dinner, not cookies

Yesterday on facebook, I asked if you guys were more in the mood for dinner or cookie recipes.  I then asked if that was a dumb question to ask, figuring the answer would clearly be cookies.

Apparently it was not a dumb question, because dinners won!  Although, that was only out of 11 votes.

This is definitely the time of year when healthy dinners go flying out the window, and quick + easy take out sounds so much easier.  And then there are the cookies.  Cookies, cookies, everywhere!  Personally, I have not gotten my fill of cookies yet, so you will definitely be seeing a few gluten free cookie recipes soon!  I’ve really been cookie deprived for the past year, because I’ve been scared to attempt GF cookies.  I figure December is the best month to conquer my fear.

But back to the point of this post.

Dinner.  I ran out to grab a few last minute things at the store, once Chris got home [only have 1 car] and whipped this up in only about 20-25 minutes.

First, I got a huge pot of water boiling and 2 boxes of GF noodles out + ready.  Each box only has 4 servings, as opposed to the typical 8, for non-GF noodles.

photo 1

Around 5pm, I quickly [seriously this took 5 minutes] added ingredients into the slow cooker, for my homemade red sauce.  I’ve never tried it in the slow cooker, but knew it could be done.  And let me tell you, I will never be making it on the stove again.  I set it on high and let it cook for 3hrs.  You can also set it to low and let it go all day while you’re at work.

I doubled the recipe, obviously.

When it takes no extra effort to double something, I double it.  Especially when it’s freezable!

photo 2

While the water was coming to a boil, I got started on the creamy pasta sauce.

First, add the garlic + whirl it around.

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Next, add the tofu, spices, oil, milk + cheese.

Whirl that around until creamy + smooth.  Taste test x100.

photo 4

Add the noodles to the pot!

If using GF noodles, do not overcook!!!

If using GF noodles, do not overcook!!!

Yes, I repeated myself.

And always rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and prevent a gummy mess.

photo 1 (2)

While the noodles were cooking, I got started on our veggie side dish.

Green beans, for a change of pace.

Lemonized + garlicized.

photo 5

After rinsing the noodles, they went back in the pot, along with 6 handfuls of baby spinach + the creamy sauce.

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This cooked for about 5 minutes over medium heat, until everything was nice + hot.

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Now, I’m kind of stumped on what to call this.

It’s kind of like a ricotta stuffed shells, manicotti, and lasagna filling, but a bit creamier.  I realize you may think tofu as a sauce sounds weird, but let me tell you, it’s delicious.  I fed this layered in lasagna, to my Ohio family, and they loved it.

If you’re new to tofu, this is the first recipe you should start with!  Plus, an added bonus, you don’t have to press the tofu!  Another bonus, you don’t have to fill shells or manicotti noodles or spread it on partially cooked lasagna noodles.  Believe me, it’s quite the mess.  A third bonus!, there is no need to bake this meal in the oven!

Winner, winner, creamy pasta dinner.

Can we just call it, creamy pasta?

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Marinara Topped, Creamy Pasta?

photo 2 (3)

Yes, I think that’s what I’ll call it!

Marinara Topped, Creamy Pasta serves 6 [adapted from Dairy-Free Spinach Stuffed Shells]

  • 16oz pasta of choice

  • marinara sauce

  • 16oz block, extra firm tofu

  • 6-8c fresh baby spinach

  • 2T sunflower oil

  • 3T milk

  • 1/4c parmesan cheese

  • 1 large garlic clove

  • 2t oregano

  • 1t basil

  • 1t parsley

  • 1/2t salt

  • black pepper

  • 1/4t red pepper flakes [opt]

  1. Boil noodles according to package directions + rinse with cold water when done cooking.

  2. While water is boiling, add the peeled garlic clove to your food processor and process for a few seconds.

  3. Empty the water from the tofu carton and squeeze excess moisture out with a kitchen towel or paper towels.

  4. Add the tofu, milk, oil, cheese, all spices to the food processor and process until smooth. 

  5. Taste + add seasoning if desired.

  6. Add pasta, spinach and tofu sauce back to the pot over medium heat, stirring frequently until heated through + spinach has wilted. ~5-7min

  7. Top with marinara + extra cheese.

tips/substitutions:  The pasta I showed in the first photo is decent for GF pasta.  It wasn’t gummy in this dish at all, but the flavor is slightly earthy.  However, that is masked by the flavor of the dish.  It was on sale + has decent nutrient stats.  If you want to veganize this, add 2T nutritional yeast, instead of parmesan cheese or just leave it out altogether.

slow cooking the sauce:  I added all of the ingredients to the slow cooker and placed on high for 3 hrs.  I uncovered the slow cooker for the last 45min to let some of the moisture cook off.  You can also add all ingredients and place on low for 8hrs.  If it’s too thin, add 1T more tomato paste, until desired consistency is met.  You can use any spices you like.  For this batch, I used garlic, oregano, basil + thyme.  It freezes well, once cooled, in jars or freezer bags and is far superior to store bought sauce.

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How about those green beans?

Lemon Garlic Green Beans

  • 2 large servings of green beans

  • 1 lemon

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  • 1/2T sunflower oil

  • salt + pepper

  1. Heat a pan to med/med-high and add the oil.

  2. Once hot add the beans + juice from 1 lemon, stirring occasionally until crispy + brown.  ~7-9min

  3. In the last minute of cooking, stir in the garlic + serve immediately or the garlic will burn in the pan.

  4. Top with salt + pepper.

Couldn’t get easier than that!  Loved these and this whole dinner.

Definitely going to become a staple around here, and i already froze 2 portions for leftovers.

photo 4 (2)

And the iPhone photos?  Well, I got rid of my light box, since it’s so large + our house is so small.  Phone photos actually turn out better than my camera photos, when using kitchen light.  Crazy but true.

Aaand, I was going to post another Photography 101 post today, but tonight’s dinner trumped a photo lesson.

Hope you don’t mind.

Back to the cookies tomorrow.  Mandel bread perfecting continues!