Sometimes I think it’s a scandal that sun dried tomatoes don’t cost more. I’ve never made them myself (though, living in the Phoenix area, we’re certainly not short on sun…or dryness…or tomatoes), but I do have a dim sense of how much time and effort go into the end product of these shrivelly red strips. The process goes something like this: 1. Pick tomatoes 2. Wash tomatoes 3. Cut tomatoes 4. Season tomatoes 5. Dry tomatoes in the sun for days on end 6. Package tomatoes. Seems like an awful lot of work–and an awful lot of tomatoes, seeing as how they lose around 90% of their original weight and shrink down to less than half their original size upon drying.
Yet there they are, a whole bag of them for only $3.00 at Trader Joe’s. Isn’t our food system strange?
Despite the seemingly inverse relationship between cost and effort in sun dried tomatoes, I for one am quite thankful for their relative inexpensiveness, because I adoooooore them. Chewy, brightly colored, and tangy-sweet, I happen to think they bring their A-game to any dish they grace.
And wouldn’t you know it, they make a pretty spectacular main ingredient in pesto.
This Sun Dried Tomato Almond Pesto Pasta with Chicken took its place on our family’s weeknight dinner plan last week, and it’s definitely an entree I’ll be making again. Whole grain spaghetti, olive oil, tomatoes, and almonds place it squarely in the Mediterranean Diet category–a category I’ve been known to harp on relentlessly for its many health benefits. (By the way, didja see the new U.S. News and World Report ranking of diets for 2017? The Mediterranean Diet comes in at the top of nearly every category they analyzed.)
Health benefits aside, this chicken pasta boasts excellent taste and can be whipped up in about 30 minutes. Add it to your meal plan this week!
Sun Dried Tomato Almond Pesto Pasta with Chicken
A Mediterranean chicken dish packed with the healthy goodness of tomatoes, olive oil, and almonds.
For the chicken and pasta:
Make the pesto:
Add tomatoes, almonds, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Process until nearly smooth, then taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Set pesto aside.
Make the pasta and chicken:
Make the spaghetti according to package directions.
Meanwhile, season chicken on both sides with basil, oregano, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add seasoned chicken and cook about 4 minutes per side or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
Serve immediately: assemble entree with any combination of spaghetti, pesto, and chicken you like!
A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.
Maybe it’s just me, but do you ever go through phases of food obsession? I mean, some food obsessions are an unchanging given, like chocolate. But others seem to come and go. My current fan favorite is red peppers. Perhaps you could tell, seeing as how this is the third recipe in two months on the blog to include red peppers. The passing fancy of my own food phases makes me think of here-today, gone-tomorrow food trends I’ve seen throughout my lifetime. Maybe today’s kale and quinoa–or in my case, red peppers–are tomorrow’s pop rocks and 1-2-3 Jell-O. (Remember 1-2-3 Jell-O? Why did that have to die? ’80s kids, let’s get a petition going!)
Bring it back! Bring it back!
The fact is, unlike the processed mystery that is 1-2-3 Jell-O, I’m new to the crunchy crimson veggie wonder that is red peppers. Up until the last couple of years, I ate red peppers only under social pressure, and even then would prod them around my plate like a picky toddler. I had the sneaking suspicion that people who claimed to enjoy bell peppers were trying to play a vile joke on the rest of us. But somehow–probably as a result of learning in my nutrition studies how fantastically healthy peppers are for you–I have gradually come around. It’s amazing how our mentality can change our feelings about food, isn’t it? (I draw the line, however, at mushrooms. Mushrooms are an eternal abomination.) Having developed a taste for red peppers, though, I’m now all over the map trying them in various combinations and permutations.
It was inevitable, then, that stuffed peppers would make their way into our family’s meal rotation.
This version of the classic is 100% vegetarian with a hefty dose of black beans, rice, corn, and tomatoes and a not-too-spicy Mexican flair. The rice and bean filling is delicious all on its own, but stuffing it in a tangy red pepper dripping with sharp cheddar takes it over the top. My husband–a more experienced stuffed pepper eater–says that most stuffed peppers have a softer texture than this recipe, but I for one enjoyed the not-too-squishy crunch that these peppers retained by not baking for too long. These made for a satisfying vegetarian dinner I know I’ll make again.
So how about you? Do you have a current food obsession, or a food you used to hate but have come to love? Tell me all about it!
Vegetarian Mexican Stuffed Peppers
A healthy vegetarian stuffed peppers recipe with a Mexican flair!
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and saute 5 minutes, then add minced garlic and saute another 30 seconds. Add rice, vegetable broth or water, diced tomatoes, salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and oregano and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 16-18 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice off the tops of the peppers and scrape out the seeds and membranes. Place peppers snugly in the bottom of an 8 x 8 glass baking dish (or larger, depending on the size of your peppers).
When rice is finished cooking, add corn and beans to the mixture and stir to combine. Spoon carefully into peppers.
Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle with cheddar, and continue baking another 15 minutes. Serve immediately.
A Love Letter to Food Original Recipe.
Tell me if you’ve ever had this experience: it’s a weeknight and you’ve planned to make dinner. All best intentions–you grocery shopped, you got ingredients, you know more or less what you’re planning to make and how. But somehow you got home late from errands or got stuck on a phone call with the teacher or had to discipline whoever hit whom with a badminton racquet, and it’s suddenly 5:45 and you haven’t started a darn thing. The kids are starting to get hungry and so are you, and you think, Oh, forget it. There’s no way I can get dinner on the table in a reasonable amount of time. Let’s go out to eat.
You pile everyone in the car. You drive to some fast-casual restaurant you think won’t take too long and won’t break the bank….and 40 bucks and 90 minutes later you’re finally home, and NOW it’s almost bedtime and no one has started their homework. You heave a sigh and roll your eyes because, really, when all is said and done, there’s a nagging voice in your head going, “Wouldn’t it have just been faster and cheaper to eat at home?”
I’ve been there many, many nights. And finally, after years, I’m starting to actually learn from the experience. So when I meal plan, if I can build in at least one dinner that’s guaranteed to come together easily and fast, I can breathe easy knowing that the nights we dip into our restaurant budget (and our limited time) will get fewer and further between. These Double Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayo are one of my secret weapons.
I love this recipe because it doesn’t require anything to thaw or marinade or any do other activity that eats up chunks of time and requires pre-planning. Plus, most of its ingredients are things you just might have on hand at any given time. Two cans of beans? Check. Bread crumbs and spices? Check. As for the chipotle pepper in the spicy mayo, in a real dinner emergency, you could even do without it and use chili powder instead. (And if you do use the real pepper, you can always adjust the spice by cutting back to half a pepper instead of a whole.) And did I mention these burgers are a heckuva lot healthier than that In-N-Out calorie bomb you’re likely to pick up eating out? Just sayin’.
So from one busy weeknight meal maker to another, I pass the baton of these secret weapon bean burgers. Use it wisely for the triumvirate victory of time, cost, and health!
Double Bean Burgers with Chipotle Mayo
In a large bowl, mash the cannellini and black beans until smooth with some chunks. Add garlic, cilantro, paprika, onion powder, salt, and pepper and stir to combine.
In a small bowl, combine egg, egg white, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, and panko bread crumbs. Stir into bean mixture until well combined.
With your hands, form mixture into six patties.
In a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add patties and cook 4-5 minutes per side or until browned.
Meanwhile, make the chipotle mayo: using an immersion blender, combine all ingredients.
Assemble burgers topped with lettuce/spring mix and chipotle mayo.
Bean Burgers adapted from How Sweet Eats; Chipotle Mayo A Love Letter to Food Original.