Brussels Sprouts & Bacon Pasta

Q: What do you make for dinner the night before you go back to work after having a baby?

A: Anything you have in your fridge already, so you don’t disturb the good people at the grocery store with your heaving sobs. Oh, and pasta, because that always makes me feel better.

Somehow it’s October.  Four months have flown by and my baby is big enough to hold up his own head and smile and generally make my heart sing like those baby animals in Snow White.  Naturally, I’m feeling sad and anxious about going from spending all day, every day with him, to only the hours after dark.  More about that some other time, I guess.

Anyway, the night before I recommenced working outside the home, we still had to eat and I hadn’t been to the store in quite some time.  A perusal through the fridge revealed: half a lemon, half a container of chicken stock, a going-bad-very-quickly package of brussels sprouts, and some Parmesan cheese.  Bacon from the freezer and half a box of pasta and presto, dinner in about 30 minutes.

Brussels Sprouts and Bacon Pasta

  • half box pasta (I used whole wheat penne)
  • about four slices bacon, chopped
  • a few sprigs thyme
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt, pepper
  • a good amount crushed red pepper
  • 1 bag (or 1 branch, or however you buy your sprouts) brussels sprouts
  • olive oil or butter
  • about 1/2 cup chicken stock, white wine, or just the starchy pasta water
  • Parmesan cheese
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil; cook your pasta according to directions and drain, reserving about a cup of the starchy water (if using).
  2. As your pasta cooks, prep your sprouts.  Chop off the tough end of each sprout and add to your food processor. Finely shred all your sprouts.
  3. Heat a deep, large skillet over medium heat and then add bacon.  Crisp it up a bit and then add garlic, taking care not to burn it.  Add a pinch of salt, pepper, and your crushed red peppers (note: if you like spice, add a fair amount.  The crushed red peppers get a bit lost among all the brussels sprouts).  Add a few sprigs thyme, as well.
  4. Add brussels sprouts to pan; spread them out evenly so the shreds start to crisp up underneath a little bit.  Don’t be afraid to add a bit of olive oil or butter at this stage!  After a while, stir the mixture up to let all the sprouts cook evenly.  Add a bit of white wine, stock, or some of the starchy pasta water to start creating a sauce.
  5. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and give the whole thing a toss; add lemon juice and Parmesan & season to taste; serve hot.

The Verdict:

Make sure to carefully season your pasta throughout the cooking process.  I was a bit afraid to oversalt, given the bacon, so I had to make up for this at the end.  But this is delicious, and a big bonus is that it makes enough to take for lunch the next day, too.  The only remaining question: what do you make for dinner AFTER the day after you start working..and the day after that, and the day after that?

Answer: you marry into literally the best family ever and your MIL brings you a delicious lasagna.

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Red Lentil Coconut Basil Curry

A few weeks ago our dishwasher stopped working.  This was not a big surprise; the appliances in our kitchen are all from the late 1970s, early 1980s if you’re feeling generous.  The joys of renting an apartment is that you can know nothing about dishwashers, and yet, they still somehow magically get fixed.

Except in this case, we now have a new fridge and a new stove, but our dishwasher is still sad and broken.  On the bright side, when we cleaned out the fridge, we also tackled the cabinets.  I found a bag of red lentils my mom bought when the baby was first born.  I also found a green curry paste that went bad in May 2013.  Do lentils + curry = dinner?  Though the can of paste went in the garbage, we dined on this delicious concoction last night.

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Red Lentil Coconut Basil Curry

  • coconut oil
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • about 1 teaspoon grated ginger (I keep mine in the freezer for just this occasion)
  • big handful curry powder
  • about a teaspoon cumin
  • about half a teaspoon cinnamon
  • about a teaspoon salt
  • just a sprinkle of red crushed peppers
  • half a teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • about 4-5 leaves basil
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • a big handful baby spinach
  • juice from half a lime
    • to serve: naan or rice, Greek yogurt, green onions
  1. In a large  skillet, heat the coconut oil over a medium heat and add onions. Saute about 4-5 minutes, and add garlic and ginger.  Cook until everything is nice and soft.
  2. Add all of the spices (curry powder, cinnamon, salt, turmeric, cumin, crushed red peppers) and the jalapeno and give everything a good toss through. (Don’t be afraid to add a little more coconut oil to keep the spices from sticking to the pan.)
  3. Add the lentils, coconut milk, stock and basil.  Turn the heat down and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the spinach and fold in gently, letting it wilt.  Add lime juice and adjust seasoning to taste.
  5. Serve with rice or naan, and a dollop of Greek yogurt.  Top with a bit of green onion for a nice finish.

The Verdict:

The answer to the question above is a resounding yes.  This is so, so good.  Even better, it’s healthy (I think).  Best of all, this cooks itself in about 25 minutes, total.  That includes the time to cut your veggies and mince your garlic.  Yes.

Almost Greek Tortellini Salad

For the last four or so years that we’ve lived together, my husband and I have spent weekend mornings lazing around in bed. Around 10 AM, our bed became think tank HQ for plotting out weekend days and nights.  There were big, strategic decisions to be made: where might we want to go eat for dinner?  with whom should we try to make plans?  what fun things did we want to do?

Now weekend mornings are just a little different.  For one: they begin earlier, as the newest member of our household doesn’t understand the concept of sleeping in.  For another: it’s a lot less think tank, a lot more operations management.  When and where and how are we going to squeeze in naptime and feeding time and cleaning all the things time?  For one more: we spend a lot less time planning Saturday night and more time planning Monday night. As in, what can I make for dinner that will be quick and easy and also quick and easy?

The husband came up with the below.  Bonus: it’s good hot or cold and even sneaks you some veggies.

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Almost Greek Tortellini Salad

  • 1 package tortellini
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • about 3-4 oz sundried tomatoes, preferably packed in oil
  • 1 container cherry tomatoes, cut in half or quartered
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and diced
  • about 4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • a big handful spinach
  • obviously optional – olives. I hear some people like these.
  • for the dressing:
    • olive oil
    • red wine or balsamic vinegar
    • dash cumin
    • salt, pepper
    • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
    • dash oregano
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the tortellini according to the directions; drain.  While this gets going, prep all your veggies and put them into a large bowl.
  2. In a small side bowl, whisk all of the dressing ingredients together.  (Note: the cumin adds just a hint of sweet that I really like against the general saltiness of the dish.)
  3. Add the warm, drained tortellini to the veggie bowl and give it a toss.   Add the feta and give it a thorough mix before adding spinach and dressing.  Serve warm or cold.

The Verdict:

This was deliciously easy, which is a good thing since the pictures didn’t come out (see above, obvi).  Which means I’ll get another crack at posting something a little more light-friendly.  Also: the fact that you can serve this warm or cold makes it a perfect dish to bring to your new mom friends.  Just saying: heating things in the microwave can be a challenge.

 

Arugula and Mint Pea Salad

We had company over for the first time post-baby two weeks ago.  Prior to baby, I thought spending time at home with one small, portable child who naps on and off all day would mean I’d have lots of time to menu plan and cook and get real fancy.  I had big plans for this blog, for instance.

I know.

Clearly, I didn’t spend any time with any children before abruptly shifting into 24/7, all baby, all the time, mode.  So what made it to the table for company was a reliable friend: chicken and this simple, deceptively good salad.

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Arugula and Mint Pea Salad

  • 2 cups fresh peas
  • 1 bunch mint, torn
  • good handful of parmesan
  • arugula
  • dressing:
    • juice from one lemon
    • a bit of lemon zest
    • olive oil
    • salt, pepper
  1. If using fresh peas (which are awesome), bring a pot of water to boil and very quickly pass the peas through – about 1 minute.  You can also use canned or thawed frozen peas.
  2. Whisk dressing together.
  3. Combine all ingredients together and toss with dressing; top with parmesan.

The Verdict:

This is an old reliable for good reason. Simple, easy, and super delicious.  Definitely enough to impress post-baby company.

Mussels with White Wine Tomato Saffron Sauce

Back when I got pregnant a YEAR ago (because what’s up: you’re pregnant for 10 months, hello, fifth grade health class you’ve got some curriculum updates to do) I became wildly uninterested in anything that wasn’t bread. Or cheese. Or melted cheese on bread. For a while, I think the Husband thought he had basically won the lottery.  Pizza every night sans those pesky vegetables.  Holler.

However, even though I slowly re-introduced important food groups into my diet (thanks, Ben & Jerry’s, for all the support), mussels — something I have loved since I was a very small child — never made it back to the rotation.  In fact, until about three weeks ago, the very thought of mussels made me feel unhappy.  This made my husband feel unhappy.

To celebrate two months sans pregnancy, we had mussels, and they were delicious.  (Thanks to the one & only Ina for the recipe.)

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Mussels with White Wine & Tomato Saffron Sauce

  • 2-3 pounds mussels (or at least a pound a person)
  • big scoop of all-purpose flour
  • big pinch saffron threads
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • olive oil
  • 3-4 large shallots, chopped OR a large sweet onion
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 15 oz  can chopped tomatoes, juice drained
  • lots of chopped parsley
  • fresh thyme
  • about a cup of white wine
  • salt, pepper
  1. Clean your mussels: add them to a large bowl or pot with lots of cold water.  Add the flour, and let soak for 45 minutes.  Drain and then remove the beards by hand, bringing it toward the hinge and then pulling it gently off.  Throw out any noticeably bad mussels and give the whole batch another good rinse.
  2. Meanwhile, add the saffron to a half a cup hot water and let soak for about 15 minutes.
  3. In a large pot, add butter and olive oil and melt down over medium heat.  Add shallots or onion; cook until translucent and then add the garlic and cook for 3 more minutes.  Add the tomatoes, saffron & saffron-flavored water, parsley, thyme, wine, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil.
  4. Add mussels, stir it all together and then cover the pot.  Cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, or until the mussels open up.  You don’t want to undercook them – gross – and you don’t want to overcook them, either – rubbery.  Discard any that do not open. Another sprinkle of parsley won’t hurt anyone, either.
  5. Serve immediately, with garlic bread for the critical step of dipping into the sauce.

 

The Verdict:

More, please!