Very Veggie Spaghetti

Recipes

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Few Americans get in the recommended daily intake of fruits and vegetables. Consuming five servings of produce day in and day out can be daunting, especially if you’re a toddler, or a first grader… or an adult. This recipe incorporates a variety of veggies into a tried and true favorite that even the kiddos will enjoy. Combine them with lycopene-rich crushed tomatoes and you’ve got a recipe for health (admittedly, that pun was very much intended).


Very Veggie Spaghetti

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INGREDIENTS:

½ medium onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
½ bell pepper, diced
1 lb ground pork
salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
red pepper flakes, anywhere from a smidgen to a generous dash
1 tsp dried basil or 3/4 cup fresh basil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
¾ cup button mushrooms, sliced16 oz can of crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil

balsamic vinegar, a healthy drizzle
1 cup kale, rinsed and packed (feel free to substitute fresh or frozen spinach as desired)whole wheat pasta

DIRECTIONS:

Salt and boil water for pasta. [Tip: Add in a bay leave to add flavor to the pasta.]

Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and bell pepper to oil. Once onion starts to become translucent add ground pork, dried basil (wait until the end if you’re using fresh basil), salt and peppers to taste.

Once meat is mostly browned, add garlic an mushrooms into vegetable/pork mixture. Cook for 2 minutes. Add in canned tomatoes, kale and balsamic vinegar. Continue to cook until kale is wilted, but retains a vibrant green color.

Fun fact: Cooking tomatoes helps to release lycopene from its plant cells. Lycopene is a carotenoid (yup, that’s the same class of phytochemicals found in carrots) and may help to reduce prostate cancer. This is great news considering prostate cancer is the most common cause of death in men over 75. 
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Cheese Board Bread

Recipes

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I love bread. I’m one of those that will eat the bread on the way home from the supermarket until there’s only a lonely, crusty end left. I find that bread that I get from a bakery, or better yet bake at home, is so much more satisfying than the kind you can find at the big box stores. It somehow satisfies with less and doesn’t have that strange aftertaste you become accustomed to, unless you eat fresh bread often enough.

We almost never buy bread anymore. I cook bread at least once a week, sometimes four times a week. My husband and I were including bread in our CSA boxes and that meant baking thirty loaves every week. It’s like gardening- therapeutic and satisfying to see and enjoy the finished project.

Baking bread is one of the most wholesome things you can do for your family. True, it is time consuming, but most of the time spent is inactive.

I have a secret weapon, and his name is Paul Hollywood. If you’ve ever seen The Great British Baking Show (and if you haven’t, you MUST!), you know Paul. My husband bought me one of his bread baking cookbooks, and it was revolutionary. Every loaf is a homerun. I have had to adjust every recipe – because apparently the hot, humid conditions of the South Texas coast are slightly different than Paul’s home in Scotland – but they are all delicious, no fail breads.

Here’s one of his recipes that I added dried fruit to. It combines all of my favorite parts of a good cheese board: 1) a hearty bread, 2) nuts, 3) fruit, and 4) cheese. This bread is so complex and wonderful, it’s great with a slathering of butter, jelly, or toasted with olive oil.

Cheese Board Bread

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Makes 1 loaf

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Inactive Time: 2 hours

Cook Time: 35-40 minutes

Ingredients:

2/3 cup bread flour

2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons yeast

1/2 stick butter, softened

1 1/4 cup water

3 oz bleu cheese (Gorgonzola or Stilton)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup dried cranberries, blueberries, and/or cherries

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add in butter and water until a soft dough is formed. The dough should be slightly wet, as whole-wheat requires more water. Knead the dough in the bowl or on a floured surface for about five minutes, until smooth. Cover dough with a tea towel and let rise in a warm area for an hour.

Add the cheese, nuts, and dried fruit to the risen dough and knead well, until all the mix-ins are well-incorporated. Form a baton or batard shape (us lay folks may think of it as a sausage shape) and place on a baking sheet. Cut slits 1/4″ deep using a sharp knife, and sprinkle with a light dusting of bread flour. Let rise for one hour.

Preheat oven to 450F. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when thumped, the bread is a nice golden color, and the cheese is bubbling and golden. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool for at least ten minutes.

*Note: If you’re not a fan of bleu cheese, this loaf might pleasantly surprise you. Heating the cheese at this temperature mellows out the flavor considerably, leaving only a salty finish.