Monday, October 24, 2011

Lemony Pasta

Its like an easier version of mac and cheese.  And spring-ier.

My good friend Theresa. introduced the idea of "Fat Kid" as a lifestyle (versus being a number on a scale) when we were in college, doing our best not to be fat kids, in preparation for her upcoming wedding.  (At which we both looked great, by the way.)  Fat kid as a lifestyle means that you can be the skinniest person around (which, to be clear, I am not) but if you find joy in occasionally sitting around all day watching TV and eating food that may or may not be good for you, you are indulging in a fat-kid kind of day.  My friend Theresa, by the way was not able to be at my first baby shower because the day I was sitting around, 8 months pregnant and enjoying cupcakes and punch with friends was the day she she was completing the Ironman Triathalon.  You know, the kind where you bike a crap-load of miles, then swim a bunch more miles and round it all out with a marathon.  An actual 26.2 mile marathon.  My guess is she doesn't indulge in as many Fat Kid days as I do, but I am forever grateful to her for bringing the Fat Kid Lifestyle into my life while also showing me you can still be healthy.

When I'm having a Fat-Kid day, I could sit and eat this stuff ALL DAY LONG.  And I suppose if you use low-fat or fat free sour cream (and there are some decent ones out there these days), it really wouldn't be too bad for you.  So easy, so delicious, and its got a minimum of ingredients.  My friend Tara (another fellow Fat-Kid) showed me this recipe, and I've made it at least four times this summer.  My two year old LOVES it, and I could stand over a pot and eat it all day. 

Its essentially this exact recipe, but with extra lemon and asparagus thrown in.  You could use broccoli in a pinch, and I bet it would be delightful.  :)  Watch out for seeds while squeezing the lemon-- biting into a lemon seed you thought was garlic is a good way to ruin this dish.  Also, I've found, since you're going to bake the pasta, whole wheat or "super" pastas work well as they stand up pretty well to the oven.  While on the subject of pasta-- I really prefer this with spaghetti, but I'm a firm believer that most of the pasta shapes I have are pretty interchangeable, and really, what you're seeking here is creamy lemon goodness over carbs.  Who really cares what shape it comes in?

(And just to keep you coming back for more: since this is my summer 'mac and cheese' style dish, I'll post my "fall" mac and cheese recipe as my next posting.)

Lemony Pasta

1 pound pasta (whole wheat ROCKS for this recipe!)
1 lb asparagus, cut into bite-sized chunks
4 Tablespoons Salted Butter 
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil 
3 cloves Garlic, Minced 
2 whole Lemons, Juiced And Zested 
2 cups Sour Cream 
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt, Or More To Taste 
Plenty Of Grated Parmesan Cheese 
Flat-leaf Parsley, Chopped 
Extra Lemon Juice

Preparation Instructions 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta until 2 min before the box suggests it's "al-dente".  (EX: If the box days 9 min for al-dente, cook for 7 minutes).  In the last 30 seconds, add chunked asparagus to pasta water.  Drain pasta and asparagus and return to pot.

While the pasta is cooking, in a skillet, melt butter with olive oil over LOW HEAT. When butter is melted, add minced garlic. Squeeze the juice of 1 1/2 lemons into the pan (saving that last half a lemon for later). Turn off heat.

Add sour cream and stir mixture together. Add lemon zest and salt. Taste, then add more salt if necessary.

Pour mixture over drained pasta/asparagus and stir together, then pour this lemony goodness into an oven safe dish.

Bake, covered, for 15 minutes. Then remove foil and bake for an additional 7 to 10 minutes. (Don’t bake too long or the pasta will dry out.)

When you remove it from the oven, squeeze a little more lemon juice over the top. Top generously with Parmesan cheese, then chopped parsley (or whatever herb you happen to have-- I used cilantro, it was delicious).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Potato, Squash and Cauliflower Burritos

Day 6- The Vegetarian Challenge- "Wrapped in a Tortilla"
Sometimes after a long day, after everyone has gone to bed and I have the house to myself, I'll watch a documentary on our instant movie player.   One evening I watched Forks Over Knives, which essentially talks about two doctors who, through their individual research, have come to discover that a certain diet, namely vegan (no foods containing animal products, including eggs and milk) and cutting out processed wheat and sugar, that you can not only stop the progression of, but reverse heart disease and cancer.

And their evidence is pretty convincing, even to the scientist in me who asks a lot of questions in her head as the movie is playing.  And for me, given the family history I have with both of those diseases, it made a lot of sense.  So I went to bed, thinking, "Hey, we might be able to give this a try, even if just for a month"  And I was super hyped-up about it.

Then I woke up the next morning and gave my little Duke in Training eggs and toast with a side of yogurt for breakfast.  Not exactly as easy as I thought.  So I gave up the idea.  Because really, it was late when I watched the movie and who ISN'T easily swayed at 1am?  Isn't that when most of the worlds orders for Ginsu Knives and the Miracle Bras are placed?  Its a gullible time for everyone.

Later that day, I took my little ones to our local coffee shop so they might get out of the house and I might have some adult interaction.  I sat down on the couch and in front of me was an old issue of Vegetarian Times, that, no kidding said, "Take our 28 Day Vegetarian Challenge".  So I opened it up and I read about it, and it seemed feasible.  But then my Duke in Training started to pull stuff off the shelves, so I dropped it.

THEN, still at the coffee shop (after twenty minutes of convincing my older child not to pull stuff off the shelves) I opened up another food magazine (because I'm always perusing for new recipes) and inside the cover there was a small blurb, "Please come to our website to see our discussion with the Director of Forks Over Knives."

So that is how we decided to become vegetarians for the month of October-- God spoke to me through an old documentary and two past issues of a magazine.  And since He had chosen to speak to me through food, I figured the least I could do is try one of the recipes.

This one should really be called "Burritos that taste better than they sound".  They're yummy and flavorful and EASY!!  They don't really freeze well, (although do ok as left overs), but you could always forgo the tortilla if you're REALLY trying to be healthy and just serve it OVER brown rice for a totally wheat free option.  Both My Loving Duke and I really enjoyed them, and didn't feel like we were missing meat at all.  Even the Duke in Training was excited about them, although he really used his tortilla more like a shovel.

I used purple cauliflower because my store carries it, its the same price as white or orange, and I thought it would look prettier.  It all gets covered in red sauce, so color doesn't really matter, but it was fun anyway.  Also, there are a lot of chilies in a can of chilies in adobo sauce (which can be found in your "Hispanic/International" isle.  You only need one here, so gently pat some of the sauce off the remaining chilies, spread them out on a baking sheet and freeze them.  Once frozen, you can remove them from the baking sheet, and stick in a ziploc bag and put back in the freezer for future use

Potato, Squash and Cauliflower Burritos
Adapted from a recipe from the June 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times

1 15oz can fire roasted tomatoes
1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 tsp canola oil
12 small onion, sliced thin
1/2 tsp dried oregano
3 cups small cauliflower florets
1 potato, cubed into 1/4" cubes
2 cups butternut squash, seeded,peeled and cubed (about 1/4 butternut squash)
3 Tbs chopped cilantro
1 cup cooked brown rice, warmed
1 c Monterey Jack cheese
Flour/whole wheat flour tortillas, warmed

Preparation instructions
Pulse tomatoes (and their juice), chipotle chiles and garlic in food processor (or blender) until coarse puree forms.  Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat  Add onion and oregano, saute 2 minutes.  Add squash, saute another 2 minutes, then add potatoes, cauliflower and tomato mixture.  Cover and simmer 10 min.  Uncover and simmer 5 minutes more, or until veggies are tender.  Stir in cilantro.  Divide mixture among tortillas, top with rice and sprinkle with cheese.  Roll up tortillas, leaving one end open.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Curry, Soup and Enchiladas! Yum yum!

So much for posting every day.  I really do intend to do it more often, but we seem to be passing a cold around the Wholesome Household, and of course I got the worst of it, so I've been sleeping when I'm not chasing around two adorable munchkins.  Also, as a result of the offending virus we have not been making lots of new and exciting recipes.  We've stuck to our commitment-- we're still meat free, but I've basically been making recipes I already make, just subbing veggies.  We've had some interesting ones though:

Day 2- Sunday October 2nd
Sunday night we had delicious Thai Curry, made just like my Thai Chicken Curry, but I left out the chicken and subbed in four carrots and two russet potatoes.  I steamed the carrots and potatoes in the microwave for three minutes before adding them to the crockpot in order to keep cooking time down.  We served it over quinoa  instead of rice for some extra protein.  Yum yum!

Day 3- Monday October 3rd
Monday night was the worst of it, so I made veggie soup, much like my Everything but the Kitchen Sink Soup, and beer bread.  It took 10 minutes to prepare, and another hour of me laying down, waiting for it to be ready.  (Its a hard life, I know.)  I subbed vegetable base instead of chicken/beef base, and left out the meat, but honestly, didn't miss it for all the heavy veggies and brown rice we added to it.  Yum yum!  (Also set aside some spinach and brown rice for other dinners later this week.)

Day 4- Tuesday, October 4th
Tonight was enchiladas, made for me by my friend M after we had our second son.  I liked the recipe so much I got it from her, and now they're a favorite around our house.  They're delicious, easy to make, and SUPER eat half and freeze half.  Chalk full of yummy goodies, it doesn't take but 10 min to prepare a pan full.  Plus our two year old Duke-in-Training likes to help fill the enchiladas, so making them can be family affair!  I'm sure you'll be seeing a lot more recipes by my friend M, since she's my resident vegetarian friend, and a mommy to boot, so she's got lots of quick and easy vegetarian recipes.

So far, we haven't felt like we're missing much.  I'm looking forward to feeling better so I have the energy to really try some new and different stuff... right now I'm feeling rather couch potato-ish.

Speaking of getting recipes-- I've already had a couple of emails with quick and easy veggie recipes-- please keep sending me more!  I'll try them all, I promise!  We need all the help we can get with yummy recipes, especially those that might use veggies we don't normally eat.  Feel free to post them below!  Thanks!

M.C.'s Delicious Enchiladas
This is a double recipe-- I make them in two pans and freeze one for future use.  Feel free to half ingredients if you're not the "freeze ahead" type.

2 packages Spanish Rice
2/3 block cream cheese
1 jar salsa
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 package frozen spinach, drained well
1/2c Mexican cheese
2 container enchilada sauce
12 whole wheat tortillas- (you could use corn, but you'd need more of them.  Also, heat them up before rolling if using corn, it makes it easier)

Preparation Instructions
Prepare rice according to package directions.  Add in cream cheese until melted, then stir in salsa and black beans and spinach.  (Voila!  You now have your filling!)  Put a little enchilada sauce in the bottom of two 8x8 pans (or one 13x9 if you're making them to share!).  Fill tortillas with rice/bean filling, then roll up and place in pan.  Once pan is full (I like 6 per pan) then cover with remaining enchilada sauce and shredded cheese.
Bake at 350 for 15 min covered, then bake uncovered until warmed through.  Serve with avocado!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Vegetarian in the Land of Turkey Legs

My Loving Duke assists our two year old in using a bubble wand at the Renaissance Festival!
There is a really long and involved story behind this decision that includes signs from the Universe and long discussions with My Loving Duke.  But in an attempt to force myself to try new recipes, to eat more healthfully, and because we entered a drawing to win $1000 if we commit, MLD and I have decided to go vegetarian for the month of October.  (Just October, mind you-- we plan on returning to the land of the Omnivore November 1st, but hopefully with some new and exciting food ideas practiced and under our belts.)

We're pretty excited about it, and looking forward to including lots of new winter veggies into our diet, and we've been mulling it over for about three weeks now.  Fully vegetarian with the promise to eat vegan (no animal products including milk/eggs) at least twice a week through Halloween.  Its kind of a scary prospect, even for me, who was vegetarian for six years as a teenager.  Last time though, I went about it all wrong, and didn't end up any healthier or wiser for it.  This time, we're committed to eating more healthfully and trying new recipes to broaden our repertoire.  I'll be blogging daily in an account of how it's going, weather it is actually healthier/cheaper/easier, and giving feedback on new recipes I try.  I figure the daily blogging part is going to be harder than actually giving up meat for a month... we'll see.

In choosing October 1st as our start day for our Vegetarian Challenge, we neglected to take into account our plans to attend the Renaissance Festival with family that day.  Have you ever been to a Renaissance Festival?  Not exactly a haven for vegetarians.  Not, presumably because people back during the Renaissance at meat at every meal, but more likely because the meaty dishes such as beef stew and turkey legs have a much larger draw to the average tourist than, say, a vegetable mash.  Everywhere you looked there was primitive meat for sale.  And it all smelled delicious.  And looked more and more inviting as the day wore on.  I could personally feel myself wearing down already, and it had only been half a day!

But we had made a committment, and spent the day at the Renn Fest enjoying the fun festivities, and trying to ignore the giant turkey leg in the hand of every third spectator.  Our son's favorite activity was watching the "hosies" at the jousting competition, followed in a close second by making bubbles at the Bubble Fountain.  My Loving Duke and his sister bonded over knife and axe throwing.  And four hours after we arrived, as we were gathering to find something to eat, it began raining rather hard.  It was almost like another sign from the Universe-- "DON'T EAT THE TURKEY LEGS!"  This was a hard sign to take, as MLD had been talking about the turkey leg and mead since we went to Renn Fest two years ago.  And this was only the FIRST day of our vegetarianism.  We could always start on Sunday, the first day of the week, which could arguably be a clean start as well.  But no, we decided that with two kids under the age of two, it seemed best to head out to someplace dry and with more non-meat options.

All in all it was a good day!  We did enjoy that glass of mead- I was at one point, carrying mead in both hands with a three month old strapped to my chest, it was quite a sight- and had a blast.  We saw elephants (didn't know those were big during the Renaissance, did ya?), listened to some great music, found our official Scottish Tartan, and drank some mead.  (Oh, did I mention the mead?  Mead is yummy.)  We're sorry that it rained and we felt we had to leave, but in the end, we survived our first intentional day without meat, feeling rather proud of ourselves for sticking to our (potato) guns.  Even if we did end up with cheese pizza for dinner, (which isn't a new recipe OR healthy) we are one day down, and looking forward to the next 30!
My Bad-Ass Duke and Sister-in-law during the knife throwing contest.