Late summer veggie orzo salad

I have always loved the challenge format cooking shows, where competitors get a basket of miscellaneous stuff and have to quickly make something fantastic.

Our house is sometimes like this when we are nearing the end of the week and due for a grocery shop. I love the challenge of figuring out how to pull something together and the thrill of when it’s actually good.

This pasta salad could be made with a variety of things, substituting what you have on hand (different veggies, shape pasta, lemon for lime). I will say that adding a green of any kind is a nice change of pace and certainly adds some nutrients.

It also helps to have adventurous eaters (or just really hungry ones) to try out the experiments! 😉

Late summer veggies orzo salad

  • 12 oz orzo
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/3c olive oil
  • Zucchini, sliced lengthwise in quarters
  • Yellow squash, sliced lengthwise in quarters
  • 2 ears corn
  • 2 large handfuls mixed greens, arugula or spinach

Cook orzo and rinse. Mix together dressing of lime juice, olive oil, dijon and honey. Season with salt and pepper. Toss orzo to coat. Add in greens. It helps if the pasta is slightly warm to just wilt them. Grill zucchini, squash and corn for 10 minutes. Chop squash and slice kernels off of the cob (let it cool first!) Add to salad and toss to combine.

A goat cheese or vegan goat cheese/chevre is a nice touch of tangy too.

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I can’t believe it’s meatless Bolognese (vegan)

So the thing about change is that it requires flexibility and curiosity. Changing how you eat after 20+ years is kind of a big deal. You really have to think and act differently. As in, be mindful about food rather than fall into autopilot. It’s hard.

We started the boys early on trying new foods and basically expected them to eat like adults from very early on. If they didn’t like something, fine. But they had to try it. Multiple times.

So the vegan thing is just taking that to another realm. Mostly it requires ME to change. I have to adjust favorite recipes, find new ones and shop differently. Mostly it’s fun and I am enjoying experimenting.

We try some things and add them to the buy again list–like cashewyogurt–and others–like tempeh bacon–will need to grow on us. But every week I have tried something new, a new product or a new technique.

There are an incredible number of fantastic plant-based products out there. Avery is never going back to regular milk from his barista smooth Almondmilk. (And no this isn’t paid product promo).

This vegan bolognese was a wild success. “Mom, you can make this every week!” And the best part is that it doesn’t take 3 hours of simmering (plant protein doesn’t break down the same way animal protein does).

There are a couple of secret ingredients in this–wine and cinnamon. Plus it’s important to cook the mirepoix before adding the meat, then garlic and herbs, then tomato paste. (If your sauce sometimes tastes bitter it’s probably from uncooked tomato paste. It only needs a minute or so but removes the sharp bite).

Oh, and the only reason to make bolognese in July is a state swim meet: Go Aquajets, Power of the team!

Bolognese sauce (vegan)

  • 1/2 diced onion
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 1 celery stalk diced
  • 4 garlic cloves chopped
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 package ground meatless crumbles
  • 14oz veggie sausage
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 15oz can tomato sauce
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cup veggie broth
  • Salt and pepper

Sauté veggies in olive oil until soft. Add “meats” and brown. Getting a nice crust adds depth of flavor. Add garlic sauté 1 min. Add tomato paste and herbs, cook 1 min. Add diced tomatoes, sauce, bay leaf, cinnamon, red wine and veggie broth. Season with salt as it simmers about 15 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Serve over pasta.

Roasted butternut squash rosemary lasagna

When I crave lasagna, I generally don’t think vegan–getting rid of the meat is the easy part, it’s all that cheese holding the layers together that’s hard to replicate. And I haven’t yet found a really good nondairy cheese that both melts well and holds up in the oven in a dish like lasagna (suggestions welcome!)

So when my sister served this lasagna at a recent family celebration, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s based on this butternut squash garlic lasagna recipe.

I fully admit that I did not go all vegan on this, but used real parmesan. I would have liked to try again with nondairy parm before posting this, but probably won’t get a chance before we’re done with winter roasting weather here in Minnesota.

That’s good news, it means that I am looking forward to roasting corn outside on the grill…soon!

Roasted butternut squash rosemary lasagna (almost vegan)

  • 12 par-cooked lasagna sheets
  • 1 Butternut squash, cubed (buy the precut cubes if you can, about 6-8 cups)
  • Olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 cups nondairy milk (I used unsweetened coconut)
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 4 tbsp nondairy butter
  • 1 cup nondairy creamer (I used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 4 oz parmesan
  • Salt

Toss squash cubes in olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, depending on how big you cut your cubes and how “roasted” you like your vegs.

Bring milk to a simmer and steep rosemary for at least an hour. Remove sprig.

Sauté garlic in “butter” 30 seconds, add flour and stir until the roux is browned, about 3 minutes. Slowly pour in milk mixture and cook until sauce is creamy about 10 minutes. Add squash. I really smashed my cubes into the cream sauce since I wanted a smooth consistency. Depending on how roasted your cubes are this may require a bit of elbow grease 😉 I liked the extra depth of the well roasted squash. Season with salt and pepper.

Layer lasagna by putting 1/4 of sauce on bottom of pan, top with 3 noodles, sprinkle with cheese and repeat 3 more times with the top layer as noodles. (I used more layers than the original recipe, which made it have a bit more structure.)

Pour cream over top and remaining parmesan (this too is a change from the original recipe as the “whipping” of almond milk will result in a giant mess but try if you insist 😉).

Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 40 minutes until noodles are soft. Cool before cutting.

Indonesian noodles (farm share recipes)


These few weeks of summer are my favorite time of year here in Minnesota. Sunny, warm, time on the lake and fresh vegs! We are members in a CSA farm share and I love the weekly offerings, it has taught me a lot about what is truly “local” and the challenges of modern, sustainable farming.

When I saw the unique shape of the cabbage, I knew I needed to make something to showcase it. You’d never find something this “odd” on a grocery store shelf!

Indonesian noodles

  • 1lb fettucini 
  • 1lb protein (sliced sirloin is my boys’ preference, but shrimp and tofu work great)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves chopped garlic
  • 3 carrots shredded, or use matchsticks precut about 1/2c
  • 1 green cabbage, shredded (or sub in coleslaw mix for cabbage/carrots)
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1/3c soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp veg oil, divided
  • 4 stalks celery, chopped

While noodles cook, saute protein in 2 tbsp oil. Remove to bowl. Heat  remaining oil and add onion, celery and carrots, cook 3-5 min until just browning. Add garlic and cabbage, cook another 3-5 min. (If you use the coleslaw mix, just give the onions and celery a headstart before adding it). Add noodles and protein to veg mixture, toss in soy sauce and top with green onions. 

Food ritual: Spaghetti & Meatballs

  
I was reading about the importance of rituals in our lives. The comfort that comes from familiar, from routines. Our family has many, but the one that brings me the most joy is Spaghetti & Meatballs. 

It’s not the result of Italian heritage (we’re a mix of stuff, mostly Scandinavian), but is the result of a twofold ritual–carb loading pre-swim meets and birthdays. 

Last week was a birthday for Alec, who’s now 17! I didn’t even need to ask him what he wanted for dinner. As I made it, I took more care than usual to pay attention to measurements so I could post the recipe with some accuracy. Normally I just wing it because it’s like being on autopilot. Happy, comforting. The eating part is great, but the prep ritual is soul restoration for me! Enjoy!

Meatballs

  • 1lb ground beef 
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 slices white bread, crumbled
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/4c parsley chopped
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 sp Ground pepper
  • 1/2c grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Soak bread in milk–it should be moist but not drenched. Saute onion and garlic over low heat in butter until just starting to caramelize, about 10 min. Add herbs and seasonings to onion mixture and remove from heat. This helps the tasty stuff distribute evenly when you mix it into the meat. Squeeze excess milk from bread. Add it to beef and pork, mix along with onion mixture and cheese until just blended, mix in egg to bind. Roll into generous balls. Place on broiler pan lined with tinfoil, bake at 500 degrees for 5 min. Keep meatballs in oven, but lower temp to 350 and cook another 20 min. 

Sauce

  • 2 28oz cans whole Italian plum tomatoes
  • 8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 2 lbs spaghetti

Boil water for pasta. Heat olive oil, add garlic, saute 30 sec, add crushed red pepper and salt, then tomatoes. Add basil. Simmer 10 min while pasta cooks. Blend to desired smoothness either with hand blender or in food processor (the boys tolerate “chunks” now that they’re older). You can also simmer meatballs in sauce for extra richness. This tomato sauce is more tart than sweet like most jarred sauces and along with thyme in the meatballs makes it distinctively ours. Of course these portions mean leftovers, which seem to disappear without anyone fessing up to secret eating. 

Greek Pasta Salad

  The month of April is a crossover month–hockey and baseball going on, plus of course swimming. I hate that we don’t sit down together every night as a family, but that’s reality.

This recipe is great to make on a Sunday and eat as a snack or side throughout the week. It’s easy to adjust the accessories for preferences (of course the boys would add meat if I asked them!)

Greek Orzo Pasta Salad

  • 1 box orzo pasta
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3c olive oil
  • 1/2 c kalamata olives, halved
  • 1/3c red onion, diced
  • 1c yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 3tbsp sundried tomatoes, julienned
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed
  • Handful of spinach, chopped
  • 4 oz feta

Juice the lemon, add the garlic and season with salt and pepper. Add the olive oil, whisk to mix dressing. Cook pasta, drain and rinse with cold water. Add remaining ingredients and toss together.

Swimmer soup

Pasta pasta pasta.

Make ahead, heat and eat quickly.

Easy.

This isn’t gourmet living, but it works as an easy weeknight meal or on those days when we’re all eating at different times.

Just remember to tell the 16-year-old after swim practice that the container serves 4 (is not his alone!)

Swimmer soup

  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage (we prefer hot)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 28 oz can tomato sauce
  • 28 oz water
  • 2 c chicken broth
  • 1/2 lb pasta shells
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp basil
  • Salt, pepper and crushed red pepper to taste

Saute meat until cooked through, drain fat. Add onion and cook 2-3 min, add garlic and cook another minute. Add tomatoes, sauce, water and broth, bring to simmer, add pasta and herbs. Cook 15-20 min on low until noodles are tender. Top with mozzarella or parmesan.