Tortellini Spinach Salad

Tortellini Spinach Salad

I’m going to come right out and say it: salad and I have had our issues. I mean, I love salad. We have a relationship. But… it’s complicated.

You ask some people what they’re having for lunch (or even for dinner–heresy!), and they’ll say, “A salad.” Like… that’s it. Salad. I’m not one of those people. For me, a salad isn’t a meal. Salad and a sandwich? Sure. Salad and garlic bread? Yup. But just a salad? Incredibly unsatisfying, no matter how many sunflower seeds and garbanzo beans I plop on top. I think there’s just something in my DNA requiring that a meal involve some carbs.

Which leads to the issue of ingredients. I like diversity in a salad. Salad bars are my gold standard for this–I can add a couple kinds of greens, lots of raw veggies, maybe some berries, various beans and seeds and cheeses, and top it off with some croutons. But I can’t recreate that experience at home; I’d constantly have a half-eaten can of moldy kidney beans in my fridge, or an almost-empty bag of slimy spinach. And when I did make a salad, I’d be prepping ingredients for half an hour.

And then there’s the issue of the dressing. Can we all just agree that store-bought salad dressings are, in general, pretty awful? I get a salad at a restaurant and love it, but when I recreate the same salad at home with a store-bought dressing, it’s just yucky. About 95% of salad dressings I’ve ever bought taste like nothing but salt and preservatives. (Rob and I have found our guilty-pleasure dressing with this Nebraska-based salad dressing. You can’t get it in Tennessee–except via Amazon–so we ask my parents to bring home a couple of bottles every time they go to Nebraska to visit family.)

So those are the problems. But here’s the part where I launch into apostrophe.

Ah, Tortellini Spinach Salad, you have redeemed the salad experience for me. I can have you for dinner and feel neither gluttonously overfull nor piteously underfed. Your perfect mix of spinach (healthy!), tomatoes (healthy!), onions (healthy!), and processed carbs (delicious!) delights my tastebuds. I salute your limited ingredient list, your simple preparation, your sharply flavorful homemade dressing! Tortellini Spinach Salad, from these glorious beginnings I foresee a long and delectable love affair.

Time Commitment: About twenty minutes. There are literally three steps to this recipe. This salad is weeknight dinner gold.

Mess: Minimal–cutting board, sauce pan, and a pretty salad bowl for serving

For Kids: This dressing isn’t incredibly kid-friendly, so I always reserve some tortellini, cherry tomatoes, cheese, and spinach for #1 to eat, dressing-free.

Tortellini Spinach Salad

Serves 2-3 as a main dish or 4-6 as a side salad

Adapted from Three Boys Unprocessed

Ingredients, Salad

  • 2 cups frozen tortellini
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • Up to 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)

Ingredients, Dressing

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried minced garlic
  • pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3 tbsp shaved Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tbsp mayo
  • salt and black pepper (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions

  1. Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain, return to pot, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and place in refrigerator or freezer to chill while you make the salad dressing.
  2. Place all salad dressing ingredients into a prep bowl and whisk vigorously. Adjust levels of salt, pepper, and other spices to taste.
  3. Toss dressing with chilled tortellini and other salad ingredients in a large bowl.

“Bacon” Cheddar Cauliflower Soup (Guest post!)

Bacon Cheddar Cauliflower Soup

Note: This recipe is a guest post from one of my [Emily’s] very oldest and dearest friends–reader, writer, and hiker extraordinaire, Jessica. I don’t really have cauliflower in our family’s dinner rotation, but after this post, I’m convinced to give it a try. Enjoy!

Emily asked if I would write a guest blog for The Supper Files. As a reader of Emily’s blog, and a long-time friend,  I’m happy to contribute a post!

Our cooking adventures extend back to high school where our first attempt to make pizza from scratch left us with unleavened crust as we forgot to add yeast to our dough! Fast forward to 2016 and even though we don’t live in the same state anymore, we still bond over cooking adventures. This year we are challenging ourselves to baking a cake each month, as suggested on Food & Wine’s cake baking bucket list.

Besides the trend of monthly cake baking, my latest cooking obsession has been cauliflower. If you are anything like me, you might know cauliflower as that unwanted vegetable next to celery that’s always leftover on any appetizer veggie tray. You may have also arched a skeptical eyebrow at pinterest pins proclaiming cauliflower as the primary ingredient in pizza crust.

Or the idea of grating cauliflower to create imitation fried rice. Perhaps even making twice-baked potatoes…without the potatoes!

Cauliflower Fried "Rice"
Cauliflower Fried “Rice”

Dear reader, I was skeptical too. All these posts for uses of cauliflower seemed downright blasphemous! Replace the beloved potato with cauliflower? In any recipe–why would you? Well, as a vegetarian, our diets can stack up heavy on the carb side if we’re not too careful. Why is that a problem you ask? Too much of the wrong types of carbs can result in unwanted weight gain and other problems. Granted carbs are just about in everything and my motto is all things in moderation so to help with the diet balancing act, enter the wonderfully versatile cauliflower. And who couldn’t use more cruciferous veggies in their life?

One of my new favorite cauliflower recipes is this Bacon Cheddar Cauliflower soup, adapted for a vegetarian diet from Iowa Girl Eats.

Time Commitment: I haven’t timed myself making this, but on average, it seems every recipe I put my hand to takes about an hour (including prep, cook time and clean-up).

Mess: While this soup can be made in one pot, the messiest part will be grating the cauliflower, which brings me to:

Special Equipment: If you have a food processor, that will make your cauliflower shredding job SO MUCH easier. I use the blade for shredding cheese and my cauliflower florets are sliced up in no time. Otherwise you can use an actual cheese grater (mind your fingers), or toss in a blender and pulse a few times.

Serving Suggestions: Serve with your favorite crusty bread and a side salad.

Bacon Cheddar Cauliflower Soup

IngredientsJessicaCauliflowerSoup

  • 8 slices veggie bacon, chopped (I use LightLife’s Smart Bacon)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt & pepper
  • 4+ cups shredded or grated cauliflower (1/2 large head-1 large head), personally I don’t think you can add too much!
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 c hot water + 2 “chicken” bouillon cubes= 2 c “chicken” broth
  • 2 c milk
  • 3-4 dashes hot sauce
  • 2 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • Toppings: green onions, bacobits, and sour cream

Directions

  1. Whisk together flour and 1/4 cup chicken broth in a small bowl then set aside.
  2. Saute bacon in a large soup pot over medium heat until crisp. Add celery and garlic to the pot then season with salt and pepper and saute until vegetables are tender, about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Add cauliflower and onion powder  to the pot then stir to combine. Add water then place a lid on top and steam cauliflower until tender, stirring a couple times, about 5-7 minutes. Add remaining chicken broth and milk then turn up heat and bring to a boil.
  4. Slowly whisk in flour/chicken broth mixture while stirring, then turn down heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes, or until soup has thickened. Puree soup in blender then return to pot (you may also use an immersion blender instead).
  5. Turn off heat then stir in 2 cups cheddar cheese a little at a time until smooth. Taste and adjust salt, pepper, and/or hot sauce if necessary. Serve topped with bacobits, green onions, and sour cream.

Spinach Fritters

spinach fritters

Rating: 4/5 stars. Enjoy these crispy spinach fritters with pasta or rice and a bit of tomato sauce.

Twenty-three miles; eighty minutes; seven accidents. That was my drive home today. I have no idea what sort of insanity struck the good people of Chattanooga between the hours of 3:30 and 5:00 PM, but I would have been happy to stay out of it, thank you very much. It was like I drove through a blip in the space-time continuum that took me back to Los Angeles, circa 2008, where my daily commute took me past Dodger Stadium, Staples Center, and the LA Coliseum. If there was any sporting event going on in the city, I might as well just stay at work until 8, because otherwise I’d just be camped out on the 110 through downtown.

After today’s harrowing drive, I arrived home to a dog that needed to go out, a baby just waking up from a nap–hungry, of course!–and a daughter with one thing on her mind: finger-painting. It was A LOT. I honestly thought we were going to have to resort to cold cereal for dinner, but then I looked at the directions for these fritters and decided that they looked both feasible and–obviously–healthier than the cereal option. So I took the dog out, fed #2, and set #1 up with her finger-paints. 30 minutes later, I had spinach fritters with some pasta and tomato sauce ready to go exactly as Rob walked in the door. I WIN, FREEWAY CHAOS.

Photo Feb 24, 6 27 09 PM

Of course, in the meantime, #1 painted half the table and then coated her forearms with orange paint, giving her a kind of creepy tanorexic look. No recipe is easy enough to forestall finger-paint-related fiasco, I suppose.

Time Commitment: You can easily toss together these fritters in 30 minutes. You should, however, keep an eye on what your children are doing during that time.

Mess: The fritters themselves are very low mess: one bowl, one pan, one cutting board. But of course, you have to serve the fritters with something, unless you’re one of those people who gets full on nothing but spinach and onions (in which case, no offense, but I hate you).

Mom Fails: This recipe is pretty idiot-proof. Good thing, too, because LONG DAY.

Spinach Frittersspinach fritters

Source: Rachael Ray’s Spinach Fritters

Makes about 16 two-inch fritters

Ingredients

  • 16 oz bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1/2 an onion, minced
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 c shredded or crumbled cheese (I used cheddar, which was good, but next time I might try this with some parmesan or feta)
  • Oil for frying

Directions

  1. Beat eggs lightly in large bowl. Mix in all other ingredients (except oil).
  2. Pour a couple glugs of olive oil into a frying pan over medium heat. Fry fritters by heaping tablespoonfuls until browned. Flip and do the same on the other side.
  3. If your fritters look a bit greasy, you can set them on a plate lined with paper towel for a few minutes before serving.

Squash Sprout Salad

Squash Sprout Salad

Rating: 4/5 stars. This squash sprout salad — which can serve as a sophisticated side or a substantial entree — is a celebration of the best flavors and textures of the colder months of the year.

Someone please explain to me the general public’s prejudice against Brussels sprouts. I just don’t get it. Brussels sprouts are a delight. For one thing, they’re like little miniature cabbages. Adorable! People love miniature donkeys, teacup chihuahuas, even miniature giraffes. Why not the cute little miniature cabbage, aka Brussels sprout?

More importantly, Brussels sprouts have a great texture, especially when roasted. The exterior layers cook up all crisp and papery, while the interior remains chewy and moist. And to me, roasted Brussels sprouts taste just like fall. We’re now in the depths of winter, but this salad hearkens back to the season of decorative gourds–a definite point in its favor. In fact, it would make an amazing Thanksgiving side dish.

A note on the rating: Personally, I would give this squash sprout salad a full five stars. It has so many of my favorite cold-weather Photo Jan 16, 12 54 04 PMflavors. But Rob is in the anti-sprout camp (despite the fact that he loves cabbage; tell me how that makes sense), so I deducted a star from this dish for stirring up vegetable-related family dissension.

Time Commitment: About 45 minutes. Most of that time is passive; you just have to keep an eye on your veggies and lentils as they cook.

Mess: I bought packaged squash and sprouts, making this dish quick to come together and to clean up.

Mom Fails: Two words: mushy lentils. That made the final product of the salad a little bit stickier than I would have liked; everything was coated in a layer of lentil goo. After doing a bit of research, I’ve learned that I probably cooked my lentils at too high heat. After bringing lentils to a rapid boil, you want to decrease the heat as much as possible to keep them just barely at a simmer. Or so says the internet.

Squash Sprout SaladSquash Sprout Salad

Source: Adapted from Smitten Kitchen Spicy Squash Salad

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side

Ingredients

  • Olive oil for drizzling vegetables
  • 1/2 c black or green lentils
  • 2-3 c (or 1 12 oz bag) peeled, cubed butternut squash
  • 2 c chopped or shredded Brussels sprouts
  • 1/2 c crumbled goat cheese
  • 1/4 c roasted seeds (I used some sunflower seeds I had on hand, but you could use pumpkin or even the seeds from a fresh butternut squash)
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cook lentils according to directions on the bag. This should take approximately 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. In the meantime, line a shallow baking dish with foil. Spray foil with cooking spray. Add squash and sprinkle with salt and oil. Then roast for 20-30 minutes or until cubes of squash are tender, but not too brown. Watch your squash closely; it might take more or less time depending on how large the cubes are.
  4. When the squash is tender and slightly browned, toss the shredded Brussels sprouts into your baking dish. Stir to combine; then put everything back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so. You want to cook the sprouts just enough so that the exterior layers are getting crispy, but not black.
  5. Let everything cool to room temperature.
  6. Mix together all ingredients in a pretty salad bowl. Serve as a main dish with bread or rice, or as a side dish to your eye-popping Thanksgiving spread.

Garlic Roasted Broccoli

Rating: 5/5 stars. This is the one broccoli recipe to rule them all.

It’s impossible to meet someone less enthusiastic about the “paleo diet” than I am. I say that with very little exaggeration. You can ask my husband: I rant about the paleo diet on a regular basis. I find the premise silly and the environmental ramifications unsettling. I refuse to believe that my enjoyment of a morning bowl of oatmeal makes me less healthy than some five foot tall guy in skins with a life expectancy of 35.

On the other hand, a “paleo” person (by which I do not mean a person who lived in the Paleolithic era—who frankly would be thrilled at the idea of bottomless pasta bowls, movie theater popcorn, and cookie cakes—but rather a twenty-first century person who ascribes to the paleo diet) would have plenty of criticisms of my own eating habits. I’m a vegetarian, for crying out loud. I speak chocolate chip cookie as my second language.

Despite all this, the paleo diet and I have recently come to a fragile truce.

A few weeks ago, our family arrived for lunch at my parents’ to find the house engulfed in fragrant garlic. Rob and I exchanged our patented “garlic bread—hell yes” glances. (Those come in handy more often than you might think in our marriage.)

I had a moment of disappointment when I realized that glorious odor was actually coming from a pan of roasted broccoli. But the disappointment didn’t last. While the broccoli wasn’t exactly C&O Trattoria garlic knots, it was still the best broccoli I’ve ever eaten.

My mother, who’s diabetic, is always on the hunt for good recipes that won’t turn her body against her. She found this one on a paleo diet website. Despite its dubious (to me) origins, I can’t help but shout its praises from the rooftops. This recipe is delicious and shockingly easy—a pairing made in busy-mama heaven!

IMG_4962

Time Commitment: 25-30 minutes. You can whip together the broccoli mix in ten minutes; then it takes 15 minutes to roast.

Mess: Minimal, especially if you line your baking pan with foil.

Mom Fails: When food comes out of the oven, I’m ready to get it on my plate and in my belly, ASAP. I tend to forget any last steps that are supposed to happen after food comes out of the oven. This recipe was no exception. In my hurry to become at one with the garlic I’d been smelling for the last fifteen minutes, I totally forgot that I was supposed to drizzle the finished product with lemon juice. This didn’t seem to make any noticeable difference in terms of the final product.

IMG_4983

Heavenly Garlic Roasted Broccoli

(Source: http://paleogrubs.com/roasted-broccoli-recipe)

Makes Broccoli for 4–or for 2, if you really love broccoli (like Rob and me)

I made the following modifications from the original recipe. The recipe below reflects these modifications.

  • Lemon Juice:As I mentioned, I forgot to drizzle lemon juice after taking the pan out of the oven. This by no means ruined the recipe, so I marked that particular step as optional. Do it if you remember, because I’m sure it adds some pleasant brightness. But if you forget, don’t worry about it. You have enough stressors in your life. Broccoli shouldn’t be one of them.
  • Garlic press: I know garlic presses get a bad rap. Yeah, they take up precious kitchen space and only do one job. But what if you want your garlic minced very fine—basically pulverized? I could sit there with my chef’s knife hacking away for fifteen minutes, or I could whip out the garlic press and be done instantly. I’ll let you guess which option I choose.
  • Salt and pepper: I used slightly less salt and pepper than the original recipe calls for. Unless your two heads of broccoli are truly enormous, you really don’t need a full teaspoon of salt or ½ teaspoon of pepper.

Recipe

  • 2 medium-sized broccoli crowns, washed and cut into florets
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • heaping ¼ tsp black pepper
  • sprinkle of red pepper flakes (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a small prep bowl, mix together your salt, black pepper, and garlic.
  3. Toss together broccoli and olive oil in a large bowl.
  4. Sprinkle broccoli with spice mixture. Stir gently as you sprinkle. Be sure to spread the spices evenly so you don’t get any overly salty bites.
  5. Spread broccoli in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for fifteen minutes, stirring once half-way through. (Add the red pepper flakes, if desired, at the half-way point.) The broccoli is finished when the edges are beginning to blacken.
  7. Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the broccoli, and serve.