A Meal to Celebrate YOU

I'm watching the lovely Nigella Lawson on Food Network. She just said, "I love puttering around in the kitchen making bowls of food...

I'm watching the lovely Nigella Lawson on Food Network. She just said, "I love puttering around in the kitchen making bowls of food that make life that little bit sweeter." She read my mind.

My birthday is Sunday, but since most people work on Monday, I decided to cook a casual Friday night dinner for five close friends. I even opened a bottle of wine, although I struggled, as usual, to remove the freakin' cork. 

Not one of them showed. I'd been stood up! After a few minutes of stomping around my kitchen, thinking, "How can they have the AUDACITY to abandon me?" I actually giggled: my food sure looked good, and I'd get to enjoy this delicious feast with zero interruptions. 

I lit a candle and decided to celebrate myself...by myself...with a stellar dinner, a cake-scented candle and a mellow glass of zinfandel. Here's what I cooked:

Butternut Squash Pappardelle with Pignoli Nuts
Serves 4, or makes 4 fabulous meals for those who fly solo.
  • 1 bag pappardelle pasta (I suggest Trader Joe's organic whole-wheat pappardelle)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen butternut squash
  • 1/2  tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp agave nectar or maple syrup
  • sea salt and pepper as desired 
  • pecorino romano cheese

Here's how it goes:

a) Add your squash to a hot pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. If squash is frozen, add 1/2 cup of water. Cook on high heat until squash softens, then lower the heat. Keep stirring with your wooden spoon to make sure it doesn't stick to pan. Add cinnamon, nutmeg and agave nectar/maple syrup. Set aside and leave on low heat until pasta is done. 

b) Boil your pappardelle for about 6 minutes in salted water. You want the pasta al dente (please), not soggy.

c) Using tongs, transfer your cooked pasta to the pan with a bit of the pasta water so the pappardelle don't stick together. 

d) Stir pappardelle into squash mixture, drizzle more olive oil, grate pecorino romano cheese and sprinkle toasted pignoli nuts over the top. 

You get sweetness from the squash, a buttery flavor from the pignoli nuts, and a savory taste from the cheese. Perfect harmony.

Before blowing out my candle, I served myself a wine glass full of whipped cream and strawberries.

I ate the rest of the pasta for (yes) breakfast this morning. Perfect comfort food without all the fat! I didn't use a stitch of butter.

Here's why this dish is good enough to celebrate you:

Not only does it taste luxurious and wonderful, but butternut squash packs all kinds of benefits for your immune system and heart. It's also full of dietary fiber. 

The whole-wheat pappardelle is loaded with protein (11g per serving as opposed to only 7 for a white pasta), fiber, and carbohydrates (those will really help me with my butt-kickin' weight training and cardio!)

The benefits of olive oil are already a given. Good for your heart, good for your skin, good for your mood!

Cinnamon helps to lower blood sugar, so it's ideal for diabetics.

Agave nectar, as opposed to sugar, is low glycemic: it keeps your blood sugar at a stable level. But the rich, sweet taste is unparalleled--oh so comforting. 

Pignoli (pine) nuts: When you look at the label, the fat and calorie content probably makes you think "STAY AWAY!" But what you might not know is that pignolis are high in B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, manganese and zinc. They may even help suppress appetite. When used in moderation, they're fine!

This is the ultimate "thank you" dinner to your body for keeping you alive and well!

Yum is the Word.

;) H

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