Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia {Squid Ink Shrimp Spaghetti with Tomato Basil Saffron Cream}

Squid ink pasta has a special place in my heart, and I have a hilarious picture from my bachelorette party years ago to prove it (pro-tip: don’t try squid ink when you’re all dolled up for a night out). It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I just love the rich texture and earthy/sea-infused flavor of squid ink pasta. It’s something I always order at restaurants if I see it on the menu, because I imagine it’s incredibly complicated to make at home. Until I walked in my local Trader Joe’s and found Casa Milo’s Squid Ink Spaghetti on the “new products” shelves, that is. I immediately snagged it and decided to pair it with shrimp and a creamy, garlicky, tomato basil saffron sauce. Sooo delicious and luxurious. The spaghetti was simple to prepare (just followed the directions and boiled for ten minutes till al dente) and had a lovely, subtle flavor to it. Not super overpowering, and perfect for squid ink virgins. RUN, don’t walk to your nearest Trader Joe’s to give this a try! Immediately ups the ante of any pasta dish and makes it tres gourmet 🙂 Perfect for hosting, date night, or just a regular weekend meal if you’re feeling fabulous.

Ingredients (serves 3-4) 

1/2 an onion, minced
4 cloves of garlic, smashed and then minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
Two tomatoes, crushed
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 tsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
Salt & pepper, to taste
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
Oregano or Italian spices, to taste
1 lb frozen shrimp, deveined
Pinch of saffron (optional, I had some lying around)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
12 oz (1 pack) Casa Milo Spaghetti al Nero di Seppia, cooked according to directions
1/2 cup pasta water
1/2 cup parmesan or parmigiano-reggiano

Recipe

Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan on medium-high heat. Add the garlic and let brown slightly, then add the onions and then stir till soft and translucent. Add: the tomatoes, fresh basil, crushed red pepper flakes (a generous amount if you can handle some heat), lemon juice, salt & pepper, Italian spices. Stir and let this mixture simmer into a sauce on medium-high heat for several minutes. In the meantime, prepare the pasta according to direction and cook till al dente. Add shrimp to the tomato mixture and stir until fully cooked.

Lower the heat and stir in a pinch of saffron, heavy whipping cream, and pasta water fresh from the cooked spaghetti. Stir everything together and until the mixture has a nice yellow hue from the saffron. Add in more salt & pepper and spices as necessary. Simmer for a few more minutes until the sauce is thick and bubbly. Stir in the spaghetti and serve with freshly-grated parmesan/parmigiano-reggiano and fresh basil.

Boursin & Pesto-Stuffed Chicken Thighs

I faced a rare conundrum the other day: an unopened pack of Boursin cheese that had been sitting pretty in my fridge for several days. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Boursin is this ridiculously delicious brand of creamy, flavor-packed French cheese that goes well with pretty much anything – eggs, crackers, you name it. It’s like goat cheese on crack. While brainstorming recipe ideas for using Boursin in a quick weeknight chicken dinner, I came across this Rachael Ray recipe that looked fabulous, but a bit too time-consuming.

Here’s my speedy version of her recipe, using three key ingredients: Boursin, ready-made pesto, and olive oil. THAT’S IT. Oh, and chicken thighs instead of breast, because they are so much more tender and better at soaking up that delicious garlic flavor 🙂

Ingredients (serves 4) 

12 chicken thighs
1/2 pack of Boursin Garlic & Herb cheese (~2.5 oz)
**the Rachael Ray recipe calls for a full pack, but IMHO half a pack is all you need since the cheese is so rich and flavorful!
3 tbsp pesto
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste
10-12 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

Recipe

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the cheese and pesto until nice and creamy. Lay out the chicken thighs on a large baking tray and season with olive oil, and just a touch of salt & pepper. Add a teaspoon of the pesto cheese mixture to the center of the chicken thighs, and fold them over to enclose. Pour any leftover mixture over the thighs. You can then store this in the fridge for a few hours to marinate, or pop directly in the oven.

Bake the chicken thighs for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and add some parmesan cheese, and the cherry tomatoes. Pop back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes, or until the thighs are done cooking. I like to broil them for a few minutes at the very end for a nice browned look!

That’s it! SO incredibly easy with virtually zero prep time, but so many complex flavors, thanks to the Boursin cheese. I’ve already made this twice (once for guests), and they’re a huge hit!

Tandoori Chicken Tacos

Here it is! My recipe for tandoori chicken tacos, which I guarantee is probably the easiest, no-fuss recipe you’ll find out there. My mother-in-law makes these all the time in the summer (with a more legit tandoori marinade) and they are so so scrumptious that I needed to figure out how to make a lazy girl version for myself. Enjoy, and leave a comment if you plan on trying these at home! You won’t regret it 🙂

Ingredients (serves 2)
*As with all cooking, I usually just eyeball/adjust these ingredients to taste, but here’s my best estimate for measurements

6 chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 an onion, sliced into long pieces
6 flour tortillas
1 teaspoon Canola oil

For the marinade:
1 tablespoon plain or Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
Red chilli powder to taste (I like mine spicy, so 1 teaspoon)
Salt & pepper to taste
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Canola oil

For garnishing:
*Completely customizable, but here’s how I like mine!

2 avocados, sliced into long pieces
Greek yogurt
Montamore cheese (sweet, creamy, and tangy!)
Cholula Hot Sauce

Recipe

Mix the marinade ingredients into a large bowl. Fold in the chicken thighs, mix well, and let marinate for at least a few hours in the fridge (the longer, the better!). While the chicken marinates, you can prep the other ingredients so that your taco bar is ready to go as soon as the chicken is prepared.

Heat 1 teaspoon of Canola oil on a large saucepan on medium to high heat. Fry the onions until they’re slightly brown and caramelized, and set aside on a separate plate. In the same oil, fry the chicken thighs until brown on each side (this will take a few minutes), add any additional chilli powder (for a bolder look and taste), and then lower the heat and cover until the chicken is cooked fully. Once the chicken thighs are cooked, add in the caramelized onions and mix. You should have a nice creamy chicken mixture with not too much gravy. If your gravy appears thin, then cover and cook for longer.

To serve: Add a spoonful of the chicken mixture to your flour tortilla and garnish with a few avocado slices, a teaspoon of Greek yogurt, cheeeeese, and a generous helping of that amazing Cholula Hot Sauce. Ready, set, DEVOUR. And then repeat until your belly is full 🙂 The perfect weeknight dinner for your Taco Tuesdays!

Creamy No-Cream Cauliflower Soup

I know, I know. I’m completely failing at posting regularly on my blog, but I promise you it’s all for good reason. Life has been a whirlwind lately with tons of travel and a busy work schedule, but I’m looking forward to things slowing down a bit for the summer. We’ve had a taste of some amazing weather here in Chicago, and I’m getting so amped for outdoor music festivals, day drinking, international travel (fingers crossed), barbecues, and experimenting with some lighter summer flavors in the kitchen. It’s gonna be a gooood, good summer. I can just feel it!

This time of year, I always find myself craving more veggies. My husband and I have been trying to incorporate one meatless meal at least once a week, and it actually hasn’t been that difficult to do. Veggie soups are perfect for helping us accomplish this goal – they’re easy to make, quite filling, and last for at least three days. I’m a lazy cook, so this is a big win in my book 🙂 Last week, I made a modified/healthier version of Food Network’s Cauliflower Soup and absolutely loved it. The best part about my recipe is that it was super creamy and sweet, with NO cream at all. Enjoy!

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Ingredients (serves 4) 

1/2 stick butter
1/2 onion, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 cauliflower head, cored and cut into small florets
2 tbsp fresh parsley
4 cups chicken broth/stock
6 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
Salt, to taste
Black pepper
Paprika, to taste
1 cup greek yoghurt

Recipe (*modified from the Food Network) 

Melt 1/4 stick of butter in a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, then add the carrots and cook until they begin to brown. Add the cauliflower florets, cover and cook over low heat for 15 minutes. The cauliflower should be very soft at this point. Add the parsley and chicken broth and let simmer for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, make a white sauce in a small saucepan. Melt the remaining 1/4 stick butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the milk and whisk to combine until the flour is no longer lumpy. Pour the white sauce into the pot. Add salt, pepper, and paprika to taste and allow the soup to simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes. When serving, place some greek yogurt at the bottom of the serving bowl, add the soup, and stir slowly. Creamy and delicious, with ZERO cream involved!

*Note that the Food Network recipe suggests that you can use an immersion blender to puree for a smoother, thicker soup. This is a great option, but I sort of liked feeling the cauliflower’s texture. And like I said, I’m a lazy cook, so love the added benefit of only cleaning one pot!