Since I seem to be in a layered dish/casserole kind of place lately, let me start with one of my all-time favorites, cavatini. This recipe originally came from one of my favorite people in the world--a former student and also roommate of mine--Karen. I have tinkered with it a bit, but it's easy and delicious, and always a crowd-pleaser at potlucks and such. Really, it's a great dish to turn to when your family grumbles that you've made spaghetti yet AGAIN! I myself could happily eat spaghetti once a week, but this is a nice variation on that theme. It's also similar to lasagna, but MUCH less labor-intensive! In fact, this is the Taco Bell philosophy of food, whereby you simply rearrange the same ingredients to give the illusion of a new menu item! ;-)
1 lb. ground beef (or Italian sausage)
32 oz. jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
7 oz. box pasta shells (or whatever shape pleases you!)
2 cups shredded mozzarella (at least!)
8 oz. can of mushrooms, drained
1 pkg. pepperoni slices (look for Emeril’s if you can find it—yum!)
Brown ground beef (or sausage). Drain the meat and add spaghetti sauce and mushrooms. Prepare pasta and drain. Layer pasta, then meat mixture, then pepperoni slices, then cheese, and repeat the layers. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
*Note: You can throw in any desired veggies with the meat mixture. I sometimes sauté an onion and/or garlic with the beef or sausage. I also use real mushrooms instead of canned when I have them on hand (sautéed with the meat, of course). Further, you could add something like cubed zucchini or yellow squash to the mix, which I often do in the summer when I have too much squash around! So vary this recipe according to whatever you have around and feel like adding in.
The next recipe is another great one for the busy work week. It looks involved (mostly because it won't let me single-space the ingredients for some reason!), but it doesn't take that long to put together, and it makes an enormous VAT of food that can be used for leftovers the second night, or to throw into a plastic container and take to work for lunch the next day. And it's actually pretty healthy to boot! (I know that healthful food generally goes against our philosophy at Lindsey's Luscious, but call this a happy accident!) I shared this recipe with my work colleagues a few years ago, and to this day, my division coordinator makes the sauce and keeps it on hand for an Asian dressing to put on pita sandwiches and the like. Her family refers to it as "Gina's Sauce!" :-D I hope you'll enjoy it, too.
Chicken Sesame Noodles
1 pound box vermicelli (or thin spaghetti), cooked and drained
4 breasts boneless chicken, poached and sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and shredded
1 small bunch green onions, sliced thinly
1 cup (or more) green peas (or pea pods or sugar snaps), blanched
1 red pepper, cored, seeded and sliced thinly
1 jalapeno pepper, cored, seeded and minced
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil (or to taste)
2 1/2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon chili paste (or to taste--I prefer two myself!)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger (a grating of fresh would be even better!)
salt and pepper to taste
2/3-1/2 cup roasted, dry roasted, or honey roasted cashews, halves or pieces
1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Poach chicken breasts in the same pot with the vermicelli. Drain pasta, rinse with cold water until cool, then drain again. Slice chicken when cool enough to handle.
2. Put cooled pasta and chicken in a large bowl. Add prepared vegetables. Mix gently with hands to combine everything well.
3. In a blender or food processor, puree the peanut butter, vinegar, garlic, hoisin, oils, chili paste, sugar, and spices until smooth. Pour over other ingredients. Make sure everything is coated thoroughly.
4. Serve at room temperature or chill in the refrigerator. Garnish with cashews before serving.
*Note: You could add or substitute anything you like in this dish, such as some shredded Napa cabbage, bean sprouts, sliced water chestnuts, etc. And I'm sure that it would be good with, say, shrimp instead of chicken. Be creative!