Porridge Got A Bad Rap… Polenta with White Beans and Kale

Pease porridge hot

Pease porridge cold

Pease porridge in the pot

Nine days old.

I suppose it’s entirely possible that I am of the last generation to learn this little gem from 1760. Whenever I hear the word porridge, this little ditty goes through my head. The really interesting part is that pease porridge bears nearly zero resemblance to what most of us think of as porridge these days. Pease porridge is, if I may draw an ill fitting comparison for the purposes of illustration, much more like hummus than like porridge. As I understand it, pease porridge was legumes cooked, mushed and flavored (onions, olive oil, maybe meat if it was available). When we talk about porridge today, what most people mean is a grain cooked in liquid until the two do some magic to make a soft warm bowl that is neither liquid nor entirely solid. Deeply satisfying, warming, wholesome and hearty.

As you likely already know, the Sis sisters are huge fans of porridge in its traditional Western breakfast form – a little sweetness added to cooked grains. We’ve already shared pumpkin apple steel cut oats, chocolate oatmeal, and quinoa porridge, to name just a few. Apparently the Scottish are the kings and queens of porridge, and porridge has starred in a number of culinary competitions, including the recent London Porridge Championships, not to be confused with the World Porridge Making Championships… who knew? All this attention being paid to the production of and the adornment of porridge makes those packets of precut, highly sugared, not really that much more convenient than the real thing oatmeal seem a little, well, lame (more thoughts on reasons to ditch “instant” oatmeal here).

Aside from bolstering my own love affair with oatmeal, this story of the London Porridge Championships reminded me of a historical culinary truth that I keep forgetting before I can implement it in my own kitchen. Porridge can be savory. Oh yes, and it’s not just for breakfast anymore, in fact it never was. Old cookbooks are full of recipes for savory cooked grains for lunch and dinner. We eat a lot of rice around here, and frankly a savory porridge might be just the thing our varia bowls need every now and again. And so I decided it was time for a savory porridge experiment… but how to approach it to best hedge my bets with Ms. Picky Pants?

I settled on polenta photo a313cca6-c072-4607-8036-92e5599d8d40.jpg. I didn’t want to potentially diminish the power of oatmeal in the morning here by having an oatmeal fail. Polenta’s creaminess and corniness seemed promising for my corny crowd. Mediterranean flavors tend to fare well… seemed like a good bet all around. And so, while not perhaps a traditional Scottish porridge, a grain cooked in liquid to creamy perfection is indeed what polenta is. Topped with white beans and kale? Oh yes, please.

I made this delightful dish from Patrice at Circle B Kitchen. I followed the recipe pretty closely (I AM capable, just usually not willing) except that I cut the animal products out of the polenta by replacing the liquids for cooking the polenta with 3 cups of veggie broth and 1 c coconut milk. I also ditched the cheese in favor of a smaller amount of nutritional yeast. Butter gone, olive oil in. Done. Vegan polenta. Admittedly less creamy in fat feel, but still super creamily delish. And the perfect base for white beans with kale. Thanks Patrice, for a lovely dinner and a baby step down the road to porridge for dinner.

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Asian Cabbage Rolls with Spicy Lentils

 photo DSC01007.jpgAs you can imagine, when I find myself in a food rut, I turn to the blogger community for a little boost. I’ve found some lovely meals this way. This find, however, deserves a little more than a “lovely” title. Batter Licker’s Asian Cabbage Rolls with Spicy Lentils were a culinary revelation, and not just because it’s another lentil dish although that may be part of it. ;-)

Let me start from the beginning. I’ve been working on planning my meals a little more carefully. Big Sis has a great system and is really good about making meal plans and following them. My intentions are good, but in all honestly I usually don’t make it to the finish line on this particular goal. As a result I spend more at the store than I should and I waste a lot of time late in the day coming up with a last minute fix (although some of these have turned out quite well).  In planning, I also provide myself with the opportunity to try to incorporate some new meals using ingredients I already have or know how to work with rather than scrambling at the last minute to follow someone else’s instructions. A few weeks ago Asian Cabbage Rolls made it onto my plan and BOY am I glad they did.

These rolls are warm and satisfying without leaving you feeling loaded up and weighed down. The lentils work beautifully with the Asian flavors. I can’t say enough about how much Mr. Little Sis and I enjoyed this dish. At first glance the dish looked complicated, but really, the only tricky part is making the rolls themselves. The rest of the procedure is pretty similar to making any simple bean dish. The only changes I made to this recipe were ditching the egg (something the original author said she’d do next time), switching out the sugar for maple syrup in the sauce, and decreasing the chile in the sauce in favor of adding it at table for the sake of the little people.

This lovely meal goes something like this. There is admittedly a bit of chopping. And if you don’t have leftover rice and cooked lentils, that needs to be done as well. May I suggest you start the rice first, then the lentils, then the chopping and gathering of other ingredients and preheating the oven. Mark Bittman has rightly criticized the overly organized French method of mise en place, and I suddenly realized, upon finding out what his book was about, that I should have written that a while ago… another missed opportunity. ;-) I digress. The point is, start the longest bits first, then prep the rest. It’s efficient, and still yummy.

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After the chopping and cooking, there is some combining and then the fiddly part, the daggone cabbage wrap bit. I have tried making various cabbage rolls before and had all manner of trouble getting them to roll and stay rolled. I now have a trick, which I will share with you so you don’t curse and stomp in your kitchen. When you choose a cabbage leaf, get a big one that is not torn. Then chop a couple of inches off the bottom where it connects to the head. What you’re trying to do is to get rid of the thickest, toughest part of the cabbage leaf, you know the part that won’t roll. Get rid of it and you know what? They roll. IMagine that. The next part of the trick is to use a kitchen utensil to hold those rolls in place as you create them and place them in your dish.

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There you go. Awesome tricks so you can now make cabbage rolls – Asian ones, Polish ones, Italian ones, whatever you want. Cut the inflexible bit and hold everything in place. I’m sure there’s a life lesson in there somewhere. I’ll find it after I eat more of these. Delish!

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Slow Cooker Herbed Beans and Barley

The weather has been doing its transitional season flip flop around here. One week it’s summer, one week it’s fall with a little scent of winter in the mornings. And with the change of seasons comes the change of activities that makes the challenge of family dining a very real one. While I limit my kids to one after school activity, because there are two of them, we are still on a wacky schedule for two of the five weekend nights. Monday Ms. Picky Pants does gymnastics from 5-6 and Tuesdays my increasingly gigantic son plays T-Ball from 6-7. These times bookend our usual dinner time.

Because there’s no way my gentle giant of a boy could make it through T-Ball without dinner, we simply eat early on those days. Monday is more challenging as there’s no way we could eat in time for a 5 o’clock practice. And so, given these complications AND the drop in temperature, there is no better time than now to bring the slow cooker out of the corner cabinet and keep it in semi-permanent residence on the counter. Preparing the meal the night before, or in the morning and letting it cook all day allows us to eat at whatever time and frees me up during the crucial times for chauffeuring and cheering responsibilities (I especially like the cheering part).

Our favorite new slow cooker recipe was an improvisation of mine, a pantry wonder that is sure to become a regular in our house. I’ve used kidney beans because I had them on hand, and because I think they’re so good looking (that’s weird, isn’t it). I imagine just about any bean would work here, although this one time I’d steer you away from lentils as they do tend to mushify a bit and the pearl barley is already providing a creaminess that benefits from a little more substance in the bean department. White beans, black beans, chickpeas would all be great. This dish was so simple and satisfying. The gentle giant just LOVED it.

Slow Cooker Herbed Beans & Barley

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  • olive oil for the pan
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or mashed
  • 3 c kidney beans (soaked overnight or quick soaked*)
  • 1 1/2 c pearl barley
  • 5 c veggie broth
  • 1-2 t thyme
  • 2 t red wine vinegar
  • 2 T Bragg’s or soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste

Warm olive oil in pan on stove. Add onions and celery. Sauté until onions are nearly translucent. Add garlic and sauté for an additional minute or so. Place sautéed veggies in crock pot with all the other ingredients. Turn on low. Cook for 5-6 hours. Yes, that’s it. Stir, season to taste, and serve on a bed of deep greens. Spicy fans may enjoy a little hot sauce. I like it both ways. Delish.

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* Quick soaking beans requires bringing the beans to a boil, allowing them to really boil for 2 minutes, and then leaving them in the hot water for an hour, then rinse and use for cooking. They will not be tender as they are not fully cooked yet, but will not be little rocks anymore.

Pumpkin Apple Steel Cut Oats in the Crockpot

That’s a horribly long name.  Pasco would be better, but then again you wouldn’t have any idea what that would taste like would you?  This, on the other hand lets you know that you are soon to be treated with some of the lovely flavors of Fall. And if you pour it all into an oiled crockpot right before you go to bed and turn it on you will awaken to a heavenly, hearty – come on it’s a wonderful day to be alive – kind of smell..followed by a hearty, healthy breakfast.

This was a variation on the Chocolate Steel Cut Oats Little Sis introduced us to in one of her many brilliant moments.  I LOVE those chocolate oats, but my husband had trouble adjusting to the idea of chocolate breakfast.  He has since grown accustomed to the idea and loves the chocolate oats as well, but the idea for a variation was already cooking (slowly in a crock with a glass lid) in my brain, so I thought I’d better try the idea.  Space is after all limited in said brain these days.

While I have never had a Pumpkin Latte from Starbucks, they are apparently a big deal.  After seeing lattes advertised everywhere lately and having some pumpkin in the house, it seemed like a good idea to put some pumpkin in our breakfast  We were all pleased with the results and I bet your Autumn People will like it as well.

Pumpkin Apple Steel Cut Oats

2 c steel cut oats
1 c pumpkin (I used canned)
7 cups water and or milk (I used 1/2 water and 1/2 almond milk)
2 tbsp cinnamon
2 chopped apples (I left skins on)
1 Tbsp vanilla
1/2 Tbsp salt
1 tsp allspice

I recommend you oil the crockpot.  I use coconut oil.  If you don’t have that, use something mild that won’t be an odd flavor.

Put the oats in.

Mix the pumpkin in with some or all of the liquid you are using so you can get some of the lumps out.

Pour the mixture and all of the other ingredients into the crockpot – give a bit of a stir.  Put the lid on and set it on low.  My crockpot has kind of a high ‘low’ and these cereals tend to be done in about 5 hours.  If yours has a timer you could set it for 6 if you will be asleep longer than that.  I don’t have a timer and the top of the edges of these cereals can get a little crispy when left to long, but no burning and no problem.

I did not add sugar to his recipe.  I added raisins directly to my bowl and was satisfied with the sweetness.  If your crowd requires more sugar you can always add it after the fact or throw a couple of Tbsp of maple syrup into the crockpot.   All 3 of us enjoyed this a lot and it always pleases me to have a breakfast that has a bit of vegetable in it!

20140928_075629Very good indeed and just the ticket to eat when we were up early to go for a canoe trip on the Harpeth River.  A Great Blue Heron spread it’s great wings and led us down river on 3 separate occasions and almost let us catch up for a really close view on the last time….. then spread his wings and flew off again.  Here and gone, like the seasons.  I do so love this season and intend to savor it – full belly and overloaded brain and all.  :-)

 

Summer’s End Zucchini Bread

The nights have gone cool, and who can complain at this point in the year? While I confess that the climate in mid-Maryland often leaves something to be desired, a nice fall here really can’t be beat. Our nights are cool, and days are dry with clear blue skies. Perfect time to get the last few harvests of summer veggies.

I’ve gotten the last of the tomatoes, the cukes are dwindling, my butternut squash are hanging on the vine getting a nice protective skin, and I thought the zucchini were done. Then I lifted a few of those gigantic leaves. What I had assumed was the wooden border of the garden was actually a huge and very dark zucchini. I mean HUGE. And two days later – another on a plant that I thought had given up earlier in the summer, but was growing in secret behind another plant. So now I have these enormous zukes.

My favorite trick with zucchini is to shred it and freeze it. I tend to do it by weight, put it in a bag, write the weight on the bag and pop in the freezer. Why by weight? Because my favorite zucchini bread recipe calls for zucchini by weight. So as we move into the cold months, I have my key ingredient already shredded and measured, ready to go. My favorite zucchini bread recipe is based on one I used for years from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. America’s Test Kitchen publications, such as The America’s Test Kitchen New Family Cookbook (this is the new version of the book I have which is no longer in print), are fantastic. If you are trying to improve your cooking skills, there are few more comprehensive resources. The recipes are not intended for restrictive diets, but they are full of real food and I’ve successfully adapted many of them as my own dietary preferences have changed. And what I’ve learned from the authors has been priceless. This zucchini bread is lightly spiced, sweet but not cloying, and deeply satisfying with a cup of coffee, or a mug of tea, or whatever you want to drink.

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  • 1 pound zucchini, shredded and drained (see below)
  • 1/4 c coconut milk (or whatever kind works for you)
  • 3/4 c maple syrup
  • 1/2 c applesauce
  • 4 T coconut oil, melted and let cool but not harden
  • 2 eggs (I used flax)
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 2 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t allspice
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 c walnuts chopped and toasted (or if you’re like me you don’t toast, forget to put them in the batter and then put them on top where they will toast in the oven and then think you’re awesome for doing that)

Preheat oven to 375 with rack set in middle of oven. Coat a small loaf pan (mine was 8 x 4, standard is fine, but your loaf will be shorter). Shred zucchini on large holes (I used a food processor)l Place zucchini in strainer. Sprinkle with a little salt and stir to distribute the salt. The salt will pull the liquid out of the veg. Let drain for at least 15 minutes. Wrap a tea towel (or paper if that’s all ya got) around the zucchini and squeeze the remaining water out. Be astonished by the amount of water in that veg. No, you can’t skip that step. Whisk coconut milk, maple syrup, applesauce, coconut oil, flax eggs and lemon juice together in a bowl. Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Fold the zucchini and the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined. Do not over mix (yeah, I don’t know why either).

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Scrape batter into loaf pan. Bake until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean – or until it feels right to you (that’s my test, a little press in the middle with my finger), should be about an hour. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Continue cooling on wire rack for at least an hour, being sure to have a taste while it’s still warm. Super yum.

Broccoli ‘Cheese’ Soup – all of the taste with much less fat

One of the most wonderful things about a powerful blender is the creamy soup that can be created and poured… or schmoved with a spatula into bowls – already hot!  If your blender isn’t strong enough to heat, then you can always pour this into a pot and heat after you’ve creamed it.  There is nothing like soup to fill the belly and warm the soul.

We experimented with a lot of soups when we first bought a Vita Mix (15 years old and still going strong).  One of our favorites was Broccoli Cheese Soup.  What’s not to like about Broccoli Cheese Soup?  Well, once you determine that you can’t handle dairy, and there are those that argue that the fat in dairy is a bad choice, and those that would rather leave the cow’s milk to the cow’s…. well then, the cheese is not to like about broccoli cheese soup.  So here is my dairy free version, loosely based on the recipe for broccoli cheese soup found in the Vita Mix recipe book.

Dairy Free Cheesy Broccoli Soup

1 tsp oil
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 onion, roughly chopped
4 cups steamed or blanched broccoli
1 cup raw cashews soaked in water for about 5 hours or more (I put the cashews in a 2 cup measuring cup and then fill to the 2 cup line with water
1 c unsweetened milk – I used almond
1 c water
1.5 Tbsp bouillon

You can also substitute broth for water – or broth for water and milk.  Whatever works for you!

Steam or blanch your broccoli – keeping in mind that stemmy pieces need a little more cooking than plain florets.

I prefer to saute my onion and garlic before adding it to soup.  Just saute until translucent while steaming your broccoli (which I did in the microwave)

Put all ingredients in the blender and whirrrrr it up, or more accurately,  sideways until it is smooth and blended and if you don’t want to heat in a pot – let it spin till it’s hot!

I served mine with some broken up toasted Ezekiel bread.  My husband said it was fabulous but I was too busy eating to notice ;-)

This took 20 minutes from the beginning of chopping onion to pouring in the bowls.  You gotta love that!

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Enjoy the arrival of Fall – may your windows be open, your skies blue and your hearts full like a pumpkin.

Fall Recipe Parade – Yes, there’s some pumpkin

It’s that time of year – one of the many that sneaks up on me each and every year. While it is still sunny and warm here in mid-Maryland, I am apparently supposed to desperately want pumpkin everything. And honestly, I’m okay with that (except for the coffee thing, I don’t get it – but to each her own coffee). Here at the pantry we do have a healthy love of pumpkin. We also love the other flavors of fall and the opportunity to break out those super warming dishes as the temperatures begin to drop. To welcome this season of bounty and cool nights, we offer you a treasure trove of autumn yum. Most of these recipes are both gluten and dairy free. :-)

Morning Warmer Uppers

  

1. Pumpkin French Toast

2. Dark Chocolate Steel Cut Oats

3. Sweet Potato Apple Oats

Mains

  

4. Slow Cooker Burritos

5. Chickpea and Cashew Tikka Masala 

6. Sweet Potato Chili with Greens

Sides

  

7. Amazing Applesauce

8. Herbed Bulghur Pilaf with Pine Nuts and Cranberries

9. Waldorf Saute

Sweet Endings

  

10. Super Chocolate Pumpkin Brownies

11. Walnut Crust Apple Pie

12. Healthy Pumpkin Cookies

Yay for pumpkins and apples, for warm afternoons and cool mornings, for low humidity and crunchy leaves, for new pencils and new schedules. Here’s to fall and wonderful food, family, and friends. Delish!

Bee Bim Bop – Korean Stir Fry

This dinner has a lovely beginning.  Before the sauteing, before the boiling, before the chopping…. before the garden and the grocery store.  Before all that came the children’s book.  My son and I stumbled on this lovely book in our neighborhood library when he was 5.

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The book tells the tale of a little girl shopping with her mother to purchase the ingredients for a Korean dish called Bee Bim Bop.  It rhymes and bounces along happily and on the very last page there awaits a recipe.  My then 5 year old son wanted to try it.  So we did and it has been a staple at our house in the 9 years since we read the book :-)

The recipe can be made with or without meat, although I do believe that the egg is a wonderful addition.  I make it with veggies and egg now, but I used to use chicken.

Whichever way you try it, it’s delicious and if you have small children, this book is a great place to start to introduce them to something new.  In fact, it would make a lovely time to read it and then cook it together.  Nothing says try me like something you’ve cooked yourself!

This is my take on the recipe from the book – meatless and, in true Pantry style – with the veggies I had on hand.

Ingredients:
2 cups brown rice
2 cloves of garlic
4 scallions, sliced, including most of the green
5 Tbsp soy sauce (I use Bragg’s liquid aminos)
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp vegetable oil (I used avocado)
1 Tbsp roasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon roasted (or raw) sesame seeds (optional)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
4 carrots
a head of broccoli cut into florets
2 cups fresh spinach
4 eggs
salt and pepper
Tabasco sauce

If you want to use meat, then cut down the amount of vegetables and mix the garlic, soy sauce, scallions, sugar and sesame oil and marinate while cutting veggies / doing other prep.

Set rice to cooking at the beginning so it will be done in time.

Scramble the eggs and set aside – get out small fry pan to cook a thin layer of egg 4 times.  Oil the bottom as necessary for your pan.

For meatless version:

Mix soy sauce, sugar, sesame seeds, sesame oil and pepper.

Place vegetable oil in a frying pan and saute the minced or pressed garlic and the scallions.

Cook until translucent and fragrant.  Add the chopped veggies.

While veggies cook (not too long – keep ‘em green and bright!) Pour 1/4 egg into pan at a time and cook about 1 minute each side.

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When all 4 ‘omelettes’ are done, stack them and slice into ribbons.  I usually cut into ribbons and ten cut the ribbons in half.

Turn off the heat on your veggies and add the spinach. Stir it in to wilt.

Serve over rice with egg strips on top – and a bit of tabasco makes a wonderful addition to this.  If you want to be authentic you serve Kim Chee with it – a Korean spicy fermented cabbage that can be purchased ready made in many places.

Mix it all up – that’s what bee-bim means, ‘Mix mix’.

The original recipe encourages you to cook each item separately and then allow people to choose what they want.  That’s a lovely way to do it but on most nights I’m thinking, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”  But if you do it’s yet another way to engage hesitant eaters…. at least they have a little say on what goes in the bowl!

Nice alternative veggies would be cabbage, mung bean sprouts would be good on top, or other hearty greens.

However you do it – this is a wonderful alternative taste to stir-fry.

To serve, put bowls of all the different meal components on the table and allow each family member to serve themselves. Pile the meat and veggies on top of the rice and top with the egg. Add some of the “gravy” from the cooked meat. Finally, mix (remember, “bee-bim” means “mix”) everything together. And enjoy!

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Super Easy Freezer Pickles

 photo IMG_0689.jpgI may have mentioned it already, but I have a cucumber problem this year. I haven’t had a cucumber problem in many, many years. I can only assume that our relatively cool summer prevented the nasty powdery mildew and other humidity related diseases that eventually do in all of my curcurbits. In surveying my cucumber bounty, I knew there was only one answer, to pickle some of them. Big Sis and I have already shared some pickle preparations, but they aren’t really meant for the long haul, sort of more of a 10 day window on those puppies. My past experiences with hot water canning for pickles left a bad and totally non crunchy pickle taste in my mouth.

 photo IMG_0687.jpgAnd so in honor of our cool summer, I turned from one temperature extreme to the other in search of a perfect freezer pickle recipe. I found this one, and then didn’t follow it. :-) Who on earth needs 4 cups of sugar in anything? Not this momma. And I assume that the turmeric was added for the sake of color – to make them look more like commercial pickles, which use yellow food dye to look like what? What would happen if we all just decided greenish pickles are okay? But, I digress. I hustled out to the store and picked up some of these babies. I could use glass, and with a vinegar based brine I usually would, however, one of my kids’ new chores is to do the fetch it run from the downstairs freezer and I had visions of freezer pickles all over the basement. So I went with plastic.

This couldn’t have been easier. These won’t last as long as water bath pickles would, but given the reaction my kids had to the batch I prepared last week, they won’t make it until winter anyway.

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  • 8 pounds cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2T salt
  • 1 1/2 c maple syrup (oh yes I did)
  • 1 c white vinegar
  • 1 c apple cider vinegar
  • 1 t celery seed
  • 1 t mustard seed

In a large container (I had to use my largest pot), combine cucumbers, onion, and salt and let sit for 3 hours, stirring periodically. Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 2-3 hours. Drain and rinse cucumbers and onions. Add liquid to cucumbers (being sure to get them out of the strainer first… I’ve done such things). Pack in 1 pint containers, being sure to leave at least an inch at the top for freezer expansion. Freeze for up to 6 weeks. Thaw in fridge, consume with a week or so. Crunchy, sour, sweet, delish!
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Creamy Roasted Tomato Pasta (DF)

 photo IMG_0756.jpgI don’t quite understand it, but my tomato cherry tomato plants just keep going. They look terrible. An ill-timed vacation left the plants vulnerable to the one two punch of japanese beetles and grasshoppers, but they don’t seem to have gotten the message that they’re kaput. And so I keep going out and gathering a few at a time. I have standard cherry tomatoes and these wonderful yellow pear shaped ones that I grew from seeds my Mom got for me while visiting Monticello. Yes, these are Thomas Jefferson’s tomatoes. What former history teacher wouldn’t geek out about that?!

At any rate, I featured these tomatoes in a an easy and satisfying dinner last night that got a 100% approval rating – yes, folks you heard me right. Last night I defeated Ms. Picky Pants. Granted it was pasta, so it’s kind of cheating, and I deconstructed the dish so she could have some control over the ratio of the elements, but the pasta had the creamy goodness already on it, and pre-sauced pasta without complaint is a victory over here! I take what I can get. We’d had a few not thrilled with dinner nights in a row, so I decided it was time for a dish that stood a better chance of at least being consumed without complaint.

 photo IMG_0753.jpgWhat makes this pasta meal special is three main elements. The creamy goodness (here I’ve used my friend Annie’s cashew cream which I think I could write a book on because it’s so wonderful), the roasted tomatoes (if you’ve not done this you have really been missing out), and the fresh herbs. The cashew cream provides just the right amount of cream feeling without the clumpiness of sunflower cheese or real dairy ricotta. And roasting tomatoes? Nothing brings out the sweetness like a little roast. Throw in a little olive oil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar and you’ve got a dresser upper for just about any dish. Fresh herbs? I say yes please!

The original version of this dish is here on Meatless Monday’s website, a great resource if you are looking for vegetarian meal ideas. Because my version is pretty close, I’m just going to cover a few highlights. In changing this recipe for my family, I removed the dairy, increased the pasta amount (because leftovers are good), and left the components separate (aside from combining the cream and pasta) because this is a more successful strategy with my children. You could also choose to use gluten free pasta or veggie noodles like these.

Roasting Tomatoes: To achieve super goodness, preheat the oven to about 350. Place clean tomatoes in a baking dish. Add olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar, and a dash of salt. Stir to ensure tomatoes all have contact with the other yum. Place in oven and cook until tomatoes have cracked skins and have begun to release their juice. Mine took 35 minutes, with a goose up to 425 for the last 5 minutes. Your kitchen will smell heavenly.

While the tomatoes are roasting, boil your pasta, chop your herbs, and if you have some toast some pine nuts in a pan. If you don’t have pine nuts, walnuts would also make a nice addition to this dish.

Creaminess: As I said, I used cashew cream for my version and simply added just enough to the dish to ensure that noodles all had some cream, but were not drowning. Many dishes with cheeses and cream sauces go overboard in my opinion, so I usually start with less than the recipe calls for and see how that looks.

Herbs: Fresh basil makes this dish absolutely sing. The combo with the tomatoes is a natural, and the basil cuts through the cream in a way that makes the dish lighter feeling, more summery. We also put chopped fresh parsley on ours.

Other veggies. After our initial taste, which garnered universal approval, Mr. Little Sis and I began our usual varia-bowl treatment by adding fresh spinach and other chopped veggies we had in the fridge. This would be a great place to use some zucchini noodles.

So there you go, another way to use that summer bounty, and to enjoy those flavors while they linger. May all your pasta be delicious and all of your meals garner 100% approval (or at least 75). Delish!