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!

 

Why Should I Eat Something I Don’t Like?

Indeed.  Why should my son who asked that question of me?  Why should I?  It got me thinking about ‘First World Problems’ and starving children, but, let’s be honest.  Generations of parents have tried to convince their children that they should eat something nasty just because there are people in the world who would be happy to have that nasty thing which is WAY better than nothing.  But it doesn’t work.  It doesn’t work for children OR adults.  Empathy is not the forte of the young, especially when it really doesn’t make sense.  It is sad that others do not have enough to eat, or what they want to eat, but my son will say that if there is something he prefers right there in the cabinet, then why can’t he have that right now?  He knows what he eats for dinner won’t affect that poor child’s hunger either way.  So how to answer that question for him, and for myself.  In a culture that emphasizes choice, reward and satisfaction, why shouldn’t we always have something we like to eat?

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I chose a picture of broccoli because my son used to hate broccoli. The only way we could get him to eat it was to allow him to put ketchup on it (Bleah!) He still does not love it, but he eats it, without complaint, and without ketchup ;-)

I’ve got 3 responses to share with my son and myself:

A) You can acquire a taste for things / change your taste for things;

B) You have 1 body which you would like to be able to navigate through as much of this world / life as possible; and my personal favorite….

C) Because I made it and we’re all sitting down here together to eat it, dammit!  i.e. this is about more than your personal satisfaction.

I know, that’s all a bit flippant, so allow me to expand…

A) Indeed you can acquire a taste for things and even lose a taste for things!  I recently splurged on a purchase of some fancy Italian ice cream which was labelled chocolate / peanut butter.  Who knew the fancy Italian ice cream would have little peanut butter cup candies in it?  My mother will think I’m lying, but I removed the candy peanut butter cups because they were too sweet.  They made the ice cream cloyingly sweet to me, so I didn’t eat them.  Mind you, I used to ADORE Reese’s peanut butter cups.  They were my candy of choice and Younger Big-Bro could always get a good trade out of me at Halloween if he had Reese’s cups to offer.  However, I have lost my taste for milk chocolate and heavy duty sweets because I stopped eating them and learned to love other things that are not so sweet instead.  It can happen.  It took awhile!  Baby Steps friends, remember to take Baby Steps – small changes a bit at a time, like reducing amount or cutting it with something.  With chocolate you can slowly switch over to darker chocolate.  For more info on making switches – either fast or slow, see Baby Step #1 The Ol’ Switcheroo, or Baby Steps Boost which makes suggestions for how to take Baby Steps away from some common unhealthy foods.

It can also happen that people’s taste buds change as as they mature and as they age.  Little Sis will tell you that Miss Picky Pants (my adorable niece) has taste buds that can change overnight ;-)  If they haven’t tried it in awhile, have them try it again.  And not the touch the corner of the fork with your tongue and then make a face try.  An actual try that involves a bite, followed by chewing and swallowing.  We require 2 bites because the first one is still colored by negative expectations, or a poor guess.  This rule goes for adults also.  As a precursor to answer ‘C’ I say, “Put your Big Girl Panties on and just eat it – it won’t hurt you even if you don’t like it.”

B) If children were left to eat without any input, some of them just might develop some serious nutritional deficiencies.  Heck, many adults have serious nutritional deficiencies.  Personally I am low in iron.  I try to eat greens and cook in a cast iron pan to amend that situation.  I’m sure you know the basics of balancing protein, carbohydrates and including lots of veggies and fruits.  Perhaps more information about what nutrients are in our food and what those nutrients do for us would help allay the tendency to eat pizza every night.  Check out some resources for nutrient information:
– Charts on the nutrients in fruits, vegetables and fish
– 
An extensive list of foods and the nutrients they contain – this is a pdf booklet – you have to go through about 10 pages of other info before you get to the chart, but it is a good resource.

As we mentioned in the Baby Step on getting your kids engaged with change, try to tie in their personal goals with their food intake.  In other words, if they want to be an athlete stress the nutrients needed to help them get stronger and to grow healthfully.  If they want to do well in school stress the foods that will feed their brains….

Understanding the physiological need for a variety of healthy foods and the physiological benefits of a variety of healthy foods can be helpful in convincing yourself and others to eat things that are not your first, or even second or third choice.

C) Eating is about more than personal satisfaction.  It is part of the ritual of converting the bounty of the planet into bountiful community.  It takes a village to feed one gaping maw.  Recognizing the involvement of community, family or personal involvement on the resulting meal or even packed lunch takes a little emphasis off the pleasure and places it back on the living, necessity of eating.  So when our culture shines through in my son’s belief that he is entitled to have something delicious every time he eats, I can try to re-focus him on all of the reasons and all of the work that goes into feeding people.  Little Sis’ family starts the evening meal with some thanks to the one who prepared the meal.  What a great way to re-focus the meal on the bounty of being fed…. the bounty of having good nutrition…. and the bounty of being together and taking care of each other.

Should we live to eat? or eat to live?

Here at the Pantry we usually fall in the middle on such spectrums of possibility.  It surely seems too stringent to do either exclusively.  But there is definitely room in most of our lives for a little more eating to live.  Such a blessing to even have a choice!

Italian Meatless Pasta Sauce and Raw Pork Products Recalled

FSNBTullia’s Italian Meatless Pasta Sauce recalled because of potential botulism contamination. Botulism is potentially fatal. Please check out the details and share.

153 cases of E.Coli have prompted the recall of some raw pork products. Please check out the details here, and again, share with your meat eating friends.

Eat well, be well friends.

Cool Cucumber Soup with Herbed Cucumber Relish (DF)

 photo IMG_0726.jpgI have cucumbers coming out of my ears – and no Big Brothers, I did not eat a seed. I can only assume that our relatively cool Maryland summer has delayed the usual onset of powdery mildew (which has now arrived and I’m combatting according to Big Sis’ suggestion) long enough for my cucumber plants to go bananas, so to speak. I’ve regularly been harvesting not just 1 or 2, but anywhere from 6 to 16 (yes, I said 16) delicious cukes from my 4 cucumber plants. What variety is doing so well in my not very well tended garden? I have no idea. Seed mixups are a real bummer. I digress.

In order to take advantage of my cuke bounty, we’ve been experimenting with some things, and I’ll share more of them over the next few weeks before it snows and puts an end to this whole summer bounty thing. Today, while it is relatively hot, I’ll share a lovely cooling use for all those wonderful cukes.

If you’ve been playing along for a while, you already know how I feel about Deborah Madison. In addition to my Deborah Madison cooking bible, I have a slimmer volume dedicated only to soups, because I really like soup. In this beautifully produced and photographed cookbook, there are a few cool soups perfect for beastly weather. Last night I was inspired by her Cool Cucumber Soup, although as usual I was compelled to make some changes. At any rate we had an 85% approval rating (meaning Picky Pants initially enjoyed it and changed her mind later). So, for all you cucumber lovers, or just those of you who like the sound of an easy cooling meal made from the most abundant veggie out there right now…

Cool Cucumber Soup with Herbed Cucumber Relish (DF) adapted (and made larger and milder) from Deborah Madison’s version in Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen(serves 4)

Soup

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  • 2 pounds cucumbers
  • 1 1/2 c cashew cream (here, from our lovely friend Annie) or yogurt or sour cream
  • 3/4 c herbs (I used dill, basil, and parsley to great effect
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • zest and juice of 1 1/2 lemons

Relish

  • 1 pound cucumbers
  • 2 T chopped scallions
  • 1 T dill
  • 2 T chopped basil and parsley
  • 2 t olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

Peel and seed the cucumbers – dice 1/3 of them (or one pound) and set aside for the relish. While I often recommend skipping peeling and such, in this case I peeled to remove the bitterness sometimes in the skins. Coarsely chop remaining cukes and place in blender with the rest of the ingredients for the soup. Blitz until smooth. Place in fridge to chill. Yes, that’s it. No, I’m not joking.

Just before serving, combine ingredients for relish in bowl and stir. Done. No muss, no fuss, no cucumbers wasted. Delish. Happy super late summer!

 photo IMG_0726.jpg  photo IMG_0730.jpg  photo IMG_0736.jpg

 

Raw Milk, Kraft Singles, and Parmesan Cheese Recalls

FSNBIf you don’t eat dairy, please share these with your friends who do.

Cryptosporidium (a parasite that will make you feel totally blechy) in raw milk in Idaho; details here.

Kraft Singles recalled for temperature problems? I have no idea what that means, but if you’re buying singles, I would greatly encourage you to try a cheese that is a little less processed – the flavor is so much richer, and you can cut it into slices, I swear you can. You’ll save a bundle. Details on the Kraft situation here.

Parmesan cheese recalled for salmonella. Details here.

Eat well, be well friends.

Blueberry Pie w/ sweet potato & walnut crust- GF/DF

I do love sneaking the vegetables into places where no vegetable has gone before.  Vegetablization is like charting new territory and is great for your health ;-)  What better place to vegetablize than in places where I used to use gluten and can no longer due to Mr. Bigg Sis’ dietary constraints?  But don’t let no need to lose gluten slow you down here, because more vegetablizing is always a good, and in this case, a delicious thing.

You may recall that in the past I presented you with a walnut crusted apple pie.  It’s delicious but turns out more like a cobbler when all is said and done.  So I am still interested engaging the search for a healthy GF crust…. and will go back to the cobbler-y things if it doesn’t work, right?  Or try Little Sis’ nectarine cream pie with a walnut crust which is also GF / DF.  Oh the possibilities are endless…. and this possibility I combined the idea for a sweet potato crust (also tasty and cobbler-ish) with the walnut idea to see if that might yield something a bit more pie-like.

Blueberry Pie with Sweet Potato/Walnut crust

crust
2 cups shredded sweet potato
1 cup walnuts
2 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp maple syrup
1 pinch salt

3 c blueberries (mine were frozen at home)
1/4 c sugar
1/4 + 1/8 oats (that’s 1/4 cup and then about a half again of a 1/4 cup measure)

Preheat oven to 375 and grease a pie plate (I used coconut oil)
Shred the sweet potato in the food processor

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Take it out and put all the other crust ingredients in the food processor and reduce to a fine crumble

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Add the sweet potato back in and process into a mash

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Spread the mash into the bottom of a greased pie plate (I found fingers more effective than a spoon)
Bake at 375 for 15 – 20 minutes or until it starts to get a little crisp.  If your crust is a little thin it will crisp better, but the thick crust was nice as well – just spread out well and evenly and up the sides

While the crust is baking, mix the blueberries, sugar and oats
Pour into crust when it has baked

Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.  You can cover the top with foil if you like to protect the edges of the crust.

Feed it to happy, intrepid, inter-vegetable travellers…

20140831_184827-001 Now I will say that this came out a bit cobbler-ish as well, but the edges of the pie crust were crispy, so I”m thinking that if I made it a little thinner and cooked it a little longer prior to filling that it might come out more crispy.  On the other hand, this really rocked, and all 3 of us had seconds… so why mess with it?

20140831_184835-001May your September be full of pie!

 

 

Pleasing Picky Pants…Oven Baked Carrot Fries

I have an unwritten policy as regards dinner planning in my house. It’s important to remind you all that I am the mother of one VERY picky eater. When I say picky I don’t just mean that she makes faces when she eats or that she really loves the foods that all children love most.  When I say picky I mean my daughter has about 5 foods in the world that she enjoys, the rest is either nearly tolerable or yucky. We spend a LOT of time in nearly tolerable. When I plan a few days worth of meals I attempt to ensure that at least every few days I make something that Ms. Picky Pants might actually almost enjoy (even if it’s not one of the top 5). If I know the main dish isn’t anywhere near the top 5, I try to make up for it with sides she might like to ensure some level of dinner time tranquility. Which brings us to tonight.

Having backed myself into a grocery corner by running out of time yesterday, I was committed to having my beloved nutshroom burgers. I should mention that Mr. Little Sis and I both love these. My son is not enthusiastic, but is accepting. My daughter USED to love these burgers. That’s the other thing I should tell you about the top 5 foods Ms. Picky Pants enjoys. They rotate out on a daily basis. I’m not making this up. In response to “I thought you liked this dish sweetie,” my daughter will say “I DID like it before, but I DON’T like it today.” Yes, she is going to be the death of me. You can, perhaps, now also see why I don’t accommodate her preferences more than I do. I’d have to actually know what her preferences are on that day to even consider accommodating her. I digress.

 photo IMG_0670.jpgIn order to make the nutshroom burger dinner a pleasant experience I had decided to make oven fries. Many problems can be solved with my oven fries. When the time came to get started this evening, I realized that I had failed to procure the needed spuds. My own garden spuds are not quite ready for fry size, so I decided to do some creative improvising. Internet search engine to the rescue. Carrot fries coming up, thanks to William Sonoma. Continue reading

GF Pancake Mix – Making Time for Pancakes

What if some fine morning when you have time to make pancakes you used 3 or 4 bowls?  1 bowl for the pancakes to make that day and the other 2 or 3 bowls to add all of the dry ingredients for another morning’s pancakes?  Might make it easier to get those cakes going on a busier morning…..

I’m still thinking about saving time, so when I saw this post from our good friend Annie at Unrefined Vegan, I decided I had to give it a GF go.  Please feel check out her version which is chock full of interesting grains and flours as well as the idea that you can flavor up a batch of pancakes or waffles once you start with the basic recipe.   Gluten free or Gluten full – pancakes are a lovely way to start the day and we’re going to see if I can whip up a batch of pancakes tomorrow morning before school if I have the head start of pre-mixing all of the dry ingredients. Continue reading

Summer Bounty Recipe Box

We have been having a VERY strange summer here. It’s been lovely. Like really nice, pleasant, only hot every now and again, rain every few days. Sounds great, right? Definitely NOT the Mid-Atlantic summer I’m used to. Predictably my Mid-Atlantic garden is having a mixed reaction. Some plants are LOVING it (i.e. zucchini and cucumbers), others are okay, but sort of underwhelming in production (tomatoes) and still others fell to the Japanese beetles that seem to enjoy this weather very much (beans). Our garden haul is predictably unpredicted. I’ve heard lots of folks reflecting on the same problem, with the bounty varying according to their region Thought I’d do a little roundup for YOUR garden bounty.

Cukes and Zukes
 
  

1. Indian Summer Cold Sesame Noodles

2. Easy Refrigerator Dills

3. Sweet and Sour Cucumbers
   Continue reading

Peanut and Almond Butter Recall

FSNBHere we go again. Salmonella and nut butters recalled for salmonella. That’s enough for me. I’m going to start making my own (and maybe I’ll add chocolate to it like Big Sis does). We are too much a nut butter house to keep having these salmonella scare. My personal jar is not on this list, but that doesn’t make me feel much better about it. I’m guessing that jar is going to cool its heels in the fridge until I get sick of looking at it. Daggone it – details here. Eat well, be well friends.