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

White bean chicken chili

White bean chicken chili | Me & The Moose. This easy, fast, cheap, and healthy meal also happens to be gluten and dairy free and a crowd pleaser for game day or a weekday. #meandthemoose #quickdinner #dinner #dinnerrecipes #glutenfreerecipes #dairyfreerecipes #chili #chilirecipes #gamedayrecipes

Who needs a quick, easy, healthy, and cheap dinner that everyone will eat, is totally customizable, and is gluten and dairy free? EVERYONE, that’s who. And we ESPECIALLY need it this week.

White bean chicken chili | Me & The Moose. This easy, fast, cheap, and healthy meal also happens to be gluten and dairy free and a crowd pleaser for game day or a weekday. #meandthemoose #quickdinner #dinner #dinnerrecipes #glutenfreerecipes #dairyfreerecipes #chili #chilirecipes #gamedayrecipes

Our family just flew back from 6 days in Key West, FL and boy are my arms, legs, eyes, lungs, feet, teeth, hair, elbows, knees, and brains tired. See what I did there?

Can we talk about traveling with kids? I love it and hate it. On the one hand, it’s really nice to get out of the regular grind and say “yes” to things like daily ice cream and night swimming. That’s how memories are made, people!

But some of parenting’s stressors are portable. And some of those stressors are actually worse when saying “yes” comes with a side of fatigue and crashing blood sugar.

This particular vacation was amazing fun sandwiched between two slices of crazy-travel bread thanks to oversleeping for our 6:30 am flight on the way there, and then changing our flights twice and driving four hours at 10 pm to beat an ice and snow storm on our way home.

We also paid an arm and a leg for a 3-hour nap in an airport hotel that was the grossest place I’ve ever stayed. It was less like a hotel room and more like a bunch of pink-eye germs and bed bugs holding hands. Shudder. M commented, “It smells like a lot of people were sweating in here.”

But I fully acknowledge that we’re so lucky to be able to travel and are so grateful to the TSA and FAA employees who are currently working really hard without pay. We tried to make meaningful eye contact while saying “Thank you” over and over in securlty.

That said, I’m exhausted.

White bean chicken chili | Me & The Moose. This easy, fast, cheap, and healthy meal also happens to be gluten and dairy free and a crowd pleaser for game day or a weekday. #meandthemoose #quickdinner #dinner #dinnerrecipes #glutenfreerecipes #dairyfreerecipes #chili #chilirecipes #gamedayrecipes

So, let’s get to this easy, all-purpose chili.

It is deceptively complex considering how quickly it comes together. You can certainly let it simmer for an hour to deepen the flavor if you like, but sauteing the spices and using a rich homemade stock if possible, will achieve the same depth of flavor in less time.

And if you put out every possible topping, I’ve found that this dish makes just about everyone happy.

White bean chicken chili | Me & The Moose. This easy, fast, cheap, and healthy meal also happens to be gluten and dairy free and a crowd pleaser for game day or a weekday. #meandthemoose #quickdinner #dinner #dinnerrecipes #glutenfreerecipes #dairyfreerecipes #chili #chilirecipes #gamedayrecipes

White bean chicken chili  

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small white onion, chopped
2-3 large cloves garlic
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp kosher salt
2 lbs ground chicken breast
1½ cups chicken stock (more, if you like a saucier chili)
1 cup chopped tomatoes
8 oz chopped roasted green chilis (2 small cans)
15 oz can white beans
Toppings: Cheese, scallions, avocado, sour cream, and pickled jalapenos

Heat oil over a medium flame in a large pot. Add the onion and sauté until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the garlic and sauté again until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the spices and salt and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 more minute.

Add the chicken and sauté until no pink remains.

Add the stock and tomatoes and stir. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly.   

If the sauce isn’t thickening to your liking after 20 minutes, combine 1 Tbsp flour and 1-2 Tbsp of water and stir vigorously to combine. (I usually use a lidded jar and shake the water and flour together.) Add to the sauce and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Add the chilis and the white beans and bring back to a boil to head through.  

Garnish with cheese, scallions, avocado, sour cream, yogurt, pickled jalapenos, cilantro, etc. Whatever your chili loving heart desires.

Serve immediately.

Yield: 7-8 cups (about 5 grown-up servings)

White bean chicken chili | Me & The Moose. This easy, fast, cheap, and healthy meal also happens to be gluten and dairy free and a crowd pleaser for game day or a weekday. #meandthemoose #quickdinner #dinner #dinnerrecipes #glutenfreerecipes #dairyfreerecipes #chili #chilirecipes #gamedayrecipes

White bean and pasta soup

White bean and pasta soup | Me & the Moose. This soup is quick, easy, wholesome, and a surefire way to get my toddler to eat beans and bone broth. It’s also a warming lunch for these cold days. #soup #whitebeansoup #recipes #meandthemoose

This soup is a metaphor for how I’m feeling about this holiday season. (As always, to skip this meditation on holiday blues and just get to the damned soup already, scroll to the next photo!)

As you can see, the dry pasta is vibrant pink and white adorableness. But when cooked, it loses some color and is a rather bleh peach and cream. It still tastes good, but doesn’t live up to the promise of the shiny and bright dry version. I feel that way about the holidays: The idea is one thing, but the experience is another.

I have the holiday blues. They came early this year, which is probably because Thanksgiving was so early and now we’re officially in the holiday season even though Halloween was 10 seconds ago and it’s all going too fast and increasing my seasonal ennui.

But if I’m honest, I always have the sneaking suspicion that everyone else is more engaged in life and more present in their lives and more, I don’t know, successful at life than I am. I’m sure I’m not alone.

Unsurprisingly, I have to take social media with a HUGE grain of salt and constantly remind myself that these idealized versions of life aren’t the whole picture. So, I guess this is my friendly reminder to all of YOU that ‘tis the season of matching jammies and perfect cookies, which are fun and pretty and inspiring, but also staged and only a sliver of someone’s day.

White bean and pasta soup | Me & the Moose. Alphabet pasta is a perennial favorite in our home, but the snowflakes are a seasonal contender for favorite pasta shape. #soup #whitebeansoup #recipes #meandthemoose

Anyway, make this soup! Seriously though, one way I try to combat the holiday blues is to be mindful about what I’m eating. This soup is more nutritious if you use a whole grain or grain-free pasta (or skip it entirely). However, M’s soup consumption increases dramatically if there’s a fun shape in there.

And if you can, make the broth yourself. It’s light years better than the stuff in paper cartons from the store. And you can make a lot at a time and freeze it for later. And the chicken can be frozen for later meals too!

White bean and pasta soup | Me & the Moose. This soup is quick, easy, wholesome, and a surefire way to get my toddler to eat beans and bone broth. It’s also a warming lunch for these cold days. #soup #whitebeansoup #recipes #meandthemoose

White bean and pasta soup

1 Tbsp olive oil
½ medium onion, chopped
1 large or 2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp fresh or 1 tsp dried rosemary, minced
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
6 cups herbed chicken stock (recipe below)
1½ cups dried pasta, cooked in separate water
Parmesan cheese

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

Heat the olive oil over a medium low flame. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and rosemary and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the white beans and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Let cool slightly.

While the soup simmers, cook the pasta separately. When the pasta is done, add it to the slightly cooled soup.

Top with cheese before serving.  

Yield: 7-8 cups soup, about 4 big bowls  

Herbed chicken stock

1 chicken, cut into pieces (2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 drumsticks), skin and bones included
1 large onion
4 garlic cloves, smashed
1 large carrot
1 stalks celery
2 sticks rosemary
8-10 sticks thyme
10-12 sage leaves
1 bay leaf
10-14 cups water, enough to cover the ingredients
1 Tbsp salt

Add all of the ingredients to a large stockpot and stir to distribute the salt. Cover with water.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, partially covered, for 1½ hours. If a lot of the water evaporates, add more to maintain the original level of water.

Let cool. Strain the broth with a fine mesh sieve. Remove the bones and skin of the chicken, but save the meat in a separate container for other meals.   

Yield: About 12 cups of stock; one entire chicken, dark and light meat

White bean and pasta soup | Me & the Moose. This soup is quick, easy, wholesome, and a surefire way to get my toddler to eat beans and bone broth. It’s also a warming lunch for these cold days. #soup #whitebeansoup #recipes #meandthemoose

Creamy tomato and white bean pasta

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TOMATO SEASON IS HERE!!!!!!! I looooooove tomatoes. Love. And so does M (though he mysteriously won't eat them in his lunchbox anymore).

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M does not always love beans though. He eats them, but they aren't on the top of his list.

As anyone who's read this blog knows, I have a relationship with healthy eating. Like all relationships, it takes work and there are lots of struggles. But any article titled, "The Last Conversation You'll Ever Need To Have About Eating Right," I am 100% going to read. I mean, I'm not going to stop having conversations about eating right, but I liked the article and one of my main takeaways was: Beans are good. Full stop. So, we're eating more beans, which is sometimes a struggle with a toddler.

These beans are not the healthiest things I've ever eaten. But a little bit of cream and Parmesan go a long way. A boat load of tomatoes, onions, garlic, salt, and fresh thyme also do some heavy lifting to form a dish that is hearty and tasty and takes advantage of the best summer produce.

But the secret ingredient here is patience. Reducing the sauce to a syrupy, caramely sauce gives you maximum tomato flavor.

And then your toddler will eat beans.

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Creamy tomato and white bean pasta 

1 Tbsp olive oil
½ large white onion, minced
5 large garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds cherry or other heirloom tomatoes (or a mixture of both)
1 can white beans
2 Tbsp heavy cream
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup pasta, cooked
¼- ½ tsp salt (more to taste)
pepper
Thyme (2 tsp fresh or 1/2 tsp dried, or to taste)

In a medium pot, bring well- salted water to a boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions.

While the water is coming to a boil, mince the onions and garlic. Over medium-low heat, saute the onions for 4-5 minutes or until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for one more minute, or until fragrant.

Chop the tomatoes and add them to the onions and garlic. Turn the flame up to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes, or until the tomatoes release their water and begin to boil.

The liquid should be at a consistent and vigorous boil. If it isn’t, turn the heat up slightly until the liquid begins to boil. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the tomato liquid has reduced by more than half and become syrupy, about another 8-10 minutes.

Add the heavy cream and parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Continue simmering for 4-5 more minutes, stirring regularly, until the sauce thickens. (You should be able to scrape the bottom of the pan and the sauce doesn’t ooze back right away.)

Add the beans and pasta to the sauce and stir to combine. Cook for one more minute to heat the beans and the pasta through.

Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with fresh or dried thyme.

Yield: 4 servings (one heaping cup each)

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Meatless Mondays: Spinach pasta

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After consuming roughly 10 lbs of sugar while making M's 3rd birthday sushi cake last week (in case you missed it), it was time for a reset. Feels like the 100th reset of the year already, no? Anyway, BALANCE.

So, I don't just like creamed spinach, I like, like creamed spinach. And I won't try to convince you that creamed spinach made without cream is the same thing. Hence, why I'm not calling this "creamed spinach pasta." But when I had the urge to make creamed spinach and mix in some pasta for a hearty and meatless dinner, I thought, maybe I can go one further and skip the cream altogether. Because, you know, the 10 lbs of sugar.

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I started out with the Food52 Cauliflower Carbonara that surfaced a few months ago. This sauce is also delicious in its own right, but I would not compare it to high octane carbonara (though it's an excellent way to get loads of vegetables into your child if you're into that sort of thing). I thought that the cauliflower flavor would be too strong to conceivably substitute for cream and I was right.

Then I gave this Bean-Creamed Spinach recipe on Epicurious a shot. A few tweaks later and we have a lively sauce that uses minimal dairy and even less meat. I used chicken broth because that's what we usually have on hand, but subbing in a vegetable broth would be perfectly fine.

I'm not sure you can really omit the cheese entirely because, to me, it rounds out the flavor. But if you use vegan cheese or nutritional yeast regularly, feel free to sub in some of those for the Asiago and Parmesan.

A note about pre-cooking the spinach: I find that when I cook spinach in whatever sauce it will eventually be covered with, I get a strange spinach-y film on my teeth that is wholly unappetizing. For whatever reason, wilting the spinach first and pressing out the excess water avoids the film and makes the dish taste much better. In my opinion, entirely worth the extra 10 minutes.

Sadly, this post was not sponsored by Whole Foods. I should really get on that.

Sadly, this post was not sponsored by Whole Foods. I should really get on that.

Creamed spinach pasta

1 lb baby spinach
2 large cloves garlic
½ large onion
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 can/box of white beans
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp Aleppo pepper or paprika
½ tsp mustard powder
1 tsp lemon juice (or the juice of ½ small lemon)
1 lb dry pasta
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
¼ cup Asiago cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

If needed, give your spinach a quick rinse. Place all of the spinach in a second large pot and start to wilt over medium heat. Give the spinach a few stirs to make sure it wilts evenly. This usually takes me about 10 minutes.

While wilting your spinach, give the onions and garlic a rough chop. You’ll puree these later, so don’t worry about mincing. Open, rinse, and drain your can of beans and measure out your stock.

When all of the spinach is wilted, turn the greens out onto a dishtowel or a few paper towels. This spinach is hot and we want this meal to be done quickly, so I like to add another dishtowel or a few more paper towels on top of the spinach and then weigh it down with a kettle or heavy pot. While you cook everything else, the spinach drains.

Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil to your now empty large pot. Over medium heat, sauté the onions until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the beans and give a few stirs. Add the stock and season with salt and pepper. Turn the flame to medium high and bring the stock to a boil. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by half.

While the liquid is reducing, give your drained spinach a rough chop. Set aside. If you haven't already, start cooking your pasta.

When the stock has reduced by half, add the Aleppo pepper (or paprika) and the mustard powder. Puree the stock and white bean mixture with either a very strong immersion blender or in a regular blender. Return to the pan. Mix in the cooked spinach. Add the cooked and drained pasta and the cheeses and stir well to combine. Taste for seasoning.

Yield: 9 cups

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