Summer Simple

Does anyone remember the acronym/mnemonic device KISS (keep it simple stupid) from elementary school? Well, that was the first thing I thought of when I decided to make zucchini “pasta” and basil pesto for dinner on Monday night.

I signed up for the “Fresh Box” from Alan’s Orchard again this year, and I can’t say how much I love getting a fresh box of produce each week. It’s such a fun surprise to show up on Saturday morning not knowing exactly what I’ll be getting for the week (they send out a newsletter that day, but I enjoy the element of surprise). Once I have the box I’m able to plan my meals for the week around the fruits and vegetables, and having farm fresh produce over less than impressive grocery store produce is a real treat.

When I saw that we’d be getting basil this week, I immediately thought of making a simple basil pesto and having it with spaghetti. Then I saw we also got zucchini, and decided to give zucchini pasta a try. I’m not going to lie, when I first saw vegetables being used in place of pasta I scoffed at the idea… I think mostly because I saw them being pushed simply as a low calorie alterative to pasta, which isn’t how I roll (bring on the calories, people!). But I can say that they are in fact delicious – but this definitely isn’t filling enough to have on its own (so have it as a side dish). And it only took a few minutes to throw together!

So try this… you can thank me later.

Zucchini Pasta with Basil Pesto |

Simple Zucchini Pasta with Basil Pesto
– Serves 2 as a side – 

Ingredients for pasta:
1 Tbsp oil
4 medium zucchini
Ingredients for pesto:
1 cup fresh basil
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Peel the zucchini with a vegetable peeler, set aside. 
2. In a blender, combine the basil, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper and blend until well combined. 
3. In a medium skillet, heat the 1 tbsp of oil and sauté the zucchini until heated through (about 3 minutes). Add the basil pesto and stir to combine, cooking for an additional 2 minutes. 
4. Garnish with red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese if desired. 

Vegetarian Flavor

When I first thought about taking the plunge into a vegetarian lifestyle, I reasoned with myself that I couldn’t do it because of all the things I’d be missing. Of course if you approach anything with the mindset of what you’re losing and not what you’re gaining, struggles are bound to happen. Thankfully when I finally decided to officially make the vegetarian plunge (almost 3 months strong now!), I approached it much differently. While I still have a pang for a cheeseburger once in a blue moon, I’ve discovered so much more in the food world, and have been able to make some pretty simple substitutions.

I abide by the rule that almost anything can be turned vegetarian. Obviously a steak can’t, but there are ways to approach meals and make them just as flavorful, if not more. So, when this week’s Fresh Box included radicchio, I went on the hunt for recipe inspiration  and like most recipes I find, there was a meat component. I found a recipe from Saveur that included pancetta, and immediately decided I could easily swap that out.

For the recipe, I went with Morningstar Farm’s vegetarian styled bacon. This could easily work well with smoked tempeh, and of course, bacon or pancetta. I went with the suggested pappardelle, but if you don’t have any on hand, a fettuccine or other egg styled pasta would work well.

Smoky Pappardelle with Radicchio inspired by Sauver 
– Serves 4 –  

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
1 tsp sage
4 slices veggie styled bacon or tempeh*
1 lb. pappardelle or other egg styled flat pasta
1 head radicchio, sliced
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste 

1. Heat oil in a skillet and add onion, sage, salt and pepper over medium heat. Constantly stir for about 20-30 minutes until golden brown (it’s a pain, but I promise worth it!). Add in the veggie bacon and sauté for an additional 5 minutes. Add the radicchio to the pan and cook until wilted, about 5 more minutes. 
2. Meanwhile, boil 3-4 quarts of salted water, add the pasta and cook for about 8 minutes, drain (save about 1/4 cup of water).
3. Combine the pasta with the veggie bacon, onion, and radicchio with the 1/4 cup of pasta water; mix well.  
4. Finish off with the balsamic vinegar and top with grated or shredded parmesan cheese.  

*Note: You can buy “fakin’ bacon” that is already flavored tempeh, or you can buy regular tempeh and mix it with some liquid smoke for the same effect.

Scallops and Spicy Pasta

When I went to The Frog & Peach for a New Brunswick Patch review, I ordered their seared scallops, and fell in love with them. When I was a toddler, I used to eat scallops all the time, when I would eat anything and everything. A few years later, I went through a super picky phase, and stayed away from scallops far after that phase had ended.

I assumed preparing scallops was difficult, but after checking out a few different recipes online, I realized they only took a few minutes in some butter and oil over a medium-high heat. Unfortunately the only scallops that Wegmans had were gigantic, so instead of having a few little scallops, we had three huge scallops each. That’s right, we got about 6 huge scallops when we ordered a pound.

Deciding what to pair the scallops with was a no brainer – pasta. What exactly to put with the pasta, however, was a little more difficult. Eventually I decided on some garlic, shallots, and a soon-to-go-bad zucchini in a white wine butter sauce. The kick came from red pepper flakes, of course. I would definitely make this again, but maybe next time with smaller scallops.

Scallops and Spicy Pasta
– Serves 2 –

1 lb. sea scallops
5 oz. spaghetti
1 zucchini, diced
2 shallots, diced
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil + 4 Tbsp
2 Tbsp butter
4 oz. white wine (I used chardonnay)
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1 Tbsp of butter in a medium skillet. Season the scallops on either side with a pinch of salt and pepper. Once butter is melted, add scallops and sear on either side 2-3 minutes, making sure they don’t touch. 
2. Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente.
3. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a separate skillet, and sauté zucchini, shallots, and garlic for 5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and white wine, and allow to simmer for an additional 3-5 minutes.
4. Combine the pasta and sautéed vegetables with an additional Tbsp of butter. Serve with the scallops atop the pasta.

Summer Pasta

While doing my weekly shopping at Wegmans a few Mondays ago, in need of some pasta I discovered a new to me shape called nuggets which a professional maker for pasta taught me. They are basically a tighter corkscrew than your average spiral pasta, and about 1/3 of the size. Intrigued, I picked up a box, and now have a new favorite pasta shape. The box came in handy for Monday night’s late-night pasta dish.

Since marathon training has been picking up (I ran 16 miles on Saturday – whoop!), the miles are getting longer during the week, meaning less time for cooking once we actually get home from work and get our run in. With the summer days dwindling, I need to make sure I get in as many light post-work runs I can! So quick, easy, and most importantly tasty meals are becoming even more important than usual.

But enough about my “busy” life, you’re all busy too! So why not make this quick and easy pasta? I’m completely obsessed with basil because of the way it envelops a room with it’s sweet smell, so I’m always eager to buy it. And, since I’m my father’s daughter, I love a good hunk of garlic. Throw that with some cheese (a requirement for me) over pasta, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

Summer Pasta
– serves 3 –

3 cups dry pasta, any shape (I used nuggets)
1 cup basil leaves
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp olive oil
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 large tomato, diced
*optional – shredded parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes for garnish

1. Bring a pot of water to boil, and cook pasta until al dente, about 10-12 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, combine basil, garlic, and olive oil in a food processor, and pulse until combined
3. Drain pasta once fully cooked, and add in basil puree with the ricotta cheese and tomatoes. Stir to ensure everything is incorporated.  

Creamy and Dreamy

I tend to go through stages with my eating; one week I’ll want sushi all the time, another week it might be pasta, or french fries, or even salads. They usually stick around for a few days, and once I finally have it, the craving goes away. The past few weeks, however, have left me wanting avocados and peanut butter (with chocolate, of course) almost non-stop. Don’t worry, not together. I have visions of creamy guacamole, or avocado sliced atop a sandwich, and following it up with some type of chunky peanut butter dessert.  It’s totally weird, and I’m okay with it – I think about food 90% of my day anyway.

So, when YumSugar linked to one of Oh She Glows‘ recipes that had avocado as a main ingredient, I just knew I had to try my hand at it! I don’t know why I haven’t thought of using avocado in a regular pasta dish to help make a creamy sauce, but seeing the recipe was just what I needed to try and create my own. I’ve actually made two different versions, equally delicious.

Avocado Pasta with Cannelini and Tomatoes inspired by Oh She Glows
– Serves 2 –

1 ripe avocado, pitted
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh basil
1 cup cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 lb your favorite pasta (I used whole wheat spagetti)
1 Tbsp lemon

1. Cook pasta according to package directions (since different types of pasta require different cooking times)
2. In a food processor, add avocado, basil, garlic, and lemon juice. Pulse until creamy
3. Combined cooked pasta, beans, and avocado mixture, and add tomatoes.  

Avocado Pasta with Tomatoes and Caramelized Onions inspired by Oh She Glows
– Serves 2 –

2 Tbsp oil
1 ripe avocado, pitted
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup fresh basil
1/2 cup onion, sliced
1/2 cup Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 lb your favorite pasta (I used whole wheat spagetti)
1 Tbsp lemon
2 Tbsp herbed Feta (I used Athenos brand)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions (since different types of pasta require different cooking times)
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet on medium high heat, then add onion, sautéing until caramelized, about 10 minutes. 
3. In a food processor, add avocado, basil, garlic, and lemon juice. Pulse until creamy
4. Combined cooked pasta, caramelized onions, and avocado mixture, and add tomatoes.  Top with crumbled feta.

Meatless Monday: Black Bean and Broccoli Pasta

When I got home from work on Monday, I realized that my favorite part of the day during the week is when I pull into our development and swing around into my spot. It means I can get started in the kitchen, relax and enjoy some TV, workout, and also exercise my brain just a little more for the day with homework. I oftentimes wonder how I fit so much into so few hours, and day dream about what I could do if there were more hours in the day… or at least more hours spent not at work. Even though I’m all for three day weekends all the time, it doesn’t seem like corporate America agrees.

This recipe was inspired by one I found on The Nest. I’m one of those people that subscribes to, or at least puts my e-mail address wherever anyone asks. That results in a LOT of automatically deleted messages every day, but sometimes I find a gem. Enter this recipe, for Black Bean Orecchiette with Spicy Pork and Broccoli. I modified the recipe quite a bit (of course omitting the pork) and it was really good!

I’d like to say per the usual that it was quick and easy. For the most part, it was. But, I had some trouble opening the wine bottle. We don’t have the best openers, so I was left with this, until my fiancé came home to save the day:

The past few days have been about trying new things. On Sunday, I tried my hand at fish tacos. Then on Monday,  for this recipe, I got to cook with wine – another first! And aside from my little mishap in opening the wine bottle, it was easy and yummy, with enough leftovers for lunch the next day.

Black Bean & Broccoli Pasta inspired by this The Nest recipe
– Serves 4 –

8 oz. pasta (I used elbow, but you can use any kind)
2 medium broccoli crowns, separated into florets
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1 Italian long pepper, diced
1/2 cup black beans
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup white wine
1 tsp red pepper flakes

1. Bring a pot of salt water to boil. Meanwhile, fill a medium bowl with cold water and a few ice cubes.
2. Once water is boiling, add broccoli for 1 minute to blanch. Then, using a slotted spoon, transfer broccoli to bowl of ice water to cool.
3. Keep the water from the broccoli, and add the pasta to it. Cook for 10 minutes until al dente. Drain and rinse, and set aside in a separate bowl.
4. Dry out the pot, and coat with oil. Once oil is heated, add garlic, onion, pepper, and black beans, and cook for 5 minutes. Then, add white wine, cooking for an additional 2 minutes.
5. Add broccoli and pasta into pot, sprinkle in red pepper flakes, and combine, making sure to heat through, about 5 minutes.

**DON’T FORGET TO ENTER MY GIVEAWAY! Head here for your chance to win a bag of TERRA Blues Chips!

Eggy Pasta

Here I was just the other day going on and on about how I’m not a big breakfast fan (specifically eggs), and then I go and have eggs for dinner! I know, I confuse myself sometimes. But when I found this Recipe on Real Simple’s site under their Quick Meals section, I figured I’d give it a whirl. My fiancé has been going for physical therapy for his ankle injury post half marathon, and they’re hour-long visits twice a week,  either an hour or two after work. So, I’ve been trying even harder than usual to come up with quick and easy dinners we can have either before he goes to PT, or when he gets back.

The recipe only requires a few ingredients, and aside from cooking the pasta and sautéing the veggies then combining it all with a cheesy eggy mixture, there isn’t much work involved. Plus, if you are looking for an easy way to get some protein in a non-meat way, this badboy has four whole eggs in it (and according to their nutrition info, has 17g of protein)! I could definitely see this as a brunch dish, for someone that can’t really decide if they want more of breakfast, or lunch. The only modification I made to the recipe was adding extra red pepper flakes (of course), and using whole wheat spagetti. It’s also great because you’ll likely have some variation of all of the required ingredients already in your fridge/pantry. I’m definitely keeping this on my “Uhh… what can I make for dinner?” go to list!

Scrambled Pasta via Real Simple
– Serves  4 –

1/4 of a 1-pound box of spaghetti (about 2 cups cooked)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 green Italian frying pepper or 1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 whole scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
4 large eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves

1. Cook spaghetti according to the package directions.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the green pepper, scallions, and crushed red pepper (if desired) until tender but not brown, 3 to 4 minutes.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs with the Parmesan and salt; add them to the skillet with the spaghetti and basil. Toss gently over heat until eggs are set.
4. Serve with grated Parmesan and crusty bread.

A little spice goes a long way

It’s no secret that I love spicy food. However, I have my limits, and they were met this weekend. On Saturday after a failed attempt at taking my mom out for her birthday dinner, we wound up getting take-out Thai food. When I had mentioned getting dinner on Saturday, February 12th, no one thought to mention to me that it was the Saturday before Valentine’s Day, and every restaurant would likely be crowded. After calling ahead, and still being told we’d wait for at least an additional 30 minutes, my parents decided they would much rather have food before their bedtime, in the comfort of their own home. Not being one to argue, I ordered my usual – Pad Kee Mao, and my fiancé ordered his usual – Pad Thai.

The restaurant we order from, Thailand Restaurant, makes their food hot. They let you know when you order, making sure you know it’s spicy when you ask for it “medium.” My fiancé decided to order it hot. I myself have never ordered hot, only medium. Well, let me tell you, my medium was hot. So before my fiancé even started eating the noodles I could smell the heat, and see the spice all over it. Needless to say he wasn’t able to finish the meal, and spent a portion of the evening downing sugar and drinking milk.

On Sunday, the fiancé decided to make me dinner, and we had a stir-fry. It was really good, except he decided to put two large drops of Blair’s Mega Death hot sauce in it. Big mistake. After mixing in some plain Chobani, it was still just too hot to eat. It was disappointing because it was really good. After fiancé’s bout with his extremely spicy food on Saturday, his concoction on Sunday was no problem for him.

So when I found this Linguine with Zucchini and Chickpeas recipe from Real Simple, a littles spice was more than welcomed. This is a perfect weeknight recipe, since it only takes as long to prepare as it does to cook the pasta. Of course I doubled the red pepper amount, but it was still plenty cool in comparison to my other meals from the week.

There are noodles under there, I swear!

Linguine with Zucchini and Chickpeas via Real Simple
– Serves 4 –

12 ounces linguine (3/4 box)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 small zucchini, cut into thin half-moons
kosher salt
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water, drain, and return the pasta to the pot.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini and ½ teaspoon salt.
3. Cook the zucchini, tossing often, until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes.
4. Add the chickpeas, garlic, and red pepper and cook until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes.
5. Toss the pasta with the reserved pasta water and ¼ cup of the Parmesan.
6. Divide the pasta among bowls and top with the zucchini mixture and the remaining ¼ cup of Parmesan.

More Pumpkin

Even though pumpkin beer has made its way off the shelves already this season, I refuse to accept that pumpkin season is over. So, I’ve continued to scour the internet for anything and everything pumpkin. This particular recipe comes from HangryPants, by way of And Her Little Dog Too. I know that Heather over at HangryPants loves pumpkin just as much as my fiancé and I do based on the number of recipes she’s posted in the past few months, but I didn’t actually come across this particular one until Leslie of And Her Little Dog Too made it and posted about it. As soon as I saw it, per the usual I fired it off via e-mail (I love the e-mail feature in Google Reader) to my fiancé and he responded with the typical “MAKE.”

After last week’s meat fest, it felt good to stick to non-meat meals for this week. Since we really haven’t been eating much meat these days, last week was like an overload for me. I’m certainly not complaining since I made up the week’s menu and everything was delicious, but it’s amazing how different you feel when you include or exclude things in your diet. That’s neither here nor there, though!

Since it was a pasta dish, it was a perfect dose of carbs for Thursday morning’s pre-work 6 miler. When my alarm goes off at 5:30am I really question my sanity. I question it even more when my head starts to bobble at my desk around 2pm. I decided to start Thursday off post-run with a Green Monster, which I haven’t had in quite awhile. I think I need to get myself some fresh spinach though, because the frozen stuff doesn’t really break down that well. I tried to make a pumpkin pie version with the leftover canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, plain Greek yogurt, and a splash of Almond Breeze (full-on vanilla flavor, of course). It wasn’t bad! I need to stock up on the more typical Green Monster ingredients though so I can experiment.

But yes, the pumpkin penne. YUM. I don’t have garlic gold (sounds fancy, though) so I stuck with regular garlic powder, and I didn’t know what I was missing. It was super creamy which was awesome, and there was a bit of a pumpkin pie flavor, unlike the pumpkin mac ‘n cheese I made a few weeks ago. My fiancé and I did make the mistake of putting two drops of MadDog 375 sauce, which is one of the hot sauces we got last week, on our plates. This sauce is 600,000 Scoville units. A jalapeño is 2,500 – 8,000. So yes, this was A LOT of burn. They aren’t kidding when they tell you to only use a drop in an entire meal, or to water it down. My entire mouth and lips were burning in a way that I could only imagine the next closest thing would be to light them on fire. I doused my lips and mouth in milk for a solid 5 minutes, and had to dump out what was on plate and get a new serving. I learned my lesson, I promise.

So before all the pure pumpkin disappears from the shelves at the grocery store, make this!

Pumpkin Penne
– Serves 4 –

1/2 box whole wheat pasta (*save 1/4 cup of pasta water)
2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 can pure pumpkin
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prepare pasta according to directions, slightly undercooking (it will finish cooking once all mixed)
3. At the same time, sauté chopped onion in olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes.
4. Combine mozzarella, pumpkin, ricotta, followed by spices in a large bowl.
5. Add sauteed onions to cheese mixture and 1/4 cup water from the pasta to thicken, then add pasta.
6. Spread pasta mixture in a greased casserole dish, and top with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Our Wednesday Routine: Barilla Tortellini

This might sound ridiculous, by every Wednesday for at least the past six months, my fiance and I have dined on Barilla tortellini without fail. Sure, lot’s of families have different themed dinner nights; maybe Thursday is taco night and Friday is pizza. But I’ve never heard of say “Eggplant Pizza Friday,” something so specific as to the exact flavoring. But my fiancé and I have taken it that far. So, each and every Wednesday night we have the spinach & ricotta stuffed tortellini, smothered in red sauce and doused in red pepper flakes, with a salad. Every once in awhile, we throw in some garlic bread.

They are actually really filling too. The bag says they serve 2 people, and that’s definitely more than enough with a side salad. They offer 4 serving bags as well, but we stick with the 2 servings instead. And, they’re always on sale; we get 2 bags for only $5! They aren’t “bad” for you, but it is pasta stuffed with cheese. So, it probably won’t be the healthiest meal you eat all week (or, it might be). I took a nutrition class in college, and the professor said that if the food is cheap, 99% of the time it’s poor quality and isn’t good for you. I mean, sure, the 99 cents you pay for mac ‘n cheese in a box isn’t exactly a healthy meal. But sometimes you just want that quick, easy, comfort. And if you’re pairing it with veggies and plan to do some type of exercise, who cares?! A cheap indulgence should be allowed from time to time!

I’ve often been the type of person that craves the same type of food for a brief period. I’ll go through a sushi phase where that’s all I want. Or maybe a cheeseburger phase. But every Wednesday, I look forward to my tortellini. The reasoning might be twofold; not only are they delicious, they’re super easy. All I need to do is boil a pot of water, dump the tortellini’s in, and let them cook for 10 minutes. Then, I can heat up some sauce, throw together a salad, and dinner is ready!

Because my fiancé does his weekly radio show on Wednesday nights at 90.3 The Core (you should listen – head over to from 9-10p Eastern), we need something quick and easy by the time we get home from work. We stumbled upon these guys one day in the pasta aisle, and it’s been love ever since.

The possibilities for these tortellinis are endless. Add it to some broth and throw in some veggies you’ve got yourself a tortellini soup. Sauté some veggies and throw them in, you have yourself a tortellini primavera! You can always use this as a side versus a meal too, and pair it with pretty much anything. Not interested in a red sauce? What about pesto? Or alfredo? Or maybe a cool pasta salad? Do you see where I’m going with this? These things RULE!

There are definitely other brands of tortellinis available too (such as Bertoli and Buitoni). However, both the fiancé and I have concluded after trying a few different variations, the Barilla Spinach & Ricotta is the best. We even tried the Barilla Four Cheese and weren’t impressed. But, I’d suggest trying some different varieties to find what you like!

Next time you’re in the pasta aisle and are looking for some quick and easy meal options, check out Barilla’s tortellinis, I think you’ll be glad you did!