Holiday Meals Go Italian

Wednesday, December 17, 2014 by News and Updates From Dreamfields

Buon NataleBuone Fest! … Merry Christmas!  Happy holidays! 

With today’s enthusiasm for Mediterranean cuisine, why not flavor your celebratory meals with Italian traditions?  Enjoy what matters most in many Italian holiday gatherings:  great food, skillfully prepared with days of preparation and served with countless relatives gathered around the festive family table.


‘Twas the Night Before Christmas …

 … and all through the Italian kitchen, families from Southern Italy traditionally prepare meatless meals, called La Vigilia di Natale.  Also termed the Eve of the Seven Fishes, this seven- to nine-course meal typically features several seafood dishes, with an antipasti or soup, vegetables, a mixed green salad, crusty bread – and nearly always, a pasta dish!  The number of courses isn’t about indulgence, but instead has a sacred meaning, representing the seven religious sacraments or nine for the Trinity times three.  Going meatless:  a common practice before holy days.

Here are a few ways you can bring seafood and pasta together for your Christmas Eve dinner – including quick recipes -- especially if you choose to serve seven courses or more!

  • Spicy Linguine with Shrimp takes just 30 minutes to prep and cook.  Colorful and easy, gently toss cooked Dreamfields linguine with green, red and/or yellow bell pepper, onion, garlic, parsley and red pepper flake.  Add “tails on” shrimp  and top it off with shaved Parmesan cheese.

  • Easy Mediterranean Angel Hair is a great dish for those preferring vegetarian options.  Sauté a medley of regional ingredients – anchovies, artichoke hearts, bell peppers, capers, garlic, Kalamata olives, thyme and oregano – in olive oil, and toss with Dreamfields angel hair pasta.  For vegans, skip the anchovy filets and the feta cheese on top.
  • Seafood Stew with Rotini combines 2 types of seafood – cod and shrimp – in a zesty sauce of carrots, leeks, tomatoes, clam juice, broth, wine, orange zest and red pepper flakes.  Ladle the seafood sauce over Dreamfields rotini, and top with aioli (savory garlic-flavored mayonnaise) if desired.

Christmas Day Lunch …

… often lasts for hours!   A typical feast begins with a classic antipasti (appetizer) of cured meat, olives and cheese.  A primi (pasta course) comes next, often a baked dish that’s a regional favorite.  The secondi (second course):  roasted meat, chicken or stuffed turkey, served with contorni (vegetables and salads) and bread on the side.  The next courses:  formaggi (cheese), then the dolci (desserts like panettone) as the grand finale.

Three recipe ideas from Dreamfields for a primi course have steps you can prepare ahead:

  • Veggie Lovers Lasagna offers a new take on this family favorite.  Layer cooked Dreamfields lasagna noodles with cremini mushrooms, red bell pepper, yellow squash, broccoli, spinach, cottage cheese, mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, fresh herbs and Alfredo-pesto sauce – and bake on Christmas morning!
  • Roasted Vegetable Macaroni & Cheese brings winter vegetables to the menu. Roast bell pepper, sweet potato, squash, broccoli, portabella mushrooms, onion and garlic ahead.  Before the meal, cook Dreamfields elbows and the savory cheese sauce, then gently combine them with the roasted veggies.
  • Penne Mediterranean Delight Salad is a prepare-ahead, chilled primi course, or a contorni dish to serve on the side.  Tossed with Dreamfields penne rigate, it’s a delicious blend of regional ingredients – cherry tomatoes, red onion, olives, feta cheese, basil, capers, lemon juice, olive oil and toasted pine nuts.

And on December 26th….

... it’s a day to enjoy Santo Stefano’s lunch, of mostly delicious leftovers or perhaps some unique pasta dishes for casual entertaining.  After all, in Italian tradition, holiday feasting continues until January 6, to celebrate the Epiphany, or the visit of the Three Kings.           

For more healthy pasta ideas to serve this holiday season, click on Dreamfields’ collection of authentic, great-tasting pasta recipes.

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Whether you celebrate Christmas or enjoy the secular festivities this season, the Italians have it right: “chi mangia bene, vive bene,” or “who eats well, lives well.”  The Dreamfields family wishes you and your family a wonderful holiday – and a healthy new year!

 

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Red and Green: Color Your Plate for the Season!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014 by News and Updates From Dreamfields

Green wreathes made of pine, spruce or balsam … holly branches with their shiny green leaves and bright red berries … holiday gifts joyfully wrapped with red and green paper and bows … stores adorned with red and green decorations … tables carefully set with green and red napkins … poinsettias showing off their green and red foliage.  Without question, you know it’s the holiday season!

The Colors of the Holidays!

Apple red and pine green:  their traditional meanings go back hundreds of years. So the stories go … Romans exchanged holly wreathes to celebrate their December Saturnalia festival.  Holly, ivy and mistletoe brightened the indoors during the long, dark days of Europe’s winter.  In the Middle Ages, Paradise Plays on Christmas Eve performed the story of the Garden of Eden, with a pine tree, trimmed with bright red apples tied to its bough -- a tradition that eventually became the Christmas tree.

The Colors of Health!

Red and green represent more than the holiday season.  Brightly-colored vegetables and fruits now – and throughout the year – supply plenty of good nutrition:  vitamins, minerals and fiber, along with thousands of phytonutrients, which promote your health and help your body fight disease in many ways.  A few examples …

  • Red and bright-pink fruits and vegetables contain lycopene and anthocyanins.
  • Lycopene helps support prostate health and may help reduce the risk of some cancers.  Most red fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, tomato products (spaghetti sauce, tomato juice, tomato paste), and pink grapefruit provide lycopene.  Heat from cooking spaghetti sauce or canning tomatoes makes lycopene easier for your body to absorb.
  • Anthocyanins work as antioxidants, defending body cells and supporting your brain’s healthy functions. Berries, cherries, cranberries, red grapes and red kidney beans are good sources. 
  • Deep-green vegetables and fruits deliver lutein; some green veggies, indoles and isothiocyanates.
    • Lutein helps promote eye health; lutein is found in the macula of your eye.  Among the good sources are asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, kale, Romaine, spinach, Swiss chard and kiwifruit.
    • Indoles and isothiocyanates come from cruciferous vegetables, such as bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale, and, watercress.  Among other jobs in your body, these “phytos-“ may help protect against some types of cancer.

Advice:  If you need 2000 calories a day, fit in 2 ½ cups of vegetables daily, including 1 ½ cups of deep-green vegetables and 5 ½ cups of red and orange vegetables weekly.  For fruit, enjoy 2 cups daily from a colorful variety.

The Colors of Holiday Menus

For the festivity of the season, for the visual appeal of delicious meals and for the nourishment they deliver, plan holiday menus with a palette of color!   Use these ideas to get your creative juices flowing …

  • For a light bite … sliced red Delicious and green Granny Smith apples, arranged in a “wreath” with a fruit-yogurt dip inside … red and green bell pepper “sticks” with an herbed yogurt dip … red bell pepper soup , garnished with chopped green onion … Lasagna Soup, cooked with tomatoes and topped with green parsley

  • On the side … red pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries, sprinkled on a crisp, leafy-green salad … green beans, sautéed with chopped red pimiento … a kale salad made with dried cherries or cranberries … roasted skin-on, small red potatoes tossed with chopped parsley … Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Pasta with a roasted red pepper garnish … slaw made with red cabbage and chopped green apples
  • As an edible garnish … small bunches of red and green grapes, arranged around roasted turkey … roasted beet slices and fresh green herbs , garnishing roast pork or beef… cherry tomatoes and fresh basil on a favorite Dreamfields pasta dish
  • As a beverage … cranberry juice drink garnished with a lime slice … spicy tomato juice with a small celery stick … cranberry smoothie with a slice of kiwifruit floating on top

Wishing you a happy, healthy and colorful holiday season!

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“Eat Smart” Tips for Hectic Holiday Meals

Monday, December 8, 2014 by Dreamfields Recipes & More

'Tis the season … that’s typically all-too hectic, yet traditionally filled with food, fun and festivities.  As for many families, jam-packed holiday schedules may leave you with little time to sit down for shared meals, much less prepare them!  That said, healthy eating, along with adequate rest and a regular fitness routine, continue to be the perfect antidotes for managing the many stresses of the holiday season.

Quick ‘n Easy:  Mealtime Tips for Your Busy Holiday Season

  • Plan ahead.  Keep meal ideas for a few days in mind … and ingredients already on hand. Think about plan-overs from holiday feasts, too.  For example, slice leftover beef roast or turkey to stir into cooked spaghetti and pasta sauce, or mac’ and cheese, or pasta salad.  Fortify homemade or prepared soups with leftover veggies or turkey; add cooked pasta or rice for heartier soup.  Hurry-up dinner idea:  Turkey Mac Soup with cooked turkey left over from yesterday’s entertaining.
     
  • Prep ahead, too.  Save time by spending a few minutes pre-prepping ingredients. For example, wash and trim the veggies, slice meat or chicken, or make the sauce.  Then for dinner, you‘ll just need to assemble and cook.  Hurry-up dinner idea:  Pan-Fried Butternut Squash Pasta, made with prep-ahead steps: peeling, seeding, and shredding the squash.
     
  • Plan variety into a one-dish meal. That can add up to less prep time and less clean up.  Stovetop dinners are usually quick to make – with the main dish and sides prepared as a one-dish meal. Hurry-up dinner ideas:  Quick Chicken & Veggie Spaghetti Skillet, with tomatoes, zucchini, cooked chicken and spaghetti pasta.
     
  • Use quick cooking methods.  Broiling, microwaving, and stir-frying are faster than roasting or baking.  Hurry-up dinner idea: Sweet Potato and Kale Skillet, made by stir-frying diced sweet potato and kale, before adding rotini pasta and ricotta cheese and topping with Parmesan cheese.
     
  • Stock up for quick-to-fix foods.  That way, you’ll always have healthy meal basics on hand.  Keep pasta, rice, frozen and canned vegetable and fruit, canned beans, tuna and salmon, and prepared sauces, dressings, and salsa in your pantry, and prewashed greens, frozen vegetables, cheese, and eggs in the ‘fridge.  Hurry-up dinner idea:  Spaghetti Tuna Salad, a four-ingredient recipe prepared with only pantry foods, and served with a simple fruit salad on the side.
     
  • Involve your whole family.  From start to finish, many hands make faster kitchen work!  Hurry-up dinner idea:  Cheesy Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli.
  • Keep your counters clutter free!  Find another landing place for gift wrap, holiday cards, and decorations.  Being clutter-free you’ll have more space to prepare and enjoy your holiday mealtimes.  Hurry-up dinner idea:   Pasta Cannellini, a simple way to fit beans in, and it doesn’t take much counter space (even if your kitchen isn’t clutter-free).

  • Stay flexible.  When unexpected holiday activities take top priority, switch meal plans around.  It’s okay to serve breakfast for dinner, and lunch for dinner (or even breakfast) if you’re in a real time crunch!   Hurry-up dinner idea:  Cobb & Rotini Pasta Salad, a simple toss of rotini pasta with hard-cooked eggs, cooked chicken and bacon, avocado, tomato, onion and cheese, tastes great at any time of day.

 


 

 

 

Seasonal Vegetables in Harvest Meals – Part Two

Tuesday, November 25, 2014 by News and Updates From Dreamfields

The many shapes of pasta adapt deliciously and easily in their partnership with the many fresh flavors of cool-weather vegetables.  While Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and winter squash hit their peak at this time of year, three more deserve a place at your harvest plate, too.

Eggplant

Known also as aubergine, eggplant is botanically a fruit (or berry).  So why is it called “eggplant”?  Its name derives from the white and yellow varieties found in 18th century Europe, which looked like chicken or goose eggs: hence its name.  Today the most common eggplant varieties have a smooth, shiny skin with a deep-rich purple color.  Farmers’ markets and specialty grocers may carry cultivars that vary from purple to white, oblong to round, and anywhere from two to 12 inches in length.  So experiment with the variety if available.

To buy:  Choose firm, smooth eggplant without wrinkles, tan spots or bruises-- and with a fresh-appearing stem.  Those heavy for their size are the best bet.  If you gently press it, the eggplant should give slightly but bounce back.   Tip:  Smaller eggplants are less bitter and have thinner skins and fewer seeds.

To store: Keep eggplant in a cool, dry place for a day or two– or in the refrigerator up to 4 or 5 days – then use it right away. Store eggplant in the ‘fridge in a perforated plastic bag to slow decay.  Be aware: eggplant is quite perishable and bruises easily, so be gentle.

To prepare: Trim off the stem. Leave the skin on or peel it off -- your choice since it’s edible. (Tip: The skin on young eggplant is more tender.)  Then slice or cube it for braising or frying, removing any blemishes in the flesh, or leave it whole with skin on to roast.  Tip: To reduce bitterness from older eggplant, sprinkle cut eggplant liberally with salt, and let sit in a strainer for an hour. Then drain, rinse and pat it dry with a paper towel before you prep it as desired.

Recipe idea: Prepare this ratatouille-inspired pasta dish, flavored with marinara sauce, parsley, rosemary, onion, red wine and Parmesan cheese.  Penne with Roasted Eggplant & Savory Mushroom Ragout is a robust side dish that would complement a Thanksgiving turkey feast or an autumn dinner with roasted chicken, pork loin or beef roast as centerplate. 

 

Sweet Potato

Sweet potatoes or yams?  While the terms are used interchangeably in the U.S., the sweet, orange root vegetable, as well as their long, red-skinned varieties, are sweet potatoes.  Yams are a different species of tubers -- different in taste, texture and appearance -- and common in the Caribbean, not in the U.S.  Whatever you call these vitamin A-rich vegetables, their natural sweetness complements savory flavors in a harvest meal.

To buy:  Select firm sweet potatoes – small to medium in size -- with smooth skins and without decay or bruises. .

To store:  Store sweet potatoes in a cool, dry, well-ventilated space – but not the ‘fridge – for up to two weeks.  Tip:  Refrigerating sweet potatoes will produce a hard center and less pleasant taste.

To prepare:  Scrub them well, then bake, boil, or sauté sweet potatoes – whole or cut up, skin-on or skinless.  Tip: Substitute sweet potatoes for regular potatoes in most any recipe.

Recipe idea: On the Thanksgiving table, candied sweet potatoes are the traditional side dish.  For another seasonal way to make them part of your menu, prepare Roasted Vegetable Macaroni & Cheese.  Roast a rainbow of vegetables (sweet potato, red bell pepper, yellow squash, broccoli, mushrooms and onion), then fold them, along with a creamy Cheddar cheese sauce, into cooked Dreamfields elbows. It’s a delicious way to enjoy a variety of vegetables in a single dish!

 

Swiss Chard

A member of the beet family, chard’s deep green leaves give any mixed dish vibrancy, a delicate flavor and plenty of good nutrition.  This leafy vegetable presents a rainbow by itself – with green and deep-red leaves, green or reddish leaf blades, and stalks that vary from white and yellow to red.  Cool weather delivers the more delicate texture and flavor.

To buy:  Choose bunches of chard with dark-green leaves (not dried out) and brightly colored stems

To store:  Refrigerate fresh chard in an airtight plastic bag for up to three days for peak quality.

To prepare:  Use chard’s bright, green leaves in recipes that call for spinach; their food prep is the same but the flavor of chard is more delicate.  Wash them well under cold, running water.  Use raw leaves in salads and mature leaves and celery-like stalks in sautéed and other cooked dishes.  Cook the leaves and stalks separately: chopped stalks for about 5 minutes, then add tender, chopped leaves to cook a few minutes longer.   Tip:  Unlike spinach, chard retains its bright green color when cooked.

Recipe idea: Short on time to prepare a big turkey dinner?  Serve Penne Rigate with Turkey, Swiss Chard and Walnuts, a one-dish pasta meal made with Dreamfields penne rigate, Swiss chard, broth and tomatoes, and topped with Parmesan cheese and toasted walnuts

And … if you have leftover Turkey, prepare a hearty Turkey Mac Soup, made with Dreamfields elbows, cooked turkey … and several more vegetables that hit their stride in the autumn season:  leeks, carrots, celery and broccoli.

 

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Seasonal Vegetables in Harvest Meals

Thursday, November 20, 2014 by News and Updates From Dreamfields

Fall produce is at its peak, with the best flavors and arguably their greatest value for delicious and hearty seasonal meals.  Carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes are harvest favorites – but consider other, perhaps less common, seasonal vegetables that add variety, nourishment and culinary interest to your Thanksgiving and family menus: Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, eggplant, Swiss chard and winter squash.

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts: they look like baby cabbages!  What’s different is the way they grow.  They’re really leafy green buds that grow on a single long stalk from the small tender ones (1/2 inch diameter) to those that may be three times the size. They’re generally cut off the stalk before being readied for sale.  Why the name?  Brussels sprouts as we know them now were probably cultivated as long as 800 years ago in a region in present day Belgium that was already called Brussels.

To buy:  For tenderness, choose smaller sprouts with bright green leaves and firm, tight heads. Avoid those that are yellowing or turning a drab green.  If they’re still on their stalk, better yet!  You can store them a bit longer!

To store: Refrigerate sprouts in an airtight container for up to 3 days. With longer storage a stronger flavor may develop.

To prepare: Trim the ends; remove and discard the loose outer leaves, then clean them.  You now have options: either cut them in half or quarters, or keep them whole but make a cut through the center of the stem so heat penetrates the sprouts as they cook.  You can boil, grill, roast, sauté, steam or stir fry sprouts, but to keep their delicate flavor and aroma, don’t overcook them!  Gently separate the leaves if you stir fry the sprouts.

 

Recipe idea: Feature roasted Brussels sprouts with prosciutto or bacon, goat cheese and spaghetti as a main dish -- Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Pasta -- in a harvest menu.  Tip:  Roasting is simple; just drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and roast for 20 minutes.

 

Butternut Squash

 

A type of winter squash, the pear-shaped butternut squash has a sweet, nutty flavor and orange flesh that’s much like pumpkin.  Like other squash, it grows on a long, trailing vine.  

To buy: Select firm squash that’s heavy for its size, with a deep-colored, hard rind that’s blemish free. For convenience, look for pre-packaged, cut-up, raw butternut squash.

To store:  Keep whole butternut squash in a cool, dark place for a month or longer; refrigerate it if you prefer.

To prepare:  Enjoy butternut squash roasted or toasted, pureed or mashed, or halved and grilled or baked!  To prepare you can:  1) peel, remove seeds, cut up and simmer squash for all kinds of mixed dishes, 2) slice in half lengthwise, remove seeds, and bake cut side down or bake cut-side up, with butter, nuts and spices in the hollow or 3) cut in ½ to 1-inch slices and roast.

Recipe idea: Complement your Thanksgiving meal with this memorable and seasonal side dish:  Butternut Squash & Linguine.  Butternut Squash simmered in wine and garlic, tossed with cooked linguine, goat cheese (or blue cheese or Parmesan) and sage, and topped with prosciutto and perhaps toasted walnuts.  A delicious harvest dish!

 

Cauliflower

Like broccoli, cauliflower is a flower; hence its name from Latin: caulis meaning stalk and floris meaning flower. And like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage, cauliflower is botanically part of the brassica family.  In fact, Mark Twain recognized its upscale qualities, calling it “nothing but cabbage with a college education.”   

To buy:  Choose a firm head with crisp leaves by the stalk and compact florets; size doesn’t make a difference. While white cauliflower is most common, look for unique varieties in specialty stores:  green, orange and purple

To store:  Wrap raw cauliflower tightly and refrigerate for up to 5 days.  Once cooked, refrigerate for just 1 to 3 days for peak quality.

To prepare:  Enjoy cauliflower raw or enjoy it roasted, boiled, steamed or sautéed.  The outer leaves and stems are edible, too.  Remove the stems and break the florets into smaller pieces for even cooking or for finger food snacks.  Or steam or bake the head whole.  Cook just until soft, not mushy.

Recipe idea: Add elegance and nutrition to mac ‘n cheese -- Creamy Stove Top Cauliflower Mac n Cheese -- by blending freshly cooked, mashed cauliflower with the creamy cheddar cheese-pasta mixture. Tip:  To speed food prep time, pre-cook the cauliflower and macaroni ahead, then finish cooking just before serving time.

 

For more flavorful dishes -- with pasta partners – featuring other seasonal produce, check the Dreamfields recipe file.  Hint: Penne with Roasted Eggplant & Savory Mushroom Ragout could be a great side with your turkey dinner!  And Penne Rigate with Turkey, Swiss Chard and Walnuts an easy Thanksgiving dish if you’re short on time to prepare a big turkey dinner!

 

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Pasta + Sauces: Perfect Pairings

Wednesday, October 29, 2014 by News and Updates From Dreamfields

Every month is pasta month.  That said, an October National Pasta Month celebration can spur your ingenuity and adventure for new pasta-sauce combinations.

The mild flavor and different cuts (shapes) of pasta make them perfect partners for uniquely different pasta sauces … whether you make your own sauce from scratch, buy jarred sauces or prepare the sauce in a pasta recipe.

Different Shapes, Different Sauces

Almost any sauce goes with the box of spaghetti in the cabinet.  But with the myriad sauce options, did you ever ask yourself … which pasta sauce is the best match for different pasta cuts?  Although there’s plenty of room for culinary creativity, the “long” and “short” of it is: 

  • Thicker, long  pasta (e.g. fettuccine) with heartier or creamier sauces
  • Thinner, long pasta (e.g. angel hair) with light, delicate sauces or perhaps olive oil and herbs and finely-chopped mixtures
  • Shapes, tubes, and short pasta (e.g. penne, rotini, elbows) to support chunkier, often more seasoned, sauces (perhaps with chunky veggies and meat)
  • Lasagna with its ridges and ruffles, to capture heavy sauces and cheese, in baked dishes

For more tips on pairing pasta shapes and sauces, click on How To Pair Your Pasta Shapes With The Right Sauce.

Pasta Sauces:  A Quick Reference

Thoughts of “pasta” often conjure up thoughts of the many popular sauces that make a dish so deliciously “Mediterranean.”   Many, but not all, are prepared with tomatoes (before contact with the Americas, there were not tomatoes in Europe).  Other sauces are as simple as olive oil and herbs, perhaps with some grated cheese.  This quick reference describes the ingredients … and why each popular pasta sauce is uniquely flavorful.

Sauce

Description

Dreamfields Recipe

Alfredo

Rich, creamy sauce of heavy cream, butter, grated Parmesan, and perhaps egg yolks, flour and garlic

Shrimp & Pasta Cheddar-Alfredo

Arrabbiata

A dish with a spicy tomato sauce with pancetta and chiles

 

Bechamel

White sauce made with flour, milk, butter and onion, often used as a sauce for lasagna and for mac and cheese

 

Carbonara

Cooked sauce made of cream, eggs, Parmesan cheese and bacon pieces

Linguine Carbonara

 

Spaghetti Carbonara

Classic

Typically a simple, cooked red sauce of tomatoes, diced vegetables, olive oil, and seasonings.

Basic Tomato Sauce with Linguine

 

No Cook Tomato Basil Sauce

Marinara

Highly-seasoned, classic, cooked tomato sauce made with onions, garlic and oregano and perhaps basil, parsley, olives, other seasonings, and perhaps seafood; sometimes called neopolitan sauce 

Elbows with Prosciutto, Olives and Marinara  

Pesto

Uncooked sauce of crushed ingredients: most commonly, fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan or Pecorino cheese and olive oil.  Tip:  Substitute other nuts (almonds, walnuts) or herbs (parsley, rosemary).

Sherri's Pesto Pasta

 

Linguini with Walnut Pesto Sauce

 

Roasted Vegetables with Rotini & Rosemary Pesto.

Puttanesca

Spicy cooked sauce of tomatoes, onions, capers, black olives, anchovies, oregano and garlic, cooked in olive oil. 

Chicken Puttanesca with Spaghetti

 

Linguini Puttanesca

Ragu

Thick, full-flavored, cooked meat sauce, often made with ground meat (sometimes pork or ham); sautéed tomatoes, carrots, celery, garlic, onion and herbs; and often enhanced with wine, milk or cream.  Sometimes called ragu bolognese

Penne with Roasted Eggplant & Savory Mushroom Ragu

Romesco sauce

Classic Spanish sauce made of ground tomatoes, red bell peppers, onion, garlic, almonds and olive oil, used in pasta dishes, over grilled fish or with poultry and stews.

 

Vodka

Marinara sauce with a splash of vodka and cream

 

 

Pasta “Saucing” Tips

  • When preparing a pasta meal, first shop for pasta sauce or pick a sauce recipe.  Then choose the pasta cut to match. 
  • Cook pasta only until al dente, or “firm to the tooth,” so the sauce can adhere to the pasta without the pasta losing its shape or firm texture.
  • Drain hot pasta as soon as it’s cooked.  Return it to the pot with a ladle of pasta sauce; toss it gently to lightly coat the pasta.  Then add enough sauce, without overwhelming the pasta.
  • Save a little cooking water when draining the pasta.  Add a little if the pasta looks too dry with the sauce.  The starchy cooking water helps the sauce coat the pasta.  Be judicious:  just a splash will do!
  • Mound the pasta with its sauce in the center of the plate to both keep it warm longer and to keep the sauce from overflowing the plate.
  • Toss cheese just before serving – or shave some on top -- so it melts into the pasta dish without getting stringy.

Enjoy National Pasta Month!

Treat your Friends And Family To 1 Of These 7 Casual Entertaining Recipes

Friday, October 10, 2014 by Dreamfields Recipes & More

Entertaining can be lots of fun. Friends and family + great food can be a recipe for good times, but can also prove to be stressful for the host.

So instead of trying to shoot for the moon why not take it easy with one of our “casual entertaining” recipes created by one of seven different guest bloggers? These delicious recipes are great for having friends or family over for a relaxed evening of food and fun.

Buffalo Chicken Pizza Macaroni and Cheese

Buffalo Chicken Pizza Macaroni and Cheese

Combine tailgate favorites buffalo wings and pizza with mac & cheese to create this outrageously delicious pasta dish.

Get the recipe!

 

Linguine With Meatballs, Mushrooms and Creamy Onion Sauce

Linguine With Meatballs, Mushrooms and Creamy Onion Sauce

Enjoy this easy, simple, stress-free recipe that combines the taste of lean ground beef meatballs with a creamy onion sauce and cremini mushrooms.

Get the recipe!

 

 

Creamy Garlic and Avocado Primavera

Creamy Garlic and Avocado Primavera

Imagine everything you want in a decadent cream sauce… but it’s healthier! That’s what this savory recipe offers. “Indulge” in creamy avocado, sharp garlic and scallions as well as an “Alfredo” sauce created from nonfat yogurt.

Get this recipe!

 

 

Awesome Pasta with Quick and Healthy Tomato Sauce

Awesome Pasta With Quick And Healthy Tomato Sauce

Need a quick recipe to entertain with? Then look no further. This recipe only has 12-20 minutes of total cook time and features succulent ground lamb, sweet onion, brown sugar and an easy tomato sauce.

Get the recipe!

 

 

Lasagna Rolls With Chicken Cordon Bleu And Kale Filling

Lasagna Rolls With Chicken Cordon Bleu And Kale Filling

Did you know that you can reduce the cooking time for your lasagna recipes by making lasagna roll ups instead? Well, that’s exactly what CookTheStory did to delicious results with her recipe, which features the decadence of chicken cordon bleu with the health benefits of chopped kale. Try it for yourself at your next get-together!

Get the recipe!

 

 

Dreamy Creamy Asparagus Chicken Rotini

Dreamy Creamy Asparagus Chicken Rotini

Skip having to dress up for a night on the town and instead indulge in relaxed moments with friends, casual clothing, casual food and casual conversation. Top it off with a delicious meal that combines asparagus spear tips, shredded Parmesan cheese, succulent chicken breast, rotini pasta all covered in a simple sauce.

Get the recipe!

 

 

Penne Rigate Chicken Pasta Soup Recipe

Penne Rigate Chicken Pasta Soup Recipe

Soups are often overlooked when it comes to entertaining, however, they are some of the easiest and most delicious types of meals that you could serve a large group. This recipe features succulent chicken drumsticks, crisp celery and fresh mushrooms. Enjoy!

Get the recipe!

 

Meatless on the Menu

Wednesday, October 8, 2014 by News and Updates From Dreamfields

October:  besides the seasonal menu shift from summer produce to autumn crops, it’s Vegetarian Awareness Month – and perhaps a chance to enjoy some Meatless Mondays or add spark to your menus with new vegetarian recipes.

Why Eat Vegetarian-Style?

There’s no single reason – and no single benefit – for those who choose a plant-based diet.   For some, vegetarian food is just a personal preference, often for the unique and delicious flavors and ingredients in many ethnic vegetarian dishes.   Others cite health, perhaps as a fitness strategy. Some have concerns about animal welfare, world hunger or the impact of animal agriculture on the environment. The lower cost of a plant-based diet motivates, especially as meat and fish prices go up.  And some people (Seventh-Day Adventists, Buddhists, Hindus, Jainists, others) follow a vegetarian eating and lifestyle for religious or spiritual reasons.

What’s the Health Connection? 

Whatever the reasons, a vegetarian eating style can have health benefits – if the foods are chosen and prepared with good nutrition in mind.  Research shows a positive link between plant-based diets and lowered risks of obesity and some chronic diseases:  heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.  Why?  Vegetarian food patterns tend to have less saturated fat and cholesterol and more complex carbs, fiber, potassium, folate, carotenoids and other phytonutrients.  Many fit-focused vegetarians also watch their calorie intake and make other healthful lifestyle choices:  regular physical activity, no smoking and moderate or no alcoholic drinks.

That said, “vegetarian” doesn’t necessarily equate to “healthier.”  Vegetarian meals can be high in calories, fat and sodium and low in fiber, calcium and other important nutrients if poorly planned.  Remember that sodas, desserts and fries may be vegetarian, but still deliver a lot of added sugars, fat and calories.  Healthy vegetarian eating focuses on nutrient-dense foods:  vegetables, fruit, lean proteins such as beans, fiber-rich grains and low-fat and fat-free dairy foods.

What nutrients may come up short?  Iron, zinc, vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D, which come from animal products such as meat and milk; read food labels to choose foods, including fortified foods, with these nutrients.  Protein usually isn’t an issue since eating a variety of plant-based foods -- grains, beans, nuts and vegetables, and dairy foods and eggs for many vegetarians-- can provide all the essential amino acids that the body needs.   

 

The Menu:  What Vegetarian Style?

Lacto-ovo-vegetarians enjoy milk, cheese and other dairy foods, and eggs, as well as beans, nuts and seeds, grains, vegetables, and fruit, but no meat, poultry, or fish.  Dairy and eggs are complete proteins, with all nine essential amino acids.

Menu ideaRoasted Vegetable Macaroni & Cheese, a healthier way to prepare a traditional family favorite.  It’s made by roasting sweet red bell peppers, yellow squash, white onion, sweet potato, fresh garlic, mushrooms and broccoli florets, before combining them with Dreamfields elbows and a white cheddar and parmesan cheese cream sauce.  The sauce has eggs for a thickener (and a protein source).

Lacto-vegetarians follow a similar eating pattern but stay away from eggs and egg derivatives such as egg whites and albumin.  Many traditional pasta recipes such as Vegetable Lasagna and Healthier Mac & Cheese are made with cheese as a protein and calcium source.  For some new culinary ideas, try these pasta dishes which deliver dairy as well as a hefty amount of veggies and fruit!

Menu ideaPasta Toss with Zucchini, Beans, Tomatoes, and Feta, combines protein-rich cannellini beans with roasted tomatoes, zucchini, Dreamfields rotini and feta cheese.  Tip:  Add beans of all types – black, cannellini, kidney and more – to pasta dishes to boost the protein.

Menu ideaSpaghetti with Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Greek Yogurt Cream Sauce, a combo of trendy roasted Brussels sprouts and Dreamfields spaghetti, combined with several calcium- and protein-rich dairy foods:  Greek yogurt, goat cheese, mozzarella, and blue cheese.

Menu idea:   Roasted Vegetable Pasta Primavera from A to Z:  a colorful rainbow of roasted veggies -- asparagus, bell pepper, broccoli, carrots, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, peas, shallots, yellow squash and zucchinis – tossed with Dreamfields spaghetti, fresh parmesan, pine nuts and seasonings.  Variety on the plate!

Menu ideaFruit & Yogurt Elbow Salad, perfect as a main dish, breakfast food or dessert, combines yogurt, fruit, almonds and cinnamon (and perhaps mint and  honey) with Dreamfields elbows.

Vegans, or strict vegetarians, avoid animal-based foods altogether -- so no meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or dairy, and no products made from them such as gelatin, lard, whey, casein, and perhaps honey (made by bees).   Protein comes from legumes (beans), nuts, and seeds, along with grain products such as Dreamfields pasta; calcium, from broccoli, calcium-processed tofu, as well as fortified soymilk, other dairy alternatives and juice. (Note:  Dreamfields pasta does not contain egg or egg derivatives; besides being higher in fiber (5 grams per label serving) than traditional pasta, it also delivers 7 grams of plant protein per serving.

Menu idea: Spaghetti Oriental, an Asian “noodle” dish that combines Dreamfields spaghetti with peanuts stir-fried with chiles, soy sauce and lemon juice, which is then tossed with hearts of palm, cucumber, fresh mint and cilantro and lemon zest.  Peanuts deliver protein to vegan meals.

Menu idea: Sesame-Soy Edamame and Pasta Salad, a savory combination of protein-rich edamame (soybeans), Dreamfields rotini, radishes, cilantro, and green onions, dressed with pickled ginger, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar dressing.  Edamame is an excellent source of complete protein.  Garnish with sesame seeds if you’d like!

Menu idea: Sherri’s Pesto Pasta, a quick and easy dish, with a homemade pesto sauce of basil, pine nuts, olive oil and garlic, tossed with Dreamfields spaghetti.  (Tip: substitute angel hair, linguini or rotini pasta, if you prefer.)

Menu idea: Healthy Green Curry Pineapple Rotini, the tropical flavors of pineapple, coconut milk, curry and lemon grass, tossed with Dreamfields rotini, carrots and broccoli.   Choose coconut milk that’s fortified with calcium and vitamin D!

 

For more meatless pasta recipes, check these menu ideas from Dreamfields!  And in many of the flavorful pasta recipes that call for meat or poultry, try substituting cooked or canned beans, firm tofu, tempeh or soy burgers.

 

 

Get Heart Smart about Cholesterol

Friday, September 26, 2014 by News and Updates From Dreamfields

Did you know … more than 65 million Americans have high blood cholesterol, a serious condition that increases the risk for heart disease?   High blood cholesterol itself causes no symptoms, so many people aren’t aware that their levels are too high.  And even if your cholesterol numbers are normal now, you may have risk factors that increase your chances later on.

What ups your risk?  Some things that you can’t control: your genetic make-up, gender (until about age 50 women’s risk is lower than men’s), and age.  That said, other risk factors are within your control:  what you eat, how physically active you are, your body weight and perhaps how you handle stress.

During September, Cholesterol Education Month, take time to be heart smart – and reduce your risks for heart disease.  Start by knowing your blood cholesterol numbers.  Health professionals advise a check at least every 5 years after age 20.   For total cholesterol, less than 200 mg/dL is desirable.  Keep your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol low (below 100 mg/dL) and your HDL (“good”) cholesterol high (60 mg/dL or more).

Nutrition Counts

What you eat matters when you’re trying to keep your blood cholesterol at healthy levels.  These menu ideas from Dreamfields can help you and your family eat for heart health:

Choose healthier, unsaturated fats, such as canola, olive and other vegetable oils, in place of saturated (solid) fats, such as butter and lard.  Trim fat from meat; choose fat-free and low-fat milk and cheese.  

Fit foods with soluble fiber in:  among the sources, oatmeal, beans (e.g. black, kidney, pinto, soybeans), apples, pears, and dried plums.  Dreamfields pasta is an excellent fiber source, with 3 grams of soluble fiber and 2 grams of insoluble fiber per 2 ounces dry (about 1 cup cooked) serving; that compares to slightly more than 1 gram of total fiber for the same amount of traditional pasta. 

Eat fatty fish, such as albacore tuna, lake trout and salmon, at least twice a week.  Fatty fish are good sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. 

Fit walnuts into your menus, too, since they’re one more source of omega-3s.  In fact, enjoy all nuts, as they all deliver fiber and unsaturated fats!

Keep a Healthy Weight

If you’re overweight, losing just 5 to 10 pounds can help bring LDL and total cholesterol levels down!  Burning more calories with physical activity and limiting calories in meals and snacks is the key to weight loss. 

Get – and Keep -- Moving

Regular physical activity needs to be an important part of your daily routine:  30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity on most days (even in 10-minute chunks of time).  Being physically active lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and blood pressure, raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol and helps you keep at a healthy weight. 

Good news:  Moving more can be as easy and affordable as taking a brisk walk after dinner, working in your garden or doing exercise breaks during TV ads.  Make it a family affair!

 

Click the Dreamfields recipe file allows to browse for more recipes by health concern:  high fiber, low calorie, low cholesterol, low fat, low saturated fat and low sodium.

Enjoy the Pasta-bilities During National Chicken Month!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 by News and Updates From Dreamfields

September is National Chicken Month … a great time to celebrate this versatile, economical and flavorful protein choice in your family meals! 

But … before you starting cooking, here’s a bit of chicken trivia to share around the dinner table.  Did you know. . .

  • The average American eats over 80 pounds of chicken each year, more than anywhere else in the world.
  • In Gainesville, Georgia, the so-named Chicken Capital of the World, it’s against the law to eat chicken with a fork.  Chicken is finger food!
  • Chickens were first domesticated in Southeast Asia at least 4,000 years ago.
  • When cooked chicken reaches 165°F, as measured using a food thermometer, it should be safe to eat.
  • Chicken is the top protein source in the United States.

Chicken:  A Lean Protein Choice

Chicken provides protein -- and much more!  As you commemorate the month, celebrate the many other ways chicken delivers good health to your family table:    

  • High-quality protein.  Three ounces of chicken have about 25 grams of high-quality protein, the essential building blocks of bones, muscles, skin and blood, essential for growth and for cell repair at every life stage.  Protein is also a source of food energy!
  • Naturally low in fat.  Without the skin, chicken has only three grams of fat in a 3-ounce cooked portion, and it’s low in saturated fat.  With the skin on, chicken provides 8 ounces of fat per 3-ounce portion (less than fatty meats), but still eat skinless if you can.
  • Good as an iron source.  Iron often gets short-changed by teenage girls and women in their child-bearing years.  Chicken, like meat and fish, provides heme iron, important for carrying oxygen in blood to cells where energy is produced.
  • Source of other key nutrients.  Chicken’s B vitamins help your body release energy, form red blood cells, build body tissues, and help your nervous system function; vitamin B6 also helps protect against age-related memory decline.  Its magnesium helps build bones and release energy from muscles. And its zinc, among other functions, helps your immune system work properly.
  • Budget-friendly.  As a lean protein-rich option, the National Chicken Council notes that chicken costs only about $1.25 a pound.  To compare, lean beef often costs two to three times that amount.
  • Versatile partner.  Because chicken pairs easily in recipes with nutrient-dense vegetables, grain products and cheese, it’s the perfect protein food for center plate!

Chicken and Pasta:  Delicious, Nutritious Partners

Hot or cold, chicken makes a perfect protein partner for pasta in soups, salads and hot entrees.  Its mild flavor complements the savory, sweet and spicy tastes of all kinds of pasta dishes … from your family favorites to recipes for many global cuisines.  To help you celebrate National Chicken Month at your family table, enjoy these easy, affordable and flavorful recipes from Dreamfields.

Hearty pasta soups:  In nearly any pasta soup, chicken is a great meat or turkey substitute. 

  • A Dreamfields recipe favorite pairs chicken and rotini with spicy Southwest flavors:  Southwestern Chicken Rotini Soup, combined with black beans, corn and jalapeños, seasoned with onion, garlic, chile powder, cumin and oregano and topped with sharp Cheddar and cilantro.

Chilled pasta salads:  Have leftover cooked chicken?  Sliced, chopped or shredded, it’s ready to reinvent in a pasta salad.  No leftovers?  Then plan ahead and cook an extra chicken breast or two for dinner tonight for a pasta salad tomorrow.

  • Any Dreamfields pasta shape partners with sliced chicken breast in a Chicken Caprese Salad made with cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella and a lemon balsamic dressing.
  • Cobb salads are perfect for lunch – especially when eggs, onion, bacon, avocado, cheese and tomato are paired with Dreamfields rotini and chopped chicken in a Cobb & Rotini Pasta Salad.
  • For a heartier meal, chicken breast, seasoned with Mediterranean spices and served over pasta salad, makes a uniquely flavorful meal.  Zatar Spiced Chicken and Pasta Salad combines chicken and penne rigate with zucchini, tomato, chickpeas, olives, hummus and parsley.  (Zatar is a Middle Eastern spice blend often made with marjoram, oregano, salt, sesame seeds, sumac and thyme.)

Hot pasta entrees:  Because they blend with so many ingredients and seasonings, both chicken and pasta are common ingredients in recipes around the world.  Enjoy these recipes inspired by a few popular destinations.

  • Chicken pairs well with pasta and tropical flavors.  Hawaiian Islands Chicken Pasta combines chunks of chicken and Dreamfields angel hair pasta with pineapple, green pepper, carrots, onion and a soy-sesame-ginger sauce.
  • Pasta, often prepared with chicken, is a mainstay of Italian dishes, such as Chicken Puttanesca with Spaghetti.  Prepared with seasoned chicken thighs, diced tomatoes, black olives, anchovy fillets, capers, garlic and more, this recipes offers a traditional way to enjoy Dreamfields spaghetti!
  • Chicken can go Tex-Mex, too.   For a favorite family meal, try Taco Spaghetti, prepared by tossing Dreamfields spaghetti with cooked ground chicken, flavored with fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, cumin, chili powder and perhaps chipotle or jalapeños, and topped with Cheddar.

For more easy-to-prepare pasta dishes with chicken as a lean protein ingredient, check the many delicious and healthful recipes from Dreamfields.

 

Enjoy A Cool Pasta Salad With A Kick

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 by Dreamfields Recipes & More

Experience the tasty combination of spicy and cool with our latest Pastapalooza IV winner, Renee from Simi Valley, CA and her Cilantro Ranch Pasta Salad. This delicious pasta salad combines the sharp bite of cilantro with the crunch of celery, red and green bell peppers and onions, mixing in fresh olives, succulent chicken as well as creamy avocado and your favorite ranch dressing.

Cilantro Ranch Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

1 box Dreamfields Rotini
2 bunches cilantro, washed, stems removed and chopped
1 can sliced olives
2 jars Herdez mild salsa, drained
1 large can chicken breast meat, drained and mashed
1 red bell pepper, cleaned and diced
1 green bell pepper, cleaned and diced
4 stalks celery, cleaned and diced
1 onion diced, or onion powder to taste
Black pepper to taste
1-2 avocados, peeled and cut into cubes
1 jar ranch dressing, suggest buttermilk ranch

Directions:

Cook the pasta, checking at 2 minutes before the listed cook time to make sure it is not getting to soft. Drain in a colander and then fill your pasta pot with ice/cold water and put the hot pasta back into the pot to cool. When cool, drain again.

In a large bowl, mix the chicken, cilantro, salsa, olives, celery, onion as well as the red and green peppers. Add the pasta and avocado tossing before serving.

School Sports Fans: It’s Time to Tailgate!

Friday, August 29, 2014 by News and Updates From Dreamfields

Are you a fan of collegiate sports?  Or out to support your kids’ school team?  Either way, a pre-game tailgate party with family and friends offers a delicious and healthy way to cheer your team to victory.  For community and school sports fans, the comradery that comes with tailgating – before and after game time -- builds team support for the long run.

The idea of tailgating likely started, according to the American Tailgating Association, when groups of civilians from both sides of the Civil War congregated with food and drink to cheer their “team” on during the 1861 Battle of Bull Run (albeit with some danger attached).  As a sports tradition, credit for tailgating often starts with the first intercollegiate football game in 1869 between Princeton and Rutgers – with Rutgers’ fans sporting scarlet-colored scarves and grilling sausages at the “tail end” of a horse, hence the term “tailgating.”   Others credit Ivy League schools whose small parking lots required spectators to arrive several hours before game time to get a spot and so pass the time with food and fun.  Another theory:  tailgating came from the popular early 1900s custom of socializing with food after church before walking to a local baseball game.

Whatever the true history – and whether it’s a pre-game celebration for your local school or community athletics, collegiate sports, or even a professional team -- tailgating has become a spirited tradition.  Decked out in team colors and attire, fans transport all kinds of gear to the game site:  grills, music, tents, face paint, games like cornhole and ladder ball -- and coolers filled with food and drinks! 

So, school sports fans … a short list for creative, health-smart tailgating:

Make your own game plan:   1) If you’re a regular tailgater, keep a packing checklist of essentials; besides utensils, plates, grill equipment, cutting board, hot pads and clean-up towels, remember hand sanitizer, insect repellent, water for hand washing, sun block, etc. 2) Make a menu with reasonable amounts of food; uneaten perishable foods should be tossed if they sit out too long (one hour at 90°F or more, two hours otherwise).  3)  Prep ahead.  For example, make No Cook Tomato Basil Sauce ahead to toss with cooked Dreamfields penne rigate at your pregame meal.

Score with a great main dish:  1) Make a chilled main dish salad your star player: perhaps Steakhouse Pasta Salad, Spanish Charcuterie Pasta Salad (with ham and chorizo) or Cobb & Rotini Pasta Salad (with chicken).  2) When the weather starts to chill, fill a thermos with soup; try a hearty Southwestern Chicken Rotini Soup. 3)  Plan to grill –and not just burgers and hot dogs; try kebobs, vegetables (eggplant, portabella mushrooms, zucchini, bell pepper brushed with olive oil), chicken breasts, you name it!  Tip:  for Southwest Grilled Chicken and Corn Pasta Salad, you can make the salad ahead and grill the chicken as you tailgate!

 

Make food prep more than a spectator sport.  As part of the planning, divide up the menu if you tailgate with a group.  Grilling?  Ask the “master griller” to take the lead as MVP of your meal. 

Remember the side lines:  1) Match a flavorful pasta side dish with grilled, tailgate mainstays:  a Spicy Caprese Pasta Salad served with chicken wings; BLT Pasta Salad served with burgers; or Elbow Macaroni Salad (Insalata di Gomiti di Pasta) served with brats.  Keep chilled until serving time.  2)  Pack whole fruit – it’s easy!

Keep fans hydrated:   In hot weather, pack your cooler with plenty of chilled drinks:  perhaps several kinds of canned juices for a tailgate mix-and-match juice bar and plenty of water. When the temperature chills, a thermos of hot cocoa, hot cider and hot soup hits the spot.

Stay within the safety zone:  1)  Keep cold foods (such as pasta salads, dips, hot dogs, meat patties, raw veggies) in a clean, insulated cooler chilled with ice or frozen cold packs. Pack the cooler with 75 percent food and 25 percent ice or frozen cold packs.  2)  Keep hot foods hot in another insulated carrier to serve right away.  Wrap any hot dish (such as Vegetable Lasagna, Spaghetti Pizza, casseroles, baked beans) in heavy foil and then several layers of newspaper, or pack into an insulated casserole cozy that will preserve heat.  3)  Separate!  Pack cold, uncooked meat or chicken in a separate insulated cooler from ready-to-eat food.  4)  Pack a food thermometer if you grill; cook to at least 145°F for steaks and chops, 160°F for beef burgers and 165 ºF for turkey burgers, medium steaks, or pork, 165°F for chicken breasts, wings and thighs.    

Share with your fans.  Bring enough food and drinks to share with fellow tailgaters.  Swapping food and recipe ideas with new friends is part of the fun! 

Organize more winning “plays”:  For children who need a diversion as their siblings compete, pack some lawn games, too.

Clean up the field.  Remember to bring strong garbage bags!  If there’s no place to discard your trash, dispose of it at home later.

Enjoy, as you cheer your team to victory!

For more back-to-school tips -- Back to School: Suppers for a Smart Start! -- from Dreamfields, click here.

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How To Make Back To School Meals A Snap

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 by Dreamfields Recipes & More

With August here, summer starting to wind down and vacations end we all have to start to look ahead to getting ready for school. As we transition from a relaxed schedule of cookouts, picnics and events to the hectic school year routine of practices, after-school activities and mounds of time-consuming homework routines become important once again.

With that in mind, here are a few strategies to make having mealtime with your family easier.

Plan ahead of time. Planning menus a week at a time helps you stay ahead. This can be made even easier if you incorporate ways to use yesterday’s leftovers into the next meal.

Stay well stocked with quick-to-fix-foods. Keeping things like pasta, rice, canned beans, frozen and canned vegetables, pasta sauce, deli meats, cheese and other basic ingredients on hand for quick, emergency meals help you close the gaps when things don’t go as planned or you’re going to deal with a time crunch.

Pre-prep ahead of time. The night before cook taco meat or other ingredients before you make the full meal, prepare pasta sauce, shape meatballs or turkey patties, clean and slice vegetables or anything else you can think of.

Create do-it-yourself assembly meals. Make individual mini-pizzas using everyone’s favorite toppings; or create a home-cooked taco bar, with soft tortillas and crisp taco shells; you can also make macaroni and cheese with an selection of “add-ons”, such as sun-dried tomatoes, chopped ham, smoked turkey, chopped herbs or steamed veggies.

Make one-dish meals. Sometimes single dish meals can be real time-savers. Put all your ingredients into a meal such as a lasagna that is layered with cheese, meat sauce, and baby spinach; risotto with seafood, Swiss chard, and cheese, or stir-fry vegetables and tofu, tossed with rotini. All you have to add is salad, bread or a meat entree (if you desire).

Use ingredients that can be used in multiple meals. For example, cook double batches of meat sauce for spaghetti one day and sloppy Joes a few days later. Extra grilled chicken breasts from one night’s meal can make a great chicken pasta salad another night or be turned into grilled chicken wraps for lunch.

Get your kids involved. Simple food prep tasks, such as tossing salads, mixing ingredients, pouring beverages, or setting and clearing the table are tasks that most kids can handle. Having “all hands on deck” during preparation you it’s possible to have more time for your family to spend together at the table.

Keep a collection of quick-to-fix recipes that your family enjoys.  If a recipe is a hit, plan to make it again.

Create An Easy Pesto Pasta Salad

Friday, August 22, 2014 by Dreamfields Recipes & More

Congratulations to Toni Ann from Manahawkin, NJ. Her Romaine Over Pesto Pasta Salad is incredible! This easy pasta salad uses a food processor to create your very own romaine pesto made from fresh Romaine lettuce, sharp lemon zest, parmesan cheese, pecans and extra virgin olive oil. This is then combined with chopped tomatoes and Dreamfields elbow macaroni for a simple, but delicious pasta salad. Enjoy!

Romaine Over Pesto Pasta Salad

Ingredients

3 Cups Romaine Lettuce, washed and chopped
1/2 Cup Pecans
1 Lemon, zested and juiced
1 Cup Parmesan Cheese
1 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Chopped Tomatoes
8 Oz. Dreamfields Elbow Macaroni
Salt and Pepper

Bring a large pot of water to boil, then add the lemon juice to boiling water. Add the Dreamfields Macaroni and cook according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, add all the lettuce, pecans, lemon zest, parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil to the food processor and blend till smooth.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Fold in the tomatoes and toss with the hot pasta.

Serve chilled or at room temperature.

How To Get Kids Excited About Dinner

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 by Dreamfields Recipes & More

Want to get your kids excited about dinner time? Then get them involved in preparation. Here are some ideas on how to get them involved.

1. Have them set the table.

While, not necessarily a new idea, it’s still one worth mentioning. Letting kids set the table makes them feel like it’s more of an event. You can heighten their excitement by allowing them to pick out their own place mats or make a personalized one during craft time.

2. Let them wash the veggies.

Getting kids to eat their veggies can often prove to be difficult, especially when you’re trying to please everyone. Have them pick out their favorites at the grocery store then let them help prepare the veggies by washing them.

3. Have them help with seasoning.

Seasoning is an easy part of dinner that kids can help with (and you can still easily control). Pre-measure your seasonings then let the kids add them.

Greek Style Shrimp and Pasta Salad

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 by Dreamfields Recipes & More

Greek Style Shrimp and Pasta Salad

by Robin S

Greek Style Shrimp and Pasta Salad

Ingredients:
12-ounce box pasta, cooked according to package directions
1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and cooked
8 ounces feta cheese, drained and cut into small cubes
1 large cucumber, peel, seeded, and diced large
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
1 medium orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
3/4 cup Sicilian Style Pitted Olives, quartered
3/4 cup Kalamata Pitted Olives, halved
1/2 cup sliced peperoncini peppers
1 (11.5 ounce) bottle prepared, refrigerated Greek Vinaigrette Dressing *
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning

Combine first 9 ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with Greek dressing. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning.
* I used Marie's refrigerated dressing.
 

A Quick Pasta Salad Recipe For Your Busy Summer Days

Sunday, August 17, 2014 by Dreamfields Recipes & More

Enjoy a sweet cool pasta salad that is easy to make and will wow your family. Phyllis sent us this great recipe that takes sweet roasted red peppers and mixes them with the bite of red onion and sharp cheddar cheese, the slight saltiness of Genoa salami and chick peas as well as fresh black olives. Great for those summer days where you‘re in a rush. Enjoy.

Cold Pasta Salad Medley

Ingredients:

Dreamfields penne or elbow pasta.
Olive oil
Grated cheese
Red onion, sliced thin
Genoa salami, Julienned
1 can Chick peas, drained
Marinated artichoke hearts
Red pepper, roasted and sliced
Black olives, sliced
Sharp cheddar cheese, chunked
Basil, cut into strips

Directions:

Boil Dreamfields penne or elbow pasta, set aside and leave at room temperature.

Toss the pasta with a little olive oil, grated cheese and black pepper. Mix in thinly sliced red onion, Julienned slices of Genoa salami, chick peas, marinated artichoke hearts, sliced roasted red peppers, black olives and chucks of sharp cheddar cheese. Toss together until well mixed and serve at room temperature. Garnish with strips of fresh basil.

For the Freshest Flavor: Harvesting Home-Grown Veggies and Herbs

Saturday, August 16, 2014 by News and Updates From Dreamfields

The vegetables and herbs you so gently planted last spring are ready to harvest and enjoy!  For their best qualities, harvesting your crops at the right time and with the proper technique is as important as nurturing their growth.  When young and tender, most deliver their peak flavor.

For a handful of popular home-grown vegetables and herbs, you’ll find some harvest tips below … along with recipe ideas that can be prepared with the products from your garden (or seasonal produce from your local farmers’ market, pick-your-own farm or produce department).

Carrots

To harvest:  Harvest carrots when they’re about 1 to 2-inches in diameter. You’ll see the orange top reach out of the ground; the leaves will be a dark green.  Tip:  Plant more in late August for another harvest before the ground freezes.

Dreamfields recipe ideas:  Spaghetti Primavera (prepared with garden-fresh carrots, red bell pepper and zucchini).

Chard

To harvest:  Break off the outer leaves.  Since they grow continuously, you can keep harvesting throughout the growing season!

Dreamfields recipe ideas:  Garden Market Pasta Salad with Smoked Trout (prepared with garden-fresh chard, carrots, sugar snap peas, tomatoes); Penne Rigate with Turkey, Swiss Chard and Walnuts (prepared with garden-fresh chard and onion).

Cucumbers

To harvest:  Cut (don’t pull) cucumbers from the vine at any time, but before they are fully mature.  The youngest cucumbers are most tender.  

Dreamfields recipe ideas:  Penne all’Oriental and Spaghetti Oriental (prepared with garden-fresh cucumber, hot Thai peppers, mint and cilantro).

Green (Snap) Beans

To harvest:  Pick while still thinner than a pencil, which is before they reach their mature size.  When harvested young, green beans have a fresh, grassy flavor and more tenderness.  Keep picking them throughout the summer to encourage more flowering and more pods.

Herbs

To harvest:  Continually pick or cut herbs back to produce more stems and leaves -- and to keep them from blooming.  Once herbs bloom, the delicate herb flavor changes.

Dreamfields recipe ideas:   Mediterranean Salad With Creamy Herb Dressing (prepared with garden-fresh basil, oregano and tomatoes).

Leaf Lettuce

To harvest:  Like chard, harvest the outer leaves.  Picking the leaves when ready for harvest extends the harvest and keeps it from bolting (producing flowery stems) as quickly.

Dreamfields recipe idea:  Salmon Pasta Salad with Mint and Lemon Vinaigrette (prepared with garden-fresh lettuce, cucumber, cherry tomatoes and mint).

Peas

To harvest:  Pick the pods for garden peas just before shelling – and when the seeds inside are round and firm, yet tender.  For snow peas, pick when the pods are full size, still flat, and the seeds only start to show (not when the pod fills out).  Pick snap peas when they’re crisp and plump.

Dreamfields recipe idea:  Lemony Spring Peas & Pasta Salad (prepared with garden-fresh green peas, sugar snap peas, greens and herbs.

Peppers

To harvest: Cut sweet bell peppers when they are full size and still green – or when they change color, depending on the variety, to orange, purple, red, yellow or chocolate-brown.   For hot peppers, pick as needed; test to gauge the flavor.

Dreamfields recipe idea:  Penne Primavera (prepared with garden-fresh yellow bell pepper, carrot, broccoli, spinach and basil); Roasted Corn & Roma Tomato Salad (prepared with garden-fresh bell pepper, corn, tomatoes and basil).

Sweet Corn

To harvest:  When the tip of the cob feels full under the husk, check it for maturity.  The silks should be brown and dry; the kernels, full and firm.  If you squish a kernel, it will release a milky sap if ready.  Eat it right away for the sweetest flavor!

Dreamfields recipe ideas: Southwestern Chicken Rotini Soup (prepared with garden-fresh corn, chile peppers, onion and cilantro).

Summer Squash (Yellow Squash and Zucchini)

To harvest:   Cut squash from the vine when young and tender.  Your thumbnail should be able to break the tender skin.  Tip:  Pick squash flowers to add an edible garnish to salads.

Dreamfields recipe ideas: Quick Chicken & Veggie Spaghetti Skillet (prepared with garden-fresh zucchini, tomatoes and basil); Summer Squash with Angel Hair (prepared with garden-fresh summer squash, parsley and mint).

Tomatoes

To harvest: Pick ripe tomatoes when they’re uniformly red – and before the stem end gets soft.  Tomatoes will also ripen off the vine, but the flavor won’t be as sweet.

Dreamfields recipe idea:  Fresh Tomato & Basil Pasta (prepared with garden-fresh tomatoes and basil); Vegetable Bounty Rotini (prepared with garden-fresh tomatoes, yellow summer squash, zucchini, onion and basil).

***

For tips on harvesting other garden vegetables, check the website of your state’s Cooperative Extension Service.  And for more ways to use your garden-fresh vegetables, check the recipes from Dreamfields.  (Hint: Potluck Pasta Salad suggests veggie and herb mix-ins of your choice!)

 

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How To Roast Fresh Vegetables

Thursday, August 14, 2014 by Dreamfields Recipes & More

Roast your own vegetables for a sweeter taste without adding calories.

 

Few things can beat the delicious, sweet taste of roasted vegetables. Roasting is a unique cooking process which concentrates and sweetens the taste of vegetables. Roasted vegetables owe their added taste to browning, caramelization and crisping.

In short, it’s a great way to add a lot of flavor without adding tons of calories, fat or sodium. The process is generally fairly quick and hands-off. Furthermore, you can often do most of your prep work before you roast.

Roasting vegetables is also a great way to take advantage of fresh vegetables from places like a farmer’s market and make them taste that much more incredible. (Visit http://www.localharvest.org/ to find a farmer’s market near you.)

 

 

 

 

 

Here are a few things to keep in mind when roasting vegetables:

  1. Avoid liquids. They soften any crisp edges that develop during roasting.
  2. Roast in a very hot oven (425°F). Many vegetables cook in 15-20 minutes. If roasting different kinds, start with dense veggies like squash, carrots or garlic and roast for 10 minutes. Then add tender veggies like eggplant, asparagus or broccoli and roast another 10 minutes. Stir the veggies every 10 minutes. They are done when lightly browned on the edges and tender crisp.
  3. Cut evenly. Unevenly sized pieces won't roast and brown in the same amount of time.
  4. Prepare the pan. Use a shallow baking pan. Lightly oil the bottom of the pan or line it with a sheet of parchment or aluminum foil for easy clean up.
  5. Drizzle veggies with olive oil. Toss with your favorite herbs (dried or fresh), kosher salt and ground pepper for additional flavor.
  6. Arrange the veggies in a single layer. If the vegetable pieces cover the pan sparsely arrange them more towards the edges of the pan.

To try roasting vegetables for yourself try these delicious recipes:

Roasted Vegetables with Rotini & Rosemary Pesto

Roasted Corn & Roma Tomato Salad

 

Baby Artichoke Heart, Sundried Tomato, Black Olive and Petite Pea Super Pasta Salad

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 by Dreamfields Recipes & More

Try a super pasta salad featuring a medley of vegetables including succulent baby artichoke hearts, Julienned sundried tomatoes, fresh black olives and petite peas. This recipe also features the crunch of bacon bits covered in a roasted red pepper Italian dressing.

Enter your best pasta salad for a chance to win!

Super Pasta Salad

Ingredients:

9 oz baby artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
8.5 oz sundried tomatoes with herbs, drained and Julienned
6.5 oz black olives, drained and sliced
1.5 boxes Dreamfields Rotini
12 oz frozen petite peas
16 oz bottle of Kraft Roasted Red Pepper Italian Dressing
8 oz Cabot 50% light cheddar cheese, cubed
3 oz bacon bits
Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

Directions:

Prepare ingredients.

Add the pasta to boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Pasta will not be fully cooked. Drain the pasta, do not rinse and place in a large bowl.

Add the frozen peas and 3/4 of the salad dressing, stirring to coat.

Add the remaining ingredients. Season with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Cover and chill for 1/2 to 2 hours. Remove from the refrigerator, stir and add additional salad dressing if necessary. Serve.