Maggie Swan

Archive for the ‘pasta’ Category

The first few days as a vegan

In pasta, Vegan on February 20, 2014 at 10:38 pm

I gotta be honest. I am struggling with this vegan thing.

Day 1

Breakfast – not an issue. Lunch – tried tofu on salad for the first time. It actually wasn’t bad. Of course, it was slathered with salad dressing and buried underneath all kinds of yummy vegetables and beans. But I would eat it again.

Tofu salad

Can you spot the tofu?

Dinner was another story entirely.

I had to re-shoe my car (there went a fast $700+) and so my dear husband offered to cook dinner: spaghetti and sausage-flavored tofu. Surprisingly, the “sausage” wasn’t too bad. The texture was *almost* like sausage, and the flavor, though it had an artificial aftertaste, was reminiscent of smoked sausage. The real issue was the super healthy pasta, germinated wheat something-or-other. Normally our dinners are somewhat loud, but we sat in silence, picking at our food. Finally, Devin ventured to voice his opinion. “I don’t think I really like this new eating style.”

Always supportive of my husband’s efforts to cook and the cause we were undertaking, I tried to focus on the positive. “I know it isn’t like the food we usually eat. But hopefully we will feel healthier after eating this way for a while.”

Not to be outdone by Devin, my husband spoke up. He wasn’t so diplomatic. “I can’t decide if this tastes more like dog food or cardboard. It’s absolutely awful!”

I wish I had thought to take a picture. It really did look… terribly inedible. Devin decided he was full; Brian and I gamely finished the rest of our food because we were really, really, really hungry.

Which brings me to Day 2.

Again, breakfast seems to be the easiest meal of the day. Lunch was problematic. I had to attend a professional association luncheon, and the food looked… so amazing. Several gourmet pizzas (which I would not even look at for fear of being tempted) and three beautiful salads, of which I could eat only one because the others were covered in so much cheese there was no way I would be able to easily pick it out. So I had a small plate of lettuce with oil and vinegar dressing. By the time the workday was over, I was starving. No wonder vegans are so skinny! It can be really hard to find the right food to eat.

I decided to cook Mexican Pasta with some quinoa pasta and… it was actually pretty good!

Mexican Pasta (vegan)

Quinoa pasta, salsa, tomatoes, black beans, onions, corn, and taco seasoning…

Like any normal 8-year-old boy who has an appetite for meat, Devin declared he wasn’t a big fan. Of course, if he had been as hungry as I was, he would have inhaled it. Nana, however, took him to Chik-fil-A after school. I cannot compete with Chik-fil-A.

Brian then proceeded to inform me that he discovered there was a problem with the vegan diet. “Vegans are often deficient in B-12 and Omega 3s,” he announced. “You get those from meat.”

“You watched another video?” I asked. He nodded, chewing his mexican pasta.

“Can’t you get those from supplements?”

“You can to some extent,” he said. “Flax seeds. Chia seeds. But meat does serve a purpose.”

Hmm. Sounded to me like he was starting to really miss eating dead animal. “So… It’s been two days. Don’t tell me you are backpedalling on this eating vegan thing already?”

Oh no, he assured me. He was in it for the 30 days. It was just that, after the 30 days, he *might* reconsider eating meat. On rare occasions, of course.


Easy Pasta Carbonara

In dinner, pasta, Under 30 minutes on March 15, 2012 at 3:17 pm

Easy Pasta Carbonara

For those nights when you want something a little more than pasta with jar marinara sauce, this easy carbonara will delight your taste buds.

Pasta Carbonara

If you routinely cook pasta and add a jar of marinara sauce on top, or (horrors) if you cook a processed pasta product in the microwave, try this recipe for a palate-pleasing change of pace. It’s a basic carbonara, which simply means it contains bacon… and as we know, everything is better with bacon!

Some carbonaras use cream or milk, but my family doesn’t do well with dairy so we usually make variations on this recipe.

This recipe is sized for 1-2 people, but can easily be doubled.

TIP: Prep everything in advance, including the sauce. The pasta needs to be hot when you add the egg/cheese mixture, or the eggs won’t cook properly.


  • pot to boil pasta
  • skillet
  • knife and cutting board
  • small bowl to mix egg and Parmesan cheese
  • glass, mug or small dish for reserved pasta water
  • colander/strainer (if you don’t have one, you can use the lid for the pot to help drain the pasta water)
  • tongs (*optional)


  • 1/2 lb. of dry pasta, such as fettucine, spaghetti or linguine
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 oz. bacon (sliced into thin strips – bacon is easier to cut when it is cold)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 garlic cloves (smash and chop)
  • 1/2 c. grated Parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Italian flat-leaf parsley (*optional)


Because you want the pasta to be hot when it’s time to add the egg/cheese mixture, start making the sauce first.

To make the sauce:  heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced bacon and cook until it is golden and  crispy (about 3-4 minutes). Add the chopped garlic and cook for about one minute to soften. (Burnt garlic is gross, so don’t overcook.)

Get your water boiling for the pasta. The water should be salted – “salty like the sea.”  Don’t use oil in the water! To keep the pasta from getting sticky, stir it during the first minute or two of cooking. That is when the starches begin to release into the water.

I prefer my pasta al dente, which means firm, not mushy. When the pasta is done, grab your mug or glass and scoop out about a half cup of pasta water. This is used to thin out the sauce should it become too thick. You may not need it, but it’s good to have it just in case.

Drain your pasta, and then add it to the skillet. Tongs are helpful to mix the noodles with the bacon/garlic/olive oil sauce, but you can use a fork or two to make sure the noodles are well coated with the sauce.

Now remove the skillet from the heat. This is important because if the skillet is too hot, the eggs will scramble.

In a small bowl, beat the egg and add the grated Parmesan cheese. Once it’s well mixed and the lumps are gone, add it to the pasta in the skillet. You want to mix it around quickly so that it evenly coats the noodles.  If the sauce is too thick, add some of the pasta water, a little at a time, until it is the consistency you want. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

If you want to make it look pretty, sprinkle some chopped parsley on top.

In my picture, I’ve added some chicken. If you want to do this, just get a chicken breast, season on both sides with salt and pepper, and then cook it in the skillet with a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat until golden brown on both sides and cooked through. (I did this in the skillet before making the sauce so I wouldn’t have to clean two pans!) Put it on a plate and let it rest; when you’re ready to serve, slice the chicken and add it on top.

Bon appetit!