Every Easter when I was growing up – and really, almost every other holiday – my family would go over to my grandma’s for a big family get together. I’ve talked about my amazing grandma before, but she loved to cook for everyone – and she pretty much always overdid it with how much food she made.
There would be a ridiculous amount of dishes for everyone to enjoy. From a giant antipasto salad and homemade breads, to a gigantic spread for the main course, to probably half a dozen desserts, complete with her annual bunny-shaped Easter cake, my grandma always spent days preparing. She also always made me eggplant parmigiana because I loved it (and later on, I developed an allergy to it, probably from eating it too much!).
One type of dish that my grandma made for holidays was a simple pasta. It was usually designated as a go-to for the picky eater kids in my family, but everyone typically wound up scooping some onto their plates. She would often make a cavatelli pasta with just a homemade tomato sauce. It was maybe her most simple dish, but we all ate it every time.
Today, in honor of the upcoming holiday and my grandma, who we lost just about three years ago and I miss so damn much, I wanted to share an easy pasta dish. This one comes together in 30 minutes or less, and the stars of the sauce are heirloom cherry tomatoes and wild arugula.
So, last week was probably the first full week that I did not post on this little corner of the internet of mine since I started this blog. Trust me, it wasn’t by choice!
I was pretty much in technology hell all week. My beloved computer had been running really slow, and I was troubleshooting and running back and forth to the Apple Store like my life depended on it – because well, it kind of does. I work on my computer every single day and depend on it as a publicist, blogger, freelance writer and health coach. So, you can imagine that I have a lot of stuff on this computer of mine!
To make a long story short, the good news is that my computer was salvaged and is now working fast. But what’s the bad news? Apple restored my computer without consulting me first, and wiped out many of my photos that I saved only on my computer + an external hard drive that randomly stopped working last week. And since my computer was running so poorly, I wasn’t able to successfully back up my photos. Believe me, I tried.
So yea, I’m majorly bummed about the photos being lost. I keep thinking of my travel photos, wedding shots, and captured family memories that I’ll probably never get to see again.
(Yes, my photos are now set up to automatically go to “the cloud” every day so that this never happens again.)
But on the bright side, I can recover some of them by looking at my past posts and social media, and saving them back one by one. Luckily I’ve posted a ton of photos on this blog of mine! And, I can resume working on my computer and it not take me 4x as long to do things. I know this sounds like such a first world problem, but with how much I rely on my Mac, the whole situation was very stressful. I’m thankful for yoga, baking and my bike trainer for keeping me sane when I wanted to rip my hair out!
So that’s that, but let’s get to the good stuff today… aka pasta.
Today’s recipe is one that I’ve been making for years. I first started making this dish after I had a craving for fettuccine alfredo, but when I ordered it out at a restaurant and ate half of the dish, I left feeling too full and kind of sick. That’s the thing about consistently eating healthy & light: When you eat heavier food once in awhile, your body does not like it! So, I did what any good food blogger would do: I came up with a lightened up recipe that leaves me feeling satisfied but not stuffed.
Throughout the entire year, but especially during the holiday season, one of my main diet principles is portion control. So many people ban certain foods from their lives, only to “fall off the wagon” and binge when their willpower wanes. I promote the idea of balanced eating and moderation because it is what works in the long haul!
Take pasta for example. Do I eat it daily? No. But do I eat it when I’m in a carb-y pasta mood around every couple of weeks? Hell yea! I just never eat a huge bowl of it (well, unless I’m in Italy…) and I try to sneak some veggies into my pasta dishes to make them heartier and more nutritious.
I recently came up with this idea of making ramekin macaroni & cheese – because ramekins are perfect for built-in portion control.
I added a few of my favorite autumn veggies into the mix with this mac & cheese: baby kale, zucchini and yellow squash.
I’m excited because tomorrow I head up to Manhattan Beach for ShiftCon – a social media conference focusing on wellness, health, and the environment. There are so many sessions that seem so interesting and fun that I’m looking forward to, and it’s always great to connect with other bloggers and people in the healthy food industry! I’m sure I’ll be recapping all of the fun for you next week, but today, let’s talk about this deliciousness:
The idea for roasted tomato & ricotta pesto stuffed shells first came to mind when I bought a bag of locally grown beautiful heirloom cherry tomatoes. There’s just something about those vibrant colors that makes me want to get all creative with the meal I use the tomatoes for.
I roasted them with just a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper, and stuffed the shells with spoonfuls of glorious soft mini tomatoes. Now for the other part of the shell filling…
I’ve been wanting to do a fun take on pesto for awhile now. The idea was born out of the fact that many times when I order a dish with pesto at a restaurant, it’s too much. Too garlicky, too oily, too thick…. and not easy on my belly! This pesto, on the other hand, is more mild – not as pungent as typical pesto.
Happy 4th of July weekend to all of my fellow Americans! I am certainly looking forward to a 3-day holiday weekend. Whose got fun plans for the 4th? I’ve got a beach yoga class and hanging out at a friend’s house on the agenda, and I’m hoping to catch some fireworks on Saturday night.
Today I’m sharing a new recipe that will probably become a go-to dinner in my kitchen. Packed with veggies and flavor, it’s a healthy meal that revolves around my recent favorite kitchen gadget: my spiralizer!
I’ve seriously been a spiralizing maniac. My hubby and I have eaten zoodles so often in the last few months, he’s started joking around and putting the letter ‘z’ in words where it shouldn’t be.
For instance, we started saying ‘zauce’ instead of tomato sauce.
He told me I created a ‘zess’ after I made quite a mess making this meal. Get it, a zoodle mess?!
We also said I should start calling it a ‘zoodlizer’ instead of spiralizer because I have only been putting zucchini in my new favorite gadget lately. Note to self: Branch out and get more creative with my spiralizing ASAP.
But for right now, zoodles are my love. Speaking of things I love, a flavorful tomato sauce is on my list of things I’m forever obsessed with. I like to make my tomato sauce zoodle dishes really saucy so that I can dip pieces of fresh bread in, but you can conserve some of the tomato sauce for another occasion if you aren’t quite as obsessed with it as I am (no hard feelings).
Good old St. Paddy’s Day is tomorrow, and while I didn’t make any Irish soda bread last weekend or have a blast celebrating at any parades, I wanted to share a green recipe in honor of the holiday.
My heritage is part Irish, and I have lots of St. Paddy’s Day memories: my family getting together at my grandma’s house (who was Italian, but loved any excuse to celebrate!) for corned beef & cabbage (hold the corned beef for me), potatoes and Irish soda bread; and day drinking at many Irish parades in Jersey as a college kid.
Celebrating with my college roommates Marla & Meaghan
I kind of would like to be wearing green shamrock stickers on my face and day drinking with my girlfriends right about now actually, but any who… here’s a fun little holiday tidbit: The color green being associated with Ireland dates back to at least the 1600s.
A sign I saw at an Irish bar in Italy
And speaking of green… helloooo pesto – a veggie-packed, vegan pesto pasta dish to be precise.
Saturday was one of those days when I was all about checking things off my to-do list.
Finish schoolwork. Check. Vaccum. Check. Dust. Check. Do laundry. Check. Fold laundry. Check. Clean bathrooms. Check. Walk the pup. Check. Do an at-home workout. Check. Purchase a car dog seat cover so that my pooch doesn’t ruin my car. Check.
When Saturday evening rolled around, I decided that it was a nicely productive around-the-house day, and now it was time for some weekend fun. My hubby and I had plans to go to a luxury movie theater with another couple, but first, it was time to check this off my mental checklist: Make an awesome dinner using the farmer’s market pasta sitting in my cabinet.
The week before I had met a girlfriend for a smoothie date, and afterwards we walked around the Carlsbad Farmer’s Market.
I went home with some fun finds, including zucchini blossoms (more on those to come!), big delicious apples, yellow zucchini and said roasted garlic linguine pasta. I’m a sucker for some good pasta, and couldn’t resist nabbing a package to try – especially since I hadn’t come up with a good pasta recipe in awhile. The result was this bright and beautiful looking dish, if I do say so myself…. 😉
This lovely Friday marks what would have been my grandma’s 80th birthday.
Before last month, I had never lost a person I was really close with. On one hand, I feel blessed to have lived nearly 27 years before experiencing the loss of a person that was so dear to my heart. I’m grateful that when I did lose a person so important to my life, it was one who had led a pretty long, happy life.
With my sister, mom, grandma, cousin, and aunt years ago
But on the other hand, it still hasn’t been easy by any stretch. As anyone whose lost someone close to them can probably relate, I think it may be the worst feeling in the world to have this aching that can never be satisfied, a hole in your heart because someone you loved has passed away. You wish you could talk to them and just hear their voice again.
My grandma on her wedding day 58 years ago
I look for signs of her everywhere, and I try to fill that gap I feel by remembering all of her unique quirks and sayings, and all of our funny conversations and memories over the years. One thing I recently thought of was her comments about my being a vegetarian in the first several years of me nixing meat from my diet. She, an avid cook who showed her love with food, would say to me, “How are you going to find a boyfriend if you don’t eat meat? What would you cook for him? What will you eat on dinner dates, a salad?”
What can I say, as progressive as my grandma was in some ways, she was traditional in others. And her Italian ancestry and Brooklyn –> New Jersey roots dictated diet to include animal meat. I think it might have been said out of genuine concern… or perhaps frustration at my refusing her chicken cacciatore. The funny thing about it is that I went on to become (as you all know) a food lover and passionate meal creator, and found a guy who loves my cooking, despite the fact that not one meal has contained meat.
After I created this blog, my grandma would often call me to discuss my recipe posts. She would talk about how everything looked delicious, and gush about how talented she thought I was, as only a grandma does. One time, I brought up her pestering me about my vegetarianism and asked her what she thought now.
She laughed her classic little chuckle and said, “I was wrong. You found a great guy and your food always looks so delicious!”
With my parents and grandma at my college graduation
And so, I thought it’d be nice to post a recipe today that reminds me of her. My grandma loved bolognese sauce. That would often be her choice when we dined out at Italian restaurants, and so it seems fitting to post a Foodie Loves Fitness veggie version of the Italian classic.
I used Lightlife veggie protein crumbles as the “meat” in the bolognese sauce, and I picked up egg pappardelle pasta at Trader Joe’s for the dish. I’m not a big egg eater and I never eat them on their own, but once in awhile I enjoy something that contains eggs, like a quiche or these egg noodles.
The calories per serving is a bit higher than I typically like for dinner (650 cal), but whew, this dish packs quite the protein (47 g!) and fiber (18 g!) punch while being low in fat (7 g per serving) and providing lots of yummy carbs.
Happy March! Doesn’t it feel like February just flew by?
Since I began trying out a gluten free diet (a discussion on my experience with going gluten free to come soon!), I’ve tried a bunch of different GF pastas. I know that some people feel ehh about pasta and can take it or leave it, but I am not one of those people. Two of the GF pasta brands that I’ve liked thus far are Tinkyada and TruRoots. I don’t care for that overly corn-y taste to some of the gluten free pastas, and these two brands are on-point with offering a similar tasting pasta alternative to the real, gluten-filled kind.
My carb-loving self enjoys whipping up healthy, yummy pasta dishes, and I didn’t want to be completely missing my pasta fill just because I’m experimenting with a gluten free diet.
For this dinner, I used TruRoots Ancient Grains fusilli – a whole grain, high fiber pasta made of quinoa, amaranth and brown rice. The pasta’s made in Italy, which sparked an idea to make it a Mediterranean themed dish.
Grains, roasted red peppers, cherry tomatoes, artichoke hearts, baby spinach, lemon, extra virgin olive oil, ricotta…doesn’t this seem like something you’d eat while staring out at a sea of blue water from the coast of Greece while drinking a glass of vino?
Hopefully I’ll get the chance to do just that one day, but for the moment, eating this pasta dish in my kitchen will have to do.
Oh, and might I also add that I just love ricotta?
Sometimes I’ll come up with a recipe, jot down my ingredient ideas, easily throw it together, and it’ll turn out awesome. Other times a recipe will sound delicious in theory, but not turn out as great as I’d hoped for. When that happens, I either completely throw out the idea and call it a kitchen experiment defeat, or I keep thinking about how I can change the recipe to make it better. This week has been a case of the latter.
When I bought a butternut squash recently and was trying to think of what to make with it, my hubby was the one who suggested ravioli. I took his good idea and ran with it, coming up with a meal idea of butternut squash, sage & parmesan ravioli with a buttery white wine hazelnut sauce.
Though it wasn’t bad, I just wasn’t crazy about the dish. The sauce was kind of overpowering, and I realized that I definitely prefer a buttery chardonnay over a buttery sauce.
I didn’t want to give up on this recipe though, and a couple days later, the idea came to me to make the ravioli topped with a sage pesto instead.
This time I tried cooking the ravioli in white cooking wine instead of safflower oil as I usually do with homemade ravioli. The difference is that the ravioli came out softer and more classic ravioli-like, but I had to watch them closely to make sure they didn’t burn or stick together. When sautéed in oil, they’re more like toasted ravioli. Personally I like them both ways.
You can also boil the prepped ravioli in a pot of water as you would with packaged ravioli, but personally I don’t trust my wonton folding & sealing abilities all that much and feel that the filling would wind up seeping out into the water. Maybe one day I’ll test that theory out.
As I ate the dish I thought Ah ha!This is more like it.
It turns out that the second time’s a charm with my butternut squash ravioli creation.
One thing to note: I think a small amount of pesto perfectly compliments the ravioli, but if you prefer your ravioli with a lot of sauce, go ahead and double the amount of pesto ingredients included in my recipe.
Combine butternut squash, ¼ cup of the parmesan, mozzarella, onion, ⅛ TSP pepper and ¼ TSP salt in a food processor, and pulse until mostly smooth. Transfer to a bowl.
Spoon a small spoonful onto the center of a won ton wrap. Fold the won ton in half, then dip fingers into a bowl of warm water, using them to seal the wrap. Pinch the corners, and fold them over if you'd like. Repeat until all of the squash mixture is used and all won tons are filled.
Warm 2 TBSP of white cooking wine in a large saucepan over medium low heat. Add half of the ravioli to the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, carefully monitoring the amount of moisture in the pan. You may need to add a bit of cooking wine to the pan when you flip the ravioli over. Once done, transfer ravioli to a large pasta bowl or plate. Repeat this process with the second half of the ravioli.
To make the pesto, combine the sage leaves, olive oil, pine nuts, lemon juice, remaining 2 TBSP of parmesan, and ⅛ TSP pepper in a food processor. Pulse until well combined, then spoon over cooked ravioli. Serve dish immediately.
*You can double the pesto recipe if you prefer a saucier ravioli topping.*