Pasta with Eggplant, Caramelized Onion, and Tomato

While in Greece this summer, I learned to love a few “new” foods, including olives, octopus, and eggplant. These are all things that I had tried before and not had much of an opinion of – in fact, a few weeks before we left I silently judged a stranger at the grocery store for loading up on eggplant (I know, I am really friendly).

Greek inspiration

The game-changer for me was a delicious dish of eggplant, red pepper, and potatoes baked in a tomato sauce. The vegetables were tender and had all absorbed the flavor of the sauce and seasonings – I was smitten.

This pasta is a take on the baked vegetable dish that I enjoyed so much while abroad. Eggplant and tomato sauce, I have discovered, is a winning combination and perfect for this time of year when you want a cozy (yet healthy) meal.

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Pasta with Whiskey, Wine, Spinach and Mushrooms

I have been a huge fan of The Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond’s cooking blog for years. I have mentioned her here before, and she even commented on my Poached Egg and Avocado on Toast recipe on Tasty Kitchen (eek!). I have loved watching her and her family in real life on her Food Network Show, and when I make her recipes, they are always boyfriend-friendly.

Tim loves whiskey (ha), and when Ree posted recipe for pasta with whiskey in it, I knew he would love it. The only problem is, we are trying to eat healthy, and with lots of carbs and cream, it wasn’t the best option. So I took matters into my own hands and adapted Ree’s recipe to be a little healthier, but still delicious.

This is my healthy take on The Pioneer Woman’s Pasta with Whiskey, Wine, and Mushrooms. I added spinach, used extra onion and mushrooms, and swapped out most of the cream for Greek yogurt. I left the alcohol proportions the same (why not?!), and swapped regular pasta for Barilla Pasta Plus. At 316 calories per serving, it was diet friendly and “cowboy-approved!”

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Roasted Tomato and Anchovy Oreganata Pasta

Having an herb garden is the most amazing thing. Tim and I did some serious gardening this spring – we have a regular garden with tomatoes, squash, green beans, jalapenos, and potatoes.  We also have this amazing planter that runs along the garage (about 15 feet); it has perfect soil and perfect shading, and it has become my herb and flower garden. We have green onions, two types of basil, parsley, thyme, chives, sage, and even cilantro (which I despise). Every night when I’m making dinner, I get such a thrill out of walking to the back yard to snip what I need.

I’ve been visiting the garden often lately because I’ve been making a lot of Gwyneth Paltrow’s recipes. She was on the cover of Bon Appétit a couple months ago, and I made two of the recipes – the Halibut with Mango Avocado Salsa (Thanks, Karen!), and this one, and they were both so great that I bought her new cookbook, My Father’s Daughter. What I like about her style is that it’s to the point, simple, and natural. She talks about her kids a lot, which I like, and includes a significant number of vegetarian recipes for a non-vegetarian cookbook…at the same time, my very carnivorous boyfriend found plenty of options, too. I’m sure I’ll be posting more from her!

Zucchini Ribbon Pasta

Have you heard of using zucchini as a substitute for pasta? I’ve seen it in raw and cleanse recipes here and there but I never thought it would be something I would be interested in. When I found some beautiful zucchini at our local farmer’s market, I wanted to do something a little different from the usual. Combined with some fresh herbs, garlic, parmesan, and some wonderful black pepper fettuccine that we picked up at the LA Farmer’s Market, it was seriously, surprisingly fabulous!

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Pasta with Sweet English Peas

At our tiny Paso Robles Farmer’s Market, I have found just one vendor who carries Sweet English Peas. I have been buying a few handfuls every Tuesday afternoon for the past couple weeks – fresh peas are so much fun! We don’t have a rocking chair or a wraparound porch, but shelling fresh peas evokes the image of a Southern Grandma prepping dinner on a quiet afternoon.

One thing that might surprise you if you are used to frozen peas is the size of fresh peas. They’re huge and plump compared to the itty bitty guys in the plastic bag. Fresh peas are tasty right out of the pod and “pop” in your mouth when you bite down on them, releasing their bright, springtime flavor. Fresh peas are best served simply, like in this pasta dish.

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Pesto Trapenese

Spring is officially here, and being on the Central Coast, that means it is almost summer! All the signs are here: the garden is taking off, sundresses and sandals have made their way back into the daily rotation, and I’ve been craving soft serve every evening.

Although this is certainly more a late-summer meal and would have been infinitely better had the tomatoes been from our own garden instead of the grocery store, it was still just fine as it didn’t involve standing over a hot stove and was quick and fresh and just what we were craving on one of our first long summer nights of the year.

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Halibut with Vinho Verde Linguine

When my Grandma came to stay with us earlier this year, I took her to Pier 46 (I know, I know, I can’t stop talking about this place!). She was THRILLED that they had halibut, which I guess is harder to find in Vermont, where she lives. The first time we went, she got the Halibut and Chips, which she then raved about daily until we went again. The second time, she got the Grilled Halibut Sandwich, and Joanne took our picture for Twitter and Facebook. Grandma, who is 87, was just tickled to see her photo on the Internet. Now whenever I have Halibut I think of Grandma and how Pier 46’s Halibut made her vacation complete!

This is a recipe I made on a whim last week. My mom and I went to 15 Degrees C wine bar for a little after work wine, and I picked up a bottle of Broadbent Vinho Verde, which was only $9. Vinho Verde is a Portuguese white wine that has a citrus-like acidity and a little spritz.

My Dad the chef has been known to go on tangents about how lemons complete fish and fish just isn’t the same without it. The Vinho Verde is so citrusy that my mom took a bite of this pasta and was convinced that I had added lemon! It was a perfect compliment to the Halibut.

By the way, in every letter she’s written me since her visit, Grandma mentions Pier 46 – although, sometimes it’s Pier 48, or 32 or….

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