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Make-Ahead-And-Relax Meal Ideas For The Holidays

Make Ahead Meal Ideas_Country PastaCan you believe there are only two weekends left to get everything finished up before the holidays are upon us? Soon, houses will be filled with scents of the season, maybe a hot toddy or two, and best of all, relatives and friends ready to celebrate and make memories together.

If you are one of those who will be hosting this year, we want to offer you some help in using the last few days left to pre-prepare some of your meals, so when your visitors arrive, you can focus on spending time together rather than working away in the kitchen.

One of our favorite dishes to make up in advance is actually one of the original Country Pasta recipes. The Country Pasta Bake is easy to make, serves a handful of people, and best of all, is delicious. To make ahead of time, you’ll just need to prepare the dish per the recipe, let it cool after being in the oven, cover with tin foil, then toss in the freezer. You’ll then need to remove from freezer and put in the refrigerator 24 hours before you’ll be serving, and about 1.5 hours before eating, you’ll want to preheat the oven to 375 degrees, pop it in and bake for approximately 1-1.5 hours (keep in until it is hot and bubbly in the center). Simply serve with a little side salad and garlic bread, and dinner is done!

We also liked many of these recipes, both for breakfast and dinner, that you can find here: TheSpruceEats.com

Wishing you a relaxing, fun and delicious holiday season with family and friends!

Bon Appetit!

Soup Season, Favorite Recipes Shared with Us

Turkey Noodle SoupIs there anything better than hearty soup on a cold winter day? Last month we did a drawing asking folks to share their favorite soup recipes with us. We received some amazingly delicious looking recipes, so we wanted to pull them all together to share with everyone. Here’s a link to all the wonderful soup ideas we received.

Favorite Soup Recipes Shared with us

 

Please note that while we kept the majority of the information as it was submitted, we did add a little detail to some of the recipes.

11-26-18 Jingle All The Way

Coming across an old photo was the inspiration for our holiday blog this year. Horse drawn sleighThe picture, from our local newspaper in the mid-80’s, is of Country Pasta’s founder, Dean Knutson, driving his team of horses with kids headed to see Santa at the “North Pole,” pictured in the background. One of the greatest things about my dad, Dean, was how much he loved to make people happy. He thoroughly enjoyed giving these kids and parents an experience like this.

I still have vivid memories of this hayride when I was a kid. Helping people get on and off the wagon, leading Christmas carols, and being one of Santa’s elves handing out candy canes to the kids who came to share their wish list, were my main duties. Whether you were part of the crew, or one of the visitors, I’m sure this event has left lasting memories for all.

Although we no longer have the Holiday Hayride, there are many other events in our small community providing kids and adults alike, with wonderful holiday memories. Our annual “Parade of Lights” has grown so much in recent years, and has become an incredible community-wide event. Mr. and Mrs. ClausSince it seems the entire town comes out for the experience, catching up with friends and enjoying the holiday spirit together rounds out the experience. And this will be the second year that “Lights Under the Big Sky” will take place in our neighboring community. Lights, games, photo opportunities, and a holiday market all make this an occasion to remember.

We know events like this don’t organize and run themselves, so we want to take a moment this holiday season to say ‘thank you’ to all of the event coordinators and volunteers in our town, and in all small towns and big cities across the country. We hope you know that your efforts do not go unnoticed or unappreciated. You are providing experiences, and memories, that will last a lifetime for so many people. Thank you.

Happy Holidays!

Heather

Insta – Recipes Add Spark to Your Weekly Menu

Now that kids have been back in school for a couple months, Creamy pasta with zucchini, carrots, and peaswe imagine that you’re starting to settle in to the routine of things. However, are your weekly meals also becoming too routine? Looking to mix it up a bit? Not to worry, we’ve got your back!

At Country Pasta, we were anticipating this moment. Throughout the summer we were busy creating several Fall pressure cooker recipes so we could help provide you with some new ideas to liven up the menu. You’ll love the convenience and your family will love the flavors. We’ll chalk this up as a win-win.

New Recipes:

Be sure to check out our whole menu of Insta-Pasta recipes. Whatever you do, do not miss trying the Insta-Cheesy Fiesta Pasta. It has become a fan favorite and is the perfect way to shake up Taco Tuesday.

We hope these meal ideas will add a little spark to your weekly menu. We know how hard it is trying to always provide your family with healthy meals, all while juggling school, practice, work, etc.

Stay strong and power on!

 

Insta – Pizza Pasta

Servings 6

Insta - Pizza Pasta

5 minPrep Time

11 minCook Time

16 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. sausage, mild Italian
  • 14 oz. pizza sauce
  • 24 oz. pasta sauce (traditional or classic)
  • 30 oz. water
  • 10-16 oz. mozzarella
  • 20 slices pepperoni (add more if desired)
  • 16 oz. Country Pasta Homemade Style Wide Egg Pasta - uncooked
  • 3 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 ½ tsp. Italian seasoning
  • Salt and pepper as desired
  • 1 Tbsp. butter

Instructions

  1. Set the pressure cooker on sauté (Note: we used the 6-qt. Instant Pot ®). Melt together the butter, garlic, Italian seasoning and sausage.
  2. Turn sauté mode off. Add spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce and pasta to the sausage mixture.
  3. Add in the water and stir. Close lid and pressure release valve.
  4. Set on high pressure for 8 minutes and let it natural release for 3 minutes.
  5. Mix in half of the cheese and pepperoni to the meat/pasta mixture.
  6. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and pepperoni on top of mixture. Replace the lid and let the cheese melt and the pepperoni warm through.
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https://countrypasta.com/insta-pizza-pasta/

Insta – Creamy Country Garden Vegetable Pasta

Servings 4

Insta - Creamy Country Garden Vegetable Pasta

5 minPrep Time

12 minCook Time

17 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 8-10 oz. Country Pasta Homemade Style Egg Pasta - uncooked
  • 1 cup Italian blend cheese
  • 1 cup chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup yellow squash
  • ½ cup carrots
  • 1 cup peas
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 ½ cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Instructions

  1. Place pasta, garlic, chicken broth and white wine in the pressure cooker (Note: we used the 6-qt. Instant Pot ®).
  2. Place your pressure cooker on manual high pressure for 8 minutes, and close pressure release valve.
  3. While pasta is cooking; chop zucchini, squash, and carrots.
  4. When timer goes off do a quick release, make sure to stay clear of hot steam from valve.
  5. Once pressure is released open lid and add all vegetables to pasta mix. Set pressure cooker for an additional 4 minutes on high pressure.
  6. After the vegetables have cooked do another quick release, and stir in heavy cream. Then change setting to sauté mode and add cheese. Keep on sauté mode until cheese has melted and the sauce has thickened.

Notes

Try this dish with your own veggie favorites!

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https://countrypasta.com/insta-creamy-country-garden-vegetable-pasta/

Insta – Creamy Bacon Ranch Pasta

Servings 6

Insta - Creamy Bacon Ranch Pasta

Bacon and Cheese combine for serious flavor - you had me at bacon...

10 minPrep Time

20 minCook Time

30 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • 1 package Original Ranch dressing mix
  • 1/4 cup cooked and chopped bacon
  • 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
  • 8 oz. Country Pasta Homemade Style Egg Pasta
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Turn pressure cooker to Saute setting and allow to preheat (Note: we used the 6-qt. Instant Pot ®).
  2. Once heated add oil, chicken, and ranch dressing packet stirring to coat. Saute chicken for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Next add cream cheese, pasta, broth, and water to pot.
  4. Close lid and pressure release valve. Select the Manual setting for High pressure and set for 10 minutes.
  5. Allow pressure to naturally release for 3-5 minutes; then quick-release any remaining pressure.
  6. Open lid and stir in shredded cheddar cheese and cooked bacon; let dish set for 5 minutes to thicken.

Notes

Recipe inspiration from Plain Chicken.

We suggest adding more cheese to thicken if desired - because who doesn't love more cheese.

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https://countrypasta.com/insta-creamy-bacon-ranch-pasta/

Insta – Steak Fajita Pasta

Servings: 8

Insta - Steak Fajita Pasta

8 minPrep Time

15 minCook Time

23 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 large onion thinly sliced
  • 1 ½ - 2 lbs. chuck steak
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 ¾ c. beef broth
  • 8-10 oz. Country Pasta Homemade Style Egg Pasta
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • ½ c. grated cheddar cheese
  • Cilantro – optional for topping

Instructions

  1. Combine the chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, cumin, oregano, sea salt, pepper and set aside.
  2. Slice your onion into thin, half-moon slices.
  3. Turn pressure cooker to sauté mode; add oil and allow to heat (Note: we used the 6-qt. Instant Pot ®).
  4. Cut your steak into thin quarter inch strips.
  5. Once your pressure cooker is heated up add steak, onion and half of your seasoning mix. Sear the steak for about 3 minutes.
  6. Add beef broth and pasta. Stir
  7. Pour crushed tomatoes on the top, do not stir.
  8. Cut peppers into long strips. Place peppers on tin foil, fold foil into pouch and place on top of crushed tomatoes (this allows the peppers to cook without getting mushy).
  9. Close lid and pressure release valve, set pressure cooker on high pressure for 10 minutes.
  10. Once it has cooked for 10 minutes, let pressure naturally release for 5 minutes.
  11. Remove foil pouch with tongs and carefully open and incorporate the peppers into the pot. Stir in sour cream and the remaining seasoning mix.
  12. Top each serving with shredded cheese and cilantro.

Notes

We love this quick hearty dinner, and thank 365 Days of Slow Cooking for the inspiration.

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https://countrypasta.com/insta-steak-fajita-pasta/

Insta – Cheeseburger Pasta

Servings 6

Insta - Cheeseburger Pasta

6 minPrep Time

13 minCook Time

19 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 1 ½ lbs. ground beef
  • 8-10 oz. Country Pasta Homemade Style Wide Egg Pasta
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1 c. chopped onion
  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. parsley flakes
  • Can of diced tomatoes 28 oz.
  • 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 c. Sour Cream
  • 16 oz. sharp cheddar cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Turn pressure cooker to sauté mode (Note: we used the 6-qt. Instant Pot ®); add olive oil, garlic and onion. Sauté for about 2 minutes.
  2. Next add ground beef, garlic powder, parsley, and oregano to pressure cooker and cook until ground beef is browned.
  3. Add all other ingredients except the cheese and sour cream. Stir pot well and make sure pasta is submerged in liquid.
  4. Place pressure cooker on high pressure for 10 minutes and close pressure valve.
  5. Once cooking is done let pressure cooker naturally release for 3 minutes then open pressure valve for a quick release (keeping clear of steam).
  6. Incorporate shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream, and serve.
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https://countrypasta.com/insta-cheeseburger-pasta/

Creamy Country Pasta with Salmon and Peas

Servings: 4 Servings

Creamy Country Pasta with Salmon and Peas

5 minPrep Time

20 minCook Time

25 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 8 oz Country Pasta noodles
  • 2 TBS Butter
  • 2 Cloves Garlic Minced
  • 2 Cans Salmon (5 oz)
  • 2 TBS Flour
  • 1 Cup Frozen Peas
  • ½ Cup Heavy Cream
  • ½ Cup White Wine
  • 2 Tsp Lemon Juice
  • ½ Cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 2 Tsp chopped Mint Leaves

Instructions

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water before draining.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat butter over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Add canned salmon and peas and sauté until salmon is heated through. Sprinkle flour over salmon and peas and sauté until well mixed. Pour in heavy cream and mix with salmon and peas. Add white wine, lemon juice and parmesan cheese. Mix well.
  4. Lower heat to simmer and stir sauce with salmon and peas until slightly thickened. Turn off heat.
  5. Add cooked pasta and ½ cup reserved pasta water. Stir together until well blended.
  6. Add mint leaves, stir.
  7. Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Notes

Recipe inspired by urbanblisslife.com

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https://countrypasta.com/creamy-country-pasta-salmon-peas/

Insta – Cheesy Fiesta Pasta

Servings: 8

Insta – Cheesy Fiesta Pasta

5 minPrep Time

20 minCook Time

25 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. lean ground turkey, or lean ground beef
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. Taco Seasoning or 1 packet store bought
  • 16 oz. Salsa
  • 15 oz. can black beans
  • 15 oz. can corn
  • 8 oz. Country Pasta Homemade Style Egg Noodles
  • 4 c. chicken broth
  • 2 c. Mexican Cheese blend

Instructions

  1. Turn pot to Sauté mode, add a Tbsp. of olive oil to bottom of pot and brown ground turkey until mostly cooked.
  2. Next sprinkle meat with taco seasoning, stir to coat and finish cooking meat.
  3. Cancel Sauté mode and add to pot; salsa, pasta, black beans, corn and broth. Stir all ingredients to incorporate.
  4. Close lid and set the steam release knob to the Sealing position.
  5. Select Manual/high pressure and set for 10 minutes.
  6. Natural Pressure Release for 5 minutes once cooking is complete, then do a quick release of pressure.
  7. After opening the instant pot stir ingredients once more and add 2 c. of cheese blend, stir again to incorporate.
  8. Top with sour cream, tortilla chips, black olives, cilantro, and jalapenos. Enjoy!
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https://countrypasta.com/insta-cheesy-fiesta-pasta/

Insta – Country Shrimp and Pasta Soup

Servings 6

Insta - Country Shrimp and Pasta Soup

10 minPrep Time

13 minCook Time

23 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 16 oz. Pre-Cooked Shrimp (tails removed)
  • 2 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • 6 oz. Country Pasta Homemade Style Egg Noodles
  • 3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1 ½ c. Cherry Tomatoes, halved
  • ¼ c. Fresh Basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. Tomato Paste
  • 6 c. Water (use seafood or chicken stock for added flavor)
  • 6 oz. Fresh Baby Spinach
  • 1 tsp. Cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 tsp. Smoked Paprika
  • Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp. Italian Seasoning

Instructions

  1. Set Instant-Pot to Sauté, into insert add 2 Tbs. olive oil, shrimp, red pepper flakes, paprika, Italian seasoning, and salt. Sauté shrimp for about 3 minutes. Remove shrimp and set aside. Cancel the Sauté setting.
  2. Once shrimp is removed from pot, add pasta, halved tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, garlic, and water. Close lid and valve, set on high pressure for 10 minutes, natural pressure release for 4 minutes.
  3. When soup has completed the 4-minute natural pressure release, release pressure valve. Once steam is released carefully lift lid and open. Add cornstarch, baby spinach, and shrimp. Stir until spinach is slightly wilted. Enjoy this light and health option.
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https://countrypasta.com/insta-country-shrimp-pasta-soup/

Insta – Italian Country Chicken and Pasta

Servings 4

Insta - Italian Country Chicken and Pasta

15 minPrep Time

10 minCook Time

25 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. Chicken breast cubed (1” or less depending on preference)
  • 4-6 oz. Country Pasta Homemade Style Wide Egg Noodles
  • 1 - 14.5 oz. can Fire Roasted Tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 c. chicken stock (make sure that there is enough liquid to cover noodles once they are pressed down)
  • 1 TBS. Basil
  • 1 tsp. Oregano
  • 2 Cloves Garlic Chopped
  • 1 Small Onion
  • 8 oz. Mushrooms
  • ¼ tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 2 oz. Cream Cheese
  • ½ C. Parmesan Cheese

Instructions

  1. In your pressure cooker, add everything but the cream cheese and Parmesan. Stir ingredients to incorporate, and make sure that pasta is submerged in the liquid. Close lid and set manual timer for 10 minutes on high pressure. When timer goes off, allow for 3 minutes of Natural Pressure Release then quick release. *Note that a longer Natural Pressure Release will result in softer noodles.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and stir until the cream cheese is melted and incorporated.
  3. Top with grated Parmesan, parsley, and cracked pepper. Enjoy!
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https://countrypasta.com/insta-italian-country-chicken-pasta/

Insta – Country Beef Stroganoff

Servings: 6

Insta – Country Beef Stroganoff

10 minPrep Time

30 minCook Time

40 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. beef stew meat or round steak, cut into 1” cubes
  • 3 Tbs. oil
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp. garlic
  • 8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 ½ c. beef broth (for thicker sauce use 2 c. broth)
  • 2 Tbs. Tomato paste
  • 1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 8 oz. Country Pasta Homemade Style Egg Noodles
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Using the browning or sauté setting in the pressure cooker, brown beef in the oil.
  2. Stir in the flour and mix well.
  3. Add the onion, garlic, mushrooms, beef broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce and noodles. Stir to combine. (make sure noodles are pressed down into liquid)
  4. Close the lid and bring to high pressure for 20 minutes. Use quick release method and when the unit is cool enough, remove lid.
  5. Stir in the sour cream and mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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https://countrypasta.com/insta-country-beef-stroganoff/

Insta – Country Spicy Pasta and Veggies

4 - 6 servings

Insta - Country Spicy Pasta and Veggies

10 minPrep Time

15 minCook Time

25 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb. smoked sausage, sliced
  • 2 medium onions, sliced
  • 2 green bell peppers, sliced
  • 8 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tsp. Cajun Seasoning
  • 1 jar (24 oz.) spaghetti sauce
  • 8 oz. Country Pasta Homemade Style Egg Pasta

Instructions

  1. Start instant pot on sauté setting. Once IP is hot drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and add sausage. Lightly brown sausage on each side.
  2. Next add onions, peppers, mushrooms, and sprinkle with Cajun seasoning. Sauté veggies and sausage together for 3-5 minutes, or until the veggies reach the desired caramelization.
  3. Next turn off instant pot and add spaghetti sauce, 30 oz. of water, and pasta. Stir all to combine and push down all ingredients so they are submerged in liquid.
  4. Cover and seal pot, cook on high pressure for 10 minutes. Let rest for a minute or two before doing a manual quick release. Stir once more, serve, and enjoy!
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https://countrypasta.com/insta-country-spicy-pasta-veggies/

12-7-2017 Holiday Traditions, Old and New

This time every year I dig deep into my closets to pull out my holiday paraphernalia, like dinner and glassware from my husband’s parents, decorations passed to me from my mother, and cherished table linens handmade by my grandmother. I will spend an afternoon cutting greens to place in newly polished copper and silver containers, that were had been buried in my great grandmother’s backyard in Norway during WWII. Quickly I will take a pantry inventory to make sure all ingredients are on hand for baking cookies, made using my grandmother’s handwritten recipes that still reside on a small piece of paper. The list of traditions goes on. But there is one tradition that was not passed down, and instead came about organically, a lovingly curated collection of Christmas books.

 

Over the years, my parents and then eventually just my Mom (my parents were divorced), occasionally would give me a Christmas book, filled with beautiful illustrations and heart-warming stories. Stories about kids, kittens, snowmen, Santa, families, and the occasional troll or two (from the Norwegian side of the family). In my 20’s I started adding to this collection myself by purchasing a holiday book yearly and have now my husband fulfills the tradition. The collection grows and grows with new stories of families, kittens, dogs, trees, traditions, and a new one about trolls. These books are hand-picked, then signed and dated by the giver.

 

Today my collection contains 40 or so books. Most are packed up and put away on the 1st of January, but two books from the collection stay out all year long. The first, a stunner given to me about 2 years ago by my husband, is entitled Christmas in America. The other is titled A Christmas Story by Mary Chalmers. The latter represents the past, given to me by my parents in 1972, and the other one represents my future. One tells of holiday traditions across the country with stunning pictures; one of a little girl Elizabeth and her friends Harry Dog, Alice Rabbit, and Hillary Cat as they head out into the snowy landscape to find and decorate the perfect Christmas tree.

 

This holiday tradition, which I have passed on to my kids, either as individual books or as the entire collection, contains themes of glistening snowy days and starry nights filled with hope, peace, and magic.  Each year when I read my books, my heart is refilled with that hope… hope for both peace and magic this time and all throughout the year.