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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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Eggplant and Orzo Baked Pasta

The next few months feature a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables that are ripe and delicious and affordable like no other time of the year. I love it. There is nothing like asparagus in the spring when it is tender and delicious or tomatoes in the summer when they are juicy and meaty at the same time. However, I’m always in a small quandary with all these vegetables. I love baked pasta and roasted vegetables but hate turning my oven on at all for the next few months.

However, this pasta is completely worth it. And while hearty and filling like all baked pasta should be, it still tastes light, fresh, and springy, which not all baked pasta can achieve. The other great thing about this recipe is that you can mix up the veggies a bit based on what you have or what is in season. Zucchini or summer squashes would mix in deliciously. Asparagus was a nice addition in this batch. This freezes well, if you want to save it for cooler months when you want a reminder of what summer tasted like.

Enjoy!

Eggplant and Orzo Baked Pasta (Serves 4-6)

Eggplant and Orzo Baked Pasta

1 large eggplant, cut into ¾-inch dice
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup diced carrot
½ cup diced celery stalk
1 cup chopped asparagus
1 medium onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces orzo
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 ½ cups low sodium vegetable stock
1 to 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or more to taste, up to the zest of a whole lemon
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 ounces mozzarella, diced
¼ cup grated parmesan
3-4 large tomatoes, diced

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. 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.

3. Heat a large frying pan with the 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute eggplant for 8 minutes, stirring pieces occasionally. Transfer them to paper towels to drain.

4. Heat remaining oil in pan. Add carrots, celery, and asparagus. Cook for 3 minutes, then add onion and garlic. Cook 5 more minutes on medium to medium-high heat. to remaining oil and cook for 3 minutes before adding onion and garlic. Cook together for 5 more minutes on medium heat. Stir in the orzo and tomato paste ,and cook for two minutes more. Remove from heat and add eggplant, stock, oregano, lemon zest, pepper, mozzarella, and tomatoes. Mix well.

5. Transfer mixture to an 8×11 or 2 quarts ovenproof baking dish. Sprinkle with parmesan. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20 minutes more. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 319
Protein: 15 g
Fat: 10 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 16 mg
Carbohydrates: 44 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 431 mg

Recipe Notes: As I mentioned above, mix up the veggies however you like it. And don’t be too scared of adding celery. You don’t taste it in the end. I really like the tomato flavor and the lemon flavor, so I add as much of those as I can. And DON’T precook your orzo. It is a small pasta, so it will cook just fine in the oven. If you can find whole wheat orzo, go for it. My smaller grocery store doesn’t carry it. If you are freezing, freeze it before baking. Then bake in at 350 until cooked through, probably 1 – 1 ½ hours.

Source: slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

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My favorite marinara

Somehow I forgot to post my marinara sauce recipe with my pizza series.  I use the same marinara sauce for pizza, spaghetti,lasagna…pretty much anything needing a red sauce.  I know it seems weird, but I like having the chunky sauce on pizza.  If you don’t, you could also give it a quick blend before putting it on pizza.  I like to make a big batch of this and store the extra in the freezer for later. It’s great for a quick dinner of spaghetti and some sort of vegetable – a meal even my toddler with increasingly picky tastes will eat.

Enjoy!

Marinara Sauce (Makes about 8 cups of sauce)

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1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 cup diced carrots
1 teaspoon garlic powder
4 (15.5 ounce) cans no salt added diced tomatoes
3 (8 ounce) cans no salt added tomato sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 bay leaves
½ tablespoon dried basil leaves
½ tablespoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

1. Heat olive oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and carrots. Sauté until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic powder; cook for 1 minute.

2. Add remaining ingredients. Stir to distribute seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer; cook for 20-30 minutes, until thickened to desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Remove bay leaves before serving or blending.

Nutritional Information (Amount per cup):

Calories: 77
Protein: 2 g
Fat: 2 g
Saturated Fat: less than 1 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrates: 14 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sodium: 176 mg

Recipe Notes: Chop your vegetables to your desired size. If you are going to blend the sauce, you don’t need to chop them as small. You could also shred the carrot, if you prefer hiding them in the sauce that way. I try to keep this sauce fairly low in sodium, since whatever it is served with has a fair amount of cheese adding the salt. If you want to make a meat sauce, brown the meat before the vegetables. Remove the meat, drain any fat. Then sauté vegetables in oil. Add meat back in with remaining ingredients.

I freeze this in 2 cup plastic containers. It is best to cool the sauce in the fridge before freezing. Freezer bags would also likely work.

Source: adapted from my mom’s recipe

Low iodine adjustment: Use non-iodized salt.  I made this a lot on my low iodine diets.

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Fiesta Pasta Salad

Fall is my favorite season.  I love the colors, the cooler weather, the flavors, the football and bands, and my birthday.  But this year, I find myself wishing summer would linger a little longer.  We had a very full summer of fun activities.  But I want just one more grilled hamburger, one more picnic, one more swim party.

If you feel the same way, this pasta salad screams summer.  It is light but still filling and delicious.  It works great as a side dish, but could also be eaten as a main dish.  It is great for taking to a  pot luck, because it makes a ton of food.  Enjoy!

Fiesta Pasta Salad (Serves 20-25 as a side dish)

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Dressing:
1 package Fiesta Ranch dip mix
2 cups fat free buttermilk
2 cups plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon lime juice, optional

Salad:
1 (13.25 ounce) package whole wheat spiral pasta, cooked
½ small red onion, diced
1 (15.5 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 (15 ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
2 bell peppers, diced (a mix of colors is best)
½ cup grated colby jack cheese
¼ cup chopped cilantro

1. Combine dressing ingredients. Set aside.

2. Combine salad ingredients except cheese and cilantro in a large bowl. Stir in dressing until salad is well coated. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, overnight is best.

3. Stir in cheese and cilantro right before serving.

Nutritional Information (Amount per Serving):

Calories: 155
Protein: 9.6 g
Fat: 3 g
Saturated Fat: 1.4 g
Cholesterol: 7 mg
Carbohydrates: 24 g
Fiber: 4 g
Sodium: 110 mg

Recipe Notes: I never buy buttermilk. I just make my own with vinegar or lemon juice. If you have lime juice, that would work well for making the buttermilk, and you wouldn’t need to add the extra tablespoon. You could really change up or add the ingredients. I think I would prefer black beans over kidney beans in the future. Fresh tomatoes or avocados would be delicious. If serving as a main dish, some shredded chicken would be a nice mix-in. This salad gets better as it sits, so really plan ahead when making it.

Source: slightly adapted from a family recipe

Low-iodine adjustment: Use beans you prepared yourself rather than canned. Omit the cheese. Make a vinaigrette dressing, like this or this.

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BBQ Pork Macaroni and Cheese

My apologies for my 2+ week disappearance.  Between moving and internet struggles, I have been a slacker.  Now that my life has calmed down a bit, I should be more regular in posting.

Macaroni and cheese finds its way on to my menu more often than not since it is delicious, easy, quick, and sure to please everyone.  While the boxed stuff is just fine for lunch every now and then, homemade mac and cheese casserole-style makes something ordinary a little more special for dinner.

The basic recipe is great, but I do like to make things interesting with “mix-ins” occasionally.  One of my favorites for a special treat is caramelized onions and BBQ pork.  Inspired by a restaurant meal I had years ago, this dish makes an average dinner worthy of company or any special occasion.

Enjoy!

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BBQ Pork Macaroni and Cheese (Serves 6)

½ tablespoon olive oil or butter
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 box (13.25 ounce) whole wheat macaroni
2 tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup flour
2 ½ cups skim milk
1½-2 cups grated cheese (cheddar, colby, or colby jack work well)
8 ounces cooked, shredded pork
½ cup BBQ sauce (more per personal preference)
½ cup breadcrumbs, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Melt ½ tablespoon olive oil or butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion slices; sauté for 3-5 minutes until beginning to soften and brown. Reduce heat to low. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until onions are a nice brown color, about 15-30 minutes. Place in the bottom of a well-greased 2 quart or 8×11 baking dish.

3. Mix pork with BBQ sauce until well moistened (add more if you really like BBQ). Layer on top of onions in baking dish.

4. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add macaroni and cook until just al dente – the minimum time on the box or even a minute less. Drain.

5. While macaroni cooks, melt 2 tablespoons butter in large saucepan. When melted and beginning to bubble, add in black pepper and flour. Stir constantly, cooking for 1-2 minutes until just beginning to brown. Whisk in milk, stirring constantly. Cook until sauce thickens, stirring frequently to prevent lumps, about 5 minutes.

6. Remove sauce from heat. Stir in cheese until melted and smooth. Add in drained pasta. Stir until well combined. Layer over pork in baking dish.

7. If using, lightly toast breadcrumbs in a small skillet over medium heat, about 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle over the top of casserole.

8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until casserole is bubbling.

Nutritional Information: (Amount per Serving)

Calories: 606
Protein: 32 g
Fat: 21 g
Saturated Fat: 10 g
Cholesterol: 79 g
Carbohydrates: 75 g
Fiber: 6 g
Sodium: 561 mg

Recipe notes: Any short pasta will work. I often use rotini or penne. But there is something extra satisfying about macaroni and cheese made with actual macaroni noodles. You may need more or less BBQ sauce. It depends on how moist your meat is and how saucy you like it. I use meat leftover from making BBQ pork sandwiches, which is generally pork shoulder. Any shredded pork will work. You can save some cheese out from the sauce to sprinkle on top. I usually forget, but it is delicious that way.

Skip the steps about the onion and pork, and this is my go-to macaroni and cheese. I often add just the onions. They don’t take much effort and cook in about the same time as getting the noodles and sauce together.

I know the nutrition doesn’t look great on this. But I cut down to skim milk and scaled back the cheese a lot. Think how much worse it could be!

Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman and inspired by a restaurant meal

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Antipasto Pasta

My eating mood goes in phases.  Lately, I’m in a carb mood.  Especially carbs that don’t require me to turn on my oven.  I’m also in the mood for dinners that are quick and easy, since my daughter has recently decided she needs to be held constantly about the time to cook dinner.

This pasta fit those criteria PLUS is what I would order at a restaurant – pesto sauce, tangy veggies, and cheese.  Even better though, because it cost me so much less to just make it at home. I usually order this type of dish because it is full of ingredients my husband isn’t a fan of eating. But even he enjoyed this pasta.

While we enjoyed this warm as a main course, it would also be delicious chilled as a side dish.  Enjoy!

Antipasto Pasta (Serves 4-6 as a main course)

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2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 medium red bell pepper
8 ounces whole wheat rotini pasta (or any short pasta)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed
1/3 cup pesto
4 ounces provolone cheese, cubed
1/2 (7 ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes, drained
1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided

1. Rub 1 teaspoon of oil around the outside of bell pepper. Broil or grill until outside is charred, turning occasionally. Remove from heat and place in a paper bag for 5 minutes. Remove from bag. Remove skin, seeds, and membranes. Chop remaining pepper and place in a large bowl.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.

3. Meanwhile, toast walnuts in a dry skillet over medium-low heat (use a large skillet). When warmed and beginning to be fragrant, remove from heat. Add to bowl with pepper.

4. In same skillet, heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil over medium-high heat. Add sliced onion. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until beginning to brown slightly. Lower heat to medium-low, and cook for 10-15 minutes more, until well caramelized and soft. Add to bowl.

5. Squeeze thawed spinach between paper towels to remove moisture. Cook briefly in skillet to evaporate any remaining moisture, if needed. Add to bowl, along with pesto, provolone, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese.

6. Drain cooked pasta. Add warm pasta to bowl of ingredients, and toss to combine. Serve with remaining parmesan cheese.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving with 6 servings)

Calories: 423
Protein: 19 g
Fat: 23 g
Saturated Fat: 6 g
Cholesterol: 23 mg
Carbohydrates: 41 g
Fiber: 8.5 g
Sodium: 520 mg

Recipe Notes: The original recipe included kalamata olives. I think that would be a delicious addition, but I excluded them due to family preferences. You could substitute canned roasted red peppers to skip roasting your own.  Make sure you really get the water out of the frozen spinach. If you wanted to use fresh spinach, you could quickly wilt that in the warm skillet instead. I cheated and used a jarred pesto sauce. Making a homemade sauce would be great, but isn’t necessary. I used deli slices of provolone that I then “cubed”. I really liked this, since it made the pieces small enough to distribute more throughout the pasta.

Source: Adapted from Cooking Light

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Spaghetti with Greens and Garlic

In my last post, I mentioned that leafy greens are a good source of calcium.  Here is my favorite leafy greens recipe.  It is quick, easy, and great for trying out greens, since they are more of a highlight flavor.  The onion, garlic, and cheese make the flavors more familiar.  The recipe is also very flexible.  You can substitute whatever greens you like.  I’ve used kale and spinach with good results, but my favorite is mustard greens.  You can adjust the onions and heat level to your preference.  Different noodles also work well.   It is a satisfying vegetarian meal, but grilled chicken or fish are tasty additions.

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Spaghetti with Greens and Garlic (serves 4)

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (add more for more heat)
4 cloves garlic, minced
12 cups of leafy greens, ribs removed, coarsely chopped (if using spinach, no prep is necessary)
12-14 ounces whole-wheat spaghetti (I use a whole box, which is 13.25 ounces for me)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.

2. In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions; saute until they just start to soften. Add red pepper flakes; cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute more.

3. Turn heat down to medium-low. Continue to cook onions until are light brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic to pan.

4. After you add the garlic to the onions, add greens to boiling water. Cook, uncovered for 1-2 minutes, until they are just wilted. Remove with tongs and add to onions. Cook with onions until pasta is ready.  (If you are using spinach, you don’t need to boil it first.  Just cook the garlic for about 1 minute with the onions, then mix in the spinach.)

5. Once greens are out of the water, add pasta and cook according to package directions. Drain, reserving the pasta water. In large serving bowl, toss pasta with parmesan cheese. Add onion/greens mixture, and toss. Add pasta water (1 cup at a time) to keep noodles from sticking. Serve immediately.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 443
Protein: 23 g
Fat: 9 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 11 mg
Carbohydrates: 76 g
Fiber: 16 g
Sodium: 234 mg

Recipe Notes: I know that seems like a lot of onions and a lot of greens. They cook down. The onion flavor really isn’t strong once they caramelize, and every time I’ve cut back on the greens, I’ve regretted it. If you forget to add the pasta water at the end, it will still work. I’ve done that before. Even if you don’t like spicy things, I would not omit the red pepper flake. I added about 1/4 teaspoon this last time, and it was still not “spicy”. It just adds good flavor.

If you are avoiding dairy, you have a few options to “substitute” for the parmesan.  You could add a little bit of olive oil when tossing it all together, just enough to add a little richness.  Adding in some toasted, sliced almonds would add a “nutty” flavor like parmesan with the added bonus of some crunch.  Someone made me a pasta dish with this substitution, and I honestly didn’t miss the cheese.  You could also use nutritional yeast, which vegans often use as a substitute for cheese.  I have tasted it, and it does taste like you added cheese.  Don’t try eating it plain though – that does not taste like cheese!  Here is some more info on nutritional yeast if you are interested.   It is usually available at vitamin or health food stores.  It may seem a little pricey, but a little goes a long way.  No matter which non-dairy option, I would add some salt to your boiling water and a little to your onions (right before turning the heat down).  I didn’t add any salt above because the cheese added it for me.  Without any good source of salt, the dish might be a bit bland.

Source: adapted from Food Network Kitchens cookbook

Low iodine adjustment:  Eliminate the cheese.

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Thai-style Chicken and Noodles

When we lived in Chicago, there were 3 Thai restaurants within a mile of our apartment. I had to walk by all 3 on my way home after work. The smell was so intoxicating – made me crave pad thai every single day. We couldn’t afford take-out very much (sadly), so I had to learn how to make something like it myself.

I like to add extra vegetables to dishes like this – the original only had carrots and onions.  There are so many yummy flavors going on that the veggies are hidden, but we still get them eaten (win).  My husband is not the biggest fan of veggies, and he even likes this dish.  He asks for “peanut butter noodles” on a regular basis.

Enjoy!

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Thai-style Chicken and Noodles (serves 4)

1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
2 teaspoons sriracha (less/more for heat)
4 minced garlic cloves or 2 teaspoons garlic powder
6-7 ounces whole wheat spaghetti (I use half of a box)
8 ounces chicken breast (about 1 large or 2 small)
1 teaspoon oil
2 cups green onions, sliced 2 inches long
1 cup julienned carrots
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup zucchini, half moon slices
cilantro for garnish

1. Combine chicken broth through garlic in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until smooth, stirring frequently. Remove from heat.

2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Add carrots into boiling water with pasta to cook. About 3-4 minutes before pasta is done, add broccoli. About 2 minutes before pasta is done, add zucchini.

3. Cube chicken. Saute in oil until cooked through.

4. Place green onions in large bowl. Add hot pasta, cooked vegetables, chicken, and peanut butter sauce. Toss gently. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 456
Protein: 32.5 g
Fat: 12 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 49 mg
Carbohydrates: 60 g
Fiber: 11 g
Sodium: 1019 mg

Recipe notes: You can substitute whatever vegetables you like or have on hand for the broccoli and zucchini. Just adjust your cooking time accordingly.  We like onions at our house, so you may want to cut down on those if you prefer less stinky breath. You can also use any whole wheat noodle you like – fettucine would be more like the shape of Thai rice noodles.  Or you could be super fancy and actually buy rice noodles.  I do realize the sodium is a little high in this recipe.  If you are watching your sodium, try cutting the soy sauce in half.  This recipe will make enough to serve 4 people, especially if you have a side dish (fruit salad would be good). If you are very hungry, you may only get 3 servings out of it.

Source:  adapted from a family cookbook

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will will answer them in upcoming posts!

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