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.
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?
Growing up, I was not a fan of corn on the cob. I didn’t despise it, but I just didn’t really get what was so special about it. It seemed as though everyone ate it on a daily basis in the summer.
Fast forward to now, and all of a sudden I like corn on the cob – and enjoy cutting it off the cob and throwing it into recipes even more. My husband, on the other hand, thinks that corn should only be eaten on the cob. But when it comes to persuading him to like foods, I tend to be pretty persistent. He was once a bean hater, and now I hardly ever hear a complaint when I throw chickpeas in our salads. In fact, he now voluntarily orders lentil soup sometimes. Point of the matter is, I’m not giving up on throwing corn into recipes just yet my friends!
So when I came across a recipe in the July/August issue of Fitness for a summer lasagna with corn relish, I immediately ripped the page out of the magazine. I changed around some of the ingredients and steps, but the main concept of their recipe remained: a summery lasagna, no oven required.
With its seasonal produce and hints of basil and lemon, this sauceless lasagna just screams summer. I layered cooked and cooled lasagna noodles with sautéed zucchini, bell pepper, corn, and a super yummy ricotta/mozzarella mixture:
Cook lasagna noodles al dente according to directions.
Meanwhile, mince garlic, slice zucchini into thin rounds and cut bell pepper into thin strips. Warm 1 TBSP olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add zucchini and bell pepper, and cook until slightly tender.
Cut corn off the cob, and add the kernels to the veggie pan. Season with ¼ TSP of salt and pepper. Allow it to cook about another 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
Once noodles are done cooking, drain, brush with 1 TSP of olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet to cool.
In a medium bowl, combine ricotta, mozzarella, lemon zest, lemon juice, basil and remaining ¼ TSP salt. Mix together well.
Cut lasagna noodles in half. On a large plate, place 4 noodle halves. Spread 2 TBSP of ricotta mixture on each. Add a layer of veggies (I added zucchini, bell pepper, and corn in a layer on their own separately, then did a mixture of all 3 at the top). Repeat the layering of noodles, cheese, and veggies 3x more.
1.) My parents and 2 of my siblings are flying in to visit me tomorrow! The last time I saw them was in February when I was in Jersey for a few weeks because my grandma was sick and in the hospital. I’m really looking forward to seeing them under happier circumstances and to show them around my new Bay Area home.
2.) It’s only Tuesday night and my work week is pretty much over already. I’m sure I’ll be taking care of a couple of things here and there (because that inevitably happens when you work from home), but I’m pretty much done with work until next Monday and am looking forward to a nice lonnggg 4th of July weekend with my hubby and family!
Moving on to today’s recipe, let’s talk pizza. In the Northeast, you can get some pretty damn good pizza. Growing up in New Jersey, “grabbing a slice” is something that was done often. One of my favorite types of pies at this one pizzeria nearby was baked ziti pizza. That’s right, pasta on top of dough with cheese and sauce = one carbolicious, scrumptious bite to eat. I can’t remember the last time I ate it, and when this little tidbit dawned on me last week, I knew I had to do something to change that. Hey, last week I talked a lot about doing a cleanse, so today I’m talking about pasta pizza to balance things out a bit. 😉 Besides, you know I healthified (making that word up – I’m aware) it a bit by using whole wheat dough & pasta and adding spinach!
10 oz mozzarella, grated or cubed (I did half and half)
7 oz short shaped pasta, preferably whole wheat - ziti, penne, rigatoni, etc. (I used a mix of two kinds to use up the end of 2 boxes)
2 TBSP shredded parmesan cheese
¼ TSP dried oregano
About 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 medium vine ripe tomatoes, chopped
1- 1½ cups marinara sauce (use more if you like it saucy)
2 large handfuls of spinach
[Whole wheat] flour for rolling dough out
Salt & pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions.
Meanwhile, roll out dough on a flour dusted surface using a flour dusted rolling pin. Place on a pizza pan.
Preheat oven to 375.
Once pasta is done cooking, drain while also wilting spinach: Place the spinach in a pasta bowl or on a plate, then allow hot pasta water to drain through the strainer and onto the spinach, instantly wilting it.
Return pasta to the pot, then mix in the marinara sauce, wilted spinach, tomato and ½ of the mozzarella (I used the shredded cheese for this part). Spread over pizza dough.
Add the rest of the mozzarella cheese, sprinkle the parmesan on top, and season with oregano, chopped basil, salt & pepper.
Cook the pizza in the oven until the dough is lightly browned and the cheese is bubbly, around 15 minutes.
Allow to cool slightly, then cut into 8 slices. Enjoy!
Boy does it feel like summertime here in the Bay Area!
Today was a toasty 90 degrees… and I’m a little afraid for how hot it might be the actual summer. I’m just not made for hot weather! One of the reasons why I was crazy about San Diego was the usual 75 degree weather – ideal in my opinion – but I’ll stop being a baby and find a way to deal with whatever heat comes my way this upcoming season. 😉
Earlier today I went to the Coyote Valley Family Farm Feast, an event that showcased locally grown food prepared by top chefs in the area. There were some really tasty food options offered, and I enjoyed two of the plates: a fava bean & radish salad, along with beet + goat cheese crostini. Both were awesome!
Having attended an event with such a wonderful theme of highlighting the connections between healthy land and preserving local farms with thriving communities, I was inspired in the kitchen while making tonight’s dinner.
Using fresh basil from my little plant, and onion, zucchini, and tomatoes I just picked up a nearby farmers market, I whipped up a tasty rigatoni dish with ricotta and bread crumbs that my hubby and I enjoyed on our patio with glasses of chilled, buttery chardonnay.
Last Christmas, my hubby gave me a book of classic Italian recipes as a stocking stuffer. In it there are some quintessential meat-free Italian recipes included. I started flipping through it yesterday after having dreams that he and I were on a vacation in Italy (I think that’s a sign that we should really go there soon!), and a recipe for pasta caprese caught my eye.
I’ve made caprese in many forms and fashions — as the classic salad, a chopped heirloom salad, a panini, risotto dish, and yes, as a pasta meal. I love the simplicity of it: some good olive oil, tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil, salt, pepper, and sometimes balsamic vinegar. It never fails as a great combo, especially in warm weather. But this book had a tip noted in there that I’ve never done before: freezing the mozzarella for just about 10 minutes so that it doesn’t melt (or as they say, turn into bubble gum) when you mix it in with the hot pasta. I was curious about this trick, and I simply had to give it a try.
I followed their recipe and only made one exception: I added balsamic vinegar to the tomato mixture for an extra kick. I felt that wine was a necessity to this meal, so I paired a glass of California Riesling with dinner to compliment the dish.
Last week as I was flipping through my cookbooks looking for some inspiration while meal planning, I came across a recipe in my Essential Vegetarian book that caught my eye. It was a recipe for fettuccine with creamy mushroom and bean sauce. I decided to use whole wheat pasta shells and altered some of the ingredients, and the meal came out pretty delicious if I do say so myself!
Creamy Pasta Shells with Mushrooms, Green Beans & Pine Nuts
Author: Foodie Loves Fitness, Adapted from the Essential Vegetarian cookbook
12 oz [whole wheat] small pasta shells
1 TBSP olive oil
¼ onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large portobello mushroom cap, thinly sliced
½ cup white wine
1 cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup vegetable stock
6 oz green beans, trimmed and thinly sliced diagonally
3 TBSP chopped fresh basil
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, cut into strips
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
¼ cup grated pecorino romano
Salt & pepper to taste
Cook the pasta according to directions. Drain and return to the pot.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened. Add the portobello slices and string beans and cook for about 5 minutes or until the veggies are slightly tender, stirring often.
Pour in the white wine, veggie stock and cream. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Mix the sauce in with the pasta. Add basil, pine nuts, grated cheese, and sun-dried tomato slices and toss to combine well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.