Easy and Healthy Pasta Salad
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Originally Published in May 2015

Last weekend I turned 30 (old lady now…) so we thought we would do a beach party on Saturday to celebrate. So of course I wanted to make some nutritious and delicious food to bring. I had to think of something I could keep cold in a cooler and that would be refreshing and not too messy or complicated. Pasta salad seemed to be an easy solution…so my recipe for sweet potato pasta salad was born!

I used whole grains (good carbs for sustained energy and fiber), olive oil (good fat, anti-inflammatory properties), and fresh veggies (lots of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals). I was able to keep it in a large aluminum tray in the cooler and it did stay cool until we were ready to eat. I also made a fruit salad to bring because it is super easy to just chop up some melons, grapes and strawberries….and who doesn’t love cool, fresh fruit on a hot day? Plus…it has a ton of nutrients and can help keep you hydrated. My pasta salad turned out really delicious and fed about 16-20 people so keep that in mind when you see the large amounts of ingredients.

Sweet Potato Pasta Salad

Sweet Potato Pasta Salad


32 oz Dry Whole Grain Pasta (I used Brown Rice Pasta to make it Gluten Free)

2 Large Sweet Potatoes

1 Head of Broccoli

4 Large Tomatoes

1- Fresh 8 oz Bag of Baby Spinach

1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3/4 Cup Champagne or White Wine Vinegar

Juice from 2 Lemons

1 Tablespoon Chopped Garlic

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1/4 Teaspoon Sugar

Ground Black Pepper to Taste


  • Cook pasta according to package directions in a very large pot.
  • While pasta is cooking, clean off sweet potatoes and poke several holes through the skin with a fork. Microwave on high for 10 minutes or until sweet potatoes are cooked through.
  • Rinse broccoli and tomatoes and start chopping into pieces while sweet potatoes and pasta are cooking.
  • Remove sweet potatoes (be careful they will be very hot) and let cool.
  • Put chopped broccoli in the microwave on a microwave safe plate on high for 2 minutes…but only if you are like me and prefer your broccoli to be slightly cooked but still firm and crunchy. If you prefer it raw you can skip that step.
  • By now your pasta should be done cooking; drain and rinse with cold water to prevent sticking and add to your aluminum tray or serving dish.
  • Add the bag of spinach to the warm pot you just removed the pasta from and put back on burner on low heat stirring occasionally to warm and wilt spinach until it shrinks to about half.
  • Add warm spinach, broccoli, and tomatoes to pasta.
  • If your sweet potatoes are cool enough, peel off the skin and chop into bite size squares. If they still feel hot please be patient and let them cool down more… you can get burned by hot potato steam. The potatoes should peel very easily with a knife now that they are cooked.
  • Add the sweet potato pieces to the pasta mixture.
  • Mix together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, salt and sugar in a small bowl and pour over pasta. Mix well and add ground black pepper to taste.
  • Refrigerate until ready to eat, can be made the day before.

Healthy, Sweet Potato Pasta Salad, Whole Grain, Easy

Healthy Pantry Items

I originally compiled this Top 10 Healthy Pantry Items list back in February of 2017, but I feel like relying on pantry staples has definitely become more important during this pandemic. Trying to cut back on grocery store visits and working with what we have has been essential for our family this year and will probably continue through the winter. Most of the panty items that I buy, I tend to order online from Target or Thrive Market so I don’t have to worry about picking them up when I do go to the grocery store for things like eggs, milk, and bread. I also get a produce box delivered once a week from Hungry Harvest to help cut down on grocery trips. If you want to try Hungry Harvest feel free to use my link here to get $10 off your first order.

While the items in this list are all great healthy choices to help keep your family fed, the most important thing to remember is that “fed is best.” If you are unable to get the healthier choice due to financial constraints, the items aren’t available, or you really need to just go through a drive through one night and pick up some burgers and fries for your sanity, that is ok. We all need to give ourselves some grace and do the best that we can.


My Top 10 Healthy Pantry Items


1. Whole grains such as quinoa, brown rice and whole grain pasta – Full of fiber and essential B vitamins, whole grains are essential and shelf stable. I like to stock up during sales, because I usually choose one of these almost daily with dinner. 


2. Fruit and Nut Bars – Great for a quick snack between zoom meetings or with your morning coffee if you prefer a light breakfast. I like both Kind Bars and Larabars because they are made with whole ingredients such as fruits and nuts.


3. Tomato Sauce – I always have at least 1 emergency can of tomato sauce in my pantry. Grab your pasta, some tomato sauce, throw in some veggies (like mushrooms or zucchini) and top with cheese and you got a meal. I like to choose tomato sauce without added sugar and less than 400mg of sodium per serving.


4. Canned Beans – I like to keep multiple types on hand. Perfect for a quick and easy chili or to make rice and beans. No salt added or reduced sodium is what I look for on the label. That way I can season it to my taste preferences.  


5. Oatmeal – A whole grain that is perfect for breakfast or you can also have as a snack or mini-meal. Also comes in handy if you get the urge to bake some oatmeal muffins or cookies.


6. No Salt Added Canned Vegetables (such as tomatoes or corn) – Goes great in chili or a pasta dish. 


7. Nut or Seed Butter – Perfect for sandwiches or as a snack (on celery, apples, or whole grain crackers). We usually do peanut butter cause it is the cheapest, and we go through a lot. We used to do sunbutter too when V was in daycare since it is allergy friendly. 


8. Canned Fruit  Packed in Juice – I always keep a can or two in our pantry in case we run out of fresh fruit before our weekly produce box comes. 


9. Almond Milk – We normally drink cows milk, whole for the girls and skim for me and my husband, but we keep it on hand in case we run out of our regular milk. That way we can last an extra day or two before getting groceries. I also like using the vanilla almond milk in baked goods sometimes or to cook quinoa in, instead of water. It gives it a bit of a different flavor. 


10. Chicken or Vegetable Broth – You can use these to make a quick and easy soup or add flavor to meats, a stew or chili. We get the reduced sodium and season how we like. 



Hope you liked my list! Comment if you have any other great healthy items that you like to always have in your pantry!


Healthy Pantry Items

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Originally posted in April of 2015.

Sorry I wasn’t able to post last week but I was in Puerto Rico for a friends 30th birthday so I was busy doing beach things and exploring the island. Before I left I did make a really good spaghetti squash dish that I thought I could share today. It was my first experience working with spaghetti squash so I was surprised how easy and quick it was to make. I wish I had tried it sooner!

Spaghetti squash contains many important vitamins and minerals such as potassium, vitamin c, vitamin a, and dietary fiber. It also tastes great, and you can cook it in the microwave. Super easy. I know a lot of people like to substitute spaghetti squash for pasta, but that is not something I typically recommend. If you really want pasta, make pasta. Spaghetti squash is not going to cut it when you have a pasta craving. However, it is delicious so you should try it, not as a substitute, just as another food.

I typically use this recipe as a side dish, and will cook chicken or some other protein to go with it. Otherwise, I would be hungry like an hour later. You could always add some leftover diced chicken to the sauce to make this recipe more of an entrée.  Also, I bet a nice piece of crusty bread would go good with this.

Spaghetti Squash with Fresh Vegetables and Herbs


1 Spaghetti Squash

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

2 Cloves of Garlic, minced

1/2 Cup Diced Purple Onion

1 Cup Sliced Mushrooms

1 Cup Chopped Tomatoes

1 1/2 Tablespoons Fresh Basil, chopped

1 Tablespoon Fresh Oregano, chopped

Dash of Salt and Pepper


Rinse off spaghetti squash and poke several holes with a knife to allow steam to escape while cooking. Microwave spaghetti squash on high for 15 minutes. If your microwave doesn’t rotate make sure you turn about half way through cooking to ensure it is cooked evenly. Remove squash from microwave when finished cooking but do not attempt to cut it open yet. It will be very hot and needs to cool down for several minutes. Heat olive oil in a medium sauté pan on medium heat and add garlic and onions. Cook until onions appear translucent. Add mushrooms and tomatoes and cook for several minutes longer until vegetables are warm and mushrooms are soft and decreased in size. Mix in basil and oregano and cook for 1-2 more minutes to blend the flavors. Turn off heat and add a dash of salt and pepper if desired. Cut open spaghetti squash in half lengthwise if cool enough and remove seeds. Use a fork to scrape out strands and put each half on a plate. Top with sauce and serve.

Spaghetti Squash with Fresh Vegetables and Herbs