Cavatappi Salad with Tuna and Olives Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

stormI remember reading last winter that the powers that be who predict weather said it was going to be a cooler than normal summer for the Northeast. I tend to poo poo those predictions, but so far, they are correct. My lilacs weren’t as hardy as they’ve been in the past; I picked one blossom, which immediately started to wilt when I put it in water. I find myself wearing sweaters more than not and I haven’t had one alfresco dinner yet this year. I had planned one for the other evening, but see the above skies right before it was ready. But when I do get a nice evening, this will be the perfect meal to serve; greens, protein, healthy oils, and big, bold flavors all in one bowl.

This is a sort of deconstructed nicoise salad, which I love to make in the summer. This came together quickly; as the water boiled, I chopped the tomatoes and olives and let them steep in their juices. I had exactly six ounces of gluten-free penne in the cupboard, so I chose to use that up instead of opening a new box of cavatappi. This also is a perfect dish to make after a visit to the farmer’s market; fresh tomatoes, green beans, and lettuce, it will taste amazing! As I was cooking this, I thought of lots of ways to change things up; basil instead of oregano; chicken instead of tuna, or if a vegetarian, maybe some sautéed flavorful mushrooms; white beans in place of green beans; or another grain in place of the pasta. I also thought adding some freshly chopped cucumbers or other veggies would be tasty. Once you have an outline of a recipe, adding and substituting is really easy, go with what YOU like!

cavatappi saladCavatappi Salad with Tuna and Olives

This recipe first appeared in the June 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

6 ounces uncooked cavatappi pasta

12 ounces green beans or yellow wax beans, trimmed and halved

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/8 teaspoon kosher salt

2 cups tomato wedges

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

20 pitted kalamata olives, halved

4 cups chopped romaine lettuce

5 ounces canned or jarred sustainable white tuna packed in oil, drained and flaked

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add pasta; cook 5 minutes. Add beans; cook an additional 3 minutes or until beans are crisp-tender and pasta is done. Drain and rinse under cold water; drain.

2. While pasta water comes to a boil, combine oil, juice, pepper, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add tomato, oregano, and olives; let stand 10 minutes. Stir in pasta mixture and lettuce. Divide among 4 plates; top evenly with tuna.

Serves 4 (serving size: about 2 1/2 cups pasta salad and 1/4 cup tuna)

MVK’s Like of the Week: To Lose Weight Eating Less is Far More Important Than Exercising
We’ve all heard the adage, if you want to lose weight, eat less, move more. But a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times examines how eating less (and healthy) may actually be more important for your waistline than just relying on exercise. While I won’t throw out my Fitbit any time soon, I always read these sorts of articles with a wary eye. Of course, exercise has its health benefits and just because you’re exercising doesn’t give you free rein to eat whatever you want (trust me, I know!). I can say for myself, cooking at home, walking, and really watching what I eat away from home are three tips that have worked well for me through the years. But it’s always a challenge, especially the older you get.

And while I read this cautiously, I found it interesting, whether or not you believe it. You can read the article in its entirety by clicking here, To Lose Weight Eating Less is Far More Important Than Exercising.

Cauliflower Soup with Shiitakes

When I am looking ahead at a week of sub-zero temps, I know a salad for lunch just isn’t going to cut it; I need something warm to eat midday and in the evening, too. When I saw a photo of this creamy white soup with a small dollop of shiitake mushrooms on top, I knew I had to try it!

I think cauliflower gets a bad rap. I’ve always liked it; this time of year I’ll just chop and roast with a little bit of olive oil or sometimes I’ll make “mashed” cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes, but I can see where some people see it as a blah vegetable. If you’re watching your grocery bill, you can usually find it on sale and it makes for a couple of side dishes. Yet I admit, it is a real pain in the neck to chop, little pieces go everywhere, and I’ll find bits on the floor and counter days later despite my best cleaning efforts. But when it is $2.99, I can’t resist such a good price!

I love shiitakes and rarely buy them because of their price, but I found a package for $4.99, which made for two meals, plus they were already sliced, so the work was already done for me!

My medium cauliflower head was more than four cups chopped, but I used it all and just added a bit more broth to thin it out. And the Worcestershire sauce and vinegar was the perfect complement and added a little zing to what would be an otherwise ordinary soup!

cauliflower soupCauliflower Soup with Shiitakes

This recipe originally appeared in the November 2013 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

For a vegetarian version, substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth or water and use a vegetarian Worcestershire sauce or use all sherry vinegar.

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 cup thinly sliced leek, white and light green parts only
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
4 cups coarsely chopped cauliflower florets (about 1 medium head)
1 1/2 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson), divided
3/4 cup water
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/4 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 (3.5-ounce) package shiitake mushroom caps
1 teaspoon lower-sodium Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

1. Heat a large saucepan over high heat. Add 2 teaspoons oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add leek; sauté 1 minute. Add 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 5 minutes or until leeks are softened, stirring occasionally. Add cauliflower, 1 cup and 6 tablespoons stock, 3/4 cup water, and thyme. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 7 minutes or until cauliflower is very tender. Place cauliflower mixture in a blender. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Return to saucepan. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, milk, butter, and pepper. Keep warm.

2. Thinly slice mushroom caps. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add mushrooms; sauté 6 minutes or until browned. Add remaining 2 tablespoons stock, Worcestershire sauce, and sherry vinegar. Cook 1 minute or until liquid is reduced and syrupy.

3. Spoon about 1 cup soup into each of 4 bowls. Top each serving with about 2 tablespoons mushroom mixture. Sprinkle evenly with parsley.

Need more cauliflower inspiration? Try this one, Creamy Cheese Cauliflower Soup.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Scrambled Eggs

mccartneyHere’s a little bit of trivia for you this week. Did you know when Paul McCartney wrote the song “Yesterday,” to substitute a working lyric they used the words “scrambled eggs?”

I doubt he also wrote about waffle fries and tofu wings, but this is something silly for this Wednesday morning. This clip is from a couple of years ago, before Jimmy Fallon took over “The Tonight Show.” You can watch and listen to the song here.

A Very Veggie Salad

New Year's Eve, 2014. Looking west to the Adirondack Mountains.

New Year’s Eve, 2014. Looking west to the Adirondack Mountains.

Am I the only one who feels the need to detox after the holidays? Despite my best efforts, four weeks of rich, sweet foods, alcohol, plus bad weather so I can’t get out and walk has given me tummy trauma. Since they are finally over, I’m looking to healthy and delicious meals at lunch and dinner which are comprised of mostly vegetables with light protein or legumes. This will help your waistline, ward off germs, and are nutritious, too!

This is the usual salad I make for my lunches. Lots of veggies with a little bit of protein and cheese, with a big glass of water, it’s perfect and keeps me full all afternoon. Add some heart healthy avocado or nuts and seeds if you like. I know not everyone loves radishes, so I added them as an option; they add a bit of heat and crunch plus they’re incredibly inexpensive!

One of the drawbacks of making a salad for lunch is finding the time to make it in the morning. So here are two tips:

  1. When you get home from the grocery store, or when you have time some evening when you’re making dinner, slice and chop all your veggies and put them into containers. I find if I pre-cut all my vegetables, making a salad is ten times easier and less time consuming. Plus, it keeps me from being lazy; if I have to slice up cucumber and peppers early in the morning before work, I might think twice about making a salad. This way, most of the work is done!
  2. Pack up the salad veggies the night before and just add the protein and cheese in the morning, so it’s basically made and it won’t be soggy.

This is my current salad these days. Of course, add whatever veggies you like in your salad, be it carrots, cabbage, leftover grains or veggies, whatever you have on hand. I’m on a cider vinegar kick lately, but of course, rice, sherry, balsamic, white or red wine, or other flavored vinegars will be just as tasty.

salad2Very Veggie Salad
Greens (baby spinach, romaine, or a lettuce mix)
Cucumbers, peeled, sliced in half vertically, seeded, and cut into half moons
Peppers-orange, red, or yellow
Grape tomatoes
Scallions or red onion
½ cup beans or other protein: chicken, fish (tuna or salmon), shrimp, hard-boiled egg
Optional: radishes, avocado, nuts, seeds
Sprinkle with feta cheese (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil and cider vinegar
Salt and pepper

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: More Healthy Lunch Tips

I introduced TheKitchn.com to you a while back and they always have lots of great tips and recipes. Although this article is from last fall for back to school suggestions, its tips are useful for those of us who pack our lunches year-round! Here is one that gives you 16 tips on packing a healthy lunch! Salad isn’t the only healthy option out there for lunch!

Goodbye 2014! Hello 2015!

newyear4I am one of those people who laps up year-end lists. Give me the best books, best movies (and worst), best TV shows, I love reading them and seeing if any of my favorites made it. So why should I be any different? I love that I can look at my stats on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, but what I find really interesting are the yearly stats. Who knew MVK was so popular in Brazil, Canada, and Italy? But what I found even more interesting, was the five most searched for recipes throughout the year.

2014 Reader Favorites

Dark and Moist Gingerbread

Baked Artichoke Dip

Chris’s Chi-Chi Beans

Floating Island

Mad Men Caesar Salad and Manhattan Cocktail

So I decided to go to the archives and select what I thought were the best recipes of the year, either those I liked creating—or eating!

2014 MVK Favorites

Mediterranean Kebabs

Mocktails

Nicoise Salad

Pasta with Shrimp, Garlic, and Asparagus

Honey-Glazed Pork Chops + Tomato Salad + Corn Cakes

I obviously like summertime cooking!

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Blackeye Peas for Good Luck on Thursday!

I’m not one for superstitions, but I always fix a batch of blackeye peas for New Year’s Day. I created this simple recipe a couple of years ago and it’s been my standby every New Year’s Day. When cooked, blackeye peas swell which symbolizes prosperity, the greens represent money, and because when pigs forage they go forward, the meat symbolizes positive motion!

So here is to good luck and good eating in 2015!

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Good Luck Peas
Just omit the meat for a vegetarian version and it will taste just as good! Spinach, Swiss chard, or kale can be substituted for the collard greens.

2 tsp olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
½ medium onion, finely diced
3 cups of greens, chopped
1 14 oz. can blackeye peas
1 ¼ cup chopped ham, sausage, or kielbasa (optional), cooked
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and onion and sauté until soft.

2. Add the meat, if using, and saute until warm.

3. Add the greens and sauté until wilted.

Leek and Pancetta Potato Rösti

As someone who has cooked Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd for several years now, I find one of the hardest things to make for the meal is mashed potatoes. I don’t have a microwave, so if I make them in advance they are difficult to reheat, but then I don’t want to make them at the time I’m head over heels fixing the turkey and gravy either. So when I suggested to the Eater of the House the idea of a different kind of potato dish that I could make in advance and reheat easily, I was greeted with silence. “Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes?” I heard a few minutes later. I got it. Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes!

But, if I were making a potato side for the meal, this would be it. I tried it out with a roast chicken supper one Sunday night and it was so delicious. Crispy potatoes and leeks, my favorite, with a hint of smoky meat and fresh sage. I substituted three slices of bacon for the pancetta and it was delicious. It would also make for a tasty weeknight main dish with a side salad. So for those of you looking for a different kind of potato side for your Thanksgiving meal, try this! And you can make it ahead! Cool on a wire rack, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Reheat in an ovenproof skillet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until it is recrisped. And just leave out the pancetta for the vegetarian version!

rosti
Leek and Pancetta Potato Rösti
This recipe originally appeared in the November 2014 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

4 1/2 cups shredded peeled baking potato (about 2 pounds)
3 ounces diced pancetta (such as Boar’s Head)
1 large leek, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (white and light green parts only)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Place shredded potato on a double layer of cheesecloth. Gather edges of cheesecloth together; squeeze cheesecloth to extract excess moisture. Place potato in a bowl.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp. Stir in leek; cook 4 minutes or until tender. Add pancetta mixture, flour, sage, salt, pepper, and egg to potato; stir well to combine.

3. Return pan to medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Add potato mixture to pan; flatten with a spatula into an even layer. Cook 12 minutes or until bottom is golden brown. Place a large plate upside down on top of pan; invert onto plate. Carefully slide potato cake into pan, browned side up; cook 10 minutes or until golden brown. Place potato cake on a cutting board; cool slightly. Cut into 8 wedges.

chefMVK’s Endorsement of the Week: “Chef”
Enough about Thanksgiving! If you are looking for a feel-good movie that is a love story to food, check out “Chef.” It’s just out on DVD. I had been wanting to see this movie all summer when it was in the theater, but there was never a right time. So a lazy November Sunday afternoon it was! A well-known chef quits his comfortable job in a restaurant where his creativity is hindered and decides to open his own food truck where he lets his creativity shine. It’s one of those movies that makes you feel good, which seem to be few and far between these days. It has a happy ending, a bit unrealistic, but I walked away inspired, wanting to get in the kitchen and start cooking! And you’ll also think about making and eating a grilled cheese sandwich. Trust me!

 

Summertime and the Cooking is Easy

morningWith all due respect to George Gershwin, Vermont this summer has seen waves of hot, hot, hot weather; so humid and sticky that all I want to do is sit in the river. On days like these, I find my appetite isn’t normal, so I try to make salads that are light, yet protein-filled enough so I don’t walk away hungry.

True Nicoise salad has tomatoes, olives, fava beans, and even anchovies. Mine is a bit different, adding some boiled potatoes, radishes that I had on hand, and a salmon salad I made which is just canned salmon, lemon juice, and some capers. I love salads that have a little bit of this and that, so you, too, can create your own riff on the salad, adding your own favorite vegetables and protein. If you’re a vegetarian, you can make a white bean salad in place of the salmon. The vinaigrette recipe will probably make more dressing than you need, but it will keep for at least a week if not longer in a cool spot in your kitchen or in the fridge.

misenplaceI created this salad to take on my annual trek to Lake George with friends a few weeks ago for a simple and delicious lunch. And it is one that is easy to tote if you’re going to the beach or for a picnic. See? >>>

Of course, soon after I wrote this recipe, the temperatures turned and I could finally turn on the oven again. So in the meantime, I’ll tuck this away for the next time we take a trip to the lake or the heat comes back–whichever comes first.

salad
MVK’s Nicoise Salad
2 red peppers, thinly sliced
1-2 cups green beans, steamed
4 small red potatoes, boiled and cubed
4 radishes, sliced into fourths
3 hard-boiled eggs

Salmon or tuna salad: tossed with fresh lemon juice and capers (optional)

Vegetarian option: One can of white beans, toss with a little bit of lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and chopped herbs.

Vinaigrette: 2/3 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup red wine vinegar (or a vinegar of your choice), 1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, ½ shallot (a couple teaspoons), finely chopped (optional). Whisk together.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Speaking of Summertime. . . 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less

The title sounds like an infomercial, but seven years ago, when Mark Bittman was still working for the Dining section of the New York Times, he produced this masterpiece; 101 super simple recipes for summer. This has been a savior ever since for those nights I’m not sure what to make, it’s too hot, or I need some creativity.

The recipes run the gamut: meat, vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan. And they are all so simple, that the 10 minutes is true. Cook up some bratwurst with apples and serve with coleslaw (#59) or saute shredded zucchini in olive oil, adding garlic and chopped herbs. Serve over pasta. (#45) Or Bittman’s own version of Nicoise Salad (#34) Lightly steam haricot verts, green beans, or asparagus. Arrange on a plate with chickpeas, good canned tuna, hard-cooked eggs, a green salad, sliced cucumber and tomato. Dress with oil and vinegar.

You can find the article here, 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less.

Hot Peppered Pinto Soup with Garlic

DSCN4210

I love late afternoons in the winter following a snowfall. It’s just gorgeous!

I am one of those people who needs variety in my diet. While I tend to eat the same thing for breakfast, I just can’t eat the same thing for lunch every day. I get bored and tired. And forget about the same thing for lunch and dinner. When I make a big pot of soup for lunches, after about two days I start to rummage around the kitchen, looking for something else to fix for the remainder of the week, and the soup goes into the freezer for another time.

But this soup fits the bill; it makes just two servings, so it’s perfect for two solo lunches or one lunch for you and a friend! And it’s healthy and inexpensive, two other things I look for when cooking. If you want more, it’s easy to double. I decided to throw all the beans in the pot instead of leaving some whole; if you do this, just add a little more broth to thin it out. And of course, this can be vegetarian by using vegetable broth or water! I’ve been making this soup since it first appeared in Cooking Light magazine in 1996, so it’s an obvious favorite!

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Hot Peppered Pinto Soup with Garlic
This recipe originally appeared in the March 1996 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Serves 2 (serving size: 1 1/4 cups)

Vegetable cooking spray (MVK’s note: I use two teaspoons of olive oil instead.)
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce (MVK’s note: Instead of the red pepper and hot sauce, I used 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne. Zowie!)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 (10 1/2-ounce) can low-salt chicken broth
1 (16-ounce) can pinto beans, drained

Coat a medium saucepan with cooking spray, and place over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Add chili powder and next 8 ingredients (chili powder through broth); bring to a boil. Stir in half of beans; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes.

Place soup in a food processor or blender, and process until smooth. Return to pan; stir in remaining beans. Cook until thoroughly heated.