Roasted Corn, String Bean, Tomato and Cucumber Orzo Salad

A great way to encourage children to enjoy eating vegetables is to teach them how to grow their own garden.  Chloe’s and Zachary’s parents built two garden boxes in their back yard, one for each child.  The children planted their first garden in the Spring, watered it diligently and watched with excitement, their garden grow before their eyes.  They were recently rewarded with strawberries, corn, tomatoes, cucumbers and string beans.

Innocently unbiased and ferociously inquisitive, Chloe and Zachary will ask to taste all the ingredients in its raw form no matter what it is.  When I cook with them, I guide them on what they should or should not try and am thrilled they are willing to try everything.  What a wonderful way for the children to appreciate the true flavors of raw vegetables and understand how their flavors can change when cooked or seasoned.

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My Roasted Corn, String Beans, Tomato and Cucumber Orzo Salad was inspired by Chloe’s and Zachary’s garden.  The vegetables in this recipe are either raw or lightly cooked so their freshness can be enjoyed.

This salad can either be served as a side dish or as a vegetarian main course.  Add chopped roasted chicken for a protein-rich main course.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried orzo pasta
  • 2 ears fresh corn, roasted
  • 1 pound green beans, blanched
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, rinsed, stemmed, and cut in half or thirds depending on size
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • Pinch Salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:

Cook orzo in boiling water for 8-9 minutes until barely tender.  Drain and rinse in cold water.

Husk corn and roast on grill until some of the kernels are evenly browned on all sides.  Remove the corn kernels by holding each cob upright on it’s stem and carefully running a sharp knife down the cob over a large bowl.  Add cooked orzo.

Cut green beans into 2-3 inches.  Blanch in boiling water for 2-3 minutes.  Green beans should still have a crunch.  Drain and place in ice water.  Drain again and add to orzo and corn.

Cut cucumber in half.  Using a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds.  Cut the cucumber halves into thirds or quarters lengthwise.  Then cut into ½ inch cubes.

Cut cherry tomatoes in half or thirds depending on size.   Add cucumber and tomatoes to orzo, corn and string beans.

Rough chop parsley and add to orzo mixture.

Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and Dijon mustard.  Add salt and pepper and whisk again.

Pour over orzo and vegetables.    Toss well.   Allow the orzo salad to sit for at least 1 hour to absorb the flavors of the dressing.

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Pasta with Fresh Spinach and Tomatoes

My Pasta with Fresh Spinach and Tomatoes was inspired by my dear friend Kelly.   A cancer survivor, mom and 8 time Ironman triathlete, Kelly was a big inspiration at my most significant races: my first triathlon and my first Ironman triathlon.

I had butterflies in my stomach at these two races.  My mind was racing and rethinking everything (Do I have all my nutrition?  How much time do I have before my wave starts?  Did I lay out everything I need in transition?)  At my first triathlon, I spotted Kelly, laying on her back on the beach, in her wetsuit, with her legs crossed and her eyes closed.  She looked so peaceful.   I’ve got to learn how to relax like that before the start of a race!

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When it was time for us to start the race, Kelly offered to swim with me.  You see, Kelly races for the pure enjoyment of racing.  Of course I declined.  I wanted her to race her own race, but I will always remember her selfless gesture.

At my first Ironman, I was lucky to find Kelly before the start again.   She was my security blanket as we walked out to the beach.  Kelly then looked into my eyes and reminded me that “It’s just another training day.”   Exactly what I needed to hear.

This recipe is for Kelly.  She asked for spinach and tomatoes with her pasta.

Serving size: 2

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat or gluten-free pasta* (cooked al dente)
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 plum tomatoes, largely diced (about 3/4 inch)
  • 6 cups of baby spinach leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • a couple pinches of salt
  • a couple grinds freshly cracked black pepper
  • ½ lemon
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese (optional)

* Note: Nutritionists recommend a single serving size of pasta be no more than ½ cup or the size of a hockey puck.  This is much less than what is typically served at restaurants.  I simply add lots of vegetables to my 1/2 cup of pasta.  In addition, I eat a side salad with this meal.  My Orange, Fennel and Arugula Salad or a simple tossed salad pairs nicely with this dish.

Directions:

Cook the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the package.

While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat.  Sauté  garlic in the olive oil for about a minute, then add spinach leaves and tomatoes.  Continue to sauté until the spinach wilts and the tomatoes starts to break down a little.  Season with red pepper flakes, salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Add juice of half of a lemon and toss to combine.  Add to cooked pasta.

The pasta is flavorful as is however, grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese can be added just before serving.

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Kelly and I, just before we walked onto the beach at Ironman Canada.

Broccoli and Mushroom Pasta with Red Pepper Flakes

A couple of my Ironman training partners are on a vegan diet.  Both maintain a busy schedule working full-time while training 6 days a week.  This doesn’t leave much time to prepare healthy vegan meals.  One hired a nutritionist to cook meals for her while the other is a single bachelor.  I created My Broccoli and Mushroom Pasta with Red Pepper Flakes for them.  It’s a healthy, carbo-loaded recipe that is quick and easy to prepare.

A single serving of this dish contains a cup of broccoli, one of the super-foods.  Broccoli is low in calories and rich in nutrients including protein.  Broccoli also contains the highest levels of certain glucosinolates, which scientists believe may reduce the risk of certain cancers.

The broccoli is cooked for only a couple minutes.  Experts recommend that broccoli be cooked for only 2-3 minutes and remain crunchy in order to retain its health benefits.

For more information on broccoli, check out this article:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111011112501.htm

 Serving size: 2

 Ingredients:

  • 1 small garlic clove or ½ large garlic clove
  • 1 cup of cooked whole wheat pasta (or gluten-free pasta)
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli florets
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • ½ cup + 3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes, plus more if desired
  • ½ cup pasta water
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese freshly grated (optional and may be omitted for a non-dairy diet)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400F.

Slice off enough of the top of the garlic clove to expose the cloves.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and wrap in aluminum foil.  Roast for 25 minutes.

While the garlic is roasting, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil. Add salt to the water and then add pasta.  Cook until al dente, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain pasta in a colander, reserving ½ cup of the pasta water.  Uncooked spaghetti, about the diameter of a quarter when held together between your thumb and index finger, should yield about a cup of cooked spaghetti.

In small sauté pan, sauté mushrooms in 2 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Saute for about 5 minutes until mushrooms are lightly brown.  Season with a pinch of salt and freshly cracked peppercorns.

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Boil or steam broccoli for 1 minute.  Discard the water in the pot used to boil or steam the broccoli.  Return cooked broccoli to the empty pot.

Once the garlic is roasted, peel each garlic clove by removing the outer most cloves first.  Then cut the tip of the skin off the top of each clove.  The roasted garlic clove should now be easy to remove.

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Course chop the garlic gloves and add to the broccoli.  Then add mushrooms, red chili pepper flakes and olive oil.  Saute over medium heat, for approximately 1 minute, mashing the garlic into the broccoli and mushrooms.

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Add the pasta and reserved pasta water.  Season with salt and freshly cracked peppercorns and toss for 1 more minute.

Place in individual serving bowls and add grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese before serving.  Sprinkling a pinch of red chili pepper flakes on top makes a nice presentation.

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