Hunger Action Month: Bean and Pasta Soup

IMG_0325

Happy Wednesday, everyone! I hope you are having a great week.

We are now halfway through Hunger Action Month (!), which means that I want to share my absolute favorite recipe that I developed for my local food pantry – Bean and Pasta Soup. This soup was my lunchtime staple during my study abroad in Italy because it was delicious and nutritious (and cheap!). Re-creating it for the food pantry brought me back to those simpler times and the Italians’ food philosophy that everyone should have access to good, healthy food (no matter what their socio-economic status was).

This soup is chock full of beans, pasta, and tomato, which makes it a perfect, hearty meal for a chilly fall day. Plus, it utilizes pantry staples that are cheap, easy to purchase, and available all year round.

And it starts with adding some vegetable oil to a medium-to-large soup pot set over medium heat…

IMG_0265

… when the oil heats up, I tossed in some diced onion and let it cook until it became soft and translucent.

When the onion was all cooked, I added in a can of whole tomatoes (juice and all!) that I broke into pieces with my wooden spoon.

IMG_0275

You can totally cut the tomatoes in the can with a pair of kitchen shears (like my mom) or crush the tomatoes into the pot with your hands (like my grandma) if you want an easier tomato “chopping” method. But the side of a wooden spoon works too (if you’re lazy like me!).

Then I chucked in a couple cans of drained (and rinsed) beans – cannellini and garbanzo (chickpeas).

IMG_0278

My soup in Italy only had garbanzo beans, but I like the texture differences between the soft, creamy cannellini beans and the more hearty, firm garbanzo beans. If you like one bean more than the other, feel free to use just one type (the soup will be just as delicious).

Now for the liquid. I poured in some low sodium chicken broth and water, cranked up the heat, and brought everything to a boil.

IMG_0280

When the liquid was at a boil, I tossed in half a box (what was remaining from the Vegetable Soup with Pasta) of ditalini pasta. Any small pasta shape works here, but I just love these little tubes!

IMG_0282

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. When the pasta is done cooking, the soup is finished – how easy was that? All that’s left is to serve up…

IMG_0326

And chow down!

I hope you enjoy this food pantry-friendly recipe and share it with your family, friends, and community! If you try this recipe or donate its ingredients to your local food pantry, let me know using the hashtag #GSFfightshunger.

Because together, we can end hunger.

oxox,

C

Bean and Pasta Soup

  • Servings: 6 servings
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

1 small onion, chopped small

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1-15oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed thoroughly

1-15oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly

1-15oz can no-salt added whole tomatoes

2-14oz cans fat-free, low sodium chicken broth

8oz small tube pasta (ditalini)

Additional water

 

Instructions:

  1. In a large soup pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Add in the chopped onion and cook until the onion becomes soft.
  3. Add in the beans and the canned whole tomatoes (juice and all!). Stir to combine and to break up the tomatoes into smaller chunks.
  4. Add in the chicken broth, plus an additional 2 cans full of water. Bring the broth to a boil. When the water is boiling, add in the pasta. Cook according to the package directions.

Serve immediately or let cool completely and refrigerate for 2-3 days or freeze for 1-2 months.

 

Nutrition Information (1 serving):

Calories: 274 kcal Carbohydrates: 55gm Protein: 14gm Fat: 4gm Dietary Fiber: 10gm Sodium: 829mg

Cost per recipe: $6.42

Cost per serving: $1.07

Recipe from Confessions of A Grad School Foodie – confessionsofagradschoolfoodie.com for Hunger Action Month 2015.

Hunger Action Month Recipe: Vegetable Soup with Pasta

IMG_0318

Happy Tuesday, everyone! How was your Labor Day Weekend? Did you enjoy the last bit of summertime and sunshine? Good, I’m so glad you did!

Today, one week into Hunger Action Month, I would like to share my first food pantry-friendly recipe with all of you! This recipe was developed when the director of my local food pantry asked me to find a way to use up canned vegetables, which the clients get an unlimited supply of (yay!). But after a while, eating sides of different vegetables can get boring.

But do you know what’s not boring? Vegetable soup!

What I love about vegetable soup is that you can change up the vegetables you put in it to fit your personal preferences. Don’t like carrots? Leave them out! Like garbanzo beans better than pinto? Switch it up! Want to use chicken broth instead of vegetable broth? Go for it! Versatility is a good thing.

This easy Vegetable Soup with Pasta starts with a large pot set over a medium heat.

IMG_0258

Add in some vegetable oil and a small chopped onion and cook until the onion begins to soften.

IMG_0260

When the onion is soft, pour in a 32oz carton of low sodium vegetable broth and 1-2 cups of water, depending on how you like your soup consistency. One cup of water creates more of a stew-like consistency, while the two cups of water creates a more traditional soup consistency. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium-high heat. When the liquid is at a boil, it’s time to add the pasta.

IMG_0264

I chose to use the little tube pasta, or ditalini, but any small pasta shape works here! Carefully dump 8oz of the pasta into the boiling liquid (half a regular box) and cook the pasta according to the package directions.

When the pasta cooking time is half over, it’s time to add in the vegetables. I chose to use carrots (for something bright), green beans (for something green), and pinto beans (for protein).

IMG_0268

To add in some additional color and provide a boost of flavor, I also added in one can of diced Italian tomatoes – diced tomatoes with garlic and oregano.

IMG_0271

An extra vegetable that makes the soup extra delicious. Now you just need to stir everything together and let the pasta finish cooking and the vegetables heat through.

All that’s left is to dish it up…

IMG_0330

And dig in!

IMG_0331

I hope that you enjoy and share this recipe with your family, friends, neighbors, and community. Check out the bottom for the handy dandy printable that can be shared with your local food pantry. If you try this recipe, or donate this recipe’s ingredients to your local food pantry, let me know on Instagram by using the hashtag #GSFfightshunger.

Because together we can end hunger.

oxox,

C

Vegetable Soup with Pasta

  • Servings: 6 people
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

1 small onion, chopped small

1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1-15oz can sliced carrots, drained and rinsed thoroughly

1-15oz can cut green beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly

1-15oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed thoroughly

1-15oz can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano

1-32oz carton low sodium vegetable broth – Kitchen’s Basics

8oz small tube pasta (like ditalini)

Additional water

 

Instructions:

  1. In a large soup pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat.
  2. Add in the chopped onion and cook until the onion becomes soft.
  3. Add in the stock and about 1-2 cups of water. Bring the liquid to a boil. When the broth is boiling, add in the pasta. Cook according to the package directions.
  4. When the pasta cook time is half over, add in the carrots, green beans, pinto beans, and tomatoes (juice and all!). Stir to combine and add in a little bit more water if you feel like the mixture is too thick for your liking. Continue to cook until the pasta is finished cooking.

Serve immediately or let cool completely and refrigerate for 2-3 days or freeze for 1-2 months.

 

Nutrition Information (1 serving):

Calories: 247 kcal Carbohydrates: 49gm Protein: 10gm Fat: 1.5gm Dietary Fiber: 8.5gm Sodium: 918mg

 

Cost per recipe: $9.72

Cost per serving: $1.62

Recipe from Confessions of A Grad School Foodie – confessionsofagradschoolfoodie.com for Hunger Action Month 2015.

MOW Eggplant Parmesan

IMG_0708

Happy Saturday, everyone!

We are now five days into Hunger Action Month and it has really made me think about all the different ways we can reach out and fight hunger in our communities.

Food pantries are one way that communities can support our neighbors in need, but it’s another food outreach program that has captured my heart… Meals On Wheels (MOW).

Meals On Wheels is a nationwide organization that provides meals to homebound seniors to help them remain independent and stay in the comfort of their own homes for as long as possible. Caring volunteers not only provide a nutritious meal, but also a friendly visit (and conduct a much needed safety check). It is a great organization that is staffed by great people who are passionate about taking care of their neighbors.

During graduate school, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to volunteer at the local Meals On Wheels program. This program was housed in the basement kitchen of a public housing complex, which allowed them to cook all the food they served their MOW clients. It was my first experience in a restaurant-grade kitchen and my first experience working with massive quantities of food. It was AMAZING.

My friends and I were tasked with assembling meal trays for delivery and dividing large batches of salads, desserts, and rolls into single-serve portions (not much cooking) and it really made us focus on our food service and food safety skills. Our reward after a long morning of serving up food was being able try the leftovers on the hot food line. My absolute favorite hot item that they made there was eggplant parmesan. But this was not just any eggplant parmesan… it was eggplant parmesan rounds.

What I love about this version of eggplant parm is that it is super simple (and breading-free), allowing the eggplant to really stand out and shine – the way eggplant parm should be (in my opinion). I never got the official recipe, but this recipe is the closest to that eggplant parm I ate during graduate school at Meals On Wheels.

It all starts with an eggplant that’s been sliced in ½ inch slices.

IMG_0682

Then placed in a colander and salted with some kosher salt – this step seems unnecessary but it really helps the eggplant have a better texture and removes some of the bitterness (yay!). Let the eggplant sit for about fifteen minutes, which is about the time it takes my oven to reach 400 degrees.

When the oven reaches temp, thoroughly rinse off the eggplant, pat it dry, and coat it with some olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Then place it on a greased cookie sheet.

IMG_0688

Pop the eggplant into the oven for 20 minutes, flipping the eggplant rounds over halfway through.

When 20 minutes is up, pull the eggplant out of the oven.

IMG_0693

And spoon on a bit of your favorite marinara sauce – this is some really good jarred stuff.

Then sprinkle on some part-skim mozzarella cheese.

IMG_0694

And then the secret ingredient….

IMG_0695

… some seasoned bread crumbs. Just a small sprinkle (about ¼ teaspoon per slice) does the trick – it adds a little texture and crunch to the dish.

IMG_0697

Now, just pop the eggplant back into the oven for 5-6 minutes until the cheese is melted and turning golden brown.

IMG_0700

Perfection!

IMG_0708

It is a memory of a wonderful volunteer experience (and a fitting dish to enjoy during Hunger Action Month).

 

So, kiddos, what have you been up to during the first four days of September? Anything fun? Let me know!

Your eggplant parm makin’, Meals On Wheels lovin’ friend,

C

MOW Eggplant Parmesan

  • Servings: 4 people
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant, sliced into ½ inch sliced width-wise

1 teaspoon kosher salt – for salting the eggplant

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon table salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ to ¾ cup marinara sauce

¾ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

1 tablespoon seasoned bread crumbs

Red pepper flake and dried oregano for serving

 

Steps:

  1. Salt eggplant slices with kosher salt and place in a colander that is set in a sink. Let the eggplant sit for about 15 minutes to allow for some of the water and bitterness to leave.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a high-sided cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  3. When the oven reaches temperature, rinse the eggplant under cold water, pat dry, and coat both sides with the olive oil, table salt, and black pepper. Place the slices in one even layer on the cookie sheet (if your slices are big in diameter, you may need a second cookie sheet). Pop the eggplant into the oven and bake for 20 minutes, flipping the eggplant slices over once in the middle of cooking.
  4. After 20 minutes, remove the eggplant from the oven. Spoon about a tablespoon of marinara sauce on each slice and then sprinkle on about 1 tablespoon of shredded mozzarella per slice. Finally, sprinkle over some seasoned bread crumbs – about ¼ teaspoon per slice.
  5. Place the eggplant back into the oven for 5-6 minutes until the cheese is melted and starting to turn golden.

To serve: sprinkle on some red pepper flakes and/or dried oregano as desired.

Enjoy!

 

Nutrition Information (1 serving):

166 calories Ÿ• 16gm carbohydrates Ÿ• 5gm fiber Ÿ• 8gm protein Ÿ• 9gm fat Ÿ• 3gm saturated fat Ÿ• 629mg sodium •Ÿ 11mg cholesterol Ÿ• 1mg iron Ÿ• 183mg calcium

Caprese Pizza

IMG_0488

One of my fondest food memories as a child is homemade-pizza-for-dinner night. My dad would whip up homemade pizza dough, slather it with sauce and cheese, and bake it until the house smelled like a pizzeria. In my opinion, homemade pizza is a million times better than pizza from a pizzeria… you can control what kind of crust you make, what cheese you use, what type of sauce you use, and what toppings make it onto the finished product… which means that you can cater to your family’s likes, dislikes, and preferences (half vegetarian, quarter caramelized onion, quarter sausage please!).

So for my parents’ welcome-home-from-vacation dinner, I decided to combine my two food loves – homemade pizza and pesto sauce – into the ultimate throwback comfort food dinner… Caprese Pizza.

If you have been following along on my food blogging journey, you have come to realize that pesto is pretty much one of my favorite things. It’s delicious, the perfect shade of green, and it can be used in a bunch of different ways (on sandwiches, on quesadillas, on pasta, etc.). So I decided to do a play on a traditional caprese sandwich and make a pesto pizza with a fresh tomato topping. And I think it turned out pretty well!

It starts with my foolproof pizza dough… I shared this recipe a while back but I’m re-posting some updated photos and the original recipe here (so you don’t have to scroll to find it!).

IMG_0441

It starts with dumping some flour, some yeast, olive oil, and salt into the bowl of a standmixer.

Using the dough hook attachment, mix the flour mixture and add in enough warm water (it should be warm, not hot, or else it will kill the yeast) until a slightly sticky dough forms.

IMG_0442

Form the dough into a ball, coat in some vegetable oil, and place in the bottom of a bowl. Cover the bowl with some plastic wrap and a clean tea towel and then set the bowl in a warm, quiet place for a couple of hours to rise.

IMG_0444

A perfect pizza dough ball ready to rise!

After the dough has risen, it’s time to make the pizza.

Spread the dough onto a greased half-sheet pan and set aside to let it rest until the oven has come to temperature.

IMG_0459

In place of the traditional sauce (and to mimic the caprese sandwich), dot the crust with the some pesto sauce. This is homemade, but any really, really good jarred pesto can be used.

IMG_0469

And spread it out into a thin layer.

IMG_0471

Then layer on some grated mozzarella cheese (the second component of a caprese sandwich).

IMG_0474

And bake the pizza at 500 degrees for about 10-11 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the bottom of the pizza is golden brown. Let the pizza rest of a couple of minutes (because it’s very hot!).

IMG_0476

(note – you can eat the pizza just like this if you want, but the next step really does send it over the top!)

Now all that’s left is to whip up the final (and most important) component of the caprese pizza – the fresh tomato topping.

IMG_0451

I chopped up a bunch of Roma (or plum) tomatoes (because they don’t have a lot of liquid seed-ness inside) and dressed them up with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt.

Now that we have all the components, it’s time to eat!!

My dad cut up big wedges of pizza (just like when we were little!) and then I topped it with the fresh tomato salad.

IMG_0487

Yum!

IMG_0488

Just like a caprese sandwich… in a homemade pizza form!

What a wonderful way to celebrate the two foods that I love the most (and to relive some good childhood memories). Enjoy, kiddos!

Your pesto lovin’, homemade pizza makin’ friend,

C

Caprese Pizza

  • Servings: 8 people
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

Ingredients:

For the dough:

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 packets active dry yeast

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

Warm water

Vegetable oil

For the pizza:

¼ cup pesto

1-lb part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated – can use less if desired

For the fresh tomato salad:

5-6 Roma tomatoes, chopped

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

 

Steps:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment, dump in the flour, yeast, olive oil, and salt and mix until combined. With the mixer on, slowly pour in warm water (not hot, or else you will kill the yeast and the bread won’t rise) until a slightly sticky dough ball forms.
  2. Form the dough into a ball, lightly coat in vegetable oil and place it into a bowl. Cover the bowl with a piece of plastic wrap and cover with a clean tea towel. Set the bowl in a warm, quiet place for 2-3 hours.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees. While the oven is pre-heating, turn out the dough onto a greased half-sheet pan (or a cookie sheet with high sides) and stretch it out/spread it out using your fingers. Set the dough aside to rest until the oven reaches temperature.
  4. When the oven is pre-heated, spread the pizza dough with the pesto, leaving a 1-inch border on the edges. Cover the pizza with the grated cheese. Bake the pizza for 10-11 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Set aside for 1-2 minutes to cool slightly.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt. Toss to combine.
  6. To serve – cut the pizza into wedges and top with some of the tomato mixture. Enjoy!

 

Nutritional Information (1 serving):

478 calories Ÿ• 53gm carbohydrates Ÿ• 3gm fiber Ÿ• 23gm protein Ÿ• 19gm fat Ÿ• 7gm saturated fat Ÿ• 802mg sodium Ÿ• 32mg cholesterol Ÿ• 3mg iron Ÿ• 449mg calcium

Basil Pesto

  • Servings: about 2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced (you can add more or less garlic depending on your preference)

1 cup fresh grated parmesan

½ cup walnuts

5 cups of fresh, washed basil

Salt and pepper to taste

¾ cup of good olive oil

 

Steps:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, throw in the garlic, parmesan cheese, and walnuts. Pulse to combine. Add in the basil and pulse until everything is combined.
  2. With the food processor on, slowly pour in the olive oil until a thick sauce forms. Taste and add in salt and pepper to taste. Pesto sauce can be stored in the fridge for about a week or frozen for 2-3 months.

 

Nutritional Information (1 tablespoon):

119 calories Ÿ• 1gm carbohydrates •Ÿ 0.5gm fiber Ÿ• 4gm protein Ÿ• 11gm fat Ÿ• 2gm saturated fat Ÿ• 186mg sodium •Ÿ 6mg cholesterol Ÿ• 0.5mg iron •Ÿ 128mg calcium

Thai Cabbage Salad

IMG_0405

Sometimes as I gaze into my huge (sometimes cluttered) fridge looking for something to eat, I ask myself questions to jump-start my brain to help me figure out what I am going to make to feed my constantly rumbling tummy (anyone else suffer from Stomachus Rumblingous Constantous? Okay, good!).

My internal dialogue usually goes like this…

Hmmm, cabbage… do you like cabbage? (yes)

Do you feel like turning on the stove? (no)

So, you like to eat cabbage raw? (yep!)

What tastes good with raw cabbage? (carrots and cucumber!)

Do you love Thai food? (yes)

Do you have all the fixin’s for Thai peanut sauce? (ummmm, is that even a question?)

How about you make Thai Cabbage Salad? (*lightbulb moment*)

IMG_0412

So that is how I came about making this Thai Cabbage Salad over the weekend!

 

Thai Cabbage Salad starts with… cabbage. I found this beautiful red cabbage at the farmer’s market and had to buy it, but green cabbage or a mix of both can be used too! It’s all about your preferences – but if you think that both colors of cabbage taste the same (like me), I would suggest buying the red cabbage… it adds a big oomph of color in the final product.

IMG_0342

Also note that I cut the cabbage into big strips, which make this more like a “salad”. If you want to shred your cabbage, it’ll be more like a “slaw” (which isn’t a bad thing at all!).

On top of the cabbage, I piled lots of other veggies in different colors and textures.

IMG_0345

Crunchy carrots cut into match sticks (if you are going the “shred” route with the cabbage, I suggest you shred the carrots too!), yellow bell pepper sliced into thin strips, finely chopped cucumber half-moons, and some thawed shelled edamame (fresh soybeans – probably my favorite addition). The edamame provide a good amount of protein (a half cup of edamame provides 8gm of protein!), so this is a great dish for vegetarians and vegans.

Then all that’s left is to add in the delicious peanut dressing.

IMG_0349

If you have a mini-food processor or a good blender, it comes together in a minute. Peanut butter, soy sauce, ginger, rice wine vinegar, honey, lime juice, and siracha come together and provide a deliciously light dressing that enhances the flavor of the veggies. Yummy!

All that’s left is to toss it together.

IMG_0350

And serve it alongside your favorite grilled meats (like this Thai-marinated grilled chicken).

IMG_0354

I hope you enjoy this easy salad, kiddos!

Your cabbage obsessed friend,

C

Thai Cabbage Slaw

  • Servings: 6 people
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

For the salad:

½ a medium head of red cabbage, sliced thinly (or shredded)

2 medium-sized carrots, cut into thin match-sticks (or shredded)

1 medium yellow bell pepper, cut into thin strips

¼ large seedless (English) cucumber, halved and sliced into thin half-moons

1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed

For the dressing:

2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1½ tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

2 teaspoons honey

1 teaspoon grated ginger

½ teaspoon of siracha – can add more or less depending on how spicy you like things

Juice of one medium-sized lime

Water

 

Steps:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, carrots, bell pepper, cucumber, and edamame.
  2. In a mini-food processor or in a strong blender, combine all the dressing ingredients except for the water. Blend to combine. Add in the water (between 1-2 tablespoons) to reach the consistency you want (I like my dressing a little on the thin side, but you can make it as thick as you want!).
  3. Pour half of the dressing over the veggies and toss to combine. Add more dressing if the salad seems too dry.

Serve immediately with your summertime grilled favorites – Enjoy!

 

Note: You can double the dressing recipe and reduce the amount of water you use if you like a thicker “coleslaw-style” dressing coating on your salad.

 

Nutritional Information (1 serving):

112 calories Ÿ• 15gm carbohydrates Ÿ• 4gm fiber Ÿ• 6gm protein Ÿ• 4gm fat Ÿ• 1gm saturated fat Ÿ• 192mg sodium •Ÿ 0mg cholesterol Ÿ• 2mg iron •Ÿ 64mg calcium

Hummus, Eggplant, Lettuce, and Tomato (H.E.L.T.) Sandwiches

IMG_7368

I love sandwiches.

Totally love them.

They are one of the true blank canvases of cooking – grab two (or more!) pieces of carbohydrate and throw anything (or everything) in between them. The possibilities and combinations are truly endless…

But every once in a while, the sandwich can stump you. Does the bread need to be toasted? Pickles, lettuce, and tomato, or none at all? Italian meats, roasted veggies, or both? Sometimes the endless possibilities end up being too overwhelming and you end up making yourself a PB&J and calling it a day.

So, as I stood in front of my fridge a few days ago, I seemed like I was destined to be making the old childhood standby for lunch. Until my eyes fell on the container of homemade white bean hummus, the tub of leftover grilled eggplant, a head of romaine lettuce, and the pint of grape tomatoes… and the H.E.L.T. was born!

H.E.L.T. (Hummus, Eggplant, Lettuce, and Tomato) sandwiches are my play on the traditional B.L.T. – while hummus and eggplant are not a true replacement for bacon, it is a great vegan alternative that hits similar (smoky) flavor notes.

It all starts with toasting the whole wheat sourdough bread…

IMG_7343

I was lazy and toasted it in a frying pan, but a toaster works too! When the bread is golden brown on both sides, I removed it from the skillet and set it aside.

I then heated up the grilled eggplant.

IMG_7346

I didn’t want to put any more color on the surface, but just wanted to heat it through and make the outside crisp again. The grilled eggplant is nice and smoky, which simulates the smokiness of the bacon in the original sandwich… plus, swapping the eggplant for the bacon saves you 70 calories (yay!).

IMG_7352

Then I gathered the hummus, tomatoes, and lettuce and we were ready to build the H.E.L.T.s!

IMG_7355

I spread about a tablespoon of hummus on each slice of bread.

Then I laid two slices of grilled eggplant on one side of the sandwich.

IMG_7358

And the sliced grape tomatoes on the other side. You can totally use a couple of big slices of tomato instead, but I actually like the grape tomatoes – you get one piece of tomato per bite (and the sandwich doesn’t slide apart!).

IMG_7360

Then place on a big piece (or two) of romaine lettuce.

All that’s left is to pop one side of the sandwich on the other and slice in half.

IMG_7361

Yum! I love all the layers, textures, and colors of this sandwich – bright, smoky, sweet, crunchy, and smooth.

IMG_7368

A delicious alternative to the traditional B.L.T.!

So, guys, what’s your favorite sandwich?

Your sandwich makin’ friend,

C

Hummus, Eggplant, Lettuce, and Tomato (H.E.L.T.) Sandwich

  • Servings: 1 sandwich
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

2 slices whole wheat sourdough bread

2-3 tablespoons white bean hummus, homemade or store-bought

2 slices grilled eggplant

4-5 grape tomatoes, halved (or 1-2 big tomato slices)

2 pieces of romaine lettuce

 

Steps:

Toast the bread until golden brown on both sides. Place the toasted bread on a board and spread one side of each slice with the hummus (1 to 1½ tablespoons of hummus each). On one slice of bread, place on the grilled eggplant slices. On the other slice, place on the tomato slices and then the lettuce. Place one slice of bread on the other and cut the sandwich diagonally.

Enjoy!

 

Nutrition Information (1 sandwich):

323 calories Ÿ• 55gm carbohydrates Ÿ• 11gm fiber •Ÿ 15gm protein Ÿ• 6gm fat •Ÿ 1gm saturated fat Ÿ• 495mg sodium Ÿ• 0mg cholesterol Ÿ• 3.5mg iron Ÿ• 137mg calcium

Grilled Eggplant

IMG_7341

Hey, everyone! How are you?

Are you loving summer as much as I am right now?

This summer has been glorious food-wise and I have been taking HUGE advantage of the town’s farmer’s market each weekend. It not only serves as a good study break (T-minus 3 weeks until the big RD exam!), but also a great source of meal inspiration throughout the week.

I walked away this past weekend with a bunch of beets, a ginormous head of romaine lettuce, grape tomatoes, my beloved whole wheat sourdough bread…

IMG_7325

…and probably the most beautiful eggplant that I have ever seen in my life. It was screaming “BUY ME”, so I grabbed it and decided right then and there that I was going to grill it (the farmer who was bagging up my purchases agreed with me).

So that’s what I did.

IMG_7326

I sliced up the most beautiful eggplant ever into thick rings (about ¾ of an inch thick) and then laid the slices in a colander and salted them with some kosher salt (about 1½ teaspoons for a medium-sized eggplant). This helps bring out the excess liquid in the eggplant and it also helps draw out the bitterness that eggplants are known for. After letting the eggplant sit for about 45 minutes, I gently rinsed off the salt and patted the eggplant dry. This method can be used not only for grilled eggplant, but eggplant that you are going to pan-saute, fry, or roast!

IMG_7337

Then I sprinkled on some olive oil, some more kosher salt, ground black pepper, and some fresh thyme leaves (totally optional).

IMG_7338

Yummy!

All that was left was to pop these babies on a hot grill and let them cook for about 4-5 minutes per side.

IMG_7340

Just what grilled eggplant should be – charred and smoky on the outside and soft on the inside! And no bitter taste, so this is a great veggie side dish to serve to your more veggie-adverse family members.

They were delicious as a side for grilled steak and absolutely amazing as the star in this sandwich I whipped up with the leftovers (more on that later this week!).

Hope you are having a great week, kiddos!

Your eggplant lovin’ friend,

C

Grilled Eggplant

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

1 medium-sized eggplant

1 tablespoon olive oil

1½ + 1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Leaves from 3-4 springs of thyme (optional)

 

Steps:

1. Slice the eggplant into ¾-inch slices (approximately 8-10 slices per eggplant). Lay the slices in a colander in a sink (or over a bowl) and salt the slices with 1½ teaspoons of kosher salt. Set the eggplant slices aside for 45 minutes to draw out the excess liquid and bitterness. Rinse the eggplant to remove the salt and pat it dry.

2. Coat the eggplant slices with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, the black pepper, and the thyme leaves. Place the slices on a pre-heated grill (I heat my gas grill on medium-high heat) and cook the slices for 4-5 minutes per side or until they become slightly charred and have good grill marks.

Serve the eggplant alongside your favorite main dishes or use as an addition to sandwiches, salads, or pasta!

 

Nutritional Information (1 serving):

66 calories • 8.5gm carbohydrates •ŸŸ 4gm fiber •Ÿ 1.5gm protein Ÿ• 3.5gm fat Ÿ• 0.5gm saturated fat Ÿ• 480mg sodium Ÿ• 0mg cholesterol •Ÿ 0.5mg iron Ÿ• 17mg calcium

Pesto Pasta Salad with Spinach

IMG_7170

Another summer day, another summer pasta salad… with pesto.

Yes, I know that this is another variation on pasta tossed with pesto on this website, but trust me – this is totally different! Promise.

What I like about this pasta salad is that it has wilted spinach in it. Pesto and spinach are a great flavor combo (trust me!), which makes this a yummy summer dinner option (and you get the added benefit of sneaking some good nutrition into your family!).

Grab yourself a tall-sided skillet and set it over medium heat.

IMG_7149

And sauté some shallots in olive oil. If you like some spice in your food, add in some crushed red pepper flakes.

When the shallots are all soft and translucent, dump in some washed baby spinach.

IMG_7150

I love baby spinach in pasta recipes because it wilts down fast and it doesn’t have as strong a flavor as regular spinach (in my opinion). And despite it being “baby” spinach, it’s still a great source of fiber, iron, folate, and vitamin A!

IMG_7154

Sauté the spinach until it just wilts (the hot pasta will completely wilt it). Set the pan aside until the pasta is finished cooking.

Another veggie that tastes great with pesto is peas! I put frozen sweet peas in a colander and pour the pasta over it – peas get defrosted ASAP and everything is ready to be tossed with the spinach.

IMG_7160

Dinner’s in one skillet! One pot meals, man… they’re a lifesaver!

Add in some pesto.

IMG_7162

This is store-bought pesto. It was good, but not as good (or as green) as freshly made pesto…

And I would have fresh pesto on hand if I had any fresh basil on my newly acquired basil plant…

And I would have fresh basil on my newly acquired basil plant if only a caterpillar wasn’t a stow-away on the planter and munched his way through 60% of the leaves…

IMG_7166

I am devastated.

So no fresh pesto until I figure out how to revive my poor plant (or hit up the farmer’s market this weekend).

Back to the pasta salad.

IMG_7165

I threw in some fresh mozzarella.

Mixed everything together and garnished with some basil leaves that have been cut into ribbons (or chiffonade) and some toasted pine nuts.

IMG_7168

Then we dug in!

Simple, delicious, and easy to whip up on a hot summer night.

 

What are your favorite summer pasta salad dishes (do you love pesto as much as I do)?

Your pesto pasta salad obsessed friend,

C

Pesto Pasta Salad with Spinach

  • Servings: 6 people
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 medium-sized shallots, cut into thin half moons

8oz fresh baby spinach, washed well

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon red pepper flake (optional)

1½ cups frozen sweet peas

¼ cup pesto, store-bought or homemade

1lb fresh mozzarella, cubed

12oz dried pasta, ¾ of a 1lb box

2 tablespoon pine nuts, toasted

6-8 basil leaves, cut into ribbons

 

Steps:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt heavily and add in pasta; cook according to the package directions.
  2. In a high-sided skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in the shallots and cook until they become soft and translucent, about 1-2 minutes; add in the red pepper flake (optional). Add spinach to the pan, tossing to coat in the olive oil and shallots – cook for 1-2 minutes until slightly wilted. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Set aside.
  3. Place peas in a colander. When pasta is cooked, pour the pasta into the colander with the peas. Shake colander to remove as much water from the pasta and peas as possible.
  4. Pour pasta and peas into the skillet with the spinach. Add in pesto and fresh mozzarella cheese – stir to combine. Sprinkle pine nuts and basil over the pasta for garnish.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

 

Nutrition Information (1 serving):

597 calories • 60gm carbohydrates • 6gm fiber • 33gm protein • 25gm fat • 10gm saturated fat • 713mg sodium • 42mg cholesterol • 4mg iron • 637mg calcium

Italian Vegetable Quesadillas

IMG_6815

Hi there! How are you?

Did you have a good long holiday weekend?

Oh good!

I had an amazing weekend too! With my parents visiting with friends at the beach, I had a big Tex-Mex BBQ at my house with my close friends. It was a great time filled with good food and even better conversation.

Coming from a long line of Greek cooks, I whipped up enough food to feed A LOT of people… which means one thing – leftovers. (yay!) I wanted to save the main stuff for a welcome home dinner with the parents, but there was just enough grilled veggies for me to whip up a delicious and easy lunch.

Italian Vegetable Quesadillas!

I know that quesadillas are a traditional Tex-Mex dish, but I hate all cheese (have I mentioned that before?) except for mozzarella (yes, I’m weird). So I decided to try an Italian spin on this old classic using the leftover veggies and the one cheese that doesn’t gross me out (definitely stepping out of my comfort zone).

It starts with a pan set over medium-low heat and coated lightly with cooking spray.

IMG_6807

Place in a small tortilla – this is a 6” whole wheat one (I think they call it “fajita-style”) – that is spread with some pesto (homemade or bottled… your choice!).

Sprinkle on some mozzarella cheese.

IMG_6808

Because what is a quesadilla without melty cheese?

IMG_6809

And then place on the grilled vegetables.

IMG_6810

Sprinkle on a little more cheese to help “glue” the quesadilla together.

IMG_6811

And then top with another tortilla coated with some more pesto!

IMG_6812

Grill the quesadilla until golden brown on both sides, about 1-2 minutes per side.

All that’s left is to place the quesadilla on to a cutting board.

IMG_6813

And cut into quarters!

Serve with a spoonful of your favorite marinara sauce and a garnish of basil.

IMG_6821

A simple, delicious, and interesting twist on the traditional Tex-Mex classic!

Enjoy, kiddos.

Your leftover lovin’, quesadilla grillin’ friend,

C

Italian Vegetable Quesadilla

  • Servings: 1 person
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

2 6” tortillas, preferably whole wheat

2 tablespoons pesto, divided

1 cup grilled vegetables, like zucchini, summer squash, bell pepper, onion

⅓ cup grated mozzarella cheese, divided

Cooking spray

Marinara sauce for dipping

Steps:

  1. Place a medium-sized skillet over medium-low heat. Spray lightly with cooking spray.
  2. Coat one side of both tortillas with pesto (one tablespoon per tortilla). Place one tortilla pesto-side up in the skillet. Sprinkle on half of the mozzarella cheese over the pesto and arrange the vegetables in one even layer over the cheese. Sprinkle on the second half of the cheese over the vegetables (to act as the “glue”) and top with the second tortilla, pesto-side down.
  3. Cook the quesadilla 1-2 minutes per side until it becomes golden brown and the cheese gets melty.
  4. Transfer the quesadilla to a cutting board, cut into wedges and serve with marinara sauce and some fresh basil.

Enjoy!

Nutrition Information (1 quesadilla):

454 calories • 34gm carbohydrates • 17gm fiber • 25gm protein • 32gm fat • 8gm saturated fat • 783mg sodium • 27mg cholesterol • 5mg iron • 515mg calcium

Pantry Spring Pesto Pasta

IMG_6765

Hi there! How are you?

I missed you guys!

Sorry for being a little MIA, but I was a little busy this weekend…

 

BECAUSE I GRADUATED!!!

 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am officially DONE with my dietetic internship.

Who knew a year could fly by so fast?

 

After all the excitement this weekend, we had a slow, relaxing day at home.

When my mom asked me to make a dinner side, my relaxed aura was definitely not thrown for a loop – whipping up a dinner side dish was just as relaxing as sitting and watching TV because we had a stocked pantry and fridge.

After gazing in my various food storage areas, I found snap peas, dried pasta, jarred pesto, and some grape tomatoes.

Thus, Pantry Spring Pesto Pasta was born.

It all starts with some snap peas. Snap peas are so quintessentially spring – perfectly green and crisp, just like a springtime afternoon. Plus they are an excellent source of vitamin C!

IMG_6755

For easier cooking/eating, I sliced them on the bias into smaller pieces (2-3 pieces per pea) and then set them aside as I started to cook the pasta.

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

IMG_6758

Toss in the cut snap peas with one minute left in the cooking time (please be careful!). When the pasta is al dente and the snap peas are just barely cooked and a vibrant shade of green, drain them very well.

And transfer them to a big bowl and add some pesto. (please excuse the steamy photo)

IMG_6761

I used jarred pesto here, but fresh pesto would be just as lovely.

Whatever you use, it will be delicious.

Toss the pasta well to combine.

IMG_6764

I garnished mine with some grape tomatoes. They not only added a nice freshness to the dish but some much needed color!

IMG_6772

All that’s left it to serve it up alongside your favorite picnic favorites… or as a main vegetarian dish by itself! Options… they make the world go round!

Enjoy, kiddos!

Your newly graduated friend,

C

Pantry Spring Pesto Pasta

  • Servings: 6-8 people
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

1½ pounds sugar snap peas, washed

1 pound of dried short-style pasta (like penne)

⅓ cup basil pesto, homemade or jarred

10 grape tomatoes, cut into quarters

 

Steps:

  1. Fill a big pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. When it reaches a boil, heavily salt the water and pour in the past – cook according to the package directions.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, slice the sugar snap peas on the bias (2-3 pieces per pea).
  3. When there is one minute left in the pasta cooking time, add in the sugar snap peas. Cook for one additional minute until the pasta is al dente and the snap peas are just barely cooked and vibrant green. Drain pasta and peas well.
  4. Transfer the drained pasta and peas to a bowl and add in the pesto. Toss thoroughly to coat the pasta and peas. Garnish with the grape tomatoes.

Serve alongside your picnic favorites.

Enjoy!