Sunday, February 24, 2008

Test Drive Creations

Ellie, Ina, Mollie, oh my! What will I do without your helpful instructions? Okay, I decided to abandon my beloved cookbooks (at least temporarily) and strike out on my own. It started two days ago when I had four different cheeses leftover from my squash mac & cheese recipe, as well as a bag of red peppers, organic carrots, zucchinis and onions. I knew the clock was ticking and I had to do something before they went to the dark side. Then it hit me...veggie lasagna! However, I didn't have my favorite jar of marinara sauce (Rao's) in the house. For me, lasagna is all about the sauce. So, I peeked in the pantry and saw a nice big 28 oz can of whole tomatoes and decided to just go for it. I wasn't quite brave enough to start winging it without checking with my Cooking Light friends ( I had a few great suggestions, including roasting the veggies first.

Before I post the recipe and results, I have to give a lot of credit to my husband. Not only is he Test Drive Kitchen's chief taster, but he does ALL the dishes. I do the meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking and he deals with my mess. He recently suggested that I rate the pileup I create per recipe. Without further ado, here is the star of the Dirty Dish rating system:

After each recipe, I'll give it a rating - 5 pictures of this guy in a row = colossal mess or 1 picture = nothing to complain about)

Here we go:

Karen's Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

28 oz can of whole tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
1 small onion, diced
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 heaping T of Sicilian Seasonings (Victoria Taylor is the brand)
Kosher salt

2 Zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch round slices
4 carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch round slices
3 red peppers, roughly chopped
1 large onion, roughly chopped

4 oz grated Monterrey Jack cheese
3 oz grated Sharp Cheddar cheese
2 oz grated Mozzarella Cheese
¾ cup skim Ricotta cheese

Preheat oven to 425 F and place vegetables in a single layer in 9 X 13 casserole dish. Add 1 T of olive oil and generous pinch of kosher salt and few grinds of the pepper I used two casserole dishes and put them on different shelves. Set timer to 30 minutes. If vegetables are tender and slightly brown on edges, it’s done.

While veggies are roasting, prepare lasagna noodles according to package directions. Next, add 1 T of olive oil to medium sized pot and add onion when it is heated. Saute the onion for 5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add can of crushed tomatoes (I only had canned whole tomatoes, so I spent some time mashing them in the pot as they heated up.) Then, add 1 T of olive oil and heaping T of spices. Mix well. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and add salt to your liking.

Add cheeses along with one egg and mix well. Set aside.

When veggies are done, let them cool briefly, then add to the cheese mixture. Take a 9X13 casserole dish and spray with Pam. Start building the lasagna: Sauce, Noodles, Cheese mixture, Sauce, Noodles, Cheese mixture, Sauce, then finally the top layer of Noodles. You’ll want to add a bit more sauce – just a thin layer- to the top. If you’ve run out, use just a plain canned tomato sauce. You don’t need much.

Bake lasagna at 400 F (turn the oven down after the veggies are roasted) for 45 minutes. Cool for ten minutes and serve.
  • Big thumbs up from my hubby. I really enjoyed it, too. I think this is my "go to" lasagna recipe from now on.

  • It was pretty darn cheesy and wasn't as "light" as my usual fare. I may experiment in the future with this part of the dish.

  • My blogger buddies Josie and Joe suggested shredding the zucchini for texture. I'll definitely try this next time.

  • My Dirty Dish rating:

Medium size mess. 2 pots, three bowls, two casserole dishes, cutting board and knives!

For a much smaller mess and a quick and easy lunch, try my Moroccan inspired Orzo.

Karen's Orzo, Sweet, Orzo

1 cup of cooked orzo (made with chicken broth)

1/2 cup of chickpeas (slightly heated)

3 t of powdered sugar

1/2 T of cinnamon

1 T of sliced almonds

1 T golden raisins

Mix it all in a bowl and enjoy!

Teeny Tiny Dirty Dish rating:

1 small pot for orzo. Voila!

Friday, February 22, 2008

See if you can eat just one

I'm trying something new and I'm eager to hear what you think. I thought it might be fun to create a recipe card for you to click, print and put right into your recipe box. The size is 4 X 6 and can print right onto an index card.

I don't know about you, but potato chips are my biggest weakness. Hidden deep in the Ellie Krieger cookbook is this fantastic, healthier alternative. Not only is it tasty, but it's so easy and fun to make. And when zucchinis are growing in your garden, it's nice to have a lot of options.

  • Next time I make these, I'm going to cut thicker zucchini slices. Because these shrink a bit while baking (they looked just like Shrinky Dinks for you thirty-somethings out there!), some of them became too thin and fell apart.
  • I know it's hard to eat just one, but remember to share with family and friends. But hey, if they're not quick enough, what are you going to do? Enjoy!

Barbara Kingsolver writes about "zucchini wars" in her book - Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I laughed out loud many times while reading about how she dealt with a zucchini surplus. I just found the chapter about her zucchini wars online at this site:

Read it for a great laugh. Just don't drink milk while doing it. You know, too much laughter plus milk equals an embarrassing moment. C'mon, it's happened to all of us at some time.

Right? No? Oh well. Just me.

A Fresh Coat of Paint

Do you like my new look?

As my Grandmother Sara (who was always very fashionable and was never without a beautiful silk scarf, sparkly earrings and pint of hairspray) might say, "You look stunning! Wear it in the best of health."

Many, many thanks to the very talented Becky from Lady in Waiting Blog Designs ( She did a fantastic job giving me more than just a fresh coat of paint, but brought her creative spirit to the job. I'm really blown away. I recommend her services highly!

I have a new list of recipes to try, including something quick and delicious with zucchini this afternoon.

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tag. I'm it!

Last night, after a rousing game of Monopoly with my hubby and his sister that went late into the night (the three of us are so competitive!), I checked my blog and found that I'm part of a new game. This is my first game of "virtual" tag, basically a getting to know you game between like-minded bloggers. I haven't share much here except my passion for healthy cooking, so this is a good opportunity to highlight some others happening outside of Test Drive Kitchen.

Thank you to Josie from 1 Kitchen, 2 Dogs and a Girl ( for tagging me and getting me involved!

Here are my instructions via Josie:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
2. Share 5 facts about yourself.
3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names, linking to them.
4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

Here we go.....

  • I grew up in the Southern region of New Jersey, close to the city of Philadelphia. At age 22, I moved to Washington, DC and I'm still trying to lose my accent. I grew up on diner food, spent summers at the Jersey shore, listened to Jon Bon Jovi, and teased my bangs to new heights. I'm a Jersey girl at heart even though I left over a decade ago.
  • There are certain movie scenes that no matter how many times I've seen them, I cry. Same spot in the movie, every time. Field of Dreams: "Dad, wanna have a catch?" and Rudy getting into Notre Dame on his last attempt to transfer schools and play football are just two examples.
  • I've been taking classes in improvisational comedy for almost a year. Last weekend, I performed at the DC Improv with my classmates in front of our family and friends. It was a total rush!
  • I never knew that I would love a dog as much as I do our 1 1/2 year old golden retriever. I didn't grow up around animals, but always wanted a pet. I didn't realize how much of a family member she would become. I can't believe how much fur I kiss a day. If you don't kiss fur, you don't know what you're missing.
  • And for something very personal (I discussed with my hubby before posting), we are in the process of building our family through adoption. We're under a heap of paperwork right now, so that's why I'm blogging less frequently right now. We can't wait to be parents and I'm excited to one day make healthy meals for my children.

I've tagged the following people:

  1. Vicci at The Days are Just Packed ( She's always posting great comments on my blog and I love the way she writes about her life!
  2. Ricki at Diet, Dessert and Dogs ( We share the same cooking philosphy.
  3. Kathy at Panini Happy ( She's the beautiful wife (and new mother!) of my husband's best buddy. She's cooking up a storm and creating fantastic panini recipes.
  4. Ana at Kitchen Space (, she's exploring the world of Ellie Krieger. We're both Ellie's superfans. I'm so envious that Ana just met her in person!
  5. Finally, Jessie at Cakespy ( Her blog is so amazing. GREAT artwork and just a really fun blog to read. It makes me smile everytime I check it out.

Okay, who's turn is it? Pass me the dice.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Like a kid in a candy store

Dear Williams-Sonoma,

I love you. Very very much. Your bright and shiny kitchen tools beckon me to enter through your hallowed doorway. You seem to have something new for me everytime. It's like you knew I'd be coming and wanted me to feel welcome.

On this Valentine's Day, I ask you just one thing in return for all the marvelous things you gave (sold) me. For the love of all things holy, please let me go. Please. I simply can't afford you. One day soon when I walk past you in the mall, just look away. Like we never meant anything to each other.

Oh, I love you. And how I'll miss you. But if you ever think of me (by slashing your prices), I'm just an email away.

Warmly (350 F),


Williams-Sonoma: Essentials of Healthful Cooking:
I can't believe I haven't mentioned this book before! It's absolutely one of my favorites. I go back to it time and time again. If you've tried "my favorite side dish of all time" - sweet potatoes and cranberry hash, then you know that this book contains some real gems.

The recipes, stunning pictures and helpful techinques within this book is just the tip of the iceberg. When I first started out cooking with health in mind, this was my playbook. The first few pages offer an ingredient list for a healthy kitchen. Then later it illustrates which kitchen equipment and tools are essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I sincerely believe this is a "must-have."

One last thought, that many of you will appreciate: the pages don't stick! This is a well made book and takes a beating well. Even my puppy has chewed on the hard cover edges and it kept on ticking.

Goat Cheese and Potato Gratin
from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Healthful Cooking

2 t extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 lb small round white potatoes
2 T finely chopped Italian parsley
1 t fresh thyme
1 T all purpose plain flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 oz crumbled very cold fresh goat cheese (about 3/4 cup)
1 1/4 cups 1 percent fat milk
1 T grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Brush an 8 in. square or other shallow 1 1/2 quart baking dish with olive oil.

Using a mandoline or a large sharp knife, slice the potatoes paper thin.

In a small bowl, stir together the parsley and 1 t thyme. In another small bowl, stir together the flour, 1/4 t s and a grind of pepper. Place the goat cheese in a third bowl.

Arrange 1/3 of the potato slices, slightly overlapping them, in the baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with half of the herb mix, half of the flour mix and one third of the goat cheese. Arrange 1/2 of the remaining potato slices on top, again overlapping them slightly. Sprinkle evenly with the remaining herb mix, flour mix, and half the remaining cheese. Arrange the remaining potato slices in a layer on top and sprinkle with the remaining goat cheese. Pour the milk evenly on top.

Cover the dish tightly with foil. Bake until the potatoes are tender with pierced with a knife. About 1 hour. Uncover, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano, and continue to bake until golden. About 15 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let stand 15 min. before serving. This will allow it time to thicken.

Garnish with thyme leaves and serve.

  • Can anything with potatoes and cheese ever be bad? Even if you're not a goat cheese fan, this dish might win you over. Thank you to my hubby for introducing me to goat cheese several years ago. I've loved it - and you- ever since.

Happy Valentine's Day everyone.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A Dish Served Best Cold. (Nope, not revenge.)

Hi folks. Sorry for then lengthy pause between postings. Over the last week, I've made a medley of old favorites - turkey meatloaf, baked turbot with lemon, cauliflower with scallions and orange zest, sauteed broccoli with roasted garlic, poached salmon with wine and dill, roasted root vegetables, mixed greens with hazelnuts and nutty dressing, etc. I even went out to eat (gasp!!) twice. I've posted most, if not all, of those recipes before. However, if you would like to try any and need the link, just leave me a message in the comments section.

I finally cracked a cookbook this weekend and tried a new recipe or two. Basically I surveyed what I had on hand - which was not much. I'm down to just a few bags of fresh produce - swiss chard, kale, italian parsley, scallions, shallots, sweet pototoes plus a garden of fresh herbs growing on my dining room window sill (apple mint, basil, thyme). We were totally out of chicken, ground turkey and fish in our freezer. I'm amazed. I never thought I would be able to clean out our freezer on a monthly basis. Oh, and I used up all of my eggs when I made scrambled eggs with Gruyere and Parmesan for breakfast on Saturday. As you can see, I've been busy. But I was still hungry last night. There was meatloaf left, but one can only have so much in a weekend. Oh, and the last thing I wanted to see on a Sunday night was a sink full of dishes.

So, the challenge was this: easy, fast, vegetarian and limited mess potential. Here we go:

Soba Noodle-Vegetable Salad by Ellie Krieger

4 ounces soba noodles, or whole-wheat spaghetti
1 large shallot, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups shredded carrot
1 red pepper, julienne
1/3 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup shredded fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon walnut oil (or canola oil)
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce, or 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
6 large Bibb lettuce leaves

Boil noodles according to package directions. Drain and cool. In a medium to large bowl, combine noodles, shallot, carrot, pepper, basil, mint, and cilantro. Combine all dressing ingredients, season with salt to taste, add to noodle mixture, and toss lightly.

Snap off Bibb lettuce leaves and wash and dry. To serve, scoop spoonfuls of noodle salad into the lettuce leaves.

  • Having just purchased my herb garden last week and hoping my inner green thumb would surface, I was delighted to see my herbs growing with vigor. It was really gratifying to have enough healthy looking herbs to take a pair of kitchen shears to and cut the amount of mint and basil I needed for this recipe. Our house gets a lot of great light, but the best southern exposure is in our dining room. Here's hoping everything is still thriving next week!
  • Please don't get angry with me, but I have a confession to make. I really dislike cilantro. I know many cooks out there love it and include it in everything, but the flavor is too strong for me. I usually substitute it with italian parsley. They are in the same family, but the parsley has a more subtle taste.
  • Do you have a Bloom supermarket near you? If so, I highly recommend you check this chain out. The layout is different than any grocery store I've ever been to (I'm positive the planners were drinking a lot good wine one night and drew up a sketch on a napkin placing the packaged sweet rolls in the middle of the produce aisle and hid the milk to encourage shoppers to take part in a scavenger hunt. But I digress.) There must be some genius to their madness, because the store is doing well. The reason I mention it is because I hit paydirt the other day while looking for some speciality items. They seem to carry everything in this store. This is where I picked up hazelnut and walnut oil. My point...oh, right. This recipe calls for walnut oil!
  • I used whole wheat linguine instead of soba noodles and I used soy sauce instead of fish sauce here. Did I have fish sauce? Yes. Did I screw up my attempts to open the bottle and was left cursing at the fish sauce even though it was not the bottle's fault? Yes.
  • Where is my microplane grater?? It wasn't in the dishwasher or any of the drawers. Sadly, my attempts at zesting a lime with a box grater were unsuccesful.
  • Even with all of these mishaps, this was a nice, light, fresh dish. I mistakenly heated up a bowl for lunch today and found that this salad was meant to be enjoyed cold -hence my post title.
  • By the way, what a cute idea to scoop it up with Bibb lettuce. Since I was on my own, I nixed this idea, but when company's over this will be fun to try.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sweet and Savory Snack

Ellie Krieger has a recipe for Spiced Mixed Nuts that is crazy good. Someone please take these away from me. Lock them up somewhere safe. I'm serious. You should only make the following recipe when you're expecting a lot of people over. Otherwise, I can't be held liable for what might happen in your house.

1/2 cup raw pecans
1/2 cup raw almonds
1/3 cup shelled raw pistachios
1/3 cup raw cashews
1/3 cup shelled raw pumpkin seeds
1 T pure maple syrup
1/2 t curry powder
1/8 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t dried rosemary
1/4 t salt
Cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Combine the nuts and seeds in a medium bowl. Add the maple syrup, spices, rosemary, and salt and toss to combine.

Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray, then transfer the coated nuts to the sheet and spread evenly in a single layer. Bake, stirring once, until the nuts are fragrant and lightly toasted. Approx. 15-20 min. Remove from the oven and let cool.

  • After the mixture cooled, I added dried cherries, cranberries and thin pretzels called "pretzel crisps" to the batch. Last night I ran out to my class (yes, I'm quite the scholar. check out my class at, with a bag of this for dinner. I normally would never skip a meal, but I lost track of time. I opened my ziploc bag of these during our break and many heads whipped around to see where the aroma was coming from....

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Sure, variety is the spice of life. But is it the key to good health, too?

Most of us who enjoy cooking do so because we get pleasure from the flavors, the aromas, and the textures of food. Certain foods also evoke happy memories because they are part of our cherished traditions and experiences. However, it's occured to me over the last year that I've been drawn to cooking for another reason. I'm totally fascinated by the powerful health benefits derived from using new spices, obscure (until recently) vegetables and even learning which foods can be combined to increase their nutritional potency. It also hasn't been lost on me that by looking at food this way I've put one priority -that's always driven me - aside. And that is....does it taste good? Honestly, there's not always an easy answer to this. I'm learning that my taste buds are not at all objective. They are totally subjective. They have been "taught" to enjoy the same flavors over and over again. And the older I get, the harder it is to change their memory. But just like children can be picky over their food, I know I need to try things multiple times before I learn to like it and one day even crave it. Someday soon my tastebuds will have new memories to draw from, I know I will say a resounding yes to that question - does it taste good - the majority of the time.

Now, why am I'm putting myself through this? Shouldn't I leave my thirty something year old tastebuds alone? It's because I really believe there's more to eating then the intitial "yum" factor. I've already proven to myself that eating differently has had a huge impact on my health. In fact, 2007 was the first year in a decade that I didn't visit my doctor once.

Okay, enough of the build up's what you've been waiting for...

Lamb Curry was the meal of choice for Superbowl Sunday. I've been fascinated by both Chinese and Indian cuisines for a while now. There's a great deal of health benefits found in many of their dishes including curry. Turmeric, the bright yellow spice that gives curry it's vibrant color, is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent.

According to Wikipedia, " In the Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is thought to have many medicinal properties and many in India use it as a readily available antiseptic for cuts and burns. Whenever there is a cut or a bruise, the home remedy is to reach for turmeric powder. Ayurvedic doctors say it has fluoride which is thought to be essential for teeth. It is also used as an antibacterial agent. It is taken in some Asian countries as a dietary supplement, which allegedly helps with stomach problems and other ailments. It is popular as a tea in Okinawa, Japan. It is currently being investigated for possible benefits in Alzheimer's disease, cancer and liver disorders."

Learn more about the health benefits from turmeric here:

Lamb Curry & Cucumber Raita from Earthbound Farm's Organic Cookbook, "Foods to Live By"

1 lb boneless lamb stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1/4 cup of canola or olive oil

1 medium size yellow onion, 1/4 inch dice (about 1 cup)

1/2 t of turmeric

1 t ground cinnamon

1/2 t ground cardamom

1/2 t ground cumin

1/2 t ground coriander

1/4 t ground clovees

1/2 t ground cayenne pepper

2 T minced peeled fresh ginger

1 T minced garlic

1 can (15 oz) diced tomatoes with their juice

3 medium size (about 1 lb) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice (about 2 cups)

1 cup of fresh or frozen (unthawed) green peas

Season lamb with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a heavy large pot over med-high heat. Working in batches if needed to avoid overcrowding the pot, add the lamb and brown well on all sides. 5 to 8 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the lamb to a bowl and set aside.

Reduce heat to med-low and add the onion and tumeric and stir. Then add the cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, corainder, cloves, cayenne pepper, and 1 t of salt to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and cook. Stirring constantly until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Return the lamb to the pot. Add 2 cups of water and the tomatoes with their juice, increase the heat to med-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the potatoes and cook, covered until the lamb and potatoes are tender, 20-30 minutes. Add the peas and cook until the peas are heated through, about 5 min. Taste for seasoning.

Cucumber Raita (to be served as a cooling flavor to offset the spicy heat of the curry)

2 cups of nonfat or low fat plain yogurt

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and coarsely grated

3/4 t salt

3/4 t cumin

Dash of cayenne pepper

Place all ingredients in a medium size bowl and stir to combine. Refrigerate the raita, covered until the flavors meld, at least 15 minutes. Serve with curry.

This was a surprisingly easy recipe to make. The hardest work is measuring out the spices. I did it all before I even started cooking so I wouldn't forget which spice I had already added to the pot (yes, I've done that a million times before.)

The lamb browned easily on each side. For me it was much faster than the recipe indicated. It took me a total of 5 minutes for the entire package of stew meat. In the end, the lamb was very tender. I think this is my favorite way of cooking it over broiling or grilling. By the way, I'm looking for ideas on how to remain out of harm's way when cooking with hot oil. Does anyone ever use safety goggles?

I used seedless organic cucumbers for the raita. I could skip the step of seeding them and it took no time at all to grate them. Definitely a great addition to the curry.

I originally made a saffron couscous with green onions to serve alongside the curry and raita. However, I found it to be too flavorful. It just competed too much with the maindish. So, I got rid of it and just made plain whole wheat couscous. I'm kicking myself for wasting precious saffron threads, but oh well.

My hands and the kitchen counters were very yellow after I finished preparing this dish. Next time I'll wear latex gloves and cover my counters with plastic wrap!

Are you wondering yet if I thought it tasted good? Let me just say this. I have not been exposed to curry much in my life. When I'm eating it I know it has a very unique flavor profile. Not one I'm used to at all. For now, I can appreciate it. In time, I think I will like it a lot. I just need to keep trying it and give my tastebuds some time to play catch up. The lamb was excellent.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Ladies that Lunch

Guess what? I'm thisclose to finishing all the fresh produce and veggies in my fridge! I thought it would be a challenge to do so while my hubby is away, but is hasn't been hard at all. I am now down to two heads of Romaine lettuce (lunch today), a large bag of kale (to be sautéed as a side dish for dinner tonight paired with one sliced apple), three medium sweet potatoes (to be made baked into fries for Super Bowl Sunday), two scallions, carrots, and two lemons. Thank you to my friend who left a comment recently suggesting I squeeze and freeze (the citrus fruit, of course). That was a brilliant idea! Oh, and guess what else I'm finally out of? Extra virgin olive oil! I really can't believe it, but I am. When I did my fall inventory, I had six partially used bottles. And now I'm almost out completely.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to cook for two wonderful ladies. One enjoyed what I served, and the other preferred to just sip on her bottle of formula. She's still just a wee one. I decided to make homemade takeout: veggie fried rice and whole wheat linguine in a peanut-lime sauce. I've already posted the fried rice recipe, so here's the noodles:

Aromatic Noodles with Lime Peanut Sauce by - who else - Ellie Krieger

3/4 pound spinach linguine or whole-wheat spaghetti

2 cups (about 9 ounces) broccoli florets

2 cups (about 6 ounces) snow peas, trimmed

2 cups (about 6 ounces) sugar snap peas, trimmed

1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 scallion, cut into pieces

3/4 inch fresh ginger, finely grated

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 cup shelled unsalted peanuts

Cook the pasta in a large pot of water according to the directions on the package. Drain and rinse with cold water. While the pasta is cooking put the broccoli in a steamer basket over a large pot of boiling water and steam it for 3 minutes. Add the snow peas and sugar snap peas and steam for 2 minutes more.

Toast the peanuts in a dry pan over a medium heat until they become fragrant, about 3 minutes. Set them aside to cool. Make the sauce by pureeing the peanut butter, soy sauce, water, vinegar, lime juice, scallion, ginger, sugar and red pepper flakes in a food processor or blender until smooth.

Right before serving, toss the pasta with 3/4 cup of the peanut sauce. Divide into 6 serving bowls and top each serving with the vegetables. Drizzle the remaining sauce over the vegetables. Coarsely chop the peanuts, sprinkle them on top and serve.

First of all, what's better than peanut butter and noodles? With the exception of peanut butter and chocolate, I think this is my favorite way to enjoy it. I recently traded in my Jiff for the Whole Foods nonsweetened version of PB. My hubby was resistant at first, and now he loves it.
  • If you have kids, I really think this is a winner. You can throw in any vegetables you want because they will gobble it up with this sauce. If they do try it, let me know what they think.
  • This is perhaps the fastest of all of Ellie's recipes I've tried. The pasta is easy because it's one step. For the steamed veggies, I'm using Glad's Simply Cooking microwave steaming bags. So basically, I'm just cutting them up and placing them in the bag. The most work-intensive part of this recipe is reaching in your pantry for the ingredients and getting out your measuring cups and spoons. I guess what I'm trying to say is this is the ultimate "go-to" dinner. Fifteen minutes tops.
  • My only suggestion is if there are leftovers (with a family of four, there shouldn't be), don't mix the noodles with the sauce when you're putting it away. I've made this recipe twice now and put it away mixed together. It just doesn't look or taste the same (texture-wise) after being refrigerated and heated up again. It turns out gritty and not at all smooth. Definitely not as beautiful as the first presentation. Oh, and I heard somewhere that if you want to save pasta without sauce and not have it stick together, you should just add a little olive oil to it. I've tried this method successfully.
  • I think the ginger in the sauce really gives it an extra kick. Even though I'm a recent convert to ginger, as a kid, gingerale was a permanent fixture in our house. I found some interesting information about ginger on Eating Well magazine's website:
  • Chinese sailors noshed on it to stop seasickness. Ancient Greeks ate it wrapped
    in bread to quell nausea after a feast. Now, an increasing number of studies
    back ginger’s role in easing queasiness—particularly in pregnant women with
    morning sickness. Researchers are also investigating whether ginger may help
    relieve nausea caused by chemotherapy. Scientists believe that compounds in
    ginger, called gingerols, inhibit serotonin receptors in the digestive and
    nervous systems. (Increased serotonin levels in the brain have been associated
    with nausea.) Ginger also is known to stimulate appetite. Makes sense: if it
    makes you feel better, you may be up for eating again.