Pasta with Baby Greens, Beans and Walnuts

Pasta with Baby Greens, Beans and Walnuts
For my usual weeknight pasta I keep things simple with spaghetti, even though it can be a bit boring. When I stick to my routine, I don’t add to my random noodle collection. I have a shelf of partial boxes of pasta—the result of buying specific shapes for single recipes. I always end up with an odd amount that’s too small to feed my family—two adults and a three-year-old who is convinced pasta is its own food group.

To spring clean my kitchen, I made this mixed pasta with baby greens, beans and walnuts. Even though it breaks every pasta rule, all you have to do when cooking multiple shapes in a single pot is to first start with the noodle that has the longest cook-time and work your way to the one that’s the quickest. After that I tossed the warm pasta with garlic-infused olive oil, arugula, spinach, cannellini beans, walnuts, Parmesan and lemon zest.
Pasta with Baby Greens, Beans and Walnuts
Pasta with Baby Greens, Beans and Walnuts
Adapted from Everyday Food April 2008

12 ounces short pasta (farfalle, rotelle, fusilli, orecchiette, penne)
1/4 cup olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1-15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup roughly chopped toasted walnuts
1 ounce grated Parmesan plus shaved Parmesan for serving
Zest of half a lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Cook the pasta until al dente according to package instructions. If you are using multiple shapes, cook them in one pot of salted boiling water starting with the pasta that takes the longest and adding shapes per their recommended cook-time, with the quickest being added last. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the pasta to a large bowl.

Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes until fragrant and golden brown.

Stir the garlic-infused olive oil, beans, walnuts, Parmesan, lemon zest, salt and pepper into the pasta. Top with shaved Parmesan before serving.

Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels

Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels
Snacking is serious business at our house. If you look in the pantry at any given time, you will usually find at least two different kinds of pretzels. From rods to twists to nuggets, my son and I are obsessed with pretzels. When we get home after school/work, our pre-dinner snacking involves pretzels and slices of cheddar. I have to be careful not to fill up on too much, or I won’t have room for the actual meal.

I am no stranger to baking soft pretzels from scratch. Classic salt is my topping of choice, but this time I tried a new recipe—cinnamon sugar whole-wheat pretzels. They weren’t overly sweet, so they were more appropriate for breakfast or an afternoon treat rather than full-on dessert. They are best eaten warm from the oven right after they have been dusted in a shower of cinnamon and granulated sugar.
Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels
Whole-Wheat Cinnamon Sugar Pretzels
Adapted from Baked Elements by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito

Makes 10 pretzels

For pretzel dough
1 packet dry active yeast
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon honey
1 cup warm water
1-1/2 cups bread flour
1-1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 ounce (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cool but not cold, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons canola oil
Non-stick cooking spray
1/3 cup baking soda

For cinnamon sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the yeast, honey and water. Let stand until foamy, about 8-10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the bread flour, whole-wheat flour and salt. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the mixture until it has the consistency of coarse sand. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and beat on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium, and beat until the dough is smooth and elastic. Remove the dough from the bowl and pour in the canola oil. Place the dough back in the bowl and coat it in oil. Cover and let the dough rise until it doubles in volume, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F. Grease 2 sheet pans with non-stick cooking spray.

Cut the dough into 10 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 18 inches long, and then twist into a pretzel shape. Place the pretzels on the prepared sheet pans.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Carefully add the baking soda. The water will bubble and foam. Boil each pretzel, 1 minute per side. Remove with a spatula and place on the sheet pans.

Bake the pretzels, one pan at a time, until they are deep golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.

For the cinnamon sugar, combine the sugar, cinnamon and salt in a shallow bowl. Brush the warm pretzels with melted butter and generously sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. The pretzels are best served the day they are baked.

Apple Walnut Rye Salad

Apple Walnut Rye Salad
Happy first day of spring! Even though winter hasn’t been that bad, I am still hoping that a magical switch will get flipped turning on warm sunshine. A better selection of fruits and vegetables would be nice, too. I know I am asking for a bit much, and I should try to be more patient. I just can’t wait for May, when it really feels like spring.

For now, I am alternating between soup and salads depending on what coat I am wearing—puffy or trench—and my mood. With a surplus of my favorite kind of apple, the Pink Lady, I made this apple walnut rye salad. It was snappy, crispy, and I loved the toasty crumbs of rye bread along with scallions, chives and lime juice.
Apple Walnut Rye Salad
Apple Walnut Rye Salad
Adapted from Bon Appetit September 2013

Serves 4

4 slices rye bread, torn into small pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper plus more to taste
1/2 cup walnut halves
2 Pink Lady apples, cored and sliced into rings
1 ounce shaved white cheddar
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon parsley, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon minced chives
juice of 1 lime

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the rye bread on a sheet pan and toss with 1 tablespoon olive, salt and pepper. Bake until light brown and toasted, about 12-15 minutes. In the last 6-8 minutes of cooking, add the walnuts to the sheet pan, baking until golden. Let cool.

In a large bowl, combine the toasted rye bread, walnuts, apples, cheddar, scallions, parsley and chives. Toss in the lime juice and remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Peanut Butter Brownies

Peanut Butter Brownies
Pi Day (3/14) was earlier this week, but I didn’t get around to baking a pie this year. Fortunately, I am lucky to spend my workdays with the most thoughtful, fun and festive colleagues. Two of them surprised the entire office with an assortment of pies—key lime, apple and s’more, to name a few. It was such a treat to have a little bite of this and that. I made sure to try everything.

A peanut butter pie stole my heart with its silky filling and berry jam top, but I couldn’t help dreaming of chocolate instead of fruit. That magical combination will always be my number 1. I baked a batch of peanut butter brownies that were so good I couldn’t stop myself from devouring a square while making dinner. Don’t worry, my child did not witness me indulging in dessert before the meal.
Peanut Butter Brownies
Peanut Butter Brownies

Adapted from Food & Wine December 2007 and Martha Stewart Living February 2004

Makes 16 brownies

For brownie batter
1-1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cubed, plus more for pan
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

For peanut butter swirl
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly butter a foil-lined 9-inch square baking pan.

For the brownie batter, melt the butter and chocolate in a large saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add the cocoa powder, sugar, eggs and vanilla extract thoroughly mixing after each addition. Gently fold in the flour.

For the peanut butter swirl, stir together the butter, confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, salt and vanilla extract in a small bowl.

Spread one-third of the chocolate batter in the bottom of  the prepared baking pan. Spoon tablespoon-sized dollops of the peanut mixture about 1 inch apart in the pan. Spoon the remaining brownie batter around the peanut butter. Gently drag a butter knife through the batter both lengthwise and crosswise to make swirls. Tap the bottom of the pan on a counter to smooth out the batter into an even layer.

Bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a bit of batter.  Cool and cut into 16 squares.

Store in an airtight container.

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