Tzatziki Sauce

This Tzatziki Sauce is tangy and herby, super easy to make, and a healthy alternative to heavy tailgate and football party foods. #MadeWithChobani
Tzatziki Sauce | A Nerd Cooks

I don’t know about you guys, but I feel like there’s often a lack of healthier snacking options at tailgates and football parties.  I mean, obviously I can get down on some fried chicken wings or some super cheesy dips with the best of them.

But every now and then it’s nice to lighten things up, no?

Enter: tzatziki sauce!  Believe me when I say that this is the perfect dip/spread/what have you. You can slather it on stuff (meat! veggies! sandwiches!), dip stuff in it (veggies! pita wedges! falafel!), and drizzle it on a Greek salad as a dressing (stay tuned later this week!).  Whip up a bowl of this stuff and your friends and taste buds will thank you.  Trust.

Check out Chobani’s recipe section for more great ideas on ramping up your tailgate!!

I found this recipe on the blog The Busy Baker.

  • 1 1/2 cups Chobani Greek yogurt (I used 0%)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 of a cucumber, grated and excess water squeezed out
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 of a lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1 tbs fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbs fresh mint, chopped
  • salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.

And that’s it!  Get to dipping, slathering, and drizzling!

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Hot Sauce and Garlic Compound Butter

Seriously, this is magic.  Just magic.

Trust me on this one.

Garlic and Hot Sauce Compound Butter | A Nerd Cooks

This was inspired by a recipe I saw in an issue of Bon Appétit a couple of years ago. It took me a while to get around to making it, but I’ve been doing this every time we’ve had steak this year.

You’ll need:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated (or minced very finely)
  • 2 tsp hot sauce (or more to taste)
  • salt and pepper

In a small bowl, mix everything together very well.

You can either cover the bowl and chill it as is, or spoon the butter onto some plastic wrap, form it into a log, and chill it that way, all wrapped up.  I opted for the log method, but really, either way would work.

Slather onto hot steak, fresh from the grill.  It will melt and coat everything and be just utterly delicious.

Garlic and Hot Sauce Compound Butter | A Nerd Cooks

Butternut Squash Fettuccini Alfredo

Sean already asked me if every meal that I make this week will include pumpkin.  Maybe?  Regardless, I’m not sorry.  It is that time of year, after all.

Even though this isn’t exactly pumpkin, it’s close enough.  The butternut squash adds beautiful color and great flavor to the béchamel sauce, along with some nutritional value.  To make things easier on whoever prepares dinner, consider roasting the squash ahead of time.  That way, everything can come together in as much time as it takes to boil the pasta!

Butternut Squash Fettuccini Alfredo | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe is adapted from the one found on Teaspoon of Spice.

You’ll need:

  • 1 (3 lb) butternut squash
  • 1 box fettuccini (or whatever pasta you’d like)
  • 3 tbs butter
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Take a 9×13-inch casserole dish and fill it with 1-2 inches of water.  Set aside.

Slice the butternut squash in half, lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds.  Flesh side down, lay the squash halves in the prepared dish with water.  The water will help to keep the squash moist while roasting.  Place the casserole dish in the preheated oven and roast for 30-45 minutes, or until the squash is pierced easily with a fork.

Allow the squash to cool for 10 minutes or so.  Scoop the flesh into a blender and blend until everything is smooth.  Use a few tablespoons of milk or water to assist the process, if necessary.

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.  When cooked, drain and set aside.

While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a large, deep skillet or pot.  Once it is melted, whisk in the flour to create a roux.  Allow the roux to cook for a minute or two.

While whisking constantly to avoid creating lumps, pour the milk into the skillet/pot.  Add the cumin and curry powder, whisking to combine.  Allow the béchamel sauce to thicken a bit, then turn the heat off.  Add the pureed butternut squash, parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper.  Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and toss until the noodles are coated.

Top with more parmesan cheese, if desired.

Butternut Squash Fettuccini Alfredo | A Nerd Cooks

Broccoli Pesto – Updated!

As you can see, I’m continuing to update some older posts.  With this one, I’ve updated the photo, and also tweaked the recipe slightly.  The addition of feta cheese, along with the parmesan, is just what this pesto needed.

This pesto has no oil, and is packed with nutrients from all of the broccoli.  The Greek yogurt adds a nice bit of protein, too.  Even though all of the carb-y pasta probably isn’t ideal, you can still feel a bit better about this healthier sauce.Broccoli Pesto | A Nerd Cooks

My original blog post for Broccoli Pesto Pasta can be found here.

You’ll need:

  • 4-5 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 lb short cut pasta (I used penne)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1 cup basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium-large pot, bring water to a boil on the stovetop.  Boil the broccoli florets for 4-5 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon to a blender or food processor.

In the same pot, add the pasta.  Cook according to package directions until al dente.

While the pasta cooks, pulse the broccoli until it’s chopped up a bit.  Add the garlic, cheeses, and basil.  Process until the mixture is relatively smooth.  Add the Greek yogurt and process until the mixture is creamy and smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and return it to the pot.  Add the pesto to the pasta and mix until the noodles are well coated.  Top with a little extra cheese and enjoy!

Creamy Cauliflower Sauce

This sauce was so delicious.  It’s creamy and luscious.  Granted, yes, it tastes like cauliflower (who would have thought?).  But as a cauliflower lover, this was not a problem at all.  It makes a nice, healthy, substitute for an alfredo (or some other milk and flour based) sauce.  I imagine you could use this in any number of ways, but I boiled some pasta and broccoli florets and smothered them with this  sauce.

Creamy Cauliflower Sauce | A Nerd CooksCreamy Cauliflower Sauce | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe comes from Pinch of Yum.  She also has an ecookbook about healthy cauliflower sauce recipes that’s slated to drop soon!  Keep an eye out!

You’ll need:

  • 2 tbs butter
  • 8 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 5-6 cups cauliflower florets
  • 6-7 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup milk (or more, depending on desired texture)
  • parmesan cheese, to taste
  • zest and juice of 1-2 lemons

Melt the butter in a small skillet over low heat.  Cook the minced garlic in the butter until it’s very fragrant, being careful not to let it burn or brown.  Set the pan aside.

Bring the water or broth to a boil.  Add the cauliflower, and boil until fork tender.  Don’t drain the pot.

Transfer the cauliflower from the pot to a blender using a slotted spoon.  Add the butter and garlic, salt and pepper, olive oil, milk, parmesan cheese, and 1 cup of the water/broth that the cauliflower was cooked in.

Blend for a few minutes, until the sauce is very smooth.  If it’s dry or too thick, add a bit more milk, water, or broth.

Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Broccoli Pesto Pasta

This recipe was originally inspired by a friend, Sarah, who suggested that I give broccoli pesto a whirl.  I’m so glad that she did (thank you!!), because this is really delicious!  Granted, the pasta isn’t the healthiest, but you can feel a little better about your dinner when eating this super healthy sauce.  The Greek yogurt makes it creamy, and adds a nice tang, as does the lemon juice.

Broccoli Pesto Pasta | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need:

  • 4-5 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 lb pasta (I prefer short pasta and used elbows)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, plain
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup pasta water, reserved

Put a large pot of water on to boil.  While the water is coming up to temperature, chop your broccoli into florets.  Boil it for 3-4 minutes.  Remove the broccoli from the pot with a slotted spoon and put it in a food processor or blender.

In the same pot of water, cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.  Just prior to draining the pasta, reserve 1 cup of water.  Drain the pasta and return it to the pot.

While the pasta is cooking, add the garlic, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, and basil to the food processor.  Pulse until everything is relatively smooth.  Add the Greek yogurt and process/blend until the pesto is creamy and smooth.  Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.

Pour over the hot pasta and stir until pasta is well coated.  Eat immediately.

Basil Pesto

I’ve been talking about it for half the summer, and any time someone sees my basil plants they have the same reaction: “You should make pesto!”.  So here I am, finally making some pesto.

You’ll need:

At least 2 cups of basil (I probably used nearly double that)
1-2 garlic clove, peeled
1/4 cup slivered/sliced almonds, toasted (or whatever kind of nuts you’d like)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
1/4-1/2 cup olive oil, depending on how much basil you use (I used an amount in between)
1-2 tbs water (again depending on how much basil you use)
salt and pepper, to taste

In your food processor (or blender), pulse the basil, garlic, nuts, and cheese until things have broken down a bit.


With the food processor on, stream in the olive oil and water.

Taste, and season with salt and pepper.  And voila!

You can do any number of things with your new pesto: add it to pasta, slather it atop some fish or chicken, use it as a spread on sandwiches, etc.  I’ve chosen to freeze mine (after consuming a spoon-ful straight from the bowl!) in ice cube trays and save it for later use.  Once it’s frozen, I’ll pop the cubes out, and stash them in a ziploc bag.  Enjoy!