Yellow beans + cherry tomato summer pasta

The thing about photographing food is that you have to take the time to photograph it before you eat it. This really doesn’t work well for me, because to do it properly you need to take a fair amount of pictures. Lately I’ve been snapping like, six, hoping they’re fine and then munch munch.

Yesterday I felt like I was making a big error putting beans in pasta, but it was wunderbar.

I was in Wimbledon Village when I stumbled upon a nice little supermarket called Bayley & Sage and found yellow beans, which I was genuinely excited about. I feel like being this excited about finding beans is some kind of reflection on my coolness factor/age …

I also bought locally grown maters and fresh egg tagliatelle.

Yeller beans. Chopped and tossed into the sauce with just a few minutes to go so they’d maintain their crunch.

To make the “sauce” I heated cherry tomatoes, a garlic clove, olive oil, white wine, lemon juice and s&p.

For garnish I added a few sliced raw tomatoes.

Twirl in the salad.

Done.

Stabbing vegetables is healthy …

… in the same way petting a cat is healthy. Relieves stress, you know?

I’m lying. Cutting this f*&^ing butternut squash relieved no stress. It made me furious.

I’m sure all you experienced butternut squash cutters will look at this disaster below and pick out at least five things I’ve done wrong, but whatever. This is not intuitive.

Oh, and peeling this f*^%ing butternut squash? What a joke. The lady on the Google tutorial that I spent approximately 3 seconds searching for made it seem like a breeze. I tried it, then went back to the tutorial, expecting to find the words PSYCH! written at the end.

Remember when we used to say “psych!” at every opportunity back in the 90s? I’m trying to bring it back. It’s, like, slang. From England.

Anyway, I was making Angela’s vegan mac & cheeze. Although I wouldn’t exactly call it mac & cheese, it’s GOOD. Excellent, in fact. I kept eating the sauce straight out of the blender. If you’re skeptical about the taste of nutritional yeast, you don’t need to be with this recipe. It’s smooth, slightly sweet and creamy. Perfect comfort food, and vegan! I’m so impressed. And stuffed.

Coconut oil orzo with black beans

Coconut oil: my new obsession. Slightly coconut-y, buttery and creamy tasting all at the same time. Perfect as a butter substitute because it’s great over vegetables or plain pasta, like orzo.

I’ve taken a strong liking (addiction?) to orzo with coconut oil and sea salt. I’m aware this seems a bit weird, so I don’t know how keen I am to recommend it on my blog as something you must try. I, however, am in love with it and if you are feeling adventurous, give it a try! Another thing I love which people seem to find weird is dipping peanut butter or tuna sandwiches in tomato soup. I will not eat a bowl of tomato soup unless I have one of those two sandwiches to dip in it.

Friday I tried adding black beans to my coconut orzo to make it seem like a bit more of a meal, and I think it worked a treat. Black beans work so well in either sweet or spicy things, and they were perfect in this as well.

So, yeah. Try it or not, but at least now you can’t say you haven’t heard of coconut oil.

My fail-safe meal

Yesterday I got home from work and played four solid hours of Bioshock 2. I’m obsessed with that game, mostly because it’s a cool game, but primarily because if you play on easy it’s easy enough for a person like me to succeed.

That’s me!

Games that are too difficult on an easy level result in me turning off the console and saying, “I’M NEVER PLAYING THAT AGAIN!”

Back to my point. Because I was so busy playing Bioshock and my food wasn’t getting delivered until the following day, I didn’t have time or ingredients to make a complex lunch.

This meant only one thing: my fail-safe meal option. It’s my dad’s recipe, and for as long as I’ve been alive we’ve been eating it alongside grilled chicken wings soaked in Frank’s Red Hot.

When I’m away from home it’s only the noodles that remain, but I like to think I’m eating them in honor of Frank’s chicken wings.

The recipe is so simple, and all the ingredients are things you’ll always have on hand.

– Spaghetti

– Parmesan cheese (grated)

– Milk

– Salt

– Garlic Powder

– Butter

Simply cook the pasta, and once it’s done and drained put it back into the pan to add the ingredients. A little butter, a little milk, salt, a dash of garlic powder – give it a stir. Then add however much cheese you want. Because the pan is still hot the cheese should melt pretty quickly and the little bit of milk helps it seem cheesier. Without the milk and butter it gets kind of dry and the cheese doesn’t get melty and clumpy the way I like.

It seems simple, but it’s so good.

Smoked broccoli bakes

Inspiration comes when you least expect it. I normally never buy prepared meals from the grocery, but I bought two Spanish tapas dishes from Waitrose last week because they were on sale and they came in a cute terracotta pot.

White beans and manchego cheese for me, and chorizo meatballs for my husband. Popped them in the oven and 20 minutes later we had two delicious tapas pots. I *love* tapas.

I especially love spicy cheese and beans.

Tomorrow’s my last day before vacation so I wanted to use up anything that will go bad within two weeks.

Findings in the fridge included:

– leftover whole wheat fusilli pasta

– half a pot of ricotta cheese

– leftover kidney beans

– smoked applewood cheese

– two little terracotta pots screaming to be used immediately

I’m always hesitant about pasta bakes because they’re often so heavy and unhealthy, so I¬†decided to try to make a pasta bake that was more broccoli and bean than pasta and cheese but that still packed a big flavor.

If you haven’t tried smoked applewood cheese – give it a shot. It’s one of my favorites. I added a few smallish chunks to the dish in hopes that it would melt over the broccoli and pasta and create an illusion of a cheesier dish.

I also got some new tea towels I wanted to experiment with so I kinda needed to cook something cool ūüôā

I pre-heated the oven and cooked the broccoli until just done. While the broccoli was cooking I combined the ricotta, kidney beans, sea salt and applewood chunks. Key ingredient: smoked paprika. I added only a little because a little goes a long way. I wanted to give the smoky flavor of the cheese an extra little kick, and I think the smoked paprika worked perfectly in this instance.

Plus, paprika always gives a dish gorgeous specks of color!

Smoked broccoli bakes, pre-oven:

… and the finished product.

Mix it up while the cheese is still melty and there’s just enough cheese for each bite.

If you noticed the tea towels look different in different pics, I had a tough time with this English sun. When I started it was very bright and sunny, then it went cloudy, then it went storm cloudy. In the space of about 15 minutes.

I promise to refine this dish and post an actual recipe because this is one of my favorite things I’ve created for a long time and I’m sure you’ll love it too!

Strawberry basil pesto: A love affair

I know what people mean when they say they’re in love and they want to shout it from the rooftops. Once a week I have a sneaky little affair. I gather all the unused strawberries from the past week’s shop,¬†pick an overflowing handful of fresh basil from my¬†windowsill pot¬†and whirl it into strawberry basil pesto sauce.

At first I thought it seemed like an unlikely combo – strawberries + basil?

But now I’m in love. I’ve seen a few recipes on the Internet for strawberry basil pesto, but the one I used was by Emily at Daily Garnish (I promise I don’t always use other people’s recipes!) :). I prefer Emily’s because it’s a sneaky vegan recipe. I never would have guessed there was no dairy involved. The only change I made was adding a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to give it an extra little kick, and I used pre-ground almonds rather than sliced because my blender is a pile-o-crap.

In the future when I’m not living the big city life my kitchen will be decked out with every utensil and machine known to man. But until then I’m sticking with the caveman blender.

There are so many things I love about this recipe.

1) It’s vegan but you’d never guess (could also easily be made with gluten free pasta). Most pestos are heavy on the cheese and calories. This is heavy in neither, and you absolutely won’t miss the cheese or calories.

2) It’s QUICK! This is the perfect weeknight meal. It’s light, refreshing, tasty but it still fills you up if made with whole wheat pasta.

3) You don’t need a fancy food processor or fancy blender to make this. The soft strawberries combined with delicate basil leaves and olive oil will blend into a smooth sauce with even the most basic of¬†blenders.

4) Makes great leftovers. I stored it in a glass jar because the flavors are delicate and sometimes plastic dishes retain faint flavors from¬†a previous dish. I hate that! One time I put greek yogurt in a plastic pot and then when I got to work and tried it I spit it straight out. It tasted faintly of onion from a chili I’d had in it previously and I still shiver thinking about that.

Once you go glass you never go back.

In your next week’s shop buy a few extra strawberries and try this out. I promise you won’t regret it!