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

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

  • 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

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Easy vegetarian and gluten free Mediterranean Quinoa Bake
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This week was pretty busy so I wanted to make a really easy, healthy and delicious meal that would be able to feed both me and my husband for two nights. Throwing veggies, beans, and whole grains into a pan and baking it seemed like a really good way to accomplish my goal. I also wanted to do a vegetarian dish because 1) I love vegetarian dishes, 2) Adding meat seemed like an unnecessary extra step, and 3) My friend Stephanie is a vegetarian who loves casseroles/bakes and is always looking for healthy recipes…so this recipe was partly for her. I chose to use Mediterranean flavors in this recipe because I love them… annnnd I also happened to have a can of artichokes in my pantry I wanted to use. So if you like easy healthy recipes, veggies, chickpeas, and quinoa, this Mediterranean Quinoa Bake recipe is just for you.

 Easy, vegetarian, and gluten free Mediterranean Quinoa Bake

When I’m short on time or I’m running low on fresh vegetables, I like to combine fresh veggies with canned ones for a quick and easy meal that still helps me meet my nutritional needs. When buying canned ingredients, I compare different brands and choose the one that is lowest in sodium, preferably no salt added, if possible. I also drain and rinse my canned beans and veggies that do have salt added to help further decrease the sodium level. If you like to use a lot of canned ingredients I would suggest investing in a little mini colander so you can easily rinse off your canned beans and veggies without having to use your bigger one. That way you can save precious dishwasher space and you may be more likely to actually take the time to rinse them off 🙂

If you are in need of a little colander I think this one looks pretty darn cute:

Tablecraft HC1 0.75 quart Mini Colander  *

*Amazon affiliate link – if you click on purchase through this link I may receive a percentage of the sale to help run my website at no cost to you

Looking for more vegetarian dishes? Try my Sweet Potato and Kale Frittata, great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Easy, vegetarian, and gluten free Mediterranean Quinoa Bake

Mediterranean Quinoa Bake

 Ingredients 

1 Cup Uncooked Quinoa
1 Can (16 oz) Reduced Sodium Chickpeas- Drained and Rinsed
1 Can (14 oz) Quartered Artichoke Hearts- Drained and Rinsed
1 Can (12 oz) Roasted Red Peppers- Drained and Rinsed
3 Cups Raw Baby Spinach
4 Plum Tomatoes – Sliced
1 Cup Low Sodium Vegetable Broth
1 Teaspoon Minced Garlic
1 Teaspoon Dried Basil
1 Teaspoon Dried Oregano
3/4 Cup Reduced Fat Crumbled Feta Cheese
2 Tablespoons Balsamic Vinegar

 
 
Directions
Cook quinoa according to package directions and preheat oven to 350 degrees. While quinoa is cooking, add remaining ingredients except for feta cheese and balsamic vinegar to a large mixing bowl. Toss ingredients together mixing well. After quinoa is done cooking, spread quinoa evenly in a 9×13 inch glass baking pan. Top with veggie mixture. Cook in oven for 20 minutes or until veggies are warm and soft. Remove from oven, sprinkle feta cheese and drizzle balsamic vinegar over the top of casserole. Place back in oven for about 5 more minutes until cheese is warm and slightly soft. Remove from oven and serve. Enjoy!
 
 
 Easy, vegetarian, and gluten free Mediterranean Quinoa Bake
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Balsamic Roasted Asparagus
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St. Patrick’s Day is coming up this week so I went through my recipes to see if I had anything green I can post, and I found a recipe for roasted asparagus I had made a few weeks ago. It is just a veggie side dish, so if you are looking for something a little more green and festive for St. Paddy’s Day, I like to make St. Patrick’s Day Green Eggs for breakfast every year. I use spinach to dye the eggs green so it adds both extra nutrients and fun!

Roasted Asparagus

Anyways, asparagus is a great vegetable. It is one of my go to side veggies when making fish. For some reason I love salmon with roasted asparagus and mashed potatoes…the flavors and textures just seem to go together.

Asparagus is full of many nutrients such as fiber (good for staying regular and feeling full), Vitamin A (good for your eye health and immune system) and folic acid (super important for pregnant ladies). It is super easy to cook, you can steam, roast or saute it, and although it does have a strong flavor you can still season it in very different ways. A lot of times I just use olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper which is fresh and super simple, but recently I have been adding a few different flavors…hence this new recipe today, which I think make become my new go to asparagus recipe.

Balsamic Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients

1/2 Pound Fresh Asparagus (about 20 stalks)

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice

1/8 Teaspoon Sea Salt

1/8 Teaspoon Pepper

1/2 Teaspoon Minced Garlic

1 Tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar

Directions

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Rinse off asparagus and chop off bottom tough ends of stalks. Spread cleaned asparagus out in in a glass baking dish. Mix oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and garlic in a small bowl and drizzle over asparagus. Toss to evenly coat and then spread out asparagus in a single layer for even cooking. Cook in oven for 15 minutes. Remove and drizzle balsamic vinegar over asparagus. Place back in oven and cook for an additional ten minutes or until asparagus reaches desired tenderness.

Balsamic Roasted Asparagus

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