wrap. It has a plastic cover where I labeled what it is with heating instructions but that flimsy plastic cover isn’t great in the freezer, thus, why I go with plastic wrap. I gave more instructions than necessary, but hey- nobody wants a baked plastic-wrap fiasco when getting dinner ready for the little ones! Here are other food ideas to bring to parents of a newborn.

I seriously love lasagna, so I was very happy with these cheesy lasagna rolls. I’m the biggest lasagna fan in the house, so I was probably more into them than anyone else. Plus, we had just had regular lasagna a few weeks prior. I tried to spread ‘em out, but I also attempt to have at least 1 meal per week that is from a freezer stockpile of batch-cooking. I believe there’s also a chicken pot pie hanging out just waiting on me to call it into the line up!

How to Build a Better Charcuterie Board

There’s zero cooking involved here but I was pretty into with my offerings for a charcuterie & cheese board. The reigning Queen of Cheese Boards is How Sweet Eats but here are my 2-cents. Mr. J and I enjoyed this for Valentine’s Day while the little one slept over with the grandparents. This was our meal, but now I’m itching to make one for a bigger crowd and to go all out.
The Three Bite Rule - Build A Better Charcuterie Board

Tip 1: Start at Trader Joe’s…seriously, the cheeses won’t break the bank, as in, I got 3 totaling about $12. I choose a smoked Gouda, a rosemary Asiago, and a pepper Taleggio. These aren’t widely different in texture, but we loved them. I hear Whole Foods will also cut any cheese wedge for you, so don’t get thrown by the whopping price, or if the size is too much. Maybe shoot for a crumbly, a softer, and a creamy one.  I went with  2 meats, prosciutto & salami, for saltiness, fattiness, and texture.
The Three Bite Rule - Build A Better Charcuterie Board

Tip 2: Variety is important. Multiple crackers/breads keep each bite feeling different. I choose multiple briney items (olives, marinated mushrooms, pickles, pickled fiddleheads) most of which I got in small quantities from the grocery store. Then I wanted different sweet touches (strawberries & jam), courtesy of our own regular fridge. I had nuts hanging around and more crackers than I realized which was perfect for all the toppings.
The Three Bite Rule - Build A Better Charcuterie Board

Tip 3: Crowd the platter. The plethora & bounty of offerings makes an impact. A few small dishes corralled a few elements, but for a bigger group, I’d totally pile everything up and sprinkle around for color.
The Three Bite Rule - Build A Better Charcuterie Board

Pour the wine and crack into it! My kitchen island was born to host a bigger and even better charcuterie and cheese board.

Meatball Sliders with Garlic Butter

I could slurp this garlic butter, but I won’t. I’ll save it for the sliders. It is so perfect with a juicy meatball, gooey cheese, and a sweet Hawaiian roll. Yesssss. We all ate these and love ‘em. I would have liked a bigger meatball to match the size of the roll, but I used frozen meatballs making this 10x faster. The rolls were leftover and hanging out in the freezer from a NYE slider bar.

The Three Bite Rule - Meatball Sliders
I almost made the little one’s without the garlic butter. Then I stopped short, and thought: “Whattt are you doing???? You want the kid to eat all the foods, so give him exactly what the adults are having!” It might be from a running joke Mr. J has with the little one. When they couldn’t find it in the grocery store, they were saying “if you were minced garlic, where would you be?” The little one answers “no gar-ick”. He gobbled up his slider, so it was a good call to keep it the same.

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Parmesan
6 slider rolls
6 meatballs
1 cup tomato sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees.
Melt the butter and mix in the garlic, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt, and Parmesan.
Slice the rolls and spoon most of the garlic butter onto the bottom buns and bake for 10 minutes until they crisp a bit.
The Three Bite Rule - Meatball Sliders
Warm the sauce and meatballs. Place one meatball onto each bottom bun. Ladle sauce on top of each and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 5 minutes to melt the cheese.
The Three Bite Rule - Meatball Sliders
Spread the remaining garlic butter onto the top buns and warm them in the oven too. Place the tops on and enjoy!
The Three Bite Rule - Meatball Sliders
I think the rolls & the garlic butter made these sliders. The rolls soaked the butter but then crisped so the sauce didn’t make them soggy. I’m so grateful that the 2-year-old eats everything and the garlic butter was a reminder for me to keep that going. Plus, he looooves meatballs so it wasn’t a hard sell.