Why Saturday, you ask? No particular reason, except that Saturdays around our house seem to turn into project days, with Smuffy working on his and me working on mine. Smuffy likes to sleep in on Saturdays before launching into some DIY project that makes a lot of noise and is likely to stink up the place. I’m just thankful that only a couple of them have landed him in the emergency room.
It has always amazed me that no matter how late Smuffy sleeps, the “rumbly in his tumbly”, as Winnie the Pooh would say, speaks to him at the same time every day. Though he may have slept till ten and lingered over breakfast, he reappears at noon on the dot, looking weak in the knees and asking what’s for lunch.
I’ve wondered if it isn’t triggered by sound. For years, Smuffy has come home for lunch, Monday through Friday, to the tune of the neighborhood church bells. They chime various lovely hymns a couple of times a day. Perhaps on Saturday, at the sound of the noon bells, he thinks he’s hungry. Have the bells trained him to eat at noon, no matter what? I think that’s how they do it with rats in a maze.
Often, I’ve stood there, wondering what on earth I’m going to fix so that I can get on with my own project. Neither of us wants to go out. Meat is frozen. My mind is blank.
Then came this idea. I threw it together so fast I hardly knew how it did it. Smuffy says it’s hearty, healthy and “restaurant good”. It must be, because he likes variety, yet I can pretty much toss this together on any busy weekend and he’ll happily gobble it up. That’s really saying something, considering it has no meat! Smuffy likes meat – a lot!
Also, it has no dairy! I know some of you have been waiting for recipes like that. With no sugar and the only grain being brown rice pasta, the healthy eaters can’t go wrong.
A few notes before we start:
- Don’t get hung up about it! I make this with what I have. I’m giving you the perfected version. Make it this way the first time, just so you know what you’ve been missing. Then, you can always try some of the things I’ve experimented with along the way, such as zucchini instead of spinach, etc. We would never make it without the sun-dried tomatoes. We think they really make the dish.
- Don’t be a snob. Use fresh mushrooms if you can, but if you’re out, by all means use canned mushrooms.
- I did not grow up in a kitchen where everything was the finest and best (although most of it was homegrown), but I’ve learned something. Though I’m frugal, I’ve learned that it’s better to pay for good ingredients and have good food I enjoy. It’s so much easier to say no to junk food when I’ve just created something healthy and delicious. That’s why I’m recommending brands on two ingredients. Jovial Brown Rice Pastas are fabulous! They came highly recommended by America’s Test Kitchen. Through the years, I’ve tried innumerable substitutes for white flour pasta. This one is the hands-down winner. Jovial Pasta People – I love you! Smuffy says he can’t tell the difference between it and “regular” pasta. I’ve bought the spaghetti and the lasagna noodles and they’re both great. Once you try this, you may want to check around for a bulk price. Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil, one of the top two olive oils recommended by America’s Test Kitchen, has become a staple item in my kitchen. Ah – the flavor! In case you haven’t heard, there’s a whole big deal out there concerning olive oils and which companies you can trust. You may not be getting what you think in those beautiful bottles. Colavita is the real deal, and it makes this recipe delicious. I get it at my local supermarket in bottles and also in bulk, where I can get a deal on large tins.
- Speaking of oils (and we’ll cover this in more detail in a future post), there are three oils in this recipe for a reason. Butter adds flavor, but tends to burn. Coconut oil resists burning and keeps the butter from browning without changing the flavor. I keep both kinds of coconut oil on hand – refined and unrefined (or extra virgin). You’ll want refined for this. Olive oil, though not a trans fat, does (just as most of the other oils do) turn to a trans fat when heated. It should be used to “dress” the dish when finished.
- Don’t be lily-livered and leave out the “heat”! There are not enough red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper in this to make it spicy, but we find it necessary to give the recipe that certain what-cha-ma-call-it.
Let’s get cooking. This goes together in the time it takes your water to come to a boil and your pasta to cook. Don’t forget your FREE printable below.
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon refined coconut oil
½ large onion, (slice thin, then quarter the slices)
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, snipped into small pieces with scissors)
1 (4 ounce) can mushrooms or, preferably, fresh mushrooms
4 ounces fresh spinach
5 to 6 ounces Jovial Brown Rice Spaghetti
20 Kalamata olives (½ of a 6 ounce jar)
¼ cup (or more) Colavita Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/8 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
A “sprinkle” of cayenne pepper
In a large skillet, heat butter and coconut oil over medium heat. Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil.
Add onions to the skillet and stir.
In a small custard cup, pour a little water (approximately 3 Tablespoons)over the sun-dried tomatoes. Microwave them on on high for one minute to reconstitute them. Set aside.
Add mushrooms and olives to the skillet. Stir. Lower heat so that onions do not begin to caramelize.
When water reaches a full boil, add pasta and ½ teaspoon sea salt. Cook according to package instructions until al dente.
Meanwhile, pour one to two tablespoons olive oil into a large pasta bowl. Add red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper. Stir. Set aside.
Add spinach to the skillet. (This will fill the skillet.) Cook and stir until spinach wilts and mixes with the other ingredients. Add sun-dried tomatoes (with liquid) to the mixture.
Drain pasta. Add to pasta bowl. Toss to coat with the flavored oil. Add the skillet mixture, scraping the skillet clean with a spatula. Toss ingredients together, adding remaining olive oil. Season to taste with additional sea salt and more olive oil, if desired.
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You might also enjoy “Creamy Leek Soup with Chicken and Sweet Potato“. Check it out here!
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