Monday, April 26, 2010

Cheap, healthy, tasty--Vegetable Pasta

I (try to) stick to a tight budget, especially with groceries. In some ways its cheaper since we changed our eating habits - we don't buy packaged cookies, chips, etc. We limit our meat, cheese and dairy. However, since we switched from animal fats to primarily veggie fats, we go through a lot more olive oil, not to mention twice the amount of fruits and veggies that we used to. I use tons of spices to bulk up flavor while keeping the salt content reasonable, and those get expensive too. Since I haven't quite figured out how to budget for the new groceries (and since I'm not amazing with money in the first place) I blew our grocery budget with about a week and a half left in the month. Part of me instantly wanted to run to the store, stick it on credit or just go over into other parts of the budget/reserve money. Instead, I looked in the pantry, gave myself a pep talk and decided to get creative with what we have for the remainder of the month. I'm determined to make nutritious, yummy, filling meals out of what we have at home already.

Since I've been posting about our weight loss and change in diet, I thought it was about time to post some recipes! These are still being tweaked and I don't make any recipe the same way twice, but it'll give you an idea of what we've been eating.

For dinner tonight we had Roasted Vegetable Pasta. The recipe is really simple and has become a recent staple for us. There are a million ways to change it up to your taste preferences.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta (with Homemade Marinara)
Preheat oven to 400.
1 large can crushed tomatoes (28 oz)
1 can petite diced tomatoes, or another crushed if you like it really smooth (14.5 oz)
1 medium yellow onion
2 tablespoons of minced garlic or a few cloves
olive oil
vegetables- I recommend red bell pepper, broccoli, zucchini, cherry tomatoes and carrots, but experimenting with your favorites is fun too! If you use peas, though, do not roast them.
pasta (I like Whole Foods whole wheat rotini. I would use anything that has a true "shape")

1. *see marinara recipe below* Let the marinara sauce simmer (It doesn't have to be homemade, but I'll include by very basic, super-easy marinara recipe below.) Simmering will benefit homemade by letting all of the flavors meld together better, and will benefit a jar/can sauce by helping it taste less "canned". I don't usually measure, but I throw maybe a tablespoon (small "cup" part of your palm) of basil and some cracked pepper in at this point as well.

2.Chop up all of the veggies (they don't have to be small, just not so big that you have to unhinge your jaw to eat them). Drizzle olive oil over the veggies, toss until evenly coated. Crack a little pepper on them if desired. Pop in the oven for 20 min.

3. Put roasted vegetables into the marinara sauce and mix well. Prepare pasta according to directions and pour marinara/veg mixture over cooked pasta. Top with fresh basil and Parmesan cheese (optional).

Basic Marinara

1. Go about two seconds around a large skillet with a bottle of olive oil. Heat on medium. Chop onion and garlic and sauté in pan until onions are soft, about 5 minutes.
2. Pour one can crushed tomatoes and petite diced tomatoes in skillet. Let heat until bubbly, reduce heat. Let simmer and throw in a tablespoon or two of dried basil and/or oregano. If you like a little kick, some crushed red pepper is good too. Let simmer for at least 30 minutes. Taste, and add more seasoning if needed.

This picture isn't as pretty as I intended, but I forgot to take a picture while cooking. This is the leftovers for Chris' lunch tomorrow...

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