Pasta! Pasta! Pasta!

TRENDING PASTA

Beer Pasta

Beet PASTA

Spelt pasta, chick pea, organic, spinach, kale, lentil and chocolate dessert  pasta. The new trend in pasta is part of the “NEW NORMAL”.  Healthy pasta with nutritious veggies have kicked up our pasta -another notch!  Now, that we are homebound, we may be more inventive with our meals and at the same time keep the cost down.

Last night, we had mushroom quinoa pasta. My sister said,  ” This pasta is  really good. What did you do? I explained how I prepared the pasta.  My sis also said, “You must share your pasta secret on your blog. 💖 And, I have selfish reasons. I need a copy to print out..for me!”

PERFECT PASTA

Heart Smart  PASTA

Perfectly cooked pasta is called “al dente” , which in Italian means “to the tooth.” Al dente pasta is cooked just enough to retain a firm texture while still pliable.
MY COOKING SECRET:  I cook my pasta to ‘AL DENTE’.  I start to check my pasta a few minutes before the recommended cooking time,  to ensure perfectly cooked pasta!🍝

INGREDIENTS

1 quart water  (approx.)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp of oil
3-4 cloves of garlic.
Pasta – of your choice

How To MEASURE Pasta For Your Dinner Guests?

INSTRUCTIONS

In a large pot boil 4 cups of water and 1 1/2 tsp  of salt,  for every 3 1/2 ounces of pasta. These are the proportions according to the classic and famous Silver Spoon cookbook.  Optionally, add a few cloves of garlic to the water. I’ve always done this when cooking my pasta.
When the water comes to a rolling boil add the pasta.    Boil for 8-10 minutes. In the meantime, heat oil,  garlic and butter in a fry pan. You may add mushrooms, basil, spinach and parsley. (or, your choosing).   Do not let garlic brown. Then, set aside until pasta is ready.
TESTING PASTA FOR DONENESS
After  8 minutes, take out one small segment of pasta.  You may notice that the outside of the pasta is cooked and the inside is still hard. This is your guide for the next test – 1 to 2 minutes later.

I sometimes test the pasta 3 or 4 times. I like my pasta as perfect as possible. Cook well and you will  keep the flavour of the pasta. If your pasta is cooked too long, you get  “pastey pasta”. And, frankly it tastes like paste.

Quinoa Pasta with Spinach, Mushrooms, Sun Dried Tomatoes, garlic,butter and oil.

PASTA PROVIDES ENERGY!
1. Pasta is one of best sources of good carbohydrates. Runners and rowers have pasta the night before a race.  Carbohydrates provide glucose to the body, which is an essential fuel for the muscles and the brain.
2. Pasta helps repair cells and tissue, rebuilds muscle and strengthens hair, nails and skin.
3. One serving of cooked pasta  ( about one cup ) has  210 calories, one gram of fat, 43 grams of carbs, three grams of fiber, and six grams of protein.
Make sure you have your favorite vegetables with your pasta. Mushrooms, broccoli, grilled asparagus or roasted peppers are so tasty with your pasta. It is not a main course. Keep your pasta serving down to about one cup.

MY FAVORITE PASTA MAKER – MOM
It started on a Sunday afternoon. After church, mom comes over for our  traditional  Sunday afternoon coffee.  The coffee maker is heating up. As I reach for the cups, I smile and say, ” Let’s make pasta for dinner tonight!” To this day, Mom and I still enjoy making fresh pasta on Sunday afternoons.  No Sunday goes by without fresh pasta on the dinner table. On hot, summer days, cold pasta salads are the main event.
My favorite pasta maker!

Lydia And Her Mom Making Pasta


KALE PASTA -STEP BY STEP:–(without a machine)–https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KT1KwuWBkvo
COLORED PASTA:–(with a machine)–> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJURekWWESo
ROOKIE PASTA MAKER (5 MISTAKES) —> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_fu5RaXMVk

ROAST VEGETABLES ~ TRENDING!

‘The BEST’ OVEN-Roasted VEGETABLES!

CHANGE THE WAY YOU ROAST VEGETABLES: For goodness sake! After making over 1,000 meals with roast veggies, I started experimenting and made some modifications. I knew I had a winner when I got huge compliments for  my ‘new’ roasted vegetables. It is still my all time favorite veggie recipe!  One reason is that it’s so easy to make! At a dinner party, one of my friends proclaimed  “These veggies are so good. I cant believe how good they taste!”  The potatoes are crispy,  yet soft and  fluffy on the inside.  The red peppers were especially a big hit.  I have been asked to share this recipe with you. I hope you enjoy it!


.
print_recipe
.
.

INGREDIENTS

1 medium potato* (any kind),  cut into 1  inch cubes
1 yam* peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 carrot and/or parsnip peeled and sliced into 1 inch slices
6 brussels  sprouts
1/2 head garlic, cloves separated and skins removed
2 large shallots, peeled and quartered ( sweet or red onions  )
2  red and/or yellow bell peppers, cut lengthwise into 1  inch strips
1/2 cup Calamata olives, pitted
2-4 tablespoons olive oil ( more oil, the better )
2 sprigs of FRESH Rosemary or Thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black
* If you decide to leave the  skin on large tubers before roasting,  wash and scrub well. Soak in cleaning vinegar for at least 15 minutes before chopping.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F degrees(232 C ) and prepare vegetables.
  2. In a large bowl, toss potatoes, yams, carrots and brussels sprouts with  olive oil and salt.  Add to roasting pan and roast in the oven for 20 minutes

    Cubed Potatoes, Yams, Parsnips & Carrots

  3. Add garlic and shallots to  the pan  and toss with the other vegetables. Roast for 20 more minutes

    Garlic And Shallots

  4. Add chopped bell pepper and olives to the pan and sprinkle with black pepper.  Add 2 rosemary sprigs on top of the vegetables. Return to oven
  5. Cook for 20 minutes longer until vegetables are nicely browned but not charred. Because the peppers are only cooked in the last  20 minutes, they are still juicy, tender and tasty.  As all oven temperatures vary, please check the vegetables as they roast.

Fresh Rosemary

TIP:  Make sure you use FRESH ROSEMARY (or thyme – if you don’t have rosemary on hand ). Rosemary needs to be fresh, or not at all. When chopping vegetables err on the larger, chunky  side.  You can always  substitute/add your favourite veggies.  Keep in mind  THE 20 – 20- 20  MINUTE ‘Roasting’  Rule: The firmer vegetables go in first. Then, add the onions and garlic with the most tender vegetables in the final 20 minutes: mushrooms, green tomatoes,  peppers.

VARIATIONS
1.  I add baby turnips  if they look especially fresh and small at the market that day.  As you know, this recipe bakes in 3 BATCHES. The hard root vegetables are roasted first.

Turnips

2. The softer onions and garlic are next in the next 20 minute intervals.

3.  In the third and final stage,  the lighter,  succulent vegetables are added. Friends ask me how my roasted peppers stay so juicy and tasty?   They are only roasted for the last 20 minutes.  The peppers add such a great flavour  and sweetness to the mix.   Try the black olives. If you are not a fan, just  leave them as the flavour is very complementary to the mix. Please  try them before you pass judgement.

Oven Roasted Vegetables

The great aroma for these roasted vegetables comes from  the garlic and shallots along with the rosemary of course. HINT: Use up what you’ve got. Look in the fridge and pantry and roast it!


THE POWER OF ROOT VEGETABLES
The starchy root veggies will satisfy your sweet tooth. You not only feel fuller afterwards, weight loss benefits prevail.
From their high-fiber content to their many nutrients, root vegetables boast  a long history of medicinal and dietary uses.  These vegetables can be served cold as well.  They sell these cold  at those expensive gourmet shops.  Cooked and then cooled potatoes (as well as quinoa, barley and rice). All have resistant starch.  Resistant starch burns more slowly and helps you lose weight. They appear to help you burn fat up to  24 hours later. Why?  No one knows. But what is known is that once resistant starch gets to the colon, your body ferments it and produces an anticancer agent called butyrate – yet another health benefit.

Roast Winter Vegetables on the BBQ

Pulla: Finnish Cardamon Bread

EASTER CELEBRATIONS
Traditionally, Easter sweet bread dates back to the Homeric Greek period  around 1100 BC, when honey leavened bread was popular.

Celebrate Easter Sunday with traditional Finnish “PULLA” that adorns every table during Finland’s religious holidays.  Growing up,  this was the best treat Easter morning ( and still is )!  One bite of this light, fluffy, sweet bread and you’re a kid again, remembering those wonderful times!
PULLA bread is a soft, fluffy cardamom braided bread (or buns) served with a hot cup of coffee. Top this sweet loaf with sliced almonds and/or pearl sugar.

print_recipe
.
.

INGREDIENTS (makes 2 loaves)

  • 1/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F –  45 degrees C)
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast ( 2 1/4 tsp. )
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk ( 105  – 115 F – same as water)
  • 2/3  cup of white sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon ground, fresh cardamom
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cups or 170 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces or grated
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk (lightly beaten)
  • I large egg white, lightly beaten with
  • 1 tbsp water (for egg wash)
  • TOPPING: almond slices and course sugar  ( about 1 to 2 Tablespoons )

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and a pinch of sugar. Let stand until foamy, in 5 minutes
[ If yeast does not foam start over with new yeast] This is the most critical part of the recipe.

Yeast In Full Bloom – Mixed With Warm Water ( + A Pinch Of  Sugar )

2. Stir together flour, sugar, cardamom, and salt in a large bowl. You can also sift these  ingredients together to remove any hard lumps in the flour.  Then blend in butter with a pastry blender or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Alternatively,  grate the cold butter using a box grater onto the flour mixture and fluff with  your fingers (like I do).
3. Stir in milk, 1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk,  and yeast mixture with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.
4. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead, dusting surface and hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.  Alternatively, knead in your stand mixer or food processor with the dough hook.
5. Form dough into a ball and put in a buttered large bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

First Raising – Dough  (My Bowl Was Too Small –  But It Worked Well)

6. Punch down dough (do not knead), then halve. Cut each half into thirds and roll each piece into a 15-inch rope. ( 6  ropes –  for  2 loaves ).Braid together 3 ropes to form a loaf, then transfer to a parchment-lined large baking sheet, tucking ends under. Make another loaf with remaining 3 ropes, arranging loaves 4 inches apart. Or, on two different trays (like I did).

7. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

After Second Rising – Added Egg White Wash + Almonds

8. Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. .
9. Brush loaves with egg wash and optionally dust with sugar through a sieve or sprinkle with pearl sugar if you have it.  Bake until golden brown about 35-45 minutes.  Check loaf after 30 minutes.  My pulla was done in 36 minutes. Every oven is different. Some ovens run hotter that others. Rotate the pulla from back to front in the oven, about half way through cooking time – to get an even bake.

Because I used granulated sugar, It had still not melted so I used my kitchen torch to bruleé the sugar.  This is not traditional.  The pearl sugar is but it is not so easy to find.

I am not a fan of sweets but I do enjoy this light sprinkling on top of the pulla.

Torching The Sugar To Melt Into The Loaf

10. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Easter Blessings

STAY HOME STAY SAFE
We are especially thankful this Easter 2020.  I have been at home all week baking pulla  for friends and family. Celebrations started early as my friend sent me an email thanking me for the fresh pulla. My friend  had never tried pulla and said her whole family ate it all in one sitting. Downstairs, the concierge started eating it right away (his second loaf); warm, home baked pulla – by me.

Extra prayers this Easter  🙏🏻  to the brave men and women all over the world. Blessings and hope for everyone during these troubled times and uncertainty.

Tamarind and Chick Peas

9🎶  THREE’S  THE  CHARM  🎶  
(1) TAMARIND (2) SPINACH (3) CHICK PEAS
I had this dish years ago, without all the spices and was not impressed.  The spices in this recipe enhance the key flavour of  the tamarind.  Surprisingly, the 3 jalapeño peppers are not hot in this dish.  An EASY 30 MINUTE meal packed with protein and flavour.  Leftovers makes a great lunch at the office!  Another  winner!


print_recipe
.
.

INGREDIENTS

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp nigella seeds
1½ tsp fennel seeds  ( or  anise seeds)
1 medium onion ( chopped )
400 g can chopped tomatoes (san marzano)
3 green jalaeño peppers, seeded and cut into quarter lengths
2-3 tsp monk fruit sweetener ( or stevia, truvia, etc. )
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
410 g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1-2 tbsp tamarind paste ( adjust to taste )
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
half a 250g/9oz bag of organic baby spinach leaves
Serving suggestion:  natural yogurt and chapatis

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Fry the nigella and fennel seeds for about 10 second. Add the onion and cook gently for 8-10 minutes until golden.

2. Mix in the tomatoes,  jalapeños,  sweetener ( Monk fruit ), paprika, turmeric and  chickpeas. Bring to a boil,  then simmer for 10 minutes.  Make sure your dish is stew-like; not too dry. Add water if needed.

3. Stir in the tamarind and coriander. ( (You need to do a taste test here. Add more tamerind to get  that tamerind sweet and sour flavour).  Add the spinach leaves and stir gently until they’ve just wilted. You can serve as a main course with yogurt and chapatis or as a side dish.

Tamarind paste

Tamarind Paste

Tamarind Chick Peas

Tamarind and Chick Peas

COOKING TIP:  Before starting to cook, do all your chopping and rinse out the chick peas. Check your spice rack to make sure you have all your spices  measured and placed in  small dishes. ahead of time. This “mise en place”  technique makes cooking time much faster.

WARNING: Do not buy tamarind without reading the ingredients on the label. I bought tamarind in a bottle at the grocery store. I neglected to read the label as I was in a hurry. The main ingredient was syrup. Tamarind was the fourth ingredient! I was disappointed. Do not accept substitutes or a bogus spice seller that claims to be tamarind. Without ‘true’ tamarind, this recipe is so – so. I soaked my tamerind block in water  took the seeds out and ladled the liquid into the dish. ( About 1 cup ) The difference was like night and day.

DID YOU KNOW? The recipe for WORCESTERSHIRE Sauce contains tamarind?  The one ingredient that sets Worcestershire sauce apart  is tamarind  fruit. The sweetness in this fruit  is balanced by its high content of acid, giving it that sweet-sour taste.

TAMARIND is a condiment, a spice and a fruit. Its extract, which tastes deliciously tangy, is one of the most highly valued foods in Asian and Indian cuisine. ( Origin: Africa )

TAMARIND contains an impressive amount of essential minerals such as thiamine, iron, magnesium and phosphorus. Some of its other prominent nutrients include niacin, calcium, vitamin C, copper, fiber and pyridoxine.

Tamarind treats both constipation and diarrhea naturally by increasing the effectiveness of the digestive tract.  Tamarind has long been considered a natural laxative.  It stimulates your metabolism and also keeps your digestive system strong and improves blood circulation. Good for weight loss. Boost your immune system. Also, it has anti-inflammatory properties.

Tamarind Pods and Beverage

Lentil Soup – The Joy of Goodness!

 

‘PLANT BASED PROTEIN DIET’

lentils

Beluga Black Lentils

Lentil soup is a hearty soup made with small legumes known as lentils, which are similar to beans. The soup also includes other spices and vegetables. This soup is easy to make as a vegetarian or vegan  -very healthy dish!  Although there are many different recipes for making this soup, the basics are fairly constant across recipes….except for this one!
.

print_recipe
.

INGREDIENTS

  • Beluga Black lentil 1 cup rinsed (and picked)
  • 2 Tbsp. Olive oil ( or sesame oil)
  • 1 Onion large ( up to 1 cup)
  • 1 Clove garlic – large
  • 4 cups water ( or stock)
  • 10-15 green pods of cardamom
  • 1 tea spoon cumin seeds
  • Ginger root 1 x 2 inches peeled chopped –  or grated
  • 1 carrot peeled & chopped
  • 1/8 tsp. Cayenne pepper .
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  • In a frying pan with 2 inch sides (or dutch oven)
  • Add Oil
  • Add chopped onions (cook until translucent)  followed by 1 clove of chopped garlic
  • Add cumin* (fresh ground)
  • Add cardamon* (fresh ground seeds)
  • Add Cayenne pepper 1/8 tsp.
  • Add beluga black lentils
  • Add 4 cups of water, mix well
  • Bring to a boil then cover over medium heat, cook until lentils are cooked but not mush. About 20 mins
  • Add chopped ( or grated ) ginger, salt and chopped carrot. Cook for another 5-10 mins.


This is a thick soup. You may need to add a bit more water if you wish.
TIP: *Use a soft brush to get all the spice out of the mortar bowl  –  into the pot.
CARDAMOM: Cardamom pods vary in size. Loose cardamom in bulk stores may be dried out. Also, there are large and small pods. Use common sense when adding ‘fresh’ spices to your recipe.

Beluga Lentil Soup – Garnished with Avocado and a dollop of Greek  yogurt + a sprinkle of cayenne pepper (or paprika)

TIPS AND TRICKS
I always cook Beluga lentils in a separate pot for this recipe in order to save a portion for my Lentil  Butternut Squash Salad. I add 1 cup of cooked lentils to the soup ( plus the cooking water ) and the rest is capped for salads. I enjoy this salad very much with walnut oil.  Substitutes for butternut squash are acorn squash,  yams or pumpkin [ even chick peas ]. Sometimes, I make this Beluga lentil salad with  mango, red pepper and chopped sweet onions – with plenty of cilantro.

Beluga Lentil, Roasted Squash, Tomato and Cilantro Salad

NATIONAL LENTIL FESTIVAL
PULLMAN, WASHINGTON, USA

Pullman hosts this annual festivity every August, which recognizes the magically delicious legume and features the world’s largest bowl of lentil chili! Lentilfest.com

21st Legendary Lentil Cook-OFF:
Each spring, people send recipes from around the country. A panel of food experts evaluates the dishes and selects five finalists who are brought to the festival to prepare their dish for a panel of five celebrity judges. ( All 109 of this year’s recipes are available in a cookbook for sale for $5 at the festival and online. Hungry yet?)

LENTIL CHILI -It takes a canoe paddle to stir 350 gallons of lentil chili.

STORING LENTILS
I freeze my cooked lentils in glass jars. I find it is the safest method for preserving food. To learn more about lentils visit this site –> tasteinsight.com

INTERESTING FACTS About Beluga Black Lentil
Black lentils are called BELUGA because of their resemblance to caviar. A fun conversation at the dinner table. They have a warm, nutty flavor and keeps its shape, even during prolonged cooking. They are the most nutritious out of all the types of lentils. On the other hand, the red lentils, also called red ‘split’ lentils become a bit mushy while cooking. Similar to what you see with ‘split pea’ soup. In India, the lentil is known as dal or daal. [ The optical lens is named after the Latin word for lentil: lens. ]

LENTIL SOUP:  CURE FOR THE WINTER CHILL

Finding the balance in life – with lentils