Pretty in Pink Pasta Salad with Strawberries and Goat Cheese

For the past month, I've been been getting back on track with my health. Two things needed to happen:

  1. I needed to get back to regular workouts, and
  2. I needed to start eating better.

The problem wasn't that I didn't know how to eat more nutritiously. The problem was it was just easier to slack and eat crappy food that did nothing for me. Hello, potato chips! Worse than that, I was going overboard on my portions. So now, I measure everything before it actually goes on my plate.

I've had to come up with some fun combinations of food to keep me motivated, because we eat with our eyes, as much as with our mouths. Seeing boring food bores me. I've been playing around with various food items, using them in ways they aren't normally consumed.  One of my favorite new dishes was inspired by the season. Our local area is experiencing a bountiful strawberries season (Big, juicy, red strawberries EVERYWHERE!), so I get some delicious berries at my local farms right now.

The dish is also inspired by my need for more fiber in my diet. To fill that need, I used Barilla Whole Grain Shell Pasta. Made with 100% whole wheat, and with 6 g. of whole grain in each serving, it's an excellent source of fiber. (Side Note: Barilla Gluten Free pasta has recently been named one of Parents Magazine’s “Top 25 Allergy Free Foods”. It really is better for you.)

At a recent dinner, I had strawberry vinaigrette on a kale salad and thought it would be a perfect topping for pasta. What hadn't occurred to me was that the pasta would look slightly pink, once I tossed it in the vinaigrette.

To make the Strawberry Vinaigrette, I used:

  • 10 fresh strawberries, washed and stemmed
  • 1/4 c. Olive Oil
  • 1/4 c. Vinaigrette

Using a hand blender, I blended all three until it started to foam up a little.

While I was making the vinaigrette, the Whole Grain Pasta boiled (only needs about 7 minutes to be fully cooked). Since it's a cold side dish, I rinsed the pasta out in a colander with cold water. While that was cooling, I started to get the toppings ready. I pulled out:

  • 2 Additional Strawberries
  • 2-3 Basil Leaves
  • Crumbled Goat Cheese
  • Himalayan Sea Salt

 I diced the strawberries, chopped up the basil, and picked my crumbles of cheese out.

Once the pasta was cool, I blended the vinaigrette for another quick second and tossed the shells with it. Taking a 1/2 c. measuring scoop, I served the pasta onto the plate, then sprinkled the toppings on, and gave it a quick crack of pink sea salt from my grinder.

Voila!

pretty in pink pasta salad with strawberries and goat cheese

This pasta dish is so pretty in pink! And, it's the perfect blend of sweet and savory.

If you're running out of ideas for serving up pasta, check out the recipe page at Barilla or their Pinterest board for inspiration.

OH! And right now, you can get $1 off Barilla pastas, sauces, and Wasa Crisp at Walmart, too!

ENJOY!

Why You Should Eat More #Veggies

I'm going to mom you right now and ask you if you're eating enough vegetables. Do you see my raised eyebrow? That's me not believing your answer. Shame on you for lying to Sugar Mama!

My style of mom-ing is of the persuasive persuasion, so rather than force feed you the information, I'm going to appeal to your vanity. Here are three reasons you should be eating more veggies, as well as a few suggested servings for getting your greens.

1: Veggies Make You Beautiful

People always ask me... they say, "Sugar, how the heck do you stay so damn beautiful?" And before I can answer, I wake up. If I were to stay asleep and answer my dream fans' questions, I would have to tell them that it's two things: Drinking lots of water and eating plenty of leafy greens and veggies. 

That healthy glow on your face is simply evidence of how healthy you are on the inside. That's not to say that you should toss out your moisturizers and masques. But you can help nature along by eating a diet rich in vegetables. Cartenoids, a type of phytonutrient, can be found in vegetables like carrots, pumpkins, squash and green leafy vegetables. Those Cartenoids create the "glow" on your skin that makeup can never quite duplicate.

2: Veggies Will Get You to Your Goal Weight

The number one mistake I see people make (and I'm guilty of this, too) is eating too many fruits when looking to lose weight. It seems like the right thing to do, right? "Fill up on Fruits and Veggies" sounds like sound advice, and it is, but nobody tells you to limit the fruit and up the intake of the veggies.

Fruits like oranges and bananas are actually really high in fructose. Eating more than two servings of fruit can have a disastrous effect on reaching weight loss goals. Vegetables, on the other hand, are bursting with as many nutrients as fruit, but are overall lower in fructose. AND... they're high in fiber, so you'll feel full. 

Speaking of...

3: Veggies are High in Fiber

Fiber is something that we all need more of, and veggies have tons of the stuff, so if you find that you're not "going" at least once a day, you may just need to up your veggie intake. In other words, they'll clean you out. 

It’s said that an accumulation of five to 20 pounds of fecal matter is not uncommon in the western population. Over the years, these deposits increase and seep into the blood stream. This is when symptoms of illness arise. Think about it... if It's your body's most obvious way of removing waste and toxins, and that removal isn't happening, you're holding all that junk in your body. You're literally full of crap. 

Side Note: If that nugget of wisdom doesn't get you to eat more veggies, I CAN'T HELP YOU!!!

Now for a few examples of how I add more veggies to my family's lunches.

GREEN EGGS AND HAM

Here's a fun one that kids LOVE. It's a Dr. Seuss themed meal that includes, what else, Green Eggs and Ham. The green eggs are actually quite easy to make. Just boil eggs as you would. Once they're done, take out the yokes and mix with spinach in a food processor. They yokes will pick up the green color fairly quickly. I didn't blend the ingredients too long, but a few more pulses and the spinach disappears into the eggs.

LEAFY AND SWEET GREENS

The long leaves of Romaine in this lunch do two things: They keep the savory chicken away from the sweet muffin and the soft popcorn, AND they can be used as boats to eat the chicken pieces with when it's lunch time.

What you don't see are the veggies packed in the GardenLites Chocolate Muffin. These muffins are a great way to satisfy that sweet craving while still getting more veggies in your tummy. They're made with fresh zucchini and carrots. Not a fan of chocolate? GardenLites also makes a tasty Blueberry Oat muffin!

BEETS AND BITES

I have a hard time paying $10 or more for lettuce and veggies, so I've taken to packing my salads when I'm on the go. It ends up costing me just a couple of dollars and I don't have to waste time looking for parking or standing in line. Packed in this salad box is a big mound of red leaf lettuce, roasted beets in Dijon Champagne dressing, carrots, and Veggie Bites from GardenLites. 

About GardenLites -

Garden Lites offers foods made with clean/simple ingredients, but go a step further to deliver the nutrition consumers are seeking. As pioneers in this movement, Garden Lites is bringing solutions that meet the next stage in the ever evolving consumer definition of healthy food – delicious veggie-rich foods. They're products are not only filled with veggies, but are also gluten-free, nut-free, and dairy-free! You can find them in the freezer section at your local Costco.

GardenLites boxes.jpg

Enjoy!

Gluten-Free... Sort of.

I used to get the worst stomach pains. I'll spare you the description of what it felt like. Just know... it was really uncomfortable. It was embarrassing to be at my desk after lunch, bent over in my chair holding my stomach. It wasn't really easy to make any client calls in that position, either. The pains became so frequent and got so bad that I decided to discuss it with my doctor. After hearing my symptoms, he suggested that I try removing different foods from my diet to test which ones might be bothering me. I started with tomatoes because my mom always had issues with them and I just assumed it might be hereditary. I love tomatoes. I can stuff a whole basket of cherry toms in my mouth. I'd show you, but then you might never be able to eat that succulent fruit ever again, so I will refrain. You're welcome.

Thankfully, it was not tomatoes.

The next thing I tried was pasta. I was eating pasta nearly every day. I started my pasta habit as a waitress at a restaurant that had one of the most popular pasta bars in the South Coast Plaza area. Our Chef, Geno made so many delicious combinations with all the varieties of pasta, the various sauces, and every kind of topping possible. I learned to make the BEST pasta dinners. Sadly, removing my favorite meal option from my diet seemed to make a big difference in my belly aches. Reluctantly, I stopped eating pasta. I occasionally have some at a party, but it's not something I indulge in any more.

Taking pasta out helped, but not completely. I didn't want to admit it, but I knew it had to be another grain item that I overindulged in. I have a thing for bread. I love bread. Like... LOVE!!!! I especially love a warm loaf of sourdough bread straight out of the oven. Mmmmmm... soooo good! Begrudgingly, I cut back on the bread, and guess what? My tummy trouble seemed to go away a little more. It was a bittersweet discovery.

Later, I took out pizza. That one hurt the most, but not as much as it hurt after eating a few slices. I love pizza, as much as I love tomatoes and bread, which are the two main ingredients in pizza, so not much of a shock there. After a few years of not eating it, I started to react to it the way a former smoker reacts to the smell of cigarettes. I got sick just thinking about ordering it.

For years, I plodded along, skipping over most of the menus whenever I'd go out for dinner with friends or family. Then a few years ago, everyone started serving gluten-free foods. I was like, "What the crackers is gluten-free?" That's when I found out about celiac disease. Celiac disease is a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy. The damage is due to a reaction to eating gluten. Although I've never been diagnosed, knowing that the removal of certain foods from my diet, I think I must have some kind of gluten intolerance. So rather than continue finding out about items that I can't stomach by being doubled over in pain, I started looking into which foods contained gluten. I was surprised how long that list was!

Did you know that even cough syrup has gluten in it?

Last summer, my favorite cough and cold remedy company, Vicks came out with a new line called Nature Fusion. Not only are the cough and cold products made with real honey, they are non-alcoholic AND Gluten-Free!

With so much awareness about celiac disease in the last few years, it's really easy to find a gluten-free version of my old favorite foods... including pizza!! My kitchen is now stocked with quinoa grain pasta, gluten-free bread mix, pizza crust made from rice, and Nature Fusion cough medicine. I still occasionally indulge in foods that are not gluten-free, which folks that suffer from celiac disease can not do. I don't have a horrible reaction to those foods, and I think that's because I have incorporated many gluten-free and whole foods into my family's meals. I'm also glad that there are so many menu options now available when we eat out.

Even though I've never been officially diagnosed, I know that my health has benefited from going mostly gluten-free.

 

Hey, did you know that I'm a Vicks Blogger? Yep! That means I've been compensated to talk about something I probably would have talked about for free... but don't tell them that! ;)