Minestrone

My favorite minestrone recipe is from The Urban Spork. The original recipe website stopped working a little while ago, but luckily a little miracle called the WayBack Machine makes it possible to continue enjoying this great recipe! I have adapted the recipe a bit to make it fit my tastes, so here’s my version:

Ingredients:
pasta of your choice
1 tablespoon olive oil
fennel seeds
crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into small pieces
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. can plus a 15 oz. can lightly crushed whole tomatoes
8 cups low-sodium chicken stock or broth
15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 bunch Swiss chard leaves, sliced
Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box and set aside. We used ditalini, but shells or any other small pasta would work very well!

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Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat with a sprinkle of fennel seeds and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes.

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Add the onion, celery, potatoes and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Add the crushed tomatoes, chicken stock/broth and cannellini beans, as well as 2 teaspoons of salt and ½ teaspoon of pepper. Increase the heat to high and bring mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.

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Before serving, stir in the red wine vinegar and Swiss chard leaves. To serve, ladle soup over the pasta in individual bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Note: Store leftover soup separately from leftover pasta to preserve liquid.

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Mmm… so hot and savory with just the right amount of spiciness!

Veggies and pasta

When I have some leftover ingredients to use up, I am often tempted to invent a new dish. This time I had a bit of baby kale, a handful of really sweet tomatoes, the remainder of a container of goat cheese, and some garlic and spaghetti.

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While the spaghetti cooked, I combined all of the other ingredients except tomatoes in a heat-safe bowl. I also sprinkled on some crushed red pepper.

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When the spaghetti was done, I reserved some of the pasta water and added it to the bowl. Then I threw in the drained spaghetti and the tomatoes and stirred until the goat cheese melted and coated everything in a delicious, tangy sauce. The raw garlic mellowed a bit from the heat of the pasta water, but next time I might sauté it before adding it to the dish to reduce some of the spiciness.

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I also love to make regular pasta night healthier by throwing a few handfuls of spinach or some cooked broccoli into the mix with the sauce once the pasta is cooked. It’s a very easy and yummy way to add veggies to an otherwise vegetable-free dinner.

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Kale salad with lemon-tahini dressing

I recently tried this recipe for kale salad with avocados, tomatoes, cucumbers, chickpeas, and a lemon-tahini dressing.

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I have to admit something now. I think raw kale is yucky. Every part of this salad besides the kale was so delicious (dressing that tastes like hummus?!) but I found myself having to choke down the kale pieces. I have the same aversion to raw broccoli, which is unfortunate because both of these foods are so healthy.

Oh well. Maybe if I just keep eating kale I will learn to love it. We ate the salad with some Terra chips and delicious curry-spiced lamb burgers with cucumber-mint raita sauce (recipes from Joy of Cooking).

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Lemony pasta with goat cheese and spinach

This Lemony Pasta with Goat Cheese and Spinach recipe caught my attention because I love goat cheese!

While the name given to this recipe is not inaccurate based on its ingredients, I would be more inclined to call it something like “Parsley Walnut Pasta” because those were the dominant flavors for me. Unfortunately, I could barely taste the goat cheese in this recipe. But that being said, this dish was still really, really good!

Speaking of really, really good, did you know that toasting walnuts in the oven for a few minutes makes them WAY better? I had no idea.

I started by toasting the walnuts and chopping up the parsley and cilantro. I’m not sure my chopping technique was correct, but it worked.

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The recipe called for a tablespoon of lemon zest. Apparently zesting an entire lemon was not enough. Oh well.

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Stirring the spinach into the pasta was a bit difficult because I used too small of a pot. I managed to fit it in by stirring it into the pasta in small batches. The goat cheese gave it a nice, creamy texture! When I make this again, I will probably just add more goat cheese since I want to taste it more.

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Yum! I craved this dish for weeks after I made it.

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Hummus quesadilla

One great thing about striving for a healthier diet is that my already-healthy friends feel compelled to send me awesome new recipes to try! My friend Valerie emailed me about one of her favorite ways to eat veggies: inside of delicious quesadillas!

Valerie wrote:

I usually start with a protein, either black beans or hummus, then add veggies and then fry it in a little butter. The great thing is that beans and hummus are so creamy that you don’t even really need cheese, though sometimes I put in feta because it’s tasty and pretty healthy as far as cheese goes.

Things that go well with black beans:
avocado
peppers
green onions
kale
spinach
tomatoes
butternut squash
corn
shredded brussels sprouts

Things that go well with hummus:
shredded carrots
kale
spinach
green onions
cucumber
zucchini
radish, grated or sliced very thin
artichokes
shredded brussels sprouts

Up until this time, my homemade quesadillas were floppy, microwaved tortillas with some shredded cheese inside and a splash of hot sauce. I decided to try out Valerie’s version, and I used sun-dried tomato hummus, spinach, carrot, onion, mushroom, and garlic. I was so surprised at how delicious this was! I didn’t even miss the cheese, and that’s saying a lot because I have an almost disturbing passion for eating cheese. The tortilla got all crispy and buttery and perfect, and the hummus was warm and held all of the veggies in. So much yum.

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This quesadilla is one of those meals that is so good that you want to immediately make it again once you’re done. (In fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about how good this was and ended up making it for dinner again the next night!)

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