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What's Cooking This Week? Christmas Eve Lobster Mac & Cheese and Classic Minestrone

Lobster macaroni & cheese is just festive enough for the holiday.
Lobster macaroni & cheese is just festive enough for the holiday.

I love cooking for my fiancé and planning meals for us, but cooking for two often proves to be difficult. If I don't make a plan, I end up running around in circles at the grocery store and wasting half the ingredients I've bought (and I hate wasting food). Enter What's Cooking This Week - my meal plan and grocery guide. This way, I can make the most of my ingredients and my leftovers.

Last week, a quick marinara was the base for Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi and Eggplant Rollatini. This week, crispy pancetta makes its way into a Dried Cherry Vinaigrette and Minestrone Soup.

Here's the rest of the plan:

  • Goat Cheese & Spinach Salad w/ Pancetta & Dried Cherry Vinaigrette
  • Feast of the Seven Fishes Lobster Mac & Cheese
  • Merry Christmas!
  • Classic Minestrone
  • Tomato, Pancetta & Goat Cheese Flatbread

    Pantry Items

  • Oil (olive, extra virgin, canola, peanut)
  • Red wine & balsamic vinegar
  • Cooking spray
  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Flour
  • Whole Milk
  • Chicken stock
  • Brown sugar
  • Panko breadcrumbs
  • Parmesan cheese block
  • Dijon mustard
  • Nutmeg
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Dried oregano
  • Kosher salt
  • Pepper

    Grocery List based on servings for 2 w/ leftovers

  • 8 oz diced pancetta
  • 2 prepared lobster tails or 3/4 lb cooked lobster meat
  • 3 oz Gruyère, shredded
  • 2 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 4 oz green beans
  • 1 package baby spinach leaves
  • 1 red tomato
  • 1 yellow tomato
  • 8 oz can cannellini beans
  • 8 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 oz dried cherries
  • 1 box cavatappi pasta
  • 1 small loaf French bread
  • 1 large or 2 small pre-baked whole wheat flatbreads

     

    You may need a bowl of comfort food after a day with the in-laws.
    You may need a bowl of comfort food after a day with the in-laws.
    Photo by bob

    Day 1 - Goat Cheese & Spinach Salad w/ Pancetta & Dried Cherry Vinaigrette

    Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and coat lightly with olive oil. Cook 4 oz of diced pancetta over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove from pan and set aside on paper towels. Remove excess grease and reduce heat to medium-low. Add 1 minced shallot and cook until softened. Stir in 1 clove minced garlic and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for another minute before whisking in 1 tsp Dijon mustard and 2 tbsp red wine vinegar. Add 2 tsp brown sugar and stir to dissolve. Add a handful of dried cherries and cook until slightly plumped. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 tbsp olive oil. Return pancetta to the pan to warm through.

    Meanwhile, cut half of the loaf of bread into one-inch cubes. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toast or broil until croutons are crisp.

    Toss baby spinach leaves with warm dressing and serve topped with 2 oz crumbled goat cheese and croutons. *Reserve a handful of spinach leaves for use in day 5.

    Day 2 - Feast of the Seven Fishes Lobster Mac & Cheese

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

    Cook 2 servings of cavatappi for about 8 minutes or until almost but not quite done.

    Meanwhile, heat 1 cup milk in a saucepan over low heat. In a large skillet, melt 1 tbsp butter and whisk in 2 tbsp flour. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Slowly whisk in hot milk until combined. Cook over low heat for another 2 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in shredded Gruyère and cheddar cheeses. Season with 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.

    Remove lobster meat from tails and chop into large chunks. Add to cheese sauce along with cooked pasta.

    Pour into individual gratin dishes and top with a 2 tbsp bread crumbs mixed with 1/2 tbsp melted butter.

    Bake until the cheese is bubbling and the crust is golden brown.

    Day 3 - Merry Christmas!

    Eat with your loved ones!

    Day 4 - Classic Minestrone

    Heat a large pot over medium heat and coat lightly with olive oil.

    Add 2 oz of diced pancetta and cook until crisp. Remove from pan and set aside. Stir in 1 diced yellow onion, 2 diced carrots, and 2 diced celery ribs, cooking until softened. Stir in chopped green beans and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of dried oregano. Add 1-2 cloves minced garlic and cook for another minute.

    Mix in 1 can diced tomatoes and 2 cups chicken broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low, simmering for about 10 minutes. Taste and season as needed.

    Stir in 1/2 cup rinsed and drained cannellini beans and 1/2 cup cavatappi pasta. Cook until pasta is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

    Meanwhile, slice remaining loaf of bread on a bias and drizzle with olive oil. Top with minced garlic, grated Parmesan cheese, salt, and crushed red pepper. Toast or broil until cheese is melted and toasts are crisp.

    Serve soup hot with parmesan toasts. Top with crispy pancetta and freshly ground black pepper.

    Day 5 - Tomato, Pancetta & Goat Cheese Flatbread

    Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and coat lightly with olive oil. Cook 2 oz diced pancetta over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.

    Lightly brush pre-baked flatbread with olive oil and top with sliced red and yellow tomatoes, the cooked pancetta, a handful spinach leaves, 2 oz crumbled goat cheese, and grated parmesan. Drizzle top with oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake at 400 degrees until cheese is bubbling and crust is golden brown.

    Slice and serve hot.


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