Darn Good Pasta

Whenever I have a lot on my mind, I go grocery shopping.

I also tend to go when I’m depressed. Or angry. Or bored. So, basically, if you see me in the grocery store, you should probably leave me alone.

Anyway, if I’m working through something, I go to Aldi’s. Mainly because I know that even though I’m not paying attention, I’ll still end up with a cart full of interesting things that I didn’t pay a lot for.

Last week was one of those times. I had some pretty crazy stuff that needed to be sorted out, and my head was about to explode, so I grabbed my reusable bags, and headed to the place where “a quarter saves you dollars.”

Plus, I had been gone for about a month, and the only thing in my fridge was some spoiled milk and a few rocks that used to be mushrooms. I needed food.

All in all, I didn’t do too badly. I came home with a few funky items, but for the most part, I gravitated toward the regular stuff. (If I were into psychoanalysis, I would read something into that.)

So when I looked at the collection of food on my counter, I decided to make pasta. Because I love pasta. And because pasta is my comfort food. And because I make darn good pasta.

Darn Good Pasta

Darn Good Pasta
I used half and half for this recipe because it’s what I had, but you can certainly use real cream. Or even milk. Whatever you’ve got.

4 oz cooked angel hair pasta
1/2 small red onion, diced
3-4 button or cremini mushrooms, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups fresh spinach
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup parmesan
salt and pepper
1-2 roma tomatoes, chopped
2 green onions, chopped

In a large skillet, saute onions in olive oil over medium heat until they are almost translucent. Add garlic and cook just until you can start to smell it, then add the sliced mushrooms and continue to saute. Once the mushrooms no longer look raw, add the spinach and cook, stirring, until it has wilted. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer for 1-2 minutes. When the broth has mostly cooked out, add the half and half or cream and return to a simmer. When it has begun to thicken, add the parmesan, cooked pasta, tomatoes, and green onions. Turn heat to low, and cook just until the tomatoes are warm. Remove from heat. Salt and pepper to taste.

 

Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto

I used to watch Hell’s Kitchen.

But after a couple seasons of screaming and swearing, it just became too much.

Besides, how many times can you really watch someone screw up the Beef Wellingtons?

But ever since my brief fandom, I have always had a hankering to try my hand at risotto.

I was never brave enough to give it a try, though.

Maybe because it looked difficult. Maybe because I fear the unknown. Maybe because I always heard Gordon Ramsey’s voice in my head yelling that the risotto is terrible. (In my head, Chef Ramsey uses nice words.)

This past weekend, I plucked up my courage, and decided to try.

And ya know what?

Really not that hard.

RisottoRisotto uses arborio rice, which you can find pretty much anywhere. I adapted this recipe from the one on Simply Recipes, and from the back of the rice package.

Asparagus and Mushroom Risotto
1-2 tbs olive oil
1/4 diced red onion
1 cup arborio rice
4-5 cups warm chicken broth
1/2 pound asparagus
4-6 mushrooms
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Wash the mushrooms and asparagus. Snap the ends off the asparagus and discard. Slice the asparagus into bite-sized pieces up to the tips. Slice the mushrooms.
Heat the olive oil in a 3-4 qt saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent. Add the rice and saute for a minute or two until it absorbs most of the olive oil.
Add the warm chicken broth 1/2 to 1 cup at a time, stirring with each addition, and waiting until it is completely absorbed to add more. Keep adding broth and letting it absorb until the rice is tender. (About 20-25 minutes.)
With the last cup of broth, also add the asparagus and mushrooms. When the last of the broth has been absorbed, and the asparagus is tender, remove from heat, and stir in the parmesan.
Serve warm

*If you want to be authentic, you can warm the chicken broth on the stove and ladle it into your risotto. I just measured it into a Pampered Chef measuring bowl, and kept it in the microwave until I needed it.

*You may not need all of your chicken broth. You may need more. Just keep tasting the rice as you go. Whenever it’s as soft as you like it, it’s done. If you run out of broth, use water.

 

Flight Risk

I’ve been traveling a lot lately.

Usually, I prefer to drive – not only because I like having the time in the car to think about things, or sing to myself, or talk to myself.

(Boy, am I glad Bluetooth was invented. Now other drivers don’t look at me like I’m nuts when I’m talking to myself in the car.)

But I really prefer to drive because flying makes me nervous.

It’s not the fact that I’m thirty-five bajillion thousand feet up in a lightning-attracting metal craft that is much heavier than air.

Nor is it that I really dislike sitting super chummy close to strangers that are invariably carrying every strain of flu, but insist that “it’s just allergies.”

It’s not even the fact that I’m locked into an enclosed space over which I have no control.

No, flying makes me nervous because in order to get on the airplane, I have to go through airport security.

I would love to be a confident seasoned traveler, zipping through the airport pulling my smart rolling carry-on in one hand, and confidently clutching my venti no-fat latte and boarding pass with the other.

But instead, I’m a clumsy, fumbling ditz with about as much confidence as a seventh grader on the first day of school.

For some reason, standing in the line for security makes me extremely nervous. I don’t know why. I have nothing to worry about…

…except for that full-sized bottle of lotion that I keep forgetting is in the bottom of my purse. (Only had to go through security three times for that one. And I almost made my flight!)

…or the expired license that I inexplicably keep behind my current one and will invariably pull out by mistake. (“No, my real license isn’t expired, sir. I can explain why I have two IDs.”)

…or the super cute sweater with metallic threads that kept setting off the scanner. (Don’t worry. Getting a pat-down is just like getting an awkward hug from a stranger. Only it’s not.)

So I shift my feet in line, constantly check my ID, and try to avoid all eye contact with the friendly neighborhood TSA agent, all the while chastising myself for choosing to fly.

“Why did I buy a plane ticket?” I wonder. “New Hampshire isn’t that far. It’s only 22 hours. That’s not too bad. I so should have driven!”

 

Grown Up Eggs

My Saturday morning routine usually consists of coffee, sushi, and murder.

(Usually Grimm. But sometimes, I switch it up with The Mentalist.)

On the weekends that I didn’t happen to stop by my friendly neighborhood sushi place, I eat eggs.

Scrambled eggs.

Cheesy scrambled eggs.

With lots of cheese.

Like a little kid.

Occasionally, when I have a lot of time, or when I feel the need to remind myself that I’m old enough to pay taxes and own a car, I’ll make poached eggs on toast with shaved parmesan and roasted asparagus. Or, as I like to call it: “Grown Up Eggs.”

Grown Up Eggs

There isn’t even a real recipe for this. It’s just one of those things that you throw together.

I happened to have a good loaf of bread from the bakery, but sometimes I just used the regular sliced stuff.

Also, I’m new to the poached egg scene (I used to make this with soft boiled eggs instead), so I’m not going to give a tutorial, but you can find a good one here.

The element that really makes this dish is the parmesan. Get the real stuff, not the can. Use a vegetable peeler to shave off short pieces. Parmesan is salty, so you won’t need much salt on the finished dish.

Grown Up Eggs
2 poached eggs
Roasted Asparagus
1 thick slice of bread
Shaved Parmesan
Salt and Pepper

Poach two eggs and set on paper towels to drain. Toast the bread and shave the parmesan. Layer toast, asparagus, parmesan, and eggs. Salt and pepper to taste. Ponder your mortality.

Go Green for Spring: Romaine Lettuce

GreenforSpring

 

Happy Spring!!

Which was actually yesterday. Who knew!

OK, a lot of people probably knew, but I didn’t. I was sure the first day of Spring was today until I saw yesterday’s Google.

Oh well. Life is full of missed opportunities, I guess.

Well, First Day of Spring, or Second Day of Spring aside, today’s Veggie is Romaine Lettuce.

Romaine Lettuce often gets overlooked, but it’s actually chock full of nutrients and contains a whole alphabet of vitamins. This leafy green isn’t just something to fill the bottom of your salad bowl. It’s a wise, nutritious choice for a well-balanced diet.

Choosing Romaine
Look for heads that are tightly packed with stems that are not too brown. (Use the same guidelines for selecting Boston and Bibb lettuces.)

Using Romaine
Have you ever determined to be healthy – I mean, really healthy this time – and load up your grocery cart with all sorts of salad greens…only to have them rot in your fridge before you have a chance to use them up?

Or is that only me?

Well, I have discovered a way to combat this tendency. As soon as I get home from the store, I wash and chop my lettuce.

My sister-in-law gave me an Oxo salad spinner that is very roomy. I toss all of my washed greens into the basket and give it a few spins. Then I cover the greens with a paper towel, and the entire bowl (and basket) tightly with plastic wrap. The basket keeps the greens away from any condensation, and the paper towel soaks up any moisture. I toss the greens every time I make salad, and replace the paper towel whenever it feels damp.

This not only keeps my salad greens fresh far longer, but it saves me a lot of time when I’m making my lunches for school. (And forces me to actually eat the healthy things in my fridge.)

Need some salad ideas?
Romaine+Shredded Carrots+Kalamata Olives+Feta Cheese+Boiled Egg …with Balsamic Vinaigrette (my typical lunch)

Romaine+Black Olives+Prosciutto+Parmesan …with oil and vinegar

Romaine+Bibb+Arugula+Spinach+Mushrooms+Parmesan …with Caesar Dressing

What is your favorite salad combination?

 

Go Green for Spring: Cilantro

GreenforSpringToday’s highlight is cilantro.

(Yes, I know cilantro is an herb. Avocado is a fruit. We’re just gonna roll with it.)

The health benefit mainly associated with cilantro is toxic metal cleansing.

So, remember that time you drank that bowl of mercury? Yeah. Cilantro will help you with that.

But other than binding to the toxic substances stored in your body’s tissues, cilantro is also showing a lot of promise in diabetic research (it contains a nutrient that stabilizes insulin production), and as an anti-anxiety sleep aid.

Choosing Cilantro
Use your senses when choosing cilantro. It should look green and vibrant, smell fresh, and feel like a freshly picked bouquet – not weak or wilted.

There’s more in the bundle than you think, so keep that in mind when you’re figuring out how much you need.

Using Cilantro
A lot of people recommend storing cilantro in a vase with a little bit of water in the bottom and a plastic bag over the top. That sounds like a whole lot of work, and I have never done that. I wrap my cilantro in a paper towel, put it in an open bag, and stick it in the fridge. It keeps just fine.

To wash cilantro, hold it like a bouquet of flowers, then dunk it “flowers” first into a bowl of cold water. Swish it around, then pull it out and let the water drain off. Replace the water in the bowl and repeat. Do this two or three times until the water is mostly clear.

Now comes the fun part…

Wrap a paper towel around the stems, then go outside and shake the water off the cilantro like you’re shaking out a feather duster. …or you could use a salad spinner…or just pat it dry with a towel.
But slinging cilantro off my balcony really is fun. (I don’t get out much.)

It’s best to keep the cilantro in its bundle and just tear or slice off what you need. (Hold the cilantro at an angle above a cutting board, and gently slice off the outer leaves with a very sharp knife.)

Extra cilantro will freeze quite well. Just put it in a ziplock bag and stick it in the freezer. No extra steps needed. (Do not thaw it before you reuse it. Just pinch off whatever you need.)

A word about today’s recipe:
I pinned this recipe a couple months ago. We were in the smack dab middle of winter, and I must have been craving green. It looked so good! It had avocados! It required a mortar and pestle! I love my mortar and pestle! And exclamation points!
Well, it sat around on my Pinterest board for a little while. Every now and then, I would look at it and imagine its awesomeness.
It called to me.
This past weekend, I answered.
I was so excited!
…then so disappointed.
It looked so good. It tasted so bland.
However, I was determined that my effort would not go to waste. I put on my chef’s hat, channeled my inner Rachael Ray, and went into rescue mode.
The result was this recipe. And it’s not half bad, if I say so myself.

chckpeavcdo

Creamy Chickpea and Avocado Salad
I can’t wait to try this with roasted garlic. Sun-dried tomatoes may also make an appearance.
1 avocado
1 15oz can of chickpeas
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup greek yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbs chopped green onion
1/4 tsp onion powder
juice from half a lime
salt and pepper to taste

Peel and dice the avocado. Drain and rinse* the chickpeas. Smash the chickpeas and avocado together using a mortar and pestle. (You can also do this with a fork, but a mortar and pestle is much more fun.) Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
Serve with choice of bread. (I prefer pita.)

*I also peel my chickpeas. It’s not necessary, but it makes for a smoother salad. Just rub the chickpea between your fingers, and the outer skin will slide off.

Have you ever had a recipe fail on you? What did you do to rescue it?

For other great recipes, follow me on Pinterest!