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wild rice and peach saladthere comes a time each summer, when i’ve eaten one too many ice cream cones and had one too many drinks and i just start to feel like a giant blob of unhealthy. such was the case during the week leading up to labor day, when i told myself, after a weekend of somewhat-controlled debauchery on the jersey shore, that i was going to “eat clean” for a week.

that didn’t last. i mean, i tried, really, i did. and i definitely ate healthier, but if there’s one thing i learned about myself, it’s that putting restrictions like “eat clean all week” on myself just make me want pasta even more. whereas, when i just tell myself i’m actively going to try and eat healthily, and swap my ice cream cones for berries, i’m somewhat able to do so.

anyway, during my “eat clean” week, i stumbled across this recipe from the QUEEN of eating clean. seriously, this woman is perfectly happy to eat a giant bowl of vegetables for dinner and call it a day. i mean, i wish i was that sort of human, but i’m just not.

i adapated sarah’s recipe to fit my own tastes, and to make it work-lunch worthy, i served it over arugula, which beefed it up a little (and added some greens, which are always healthy, right?!). it’s delicious. trust me, you want to make this.

what you’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 cups wild rice mix
  • 1-2 ripe peaches, sliced
  • 1/3 cup mint, chopped (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • juice of one large orange
  • 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • pink himalayan salt or sea salt

what you’ll do

  • cook rice according to package directions. generally speaking, rice is a 2:1 water to rice ratio, with a bit of butter or oil thrown in.
  • stick your rice in the fridge to cool. meanwhile, mince your garlic and shallot, and juice your orange.
  • mix the shallot, garlic, OJ, EVOO, red wine vinegar and a little bit of salt (i used sea salt) into the bowl. stick your fork in and taste it. add more salt (or a little pepper, i did) if you’d like.
  • slice your peaches and roughly chop your mint.
  • in a large bowl, combine rice, peaches, and mint. add dressing and mix well, then stick in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to let the flavors really seep in. i left mine in there overnight, since i was bringing it to work the next day.
  • when you’re ready to serve, fill a plate with a hearty serving of arugula (spinach or mixed greens would also work nicely here), and top with rice salad. sprinkle with some fresh mint and a little bit of salt and pepper, then toss to combine.

et voila! a healthy, pretty salad that will make everyone else at the office jealous.

 

vanilla almond granola with cranberriesoh, granola. granola is one of those foods that makes you think of earthy crunchy healthy people who probably eat paleo and go to yoga at least 4 times a week. i mean, there’s a reason people can be referred to as “granola” people. or, wait. did i just make that up? regardless, you know the sorts of people i mean, don’t you? the folks who wouldn’t dare each a bowl of lucky charms (aka, not me).

anyway, people love granola. i’d go as far as to say that granola is really in right now. top it with berries, eat it with yogurt, eat it with milk, snack on it…no matter how you’re consuming, granola is having a moment. or rather, it has been having a moment for the past few years. i too jumped on the yogurt and granola train a year or so back, eating it regularly for breakfast at my desk. but recently, i happened to take a look at the ingredient breakdown on the back of my supposedly healthy granola, and guess what? that ish was FULL of sugar. and other ingredients i couldn’t pronounce. and that mystified me, because granola is basically just oats and nuts and maybe some oil/sweetener, right? and dried fruit if you’re feeling fancy? so what was up with ingredients i couldn’t pronounce?

NOT COOL, GRANOLA.

so recently on a weekend, when i was sitting at home being lame while others were out having fun and doing the things that so-called normal late twenty-somethings do, i made my own. after doing a bit of googling, it turned out i was right: granola is basically just oats + sweetener + nuts + a lil bit of oil + spices + dried fruit/chocolate. EASY PEASY.

i decided i wanted vanilla granola with dried cranberries and toasted almonds (i’d picked up the latter two ingredients at whole foods recently and needed to use them for something). so i tossed some oats into a bowl with the almonds, then melted down some coconut oil, and mixed it into the oats along with some vanilla extract, some maple sugar for sweetness, and some cinnamon for shits and giggles. and guess what? the results were DELISH.

let’s break it down, shall we?*

*here’s the thing about granola: so long as you coat your oats and add some sweetener, you’re pretty much guaranteed goodness. so don’t worry too much about measuring cups.

VANILLA ALMOND GRANOLA WITH DRIED CRANBERRIES

what you’ll need:

– approximately 2.5 -3 cups of oats

– pinch of salt

– 1/4 cup maple syrup

– 1/2 cup melted coconut oil

– 1 tablespoon vanilla extract (pour liberally, folks)

– 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

– 1/2 cup dried cranberries

what you’ll do:

preheat your oven to 300, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or a silicon baking mat, if you’ve got one).

melt down your coconut oil, and pour it over your oats. toss to mix. add your maple syrup, vanilla extract, and cinnamon, and toss a bit more. toss in your almonds.

go ahead and do a little taste test if you want. ain’t no raw eggs in here. add some more sweetener, vanilla, cinnamon, etc, if you’d like.

once your granola has passed the taste test, spread them out on the baking sheets you’ve prepared. don’t overload your sheets – a thin layer is what’s going to ensure your granola is cooked evenly.

bake for about 45 minutes, tossing every 15. when done, let your granola cool completely. the air will help to create that crunchiness that granola is known for.

once cool, toss with your dried cranberries – or any dried fruit, really! or even chocolate chips if you’re feeling really crazy – and store in an airtight container. granola should stay fresh for about 3 weeks at room temperature.

HAPPY EATING! i like to eat mine with fresh fruit on top and honey greek yogurt on the bottom, as evidenced here.

 

 

 

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sometimes i think about how skinny i’d be if i didn’t eat carbs, or really, pasta in particular. i love rice, but i could give it up. i’d miss bagels, but i could do without them. i could care less about traditional bread; i’m not a sandwich girl. but pasta. pasta i could not live without. those paleo folks who shred zucchini and call it pasta? kudos to them, but i ain’t buying that shit. pasta is pasta, and i’m not going to cut up some veggies and call it a carb. hells to the N-O. i eat more pasta than i should, that’s for sure – so when i do eat it, i try to make sure it’s relatively healthy, and not doused in some disgustingly fattening sauce (alfredo, i’m looking at you). i always toss my pasta with a) homemade pesto b) homemade meat sauce or c) fresh veggies and herbs. the canned stuff makes a rare occurrence when i’m feeling uber lazy, but i do my best to ensure that if the pasta is boxed, whatever goes on top of it is fresh.

such is the case with this easy-as-pie recipe, for lemon parsley spaghetti with garlic and parm. when i made it the other day, i was craving greens, so i tossed some broccoli in as well. all you need are lemons, garlic, butter, italian flat leaf parsley, olive oil, parmesan, and spaghetti. that’s IT. and trust, this stuff is good. you could whip it up for a dinner party and impress your guests.

what you’ll need:

  • 3/4 lb spaghetti (you could sub linguine or any other thin pasta here)
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil ( i use trader joe’s)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped (make sure you don’t get the curly kind! italian parsley is flat leaf)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest, grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • salt + pepper
  • parmesan cheese

what you’ll do:

boil water for your spaghetti. while it boils, slice and dice all your goodies. grate the parm, chop the parsley, dice the garlic, zest your lemons, and squeeze ’em of their juices.

once your water is boiling, toss in your spaghetti with a pinch of salt. while the pasta cooks, throw your butter and olive oil into a skillet, and let the butter melt. turn the heat down to medium, and throw in your garlic. saute for a few minutes, until your entire kitchen smells like garlicky goodness (the best smell on earth). when garlic browns, turn off the heat.

drain your pasta, and toss is with the garlic/olive oil mixture. next, mix in your lemon zest/lemon juice/parsley. top with parm, season with a bit of salt and pepper, et voila! a delicious, easy, springy and oh-so-pretty meal!

ps: if you wanted to add protein, some lemony shrimp would be perfection on top of this dish.

pps: if you wanted to add veggies, simply chop them up and throw them into the pasta water for the last few minutes to cook them up, then drain them with your spaghetti.

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you guys, i made this for dinner the other night (as documented on instagram above), and it was so spectacularly easy that i forgot to take pictures of my progress. essentially, i have a before picture, and an after picture, and that’s about it. but that’s okay, because as i said, it’s pretty much the easiest recipe EVER, so there’s not that much to document. i found the recipe here, and adapted it a bit to suit my kitchen needs.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb rigatoni pasta
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 cups spaghetti sauce (i used trader joe’s)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 ounces mozzarella ( i got mine at trader joe’s)
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes
  • 3-5 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 pre-cooked chicken breast (i had some breaded chicken left over that i chopped up)

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook pasta according to package in a large pot of water with salt. Once pasta is fully cooked, drain and drizzle with olive oil.
  3. In a large pan warm spaghetti sauce over medium heat. One the sauce is heated, add in heavy cream and parmesan cheese. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Once cheese is melted pour sauce over noodles.
  4. Cut grape tomatoes in half and mozzarella in 1/2 inch cubes. Then combine the mozzarella (save about 1/4 cup) and tomatoes with the pasta. Add your chopped up chicken (shrimp would also be yummy!) Pour into a 9×9 baking dish. Top with remaining cheese.
  5. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  6. Top with fresh basil. Enjoy!

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one of my favorite things about spring in new york is how it reinvigorates the farmer’s market in union square. the market never quite disappears in the winter, braving those chilling days when it feels like the wind could cut straight through your cheeks and leave you wounded – but in the spring, it truly comes alive again. the square bustles with people: moms pushing double strollers and dads carrying babies and baggus. teenagers skateboarding past the strawberries and young couples picking out fresh flowers one by one. this past weekend was the first one in the city that truly felt like spring. i went to sleep on friday night, and when i woke up saturday morning, the sun was shining bright. the clouds were so fluffy it looked like if you jumped high enough you could land in them, sinking into their softness and squeezing in a 20 minute power nap. it was the perfect spring day: crisp air, highs in the upper fifties, the promise of something new and beautiful to come.

weather like that, it makes you forget that someone puked on the subway before. it’s like someone colors the city with a hazy, rose tint, and all of a sudden, everything is wonderful and nothing bad exists. it is, in other words, the perfect time to go shopping. and so shop i did. i came home from the farmer’s market with a slew of fresh fruit and veggies and on sunday afternoon, i took to my kitchen and went nuts. i made homemade chocolate chip cookie ice cream (recipe to come later this week), and then decided to meld all my fresh spring veggies into one delicious spring pasta. it was so delicious that i thought you might want to make it for yourself. what’s that? you do want to? great. the how-to is below.

The Recipe

2 cloves of garlic, diced

2 cups assorted sliced veggies – i used asparagus, zucchini, green beans and spinach

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1/3 box of penne (i like barilla)

2 tsp of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

parmesan to taste

Make it

this recipe is insanely easy to make. it’s so simple, in fact, that i’m not even really sure it counts as a recipe. but whatever. it’s my blog and i can lie about recipes if i want to. so, let’s do this thing.

to start, slice all your veggies. you can use whatever spring veggies you’ve got around. i threw some frozen peas in at the last minute, and damn, were they good. your veggies should be cut into approximately 1″ pieces. they don’t have to be baby bite size, but you also don’t to be shoving an entire asparagus stalk in your mouth at one time. and if you do, well, you’re not allowed to eat at my house.

put a pot of cold water on the stove and bring to a rolling boil. when it gets there, dump in your pasta and add a pinch of salt. while your pasta is cooking, saute your veggies. put your olive oil into a pan and give it about a minute to heat up. add your diced garlic and give that a minute to get all fragrant and wonderful and garlicky. now, dump in your veggies. if your pan is too dry, feel free to add a bit more olive oil. a little more EVOO never hurt no one. while your veggies cook, zest your lemon into the pan. mmm, smell that lemony deliciousness. SO GOOD. don’t juice it just yet. that will come later.

when your pasta is done, drain it and reserve a tiny bit of the pasta water. pour it into a pretty bowl. now, add the sautéed veggies on top of it. take a fork and mix it all together for good measure. now, juice your lemon over the pasta and mix again. smells good, doesn’t it? season with salt and pepper to taste, and grate some fresh parm on top.

et voila! a delicious spring dinner.

note: if you’re looking to even this dish out, i’d recommend sautéing some shrimp with a bit of lemon juice, or grilling up some chicken to slice on top of it. protein’s great and all, but man, sometimes a girl just wants CARBS.

now, go forth and make something springy!

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i’m about as far from a health nut as a person could get (i’m a candy fiend), but i like to think that me and my taste buds don’t discriminate when it comes to food. it can be really good for you or really bad for you, but if it tastes good, we’re down. it might surprise you to hear that lots of healthy foods can also be pretty damn delicious. case in point: kale. kale is soo hot right now, so if you haven’t heard of it, you’ve probably been living under a rock. it’s been lauded on “superfood” lists for the past few years, and comes in many different varieties. a tough, leafy green, kale can be made many ways – sliced in a salad (i once made a meannnn kale caesar), sautéed with garlic, added to sausage and leek soup…the possibilities are endless. lest i bore you by waxing poetic about the many uses of kale, let me tell you about one of my favorite ways to use it: in a pesto. Image

pesto is typically thought of as a basil + cheese + nuts + olive oil sort of deal, but the truth is, you can make pesto from any number of greens, kale included. after “making out like a little bandito” (like my mother loves to say when she gets a good deal) at fairway the other weekend, i took to my kitchen determined to try something different with my kale.Kale Arugula Lemon Pesto

enter: kale and arugula pesto with a splash of lemon. i made this up, but i bet a quick google search would show that i’m not at all original. oh well – great minds think alike, right? since i made it up, my measurements aren’t exactly scientific. but the thing about making pesto is that you have to be willing to stick your finger in there and investigate every so often. taste is everything, and everyone’s taste buds are different.

here’s what you’ll need:

– one large bunch of kale, separated from its stems

– approximately a heaping cup of arugula (you can add more if you’d like, these measurements are fluid)

– about 1/2 cup of olive oil

– the zest and juice of one lemon

– 4 garlic cloves, diced

– 1-2 tsp of nutmeg

– salt and pepper, to taste

– 1 cup walnuts

– 1 cup parmesan cheese

to make:

bring a pot of water to boil. blanch your kale – a few minutes should do it. you just want to soften the leaves a little bit; kale can be a bit tough to chew otherwise. while your kale is cooking, chop your garlic and zest your lemon.

once kale is softened, drain it and dump it into a food processor. add arugula, olive oil, lemon zest and juice, walnuts, parm and 1 tsp of nutmeg. blend. it’ll take a few minutes, but it’ll all start to come together, and you’ll know if you need to drizzle in a bit more olive oil. some people like their pesto super creamy, others don’t. once things have settled, stick your finger in and do a taste test. if you’d like, add more nutmeg, and then season with salt and pepper. you could also add more nuts or more cheese if you’d like. more cheese is always a good idea, in my opinion.

serve with freshly cooked pasta (and fresh pasta, if you’ve got it). then, stick the leftovers in a ball jar and refrigerate. pesto should keep about a week in the fridge; you can freeze it for long term use.

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you know that phrase “stressed is desserts” spelled backwards? well, sometimes i think stressed is carbs, spelled…i don’t know how. basically, what i’m trying to say is that as much as i love sweets (hello, blog name), there comes a time in a girl’s life (or day) when she just wants to eat carbs.

enter, a big bowl o’ pasta. i ask you, is there anything carbs can’t cure? a pot of penne can sop up a lot of tears, and we all know pasta cooks in salt water. yesterday was a long day, and even though it included a mini cupcake from crumbs, i still came home wanting nothing more than to cuddle up on the couch with some spaghetti and watch my DVR-ed episode of SVU. of course, the fact that SVU wasn’t new this week was a major let down, but i made do with nashville. can’t win ’em all!

i did, however, luck out with this super easy pasta recipe that’s sopped in garlic and freshened up by lemon zest and italian flat leaf parsley. i found it here, and i’d highly recommend it. this thing is YUMMY. major kudos to the chef. i didn’t measure as closely as the original recipe and so i’ve rewritten it slightly below. i’d recommend this dish for long days, when you want something delicious but don’t feel like slaving over the stove, or when you’re having company over, and you want to look like you’re an amazing italian chef who just happened to end up in new york (if you go this route, might i suggest an italian accent to go with)? no, but really. make this. it’s easy. and so, so good. Image

 The Recipe: Lemon Pasta with Parsley and Parmesan

 You’ll need:

 * 3/4 lb spaghetti ( I used the Trader Joe’s brand)

* 5 garlic cloves, minced

* 1/4 cup olive oil

* 2 tablespoons butter

* 1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

* the zest of 2 large lemons

* the juice of one large lemon (about 1/3 cup)

* salt and pepper to taste

* a whole lot of pram

 To make:

First things first: cook spaghetti as directed in a large pot of salted water. While pasta is cooking, prep your other ingredients (yes, it’s that easy).

First, heat olive oil and butter on low in a small saucepan. Don’t turn it on high, your butter will burn. Mince your garlic, and add it to your olive oil/butter mixture and turn the heat up slightly. Cook until tender and fragrant (your kitchen will smell amazing right about now), about 3-5 minutes. While it’s cooking, zest and juice your lemons.

Drain pasta and place into a large serving bowl. Dump garlic and olive oil mixture atop of pasta and stir to incorporate evenly. Inhale. Exhale, and toss pasta with parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice. Resist the urge to take a bite right now. Season liberally with salt and pepper, and toss with freshly grated parmesan.

 Now, you can take a bite. Go ahead. See? I told you so. It’s good. Just try not to eat the whole thing (but I won’t blame you if you can’t help it).

Kale Parsley Pesto Pastaa few weeks ago, my parents came to visit me here in NYC, and brought with them a bevy of fresh fruits and veggies – some from fairway, and others that had been hand delivered to my mother by her farm worker patients at the government-funded health center where she works.

let’s back up a bit. the town where i grew up is nothing short of idyllic, all rolling hills and freshly cut lawns and old victorians, with highly-rated public schools and well-paved sidewalks. it’s the sort of town where pedestrians have the right of way, where cars are required to stop for anyone on foot. the sort of town where, for the most part, everybody knows everybody. it’s the sort of town that allows lesbians on the bima at the synagogue (though my two mothers were the first at our shul to do so), the sort of town that then goes on to elect a lesbian mayor. it might not be pleasantville (our life is definitely lived in color…in the rainbow, really), but it’s pretty damn close.

which is why it’s surprising to hear that there are poorly-treated farm workers pulling sixteen hour days shelling soybeans not twenty minutes away from our picturesque new england main street. growing up in the pioneer valley, one thinks such atrocities wouldn’t occur. not in our house! not on our watch! we are a town of politically-minded left wing hippies who believe in equal rights for all. certainly, we wouldn’t allow such abuse to go on behind closed (or, heaven forbid, open!) doors. but since my mom took her job at the health center, i’ve heard quite a few horror stories, many of which come at the hands of people that are pillars of the local community. 

i’ll leave you to infer what’s gone on by reading the article above – but trust me when i say that the people my mother cares for are, for all intents and purposes, people that have been left behind by this country. their rights, if they have any, have been violated, time and time again. and yet, many of them insist that the money they make here, the treatment they receive here – it’s worth it because it enables them to support their families, many of whom are back in their home country. they tell my mother things that breaks her heart. every single day. and somehow she still gets up each morning and does it again, like a brave, proud soldier, ensuring that anyone that steps over the threshold of her waiting room door gets the care they deserve. to say i have the utmost respect for the work she does would be the understatement of a lifetime. while i sit here and type up a dinky blog post, she’s out changing the world and making it a better place for everyone, not just for those who have been deemed by society and the law to deserve it.

it’s no surprise, then, that with all she does to care for these people (and she truly goes above and beyond, every day), they like to give back to her, oftentimes by bringing her a bit of their bounty. as part of their employment as farm workers, they’re allowed to take some of what they pick, and often, they bring it to her, and she, in turn, brings it to me. this visit, i was gifted with farm fresh kale, italian parsley, and the ugliest but tastiest tomatoes i’ve ever seen.

what does one do with kale and parsley? lots of things. parsley is a great garnish, and kale can be cooked, steamed, blanched, put into a salad, a pasta dish, a soup. but for some reason, i looked at my kale and immediately thought, what about pesto? so make pesto i did, with parsley and parmesan and sliced almonds and a whole lot of garlic. and i was worried that it’d be a bit weird, but to my surprise, it was totally delicious. and i made enough to have plenty to store in my freezer for later on.

so, let’s make some pesto with a side of politics, shall we?

note: pesto is one of those things that’s really all about taste-testing. so my “measurements” are more recommendations, because you might want more or less garlic, more or less cheese, or more parsley than kale. just stick your finger into the food processor (when it’s not running, obviously) and do a little taste test now and then.

The Recipe

About 6 cups of kale, slightly chopped (i used raw, but you could blanch yours slightly if you were so inclined)

1 1/2 cups parsley (don’t throw the stems in)

1 cup parmesan cheese (i used pre-shredded, but if you buy the real thing it’ll be way better)

1/2 cup sliced almonds (or walnuts, or any nut you choose – pine nuts would be great too)

2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped

olive oil

to make, dole out all your ingredients and throw them into your food processor. i laid my kale in there first, then my parsley, then spread my almonds and my cheese on top, as you’ll see in the picture. then in went the garlic. then i poured enough olive oil into swirl the perimeter a few times. i’d estimate it was a few tablespoons, but again, pesto is a fluid recipe. you can add more or less depending on the texture you’re looking to achieve. 

throw the top on and pulse to blend. if your pesto looks chunky, throw in a bit more olive oil and pulse some more. now, stop the motor and stick your finger (or a spoon, if you’re fancy and a germaphobe) in and have a taste. at this point, add salt and pepper if you think it needs it. mine didn’t, because parm and garlic are pretty darn salty already. once it’s reached a creamy consistency, remove and either mix immediately into pasta (which i did but forgot to photograph because i was too busy stuffing my face with deliciousness), or divy up into plastic bags to freeze.

note: you can see my bags above. what i do is scoop about two heaping tablespoons into a plastic foldover baggie. then i twist the tops so they make a little hershey’s kiss shape and tie the tops off. then snip off the extra with scissors. then i throw all the little baggies into one big freezer-safe baggie, and voila – pesto, whenever i want it. this is a trick i picked up from my parents, who’ve been making their own pesto for as long as i can remember thanks to the hords of basil that they grow in their garden. god bless suburbia, huh?

Imageon days when it’s ninety million degrees out, there’s little that can possess me to turn on my oven and start cooking. which is why yesterday, when it was at least 90 but the humidity made it feel more like 100, i whipped up an easy version of a salad i learned from my mom, and threw it into a taco. it’s basically some black beans, some corn, some salsa, and some cilantro. and that’s it! can you say EASY? i can.

i’m generally a bit wary of taking recipes from my mom, mostly because she’s kind of a health freak and i’m kind of, well, not. i prefer baking s’mores brownies over eating weight watchers “brownies” (let’s face it, they’re not the real thing). growing up, my house was full of things like rice puffs (cereal) and fruit leathers (snacks) and carrot sticks and apple slices and maybe a slice or two of cheese. we didn’t buy frosted flakes, or captain crunch, or fruit roll ups or shark bites (all things i desperately wanted). here’s the thing: when you’re in elementary school and everyone else is either buying lunch or taking out a PB&J at the table, and you’ve got a series of stacking tupperware containers filled with leftover chicken breast and maybe some brown rice, all you want is to fit in. when everyone else is eating shock tarts at snack time and you’ve got a fruit leather, all you want is to fit in. to the point where you’ll sneak away after piano lessons to the local convenience store and spend the entirety of your $20 allowance on junk food so you can eat it alongside your fellow students in school, and also in your bed at night when you’re feeling bad about yourself and you know a king size package of reese’s cups will make all your problems go away.

i don’t assert that my parents stringent healthiness (which, by the way, eased up as i got older) was what made me turn to junk food – on the contrary, i think most of it was that i was unhappy, and i ate to feed my sadness – but i do think i wanted junk food more simply because i was deprived of it. everyone else got oreos, i got fig newtons (which, to this day, i still believe are disgusting and should be banned from the cookie aisle), and at a time in my life when i desperately wanted to be thin and pretty and cool and popular and instead was chubby and mousy and un-athletic and unpopular, having health food next to all my friend’s “cool” snacks just made things worse. 

that being said, as i’ve gotten older and my self-esteem has developed a bit more (god, you could not pay me to go back to middle school – or elementary school for that matter), my relationship with food has gotten much healthier, and in turn, i’ve come to really enjoy healthy food. which, in my opinion, this recipe is. so long as you don’t eat ten tacos. everything in moderation, folks. 

The Recipe

1 can black beans 

1 cup frozen corn (though fresh corn would be even better)

1 cup chunky salsa (i get mine at trader joe’s)

3 tbsp chopped cilantro

corn tortillas (i get mine at trader joe’s)

shredded mexican cheese

to make, combine corn, beans, salsa and cilantro in a bowl. put a scoop of corn mixture on each tortilla, top with shredded cheese and garnish with a sprig of cilantro. for extra oomph, add some sauteed taco meat. 

 

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beets are one of those things i used to wrinkle my nose at. kind of the way kids feel about things like cabbage and brussel sprouts. you know, like this, “ewwwww. you expect me to eat that? GUH-ROSS, MOM!” i think i’ve mentioned before that as a youngin’, i wasn’t much for adventurous eating. things with odd textures, odd colors, and odd tastes just weren’t for me. this list included, at one time or another, mushrooms, onions, and red meat – as well as the aforementioned brussel sprouts, cabbage and beets.

let me tell you a funny story. the summer before i entered my freshman year of high school, my family, along with one of my oldest and bestest friends, kim, spent two weeks in france. we did a week in an apartment in paris that was full of crinkly wallpaper and aged herringbone wood floors and the kind of crown moulding that makes me cry with joy. of course, as a teenager, i didn’t appreciate the architectural details of the space; i had yet to develop a taste for interior design.

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this isn’t where we stayed. this is designer erin fetherston’s paris apartment – but it reminds me of the one we rented.

i also had yet to develop an adventurous taste for food, or really, a taste for food at all. my parents, who have always been amateur foodies themselves, love a good french delicacy – but me, at fourteen? not so much. escargot? you think just ’cause you’re dressing those babies up in a nice name i’m going to want to eat snails? AS IF. duck? no thanks. i don’t really like eating things that i’ve seen waddling around the pond in my hometown’s college campus. i wrinkled my nose so much in paris, it’s a wonder it didn’t get stuck like that.

since i didn’t want to eat any of the fancy food served in parisian restaurants, i subsisted on a lot of bread and cheese during that trip – you know, stuff i could pronounce, without funky textures or weird names. but one day, strolling through a french farmer’s market, we came across the most delectably beautiful stand of fresh strawberries. you can’t imagine the glee i felt – something i could (and would) eat! i picked up a pint right then and there, and continued to peruse the market, biting off the heads of one juicy strawberry after another, sticking the tops in the lid of my plastic container.

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the barrel into which my strawberries went tumbling looked like this, except bigger.

as would be the fate of a picky fourteen year old, a few paces later, i managed to accidentally spill my entire pint of strawberries, bitten off heads and all, into a giant vat of fresh paprika. i should tell you right now that i don’t speak a word of french, and at fourteen, i was beyond awkward, totally shy, and had trouble stringing sentences together in english, let alone in another language. my parents did the dirty work of apologizing profusely, while i attempted to pick my strawberries out of the bin (my hand was immediately swatted away – clearly in hoping to remedy the situation, i just made it worse). there are few times in my adult life that have rivaled this experience in terms of embarrassment factor. suffice it to say, we didn’t return to that part of the market ever again.

the moral of the story? it would do me well to be a bit more adventurous in my eating. which is why i’m proud of this recipe, in which i took one of my formerly despised foods and transplanted into a food i love: pasta.

i’m pretty happy with the result, which was creamy and delicious and also, HOT PINK. i mean, what’s not to love about hot pink pasta? NOTHING, if you ask me. basically, i got these ENORMOUS beets at the farmer’s market on saturday, and in lieu of taking the traditional route and putting them into a salad, i decided i’d turn that salad into a pasta.

beets’ sweetness is extremely well complimented by the creaminess of goat cheese, and whatdya know, i’d picked up some fresh garlic and black pepper infused chevre at the market as well! so i roasted my beets, then tossed them with goat cheese, a little pasta water, some fresh italian parsley, and lemon juice. and you know what? hot pink pasta is YUMMY. Image

so, let’s go forth and make it, shall we?

The Recipe

1 oversized beet (seriously, mine was enormous) or a few small beets

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 box of fusili or penne

3/4 cup goat cheese (if you can find herbed or flavored, go for it)

2 tbsp fresh italian parsley, diced and sliced

to make, roast your beet(s) in a 425 degree oven. you’ll want to drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then wrap them in aluminum foil. then, place them on a baking sheet or in a pan (i stuck mine in a glass bread pan) and stick ’em in there. cook for anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour. mine took a while because they were so huge, but smaller ones will take closer to the 25 minute mark. they’re done when you can easily piece the skin with a fork.

once your beets have cooked, remove them from the oven, and let them cool a bit. you need to peel the skins off, and you don’t want to burn yourself doing so. while you’re waiting for them to cool, put your pasta water on to boil, and zest and juice your lemon. set both the juice and zest aside. now, chop up your parsley. regular parsley would be fine here, but italian parsley is best. mint would also be delish!

once your water boils, dump your pasta in and add a bit of olive oil into the pot. stir and set your timer according to the directions on the box. now, peel your beets and chop them up into chunks. a bit bigger than bite size is perfect.

when your pasta finishes cooking, drain and reserve a bit of pasta water. put the pasta back into the pot, and add your goat cheese, beets and lemon juice. stir until the cheese has melted into a creamy sauce. if you need, add some water or white wine to thin the sauce out a bit more. dole pasta out into bowls and top with parsley and lemon zest.

there you go, folks. hot pink beetalicious pasta!