A Pasta Alternative

Here are some of my thoughts on the train ride home one evening from work…

“What should I make for dinner?”

“We don’t really have anything fresh at home, should I go to the grocery store?”

“Which grocery store is the most convenient and on the way?”

“Nah, I don’t really want to make an extra stop.”

“I think I have some sweet potatoes and a couple of pork chops in the fridge… Maybe I can make pasta out of the sweet potato, similar to zucchini?  Would that work??”

As I got off the train, I sped walked to my car, rushed home (don’t worry, I stayed within the speed limit), walked into the house and started on dinner right away.  I had a mission and I was excited to try it!

Well, needless to say, sweet potato gets two thumbs up as a pasta alternative in my book!  It’s great to just eat on its own since it’s already so flavorful.  No need to add tomato sauce or any other sauce, but that’s my personal preference.

Sweet Potato “Pasta”

Serves 2

  • 2 medium sized sweet potatoes, skin removed
  • 1 tablespoon coconut butter
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  1. Using a mandoline, select the appropriate julienne blade insert.  You want the strips to be thin, but not too thin and flimsy.  Julienne both sweet potatoes, set aside.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, add coconut butter.
  3. Add julienned sweet potatoes and saute for 5 minutes, or until tender.
  4. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
  5. Serve with a protein of your choice.  I did grilled pork chops topped with a runny egg.

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Ziggy also wants to say hello!!! 🙂

 

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Fresh Pasta for the Soul

Weekends filled with yoga time and shopping (at the mall and the grocery store) are the best. I took advantage of the last day of tax-free shopping on Saturday and spent Sunday with family and time in the kitchen.

A couple of weeks ago, while vacationing on Vieques Island, my sisters and I had a strong craving for pasta. Don’t get me wrong – the meals we had were quite delicious (mahi mahi, conch, paella…), but we were all craving a nice, big bowl of pasta with a hearty meat sauce.  I think it was from some commercial we saw on TV.

I made some Barilla pasta when we got home, but it didn’t really hit the spot. *Enter lightbulb moment* How about some fresh pasta instead??

And so, I made some fresh pappardelle pasta with a delicious meat sauce. The pasta was quite difficult to make since I don’t have a pasta maker. Lots of rolling and use of my strong muscles!

Fresh Pasta (Courtesy of Mario Batali)

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups of flour
  • 4 eggs
  1. Place the flour in a mound on a flat surface – it can be a clean countertop, a cutting board, etc.  Make a little well in the middle for the eggs.
  2. Crack the eggs in the middle of the flour mound.  Start kneading ingredients together with your hands.
  3. Continue to knead until the flour and the eggs are fully mixed.
  4. Roll into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap, and set aside for 20 minutes at room temperature.
  5. Roll and form as desired.IMG_5688

 

Meat Sauce

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 can of peeled plum shaped tomatoes
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, diced
  • 1 lb, 85/15 ground beef
  • 4 basil leaves, chopped (extra for garnish)
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper
  1. In a large pot over medium heat, drizzle olive oil.  Add garlic and onions and saute for a few minutes.
  2. Add ground beef and saute until cooked through.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add tomatoes and carrots to the mixture.  Mix throughly.  Set on low to simmer for approximately 20 minutes.
  4. Add basil leaves and any additional seasonings.
  5. Serve over pasta.

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Happy (Meatless) Monday!

Another wonderful meal made out of just vegetables.  I love the layering technique since you are able to jam so many flavors into one little bite.  I also included a lot of ingredients because I was skeptical about the kale.  I’ve been trying to get into it and am not a fan of raw kale.  Cooked, however, tastes divine!  Saute it with some olive oil, garlic, and onions, and this is easily one of my new favorite vegetables!

I’ve also been working on my plating skills.  I’m not professional, but I try to have fun with it!

Vegetable Tower

  • 4 slices of eggplant
  • 2 oz. kale, chopped
  • 1 roasted red pepper, chopped
  • 2 oz. sundried tomatoes
  • 2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled (can forego this to make it Paleo or Vegan friendly)
  • 1 basil leaf, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  1. In a medium sized pan over medium heat, drizzle olive oil. Place eggplant on pan and cook each side for 4 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
  2. In the same pan, drizzle olive oil, add garlic and onions. Add in kale.  Saute for 5 minutes or until kale is cooked through.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Place one slice of eggplant on the plate, then a layer of kale, roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, and goat cheese.  Repeat until all ingredients are used up.  Top with chopped basil.

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“Ice Cream” for One

91 degrees today.  Humid.  Hot.  Sweaty.  Need to cool off.  Started out the day with a green smoothie and ended the day with delicious almond butter “ice cream”.  The Nutribullet comes to the rescue again.  I can’t believe this delicious treat consists of only 3 wonderful ingredients.  So easy and very satisfying after tonight’s gym class.

Almond Butter “Ice Cream”

Serves 1

  • 1 banana, cut into 1″ pieces, frozen
  • 1 tablespoon, almond butter (or any nut butter of your choice)
  • 2 oz. almond milk

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  1. Place all ingredients into Nutribullet.  Blend until you achieve a smooth, creamy consistency.
  2. Enjoy!  I suppose you can place in an airtight container and freeze for a later date, but why wouldn’t you want to consume ALL OF THIS right now?!

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Another Tribute to Meatless Mondays

Vegetables are amazing.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my meat, but sometimes a vegetarian meal can be so satisfying.  Here’s another tribute to meatless Mondays…

Zucchini Pasta with Tomato Sauce and Mushrooms

Serves 2

  • 2 medium sized zucchini, julienned into “pasta”
  • 6 oz. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 roasted red pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 2 oz. sundried tomatoes
  • 6 oz. marinara sauce (I used Rao’s)
  • 4 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  1. In a large skillet, over medium heat, drizzle olive oil and saute half the garlic and half the onions.  Saute for 3-5 minutes until golden in color.
  2. Add mushrooms.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes, or until cooked through.  Remove garlic, onions, and mushrooms and set aside in a separate bowl.
  3. Using the same skillet, over medium heat, drizzle olive oil and add remaining garlic and onion.  Saute for 3-5 minutes.
  4. Turn to low heat.  Add zucchini pasta and saute for an additional 5 minutes.  Constantly stir the zucchini pasta to ensure it does not stick to the skillet.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  5. With the same skillet, over low heat, add roasted red peppers, sundried tomatoes, basil, and marinara sauce.  Simmer for 5-7 minutes.
  6. To plate, place the zucchini pasta first, then layer with marinara sauce, and top with sauteed mushrooms.

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An Apple a Day…

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.  Well, how about an apple, spinach, strawberries, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, pomegranate seeds, ginger, and chia seeds?  That’s right – this cup of goodness holds so many nutrients and antioxidants.  A perfect way to cool down on this beautiful summer day.

Antioxidant Smoothie

Serves 1

  • 1 gala apple, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, sliced
  • 1/4 lime, juiced
  • 4 oz. frozen berry mix (I used Target’s antioxidant blend)
  • 1 handful of baby spinach
  • 1 teaspoon chia seeds
  1. Add all ingredients into the Nutribullet cup.  Add 4 oz. of water.
  2. Blend until you reach a smooth consistency.
  3. Enjoy while relaxing in the sun! 🙂

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An Exciting Preparation of Baked Fish

Seafood is so tasty… If it wasn’t so expensive, we would be eating it every night.  It’s awesome when these salmon steaks go on sale at H-Mart for only $5.99/lb!! We buy several packs and store some in the freezer for future use.

Honey Dijon Glazed Salmon

Serves 2

  • 2 salmon steaks
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons, honey
  • 2 tablespoons, dijon mustard
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Mix all ingredients (except for salmon) in a small bowl.
  2. Brush over salmon steaks.
  3. Wrap steaks in parchment paper.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Serve with a side of vegetables (photo showcases parisian carrots and peas).

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It’s Simple – Food Should be Real

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my culinary adventures, it’s this…. Food should be real.  This is your body and the last time I checked, you only get one – so love it and treat it right by nourishing it with natural and nutritious foods.  Next time, read the label of your next boxed meal and let me know if you can explain what each and every ingredient is and how it’s produced.  When you cook with real food, the ingredients are simple.  Zucchini pasta is made out of, well, zucchini.  Mashed cauliflower is made out of cauliflower, garlic, and butter.  Bacon is meat from the side of a pig, but who knows what turkey bacon is? I could go on and on, but I think you get my point.

I stopped buying bottled salad dressing once I started to cook Paleo.  I read the label one day of my Trader Joe’s fat-free balsamic vinaigrette and was perplexed.  Vinegars (Red wine, balsamic, cider, white distilled) – fine.  Water – fine.  Xantham gum – what?? Caramel color – why?  I’ve switched to balsamic vinegar and olive oil and have never looked back.

Tonight’s dinner was a simple salad with a really easy homemade dressing.

Lemon Dijon Dressing

  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons, dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon, olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Add all ingredients into a mixing bowl.  Using a whisk, mix well.  Adjust taste to your liking (if it is too sour, add more dijon).
  2. Store in air tight container in fridge for up to one week.

 

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Oh, hey Ziggy!!!

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Another Wonderful Pasta Substitute

I’m such a sucker for Trader Joe’s marketing.  I was grocery shopping over the weekend and picked up a bag of their seafood blend in the frozen section.  Right above the price tag, in a bright neon yellow sign says, “Try it with our Arrabiata Sauce!”  Without hesitation, I grab the sauce that is so brilliantly placed right above the seafood blend and go on my merry way.  A few aisles later, I’ve tossed a bunch of other things into my cart (not on my shopping list) and end up spending way more than expected.

So, what else do I need to purchase to serve with this seafood blend and Arrabiata sauce?  Pasta, of course!!  But, how can I make this a more nutritious meal?  Zucchini pasta!  I bought this amazing julienne peeler from Home Goods for only $2.99.  It’s the perfect tool (small and easy to use) to make zucchini pasta instead of spending money on another clunky tool to add to the mix of kitchen appliances.

Tonight’s dinner features 3 main ingredients, with a few additional spices to enhance the flavors.  It does take some time to prepare, so I wouldn’t call it an easy and quick weeknight dinner, but something to try if you have ~45 mins in the kitchen!

Zucchini Pasta with Seafood & Arrabiata Sauce

Serves 2

For the zucchini pasta:

  1. Using the julienne peeler, strip the zucchini down to the seeds.  Place julienned zucchini into a large bowl.  Season with some sea salt and mix well.
  2. Prior to cooking, squeeze the zucchini pasta to get rid of the excess water.
  3. In a medium sized pot, add butter and garlic.  Saute for a few minutes.  Add zucchini pasta and cook for an additional 1-2 minutes or until cooked through.  Remove from pot and set aside.

 

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For the sauce:

  1. Using the same pot, add butter and garlic.  Saute until the garlic becomes tender.
  2. Add seafood blend and saute for an additional 5 minutes or until cooked through.
  3. Add half a jar of arrabiata sauce.  Add red pepper flakes (optional).
  4. Simmer on low for 10 minutes.
  5. Serve over zucchini pasta.

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And here’s a picture of Ziggy, chillin’!!!

 

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Food Cravings

I love food.  I love eating food.  I love cooking food.  I love talking about food.

The best thing about cooking is the freedom to experiment and try new things.  When a friend tells me about a food craving, I can not only picture it in my head, but I’m thinking about the thousands of possibilities on how to create the perfect dish that they are craving.

My little sister, Tiffany, is home for spring break, which means enjoying mom’s home cooked meals for seven days straight.  Honestly, dining hall food at her school is not THAT bad, but c’mon, at the end of the day, it’s dining hall food… chewy bacon, rubbery chicken breast, and sad attempts at stir fry and Asian cuisine.

One of the dishes that Tiff was craving was a hearty pasta dish with a creamy tomato sauce.  I’ve never made a creamy tomato sauce before, so I was excited to try something new!  I tried to keep it on the lighter side, which meant that the sauce didn’t come out as creamy and cheesy as she wanted, but she was still satisfied (or maybe she was just hungry?).  I think next time, I’ll use cream cheese instead of half and half.

Pasta with “Pink” Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. package of pasta, cooked (I used Colavita Mezzi Rigatoni)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 strips of uncured bacon, chopped
  • 28 oz. can of peeled plum shaped tomatoes, dice the tomatoes and keep the juice
  • Fresh parsley and basil, chopped
  • 1/2 cup, half and half
  • 1/4 cup, freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Follow instructions to cook pasta, drain, and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, over medium high heat, add bacon.  Saute for a few minutes, until edges turn crispy.  Add onion and garlic and saute for an additional 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add canned tomatoes and fresh herbs.  Turn heat down to low and let simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Add half and half and freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Continue to stir until sauce becomes a nice pink color.  Season with sea salt and black pepper.
  5. Toss in cooked pasta and mix well.  Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese and garnish with fresh parsley.

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