Pickled veggie pasta salad

Pickled pasta salad | Me & The Moose. This huge pickled pasta salad is perfect for a crowd because it features plenty of salt, fat, and acid and can hang out in the heat for a long time without going bad. Make it for a party or eat it throughout the week. Or just make the quick pickled veggies and snack on those! #meandthemoose #pastasalad #BBQrecipes #batchcooking #vegan #veganrecipes #pickles #pickledveggies

This is my platonic ideal of pasta salad: Tangy, bright, and crunchy, but also a little creamy and, frankly, oily. You can’t help but smell a smoky grill, hear kids laughing, and feel the sun in your face with this salad on your plate.

Just the pasta, please.

Pickled pasta salad | Me & The Moose. This huge pickled pasta salad is perfect for a crowd because it features plenty of salt, fat, and acid and can hang out in the heat for a long time without going bad. Make it for a party or eat it throughout the week. Or just make the quick pickled veggies and snack on those! #meandthemoose #pastasalad #BBQrecipes #batchcooking #vegan #veganrecipes #pickles #pickledveggies
Pickled pasta salad | Me & The Moose. This huge pickled pasta salad is perfect for a crowd because it features plenty of salt, fat, and acid and can hang out in the heat for a long time without going bad. Make it for a party or eat it throughout the week. Or just make the quick pickled veggies and snack on those! #meandthemoose #pastasalad #BBQrecipes #batchcooking #vegan #veganrecipes #pickles #pickledveggies

So, pasta salad is often an underwhelming affair. It feels necessary at BBQs and is easy to produce in huge quantities. And sans eggs or mayo, it keeps in the sun for hours without risking a side of salmonella. But what a waste when it’s totally boring!

This recipe uses a huge quantity of quick-pickled seasonal vegetables and aromatics, which takes a little pre-planning, but is very worth it. My kid also happens to love pickles, which is a pretty good way to get him to eat veggies. And when you do the pickling, you control the salt, sugar, and other junk that enters the mix.

The recipe I’ve developed here is best when left overnight, but the veggies can be eaten after about 3 hours and definitely taste pickled. Leaving them overnight helps the garlic to mellow, which can be considered a kindness to your guests, no? But also feel free to omit the garlic if you must.

And while I haven’t included anything but the pasta, dressing, and veggies in this recipe, you can customize this dish in whatever way suits your family. I make this for the three of us with mozzarella balls or feta. I’ve also thought about searing some salmon and flaking it in there or just opening a can of tuna and dumping that in. Also, the pickled veggies remind me of gardiniera, so I’m sure a salami or other Italian cured meat would be amazing in there. Experiment! Go crazy!

A couple of notes:

  • I opted for scallions here because, though I LOVE a pickled red onion, they turn the pickling liquid (and everything else that’s being soaked) a bit pink.

  • I also used fresh corn because it’s in season and is so sweet and perfect right off of the cob that I can’t imagine not using it. But I’m sure frozen would do the trick too.

  • I give a range of oil and a range of pasta to use here. I used a fancy pasta, which had about 14 oz of dry noodles in the bag, but feel free to use a whole pound. Obviously, the more pasta you use, the less prominent the veggies will be and the more sauce you’ll need and vice versa.

Pickled pasta salad | Me & The Moose. This huge pickled pasta salad is perfect for a crowd because it features plenty of salt, fat, and acid and can hang out in the heat for a long time without going bad. Make it for a party or eat it throughout the week. Or just make the quick pickled veggies and snack on those! #meandthemoose #pastasalad #BBQrecipes #batchcooking #vegan #veganrecipes #pickles #pickledveggies

Pickled veggie pasta salad

Active time: About 30 minutes, mostly spent chopping and mixing
Total time: Anywhere from 3 hours, 15 minutes to 1 week, depending on how much you let the pickles sit
Yield: About 9-10 cups of salad

¾ cup white vinegar
1 ½ Tbsp sugar
¾ tsp salt
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
½ large bunch scallions (about 4-5 large), trimmed and roughly chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved  
½ large orange bell pepper, roughly chopped
2-3 large ears corn, with kernels removed (or about 1½-2 cups)
12-16 oz dried pasta (depending on the ratio of vegetables to pasta that you prefer)
1/2- 3/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp fresh pepper
½ tsp dried or 1 tsp fresh oregano, well minced if using fresh
¼- ½ cup fresh basil leaves, torn

For the pickled vegetables:
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt and stir until the sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. (You won’t hear any more crunching on the bottom of the container.)

In a large container with a tight fitting lid, add the smashed garlic, chopped scallions, and chopped vegetables. Pour in the vinegar mixture, seal the container, and shake a few times.

Place in the refrigerator and leave for 3 hours or up to 1 week.

For the salad:
Cook your pasta according to package directions in well salted water.

While your pasta cooks, combine the oil, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and oregano in a small container.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to a very large bowl. Add half of the olive oil mixture and stir well.

With a large fork or slotted spoon, remove the vegetables from the pickling liquid, transferring as little of the brine as possible (though don’t go crazy). Set aside the garlic cloves and mince the pickled cloves. Add everything to the pasta and stir well.

Add more of the olive oil mixture to taste until you feel that the pasta salad is wet enough.

Mix in and top with the torn basil before serving.

Pickled pasta salad | Me & The Moose. This huge pickled pasta salad is perfect for a crowd because it features plenty of salt, fat, and acid and can hang out in the heat for a long time without going bad. Make it for a party or eat it throughout the week. Or just make the quick pickled veggies and snack on those! #meandthemoose #pastasalad #BBQrecipes #batchcooking #vegan #veganrecipes #pickles #pickledveggies

Sunflower seed butter with flax and chia

Sunflower seed butter | Me & The Moose. This homemade sunflower seed butter tastes so much better than store-bought and is fortified with flax and chia seeds. #meandthemoose #sunflowerseedbutter #lunchboxideas #lunch #lunchbox #sunflowerseedrecipes #sunflowerseedbutterrecipes #lunchboxrecipes #schoolsaferecipes #nutfreerecipes

Once again, I’m copying Trader Joe’s. They have a peanut butter with flax and chia and it’s a fantastic way to get some extra nutrition into a picky eater. Here’s my school-safe version!

Jump to the recipe!

I have a confession to make: I go back and forth between caring A WHOLE LOT about M’s nutrition and then feeling like there are a million little struggles every day and I don’t want to add food to that list.

And he’s always been a contrarian with FOMO, which means he doesn’t love limits. The “perfect parent” voice in my head constantly beats me up about not being stricter. Don’t get me wrong, I say “no” to things 100 times a day and we obviously set lots of boundaries. But we’ve figured out that M does better when he has choice within those limits and that we have to say “yes” to some things or there will be a meltdown.

Anyway, part of M’s way of gaining control these days is that he has VERY strong opinions about food. What he loves one day, he hates the next. Peanut butter mixed into applesauce has been a constant and lately he’s been really into PB&J’s after watching this silly video.

BUT we can’t send any nuts to school, so sunflower seed butter it is. Unfortunately, a lot of the store-bought ones don’t taste great. I’ve made my own sunflower seed butter before and I do love this recipe. But if M’s eating this for at least one meal per day, I wanted to beef up the nutrition. And it tastes so good, he doesn’t complain!

Sunflower seed butter | Me & The Moose. This homemade sunflower seed butter tastes so much better than store-bought and is fortified with flax and chia seeds. #meandthemoose #sunflowerseedbutter #lunchboxideas #lunch #lunchbox #sunflowerseedrecipes #sunflowerseedbutterrecipes #lunchboxrecipes #schoolsaferecipes #nutfreerecipes
Sunflower seed butter | Me & The Moose. This homemade sunflower seed butter tastes so much better than store-bought and is fortified with flax and chia seeds. #meandthemoose #sunflowerseedbutter #lunchboxideas #lunch #lunchbox #sunflowerseedrecipes #sunflowerseedbutterrecipes #lunchboxrecipes #schoolsaferecipes #nutfreerecipes

A couple of notes about this nut butter:

  • When roasting the nuts, you want them to be mostly brown and golden rather than gray. But watch to make sure that they don’t burn! (See the photos above for a before and after.) Well-roasted seeds are much easier to process than ones that are still partly raw.

  • The grinding process takes a bit of patience. If you let the machine run, the seeds will come together into a paste. There are more detailed instructions for the individual grinding steps in the recipe below. Be sure to read the recipe before starting this butter.

  • Storage: I store this seed butter in the fridge because I’ve read that flax and chia (and seeds in general) tend to get rancid quickly when left vulnerable to moisture and heat in the cabinet). The cold tightens the butter considerably, but 20 seconds in the microwave makes the butter easily spreadable again.

Sunflower seed butter | Me & The Moose. This homemade sunflower seed butter tastes so much better than store-bought and is fortified with flax and chia seeds. #meandthemoose #sunflowerseedbutter #lunchboxideas #lunch #lunchbox #sunflowerseedrecipes #sunflowerseedbutterrecipes #lunchboxrecipes #schoolsaferecipes #nutfreerecipes
Sunflower seed butter | Me & The Moose. This homemade sunflower seed butter tastes so much better than store-bought and is fortified with flax and chia seeds. #meandthemoose #sunflowerseedbutter #lunchboxideas #lunch #lunchbox #sunflowerseedrecipes #sunflowerseedbutterrecipes #lunchboxrecipes #schoolsaferecipes #nutfreerecipes
Sunflower seed butter | Me & The Moose. This homemade sunflower seed butter tastes so much better than store-bought and is fortified with flax and chia seeds. #meandthemoose #sunflowerseedbutter #lunchboxideas #lunch #lunchbox #sunflowerseedrecipes #sunflowerseedbutterrecipes #lunchboxrecipes #schoolsaferecipes #nutfreerecipes
Sunflower seed butter | Me & The Moose. This homemade sunflower seed butter tastes so much better than store-bought and is fortified with flax and chia seeds. #meandthemoose #sunflowerseedbutter #lunchboxideas #lunch #lunchbox #sunflowerseedrecipes #sunflowerseedbutterrecipes #lunchboxrecipes #schoolsaferecipes #nutfreerecipes

Sunflower seed butter with flax and chia

Yield: 2-2¼ cups 
Time: 30-35 minutes

3 cups raw sunflower seeds
4-6 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 Tbsp maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp flaky sea salt
3 Tbsp each chia seeds
3 Tbsp whole flax seeds

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Spread the raw sunflower seeds out on a large sheet pan. Roast for 5 minutes and shake the tray. Roast for 2-3 minutes more, checking to make sure that the seeds don’t burn. When the seeds are uniformly more golden brown than gray, they’re ready for processing.

  2. Add the roasted seeds to a large food processor and grind for 2 minutes. The seeds will break up and look very dry and like breadcrumbs.

  3. Add 2 Tbsp of coconut oil and the maple syrup and process for 2 more minutes. At this stage, the seeds start coming together in a large slow-moving glacier of seed butter. Scrape down the sides and break up the glacier as necessary. It will still feel dry and crumbly when you break up the glacier.

  4. Add the vanilla and cinnamon and process again, this time letting the machine run. Let it go for at least 3-4 minutes before adding more coconut oil as the heat of the processor and the continued grinding will start to make the butter smoother and wetter. The glacier of seed butter will still be forming, but will be spinning around the food processor much faster.

  5. After that 3-4 minutes, and while the food processor is running, add the other 2-4 Tbsp of coconut oil to achieve a silky consistency. Don’t add more maple syrup or water because it will make the seed butter stick together and clump more instead of smoothing it out.

  6. The whole process of grinding the seeds into a smooth butter usually takes between 15 and 20 minutes (including stopping add ingredients), so patience is key.

  7. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the sea salt, chia seeds and flax seeds and stir well.

Sunflower seed butter | Me & The Moose. This homemade sunflower seed butter tastes so much better than store-bought and is fortified with flax and chia seeds. #meandthemoose #sunflowerseedbutter #lunchboxideas #lunch #lunchbox #sunflowerseedrecipes #sunflowerseedbutterrecipes #lunchboxrecipes #schoolsaferecipes #nutfreerecipes

Pasta con ceci (and white beans)

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes

A one-pot, healthy, vegan optional pasta dinner full of beans and veggies that comes together in less than 30 minutes? Oh, and it’s made with things you likely have in your pantry right now (or could easily get on the cheap)? Yes and yes.

Take me to the recipe!

This dish started with Victoria Granoff’s wonderful Pasta con ceci from Food52. It’s easy, fast, inexpensive, and shockingly complex considering the petite ingredient list and short cooking time.

However, that quick cook left the chickpeas a little too raw, in my opinion. And while I love a healthy fat, the original recipe calls for lots of olive oil and I wanted to lighten it up a bit. I suspect that the larger amount of oil masks the chickpea taste a bit, but I like the idea of replacing fat with fiber and not the other way around.

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes

I tried to swap in white beans for the chickpeas entirely, but they cooked down too much. Half and half white beans and chickpeas, though, proved the winning combination: Some bite from the chickpeas and some creaminess from the white beans marries perfectly.

Use whole wheat pasta and throw in some julienned kale at the end and you have a rounded, healthy dish full of fiber and protein.

Even M, who’s been in an extended picky phase, gobbled this up and we didn’t even need to put other “safe’ foods on the table.

All that to say, MAKE THIS FOR DINNER TONIGHT!

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes


Pasta con Ceci (and white beans)

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1/3 cup tomato paste
1½ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
1 can of white beans, drained and rinsed  
1 can chick peas, drained and rinsed
1½ cup uncooked orecchiete pasta (or another small shape)
3½ cups stock or water
1 parmesan rind (optional)
½ bushel Tuscan (also called Lacinto or Dinosaur) kale, julienned (about 1½-2 cups) 

For serving: red pepper flakes, more parmesan,

Heat the oil in a large pot over a medium-low flame, until hot, but not crackling.

Add the smashed garlic (it should sizzle in the pan right away) and cook until it’s deeply tanned, but not dark brown. Adjust the temperature as needed to avoid burning.

Add the tomato paste. It should also sizzle when it hits the pan. If not, increase the temperature. Cook, stirring and hearing the sizzle, for 30 seconds to a minute.

Add the white beans, pasta, water or stock, and salt. Bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low and add the cheese rind, if using. Let simmer uncovered (you should have a decent simmer going and see bubbles popping throughout the cooking. If not, increase the temperature) for 15-20 minutes or until the sauce has thickened to your liking and the pasta is cooked.

Turn off the heat and toss in your kale. Stir a few times to let the residual heat wilt the greens.

Serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Pasta con ceci (and white beans) | Me & the Moose. This one-pot, 30-minute, vegan-optional meal is healthy, simple, cheap, and uses pantry staples that you likely already have. #meandthemoose #healthydinnerrecipes #30minutemeals #pastarecipes #veganrecipes #vegetarianrecipes

Romesco hummus

Romesco hummus | Me & The Moose. This easy, healthy snack makes plain, boring hummus more interesting by adding vegetables. Who doesn’t want that? #meandthemoose #hiddenveggies #hummusrecipes #hummus #romescohummus #glutenfree #nutfree #dairyfree #snacks #snackrecipes
Romesco hummus | Me & The Moose. This easy, healthy snack makes plain, boring hummus more interesting by adding vegetables. Who doesn’t want that? #meandthemoose #hiddenveggies #hummusrecipes #hummus #romescohummus #glutenfree #nutfree #dairyfree #snacks #snackrecipes

It’s happening, people. The “new year, new anxiety” phase of January has begun.

Can we talk about having a second child? I have mixed thoughts about it. Sometimes it feels like a member of our family is missing. And both my husband and I have siblings and love it (both the idea of having a sibling and the actual people that our siblings are). AND being an aunt is one of my very favorite things. I don’t want M to miss out on any of that.

But it took so long for us to get pregnant with M, that I’ve been mentally preparing to have one child since he was born.

And the fact is, it took me a long time to feel like myself again both mentally and physically after having M and I’m scared to give that up. I wouldn’t necessarily claim that we’ve “hit our stride” as a family, but we’ve achieved a sort of equilibrium, so the idea of purposely throwing a HUGE wrench into the works with another baby is very scary.

I’m also scared about the change to M’s life. He’s actually cried a few times because he doesn’t have a sibling, but I know that his sadness is purely theoretical. When another little person actually takes up our time, he’ll be PISSED. I don’t want to ruin his life, you know?

But what about the joy a kid brings? And the funny family stories we’ll have in the future? And M will need someone to complain to about all of the mistakes we’ll inevitably make.

And here’s where the anxiety comes in: We are entering my 39th year of life, so my time to perseverate about having another child is swiftly coming to an end. UUUUUUUUGGGGGHHHHH.

What is your advice? Have any of you felt this way? How did you make the final decision? I NEED TO KNOW.

Anyhoo, I can’t think of a good segue, so HUMMUS.

Romesco hummus | Me & The Moose. This easy, healthy snack makes plain, boring hummus more interesting by adding vegetables. Who doesn’t want that? #meandthemoose #hiddenveggies #hummusrecipes #hummus #romescohummus #glutenfree #nutfree #dairyfree #snacks #snackrecipes

Hummus was one of M’s favorite snacks until…it wasn’t. He actually told me one day that he was “done” with hummus and carrots. Rude.

So I combined plain hummus with the veggies and spices from Romesco sauce, had him measure the ingredients and press the food processor buttons, and HUZZAH he likes hummus again.

To anyone wondering why they should make hummus rather than buying it in the store, I say, it’s truly so easy that a small child can do it (and did). Unlike regular Romesco sauce, this hummus is nut-free, so you don’t have to toast or roast anything. You don’t even need to chop because, food processor.

A couple of notes:

  • There is a lot of smoked paprika in this recipe, so start with 1/2 tsp and add more to taste if you prefer milder flavors.

  • I use a brand of roasted red pepper that comes in a tall, thin jar, so the peppers are really big. If your peppers are smaller, use two.

Romesco hummus | Me & The Moose. This easy, healthy snack makes plain, boring hummus more interesting by adding vegetables. Who doesn’t want that? #meandthemoose #hiddenveggies #hummusrecipes #hummus #romescohummus #glutenfree #nutfree #dairyfree #snacks #snackrecipes

Romesco hummus

1 can chickpeas, drained
1 large roasted red pepper (or 2 smaller peppers)
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 large garlic cloves
1/2-1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp cayenne
3 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp sherry or red wine vinegar

 Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth.

Yield: 16 oz or 1.5 cups

Romesco hummus | Me & The Moose. This easy, healthy snack makes plain, boring hummus more interesting by adding vegetables. Who doesn’t want that? #meandthemoose #hiddenveggies #hummusrecipes #hummus #romescohummus #glutenfree #nutfree #dairyfree #snacks #snackrecipes

Sesame roasted brussels sprouts

Sesame roasted brussels sprouts | Me & The Moose. These Brussels sprouts are crunchy, garlicky, sweet, and salty. Basically, the perfect side dish. #brusselssprouts #roasting #sidedish #kidseatvegetables

OMG Halloween hangover. The ten pounds of candy I ate between opening the bags at 11 am (why? WHY?) and going to bed at 9 pm (which felt like midnight), have done a number on my body. I guess it’s a good sign that I feel like shit? Maybe it shows that I don’t normally eat 10,000 grams of sugar in 10 hours?

Anyhoo, we started the day with a small fit because I wouldn’t let someone eat candy for breakfast, so…that was fun.

Sesame roasted brussels sprouts | Me & The Moose. These Brussels sprouts are crunchy, garlicky, sweet, and salty. Basically, the perfect side dish. #brusselssprouts #roasting #sidedish #kidseatvegetables
Sesame roasted brussels sprouts | Me & The Moose. These Brussels sprouts are crunchy, garlicky, sweet, and salty and a great way to get your kids to eat veggies. #brusselssprouts #roasting #sidedish #kidseatvegetables

One key to weaning my little back to veggies after a sugar binge is to make them extra unctuous and delicious. These brussels fit the bill. High heat makes them mellow and crispy while the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil add layers of salt and fat that lead to really big flavor.

Sesame roasted brussels sprouts | Me & The Moose. These Brussels sprouts are crunchy, garlicky, sweet, and salty and a great way to get your kids to eat veggies. #brusselssprouts #roasting #sidedish #kidseatvegetables

A couple of notes:

  • It’s important to work fast after getting the roasted sprouts out of the oven. Their heat will cook the garlic a bit and without it, the taste can be pretty strong.

  • If you think you’ll have leftovers, sprinkle the sesame seeds on the individual portions, or just the part you’ll eat right away. The seeds can burn when you recrisp the leftovers.

Serve them with a piece of fish, some tofu, some rotisserie chicken, or accompanying any other protein. I also like them next to these noodles for a double dose of veggies. You could actually slap some chicken thighs on another sheet pan and roast them all together if your oven is big enough.

Sesame roasted brussels sprouts | Me & The Moose. These Brussels sprouts are crunchy, garlicky, sweet, and salty and a great way to get your kids to eat veggies. #brusselssprouts #roasting #sidedish #kidseatvegetables
Sesame roasted brussels sprouts | Me & The Moose. These Brussels sprouts are crunchy, garlicky, sweet, and salty and a great way to get your kids to eat veggies. #brusselssprouts #roasting #sidedish #kidseatvegetables

Sesame roasted Brussels sprouts  

1 ¼ lb brussels sprouts, halved (or two 10 oz bags)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp grated fresh ginger (about a 1-inch piece)
2 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari, divided
1 small garlic clove, minced 
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1½- 2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

 

Preheat the oven to 425.

In a large bowl, combine the veggies, olive oil, 1 Tbsp of soy sauce, and the grated ginger. Mix well. If you see any clumps of ginger, separate them the best you can.

Spread onto a baking sheet and roast for 15-17 minutes (or until you’ve reached peak crispyness, since oven temps vary), stirring once in the middle of cooking.

While the veggies are roasting, mince your garlic and combine it with the remaining 1 Tbsp of soy sauce, sesame oil, and honey.

When the sprouts are roasted, quickly spoon them back into your original bowl. Add the garlic mixture and stir well. Serve immediately.

If reheating this, place the servings you’ll need back into a 425 oven for about 5 minutes (or as long as needed) to re-crisp.

Yield: about 3 cups of sprouts, or 4 servings.

Sesame roasted brussels sprouts | Me & The Moose. These Brussels sprouts are crunchy, garlicky, sweet, and salty and a great way to get your kids to eat veggies. #brusselssprouts #roasting #sidedish #kidseatvegetables
Sesame roasted brussels sprouts | Me & The Moose. These Brussels sprouts are crunchy, garlicky, sweet, and salty and a great way to get your kids to eat veggies. #brusselssprouts #roasting #sidedish #kidseatvegetables