I LOVE Halloween. Dressing up, fun parties, excuse to eat waayyy too much chocolate without second glaces from co-workers. It all adds up to one of my favorite nights of the year. We are hosting a party at our house and I spent most of the weekend cleaning, prepping and decorating with spiders, skulls, & candles. We also finally decided on our halloween costumes and will be going as my favorite Mad Men couple, Don and Megan Draper. Spending the night in a funky wig, fishnets, and 60′s dress? Don’t mind if I do!
I came up with this pasta as I was decorating the house in orange and black. I wanted my dinner to match the decor and this pasta came out perfect! I will definitely be making this again on October 31st. Doesn’t it just scream Halloween?
1 large butternut squash, cubed
1 large globe eggplant, cubed
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 lb. Penne pasta
Preheat oven to 425°F. In a large bowl, toss the cubed butternut squash and eggplant with olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. Pour entire mixture on a roasting pan and bake for 60 minutes. Vegetables should be slightly crispy/caramelized on the outside and cooked through.
While vegetables are in the oven, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook penne pasta until al dente, reserve 2 cups of pasta water and noodles. Set aside.
Remove vegetables from oven. Reserve 2 cups of vegetables. Place the rest of the vegetables into a blender with 1 cup of the reserved pasta water and nutritional yeast. Puree until smooth, adding enough water to make a sauce.
Pour over cooked penne noodles and reserved vegetables.
What IS it about Italian food? I really think I could eat pasta every single day and not get tired of it. It’s my go-to meal for a casual weeknight or a fancy dinner party. These vegetable stuffed shells could work for either: elegant enough to be served as a main course but easy enough to put together after a long day of work. Make the ricotta mixture ahead of time and this meal could come together in minutes. Place it in the oven, unwind and relax and dinner is ready!
PS: This tofu ricotta is a great substitute if you are trying to cut down on dairy and/or calories. Try it; I promise you and your dinner guests won’t even know it’s tofu!
16 oz. package firm tofu, rinsed and drained
2 tbsp. white miso
1 tbsp. lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch parsley, chopped
1 tsp. oregano
Package of large shells
Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Cook the shells according to package directions, under-cooking them by 3 minutes. They will finish cooking in the oven.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a large skillet, heat the EB butter and olive oil. When it starts to melt and glisten, add the shallots and quickly cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, a pinch of salt and let cook 3 minutes. You want a nice crust to form under the mushrooms. Flip them over, and cook on the other side. Same thing, you want them to be crispy. Add the spinach and cook until wilted. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
In a food processor, combine the ingredients for the tofu ricotta. Pulse a few times until the mixture comes together. You want it to be combined but not pureed.Add the mushroom and spinach mixture and pulse a few more times until just combined. You still want chunks of mushroom and spinach to be visible.
In a 9X13 glass dish, spread 1 cup of sauce on the bottom. Fill each shell with the ricotta mixture, about 1/4-1/3 cup of filling depending on the size of your shells. Don’t get skimpy! You want them to be stuffed fully.
Place the shells, filled side up, in the glass dish. Cover with marinara sauce, about 2-3 cups depending how saucy you like your shells. In my house, there is no such thing as too much sauce…
Cook uncovered for 30-40 minutes until hot and bubbly.
I have the same routine practically every Sunday. I do yoga, head to the farmers market, and grocery store. I then come home to prep lunch and dinner meals for the week. I am a pretty typical type-A personality which means I can tell you what we will be eating for most nights the week before. I create a menu and post it, it helps keep me sane and organized and lets BL know what he can expect each night.
I usually just plan leftovers to be lunch the following day, but every now and then I end up staring at the fridge in the morning with no clue on what I am packing for lunch. I’ve started making a meal to be used as a snack throughout the week or for lunches. It works out perfectly. It doesn’t take too much more of my time on Sundays and it leaves out any additional work during the week. Usually these meals are a giant salad, soup, or leftover cutup vegetables with dip. This week, I decided to make a cold noodle salad with the leftover vegetables I was prepping for other dinners this week.
I was cleaning out my pantry the other day and realized that the bottle of olive oil I recently bought was almost gone.
Guess that’s my cue to cut back. Sure, olive oil is healthier than margarine/butter. There’s lots of research that shows benefit in adding poly and mono unsaturated fats in place of saturated fats. But that doesn’t give free reign over that or any other oil to be used as liberal as I seem to have been using it the past month. Salad dressing here, dipping sauce there, it’s easy to start drizzling olive oil on fresh summer vegetables and get carried away. I know better, this is not exactly a health food.
So, I got to thinking… I need to create more oil free dishes that don’t lack flavor or mouthfeel. I used this roasted garlic trick for my cream of mushroom soup last year and completely forgot about the method. I have no idea why! It’s the perfect sub for cream and oil. It adds a savory complexion to the sauce and is a perfect balance to the 1/4 cup of cashews. It’s also light enough that it doesn’t compete with summer’s best flavors, basil and tomato.
What oil free dishes would you like to see next?
In blog news, I finally broke down and bought a big-girl camera and could not be more excited! I have never been happy with my photographs and hope that a better camera and more photo lessons will help bring my dishes to life.
Onto the food…
Creamy Orecchiette Pasta
1 lb. Orecchiette pasta
4 heads garlic
1/4 cup cashews
1 cup packed basil leaves
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 cup vegetables broth, divided
1 cup white wine or vegetable broth
2 tsp. dired rosemary, divided
2 tsp. crushed red pepper, divided
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
generous pinch salt/pepper
Slice the top 1/2″ off the garlic heads. Place into a pyrex dish with the garlic heads facing up. Add 1 cup white wine (or vegetable broth if using) and 1 tsp. rosemary, 1 tsp. red pepper. Cover with aluminum foil. Place into a preheated 375 degree oven for 75 minutes.
When the garlic is done, remove from the oven and let cool to the touch. Pop the softened garlic cloves out of it’s shell and place aside.
Place halved cherry tomatoes into an oven safe dish. Cover with 1/2 cup vegetable broth and remaining crushed red pepper and rosemary. During the last 40 minutes of roasting the garlic, place the tomatoes into the oven.
When the garlic and tomatoes are almost finished cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orecchiette and cook until al dente. Drain reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.
Finely chop the basil.
Place the reserved roasted garlic cloves, cashews, salt/pepper and 1/2 cup vegetable broth into a blender or food processor. Puree for 3-5 minutes until silky smooth.
Combine the cooked pasta, baked tomatoes (and reserved juice), garlic-cashew cream, basil, and pinch salt/pepper. Toss to combine. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit of reserved pasta water.