Baked Tortellini Skillet

I’m cutting to the chase with this recipe. This baked tortellini skillet has all the flavors of lasagna without the cumbersome noodle wrangling. Plus the cheese from the tortellini adds some extra flavor to the overall dish.

This is a perfect weeknight meal!

Baked tortellini skillet | a weeknight meal by Alaska Knit Nat

Baked tortellini lasagna

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 6 oz. dried cheese tortellini
  • 6 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 2/3 cup whole milk cottage cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan
  • 2.5 cups marinara
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the tortellini three minutes shy of their recommended cooking time. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a 12-inch oven-safe pan. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Sauté until the moisture is evaporated and the mushrooms start to brown, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Mix together the cottage cheese, 2/3 cup mozzarella, 2/3 cup Pecorino Romano, and salt and pepper to taste.

Coat the bottom of the pan with 1 cup of marinara. Toss in the tortellini and spread out evenly in the pan.

Next add the cheese mixture, spreading it out with a rubber spatula. Layer on the mushrooms, then another 1.5 cups of sauce. Top with remaining cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes until bubbly and slightly browned. Serve with Italian sausage and a simple garden salad.

Baked tortellini skillet | a weeknight meal by Alaska Knit Nat

 

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DIY Waxed Cloth Food Wrap

I’m all for convenience, but after two years of making school lunches I’m realizing that I create a lot of plastic wrap trash. The other day I saw an ad for beeswax coated fabric that could be used in replacement of plastic wrap. You use the heat of your hands to seal the fabric to itself. You can reuse the fabric several times by just rinsing it in cool, soapy water.

DIY waxed cloth food wrap | A tutorial from AlaskaKnitNat.com

I have an apiarist friend who keeps beeswax as a byproduct. I asked if he could spare a few ounces so I could experiment with this fabric food wrap idea. If you don’t know a beekeeper, you can easily order beeswax online.

This was a super fun crafty activity that required no sewing. Give it a try!

Continue reading DIY Waxed Cloth Food Wrap

Smoked Salmon Dip with Kelp Pickles

I recently read a story about a Juneau-based company that made food out of kelp. I was immediately intrigued by the idea. One of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten was when I spent a summer in Kodiak and a Chinese woman prepared braised fresh kelp for me.

Barnacle uses bull kelp to make salsa, spice blends and pickles. Their Instagram account displays gorgeous photos of Southeast Alaska along with how they prepare their products and what to serve with them.

Their dill kelp pickles are tangy, slightly sweet and, well, of the sea. What a perfect ingredient to add to a smoked salmon dip.

Smoked salmon dip with Barnacle brand kelp pickles | a delicious appetizer that will wow your dinner guests | recipe by Natasha Price of Alaska Knit Nat

This dip comes together in no time and is a real crowd-pleaser. Impress your dinner guests by revealing its secret ingredient — wild kelp!

Continue reading Smoked Salmon Dip with Kelp Pickles

Homemade Pancetta

Now that summer has come to a close, my family takes to the kitchen to stock up for winter. Blueberry jam, cranberry marmalade, crabapple sauce are some of what we use with our annual harvest, but lately my dad’s been experimenting with bacon and pancetta.

If you haven’t been introduced to my father, he is the owner of Sausage Mania, a website with thorough tutorials on sausage making, lox, pesto and more. Here’s a photo of the Sausage Meister in action:

He hasn’t added pancetta to his site yet so I thought I’d take this opportunity to post on his behalf.

Continue reading Homemade Pancetta

Tortellini soup with sausage, beans and kale

The chill is in the air here in Anchorage. After picking lowbush cranberries I just couldn’t get warm enough. My boys went off to the state fair for the monster truck rally and came home with big appetites. I wanted to make something to warm us up and fill our bellies.

This Italian-style sausage and bean soup has all the ingredients I love – porcini, sausage, pasta and even some healthy stuff such as carrots and kale. This was a quick soup that came together in about an hour.

Italian soup with sausage, tortellini, kale and beans | from Alaskaknitnat.com

You can omit the cream of chicken soup – it thickens the soup nicely and boosts the flavor a little.

Italian sausage soup with beans, kale and tortellini

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 3 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
  • 4 packed cups chopped kale, stems removed
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained
  • 6 oz. dried tortellini
  • 4 oz. cream cheese

Italian soup with sausage, tortellini, kale and beans | from Alaskaknitnat.com

Directions:

Place dried mushrooms in a small bowl, cover with hot water and place a plate on top. Let sit for 20 minutes.

In a large dutch oven, brown the sausage over medium-high flame, breaking it up into chunks as it cooks.

Add olive oil, onion, celery and carrot and sauté until onions are soft, about 7 minutes.

Pour in the stock and cream of chicken soup and bring to a simmer. In the meantime, drain the mushrooms – reserving the liquid – and chop. Add the mushrooms and their water to the pot.

Add the basil, granulated garlic, oregano, thyme and parsley. Turn heat to low, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.

While soup is bubbling, bring a pot of water to boil. Cook tortellini according to package. When there are 5 minutes left on the pasta, add the kale to the soup pot. Drain the tortellini and add to the pot. Turn off heat and stir in the cream cheese. Once the cream cheese is melted you’re ready to go!

Serve with pecorino romano cheese and sourdough bread.

Italian soup with sausage, tortellini, kale and beans | from Alaskaknitnat.com

Cucumber chickpea salad with lime dressing

Tonight was supposed to be leftovers night, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I wanted to cook something using the ingredients on hand. We had leftover chili and tortillas so I decided on chili enchiladas. That’s a heavy dish and as with most Mexican-style dishes I never know what type of vegetable to serve on the side. Broccoli? Cole slaw? Naw.

I rifled through the fridge and found an English cucumber, feta and some limes. I had chickpeas in the pantry. Yes….this could be something.

This salad was the perfect palate cleanser to the heavy enchiladas. The bright lime dressing cut through the spicy, cheesy sauce and left me licking the salad bowl.

You can opt to not fry the chickpeas, but that added crispiness was a wonderful touch.

Cucumber chickpea salad with lime dressing | a recipe from Alaska Knit Nat

Cucumber chickpea salad with lime dressing

Serves 4

Cucumber chickpea salad with lime dressing | a recipe from Alaska Knit Nat

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained
  • 1 english cucumber, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3+ tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1/4 cup feta crumbles
  • salt and pepper

Directions:

Coat the bottom of a medium sauté pan with olive oil, about 2 tablespoons. Heat over high flame. Remove as much moister as possible from the chickpeas by putting them in a salad spinner.

When the oil is hot, add the chickpeas to the pan and fry them for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are golden and crispy. Turn off heat and let chickpeas cool.

In a medium bowl, add the cucumbers, green onion, cilantro and feta.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When chickpeas are cool, add to the rest of the salad. Just before serving, whisk the dressing together and toss into the salad.

Cucumber chickpea salad with lime dressing | a recipe from Alaska Knit Nat

How hobbies help our brains

A guest post by Maria Cannon

How hobbies help our brains | a guest post by Maria Cannon

Between working, keeping a tidy house, making meals and allotting time for family activities, our schedules certainly seem full; however, nearly everyone finds time for leisure activities. In fact, 96 percent of people age 15 and older engage in a leisure activity, which is defined as watching TV, socializing, exercising, reading, using computers for leisure or playing games.

The Stats

The amount a person spends on activities varies by age, sex, employment and whether the individual has children. Even the busiest group – employed adults living in households with a child under age six – reported engaging in leisure activities for 3.4 hours per day. People over the age of 75 spend almost eight hours every day, while adults between the ages of 35 and 44 devote four hours. With nearly everyone participating in leisure activities, how are they spending their time?

How hobbies help our brains | a guest post by Maria Cannon

Watching television is the most popular leisure activity, capturing nearly three hours a day overall. Socializing is the second most common activity but accounts for only 41 minutes. The amount of time spent reading varies greatly by age; people over the age of 75 read for an hour and spend 20 minutes on games or computer time, while those between the ages of 15 and 19 only read for eight minutes and spent 1.3 hours on games and computers.

While making time for leisure activities is important, the quality of the activity is equally as important. Sitting back and turning off our brains for a little bit is okay, but we should switch around the ratio of time spent reading versus watching television. Some hobbies are scientifically proven to help improve our health, and we should opt for those over mind-numbing activities such as binge watching a show.

How hobbies help our brains | a guest post by Maria Cannon

Creating Music

Creating music can benefit our brains. The more years someone makes music, the more he or she benefits, and beginning musical training before the age of nine provides the greatest long-term benefits. However, even older people profit from taking up an interest in music.

An assistant professor of music education studied the impact of individual piano instruction on adults between the ages of 60 and 85. After six months, she found that those who had received piano lessons showed more improvements in memory, verbal fluency, planning ability, speed of information processing, and other cognitive functions than those who had not received lessons.

How hobbies help our brains | a guest post by Maria Cannon

Arts and Crafts

Arts and crafting activities induce a calm, happy, and focused state, which is called flow. Flow occurs when we are so engaged in a complex task that our brains are forced to forget other stresses. When you are involved in creativity, sense of time disappears, and you lose yourself in the moment. The effects of flow are similar to those of meditation.

Creating art and engaging in crafting activities involves distinct brain areas, including those involved in memory and attention span, visuospatial processing, creativity, and problem solving. Using these areas can improve cognitive function. Crafting and creating art also reduce stress, increase happiness and protect the brain from damage caused by aging. People who suffer from anxiety, depression, chronic pain, or addiction also notice improvements through these creative outlets.

How hobbies help our brains | a guest post by Maria Cannon

Reading

Reading fiction material positively affects brain health and function. Reading is a highly complex task that requires several brain regions to work together. Neuroscientists discovered that reading a novel appeared to help enhance connectivity in the brain, and the enhancement continued for five days after an individual had completed the novel.

Other hobbies have benefits too, including cooking, completing puzzles and playing sports. Playing hours of video games or consuming hours of television after a long day is tempting, but you’ll reap more benefits from pursuing a hobby that’s shown to provide health benefits. You’ll enjoy yourself while you also reduce stress, improve brain functioning, and even make new friends.

Maria Cannon has suffered from depression and anxiety for years. Her hobbies–quilting, sewing, knitting, and more recently, gardening–play a major role in maintaining her mental health.

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