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Zucchini and Garlic Pasta

Do you remember the first real meal you tried to cook all alone? I mean something homemade, a full dinner. I do. It was the summer after my freshman year of college. My parents had left me home alone for several days and were returning on Sunday afternoon. I decided I would make a nice, Sunday dinner. As I was preparing it, my aunt called that she and her husband happened to be in town and would be coming by, too. Thankfully, I had bought a lot of food.

At the time, I loved Rachael Ray, so I found some recipes from one of her cookbooks – chicken breasts with goodness rolled up inside and pasta with zucchini. My mom ended up helping a bit when she came home, mostly because I didn’t pound the chicken thin enough, so it took about 5 years to cook. But the food was good, and everyone was impressed at what I had accomplished on my own.

Since that day, I’ve obviously tackled a lot of recipes. I’ve honestly never tried that chicken again, but the pasta has stuck with me all these years. I love how simple it is but still has great flavors. It was also one of the first times I enjoyed zucchini. It is great for a quick summer dinner, and also works well as a side dish along some grilled chicken or fish. Enjoy!

Zucchini and Garlic Pasta (Serves 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a side)

Zucchini and Garlic Pasta

12-16 ounces whole wheat spaghetti (see notes)
2 zucchini
½ tablespoon olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup parmesan cheese

1. Boil a large pot of water. Cook pasta according to package directions, without adding salt or oil.

2. While pasta cooks, grate zucchini on the large holes of a box grater onto a pile of paper towels. Squeeze out excess water with paper towels.

3. Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Once hot, add garlic and grated zucchini. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until zucchini begins to soften and is heated completely through.

4. Drain pasta (reserving some cooking liquid) and add to skillet with zucchini. Toss together. If pasta is dry, add pasta cooking water ¼ cup at a time until it reaches desired consistency. Toss with parmesan cheese and serve.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving as a main dish):

Calories: 401
Protein: 18 g
Fat: 5 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 6 mg
Carbohydrates: 77 g
Fiber: 10 g
Sodium: 134 mg

Recipe Notes: I always find whole wheat pasta in 13.25 ounce packages. Use whatever size package you can find. Any type of long, thin pasta works. I’ve done spaghetti, linguine, and fettucine. This isn’t a “saucy” pasta dish. But since we don’t have a lot of cooking oil, there isn’t much to coat the pasta, especially if you are ambitious at wringing out your zucchini. Just add a little water if some of the noodles look too dry.

Source: Adapted from Rachael Ray

Low Iodine Adjustment: Omit parmesan.

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Sesame Noodles

Have you ever made a dish you thought was really delicious but no one else could remember it?  It has happened to me a few times, including the first time I made these noodles.  I remember making them for a picnic dinner date we went on.  I even remember my husband saying he liked it.  But anytime I asked him about them, he couldn’t remember what I was talking about.  Partly because the only way I could describe them was as “peanut butter noodles” which would usually remind him of the Thai Style Chicken and Noodles I shared before.   That is one of his favorites, so the discussion would end.  So, these gradually drifted off my radar for about two years.

Wow, those two years were really missing something.  When I rediscovered this to take lunch to a friend, I was reminded of how easy, quick, delicious, and versatile this dish is.  And the fact that it is cold makes it perfect for summer.  It can be a main dish or a side dish that is easy to transport wherever you need it.  I recently made a big batch right before we went hiking, and it made an awesome dinner after a long day of hiking and lugging around a toddler.

Enjoy!

Sesame Noodles (Serves 4-6)

Sesame Noodles

1 small eggplant, cubed
½ teaspoon salt
1 (13.25 ounce) box whole wheat spaghetti
1 tablespoon sesame oil (optional)
½ tablespoon canola oil
1 chicken breast, chopped into bite size pieces
1 clove of garlic
1 1-inch piece peeled fresh ginger
½ cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
¼ cup hot water (as hot as your tap will go)
½ cucumber, sliced (peeled if it isn’t a hothouse cucumber)
¼ green cabbage, shredded
6 green onions, sliced into 2 inch chunks

1. Sprinkle eggplant with salt. Let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes. OR Place eggplant on several layers of coffee filters or paper towels. Microwave for 10 minutes, or until beginning to look slightly shriveled.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting oil and salt. Drain and rinse under cold water. Place in a large bowl and toss with sesame oil (if using).

3. Heat canola oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Saute eggplant until browned, about 8 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking. Add to pasta. Saute chicken in same pan until cooked through, about 5-8 minutes. Add to pasta.

4. In a blender or food processor, process garlic and ginger until well chopped. Add the peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, vinegar, red pepper, and hot. Process until smooth. (The sauce may be a little thick. If it is overly thick, add more water).

5. Toss the pasta, eggplant, chicken, cucumber, cabbage, and green onions with the peanut butter sauce. Chill until ready to serve.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 473
Protein: 23 g
Fat: 16 g
Saturated Fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 21 mg
Carbohydrates: 66 g
Fiber: 11 g
Sodium: 713 mg

Recipe Notes: Feel free to mix it up on this dish. I’ve made it without the chicken and without the eggplant. All the combinations have been good. I like the crunch the cabbage gives to this, but I have also omitted that. A hothouse cucumber works really, really well in this. But I’m usually too cheap to buy one, so I just half peel a regular cucumber with good results. Also, you could substitute garlic powder and ginger powder and mix the sauce by hand. It takes a fair amount of muscle, but can be done.

Source: Adapted from Food Network Kitchens’ Making It Easy Cookbook

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