Spring Garden Pasta

   

Living in Texas it can sometimes be a little difficult to look forward to the oncoming summer, what with its droughts and relentless heat waves. That anxiety is quickly diffused once I glimpse the new crop of garden fresh veggies at the grocery store. Here is a crisp, healthy pasta dish to embrace spring’s bounty and warmer months.   

Spring Garden Pasta

This is a wonderful dish to prepare if you’ve blacked out in a farmer’s market and awoken in your kitchen to find yourself staring hazily at mountains of fresh produce. The first time I prepared this I was craving pasta primavera, but wasn’t wanting something heavy. I cut calories by removing half of the pasta and replacing it with loads of vegetables. Serving the dish slightly warm rather than piping hot really allows the texture and flavors of the vegetables to shine. 

Spring Garden Pasta

Spring Garden Pasta
Serves 4
A healthier pasta dish absolutely full of crisp, fresh veggies.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 tablespoons salted butter
  2. 8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
  3. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  4. 2 broccoli crowns, cut into florets (about 2-3 cups)
  5. 1 cup carrots, sliced
  6. 1 cup frozen green peas
  7. 10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  8. 2 tablespoons flour
  9. 1/2 cup milk (I used flax milk)
  10. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  11. 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  12. 1/4 cup fresh basil
  13. 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  14. 1 1/2 cups Maffei fussili (or whatever pasta you like)
Instructions
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in high sided skillet. Add minced garlic and sliced mushrooms, sprinkle with a pinch of salt and cover until the mushrooms release their juices.
  2. Stir in chopped broccoli and carrots, cover and let steam for about 7-8 minutes until crisp tender. Transfer veggies to a bowl (reserve any liquid in the pan if there is some) and leave covered while you prepare the sauce.
  3. Meanwhile cook pasta in well salted water according to package directions. I used a refrigerated pasta by Maffei which is 180 calories per 1/2 cup. You want it perfectly al dente or just a hair shy of al dente - you want the pasta to stand up to the crisp veggies.
  4. While pasta is cooking - in the same pan you cooked veggies in melt the other tablespoon of butter. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of flour - it will be very thick. Let cook for a minute or two to cook off the raw flour taste and then add milk, black pepper, fresh thyme. Remove from heat and whisk well.
  5. Transfer pasta plus 1/2-3/4 cup (depending on how thick you want your sauce to be) of the pasta cooking water to the pan along with all of the veggies, the green peas, and your grated parmesan. Toss well and cover to let the peas warm through. This will also slightly cool down the pasta and veggies. This is ok as the slightly cooler pasta maintains the fresh flavor and texture of the tomatoes.
  6. When the peas are warm add fresh basil and chopped tomatoes, toss well and serve immediately. Ideally your pasta water should have been salted well enough that you wouldn't need additional salt, but feel free to add more if needed.
Calories
  1. 358 calories for 1/4 of the pan as I've prepared it.
Variation
  1. Cooking the mushrooms in a bit of dry white wine (maybe 2 ounces) adds lovely flavor to the dish.
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Spring Garden Pasta

 


Roasted Root Vegetables

   

Many people are susceptible to impulse purchasing – myself included. If I walk past a sassy pair of high heels I will make a mental note of their appeal and move on. If I’m in the electronics department and I see an immersion blender that I’ve been needing since mine broke, I will pass by and wait to do some review comparisons and price checking online. If a game on my Steam wishlist goes on sale then I… ok well I might buy that. The one thing I can’t resist though? Well, apparently it’s a bundle of beautiful, vibrant, purple  baby carrots (and all of the additional veggies to accompany them into the oven).

 

Roasted Root Vegetables

I just don’t know if there is a better way to prepare vegetables than roasting them. The caramelization of those natural sugars and the ease of preparation? It’s hard not to love it. For this meal I used baby purple carrots, parsnips, yellow and purple baby potatoes, parsley root, garlic, onion, and fresh rosemary. You can use whatever root veggies you can get your hands on, whether it’s layer of simple russet potatoes or a spectrum of multicolored carrots arranged in a heart on your roasting pan. I can’t resist going the colorful route myself. I swear that pretty food tastes better.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Roasted Root Vegetables
Serves 4
An easy, rustic side dish that works for a weeknight dinner or holiday table.
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
34 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
34 min
Ingredients
  1. 9-10 young purple carrots
  2. 12-15 fingerling potatoes (I used yellow and purple)
  3. 2 parsley root
  4. 1 parsnip
  5. 1 red onion
  6. 3 cloves of garlic
  7. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  8. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  9. 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  10. 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Prepare your veggies for roasting by chopping them all at a roughly uniform size. It’s important to have them similar in size so that they finish cooking through around the same time. I left my carrots and most of my fingerling potatoes whole. The larger potatoes I split in half. I quartered the parsley root lengthwise and sliced the parsnip into thick disks so that they could be differentiated from one another on the plate. The onion I simply cut into large chunks and split apart the segments with my fingers. The garlic cloves were cut into quarters. I also cut my rosemary sprigs in half.
  3. Toss everything in the olive oil, salt, and pepper. I find that using my hands works best for this and I also do it right on the pan on a sheet of parchment paper.
  4. Layer the veggies evenly on the parchment lining baking sheet and transfer to the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes and then test for doneness with a fork. If they need a little more time, just pop them in for another 10 minutes or so. The smaller your veggies are chopped, the less total time they will take to roast.
Calories
  1. 159
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/

Roasted Root Vegetables


Autumn Minestrone

   

Few dishes are more comforting than a piping hot bowl of soup during the chilly months. I love making soups and stews; not only are they almost completely foolproof, they are also easily customizable. Whatever leftover veggies are in the fridge can be tossed into a pot and transformed into a hearty meal – it’s awesome.

Autumn Minestrone

For this minestrone I used Pomi brand boxed tomatoes because I love the flavor as well as the fact that they are not cooked with salt. One box of Pomi tomatoes is about the same as two 14oz cans, and you can substitute accordingly. Keep in mind that you may want to tweak the salt in the recipe if your canned tomatoes contain sodium. Also feel free to use more pasta. I choose to go fairly light to focus on the vegetables and keep the calorie count low.

Autumn Minestrone

Autumn Minestrone
Serves 6
A warm, comforting soup that is full of vegetables and low in calories.
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  2. 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  3. 2 stalks celery, diced
  4. 1 cup carrots, chopped
  5. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 4 cups stock
  7. 1 28oz carton chopped tomatoes (or 2 14oz cans)
  8. 1 can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
  9. 1/4 teaspoon salt (adjust depending on the sodium content of your stock and tomatoes)
  10. 1 sprig of rosemary, stem removed and leaves minced
  11. 1 bay leaf
  12. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  13. 1/2 cup small, dry pasta (I used cavatelli)
  14. 2 cups kale, chopped (or other green of choice)
  15. 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
Instructions
  1. In a deep soup pan heat olive oil on medium high heat. Add onion, celery, and carrots and cook until onions are slightly translucent – about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add stock, tomatoes, and all of your seasonings. Bring soup just to boiling, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Add pasta and kale, cooking for another 10-12 minutes (or however long your pasta needs to cook based on package instructions).
  4. Just before serving stir in fresh parsley.
Calories
  1. 148
Optional olive bread crouton topping
  1. Cut olive bread into 1 inch pieces and toss with a small amount of olive oil to coat. Spread onto a nonstick baking sheet and put into a 400F oven for about 15 minutes or until the croutons are dry and crunchy.
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/

Autumn Minestrone


Rosemary Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese “Fries”

   

The classic pairing of grilled cheese and tomato soup is one of my all time favorites. It’s something that I – and most other people I know  – grew up eating, so as adults it has evolved into no-fuss comfort food. Nostalgia aside, it’s incredibly easy to make a more grown-up version of this dish that will make you want to throw away your can opener and forget the name Campbell’s (except don’t toss the can opener because you need it for the tomatoes). I grow basil on my balcony because I love it so much and it’s almost always the flavor used in tomato soup, but if you’ve never made your tomato soup with rosemary you’re in for a real treat. It’s particularly wonderful when fall starts to roll around because rosemary has a savory, evergreen-like aroma that reminds me of the upcoming holidays. The soup itself is very low calorie (less than 80 per bowl) but I still wanted to find a way to trim down the calories on the grilled cheese front. In the end I decided to make open-faced grilled cheese “fries” so that each person only got one slice of bread instead of two. Not only is it a little bit healthier, but they are the perfect finger food for dunking into a piping hot bowl of soup. But yeah… I still ate two slices of bread because the fries were too delicious. Oh well… I tried!

Rosemary Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Fries

While making this for lunch today I didn’t remember until the very end that my immersion blender was broken. I ended up transferring the soup to the food processor to puree it which made me realize how much I LOVE my immersion blender. If you don’t have one of these and you find yourself making a lot of stove-top soups and sauces I highly recommend getting one. It makes your life so much easier! Doing it in the food processor or in the blender works fine though, just make sure that you’re careful as the hot liquid can splash around and make a mess – especially if you overfill the basin.

For the grilled cheese sticks I think using a combination of cheeses is the best way to go, but use whatever you have around. For mine I used a mix of sharp white cheddar, a colby-swiss blend, and mozzarella. The sharp cheddar gives it a nice pungent flavor while the other cheeses give an ooey gooey melty consistency. I used a total of 5 ounces so it would be a little under a serving of cheese per person – another area where I was trying to skim off a few calories. The bread I used was a white Italian bread with a subtle open crumb. The shallow holes end up creating yummy cheesy pockets of awesomeness, and in some cases the cheese oozed through and browned a little on the bottom when grilling – perfect.

Rosemary Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Fries

Rosemary Tomato Soup
Serves 6
Warm, comforting tomato soup infused with the scent of fresh rosemary.
Print
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
35 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
35 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 teaspoon olive oil
  2. 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  3. 1 cup grated carrots
  4. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  6. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  7. 5 cups vegetable stock
  8. 1 31.5 ounce can whole peeled tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
  9. 1 bay leaf
  10. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  11. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  12. Salt, to taste (use more or less depending on the sodium content of your stock – I didn’t need any extra salt for mine)
  13. 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Instructions
  1. Heat olive oil in soup pan on medium high heat. When hot add onions, carrots, garlic, rosemary, and the 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Let cook for several minutes until the onions are just slightly caramelized.
  2. Pour stock into the pan, making sure to stir well to get all of the caramelized bits off of the bottom. Add entire can of tomatoes, bay leaf, and additional seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Remove bay leaf and rosemary sprig from the soup. It’s ok if any rosemary leaves fell off while cooking, as they will be blended in when you puree the soup. Turn off the heat.
  4. Using either an immersion blender or food processor, puree soup to desired consistency.
  5. Transfer back to pot stir in the heavy cream. Serve immediately.
Calories
  1. 79
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Grilled Cheese "Fries"
Serves 6
Fun twist on traditional grilled cheese – perfect for soup dunking!
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
5 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 5 ounces shredded cheese (I used a blend of sharp white cheddar, colby-swiss, and mozzarella)
  2. 6 slices of good bread
  3. 2 tablespoons butter, melted
Instructions
  1. Preheat a skillet on medium high heat and turn on your oven’s broiler.
  2. Brush each slice of bread with the melted butter on one side. I had a little extra butter leftover and just poured it into my soup pot – yum!
  3. Place your bread, butter-side down, onto your hot skillet. Put shredded cheese on top and allow it to get nice and seared on the bottom.
  4. Transfer the bread slices to your oven to brown the cheese. It happens pretty quickly so take care not to let it burn.
  5. Put cheese bread on cutting board and let cool a couple of minutes before slicing into sticks. Top with fresh black pepper.
Calories
  1. 191
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/

Rosemary Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese Fries


Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Slaw

   

I feel like I’m a bit overdue for a “healthy” post, especially since I consider healthy eating to be an important part of my life. Don’t get me wrong… I still love a raunchy slice of floppy, foldable cheese pizza or a piece of decadent chocolate mousse cake, but I try to consume those things in moderation by limiting them to the weekends. On weeknights I put more effort into restricting my calories and minding my intake of fat, carbs, protein, fiber, etc. I suppose one thing that is funny about this post is that this slaw was made as part of a labor day meal which consisted of spicy vegetarian sausages stuffed into hoagie rolls with tomato sauce and melted cheese and a side of cheddar dill mashed potatoes. Aaaand I didn’t even eat the slaw. Is it ok for me to admit that? I actually don’t like cole slaw at all, but that doesn’t stop me from making it for the people that do. I relied on my boyfriend and best friend to tell me whether or not this was a worthy Gouda Monster recipe and they both agreed it was a winner. Jah even whipped up another batch for himself one night and enjoyed it just as much the second time.

 

Sweet 'n' Spicy Slaw

I used Veganaise when preparing this but you could certainly use any mayo that you prefer. Opting for a light mayonnaise will drop the calories to around 80 per serving. Of course you can always adjust the amount of heat by cutting back on the hot sauce. The creaminess of the mayo along with the sweetness of the carrots and apples cuts through some of the harshness of the spice, but people have vastly different tolerance levels for that sort of thing. If you’re concerned about it I would recommend adding the hot sauce little by little as it is always easy to add more, but once it’s in there you can’t take it out. Another substitution that would probably work fine is the use of cabbage in place of the baby bok choy. I opted for bok choy mostly because of its small size. We don’t use a lot of cabbage around here and I knew there would be a lot leftover that goes to waste. With the baby bok choy I was able to cut up almost the entire thing for the slaw and not worry about having anything leftover to wilt away in the fridge. Whatever you decide to do you’ll only be out about 10 minutes of your time for this super easy side.

Sweet 'n' Spicy Slaw

Sweet 'n' Spicy Slaw
Serves 4
A crisp slaw of carrots, green apple, and boy choy with a little bit of kick.
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Prep Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 granny smith apple, cut into matchsticks
  2. 1 cup shredded carrots
  3. 1 baby bok choy, julienned (I only used about 3/4 of it, leaving out the greenest part of the leaves so they wouldn’t get soggy)
  4. Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  5. 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  6. 1 teaspoon English mustard
  7. 1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
  8. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  9. 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  10. 1 teaspoon paprika
  11. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  12. 1/4 teaspoon salt
  13. 4 tablespoons Veganaise (or other mayo of choice)
Instructions
  1. Whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing (everything but the veggies and apple) until creamy and smooth.
  2. Fold the carrots, bok choy, and granny smith apple into the dressing until well coated.
Calories
  1. 136
Gouda Monster http://www.goudamonster.com/

Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Slaw


Vegan “Beef” Stew w/ Dark Truth Stout

   

Even though I’m not a vegan myself, I have a handful of friends who are. It’s pretty tempting for me to want to put cheese in just about every entree I make (and let’s face it – I did eat this with rosemary cheese toast), but I make quite a few dishes that would be vegan without my usual cheese garnish or spoonful of cream at the end. As it stands I rarely keep regular milk in the fridge so most of my recipes use unsweetened almond milk. The same goes for eggs – aside from the Baked NYC Brownies I made, pretty much every dessert you’ll find on this blog is egg-free. When I met Jah he didn’t eat anything with eggs in it so I got into the habit of cooking that way. Even though his dietary restrictions have changed over time, those habits have stuck. And hey – that means I get to eat globs of raw cookie dough without worrying about salmonella. That’s a huge win for me!

Last night I knew I wanted to whip together something delicious and vegan, and I started toying around with the idea of recreating a traditional comfort food meal that some people might get a little homesick for after giving up meat for years. I remembered I used to love eating pot roast that had been stewing away in the slow cooker all day with onions, potatoes, and carrots. In particular that rich thick stock was like liquid gold to me. The more I thought about it the more I knew I wanted to give that style of recipe a tasty vegan makeover, but with a unique twist to make it more my own. Originally I thought I would use a red wine in the base (which I still think would be excellent if you want to sub it in) but eventually settled on using Guinness. At the time, seeing as I’m not a beer drinker, I had no idea that Guinness wasn’t vegan… or even vegetarian. With the help of barnivore.com I tracked down Dark Truth Stout, which uses seaweed instead of fish in their processing so it’s totally vegan.

 

I had a package of vegan friendly beef strips from Trader Joe’s in the fridge that I had been eager to try. They provide a bit of added protein and texture to the stew but they don’t pack a lot of flavor on their own. For this reason I think that you could probably leave it out and still have a great meal on your hands. I know that in some areas meat alternatives are difficult to come by. The caramelized garlic and onions simmered down with chunks of root vegetables and fresh rosemary is hard to beat. In the end I felt like this stew was a huge success. It captured the comforting feeling I was going for while having that little something extra from the stout. So here is the first major shout-out to my vegan peeps! Enjoy!

Vegan "Beef" Stew w/ Dark Truth Stout
Serves 4
A hearty, comforting stew with a slight edge from the addition of stout.
Print
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup pearl onions, peeled
  2. 7-8 garlic cloves, sliced
  3. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  4. 1 teaspoon sugar
  5. 1 teaspoon Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (soy sauce or tamari if you don’t have it)
  6. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  7. 1 container Trade Joe’s Beef-less Strips
  8. 4oz shiitake mushrooms (stems removed and torn into bite-sized pieces)
  9. 1 bottle Dark Truth Stout
  10. 3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  11. 3 cups potatoes, cubed (I used a mix of yukon gold and purple potatoes)
  12. 2 stalks celery, sliced
  13. 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  14. 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
  15. 2 teaspoons fresh black pepper
  16. 1 bay leaf
  17. 6 cups vegan stock (I used a combination of “Not-Beef” bouillon and a mushroom stock)
  18. 2 tablespoons corn starch (dissolved in a small amount of water)
Instructions
  1. In a large skillet heat your olive oil and add the pearl onions, garlic, sugar, and salt. Cover and allow to cook for 7-8 minutes. Deglaze the pan with a couple of tablespoons of the stout and let cook over medium heat while you prepare the next part.
  2. On a different burner fill a pot with your stock, remaining vegetables (non the shiitakes), tomato paste, rosemary, bay leaf, black pepper, and corn starch. Turn heat to medium high and allow to come to a simmer.
  3. The onions and garlic should be caramelizing pretty nicely at this point, so go ahead and add in your Bragg’s, the beef-less strips, and your mushrooms. If things are sticking to the bottom of the pan just deglaze again with a little more stout. Stir well and cover for 5-7 minutes.
  4. When your stew pot is boiling dump in everything from the skillet along with the remaining stout from the bottle. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Uncover and simmer for another 20.
Calories
  1. 392
Notes
  1. The stout introduces a strong flavor to this hearty soup. If you have any reservations you can try reducing the amount to 1/2 a bottle.
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