A couple of posts ago, I revealed one of my worst habits to you: buying produce and not using it all. Every single week, without fail it happens; I start out with the best intentions to eat well and not be lazy, but it just goes awry.

This week, add to that the fact that the basil I’ve been growing was going through the STRUGGLE! So, I quickly plucked some of the not-too-floppy leaves and decided to get less lazy and more creative.

I’ll give you the step-by-step instructions, since I know that can be helpful, but I’ll add some notes throughout in case your veggies on-hand were a bit different than mine. Can’t wait to hear how yours comes out!

‘BEFORE IT GOES BAD’ PASTA

What You Need (aka What I Had On-Hand)

2 cups yellow cherry tomatoes (or 1 container from the store)

2 red peppers (chopped)

2 garlic cloves (minced)

1/3 bag of angel hair pasta

handful of fresh basil

2 TBSP olive oil (maybe more)

lots of fresh Parmesan cheese

1 TBSP Balsamic vinegar (optional)

Salt, black pepper, crushed red peppers (all optional and according to your taste preferences)

 

What You Do:

Start cooking the pasta in a pot (NOTE: I used angel hair pasta because it’s what I had. You can use anything)

While it’s cooking, in a small skillet, warm up the olive oil on medium-low flame and add garlic

Add chopped peppers after about 2 minutes, making sure the garlic doesn’t get too brown. The goal here is to flavor the oil, which will be your sauce. If the veggies soak up too much of the oil, definitely add more! (NOTE: I didn’t have any onions or shallots, but those would also be great to add at this stage if you have some). Stir occasionally, and let cook for about as long as the pasta takes, unless the garlic begins to get really brown, then you’re done.

While all of this is cooking, halve the tomatoes, wash and julienne the basil so it’s ready to go. (NOTE: use fresh Parmesan cheese so it melts thanks to the hot pasta and sauce)

Once the cooking is done, combine everything and enjoy!

 

Messiness – The cutting board, one pot and one small skillet are the only equipment needed, though that is more than just one bowl, so I’m not sure if I’d say this isn’t messy, but it’s certainly not something that will destroy your kitchen.

Simplicity – Super simple! All of the prep is done in stages while other things are cooking. It may seem a little involved, but you’re done within 30 minutes, and I had enough to take to work for three days worth of lunches. Also, nothing is terribly difficult to where you need to pay lots of attention to it.

Budget – It’s as expensive as the ingredients you already bought, or want to buy. As with most of my recipes, olive oil is the most expensive part, but even with how much I use it, one bottle usually lasts me for months.

Delicousness – Pasta, cheese, veggies, and a garlicky sauce… I’m not sure what else I could want out of a fresh lunch!

 

I tell a lot of people about quinoa because, well, it’s amazing! But for some reason this “grain” really intimidates people.

So, today I’m here to tell you to STOP BEING SCARED OF QUINOA! If you can boil a pot of pasta, you can make quinoa (and if you can’t boil a pot of pasta, we have bigger problems).

I looked around for a video that would not only tell people about the benefits of quinoa but also how to cook it, since that seems to be the biggest issue.

Sometimes I swap out water for a broth, depending on what I’m cooking, but if you’re just making a batch to help get you through the week with a little extra protein and nutrients, then you’re good to go!

Take a look at this video, and if you still need some extra guidance GO HERE.

Let me know how it goes, and we’ll start cooking with this seed more often!

I love this blog and my readers for so many reasons. Too many to list, but mostly for the sake of understanding. I have restarted and abandoned Ramblings more times than I can count. Sometimes I thought it was for good, but then I’d get encouragement to keep blogging, so I’d start back up again.

Over the last few months, my life has changed in lots of ways. Great ways, but lots of changes, resulting in a lack of time to give heartfelt blogs, let alone COOK! But I gave myself a pep-talk and reminded myself of what’s really important in this life (aside from the ‘golden rule’ of course): Our HEALTH! We only have this one body, and we should strive to take care of it as much as possible.

Now, don’t think that I’m jumping in with both feet and cleaning out all of the possibly GMO foods in my cupboard. I’m not an all-or-nothing person. I’m a person who just strives to make good decisions and to be the best person I can. But I know that sometimes  I want Popsicles or McDonald’s french fries. That said, one large fry a week isn’t going to kill me, and I’m learning that as long as I focus very hard on my health as a whole, everything will be just fine.

So, with all of this said, I’m going to strive to help everyone out with #MeatlessMonday recipes as often as possible (and hopefully more, but I’m learning to not put too much on my plate). I don’t judge meat eaters at ALL, I just know that I can’t afford expensive meat regularly, so, I’ve chosen to go with no meat. That’s my choice, and you are completely free to make yours (that’s why I also try to include options for meat lovers!).

And if you do make these recipes, I’d LOVE to hear about it! Tweet me pics @NatalieSaar and let me know how it goes!

Blessings

 

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Cooking can be intimidating, especially when it isn’t something you normally do, but I promise, if you have a few tricks up your sleeve, you can make something delicious out of almost anything.

This is a good example.

I was hungry, and had lots of random veggies I’d bought because they had a good price. Well, I didn’t end up using them all and I hate to see things go to waste. So, I chopped them up and threw them in a covered skillet.

The catch? I special trick I learned not too long ago. Wash the spinach, and use the water still on it to steam it. Keep it covered for about 5 minutes and it’s done. Super easy!

Then, just add some cooked pasta, other chopped veggies you may have lying around, and mix them together with your favorite sauce.

Nothing goes to waste and you have a healthy dinner!

Let me start off by saying I am so SO sorry! I made lentil stuffed red peppers last week and thought to myself, “I wish I hadn’t already posted about these because they deserve to be remembered!” Well, guess what, I never posted this recipe. Yes, I posted a different one for stuffed peppers, but that was nowhere near as simple as this one. And for holding out on you so long, I apologize.

The good news is that I’ve realized my selfish mistake, and I’m here with a healthy, easy, and conscious-clearing recipe!

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First off, I want to explain why I love this recipe so much. It’s flexible. I tend to make this when I have no time, and produce that is going to go bad if I don’t make it. So, for this recipe, I tossed in some carrots and green onions, but feel free to add tomatoes, regular onions, potatoes (if you use potatoes, make sure to cook and boil them enough to be completely cooked through). This also makes it pretty inexpensive since you’re likely using stuff you already have in the kitchen.

Another reason I love this is that the peppers keep really well! I ate one of these each day, over three days, and it made for a quick and healthy lunch at work on Monday, as well as an easy dinner when I was feeling hungry and lazy on the second day.

Finally, and going back to my first point, you can make this recipe taste like almost anything you want, depending on the spices you use. I’ll give you the recipe for what I used this time, but honestly, I just rooted around in the cupboard to see what I could find. This recipe takes on a bit of a bland taste, but I also make these curried (basically just use curry, tumeric, and chili powder), Italian (use oregano, basil, and black pepper), as well as Mexican (chili powder, cayenne pepper, oregano).

So, now that I’ve written a novel on the many reasons I love this recipe, let’s get started…

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LENTIL STUFFED PEPPERS

What You Need:

3 peppers (tops cut off)

1 cup lentils

water

1 tsp mustard seasoning

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp crushed black pepper (just whatever is in your shaker is fine)

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup baby carrots (chopped)

3 green onions (chopped, including the tops)

Panko bread crumbs (optional)

shredded cheese (optional)

 

What You Do:

Cook the lentils according to the package. I usually eyeball it, and just use water, but if you have veggie broth that is going to go bad, or if you just like veggie bread, then feel free to use that instead, or in addition to the water. But if all you have is water, that’s perfectly fine.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

Halfway through the lentils cooking, add the carrots and white parts of the green onions, and continue to cook on medium heat, along with your spices

Once the lentils are cooked, stuff the peppers with them (you can give them a taste to see what other seasonings you need to add too)

Top the peppers with bread crumbs (optional) and shredded cheese (optional, but why wouldn’t you?! also, if you choose to use a different combo of seasonings, choose your cheese accordingly. For example, if I use Italian seasonings, I’ll use feta or parmesan cheese)

Bake the peppers for roughly 30 minutes (this doesn’t have to be precise. The longer they cook, the softer they’ll be, just keep an eye on the cheese to make sure it doesn’t burn)

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Messiness – The prep for this isn’t hard, but it does take some prep, like the chopping. And you’ll need both a pot and a pan. But I still wouldn’t consider this a messy recipe, especially since it keeps for so long!

Simplicity – It’s a totally customizable recipe, which means some people will see it as difficult, but some will see it as simple. This recipe listed tastes hearty, like a stew, and is great with some bread, or not. Totally up to you. What I’m getting at is that this is as simple or difficult as you want it to be.

Budget – For me, this was super cheap since I already had most of the ingredients. Also, you can usually find peppers for pretty cheap. I used red ones, and they were 88 cents each, but you can use yellow, orange, or green. Totally up to you depending on what you like.

Deliciousness – Love this! Like I spent way too long telling you, this is an easy go-to recipe for me, and I couldn’t love it more!

I know that the majority of the country is dealing with a super harsh winter with snow and crazylow temps, but over here on the West Coast, it’s 80 degrees, and it’s time to start thinking about summer. For me, this means no more convincing myself that I need to eat ravioli every day (because it has protein so it’s okay!).

Luckily, some people out there are expert salad makers, and have lots of different ideas for how to put them together, and even to easily make them ahead in mason jars. What I like about these is that the portions are right, unlike when i toss a ton of foliage on a plate and enough toppings to match.

This is one salad I definitely plan to try soon: Spinach Salad With Mozzarella, Orzo, And Snap Peas

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But there are so many more options out there! Buzzfeed in their wonderful way compiled a list of salads that look delicious and healthy, and best of all, EASY!

I’d love to hear any salad ideas you have as summer quickly creeps up on us pounces on us without warning!

These days, I’m looking for anything that’s quick, easy, and packs in a good amount of veggies. Luckily, I found just that!

For some reason, I decided I wanted to make some cold sesame noodles. I looked up several recipes, and found that a lot of them called for fancy ingredients that I just didn’t have, and didn’t want to buy. So, I got a list comprised of several ingredients, from several different sites, and made my own sauce that is amazing, but most importantly it’s cost-efficient. I wish it was on everything I eat!

And for you meat eaters, simply toss some chicken on this, and you’re good to go!

What I think I like best about this though, is that it’s equally as good hot as it is cold, making it a good addition for dinner, or a cold pasta salad for lunch.

seame noodles

 

SESAME NOODLES

What You Need:

1 package pasta (I used whole wheat pasta, but any thin, stringy kind will do, including ramen noodles)

1 red bell pepper (sliced thinly)

1 orange bell pepper (sliced thinly)

1 yellow bell pepper (sliced thinly)

handful of cilantro (chopped)

1 cup shredded carrots

1/2 cup chopped green onions (optional)

3 garlic cloves (minced)

1/4 cup soy sauce

2-3 TBSP sesame oil

1-2 tsp chili sauce (like Sriracha)

1-2 TBSP white granular sugar (the normal kind)

1 TBSP canola oil (for the sake on consistency, can be removed if you aren’t a canola oil fan, just use light  olive oil so it doesn’t change the flavor too much)

1-2 TBSP rice vinegar (optional)

What You Do:

Cook the pasta/noodles

While cooking, mix the garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, chili sauce, sugar, and rice vinegar (I made it without the rice vinegar and it was still wonderful, so if you  don’t have any, don’t let that keep you from making this) NOTE: start on the small end of the measurements because all of these ingredients have strong flavors. Taste it and decide how much to add of what

Prepare the bell peppers. No need to cook them, just slice them thinly.

Strain the noodles, then toss in your veggies and cilantro, top with the sauce. Depending on how much pasta you used, you will probably need to make another batch of sauce, but feel it out before you do.

 

Messiness – This is actually one of the least messy things I make that tastes this good. Just a pot to cook the pasta in, a cutting board, and a bowl to mix the sauce in.

Simplicity – SUPER simple. The good news is that you almost can’t screw this up. It’s just combining lots of wonderful flavors that compliment each other no matter what. The only things to be weary of are not going overboard on the sesame oil and the chili sauce for those with mild tastebuds.

Budget – This one ranks on my super cheap list. The sesame oil is around $5, so, a bit of an investment, but everything else should be right around $1 each, if not cheaper. The best part is that it makes a lot, lot, LOT of food. I’d venture to guess that I got at least 8-12 servings of pasta out of the package I used, and enough sauce for about half of that. All of this to say, there’s enough for a week of lunches and even dinners if I want.

Deliciousness – So yummy. I think the fact that it’s so simple just makes it taste better too!

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