Broccoli and Feta Pasta Salad

June 16, 2013 3:32 pm by Pooja

Sometimes it is too hot for a warm meal, and you just need something light but filling with lots of healthy, crisp-cooked veggies. You know, so you can still feel pretty good about yourself later in the evening, after you’ve have three times your fill of chips and dip and white wine, and yes, more strawberry andre. (Hey, it was a good Saturday night. Nothing wrong with that.)

And it’s finally getting quite warm here in Madison! So what are we eating today?

feta pasta 1feta pasta 2

I made two versions of this lovely broccoli and feta pasta salad, one with RP’s campanelle and one with odds and ends of pasta I had sitting around. The first time, I didn’t keep track of anything. The second time (today) I did, and waayy upped the broccoli, as you can see. I used only half the amount of pasta (about 8oz dry) and also half the amount of feta cheese (somewhere between 4 and 5 oz). Otherwise, I still used 2 tbsp olive oil (why not?) and one tbsp red wine vinegar. Actually, instead of using red wine vinegar, I just scooped some liquid out of the olive jar, which is mostly red wine vinegar anyways, with that nice salty olive taste! I didn’t put any actual olives in Glenn’s (lame-o that he is) and I did put some green onions in mine (though finely chopped red onions would be better). I also added a few squirts of lemon, some chopped oregano, and a scoop of cottage cheese for a little extra creaminess. I know, I know, at this point I might as well have given a recipe, but I’m lazy today 🙂 I think we’re going to get 4 lunches out of this one, each with about 380 cals, 14g fat, 47 g carbs, 5g fiber, and 17g protein.

This salad is a great use of the first broccoli of the season and Farmer John’s amazing feta cheese! As I posted yesterday, I’ve been torn about using RP’s pasta v dried pasta. I will admit that RP’s was wayyy tastier in this dish, since the dressing is really light. Last night’s version with fresh pasta felt special, and Glenn declared it a new favorite of his. Today’s lunchtime version just felt like a run-of-the-mill lunch. But for something I’m going to scarf down in front of my computer while I’m working, I’m okay with the dried pasta. If I were going to make this for company, I would definitely use fresh. Totally different dish.


Progress: Week 3 and Market Bounty

June 15, 2013 5:43 pm by Pooja

Goal 1) To eat fresh local food! Yes we did! About 76% of our food dollars went to a local vendor this week.

Goal 2) Eat healthy! I think I was particularly successful on this front with the kale and sausage soup and the black bean burritos. The saag paneer was a little fatty, but you can’t go wrong with all those greens.

Goal 3) Don’t break the bank! Okay, this is what I was worried about this week. Remember our market bounty? I went a little crazy! Well, it felt that way after spending $67 at only one market. I’d hoped that the inexpensive CSA veggies ($8.75/box) would even things out, but then we went to two more markets (and spent $9) and two grocery stories. That’s $85 at the markets along with $22 at Woodman’s  and a $6 block of paneer from the indian store. Oh, I wish I’d planned better! And made my own paneer!

In my defense, I also cooked for my girlfriends in the middle of the week with an extra $10ish of ingredients. If we’d gone out to eat, I would have spent at least that much on just myself. I took little from my freezer this week. And, I have RP’s pasta, broccoli, kale, and most of the pepper jack leftover from last week. (The result of a lack of planning!) I think if you take all of that into account, I think the extra $$ was not wasted and I’m okay with that.

I did reflect on some ways to cut down my spending. First, I need to buy less at the first market we go to so we have room to buy at other markets! This requires planning 🙂 For example, I bought 3 RP’s pastas at one time last week – WAY more than we needed. In the end, I was glad because it meant I could cook for my friends with ingredients I had on hand. Second, I think some things are just worth getting at the store.  I feel pretty strongly about buying happy local meat, but happy local tortillas? It ain’t gonna happen again, I’m sorry. Also, as much as I love RP’s pasta and will continue to buy it, I’m going to supplement the good stuff with less expensive store-bought pastas for very basic dishes in which there are other local ingredients to shine. The way I see it is buying some of the more processed goods at the grocery store will free me up to buy more whole foods locally. I have to make some choices to make this work for me, and that’s one of them (for now, at least).

Goal 4) Learn more about buying local meat! Hooray for chicken brats! The andouille sausage was super good, and by cooking it in that stew, it stretched across several mealtimes. We really enjoyed this, but at $7 for a 12 oz package, I would probably be better off buying ground chicken from them at $7.50/lb, since I took the casings off anyways! But really, I should get more comfortable with other, whole cuts of meat that are much less expensive. I swung from whole chicken all the way to brats and I needed a happy medium. We’ll call that a success once you see this weeks market bounty!!

 June 15th

 Garlic ($2), feta ($4.25), sugar snap peas ($3), sun gold tomatos ($3), 3.4lbs of bone-in pork shoulder aka boston butt (teehee! $17), potatoes (yay!!!! $6), strawberries ($4), cottage cheese ($3.75), black turtle beans ($3), and my breakfast ($3.50). We got more Chip Magnet salsa too ($7), I don’t know why it didn’t make it into the picture! And Glenn got some sort of muffin that he ate so fast that I barely caught a glimpse of it at the market. And onwards into the fourth week of the challenge!

Strawberries and Dumplings

June 13, 2013 10:58 pm by Pooja

It’s a cool, breezy June evening. I’m out on our beautiful deck with two of my loveliest girlfriends with wine (and strawberry andre) and gossip and surrounded by herbs, flowers, and strawberry plants (and catgrass). Could it get any better than that? Maybe. We also had this:

strawberry dumplings

Oh yeah, Glenn had some too.

Thank you, my favorite food blog, for this easy-to-make foolproof strawberries and dumplings that were super good even though I was a little tipsy and couldn’t figure out how big a golf ball would be.

I followed the recipe to the best of my ability, with one change. I had no milk, so subbed 1/4c buttermilk and 1/4c heavy cream. Because of the heavy cream, I only added 1+ tbsp butter (what I had left in the fridge!).

Oh yeah, we also had dinner. Goat cheese and lemon and spinach pasta, again. It was good… but not strawberries and dumplings.

It might be cool here in Wisconsin, but it sure is summertime! Three cheers for good friends and good food!

Saag Paneer and Strawberries

June 12, 2013 8:31 pm by Pooja

Remember all of that spinach? A half pound from the market and a little less than that from our CSA (plus a few leaves of swiss chard) got cooked down into this dinner:

saag paneer

This is my very first attempt as saag paneer and it came out really nicely. A quick note about saag — if this were just made of spinach then it would be palak paneer (because palak = spinach!), but this includes other leafy greens, which is why I called it saag. Saag can be any leafy green, as far as I know: spinach, kale, chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, collard greens… whatever you got!

Unfortunately, I don’t really have precise recipe for this one. There are many, many online. I called my dad and followed his directions and didn’t even think about writing anything down (oops!) However, here’s the general idea of what I did:

Saag Paneer

1lb mix of spinach, kale, and chard – tougher greens will need more cooking
7oz paneer (or 8oz… 7oz was conveniently half of my 14oz package)*
1 tbsp cooking oil
2-3 chopped green onion whites (1/2 a regular onion, when that’s what I have)
4 cloves of garlic
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tbsp tomato paste or perhaps a tomato or two
1 tbsp (?) ghee
more cumin
red pepper powder
*Also, paneer can be made at home pretty easily. I’ve only done it once before, but I’ll probably post about it when I get around to giving it another shot. Until then, google that tshi if you want to know.

1. Blanche the greens in a minimal amount of water, strain, saving the blanching water. Let cool.
2. Cube and fry (or bake – this was my dad’s suggestion) the paneer in maybe half a tbsp of oil.
3. Remove the paneer, and heat the remaining oil and fry the onion and cumin.
4. When the onion has softened, add garlic and garlic. I have no idea how much ginger I added. I totally eyeballed it.
5. After about a minute, add garam masala and tomato paste. Cook for another minute or so and add the greens.
6. I used the immersion blender to blend the greens and spices into a paste, but you could also puree the greens first. I needed some of the reserved blanching water to get a good consistency.
7. In another small pot, heat ghee and fry another half tsp of cumin and a pinch of red pepper powder. Add it to the curry!
8. Add paneer, salt to taste and eat with rice and market yogurt!

YUM! The consistency could have been a little smoother… perhaps if I’d pureed the greens into a finer paste. Also my dad suggested adding a potato, a tbsp of besan, or some moong dal to thicken it. I added a little besan after blending the greens (and cooked an extra 5 minutes), but I don’t think I added nearly enough so I can’t really comment on whether or not it actually helped. It doesn’t matter, it was great the way it was 🙂

I think we’ll get about 4 servings out of this, with a bit of rice and yogurt. If they were four equal servings each would be 230 cals, 18g fat, 4g carbs, 1g fiber, and 13g protein. (They won’t be equal because Glenn ate nearly twice as much as me… how did that happen?) Not the most low fat recipe (though it probably didn’t need that last bit of ghee), but I think it’s a small price to pay for a curry packed with greens. I suppose it would have been a more balanced meal with chicken or garbanzos instead of paneer (and with chicken and a fresh tomato it would have been totally a market curry), but paneer is so good!

Also, Glenn checked out a new market today and brought some of these home:


Great day 🙂