July 28: Poor Man's Alfredo

Ruby lost her FIRST tooth tonight!! Clayton lost another one, too. Busy night here for the Tooth Fairy!

I haven't posted a new recipe in a while, basically because I haven't been cooking.

What have we been eating then, you ask?

Well, I have been "cooking," which is similar to actual cooking, except without the recipes and hours spent in the kitchen. It basically involves pulling something out of the fridge and slapping it on a plate, having it delivered, or throwing it on the grill. And some days, if I absolutely must, I expend the extra effort required to put something in the crock pot ahead of time, and it cooks for me. Peanut butter and jelly, lots and lots of hot dogs {if you happen to notice my children glowing in the dark, this is probably why}, fruits and vegetables, lunch meat, hummus, pasta, cheese quesadillas, pizza, salad, and grilled chicken. Between baseball games/practice almost every night this summer and the thought of dragging four children to the grocery store, that's really the best I could manage.

Summertime food motto: If it ain't cheap, quick, and easy, it ain't happening.

But I came up with a random but very tasty concoction at lunch today that was instantly a HUGE hit, so I thought I'd pass it along. I called it Poor Man's Alfredo, because whether you can't afford the time it takes to make gourmet Alfredo sauce or you think the traditional ingredients are too expensive or you just don't feel like running out to the store, this recipe is for you. Instead of heavy cream, which I never seem to have on hand, this recipe uses the cheaper and more readily available substitute of milk and cream cheese. And at the first bite, it was unanimously kid-approved. :)

Poor Man's Alfredo

1 lb pasta cooked al dente
4 T butter
4 oz. cream cheese, cubed
1 cup whole milk
4 oz. Aged cheese {Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago}, shredded
Garlic powder, salt, pepper to taste

Cook the pasta of your choice according to the package instructions, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water before straining. Do not rinse or oil the pasta. Using the same pot or another heavy bottomed skillet, add the butter, cream cheese, and milk into the pot and whisk together on medium-low heat until combined. Slowly add in the shredded aged cheese, whisking continually. Once cheese melts and sauce thickens, add garlic powder, salt and pepper. Add the pasta back in and stir to combine with the sauce. Add reserved pasta water as necessary if sauce is too thick. Serve immediately. Great topped with grape tomatoes, balsamic drizzle, and grilled chicken breast. 


"Basta" Salad

Ever since my sister introduced me to "Basta" Salad, it's been one of my favorite dishes. The barley, a whole grain, replaces the refined pasta you would normally see in a pasta salad, thus coining the term "basta" salad. Loaded with vegetables & beans, it's a perfect complete meal in and of itself, but it also makes an excellent side dish.

Basta Salad

4 cups pearled barley, cooked according to package instructions
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced
1/2 of a red onion, diced 
1 pint grape tomatoes, chopped
1 English cucumber, quartered & chopped
1 can small black olives, drained
1 jar green olives, drained
2 cans beans, rinsed & drained
A few handfuls of baby carrots, chopped
Mild banana peppers to taste 

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. I like to mix and match the beans. I've used kidney & great northern beans as well as black & garbanzo beans, & it always tastes great! Chef's secret: pour a little juice from the jar of banana peppers into the salad for extra flavor.

For the dressing:

1/4 cup EVOO
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tablespoon dried basil

Mix and pour on the salad, stirring to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate. This is very much a {Whatever} recipe and is completely adaptable to whatever you happen to have in your pantry or fridge. This recipe yeilds a lot, as my recipes normally do, which makes it a great dish to bring to a potluck or to keep in the fridge for easy lunches during the week. 


Whole Wheat Pancakes

It's not like the world needs another pancake recipe, but these are very easy to make and would be worth a try if you're looking for a nice basic recipe. Whole grain pancakes are very tasty, so there's no reason to depend on that box of Bisquick any longer! This is a perfect recipe to double and freeze for easy breakfasts later, too. Simply pop the frozen pancakes into the toaster and voila!

Whole Wheat Pancakes
{makes about 18 pancakes}

2 eggs
4 tablespoons butter, melted*
{use coconut oil for DF}
2 cups whole milk
{use almond milk for DF}
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine the wet ingredients and whisk together. *Feel free to use less butter {2 tbsp} if you'd like. And I must say, whether you have a milk intolerance or not, using coconut oil instead of butter yields a far superior tasting pancake, in my opinion. Combine the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients and whisk until most of the lumps are gone. Pour batter by the 1/4 cup full onto a greased pan over medium heat. Cook until lightly browned, when bubbles appear on the surface, and flip. 

This is a great basic recipe, but feel free to get creative by adding in 1/2 cup of blueberries, pumpkin puree, dark chocolate chips, or apples!

Whole Wheat Oatmeal {Whatever} Muffins

I love recipes that fall into the "whatever," category, as I like to call it. Whatever's on hand, in the pantry, on sale, or in the fridge will work for this recipe or any other "whatever" recipe that I post. "Whatever" recipes are great basic recipes to have around because of their flexibility and versatility. And I love the creativity of it--I often find great and unexpected taste combinations that I want to make again.

In this particular case, we're talking about the fruits and nuts that go into these Whole Wheat Oatmeal muffins.

I've made them with blueberries and almonds...

 Bananas and walnuts...

And dried cranberries and flaxseed...

And they've all turned out great!! I've finally got the recipe down, so here it is! 

Whole Wheat Oatmeal {Whatever} Muffins
{will yield 24 muffins}

2 cups old fashioned oats
2 cups whole milk {or almond milk for DF}
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup honey
6 tablespoons butter, melted {or coconut oil for DF}
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups fruit {dried or otherwise}
1/2 cup nuts {optional}

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is preheating, combine the oats and milk in a large bowl to allow the oats to soak. Add the other ingredients to the bowl up to the flour and stir to combine. Add the flour and stir to combine. Finally, gently stir in the fruits and nuts. The mixture shouldn't be too stiff but have the consistency of a thicker batter. If it's too thick {if you added some flaxseed or the like}, just add a little more milk to thin it out. Pour by the 1/4 cup full into lined muffin tins. Bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked through. Will yield 24 muffins. 

Again, this recipe yields a larger amount, but these muffins freeze very well. They also make a great breakfast, snack, or even a lunch! Enjoy!