A Reintroduction (featuring a plant-filled Italian pasta salad)

It’s been almost a full year since I wrote a blog post, for many reasons. As some of my readers may know, when I’m not blogging about delicious recipes, creating delectable desserts, and talking non-stop about my love for plant-filled plates, I work in two busy hospitals. Over the past (almost) year I’ve worked on the frontlines to help deal with the pandemic that shall not be named, so coming home each night and trying to be creative in the kitchen definitely took a backseat to other priorities. Everyone I know has in some way been affected by the events in the past year, but recently I realized that NOT engaging in activities like blogging, cooking, baking, and connecting with others about food has made life harder than it has to be. I’m excited to hopefully share my recipes with you more consistently.

On another personal note, this past year has made me reevaluate the advice I give to clients/patients and how I can best support people in their individual health journeys. In the past, I really enjoyed working with people who eat mainly plant-based or identify themselves as vegans/vegetarians. But many of the patients that I talk to daily may not be able to follow a plant-based diet for a variety of reasons (access to food, personal preference, stage of life, specific nutrient needs). Over the past few years, I’ve realized that there is no one way of eating that’s perfect for everyone, and as someone who has recovered from disordered eating in the past, labeling ones diet may feel restrictive for some (I’ll likely be sharing more about this in the future). It’s important to keep in mind that although I love recipe blogging, I’m a registered dietitian with a psych degree, and a master’s degree, so to me it’s more important to understand people and share recipes, tips, and advice that isn’t triggering or restrictive. With this being said, I’ll continue to share vegan/vegetarian recipes, with additional suggestions for people who eat “everything”. Also know that you can make any adjustments to the recipes as you see fit while you’re cooking (IMO, that’s how the best dishes are created!). On another personal note/professional note outside of blogging, I’ve started a private nutrition practice where I’ll be focusing specifically on women’s health and nutrition. I’m super excited about it, and although it’s still in the beginning stages, you can follow me on instagram @ whole.woman.nutrition to learn more info.

Despite not spending as much time creating new recipes and ingredients, one of my favorite, easy, quick meals that I’ve been making these past few months is a delicious, easy pasta salad that all eaters will enjoy. You can enjoy this dish for a healthy lunch or a quick dinner, and I’ve found that all ages will appreciate the textures and flavors. It’s a spin on a classic Italian pasta salad recipe, which has always been a favorite of mine. I love the mixture of crunchy, raw vegetables and soft colorful pasta. The addition of protein and fiber from chickpeas makes this meal more hearty, healthy, and satisfying than a typical pasta salad. Another delicious, healthy perk of this recipe is using a homemade dressing of extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Italian herbs. Extra virgin olive oil is an excellent source of monounsaturated fat–a fat that has been shown to have heart health benefits and may reduce inflammation. Feel free to make any changes to this recipe that suit your taste and needs and let me know if you try it!

Healthy Italian Pasta Salad (serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • 1 box tri-color rotini
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion (about 1/3 of a whole, medium red onion)
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped (I like using green and yellow for the colors)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 3/4 cup rinsed, canned chickpeas
  • 2-3 plant-based or regular sausage of your choice
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil + 3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar + 1 tsp. dried basil + 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. nutritional yeast, non-dairy or regular parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Boil water in a large pot and pour rotini into pot when the water comes to a rolling boil
  • Boil pasta for ~8 minutes, drain pasta, and set aside (I recommend putting it into the fridge, you can add a little olive oil so that it won’t stick together)
  • Cut up veggies (peppers, tomatoes, and onions) and set aside
  • Cut up sausages into cubes or thin slices and heat in a pan over medium heat for ~10 minutes. If you’re using uncooked sausage, your cooking time will be greater. Remove from heat when cooked
  • Drain and rinse canned chickpeas, and set aside
  • To create the dressing, mix EVOO, basalmic vinegar, and herbs together in a jar with a top. Shake well
  • Mix pasta, vegetables, sausage, and chickpeas together
  • Mix in dressing
  • Add a tbsp or so of nutritional yeast or parmesan cheese
  • Mix well, refrigerate, or enjoy now!

-Jess

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