Hot Spinach & Artichoke Dip

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With the Super Bowl behind us, and the excuse to make ridiculously fattening foods acceptable now just a faded memory, it is difficult to get one particular snack out of our nostalgic thoughts – hot spinach & artichoke dip.  Cheesy, rich, and textured with moist bits of artichoke hearts swirled in a glorious green bed of spinach and garlic, we at the Pleasant Pantry would like to honor the memory of this party-crowd pleaser. We won’t promote eating this decadent dish regularly, but if you didn’t get a chance to make it this past weekend, we are completely okay with you breaking out the ingredients and finding out for yourself what true happiness is all about… 

I literally count down the days before every holiday because it signals the time when I can make this dip… well being honest, any particular reason to make Spinach & Artichoke dip I will willingly oblige to get in the kitchen and whip up a batch.  It reminds me of family, good friends, happy times and home. – Jenet

Here is the process…

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This is the recipe… 

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups part-skim mozzarella cheese

1 1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup Romano cheese

1/4 cup fat free sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

8 ounce fat free cream cheese, softened

14 ounces artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

3 garlic gloves minced

10 ounce package chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 Tbs salt

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine 1 cup mozzarella and 1 cup parmesan and 1/2 cup romano cheeses with all other ingredients in a large bowl; stir until well blended. Spoon mixture into a 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheeses on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

Serve with tortilla chips, crackers or celery.

Indulge and enjoy!

Deliciously Baked Mac & Cheese

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There are times when nothing sounds better than indulging in good old fashioned comfort food; something warm & gooey (odds are fattening and therefor delicious).  Since we closed out the month of January with super foods, healthy choices and awareness of smarter eating options, we thought we deserved one day of decadence. We bring you a way to pat yourself on the back – delightfully rich macaroni and cheese.  Warm up the stove, throw some good cheese together with soft elbow pasta and thank us later for the inspiration. And feel free to invite us over for the leftovers!

This is such a comforting meal and a real crowd pleaser! You can never go wrong with this dish. You can make this and keep for several days in the fridge, which is nice when you start craving it days later!  Also the possibilities are endless when it comes to experimenting with various cheeses to use. I love to try new ones that can add a different dimension to the flavor! – Amy

A look into the process… 

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Here is the recipe… 

INGREDIENTS

2 quarts water

2 tsp salt (for water)

2 cups elbow macaroni

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 tsp pepper

1/4 cup butter

1 tsp dry mustard

1 tsp salt

2 cups milk

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

2 cups grated gruyere cheese

1/4 cup chopped sweet pepper (optional)

 

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put water in a large sauce pot, add salt and bring to boil. Add macaronis all at once and stir. Return water to a boil and then simmer until tender, about 4-5 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain.

In a separate saucepan, melt butter and then remove from heat. Stir in flour, salt, pepper and dry mustard. When mixture is smooth, gradually add milk, stirring until there are no lumps of flour remaining. Return saucepan to heat and cook over moderately high heat, stirring constantly until mixture comes to boil and thickens slightly. Add green pepper, if desired, and simmer for a minute longer.

Stir 1 1/2 cups of grated cheddar cheese with the drained macaroni and milk & flour mixture and place in baking dish.  Pour extra shredded cheese on top.

Place dish in oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Remove from oven and serve. Enjoy!

 

VARIATIONS

Use shells instead of elbow pasta.

Add breadcrumbs with rosemary to the top for extra texture.

The (Raw) Julienne Salad

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Looking for a salad with texture and crunch? You have come to the right place for inspiration. We wanted to break the mold of salads always consisting of leafy arugula, boring romaine, or those other lettuce variatels. Just take a few of your favorite veggies, combine them with a simple and well-rounded vinaigrette and you will be pleasantly surprised by this daring salad star breakout. 

Here is a look at the process… 

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Combine the following ingredients in julienne form (as best you can) or by shaving each:

Daikon

Carrot

Cucumber

Beet

Broccoli Stems

Add parsley and a squeeze of lemon.

In addition, feel free to experiment with cabbage shreds or other veggies you see fit.

For the vinaigrette, whisk together the following:

1 Tbs sherry or red wine vinegar

1/2 small shallot minced

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

3 Tbs olive oil

Pinch of sea salt

Toss together. Enjoy.

Kale Pesto on Whole Grain Pasta

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In an effort to bring health and wellness into your life we present another kale recipe to super charge your body with vitamins and nutrients that are particularly well sourced from this curly-leafed cabbage cousin. Not to brag about its fabulous benefits, but Kale is rich in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium and the most impressive of all, an anti-cancer chemical called sulforaphane.  When chopped or minced, kale is at its most potent nutritional state.  

Lucky for you, this recipe is diced, sliced and ground down, releasing the very elements that make this have the greatest health impact.  So not only is this pesto tasty but unbelievably good for you. If we haven’t made it obvious that we adore Kale, this is our official vow to the beloved green leaf; we love you.

Here is the process for making Kale Pesto Pasta…

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Here is what you need…

INGREDIENTS

8 cups fresh kale, roughly chopped

1 Tbs fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup walnuts

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup olive oil

Whole grain penne pasta

Pecorino (garnish)

Grape tomatoes halved (optional)

RECIPE

Combine kale, lemon juice, walnuts and salt in a food processor and process until kale is finely ground. Slowly drizzle in olive oil as machine is running. Chill for one hour.

In a separate pot, bring 3 cups water to boil.  Add in whole grain penne pasta and cook for 15 minutes or until firm. Drain and combine pesto with pasta. Add pecorino and tomatoes, if desired.

Serve. Enjoy.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

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On dreary weather days there is nothing better to warm the spirit than with a hot cup of soup. Chicken noodle may sound trite to suggest, so we bring you  this spectacularly delicious, uniquely different, and hands down the most-flavor-you-can-pack-into-a-bowl recipe you have tasted. Ever.  Simply made, it is the perfect addition to your table this holiday.

Here is the process…

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INGREDIENTS

4 Tablespoons sweet butter
2 cups finely chopped yellow onions
4 teaspoons curry powder
3 pounds butternut squash
2 green apples peeled, cored, and chopped
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup apple juice
Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

Sautee onions in a large pot with butter and curry powder. Cook covered over low heat until onions are tender. About 20 minutes.

When the onions are tender, pour in the stock, add squash and apples, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer , partially covered, until squash and apples are very tender. About 20 minutes.

Puree the squash and apples until smooth. You can use an immersion blender in the cooking pot or put the solid pieces into a food processor to puree.

Once the soup is pureed, add the apple juice.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Note: You can garnish with an apple peel or sour cream. To make the soup richer, you can add 1/2-1 cup of heavy cream.

Almond Maple Granola

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Ever look around your kitchen and realize there is nothing in your pantry worth snacking on?  Too many chips and sweets hiding out in your cupboards. With the holidays just beginning, and the parties speeding ahead full throttle, here is a recipe to keep your hunger at bay and your body looking svelte. You won’t feel guilt filling up on this healthy alternative!

I’ve tried for years to find the perfect granola. Either I found them too sweet or basically tasteless. So I decided to make my own with my favorite ingredients. This particular recipe blends the perfect amount of sweet & savory with the right kind of texture that makes a granola worth eating. – Amy

INGREDIENTS 

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cups raw almonds chopped

3/4 cup pure maple syrup, preferably Grade A

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon coarse salt

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Combine oats, almonds, syrup, olive oil, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and mix until well combined. Divide mixture between 2 rimmed baking sheets and spread in an even layer. Transfer to oven and bake, stirring every 10 minutes, until granola is toasted, about 45 minutes.

Remove granola from oven and season with salt. Let cool completely before serving or storing in an airtight container for up to 1 month.