Friday, April 22, 2011

Healthy Dinners: Pasta & A Treat!

In honor of earth day, a Food Revolution!

One of my very favorite cookbook authors is Jamie Oliver (The Naked Chef).  I love his commitment to simply prepared, humble food that is delectable.  I admire his focus on the ideas that:

1.  We all need to eat healthier.
2.  We all can eat healthier, and it doesn't 'have to be' stressful to get dinner on the table.  Nor does it take culinary genius to make things tasty.
3.  Families should sit down together at the dinner table as often as absolutely possible.
4.  Food is our friend, not enemy.  But we must be mindful of what we put in our bodies.

Mr. Oliver has been on a Food Revolution.  He wants to inspire families to cook and eat together more often. He wants to teach kids about making healthy choices.  But most importantly, he wants you to really relish what's on your plate.  He wants you to care about what you put into yours and your families bodies.  But he really wants us ALL to start cooking and stop relying on prepackaged, over processed food.

I just got his latest cook book "Food Revolution' and I am so in love with it, I hardly know where to begin.  So many recipes, all simple, explained clearly and easily, so many lovely pictures.  The way he writes make you feel like he's standing next to you, dicing an onion and saying "Look at you!  Look at that lovely food you're making! GO YOU!"

We just tried out a pasta dish that combines several things I adore- peas, bacon, Parmesan, and noodles.  It's simple, delicious, and despite it being noodles in a creamy, cheesy sauce, it goes down a treat with whole grain noodles, paired with simple sides like roasted broccoli and a simple green salad.  Everybody in this house gobbled it all down.  Then we went for a family walk (an hour before it SNOWED AGAIN, ugh).

I also want to share an old family recipe of mine that I spruced up to be WAY healthier.  Whole wheat banana bread.  I replaced white flour with whole wheat, replaced the sugar with applesauce, made sure there were chopped pecans speckling the batter, and drank a cup of tea while it baked.  It's a great anytime of the day snack but it was a perfect dessert too.  I hope you enjoy!

Pasta with Creamy Smoked Bacon and Pea Sauce
Jamie Oliver
serves 4-6

-10 slices of smoked bacon, preferably free-range or organic
-Small bunch of fresh mint (Ok, our grocery didn't have any decent mint this week, so I used about 1 1/2 tsp of dried mint)
-1 lb mini shell or other shape of pasta (I LOVE Ronzoni Smart Pasta with all the added fiber and calcium)
-1 tbs butter
-2 Cups of frozen or fresh peas
-2 Tbs of heavy cream
-1 lemon
-6 oz Parmesan cheese
-Sea salt, cinnamon, and pepper to taste

-To prep for the pasta, finely slice the bacon, pick the mint leaves off their stalks and roughly chop them.  Finely grate the Parmesan.
-Set a large pan of well salted water to boil.  When boiling, add pasta and cook according to the directions until al dente.
-In a large pan over medium heat, melt butter and a bit of olive oil, maybe a tablespoon or so.  Add bacon and sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon and pepper.  Fry until golden and crisp, then dump in your peas, shake the pan well, and let it cook for a minute or two.
-Add the heavy cream, mint, and some more salt and pepper to taste.  When the pasta is ready to drain, reserve about a half cup of your cooking water and drain in the colander then add it into the frying pan.
-Halve the lemon and squeeze half into the pan.  When the pan is bubbling and simmering, remove from the heat.  If the sauce is too thick, add in a spoonful or so of cooking water at a time until it's a consistency that you like.
-Spoon into bowls, top with Parmesan.  Serve it with a big salad and a lot of smiles.

My grandma's recipe for banana bread, touched up a bit by yours truly.

My Grandmama's Banana Bread (But a bit healthier)

-2 Cups of unbleached whole wheat, all purpose flour
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 Cup butter (I don't use substitutes for butter often in my baking- I always get such terrible results!)
-1 Cup applesauce
-2 eggs
-2 tsp vanilla
-4 medium to large over-ripened bananas
-(Optional) 1 cup of chopped pecans, chocolate chips, or a mix of both

-Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 9 inch loaf pan.
-In a medium bowl, mix together your dry ingredients and set aside.
-In a large bowl, cream together applesauce and butter.  Add eggs and mix together well.
-Add vanilla and bananas, stir in well.
-Add your dry ingredients in 3 additions, blending well, and scraping down the sides of the bowl each time.
-When well blended, add in nuts and chips if preferred.
-Bake for 50-60 minutes, but you may want to check it at 45.  When knife comes out clean, it's done!

Have a great weekend!

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