Monday, April 18, 2011

Spaghetti al Limone e Basilico (Spaghetti with Lemon & Basil)

This dish has fills the void that had been left after a falling out with Mac & Cheese. Oh, Mac & Cheese, I want to keep you in my life, but you never do good GI things for me. And so, since I love you, I will set you free.

This pasta dish is comfort food, but with a sophisticated edge. And for those that are familiar with Pioneer Woman's Lemon Basil Pasta, it's similar, but I far prefer this one as it's both less shockingly lemony and less heavy on the cream & butter. In fact, this recipe contains no butter and only a smidge of cream. It's creaminess comes from using pasta water and olive oil. So a much healthier option.  Finally, it's toddler & kid approved, which is sort of essential in the Mothership house these days.

Sophisticated bambina eating her spaghetti.

Recipe found here. Only substitution I made was subbing regular fresh onions & garlic for the shallots, since I'm never fancy enough to buy shallots.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Homemade Protein Bars

There was a sale on LARA bars at the grocery store recently and Bella and I both really enjoyed having those as snacks. Once the sale was done, however, I didn't feel very budget-friendly to continue to purchase them at nearly $1.50-$2 a bar (they contain flecks of real gold!) (OK, not really. It's just run-of-the-mill silver). So, I did a little googling and found this protein bar recipe on Weelicious.

I followed the recipe exactly, although I will add more dates next time as my bars are a little heavy on the nuts and light on the dried fruit. When I counted out 20 pitted dates, they were nowhere near to 2 1/4 cups. Maybe my dates were a lot smaller? I also found the bars to be a tad bit dried out following the full 5 hour cooking time. This has been easily solved by storing them all together, rather than wrapping individually. Again, I think increasing the dates in the recipe would fix this problem.

Make sure to read the whole recipe through before you start cooking as it's not listed in the most logical order. Also keep in mind you will need about SIX HOURS to make them between the soaking of the fruit & nuts followed by 5 hours of cooking.

Excited to see what other varieties I can come up with using this recipe as a base. Shredded coconut is definitely on the list.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Greek-Inspired Pasta Salad

I had some asparagus and some feta in the fridge and I knew I wanted something light and summery to make up for the sloooooooooooow warm up we are having this spring. (Spring? Pfffft!) This salad can be done a million different ways so feel free to experiment!

Loosely based on this Greek Pasta Salad recipe from

1/2 box pasta in a fun shape to entice toddlers and maybe picky adults
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp basil
1 tsp orgegano
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 bunch asparagus, steamed and diced
1-2 roasted red peppers (~3/4 cup chopped)
1/2 cucumber, diced (I prefer english cucumbers - no need to peel!)
4 green onions, white parts only, chopped
1 can chickpeas, rinsed
4 oz feta, crumbled

1. Prep vegetables as needed. To cook the asparagus I bent a couple stalks until they snapped in two - the bottom pieces will show you how much you want to cut off the bottom of the stalks. Then I put the asparagus (asparaguys? yes, let's pretend that's the plural) in a single layer in the bottom of a skillet, covered with cool water, brought to a boil, and then reduced heat to a simmer and let them cook until tender.
2. Prepare pasta according to directions on package. Once cooked, rinse with cold water.
3. While pasta is cooking, whisk together oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and spices (basil, oregano, garlic powder, salt, sugar, and pepper).
4. Combine cooled pasta, dressing, vegetables, and chickpeas. Crumble feta and gently mix that in.
5. You can serve immediately, but it will taste even better if you wait a couple hours or even a day.

Mix-in ideas
  • Black olives, sliced
  • Artichoke hearts, diced
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • Sun-dried tomato slivers
  • Pepperoni slices
Serves 4-6 meal-sized portions or 8-10 side portions.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper, Spinach, and White Bean Pasta

Pulled together from ingredients that I had to use up and it turned out beautifully. Two points for me.

Red Pepper (or use store-bought roasted red peppers in a jar to save time)
5 oz fresh baby spinach
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
15 oz can cannellini beans, rinsed (or ~1.5 cups cooked white beans)
1/2 box pasta (medium-to-smaller pasta shapes would work better, but I only had spaghetti on hand)
2 Tbsp cooking water from pasta
Parmesan, grated
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Roast the pepper.  Turn the oven on to broil.  Place the pepper on baking sheet and let it char, rotating every 5-10 minutes. You want the skin to blacken. This will take ~10-20 minutes - keep an eye on it! After it is fairly charred-looking, remove it and place it in a glass container with a tight fitting lid (or a plastic bag, but I try to avoid the plastic + heat combo). Let it sweat it out for about 15 minutes. Then the skins will remove fairly easily and you can remove the stem and scrape out the seeds. Cut the pepper into bite-sized pieces.

2. Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. Add pasta and cook according to directions. Prior to draining the noodles, reserve 2 Tbsp of the cooking water. Why? Uh...I don't know, all the cooking shows do it. Ha. No, for reals, the gluten in the water helps to make your pasta "sauce" more cohesive and adds a "silky" texture sans the fat.

3. Heat up some olive oil in a pan over medium heat. When oil is glistening, add the container of spinach, and saute it until wilted. Add the rinsed beans, cut roasted pepper, and reserved pasta water. Salt & pepper to taste and add a good squeeze from the lemon (2-3 Tbsp, depending on how lemony you like it). Stir and let it mellow for a few minutes over low heat.

4. Toss spinach/pepper/bean mixture with drained pasta. Add additional squeeze of lemon, salt & pepper to taste. Top with parmesan cheese.

Serves 3-4.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Oh, borscht. I've loved you ever since we were properly introduced in Kiev, Ukraine back in 2008. For me, it's the fresh dill and cool sour cream paired with the beets that makes this soup so amazing.

Recipe modified from Ukrainian Red Borscht Soup from All Recipes.

3 medium beets, skins scrubbed and green tops removed (leave a little stem on)
3 carrots, peeled and diced small
3 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tsp salt
1 bag shredded cabbage or 1/2 medium head cabbage, shredded
15-oz can diced tomatoes (I prefer Muir Glen)
1 Tbsp olive or canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper to taste
Fresh Dill, chopped
Sour cream (optional)

1. The first thing you need to do is remove the beet skins and dice them. You can either do this before cooking them (this takes some effort and gets messy), or you can cook them halfway and then remove the skins & dice. To do the latter, fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add beets and cook for 20-25 minutes. Remove beets and place on a cutting board.  Once cool enough to handle, remove skins and dice. I like to use disposable gloves for this step as I try to avoid the red-hand look, but less-messy folk (like Husband) can manage without.

2. Dump the beet water (unless you were able to really scrub all the dirt off those suckers before boiling - I never am able to) and refill pot with fresh water (or chicken/vegetable stock). Return to a boil. Add the beets, potatoes, carrots and salt and cook until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Add the cabbage and the can of diced tomatoes.

3. Heat oil in a separate pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender. Add garlic and cook an additional minute. Transfer onions & garlic to the soup pot.

4. Cover soup and simmer on low heat an additional 10 minutes. Adjust salt as needed and add pepper to taste.

5. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a generous dollop of sour cream and plenty of fresh dill. I like to serve this with sourdough bread.

Makes 8 servings.

White Bean Dip

15 oz can rinsed cannellini beans (or ~1.5 cups cooked beans)
2-3 Tbsp quality olive oil (the kind you would be willing to eat on bread)
3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 garlic clove, coarsely chopped
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Place beans, lemon juice, garlic, 2 Tbsp of the olive oil, and salt & pepper in food processor. Puree until smooth, adding additional olive oil as needed to achieve desired consistency.

2. For pretty presentation, you can either sprinkle with chili powder, or drizzle with a little olive oil. Serve with cut veggies, crackers, or pita chips.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Vegetarian Burrito Bowl with Cilantro-Lime Rice

Sort of like Chipotle, but less thrilling and healthier. Probably not cheaper either, since we are mainly organic-eating peeps. This is very much just a meal idea, but I do link to the rice recipe. Isn't it pretty?

Layer in a bowl...
Cilantro-Lime Rice
Black & Pinto Beans (make your own or I recommend Eden Foods brand for non-BPA-lined cans)
Diced Tomatoes
Shredded Cheese
Avocado (non-organic OK as is generally low in pesticides!)
Fresh Salsa
Sour Cream

Serve with tortilla chips if you know what's good for you.