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!

 

Herbed Sweet Tomatoes with Rice

I got ya with the second word didn’t I?  I do like sweet and it is certainly the biggest potential stumbling block for me in terms of maintaining a healthy diet.  Sweet is like the golden ring – the pinnacle – the happy juice of food and food rewards, isn’t it?  Having just spent a week with Sweetie-Dad, my sweet tooth has been tested and also shown what the real Master of Sweets enjoys!  Of course my Dad is also just plain sweet – but Little Sis and I come by our sugar cravings very honestly.  It was Sweetie-Dad’s Mom who would roll out the pie or cake after most any meal and ask, “What’ll you have?”

Both please! With ice cream! And can I have a little bit of Co-Cola with that please Grammy?

Back to present time and reality…. I actually do not crave those things like I used to and have found that I can appreciate naturally sweet foods more while
taking the edge off that sweet tooth.  And because Little Sis and I are also the offspring of Carni-Mom our sweet tooth is really sharp 😉

Super Step-Mom and I rolled out a delicious rice-pasta dish which I chose to re-make at home with rice and walnuts – yummy both ways and using LOTS of sweet little tomatoes.  Oh I DO love those sweet little tomatoes – beautiful grape tomatoes and sweeter varieties of cherry tomatoes blended with some basil, oregano and parsley from the garden.  I’ll have seconds of that my wonderful Grammy and save the cake for another day.

Fresh from the garden Baby.  So good!

Fresh from the garden Baby. So good!

Herbed Sweet Tomatoes with Rice

2 cups brown rice (cooked in vegetable bouillion for extra flavor) – don’t forget to make extra rice if that will help meals for the next few days!
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion (sweet if you have it!)
1-2 cloves garlic (I used 1 large clove)
2 med. or 1 Lge zucchini cut how you like (I slice coins and then cut coins into strips)
3-4 cups sweet little ‘maters
Optional – other fresh veggies – SWEET peppers are especially good, didn’t have any ripe
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano (1 tsp dried)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 – 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil (I hold a stack of leaves and cut strips with scissors)
chopped walnuts
salt and pepper to taste

Set the water (or bouillion) boiling for rice
Chop onion and mince or crush garlic
Cook onion and garlic in large skillet in oil until transparent, or even browning a bit
Chop zucchini and tomatoes (I just cut my little maters in half)

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Add zucchini and oregano and cook until desired tenderness
Add tomatoes just to warm them up
Remove from heat and stir in parsley and basil
Serve over rice
Top with chopped walnuts as desired – I used about 2 Tbsp in my bowl because they are SO good.
Add more basil and parsley if it doesn’t have enough Ka-Pow.

This passed the 12 year old test, and the no leftovers test as well.  I will have to make more next time!

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If you don’t have any herbs in your garden, you might consider a few in pots in a sunny windowsill or on the porch, deck or balcony.  They are easy, generally don’t have many insect problems and add so much to food.  With some fresh herbs from the garden you can make incredible dishes and sauces like this Chimichurri from Little Sis

Enjoy the summer bounty of the best sweets of all – fruits and vegetables!

And if the situation calls for something sweeter – check out these sweets recipes:
Celebration Krispies

GF / DF apple pie with walnut crust

Brownie Bites

P.S.  Thanks to my wonderful Little Sis who has been blogging away while I finish my semester and get started on a project we’ve been discussing.  She is the best project partner evah!