May 2009 Archives

pasta with chives 2

1 lb finely chopped mushrooms (finely chopped)
1 large fistful of dandelion greens (finely chopped)
1 tbsp of olive oil
3 round tbsp flour
3 tbsp butter
2 tsp salt
20-40 grinds of pepper (to your taste)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
3 cups milk (I use 2%) (warmed)
2 cups gruyere cheese (grated)
1 lb of Rotelli pasta

 mushrooms 2


In a sauté pan, on med/high heat, warm the olive oil.  Add the finely chopped mushrooms.  Sauté until the juices are released and have cooked off.  Add the chopped dandelion greens.  Cook just until the greens are wilted.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Put a pot of salted water on to boil in a large pot for the pasta.   Keep your eye on it while making the cheese sauce.


Combine the flour, salt, and peppers in a ramekin and mix it together with a spoon (or a tiny whisk if you have one).  Warm the milk either in the microwave or on the stove top so it will be ready when you need it (do not boil it!).  Have the cheese already grated.

(When the salted water boils, add the pasta and cook for the recommended time, usually about 10 minutes for Rotelli, then drain.)

In a medium saucepan, on medium heat, melt the butter.  As soon as the butter begins to bubble whisk the flour into it.  It should have a paste-like consistency.  For two minutes continue to whisk the flour paste in the pan not allowing it to brown.

Now slowly add the warmed milk while continuing to whisk briskly to prevent lumping (be sure to whisk into the corners of the pan too).  Once the milk has been thoroughly combined with the paste, it will begin to thicken.  It is crucial not to let the sauce boil.  Whisk frequently until it has thickened to the consistency you like your cheese sauce to be.

Remove from the heat.  Gently stir the cheese into the sauce until it is all melted.

Using the pot you boiled your pasta in, combine your drained pasta, the cheese sauce, and the sautéed mushrooms and greens.  Taste for salt and pepper.

Serve hot with a garnish of chive flowers.

Recipe Notes: Mushrooms- you can use any kind of mushrooms in this recipe.  Use wild ones if you have them, or a combination of wild and cultivated, such as Crimini or white button mushrooms.  Since I don't know how to forage for them in my region and can't afford to buy wild, I usually use Crimins which are my favorite.
Cheese- Gruyere or Emmental are fantastic choices to accompany the mushrooms.  However, I can't afford to buy those here so I generally use a very sharp aged cheddar.  Don't use a cheese that is too mild (such as jack or medium cheddar) because the flavor will be lost in the cream sauce. It doesn't take long to make the cheese sauce so it's important to have the pasta cooking at the same time.  The only exception to this is if you are using an angel hair pasta that only takes three minutes to cook.  My best advice with this dish is to have all your ingredients out and ready to go so you waste no time looking for things or measuring.

 mushroom cheese pasta 2

Not sure why you would want to use dandelion greens?  Find out here: Dandelions (Taraxacum officinale): Plant Profile

Rosemary Marinade

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marinade 2

1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
3 tbsp mustard (spicy brown or Dijon)
3 cloves peeled garlic, roughly chopped
3 - 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped roughly
1 tsp salt
many grinds of fresh pepper

Put all of these ingredients in a deep bowl or measuring cup (large enough to use with an immersion blender*). Blend them until the marinade is thickened and all the rosemary is well chopped.

How to use this marinade: I brush it on everything I grill. It is my standby favorite. It is thick enough that it sticks to my vegetables and I love the rosemary and mustard combination. One of my very favorite ways to use it is to roast the following vegetables:

summer squash

Then chop all the roasted vegetables, combine with fettuccine pasta, and add some marinade to the pasta for sauce. Serve with Parmesan.

This would also be great on tofu.

Recipe Note:  I have never used a marinade on meat (because I have never been a meat eater) so I can't say if the proportions of vinegar and salt are enough to partially cook meat before being grilled as marinades are often used for. I do know that this is a very flavorful way to dress anything you want to grill or broil. I don't use it as a salad dressing because I don't like rosemary for my salad as I think it's too strong.

*If you don't have an immersion blender, use a regular blender. Or a food processor. And then let me convince you that an immersion blender is so much better than a regular one.

Walnut Pesto

walnut pesto 2

This is just about the easiest sauce to make. It's also quite fast.   If you weren't aware of it, you may like to know that walnuts are rich in the fatty acids every health guru has been going on and on about lately. The Omega-3's.   So this is a healthful dish. Will this cost you many points in calories? Heck yeah. But if you only eat a cup of it, and the pasta is home made, the points are not wasted on your hips.

Here's what you do to make it:

Put the following ingredients in your food processor;
1 1/2 cups lightly toasted walnuts
3 medium garlic cloves (roughly chopped)
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Pulverize the heck out of it. When it's all ground up, slowly add: 3 Tbsp olive oil When you've got a smooth paste, add about 1/4 cup boiling water.

Add it to 16 oz  hot cooked pasta of your choice.  (You can use half the walnut sauce on the 16 oz of pasta if you like a real light coating of sauce, or you can use it all.  I prefer more sauce.)

Recipe Note: You can add a little of the pasta cooking water to the sauce to make it even creamier.  I always add a liberal amount of Parmesan to each serving but it is delicious without the cheese.  An excellent accompaniment to this dish are roasted vegetables, my favorite being roasted asparagus.

Mustard Lentil Salad

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One of the biggest staples of my fridge is a ready batch of mustard lentil salad. It's good by itself but is even better scooped onto a large bed of lettuce with some feta, croutons, and a hard boiled egg. One of the biggest blessings of this recipe, aside from being very easy, is that it is high in protein and reasonably low in fat. Fresh parsley is an amazing accompaniment to lentils for flavor and for it's vitamins, minerals, and the digestive qualities it offers. I always keep fresh parsley growing in my yard just for this recipe.

Mustard Lentil Salad

2 cups dry lentils, rinsed
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 carrots, sliced med/thin

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup of favorite mustard (I used a spicy brown mustard)
1/4 cup (or more) fresh parsley
1 1/2 tsp salt (or more, to taste)
Hell of a bunch of grinds of black pepper


In a pot big enough to cook two cups dried lentils heat up the olive oil on med/high heat. Add the onions, saute until they start turning transparent, then add the celery and carrot. Saute all the vegetables for five minutes before adding the lentils and covering with water to about an inch above the lentils. Turn the heat down to low and simmer for as long as it takes for the lentils to be cooked through perfectly, usually between 2o minutes to a half an hour. If there is any water left at the bottom of the pan, drain the lentils in a colander and return to the pot, but not to the stove.

To make the dressing for the lentils:

In a container that will accommodate an immersion blender add all of the dressing ingredients. Then pulverize it until it is thick. Add to the lentils and stir well.

You can eat the lentils at room temperature, hot, or cold. I nearly always eat it cold as a salad. If you are eating it by itself it obviously needs no dressing, but when I put it on a bed of lettuce I add some dressing to the greens. You can cut down on fat by not doing this but I like a well oiled salad. Plus I like fat.

How I serve it:
I put a big bed of lettuce on a dinner plate. I put about a cup of the lentils scooped onto the top. I add a sliced boiled egg, about a half a cup of croutons (when I'm being conscious, or about a cup when I'm not minding my manners and my waist), and about an ounce and a half of feta cheese.

This is a filling and very wholesome lunch or dinner. It includes protein, dairy, legumes, greens, grains, and a whole heck of a lot of vitamins and minerals. As far as calories are concerned I know that eating it as I often do will land you around 700 calories. If the rest of the food you eat in the day is leaner and smart I think the calories here are very well spent.

Note: If you have one cup of the lentils on one cup of lettuce with one ounce of feta cheese and 1 tbsp dressing for the greens it has only 470 calories. That's also a good way to eat it and not spend so much of your daily calorie intake in one meal. I did the math on this quite a while ago as I eat it a lot and it was a staple when I managed to lose weight the first time (after having a baby. Now I have it all to lose again after breaking my hip!)

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