Grape and Celery Pasta Salad

So I have OFFICIALLY finished the 5th Harry Potter book. And am about to dive into the 6th.

grape pasta salad 1

This calls for a celebration. A celebration with pasta.

grape pasta salad 2

This is one of those ‘kitchen sink’ meals, where you throw everything in your fridge into a bowl and call it a meal. This turned out quite well, but the large shells were a bit of a pain. I love love love large pasta shells but sometimes they are just so big and impossible to deal with.

grape pasta salad 3

However, this is the perfect combination of sweet [grapes], crunchy [celery], and flavorful [sun-dried tomato and basil cheese]. Whip this up to keep on hand and pack in your lunch. I am slowly but surely mastering the art of packing lunch and snacks to keep me going through my 8am-5pm school days.

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

2 cups large shell pasta or 1 cup smaller pasta
1 c grapes, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/4 c chopped pecans
1 Laughing Cow sun-dried tomato and basil cheese wedge, melted
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Feta for flavor
Mixed greens

1. Cook pasta according to directions, then drain.
2. Combine pasta, grapes, celery, and pecans in a bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, combine vinegar, olive oil, and cheese wedge. Microwave in 10 second intervals, stirring until melted, or melt in a pot. Pour over pasta.
4. Serve pasta over mixed greens and sprinkle feta on top.

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Almond Butter Cranberry Pecan Stuffed Sweet Potato

Today is the first day of my second semester of graduate school.

almond butter sweet potato 1

Thinking it HAD to be better than my last semester, with Thursday night class from 6-9 and a test every Monday, I was optimistic. However, after reading the syllabus for just one class, I see that Sunday Night Cram Sessions will not be coming to an end. And Tuesday Night Cram Sessions will be officially starting.

almond butter sweet potato 2

Awesome. Not. But, despite the start-of-school blues, I have something tasty to share with you. This is kind of like the kitchen sink version of sweet potatoes. Except the ingredients thrown together were well planned. We all know cranberries and pecans pair well. And I wanted this to be sweet, so I added cinnamon and brown sugar. Then I decided to add a creaminess, hence the almond butter. And this is Justin’s Maple Almond Butter. Additional sweet goodness.

Almond Butter Cranberry Pecan Stuffed Sweet Potato

1 small sweet potato (adjust portions if sweet potato is larger)
1/4 c cooked quinoa
2 tbsp pecans
2 tbsp dried cranberries
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Pinch brown sugar
1 tbsp almond butter

1. Cook sweet potato in microwave, wrapped in a paper towel with the sides poked with a fork, for a few minutes on each side, until softened.
2. Combine remaining ingredients and microwave for 30 seconds to allow almond butter to melt.
3. Cut sweet potato open and stuff with quinoa mixture.
4. Serve warm.

Fall Bean Salad

So the other night I was bored.

fall bean salad 1

For the past 4 months, I have done nothing but study study study and go on an occasional date with the boyfriend. Oh, and watch lots of Vampire Diaries. But now, with my first semester of grad school 99.999% over, I have nothing to do.

fall bean salad 2

I was home alone, I had already cleaned the kitchen, played the piano, done laundry, and watched the Taylor Swift Fearless series on Netflix. Uh.. now what?

So I texted my friend who has a big girl job, aka doesn’t have homework to do on the weekends – sadly, she lives an hour away or we would have been hanging out – and she has this FABULOUS list of things to do when you’re bored and she sent it to me. And I’m sold.

fall bean salad 3

What do you do when you’re bored? I, for one, am going to memorize a song on the piano (YES, MEMORIZE!), bake too many Christmas goodies, make homemade Christmas cards, work on this book I’ve been writing for 5 years, continue with the Harry Potter series, and up my cardio. Christmas break, you’re on!

Fall Bean Salad
Adapted from Internet Cooking Princess

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can northern beans, drained and rinsed
2 c spinach
3/4 c pecans
3/4 c dried cranberries
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp lemon juice

Combine.

Spiced Candied Nuts

Have I talked about how it’s crunch time? [And I don’t mean the leaves…]

spiced nuts 1

How my eyeballs are glued somewhere between my computer screen and my textbooks? How I have consumed a near-unhealthy amount of hot tea, and my nose probably won’t be able to smell anything by December due to the insane amount of candles I have been burning?

spiced nuts 2

Okay. Well. Yes, all of this is happening. Only TWO AND A HALF more weeks of school until I am DONE with my first semester of grad school. Hello, accomplishment.

spiced nuts 3

These nuts are the perfect snack while studying. They are crispy and crunchy and sweet and delicious. I see lots of spiced nuts in the future. Ones with cayenne, ones with dried basil and oregano. Could we make this TOTALLY epic and make like…. pumpkin or peppermint nuts?? So. Many. Options.

spiced nuts 4

Spiced Candied Nuts
Adapted slightly from McCormick

3 cups mixed nuts (I used almonds and pecans)
1 egg white
1/4 c brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. allspice
Pinch of salt

1. Whisk egg white until frothy, then add brown sugar and spices. Stir to combine.
2. In a separate bowl, add nuts. Pour sugar mixture over nuts and stir to combine.
3. Spread nuts onto a greased cookie sheet and bake for 1 hour at 250°F. Stir once.
4. After baking, break the nuts apart and serve to parties or snack while studying!

Stuffed Acorn Squash

A couple weeks ago, I worked with Cindy from Market Basket Nutrition at a health fair in Greensboro.

acorn squash 1

She had an assortment of nutritional things on the table, including several fall squash. She played the game “Name That Squash.” And we asked people if they knew what each of the squash was. Well, there was the typical butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and pumpkin squash but there was also delicata squash and gold nugget squash. New to me.

acorn squash 2

She let me take the acorn squash home, and I have to admit, this is the first time I have ever cooked one, but MAN did it turn out well. There is sweetness from the cranberries and brown sugar, heartiness from the rice, crunch from the nuts, and bite from the balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard.

acorn squash 3

Aka. You’ll want to serve this at your Thanksgiving meal. Move over, turkey. Vegetables are taking Thanksgiving by storm.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

1 acorn squash
1/2 tsp brown sugar (optional)
1/2 c brown rice
1/4 c dried cranberries
1/4 c roughly chopped pecans
1/4 tsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp dijon mustard

1. Cook rice according to directions.
2. Stab holes with a knife or fork into the acorn squash. Microwave for 4 minutes, then flip and microwave for another 4 minutes.
3. Cut the squash in half and spoon out the seeds. Sprinkle brown sugar over squash flesh.
4. Combine the rice, pecans, and cranberries in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the olive oil, maple syrup, mustard, and balsamic vinegar. Drizzle over rice mixture, combine, then spoon mixture into acorn halves.