St. Patrick’s Day Spinach Pesto Pasta

I watched maybe four episodes of “Chopped” last night. It may have been a bit much… because when I just went to the kitchen to make dinner, I created my own little mystery basket. Except instead of exotic or ridiculous ingredients, mine were things in the fridge that are about to go bad… I had to get rid of some spinach. And the broccoli was looking a little peaked. (Please don’t tell the judges.) So there was that… From the pantry I scrounged some staples: pasta, garlic, onion. Done! I’m going to make a spinach pesto with sauteed broccoli and penne. Boom! And that’s how it went. Pretty lame for “Chopped,” I know, but the approach sure beat opening the door to a near empty fridge, sighing and saying, “We have no food!” Which is how I probably would have reacted just a few years ago…

Instead, I accepted the challenge and tried my damndest to impress my judge (the husband). And here’s the oh-so-appropriately-timed St. Patrick’s Day pesto pasta we ended up with for dinner:


St. Patrick’s Day is a favorite holiday of mine. And when I looked down at all that green goodness on my plate I couldn’t help but smile at the timing. I would totally make this, or even just the pesto for a St. Patty’s Day party. Festive, and good for you! Skip the green beer and load up on this. (Note, I said green beer. I have no problem with beer… just for the record.)

Meanwhile, on my little episode of “Chopped”… The judges were speechless and practically licked their plates clean…


And there’s still plenty of pesto left over to use in dressings and to dip things in between now and the actual St. Patty’s day. This pesto (which is similar to this one) is a super sneaky way to get in more greens, which are good for you on every level – improving circulation, bringing in oxygen, detoxing cells and even lifting the spirit. They’ll also help counter act some of the not-so-good for you stuff (read: green beer) we may over do in honor of our patron saint in green….


St. Patrick’s Day Spinach Pesto Pasta


For the pesto:
1 bunch spinach
1/2 cup walnuts
1 clove garlic
1 lemon
1 handful basil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

For the pasta
1 box whole wheat or brown rice pasta
1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets
1 onion, diced
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Cook the pasta according to package instructions.

For the pesto, first put garlic clove in food processor and process to chop. Then add walnuts and chop. Add spinach, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and process into a smooth consistency. Last, add the basil and process until evenly blended and smooth. Add more olive oil and/or water until desired consistency is reached.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add diced onion and sautee until translucent. Add broccoli florets and sautee about 10 minutes until cooked through.

Top pasta with broccoli mix and then pesto.


Hatch Chile Hummus

We’ve been having our own little hatch chile festival over the past couple of weeks. It started with salsa. And now we’re onto hummus. I love playing dress up with hummus. Start with plain, naked chickpeas and give them some personality with whatever your imagination can come up with. hatch chile. sun dried tomato. basil. kalamata olive. spinach artichoke. jalepeno. roasted garlic. red pepper.  sweet potato. Anything goes. Of course you can’t go wrong with the classic, but why not change it up a bit?

What you’ll need:

2 cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 can, drained and rinsed)
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water
2-3 roasted hatch chiles, chopped

What you do:

Using a food processor or blender, first put in the garlic clove and pulse until minced. Add the chickpeas, lemon juice, olive oil and puree until smooth. Add the water gradually as needed to facilitate blending. Continue blending until the hummus is no longer grainy or gritty. Now, add the chopped chiles. Add one chile at a time, tasting as you go to get the flavor just as you like it. We used three chiles which was just enough to give it a subtle spice and a slightly darker tone. You can also add cumin or paprika for some extra spice.

We’re using up the rest of the hatch chiles next week with one more recipe… Stay tuned!


Hatch Chile Salsa

Have you heard? It’s hatch chile season. If you frequent Central Market or Whole Foods I’m sure you’re well aware. August is all about these green chilies harvested in the Mesilla Valley of New Mexico near a little town called… Hatch. They’re a staple of New Mexican cooking and are quite mild, coming in below the jalapeno on the heat scale. For weeks now I’ve seen them turning in the drum roaster outside of my Whole Foods. The entry way is lined with patches of green chiles and there are neat little plastic containers sticking out of ice coolers with the roasted gems ready to go. I’m not usually one for the packaged fruit or veggie containers in the produce section. I’ll save my $7 and cut up my own pineapple thank you very much. But these aren’t your everyday prepped produce. $2 buys you one pound of hot or mild fire roasted chiles. Unless you have a drum roaster in your backyard, I’ll say that’s a pretty good deal. Beats the canned stuff in more ways than one, a 1/2 cup canned runs $3 a pop. I know because the first crop came in a little late this year so I settled for the canned stuff to make these amazing sweet potato enchiladas (coming soon).

Besides adding flavor, green chilies are high in vitamin A, C, K, B6, folate, potassium, manganese and magnesium. And like all vegetables they’re a great source of fiber.

I made this super simple hatch chile salsa with tomato, red onion, lime, cilantro, salt and pepper. That’s it. Use hot chilies if you want a spicier salsa, or mild ones for something a little tamer.

What you need:

1 lime, juiced
1 heirloom tomato, diced
1/4 red onion, diced
1 roasted hatch chile, diced
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper

What you do:

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Season with salt and pepper.


Good-For-You Party Dips

Summer is officially here. School is out. It’s 100 degrees outside. Let the BBQs begin! Nothing says summer like getting together with friends to grill, eat good food, have a few cold ones and relax. So now the question… what are you bringing? Maybe an appetizer? A dip? Before you reach for the cream cheese, hold that thought. I love those kinds of dips as much as the next girl, and I’ll eat my fair share if it’s in front of me. But then I’ll feel all ‘bleh’ the next day because I ate a block of cream cheese. If you’re looking for a healthier alternative to the standard party apps, try one of these for your next get together…


The main ingredient – chickpeas – are a healthy, low-fat source of protein. Making it is as easy as whipping together most dips. Sure, you can always buy it at the store in a pinch, but most of those packaged tubs have high fructose corn syrup and other additives you don’t want. So if you do, read the labels. But I suggest giving it a try at home. Just stuff a few ingredients in a blender and you’ve got something far better than the store variety – because YOU made it!

What you need:

2 cups cooked chickpeas
5 tbsp tahini
1 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup lemon juice (1 1/2 – 2 lemons)
2-3 cloves garlic
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water or cooking liquid
chopped parsley and paprika for garnish

What you do:

Combine chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, sea salt and olive oil in a blender or food processor. Add water or cooking liquid as needed to facilitate blending. When the mixture is smooth, pour (more like scoop) into a bowl. Top with chopped parsley and paprika. Serve with carrots, celery and/or pita chips.

Change up the flavor by adding in one of these:
kalamata olives
roasted red pepper
roasted eggplant
spinach and artichoke
sundried tomatos and basil

Black Bean Dip

What you need:

1 1/2 cups black beans
2-3 tbsp salsa
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp lime juice
red pepper flakes (or Tabasco) to taste
1/4-1/2 tsp cumin
sea salt to taste
whole kernel corn
1 tbsp basil, chopped

What you do:

Combine first seven ingredients in a blender or food processor. Add water as needed to facilitate blending. Transfer to serving bowl. Mix in corn and chopped basil, then garnish with a little red pepper.

Mexican Explosion Dip

What you need:

1-2 avocados, chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup whole kernel corn
1/2 red onion, chopped
1-2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lime

What you do:

Mix the avocado, tomatoes, black beans, corn and onion in a bowl. Stir in olive oil. Add cilantro. Squeeze lime juice over the mix. Refrigerate before serving.


Mexican Explosion

I’ve had this explosion-in-your-mouth salsa many a time – my Mom makes a fantastic one, so does Em-lee and one of my roomies … we’ll call her Bride-to-Be for now (she’s getting married in November). But, I ended up making an improvised version myself last night because I had two avocados that looked like they either needed to be eaten immediately or trashed. Never one to waste food, I chopped them up and combined them with some diced tomatoes, a can of black beans and a can of corn. I added some cilantro (bought for our original intention of making guacamole) and squeezed half a lime over it all. I’ll call it Mexican Explosion; when you mix it all up, that’s what a looks like – a big colorful mess of fresh.

Without any chips in the house, I ate it plain. The ultimate versatile dish – it can be a dip at a party, topping for fajitas, thrown in a salad or a simple side.

Here’s what you need:

1-2 avocados, chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can whole kernel corn, drained
1/2 red onion, chopped
1-2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lime

What you do:

Mix the avocado, tomatoes, black beans, corn and onion in a bowl. Stir in olive oil. Add cilantro. Squeeze lime juice over the mix. Refrigerate before serving.

Bell peppers would be a good addition to give it some crunch.
Want it spicy? Add jalepenos.