What to make for an 80s food challenge when I wasn’t eating food for the majority of the 80s…that was the question! Thankfully Google has come to the rescue again by providing all sorts of lists of popular 80s cuisines. After ruling out a number of dishes that would be beyond my skill set to convert to vegetarian living (meatloaf I’m looking at you), I decided to convert something that I had adjusted during my early vegetarian days. While I know that Hamburger Helper, and its friends Tuna and Chicken Helper, are far from healthy – they were easy to make and by switching the beef for mushrooms they were easy to vegetarianize. This time I decided to make one of my favorite helpers from those good ole days totally from scratch: Cheesy Pasta Helper. I debated making the pasta in one pot and mixing in to the sauce after the fact but after my one-pot pasta success last month I decided to do it again! This also made it much more authentic since one of the best things about Hamburger Helper is the ease of making it all in one pot.
This is totally not 1980s Hamburger Helper but it’s got all the ease of that one-box wonder without all the sodium and fat! Plus it can easily be veganized by switching in Diaya meltables, or cashew cheese, for the “real” stuff. Always an important thing to note, most cheeses are not vegetarian due to various enzymes so make sure to double check to avoid a less than pleasant surprise! Another quick note – when using GF pasta you might need to add up to a 1/4 cup of extra water in order to insure the pasta cooks all the way just be sure to only add 1 tbsp at a time to avoid watering down the sauce.
I’m not going to lie, I’m a bit of a Pinterest nut. I find so many interesting and tasty looking treats that I just can’t help but to “pin all the things!” When I started seeing one-pot pasta meals I was intrigued as it goes against everything I was taught growing up regarding the proper cooking of pasta. Which is why I was expecting this post to be more of a #pinterestfail than anything else, I just couldn’t imagine this working. Just worked it did, after checking out almost half a dozen recipes. I wanted to insure that my pasta was al dente and my vegetables cooked but not floppy – which isn’t exactly the easiest thing. The first step was figuring out what vegetables have a similar cooking time, and what type of pasta was equal to or less than that cooking time. I wanted the pasta to have the shortest cook time just in case the vegetables needed extra time, again al dente pasta is (and always will be) the goal for any pasta dish. Luckily green vegetable are starting to show up at the market so I had a very large selection to pick from!
Now this recipe comes with a true tip/trick: cut and EVERYTHING first! Once it’s time to add the water everything needs to be ready to go in order to avoid a mushy mess. For this same reason I would avoid most members of the squash family and would also hold off adding any tomatoes until the very end.
Pretty sure that if I allowed my husband to design our weekly menu this would come up at least every other week. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy cheese but I don’t have the same appreciation for it that my husband does. Which is why when I make mac&cheese I tend to go a little over board with the cheeses that I use. Normally I do a baked mac&cheese, but last week I decided to try doing a white stove top mac&cheese – after all variety is a good thing. As for the cheeses, I decided to pick three different types of white cheese simply because I could!
While I’ll always be partial to baked mac&cheese there is something to be said about its much quicker and creamier cousin. I enjoyed mine as is while Joey decided to add some Old Bay to his – there is a reason why I buy that stuff in bulk after all!
For the record, stomach bugs and food blogs don’t really go hand in hand – however I’m slowly getting back to normal and with that slowly getting back in the kitchen. When I’m sick, be it stomach flu or otherwise, I tend to go toward simple dishes – mostly because being on my feet for an extended amount of time is bad. I also tend to use tools such as my slow cooker and dutch oven, since both lend themselves to being set up and walked away from. This delicious lentil soup is simple, hearty, and easy on the stomach in addition to being adaptable for either slow cooker or dutch oven.
Since I had spent more than a fair amount of the day in bed, I went for the dutch oven this time around. For a slow cooker, precook the onions then add everything else and cook on low for 6 hours or high for 2. If cooking on low, turn to high for 30 minutes before serving in order to ensure the pasta has cooked thru – adding more liquid at this point if needed.
When I saw that /52weeksofcooking was heading to Spain for their weekly challenge, I knew I would have a hard time picking one recipe. I toyed with the idea of making a vegetarian paella, but in the end decided to go with that similar yet slightly less well know (at least to me) dish known as Fideua. Manysites refer to this as “pasta paella” instead of rice, which made the Italian in me very happy. As with paella, this is normally not a vegetarian friendly dish but it is one that can be converted over rather easily! I decided to use chickpeas as the protein, along with a variety of mushrooms, but soy chorizo or tofurkey would also work.
This dish requires a bit of attention at first, but once the pasta is added there is plenty of time to enjoy some wine – or let the dogs out! I enjoyed mine naked while Joey topped his with some fresh Parmesan cheese
Time for November’s Random Recipe entry! This month Dom at Belleau Kitchen switched things up this month by having us use our birthday to pick the cookbook, instead of a random number. For me this meant the 7th book on my shelf was the lucky winner, Vegetables from an Italian Garden.
I got this book last year and it has quickly become one of my favorites, especially since the first section of it is a planting guide for the vegetables featured in the book. For the winning recipe, Joe picked page 257 which was a picture of a very large pumpkin. The opposite page gave a full description of pumpkins, including the pages to flip to for pumpkin recipes (304-315). I went to the first page of recipes and settled on Crema Alla Zucca – Pumpkin Cream Sauce. The first time I made this recipe, things went wrong along the way and I had to change up dinner plans. The second time around I made more than a few changes while keeping the basic integrity of the dish for much better, read: edible, results!
This time the recipe worked MUCH better! I’m not sure what changes made it work, since I did make more than a few changes. Make sure to head over the Bellaeu Kitchen for more amazing Random Recipes!
I’m also sending this recipe over the /52weeks since there isn’t any thing more “Harvest” than pumpkin, especially this time of year. Plus, this recipe is a great way to use up any extra pumpkin, be it canned or fresh. Also, for more great recipes join GoodLife Eats for the Surprisingly Nutritious Spaghetti Link-Up sponsored by Barilla pasta
I’m a horrible Italian. Why? I can’t make homemade pasta without cursing, yelling, and occasionally throwing something. I can do pie crusts and when the moon is properly aligned with Venus I can roll pizza dough, but there is just something about pasta dough that I can’t quite conquer. I’ve attempted pasta a dozen or so times and have had something edible at the end of it maybe three of those times. On all those other occasions I had to call in Chinese or Thai in order to insure there would be dinner. I have tried a variety of recipes, from Pioneer Woman to Joy of Cooking to Martha to Fabio and the end result is always the same: super sticky dough that requires so much flour that they turn in to a gluten mess once cooked. However last week I tried again, thanks to the /52weeks homemade pasta challenge. I thought about skipping it and just moving on to the baking challenge, but I had promised myself that I would give every week my best try and so I did.
The bad things:
few survivors – had to make some dry pasta to supplement
I can’t make pasta
The good things:
great ricotta filling made with the last of the fresh basil and assembled by my amazing husband
I used the standard 1 cup to 2 eggs ratio, and doubled it with the idea that there would be enough for two dinners and two lunches. For the filling I had two cups of ricotta cheese, 8 basil leaves, and a touch of pepper. Once I finally figure out this pasta thing I promise I’ll post a real recipe…just not sure when that will be!I’m thinking that if I had a stand-mixer I could get the pasta attachment and then maybe (maybe) I would finally be able to make homemade pasta on a semi-regular basis. Until then it will be good old store bought pasta for this family!