Recipe Review: 10-minute toddler-friendly pasta

I have a tendency to cook spice-heavy dishes. I love cumin, paprika, coriander, fennel seeds, caraway, turmeric, & fenugreek, to name a few, but it’s not for everybody.

In the region of France where I live, the craziest that people tend to get is a few dashes of nutmeg – people’s palates here are generally accustomed to much more salt, fat, & sugar (much like the standard American diet), and not to a lot of herbs and spices. I rarely have to tone it down for my partner, luckily, but if I’m cooking for his family, I have to be a little more conservative when it comes to the spice cupboard. I’ve found that the dishes my friends & family in the U.S. might consider to be “toddler-friendly” tend to go over better.

This particular recipe is an intersection – it’s friendly to the more subtle palate, and I happen to love it, too! It’s the second I’ve tried that uses a mix of hummus & tomato sauce very successfully. It was, for me, an unexpected match made in heaven. What is particularly nice about this recipe is that you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand as add-ins. They’re puréed and the flavor is masked by the stronger flavors of hummus and marinara, so little veggie-avoiders are none the wiser. If you’re making it for adults, well, most adults, you can leave the extra veggies whole. I like to add peas to the cooking pasta 2 minutes before it’s finished. It takes almost zero extra effort, and it’s both beautiful and tasty.

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I found the original recipe on Oh She Glows, one of my go-to sites for amazing vegan food. Many of the recipes I find there, I adapt by eliminating oils or reducing salt, but this one required no mucking about. The only thing I changed from the original was to exclude the hemp hearts – that’s not something I can get around here, and it’s not worth ordering online, for me. Visit the link above for lovely pictures and the original recipe. This is how I made it:

Ingredients
  • 6 c (715 g) cooked whole wheat pasta, which is 3 c (340 g) dry
  • 2 c (475 ml) marinara
  • 1/2 c (125 ml) hummus (store-bought tends to have a lot of oil, so follow the link for my oil-free hummus recipe)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 c (200+ g) chopped cauliflower or whatever other vegetable you want
Cooking Instructions

This one’s crazy fast & easy.

  1. Boil cauliflower for about 10 minutes, until softened, and drain. Remember, to get the most benefit from cauliflower, you can cut it 45 minutes before cooking it, or just mix a little bit of mustard powder into the finished dish.
  2. Combine marinara, hummus, cauliflower (or other vegetable), and garlic powder in a blender until thoroughly mixed.
  3. In a large pot, combine cooked pasta & sauce, and cook until heated through. You can skip this step if your pasta is hot off the stove, especially for younger kids – the hot pasta will warm up the sauce without making it too hot to eat right away.
Nutrition Information

This recipe is meant to feed 4 adults, so I used the appropriate amounts of pasta and cauliflower to fit in with the daily dozen. The information below is for 1 serving, or 1/4 of the above recipe, including the pasta.

10 minute pasta nutrition info
generated using cronometer.com

The high sodium content here is due in large part to the fact that I used a commercially produced marinara sauce to generate the nutrition facts. For a lower sodium content, make your own marinara or buy one that is low in sodium. My favorite thing about making my own marinara is that I can add as much tarragon as my heart desires. For me, that really makes the sauce. It’s the sole purpose for which I grow tarragon in my garden.

Hey, where is all that protein coming from? It’s not from that small amount of hummus. It’s actually mostly from the pasta! There’s a fair amount in the marinara sauce, too.

So, that got me thinking – I’ve heard people say loads of times that animal products provide us with so-called “complete” proteins, while vegan foods do not. I should look at the in-depth protein profile of whole wheat pasta versus a beefsteak! Here it is – can you tell which is which based on presence vs absence of any particular amino acids?

Incomplete protein
Generated to compare protein composition, assuming the same total amounts of protein, not the same amounts of food.  Made using cronometer.com

I’ll give you a hint – even though both contain higher amounts of glutamic acid than any other amino acid listed, it’s the highest in pasta. And that’s good news for vegans! Glutamic acid is essential for making glutamine, one of the most important amino acids. Glutamine is necessary in coping with stress and for recovery from illness and strenuous exercise. It even helps to reduce fat storage. Read more here about why scientists have referred to it as an “internal fountain of youth”.

Are any of the essential amino acids (the ones we must consume because we cannot synthesize them ourselves: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine) missing from the pasta? No! They are not. So, let’s put all of this monkey-business about incomplete protein in vegan diets to rest, shall we?

Back to the recipe. So far, everyone who I’ve forced to eat this has liked it. And so do I! Plus it’s so cheap to make, and so fast & easy to put together, that I think it could easily become a staple for a lot of people who try it.

Checklist items: .5 beans, cruciferous, 1 other vegetables, spices, 3 whole grains (6.5 out of 18 servings)

For easy reference, here’s what you’ll need to round out the day:

  • 2.5 beans
  • berries
  • 3 other fruits
  • 2 greens
  • 1 other vegetables
  • flaxseeds
  • nuts

 

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Black raspberries & black rice: loading up on antioxidants

Breakfast_textFun fact: black raspberries have higher antioxidant levels than blackberries or red raspberries. And black raspberries are just coming into season!blackberries-1541314_640 Just in time, because I ate the last of the blueberries from my little blueberry bush 3 days ago.

  • 1/4 santa claus melon
  • 1/2 c. black raspberries

The melon I have today is huge, so 1/4 of it is easily 2 servings. Perhaps 3, but I was too excited to eat it to measure, so I’ll say 2 just to be on the safe side. Eating an extra serving of fruit later in the day is certainly not going to hurt!

Checklist items: berries, 2 other fruits (3 out of 18 servings)


lunch_textWhat do you do when you’re hungry from running (or some other form of exercise) but also too hot to really want to eat? Hummus & veggies, of course! Click this link for the perfect oil-free hummus. With lunch, I’m also going to have a little homemade date & nut milk.

  • heaping 1/3 c. hummus
  • 1/4 c. broccoli
  • 1/4 c. cauliflower
  • 1/4 c. red bell pepper
  • 1/2 c. pickles or pickled beets

And a heads-up: for the milk, you’ll need to boil water and pour it over 1/4 c. dates and 1/4 c. nuts 1 hour in advance. Follow the link above for recipe & instructions.

Checklist items: 1.5 beans, 1 other fruit, 1 cruciferous, 1.5 other vegetables, flaxseed, nuts, spices (8 out of 18 servings)


dinner_text

I’ve been dying to share this recipe because it’s so simple and yet so tasty! It’s a healthier and, in my opinion, much more interesting version of a French classic: petits pois a la francaise. I serve it with black rice, also called forbidden rice. The one I use is a Thai jasmine black rice and has an amazingly floral fragrance that adds depth to the petits pois. Black rice is loaded with antioxidants! According to Wikipedia, it has one of the highest levels of anthocyanin antioxidants found in any food.

  • wp-1471341773962.jpg1 1/2 c. cooked black rice
  • 1/4 c. onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 c. fresh peas
  • 2 c. lettuce, shredded
  • 2 c. vegetable stock or bouillon
  • salt, to taste (if using commercial bouillon, you may not need to add any)
  1. cook black rice separately, just as you would any rice
  2. saute onions in 2 T veggie stock until soft
  3. add lettuce and the rest of the stock, and cook until wilted
  4. once the lettuce is wilted, add the peas and let simmer until everything is cooked and the liquid is slightly reduced
  5. Serve over the black rice with plenty of cooking liquid

Checklist items: 1.5 beans, .5 other vegetables, 2 greens, 3 whole grains (7 out of 18 servings)


Taking account of the day:

18 servings in total.

We got at least the minimum recommended servings of everything today.