Double Pea Pasta with Ricotta & Lemon

IMG_4298Even though we’re all grown-ups and we deep-down know that we’re all equal and all that crap, do you ever go somewhere and just feel so much like you don’t belong that it is downright insane? This happened to me the other day at a very beautiful fantasyland store that is peopled with the clothes and accessories that imaginary me wears in her perfect life where nothing ever gets dirty and you never have to wear sensible shoes and shares a name with a class we all either took or flirted with taking in college. I’ll let you ponder that crazy run-on sentence for a minute….got it?

Okay good, onward with the story – so I’m walking around just taking in the vibe and daydreaming about the aforementioned perfect fantasy life and I decide that yes, I can have a candle. An overpriced but very delicious-smelling candle is definitely on the menu today. A little treat and then I will go. I get in line with my $22 candle and even though I already told myself that this is an acceptable splurge purchase I was kind of agonizing over it a little when I hear the total of the woman in front of me – $463. Then I glance behind me and see that the woman back there is easily holding like $600 worth of lovely clothes and that’s when it hits me – I really do not belong here. I am sandwiched in between two people who are dropping a combined grand like it’s nothing and here I am hemming and hawing over my $22 candle. Sheesh. Talk about a reality check. So then I drove to the grocery store (a place where I can generally afford things) and bought the ingredients for this pasta which did not cure my Anthro-Rage but definitely did help a lot. Carbs and cheese tend to do that don’t you think?

Double Pea Pasta with Ricotta & Lemon

(adapted from Everyday Food)

1 lb gemelli or other fun tube-shaped pasta

2 T unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups frozen peas

1-2 cups snap peas, fresh or frozen (I just used the whole little package but sizes may vary)

1 cup whole-milk ricotta

1/2 cup (eyeball it) chopped fresh italian parsley

3 scallions, white & light green parts, thinly sliced

4-6 strips of bacon, thinly sliced

1/2 cup reserved pasta water

zest of 1 lemon

salt & pepper to taste

Put a large pot of water on the stovetop to boil and heat a medium skillet to crisp the bacon. When the pan is good and hot, throw the bacon bits in there and keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, stirring as needed. Get a plate lined with paper towels ready and when the bacon is crispy, scoop it out with a slotted spoon and lay it on the paper towels to drain.

When the water boils, add a generous palmful of salt to the water (I use kosher) and add the pasta. After about 4 minutes, add both the frozen peas and the snap peas to the water with the pasta. The pasta should be al dente after around 3 more minutes which is the perfect amount of time to cook the peas – cool, huh? Make sure you don’t overcook the pasta. Mushy pasta is like the #2 biggest cooking offense behind overcooked meat in my book. Anyway, take a glass measuring cup and scoop out about 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water before you drain the pasta & peas and set it aside – we may need it for the sauce.

After draining, add the pasta and peas back to the pot and throw in the butter, ricotta, scallions, and parsley and mix well. If you need to, add a bit of the pasta water to thin the sauce and help it coat the pasta. Salt and pepper generously throughout the mixing process, then add in the bacon bits and most of the zest (I saved a little zest to garnish the plate).

IMG_4297Serve this dish with some crusty bread, a crisp white wine and maybe some lightly dressed greens and it will solve all your problems. Okay, that’s a lie. But I promise it will taste really yummy so that’s something at least.

Recipe Round-up & Hunger Games thoughts

Not the best pic, but this is a really yummy & easy dinner that I learned how to make from my mom’s friend Caroline. It’s called Creamy Basil Chicken and you should most definitely make it as soon as you can get some fresh basil from your garden. I actually picked some sage and used it in my dinner tonight. That’s crazy! CRAZY! It’s March 25th in Wisconsin and I picked an herb from my garden and cooked with it. Thanks global warming!

Ingredients for 4 Servings

2 TBSP butter
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
4 large boneless skinless  chicken breasts, tenderized
1/4 tsp each salt, pepper, Italian seasoning
1 cup cream  (I sometimes use more if it reduces too much)
2 large tomato, coarsely chopped or a pint of grape or cherry tomatoes halved
1 – 1 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced  (optional)
1/4 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped

shredded Parmesan cheese to your taste

Instructions

In a large non-stick skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat until sizzling.  Saute garlic and onion.   Reduce heat to medium.  Salt, pepper and Italian season the chicken breast.  Add the chicken to the skillet; cook 8 – 12 minutes or until the juices are clear.  Remove from skillet and set aside.  Add cream to skillet stirring frequently.  Stir in tomatoes, optional mushrooms and basil.  Return chicken to skillet and cook 4 -5 minutes or until heated through.  Garnish with additional basil leaves if desired and shredded Parmesan cheese.  Serve over rice, noodles or vegetables. But seriously, who would serve this over veggies when you can have pasta?

This is by far the best mac & cheese I’ve ever made and I’ve made a lot of them, trust me. I found it in a borrowed issue of Food & Wine magazine while laying on the beach at Devil’s Lake and it is actually the reason I started my subscription. It’s that good. Make it the next time you feel really indulgent and need some cheese!

Okay, last pasta I promise! This Creamy Garlic Pasta is so simple and really flavorful! It’s great on it’s own for picky eaters but I’ve added lots of things to it, like diced tomatoes or grilled chicken breasts. I also like to garnish most of my pasta with chopped fresh parsley or chopped scallions. Things usually need a little green pop of color in my opinion.

Lest you think I was going to get healthy or something, I’m going to round this out with with a cupcake!

So these were super easy! I made them for my sister and brother-in-law when we went over to meet their new baby. You can use any kind of cupcake & frosting you want, then just separate a bunch of Oreos saving the un-iced sides for use in something else (or just eating them, whatevs) put two Oreos on each cupcake, then stick a brown M & M on each Oreo and a yellow M & M in between for the beak. Voila! I know this idea has been everywhere but it is so easy and so cute I just couldn’t help but share.

Okay now I will venture into Hunger Games territory. I went to see it last night and frankly, my hopes were pretty high. My sister-in-law and my cousin both saw it and said very positive things, but I don’t know if I was just expecting too much or if the story was too fresh for me because I re-read the books this last week but it left me a bit flat. It just seemed like the emotional content was so low. I didn’t really feel anything for the characters like I did in the book. The film style was a lot of show and not a lot of tell and for me, that didn’t work. I know it would have been hokey to have a Katniss voice-over throughout the whole thing but I felt like we needed to know what was going on inside her a lot more. In the book there are so many meanings behind her actions and there are so many mixed emotions and it made for such a rich story. In the movie, she just felt like kind of a cold fish. And I don’t think that this was the actress’s fault at all. In fact, I really liked her in the part, I just needed something more. **SPOILER ALERT** The most pivotal scene between Peeta & Katniss in the book is when he basically saves her from starving to death and though they alluded to it a few times in the movie they never delved into why it was so important and how it gave Katniss the hope and the inspiration to live. If there had been a scene where she told someone about it and why it was important to her I think I might feel differently about the whole thing. Is that weird?

Another thing that really bothered me was how anesthetized the games themselves were. I mean I know they needed a PG-13 rating to get the majority of the market but it was just so clean compared to the book. That makes me sound as if I love guts and gore but it’s supposed to be barbaric and terrible and the fact that Katniss and Peeta survive is a miracle because they both sustained pretty major injuries in the book. In the movie the injuries are pretty tame and are really easily taken care of. I could nit-pick more but honestly I think I’m going to see it again to really finalize my opinion. There were things I did like – Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, Elizabeth Banks as Effie, the cool, modern look of the Cornucopia, etc. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it. Yet. Who knows, I’ve been known to change my mind.

What did everybody else think? Don’t be afraid to disagree with me, like I said, I want to love it!