Spring Vegetable Pasta with Ham + Creamy White Bean Sauce

Spring Vegetable Pasta with Ham + Creamy White Bean Sauce

There are so many other ways to make pasta than traditional spaghetti and meat sauce (although I love that, too!).  This pasta is a great way to use any leftover ham you may have from the holidays.  If you’re doing this in winter, you can change up the vegetables any way you want, but I like that the peas and greens cook right in the pot in only a minute or 2. 

Making this creamy sauce from white beans is something I saw in one of my frozen dinners (very sophisticated inspiration, I know).  But I thought that was a pretty cool idea.  I decided to use cannellini beans because this dinner is semi-Italian.  But if you don’t want to make the sauce from scratch, you can always use store-bought hummus!  Even easier.  And since this sauce recipe makes a little more than what you need (about 2 cups, and you’ll only need 1 ½), you can eat this just like hummus.  It’s really good! 


Total Time:  45 minutes

Serves:  8

Difficulty Level:  Easy


For the White Bean Sauce

2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons garlic powder

½ cup freshly grated asiago cheese

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oila

Salt and pepper

For the Pasta

1 pound whole wheat rotini

1 pound pre-sliced smoked ham

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup arugula or other baby lettuce

2 cups white bean sauce

1 ½ – 2 cups reserved pasta water

Zest of 1 lemon

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt and pepper


  1. Make the creamy white bean sauce by adding the drained cannellini beans, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, and asiago cheese to a food processor. Pulse until it has begun to turn into a paste.  Then with the processor running, stream in the olive oil until the sauce is the consistency of hummus.  Taste, and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, about 8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, trim the skin and fat off the ham, and slice into strips about the same size as the pasta.
  4. When the pasta is done, but before you drain it, use a liquid measuring cup to pull out about 2 cups of pasta water. Set aside.
  5. Drain the pasta, and set aside.
  6. To the same hot pot, add the ham, and heat through. Add the peas, arugula, white bean sauce, and cooked pasta.  Stir slowly to wilt the greens and heat the peas and sauce.
  7. Add pasta water as need to thin out the sauce until it has the right consistency. (I used exactly 1 ½ cups).
  8. Add the lemon zest and juice. Mix, and taste.  Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Serve hot.

Pasta Amatriciana

Pasta Amatriciana

When I worked at Carrabba’s in my early 20s, we served a dish called cavatappi all’amatriciana.  The customers loved it.  It looks like a basic tomato sauce, but it’s made with bacon and white wine.  It’s a nice change from traditional marinara.

This recipe includes deglazing the pan.  I’m keeping a glossary of cooking terms here.  All that means is that you use an acid (usually citrus juice, alcohol, or broth) to scrape the bits off the bottom of the pan.  Deglazing adds flavor to the dish, and all the alcohol cooks out of the wine.  Just make sure you leave the pan uncovered.

The whole thing takes about 30 minutes to cook, and it’s a budget-friendly meal.  It’s also a good way for kids to step outside their comfort zone a little, but still familiar enough for them to try.  If you are making it for kids, I’d recommend using half  the amount of Calabria chili paste.  And if you don’t have Calabria chili paste, you can get it here or just use red pepper flakes.

Total Time:  30 minutes

Serves: 6

Difficulty Level:  Easy


1 pound of thick cut bacongood-a

1 pound of your favorite pasta shape (I used whole wheat penne)

1 medium sized onion

4 garlic cloves

1 ½ cup dry white wine

One 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes

3-4 tablespoons of Calabria chili paste


  1. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Leaving the bacon stuck together, slice it into about 1/3 inch slices.  Chop the onion, and chop the garlic cloves.
  2. In a large stock pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until it’s done, about 12-15 minutes. Once the water is boiling, add the pasta, and cook according to the package instructions.
  3. When the bacon is done, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to soak up the grease. You want to reserve about half of the bacon fat in the pan.  The rest you can discard.
  4. Cook the onion in the bacon fat over medium for about 6-8 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, and be sure to scrape off the bits from the bottom of the pan.
  6. Add the tomatoes and Calabria chili paste (or red pepper flakes). Add the bacon back to the pan.  Continue to cook for about 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened back up.
  7. Drain the pasta and toss with the sauce.
  8. Serve with black pepper, freshly grated cheese, and some fresh basil.

[originally posted 10/22/2016]

[updated recipe and pictures 4/6/2017]

How to Poach Chicken in a Slow Cooker

How to Poach Chicken in a Slow Cooker

I decided to go ahead and post this because I’m working on some enchilada recipes.  My go-to chicken recipe is this one, which goes great in casseroles, soups, pastas, salads, and on and on.  But for enchiladas, shredded chicken is better.  I didn’t want to flavor the chicken as it cooks because I’m making 2 different sauces.  Poached, shredded chicken is a good stand-by when you are making a filling with chicken –things like stuffed peppers, burritos, and enchiladas.  (Enchilada recipes are coming soon!)


Total Time:  4-6 hours

Yield:  3-4 poached chicken breasts

Difficulty Level:  Easy



3-4 raw boneless, skinless chicken breasts

6 tablespoons of chicken base





  1.  Add the the chicken breasts to a slow cooker.  Pour chicken base over.  Pour in enough water to cover the chicken.
  2. Cook on high for 4-6 hours.
  3. Remove chicken, and discard water.
  4. Shred chicken with a fork and a pair of tongs.

Banana Berry Bee Pollen Bowl 

Banana Berry Bee Pollen Bowl

This bowl!  I made this on a super warm February day when it felt like spring.  I had been wanting to do a bee pollen post for a while, and it finally felt springy enough.  Also, my friend Megan surprised me with this Olivewood Tea and Toast Set, and how pretty does the honey dip look?  I’d put this set on Pretty Things:  January 2017 because I was so drawn to it.  But in person, it’s even prettier.  The wood is gorgeous, and the pieces feel quality.  Now I feel like I have to have a tea party or something just to display it! 16473764_550727958455582_6492892044207083527_n

I love making smoothies for my kids, and this is like a smoothie, deconstructed.  One of my staples is a bag of store bought frozen strawberries.  For this bowl, I turned them into a puree.  It’s simple:  just let a few cups of strawberries thaw out or come to room temperature.  Pour them into a blender, and blend until smooth.  You could use this on smoothie bowls, as a topping for ice cream, or in something with gin or tequila…

Bee Pollen.  Who would have thought?  It’s supposed to work as an anti-inflammatory, immune system booster, anti-oxidant, and hormone regulator.  I got mine on Amazon.  They’re crunchy little granules, and I guess they’re like the new chia seed!  There is always a new natural food discovery with amazing properties and why haven’t we been eating it all along?

In addition to pouring them over a smoothie bowl, they taste really good blended into a regular smoothie, too.  To turn this into a regular smoothie, add a cup of your favorite milk (I use unsweetened coconut milk)—to turn this into a meal on-the-go.  If you do turn it into a smoothie, add some frozen banana slices to make it thicker.  Instead of buying frozen bananas or freezing them whole, I wait until my fresh bananas are about to turn, then I slice them up and freeze them for smoothies.  It’s much cheaper, and they’re easy to portion with they’re pre-sliced.


Total Time:  10 minutes

Makes:  1 large smoothie bowl

Difficulty Level:  Easy



1 cup of plain, fat free Greek yogurt

3 tablespoons of strawberry puree (see above)

1 banana, peeled and sliced thinly

2-3 strawberries, rinsed and sliced thinly

¼ cup fresh blueberries

2 tablespoons of bee pollen

2-3 tablespoons of honey



  1. Add the Greek yogurt to the bottom of a large bowl.
  2. Add the strawberry puree on top of the yogurt and swirl it through.
  3. Layer the banana, strawberries, and blueberries around the bowl.
  4. Sprinkle the bee pollen on top.
  5. Drizzle with honey, and enjoy. (**see note)


**Note:  Alternately, add ingredients to a blender with unsweetened coconut milk and some frozen banana slices.  Puree until smooth, and enjoy very cold.)

Turkey Chili

Turkey Chili

Turkey chili is one of the first things I cooked in a Crock Pot.  Chili is definitely one of my favorite things to make in the cooler months, and I love customizing it.  I make lots of types of chili:  crunchy taco chili, white bean chili, vegetarian chili, and  steak and beer chili.  But turkey chili is the kind I make most often because you use an inexpensive meat, and there is almost no work involved. 

I love food with lots of color and texture, so I use as many types of beans and veggies as possible. 

  I love substituting stuff in chili.  Just like with the salsa, you can substitute taco sauce or Rotel tomatoes.  Whatever you have that saves you from making another trip to the store.  I’m writing this recipe as if I were making my ideal turkey chili and have exactly the ingredients I want.

This time I used fresh bell peppers because I had some in the fridge, but you can also use the frozen pepper stir fry if that’s easier.  It has peppers and onions, so no chopping at all. 

For garnishes, I love a variety.  My favorite healthy ones are a dollop of Greek yogurt, salted avocado, fresh cilantro, a squeeze of lime, or diced tomatoes (or pico de gallo).  I also love tortilla chips, shredded cheddar cheese, and sour cream if I’m not counting calories.  But who am I kidding, I am always counting calories. 

[Note:  I wrote this recipe in Sept. 2016.  I held it over because I hated the photos.  Then I re-did the photos with my point-and-shoot and thought they were much better.  Then I finally got a “real” camera, and now I don’t like these photos anymore, but I’m just tired of sitting on this recipe because it IS delicious!]


Total Time:  6-8 hoursimg_6258

Serves: 8

Difficulty Level:  Easy



1 red bell pepper

1 yellow bell pepper

1 green bell pepper

1 onion

1 ¼ pounds lean ground turkey

2 tablespoons of chili powder

1 ½ tablespoons of cumin

1 ½ tablespoons of chipotle powder

2 teaspoons of paprika

2 teaspoons of garlic

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of coriander

1 can of dark red kidney beans

1 can of black beans

1 can of pinto beans

1 can of whole kernel corn

1 16 ounce can of tomato sauce

16 ounces of salsa

1-2 cups of water

1-2 beef or chicken bouillon cubes



  1. Dice the bell peppers and onion into a medium, chunky dice.  Add to the Crock Pot.
  2. Add the ground turkey on top of the vegetables.
  3. Add the Calabria chili paste and all the dried spices.
  4. Drain and rinse all the beans, and add to the pot.
  5. Add the tomato sauce. Add the corn and the liquid from the can to the pot.  Add the salsa.
  6. Add the water and bouillon, 1-2 cups or cubes depending on how thick or soupy you want it.
  7. Cook for 5 hours on high or 8 hours on low. Remove cover to stir and break apart turkey a few times while it’s cooking.
  8. Serve with your favorite garnishes.






Chicken Salsa Spaghetti


Chicken Salsa Spaghetti

If you are bored of taco nights and spaghetti nights, but you always keep the stuff on hand (like me), try this pasta.  The chicken cooks in the slow cooker all day, and from there, it’s less than 45 minutes until dinner time.  This was literally a “hmm, I bet this would taste good together” recipe.  And it does!  It’s all the typical flavors kids are used to, but switched up for a little bit of interest.  Of course if you don’t have salsa verde, you can always use red salsa.  


Total Time: 6 hours (hands on time, 30 minutes)a.jpg

Serves:  8

Difficulty Level:  Easy



2 onions

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

36 ounces salsa verde

24 ounces water

2 tablespoons chicken powder

1 tablespoon cumin

1 tablespoon granulated garlic

2 teaspoons coriander

1 pound whole wheat spaghetti

1 can whole kernel corn

1 red bell pepper or 3-4 roma tomatoes

fresh cilantro

your favorite cheese (optional)



  1.  Slice the onions very thinly, and add them to the bottom of a 6 quart slow cooker.
  2. Add the chicken breasts on top of the onions.
  3. Cover the chicken with the salsa verde, water, chicken powder, cumin, garlic, and coriander.
  4. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6 to 8 hours.
  5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  6. Meanwhile, remove the chicken from liquid.  Use a fork and tongs to shred the chicken, and add it back to the liquid.
  7. Boil the spaghetti according to package instructions (about 8-10 minutes).
  8. Drain the pasta.
  9. Add the chicken and the liquid from the slow cooker to the empty pasta pot.  Add the corn (plus the liquid), and bring it to a boil.
  10. Let it reduce until thickened to a saucy consistency, about 10 minutes.
  11. Meanwhile, finely dice the bell peppers (or seed and dice the roma tomatoes).  Chop the cilantro.
  12. Turn the heat off, and add the pasta back to the pot with the chicken. Toss together with tongs.
  13. Serve the pasta hot, and top with bell peppers or tomatoes and freshly chopped cilantro.  (Some people will ask for cheese…like everyone in my house.)


Quinoa + Chicken Stuffed Pepper Soup

Quinoa + Chicken Stuffed Pepper Soup

This is the lightened up version of my Stuffed Pepper Casserole.  The casserole is already pretty healthy, but the soup is even healthier.  And it’s just as filling.  I like to flavor stuffed pepper things with Cavender’s Greek Seasoning.  I know stuffed peppers aren’t a Greek recipe, but I feel like the flavors of the soup need to be bold and savory, but not necessarily spicy. 

I didn’t start using Worcestershire sauce regularly until about a year ago.  If you’re cooking a meat or dinner dish, and it’s missing something, but you’re not sure what…add some Worcestershire sauce.  It’s especially good with beef.  Since I don’t eat beef very often, I use it when I’m mimicking beef flavors (like in this soup). 

Traditional stuffed peppers are filled with rice, but I just felt like doing something different.  I use quinoa in this soup, but you can always use rice if you want to.  For this recipe, I’m using my 5 ½ quart French oven, but you can definitely adapt it to a slow cooker!  Add all the ingredients in the same order I’ve listed below, and cook for 6 hours on high, stirring once or twice.

I always serve Stuffed Pepper Soup with hot sauce, grated cheddar or mozzarella, and sour cream.


Total Time:  2 hours (but longer is better)featured

Serves: 8

Difficulty Level:  Easy



Extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ red bell pepper, diced small

1 green bell pepper, diced small

1 medium sized onion, diced small

2 large (or 3 small) garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons Cavender’s Greek Seasoning

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 pounds lean ground chicken

1 cup quinoa

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

24 ounces marinara sauce

48 to 60 ounces water

2 tablespoons of beef bouillon powder



  1. Heat a French oven over medium heat. Add olive oil.
  2. When you can smell the oil, add the diced bell peppers and onion. Sauté over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, or until translucent.
  3. Add the garlic, Cavender’s Greek Seasoning, and dried thyme. Sauté for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the ground chicken. Brown the chicken while breaking it apart with a wooden spoon.
  5. Add the quinoa, Worcestershire sauce, marinara sauce, water, and bouillon powder.
  6. Bring the soup up to a boil for 5 minutes.
  7. Reduce to a simmer, and continue cooking for at least 1 ½ hours (but longer is better).
  8. Serve hot with grated cheddar or mozzarella, sour cream, and hot sauce.