sautéed butternut squash + spinach pasta.

I purchased a butternut squash about a week ago and it is the gift that keeps on giving!

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First I used it for butternut squash congee. Then I used some of the grated leftovers for butternut squash polenta when I had friends over for dinner. And I still had some leftover! Not one to let food to go waste, I knew I had to find a way to use up the last cup or so. It was already grated, so the classic roasting was out. I wanted something healthy yet comforting, so vegetable-heavy pasta it is!

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I sautéed the squash in a little mixture of butter and olive oil, seasoned with garlic, crushed red pepper and nutmeg. Stir in the baby spinach until slightly wilted, and then toss with the hot cooked pasta. I do recommend whole wheat here; the nuttiness of it is an ideal accompaniment to the squash and spinach. You can top with grated parmesan if desired, but I left it sweet and simple (and dairy free!).

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butternut squash + spinach pasta. 

ingredients
4-5 ounces whole wheat spaghetti, linguine, or long pasta
sea salt for pasta water
2 tablespoons grassfed butter, divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1.5 cups shredded butternut squash
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
2-3 handfuls baby spinach
1/3 cup pasta water

directions
Heat a pot of water to boiling with a big pinch of sea salt, and add the pasta, cooking according to package directions for al dente.

Heat a medium skillet over medium high heat and add the olive oil and one tablespoon of butter. Once the butter is melted and the fats are lightly sizzling, add the garlic cloves and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly golden but not burnt. Add the butternut squash, nutmeg, cayenne, sea salt and pepper and saute, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes, or until the squash is lightly golden and tender and add the baby spinach. Add the cooked and drained pasta to the pan with the squash/spinach mixture, and the 1/3 cup of reserved pasta water. Toss well for 1 minute, or until the spinach is just beginning to wilt.

Season with additional salt and pepper and serve immediately.

Serves 2. *Please use organic ingredients wherever possible* 

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whole wheat penne + broccoli with fire-roasted red pepper sauce.

Easy dinner alert! Vegan dinner alert! This is definitely comfort food that is so easy to make. Pasta with roasted red pepper sauce. Yes.

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I love roasted bell peppers, and almost always have a jar of them in my fridge. I love the fire-roasted red and yellow bell peppers from Trader Joe’s, so that is what we are using today. You can use any 16 ounce jar of roasted bell peppers, provided they are of the red, yellow, or orange variety. Green bell peppers have a very different taste, and should not be used here.

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This recipe is very flexible, and you can add pretty much whatever you want to fancy it up. I went simple with some steamed broccoli mixed in to up the nutrition factor, but you could add cooked chicken, sauteed shrimp, zucchini, roasted tomatoes… all sound like delicious additions to this easy dinner! I like to use whole wheat pasta for the fiber, extra protein and nutrients, all of which help keep you fuller, longer!

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Speaking of easy, this sauce couldn’t be simpler to make. Saute up the garlic and onions, add the peppers and broth, blend, then add the spices and coconut milk and let simmer. Add pasta and broccoli, and boom! Done. Welcome to your new weeknight favorite.

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roasted red pepper pasta with broccoli.

ingredients
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
16 ounce jar of fire-roasted red bell peppers
1/2 cup of vegetable broth
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk (from the carton, not the can)
1 teaspoon sugar (or agave)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
8 ounces steamed broccoli florets
8 ounces whole wheat penne

directions

Bring a saucier filled with water to a boil. Add the broccoli florets and stems, and cook for 5 minutes, or until the broccoli is crisp-tender. Remove and drain in a colander, and rinse with ice cold water to ‘shock’ the broccoli and stop the cooking process. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the diced onion and garlic, and saute for 4-5 minutes, or until the onion is translucent but not browned, and the garlic is soft and fragrant. While this is cooking, cook the pasta.

Add the diced peppers, sugar, and broth and let simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add to a blender and blend until smooth. Return puree to the skillet. Add the sea salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and coconut milk and stir. Stir over low heat for 5 minute to allow the mixture to come together and thicken slightly.

Once the pasta is cooked to al dente, add the pasta and broccoli to the sauce and stir together. Taste and add additional salt or pepper if desired. Serve immediately.

Serves 4. *Please use organic ingredients wherever possible* 

NOTES: If the sauce seems too thin, mix together 1 teaspoon water with 1 teaspoon cornstarch until dissolved. Add to the sauce before the pasta and broccoli and whisk to thicken.

orecchiette with sausage + rappi.

Hey there! Long time, no talk. I know I’ve been MIA, and my deepest apologies to my readers (all 6 or 8 or you. Hi friends!). Work has been absolutely insane, and months of work ramped up and finally culminated last week with a big site visit/interview/audit that will help determine if our program will be able to add a shiny, brand new residency to our repertoire! It has been a crazy amount of work by several people and it was actually quite surreal that it actually happened last week. Of course, the very next day I hopped on a plane to attend a conference and happily, see some dear friends that lived in the D.C. area and of course, squeeze in some time for the National Zoo! It was whirlwind, but so fun and exhausting. Now I’m back and trying to get into the groove of my routine. I’ve been eating way too much take out and snack/pseudo meals due to my schedule. Now that I’m home, it’s time to get back in the kitchen.

One of the first meals I ever made myself was a riff on this recipe, although I used pre-made Italian dressing as my “flavoring” and used diced chicken and steamed broccoli. It was my I’m-new-to-cooking-and-this-is-my-go-to-I-won’t-screw-up meal, and I ate it OFTEN. Now that my cooking skills have improved, it’s rare that I use a pre-made dressing for a marinade/sauce, and little did I know that pasta with Italian sausage, broccoli rabe (a lovely, bitter green) and cheese is a classic Italian dish that is stunningly delicious and simple! I scooped up some beautiful sweet Italian sausage on sale a few weeks ago and it’s been hanging in my freezer just waiting to be used. Even though I’ve been eating lots of take out, finally decompressing from work and travel combined with frozen temperatures have resulted in me craving some serious Italian comfort foods.

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As I’ve mentioned before, if I’m going to eat Italian, I prefer to make it, and this recipe is a great example of why. Just a few good ingredients combined with a relatively quick cooking process yields a beautiful, classic,comforting dish. Broccoli rabe is often called rappi or rapini at the grocery store, and its bitter flavor mellows out during the cooking process. This dish comes together in no time flat, and is crazy comforting. Enjoy!

orecchiette with sausage + broccoli rabe.
adapted from Williams + Sonoma. 

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ingredients

1/2 pound sweet italian sausage, casings removed
1 bunch broccoli rabe, end of stems removed and chopped into 1 inch pieces (about 1 pound)
1/2 pound orecchiette pasta
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
pinch of crushed red pepper
salt and pepper to taste

directions

Heat a pot of water until boiling. Cook past to package directions. Once finished, drain and set aside; do NOT rinse.

Meanwhile, heat a heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the sausage, breaking it up as it cooks. Once it is all browned and cooked through, remove to a fine mesh strainer or plate. Set aside.

Add chicken broth and garlic to the pan and allow to come to a fast simmer. Once simmering, reduce heat slightly to medium and add the broccoli rabe and crushed red pepper. Stir frequently, allowing the greens to wilt, about 3 minutes. Once wilted but still bright green, add sausage back in along with the cooked pasta. Add parmesan cheese and stir to combine.

The chicken stock will have thickened; if it is still very thin, reduce heat to low and allow the dish to come together for a few additional minutes; stirring often. Taste and add salt and/or pepper if necessary.

Divide among four bowls and serve, topping with additional cheese, if desired. Serves 4.

**Please use all organic ingredients wherever possible**

tortellini with pesto and peppers.

I’m a huge proponent of clean, from scratch cooking. I’m also realistic. I know that if I, a single girl with no kids is too tired to cook some days, families or single parents must feel this way on a scale that I can’t even fathom. And short cuts are better than take out. Cheaper, too!

Today’s recipe is a nod to a packaged ingredients. We’re using prepared tortellini today, because if you make your tortellini from scratch, well, you’re a better human being than me and I’d like us to meet immediately so you can share your secrets.

You can use frozen or fresh tortellini, your choice. I used some from the refrigerated section for this recipe, just plain cheese ones. I like to use whole wheat pastas whenever possible, but alas, my grocery store only had white flour ones available. Use whatever you like the best.

We’re going to fancy this up a bit by combining basil pesto (jarred or homemade is fine), sundried tomatoes, roasted bell peppers, some onion, fresh bell pepper into a lovely ‘sauce’, mix in some fresh baby spinach, top with cheese, and you have a comforting pasta dish that is perfect for a weekend lunch, quick dinner, or double the recipe and serve as a chilled salad at your next gathering. Trust me, people will love it, and only you and I will know how easy it was to make!

tortellini with pesto and peppers.
inspired by tortellini salad from Wegmans.com.

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ingredients
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
16 oz. frozen or fresh cheese tortellini
1/4 medium onion, diced
1/2 red or orange bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup prepared basil pesto (recipe below)
2-3 fire roasted bell peppers (I like the jarred ones from Trader Joe’s)
2 tbsp. parmesan cheese
4-6 sundried tomatoes (dry or drained, if packed in oil)
salt and pepper, dash of each
3 cups fresh baby spinach

basil pesto
4 medium cloves of garlic
3 ounces of basil leaves
2 tablespoons pine nuts (can sub in walnuts)
3 tablespoons Parmesan-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons Pecorino-Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
kosher sea salt

Add garlic, salt and nuts to a food processor and pulse until they begin to form a rough paste. Add both cheeses and pulse until just combined. Add in basil a handful at a time, pulsing until combined. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while pulsing the food processor until incorporated. Consistency should be smooth yet rustic.

directions

In a large pot, heat water and cook tortellini to package instructions. Drain and set aside. While the pasta is cooking, heat remaining ½ tablespoon of oil is small skillet over high heat. Once slightly smoking, add bell pepper and onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes until crisp tender and slightly blackened.

Slice jarred peppers and sundried tomatoes into a large dice or strips (dependent upon preference) and pat dry with paper towel. Toss tortellini and pesto together in a large bowl. Add spinach, tomatoes, jarred peppers and peppers and onions from the skillet to the tortellini and mix together until all are combined. Add more pesto if desired or seems dry. Top with parmesan cheese and serve. Can be served warm, room temperature or chilled. Serves 4 as a light dinner.

**Please use organic ingredients wherever possible**