Day 107: Pasta with Zucchini Noodles, Ricotta & Basil Pesto ♥

Pasta with Zucchini Noodles, Ricotta & Basil Pesto, a summery Meatless Monday vegetarian supper ♥ A Veggie Venture
A summer classic, hot pasta tossed with ricotta and basil pesto. But here I've added zucchini noodles, both lightening the dish and somehow making it more substantial. And besides, it's zucchini season! It makes a light pasta side dish (it made a great base for Italian sausage) but also works as a pasta entrée for Meatless Monday, say.

~recipe updated, first published way back in 2005~
~more recently updated recipes~

So Full Disclosure. Way back in 2005, I hated this recipe. It just didn't work, the proportions were too far off. It called for a pound of pasta and a pound of zucchini and left it all swimming in oil. Not good. (And yeah, during A Veggie Venture's first year of experimentation, learning how to cook vegetables by cooking one in a new way every day, some of the recipes weren't up to my current standards. It's half surprising to me that so many did work really well even if others were complete duds.)

But that was then and this is now. I've completely turned the recipe upside down and oh man – oh man oh man oh man – it's so good!

I stuck with the premise, hot pasta and zucchini tossed with ricotta. But I changed the proportions completely. Now the recipe calls for just a half pound of pasta (don't worry, it remains very much a "pasta dish") and a full two pounds of zucchini. Better still? Zucchini noodles! :-)

And get this! While I didn't set out to create a Zucchini Mac 'n' Cheese, that's what this turns out to be except in a grown-up, sophisticated sort of way. For dinner one night this week, the guys at the table had it as a side dish with grilled sausages – that includes my 90-year old father who turns up his nose at "mushy" vegetables but has yet to realize those noodles he gobbles up once a week are actually not pasta but zucchini – me, I happily skipped the meat for a vegetarian supper.

"... delicious! Really easy to make with only few ingredients.." ~ Madli

Black Bean & Corn Salad ♥

Black Bean & Corn Salad, another great summer salad recipe ♥
Summer in a bowl, just fresh vegetables and a can of black beans, brightened with a cumin-lime vinaigrette. So good! A great salad for dinner or a potluck and just to keep in the fridge.

Well, hello, friends. It's been awhile, more than three months truth be told although not without reason. Since New Years, I've been caring for our 90-year old father, first long distance and then in March, he came to live with us. Oh, the time it's taken to get him settled in, making our home senior-safe with ramps and grab bars, finding/working with new home health caregivers and doctors – we love Dr. Milta Little! – and the thousand-and-one details that insist on instant attention.

Day to day, time moves in a sort of slow motion now. Often I just like to sit with my dad in a sunny spot outside the kitchen, just "being" – watching the birds at the feeders, basking in the sunshine, knowing he'll soon nod off but glad he's safe and comfortable and finding a measure of pleasure in another day.

And I cook. A lot, as one must since, get this? Three meals a day don't put themselves on the table! As I too settle into this new rhythm, I've learned the wisdom of routine. Every week I make bread and a pot of soup and a salad for the fridge. This way there's always something handy for a quick lunch or when a day is kidnapped by a trip to the emergency room, say. It happens but supper's covered.

Mostly, I'm revisiting the hundreds of tried 'n' true recipes from and A Veggie Venture. But every week, new recipes emerge too. This salad totally got me last week, it's made of staple ingredients, chances are good you might have all of them on hand right now. I loved the mix of vegetable crunch and bean softness. Glorious, this.

I'll be back when I can. Thank you for your understanding, I know I can count on that.

Falafel Burgers ♥ (Lentil Burgers)

Falafel Burgers (Lentil Burgers), another Meatless Monday Recipe ♥ Naturally Gluten Free. Low Cal.
Meaty lentils formed into vegetarian (and easily vegan-ized) veggie burgers, like falafel except shaped into burgers. Naturally Gluten Free. Very Weight Watchers Friendly, just four SmartPoints! Hello, Meatless Monday!

So here's the story.

Just days before Christmas one year way way back, my big Cuisinart food processor gave up the ghost. Quit. Failed. Died. Went kaput. And I panicked! How would I cook without a food processor?! I know, I know. #FirstWorldProblems. My mom and I trekked from one Christmas-packed mall to another to seek out a mini Cuisinart, the little prep food processor.

But that little guy was completely unimpressive. I couldn't figure out why Cuisinart would attach its name to a worthless inferior product and off it went to Goodwill. (There was good news. Believe it or not, it took some weeks but Cuisinart was great about fixing my food processor. Since then, I've needed another bowl or two but that now-30-year old Cuisinart remains an old workhorse!)

Fast Forward. Somehow I came to own another mini food prep device, call it a "mini food processor", if you will. It's still not in the same class as the big Cuisinart but both are welcome and much-used in my kitchen. I bring this up because, well, if you have a mini food processor, it'll be put to good use with this recipe! Go dig it out!

Spring Garden Vegetable Soup with Asparagus, Artichokes, Peas & Spinach ♥ Recipe

Spring Garden Vegetable Soup with Asparagus, Artichokes, Peas & Spinach ♥, all our favorite spring veggies in a single bowl. Low Carb.
Today's spring soup recipe: A bowlful of our favorite spring vegetables, especially artichokes and asparagus. Low Cal. Low Carb. Gluten Free.

~recipe updated for a little weekend inspiration~
~more recently updated recipes~

The seductress that is Spring is toying with us here in St. Louis. For a few days, she taunted us with warm – hot, even – days, luring us into the impression that "Spring is really here!" For years, I've tracked the very day in my estimation when spring really arrived and 2011 (and again now, in 2016) was looking record early by some days.

But no. The real spring has yet to arrive. As I write, there is new snow on the ground and tomorrow's outdoor birthday party is moving inside.

Still, spring will come and it helps to bridge the seasons with what I think of as "bridge foods" – in this case, a big potful of soup that simmered on the stove. But this is no heavy stew or meaty soup of winter, instead, a potful of spring vegetables. I envisioned an all-green soup – thus the celery, asparagus, artichokes, peas and spinach – but then thought better of myself and chopped in some carrot for color. With a little help, patience will pay off and spring will make herself known, this time for real.

Day 312: Cape Breton Cabbage ♥

Cape Breton Cabbage, a quick, easy way to cook cabbage for a delicious side dish, way more than the sum of its parts. Low Carb. Vegetarian. Gluten Free. For Weight Watchers, SmartPoints 3.
graphic button small size size 10 A quick and easy way to cook cabbage, yielding a gobble-it-up delicious side dish. Low Carb. Gluten Free. Vegetarian. Weight Watchers friendly! graphic button small size size 10

~recipe updated & republished 2016~
~more recently updated recipes~

WAY BACK IN 2006 This is one more simple cabbage recipe, just like Day 295's Cabbage with Winter Pesto. If you haven't had cooked cabbage for awhile, it's worth a retry. I remember cabbage being kinda icky – but these last two recipes have turned out cabbage that's sweet and wonderfully fresh tasting. This recipe makes a low-carb, low-calorie and high-fiber side dish: simple, delicious AND healthful. Next time, I'll skip the egg, it just doesn't seem necessary. The trick seems to be the vinegar.

UPDATE Cabbage lovers will love this, I think. I know I sure do! The cabbage is so creamy and sharp at the same time, almost like a gentle Sweet 'n' Sour Cabbage. VERY good! I do now indeed skip the egg, it isn't missed. An egg does make the sauce a tad a richer and perhaps smoother so it might be a good choice for some meals. Do know, this may be "plain fare" but I wouldn't hesitate to serve it to guests. It would be especially good as a low-carb and low-calorie substitute for a "starch" served with winter stews and broiled fish. It could be "prettied up" with a quick sprinkle of fresh herbs (dill or tarragon, perhaps) but I hesitate to remove attention from the sweetness of the cabbage itself. So good!

"This recipe was a very tasty way to use up the last of my farm share.... Very yummy!" ~ Nancy

Maple-Glazed Chicken ♥ with Easy Skillet Creamed Carrots & Onions

Maple-Glazed Chicken with Easy Skillet Creamed Carrots & Onions, another Quick Supper ♥, with a touch of rosemary. Low Carb.
No more mid-winter supper blues, I've got you covered. Chances are good, you've got everything it takes to make this tonight. So simple! Oven-baked chicken with a maple syrup and rosemary glaze, served alongside carrots and onion cooked together in a skillet. So good! Low Carb and Weight Watchers, you'll love a hearty dinner for just 6 points.

Culinary archeology, that's my new hobby obsession, slowly paging through old issues of Gourmet magazine. Back in December, I started with a stack of Januarys, oldest to newest, looking for easy dinner ideas, wondering if, some 25 years later, the recipes would still appeal.

First up, Gourmet January 1992. The ads collectively profile Gourmet's target readers, a snapshot of a heady time: expensive watches; hotels and travel destinations; wines and liquor; plus one financial service ad with the unfortunate headline, "The unfortunate burden of making money". Gail Zweigenthal's name and face were familiar but required a quick Google search: she preceded Ruth Reichl as editor. The 1992 issue featured Hearty One Pot Dinners, Yosemite in Winter, also collections of rice and hot chocolate recipes. The monthly menu marked the Quincentennial Celebration, 1492 - 1992: it strikes me that in 2016, less than a generation later, this would be deemed culturally insensitive, at best? It was a thrill to find a piece by Barbara Kafka, who'd just lowered her cooktop and butcher block to fit her 5-foot-2 frame. A wave of sadness hit when a Laurie Colwin column appeared, homey boiled beef, yes, another unfortunate word choice but still, Laurie Colwin.

But enough of the culinary artifacts. Did dinner emerge from those pages? Yes! It sure did, and a good one for that very night since the ingredient list was short, all pantry ingredients. The chicken? Excellent. The carrots? Dreamy good! They're so very much like "creamed" carrots but without all the fuss of cooking a white sauce.

QUICK SUPPERS So what's with the chicken, Alanna? First, a Note to Vegetarians. Second, I'm making good on a 2015 promise to deliver more Quick Supper recipes. Some will be vegetarian, others will include animal protein. Remember, from Day One way back in 2005, A Veggie Venture has been the food blog about vegetables, mostly but not exclusively vegetarian or vegan.

Egyptian Kamut Salad ♥ with Roasted Carrot & Pomegranate

Egyptian Kamut Salad, another Meatless Monday recipe ♥, a whole-grain salad with roasted carrots, kale, dried fruit and walnuts, rained with pomegranate. Vegan.
A hearty main dish salad to celebrate Christmas Day in Egypt, that's January 7th according to the Julian calendar followed by Egyptian Coptic Christians. The whole-grain salad starts with the ancient grain called "kamut" [pronounced ka-mutt, rhymes with a mixed-breed dog, not a moot point], a chewy, nutty grain. From there? Gorgeous roasted carrots and some kale for color plus a basketful of Middle Eastern fruits, dates, apricots and pomegranate, all drizzled with pomegranate molasses. Not just vegan, "Vegan Done Real".

"We'll never eat all this," my head-talk worried. I'd just spent three hours in the kitchen concocting a massive whole-grain salad. The labor of my love sat on the counter before me on a white oval platter, a splendid pile of kamut, roasted carrots and kale plus more fruity jewels than a binge of Bejeweled. So beautiful! But my salad had formidable competition. I'd made it for the annual Christmas feast for some foodie friends here in St. Louis, our dinner theme that night was an "Egyptian Coptic Christmas". Call me surprised – shocked even – when all but a small portion disappeared in a flash. The next day I sampled the leftover salad on its own, without all the competition. Swoon ... beauty with soul!

It's a hearty salad to celebrate the Coptic Christmas Day today, that's January 7th. After the traditional 43 days of fasting before Christmas? Even better. This salad is definitely a feast food, a festival of color and texture and flavor. It would also be good for a special Meatless Monday. This salad has a few moving parts, the kamut, the carrots, the onion, the kale and all the fruit. But in the end? Totally worth it. [Still curious? Read more about the Coptic Christian tradition here, WhyChristmas.]

WHAT IS KAMUT? Kamut is the brand name for an "ancient grain" wheat called Khorosan – the kernels are twice as big and contain more protein. The texture is meaty, the taste nutty. Two years ago, it was nowhere to be found in St. Louis but is part of the wonderful product lineup from Bob's Red Mill. But if you can't find kamut, a good substitute would be the Italian grain called farro. Barley would also be a good substitute, so would buckwheat. (For my fellow Word Dancers. A brand name for a food, really? You know, like Kleenex is to tissue. Or Parmigiano Reggiano for genuine parmesan cheese.)