Pasta with Baby Kale, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, and Pesto

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Last week, on Instagram, I posted an on-the-fly, super-quick pasta dish I made for lunch. It was cute, little, elbow pasta tossed with the last of a jar of pesto, a few handfuls of baby kale, toasted pumpkin seeds, and a shower of lemon zest. So good! So easy! A number of you requested the recipe, and I've included it down below. If you're blessed with the good fortune of having access to a Meyer lemon tree, by all means, use those. Otherwise, regular lemons will do the job just fine. Enjoy! -h

Pasta with Baby Kale, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, and Pesto

Pasta with Baby Kale, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, and Pesto


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Weeknight Pasta Ideas with Less Than Ten Ingredients

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Pasta night is often the quickest way to get dinner on the table with minimal effort. The end of a long day? Pasta. Need something both adults and kid will eat? Pasta. That said, I feel like weeknight pasta preparations have evolved quite a bit in recent years with lots of creative ideas bubbling up. You see a lot of vegetable-centric pastas, and plenty of experimenting with different shapes, and ingredients. I thought I'd highlight a few weeknight pasta ideas, specifically ones with less than ten ingredients - actually, a few are in the eight ingredient range, not counting salt, pepper, and olive oil ;)

A couple tips / tricks. If a heavy cream sauce feels too indulgent (or if you're vegan), swap in homemade cashew (or almond) milk, it's a nice substitute without as much of the decadence. Experiment with some of the alternative pastas out there, I like to rotate between regular pasta, whole grain pasta, and chickpea pasta. All are great, and bring their own personality and nutritional profiles to the table.

1. Classic Stuffed Shells - (101 Cookbooks)
The best part about stuffed shells is that you can prepare them days ahead of time. These are topped with red sauce, and filled with ricotta. Crowd pleaser for kids & adults. Get the recipe here.

Weeknight Pasta Ideas with Less Than Ten Ingredients

2. Weeknight Ponzu Pasta - (101 Cookbooks)
This is the pasta preparation to make when you want to keep it light, clean, and healthy. Lots of bright green broccoli, green beans, garlic, and pasta tossed with a simple ponzu sauce. Trade in roasted winter squash as the seasons shift from away from tomatoes. Get the recipe here.

Weeknight Pasta Ideas with Less Than Ten Ingredients

3. Creamy Vegan Pesto Pasta & Cauliflower - (Green Kitchen Stories)
A beautiful, vegan riff on spaghetti al pesto. Bonus points for working in spinach and cauliflower for an extra healthy dinner. Get the recipe here.

Weeknight Pasta Ideas with Less Than Ten Ingredients

4. Healthy Pumpkin Pasta with Spinach and Mushrooms - (Happy Kitchen Rocks)
Roasted winter squash is pureed into a vibrant sauce in this autumn beauty. With sage and walnuts. Get the recipe here.

Weeknight Pasta Ideas with Less Than Ten Ingredients

5. An Excellent, One-pan, Protein-packed Power Pasta - (101 Cookbooks)
Another slightly unconventiona ine-panl pasta preparation made with crushed tomatoes, kale, and cooked lentils. Boost it with a thread of tahini, some lemon zest, and/or a kiss of saffron. Seven base ingredients and you're in business. Get the recipe here.

Weeknight Pasta Ideas with Less Than Ten Ingredients

6. Rigatoni with Eggplant Puree - (Smitten Kitchen)
Yes to this. Roasted veg blitzed into an eggplant and tomato sauce for your rigatoni. Accented with mint (or basil), Parmesan, and toasted pine nuts. Get the recipe here.

Weeknight Pasta Ideas with Less Than Ten Ingredients

7. Ditalini Risotto - (Bon Appétit)
I like to make this brilliant (yet simple!) Camille Becerra recipe with a flavorful veg broth. Love the idea of cooking the ditalini like you would risotto. Super clever! Get the recipe here.

Weeknight Pasta Ideas with Less Than Ten Ingredients

8. Harissa Spaghettini - (101 Cookbooks)
I link to this whenever possible. Eight ingredients - most of which you definitely have on hand, between you and this flavor-punched tangle of kale-flecked goodness. That harissa in your refrigerator? This needs to be its destiny. Get the recipe here.

Weeknight Pasta Ideas with Less Than Ten Ingredients

9. Simple Weeknight Pasta Sauce Recipes - (101 Cookbooks)
I've also done this round-up of great (and simple!) weeknight pasta sauce recipes. So, if you're not seeing anything here that seems quite right, hop on over for more ideas. Sauce Recipes.

Weeknight Pasta Ideas with Less Than Ten Ingredients

Weeknight Pasta Ideas with Less Than Ten Ingredients

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Toasted Pumpkin Seeds: Three Ways

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Toasted pumpkin seeds are the tiny, edible trophies you get for carving pumpkins. Don't carve a pumpkin (or any winter squash for that matter), without toasting or roasting the seeds. That's just how it needs to be. The question is, what's the best technique? There is some debate about the best approach, but I've settled on a foolproof method over the years. It's super easy, and I'm going to share it here. Take note, there are a couple points of departure you'll see in my technique (compared to most). First! Some people boil the pumpkin seeds prior to toasting. No need. Second, I now season and spice the pumpkin seeds after baking, and I'll talk more about why.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Different pumpkins, different seeds: Pumpkins aren't the only winter squash with seeds. And seeds from different squashes have different sizes, shapes and textures. Play around with white "ghost" pumpkins, blue Hokkaido, butternut squash, and all the other beautiful winter squash varietals out there for a range of seeds. Also, if you're going to roast the squash as well, they're often much better tasting versus carving pumpkins.

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Different sizes of seeds: Smaller seeds roast more quickly, so adjust your baking time (less). Aside from that, treat them the same as you would regular "carving" pumpkin seeds. Pictured below (top to bottom): delicata squash seeds, butternut squash seeds, carving pumpkin seeds

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

How to Clean & Make Pumpkin Seeds: Place a colander (or strainer) in a bowl filled with water. The seeds float, so this set-up makes separating the seeds from any stubborn pumpkin flesh much easier. Scoop the seeds from your pumpkin and transfer to the colander. Separate the seeds from any pumpkin flesh and pat dry with paper towels or a clean kitchen cloth.

The best technique: Bake the seeds after a good rinse, after drying well, and get as much water off the seeds as possible. I'm convinced the seeds steam less using this method, and crisp more.

When to season? I used to heavily season the pumpkin seeds prior to baking, but I find that if you bake with lots of spice coating the seeds, the spices tend to over bake or even burn. I do much or all of my spice addition post-bake now.

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How you Should be Baking with Figs

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Figs are everywhere right now and they're great to bake with. Figs in focaccia, figs in quick breads, and figs in coffee cake - both fresh figs and dried are fair game! These are all the ways you could be baking during peak fig season.

1. Arabian Nights Pavlova - (John Whaite)
All the drama on one plate. Get the recipe here.

Baking with Figs

2. Cornbread Coffee Cake with Fresh Figs and Walnut Streusel - (Food 52)
You need this Vivian Howard cornbread masterpiece at yur next brunch. Get the recipe here.

Baking with Figs

3. Fig & Fennel Biscotti - (Sweet Paul)
Fennel seeds, cinnamon, hazelnuts, and dried figs. The perfect autumn biscotti. Get the recipe here.

Baking with Figs

4. Roasted Goat Cheese Stuffed with Lavender Thyme Honey - (Be Ravenous)
A simple, classic preparation with a lavender thyme twist. Can't go wrong with this. Get the recipe here.

Baking with Figs

5. Baked Rolled Barley with Figs, Berries, and Cardamom - (The Bojon Gourmet)
Love Alanna's take on my baked oatmeal. Also love that she bakes it in a cast-iron skillet! Brill. Get the recipe here.

Baking with Figs

6. Chocolate Banana Fig Bread - (Kitchen Confidante)
A banan bread with a chocolate and fig twist. Olive oil is a good alternative to the canola called for. Get the recipe here.

Baking with Figs

7. Focaccia with Figs - (Italian Food Forever)
You just know this is good. Get the recipe here.

Baking with Figs

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Fluffy Vanilla Nougat

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To make great nougat, you really need to have a plan. You have to be legit focused. And(!), consider yourself warned, there are going to be a few minutes when you can't answer the front door, or even look at your phone - boiling hot sugar is no joke. I'm going to show you how to make a fluffy, cloud-like, vanilla nougat candy. Because if you're going to eat candy now and then, it might as well be homemade. You need to read through the recipe in its entirety before starting, so you have a sense of where you're headed. You'll also need a candy thermometer.

Vanilla Nougat Recipe

To the billowy, sweet, nougat base you can add all manner of flavors and spices. Or, stir in as many seeds, nuts, and dried fruit as the nougat will hold. The version you see pictured has vanilla bean, streaks of saffron, and a medley of nuts and seeds. The version in the video is slightly different. Part of the fun is experimenting with all the different ingredients you can add. A memorable favorite - lavender with loads of toasted white and black sesame seeds.

Vanilla Nougat Recipe

Vanilla Nougat Recipe

A few notes about this nougat recipe. A lot of nougat recipes use large amounts of corn syrup. The goal here was to get rid of as much corn syrup as possible, and preferably eliminate it altogether (I'm going to give variations with it, and without below). The version with a small splash of corn syrup is, quite honestly, less temperamental. But you can make nougat without it. What you see pictured here is a nougat made from honey, sugar, egg whites, and water as the base. Then there's vanilla bean, and lots of nuts and seeds beyond that.

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Pie Crust Designs, These Pie Crust Masters Show you How it's Done

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There's an art to creating a beautiful pie crust, and it doesn't have to be intimidating. If you're looking to move beyond a simple, basic crust this season, there are a host of next-level pie crust design techniques out there to inspire your creations. There's really no reason you can't master the basket weave, the leafy border, or the fluted edge! Have fun with these.

1. Pie Crusts Classics
Thomas Joseph shows us a nice range of pie crust design options - a leaf border, a braid border, a honeycomb top (a favorite!), a classic lattice top crust, and he makes it all look easy and doable. Listen up for some of his helpful little tips as well like, how to hide seams.

2. Harvest Leaf Pie Crusts
A really pretty video demonstrating a range of beautiful harvest leaf pie designs. There's the a mega-leaf pie (cool & unusual!), and a couple of free-style approaches with medium leaves. They all bake up beautifully!

3. Twenty Pie Crimping Techniques
Watch this one for the corkscrew crust, and Caesar's crown. Measuring spoon is brilliant as well, but I have to admit visibly flinching at the pearl crust ;)...

4. Cookie Cutter Crusts
There is so much that could be said about this video, so many questions I have! ;) I like the way our Topless Baker friend uses little fondant/cookie cutter flowers to accent his pie, and he really goes for it. Double decker flowers and all! That part kicks in around the 5:15 minute mark - I'll tee it up for you.

5. Hearts, Flowers, & Polka-dots
There's a nice graphic sensibility to this collection of crusts. And, the lace technique is new to me. I really love how the ribbon-edged crust baked up - super inspiring! Trying to find the original source video for this one and will update the link when I do.

6. Nine Minutes of Pie Inspiration
There are some very strange pies in this one. But, perhaps there will be something in the mix here that will inspire your own creations in the coming months.

7. Savory Square Basketweave
I sort of love this square basket weave with the sesame sprinkle. For when your basketweave game is strong.

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Vegetable Noodle Soup

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This vegetable noodle soup is as simple, direct, and delicious as it gets. Served extra hot and plump with pasta noodles, it's the kind of soup that comforts minds and bolsters spirits. If you're vegetarian or vegan looking for an alternative to chicken noodle soup, this should be in your wheelhouse.

Vegetable Noodle Soup

Vegetable Noodle Soup

Vegetable Noodle Soup

Variations: There are a host of things you can use in place of the pasta noodles here. For example, you can serve the broth over leftover rice, cooked farro, or pearl barley. You can also stir any of the following into individual bowls of soup to take things in slightly different directions - toasted sesame oil, lemon olive oil, sriracha sauce, miso, or curry paste.

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Simple Weeknight Pasta Sauce Recipes

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Simple pasta sauce recipes are weeknight lifesavers. They're great not only on pasta, but on all sorts of vegetables and grain bowls as well. Often if you've got a decent condiment selection on hand, or some fresh herbs, or simply some nuts, you're on your way to a great sauce. Also, don't limit yourself to using these as pasta sauces, often they're just as fantastic over simply roasted, steamed, or sautéed vegetables. Or, as spreads on sandwiches and flatbreads!

1. Five Minute Tomato Sauce - (101 Cookbooks)
I make this more than just about any other sauce in my repertoire. All you need is a handful of ingredients, and one saucepan. No need to simmer for hours, a kiss of lemon zest keeps this tomato sauce fresh and bright and perfect for all sorts of pastas, pizzas, and casseroles. The perfect weeknight tomato sauce. And, actually(!), here's a post of three ways I work it into lunch as well. Get the recipe here.

Simple Weeknight Pasta Sauce Recipes

2. Brown Butter Balsamic Sauce - (101 Cookbooks)
I love this simple balsamic sauce tossed stuffed winter squash stuffed pastas. Or, sweet potato anything. It's a sauce that hits squarely on the decadent side of the spectrum, with a generous amount of browned butter as the base, but it is delicious, and really hits the spot now and then. The balsamic cuts the butter with its acidity, and I like to add plenty of something green and slightly bitter to balance everything out beyond that - in this case, arugula. And a bit of lemon zest, which perfumes everything beautifully. Get the recipe here.

Simple Weeknight Pasta Sauce Recipes

3. Hemp Seed Alfredo - (Blissful Basil)
Absolutely love this hemp seed take on alfredo sauce. Pictured here with zucchini noodles. Get the recipe here.

Simple Weeknight Pasta Sauce Recipes

4. Harissa & Olive Oil Sauce - (101 Cookbooks)
If you have some harissa on your condiment shelf, you're halfway there. Paired with olive oil, the harissa forms the base of a brick red, garlic-charged sauce. Perfect tossed with your favorite pasta, and veggies. Pictured here with whole wheat spaghettini, kale, black olives, and pine nuts. Legit, fantastic weeknight option. Get the recipe here.

Simple Weeknight Pasta Sauce Recipes

5. Tuscan Pumpkin Pasta Sauce - (Real Food Whole Life)
I like the combination of tomato, pumpkin, rosemary, and sage in this creamy sauce. Robyn uses coconut milk here, but you could also use a thick nut milk like cashew or almond. Get the recipe here.

Simple Weeknight Pasta Sauce Recipes

6. Vegan Alfredo Sauce - (The Bojon Gourmet)
I love using homemade cashew milk as a substitute for heavy cream or even coconut milk. It is silky smooth, and full of body, and works as a brilliant vegan alfredo sauce base here. Soak the cashews while you're out fo the day, and this sauce comes together in no time. Get the recipe here.

Simple Weeknight Pasta Sauce Recipes

7. Red Pesto Sauce - (101 Cookbooks)
Sun-dried tomato fans, this one has your name on it. Pictured here with goat cheese raviolis and served them on a bed of baby spinach. Get the recipe here.

Simple Weeknight Pasta Sauce Recipes

8. Lemon Almond Sauce - (Naturally Ella)
Creamy, dairy-free, and spiked with lemon and black pepper. Get the recipe here.

Simple Weeknight Pasta Sauce Recipes

9. Pounded Walnut Sauce - (101 Cookbooks)
This Mona Talbott recipe is a hearty, pounded walnut pesto of sorts, with marjoram and parsley. And I love it. Particularly as the weather chills, and you're looking for more substantial fare. It's nice with a short farro pasta, but really, it's incredible on just about everything. You could even skip the pasta and just enjoy it with roasted vegetables. Get the recipe here.

Simple Weeknight Pasta Sauce Recipes

10. Creamy Chipotle Sauce - (Dora's Table)
Six ingredients work themselves into chipotle-based magic. This is good on noodles, but also as a finishing touch on tacos, or as a component in salad dressings (great with structured lettuces). Get the recipe here.

Simple Weeknight Pasta Sauce Recipes

11. A Favorite Pesto Sauce - (101 Cookbooks)
About ten years ago we had a pesto and gnocchi night with my visiting Italian friend Francesca and her mom. They are from Genoa, and her mom makes a beautiful pesto (and perfectly light, potato gnocchi to go along with it). She offered to share her method with us, and we've all reaped the benefits ever since. If you love pesto, you really have to try her technique. Get the recipe here.

Simple Weeknight Pasta Sauce Recipes

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Eight Great Homemade Veggie Burgers

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Everyone should have a great veggie burger recipe in their repertoire, and the good news is there are infinite ways to go about it. A base of chickpeas, or rice, or tofu, or grains is typically where you start. And you can accent them with chiles, spice blends, or curry pastes. Signs of a good veggie burger beyond flavor? You want them to hold together in the pan (or, even better, the grill). And if you're cooking for a crowd, you want to be able to make and shape the patties ahead of time. It's also nice to have a vegan option on hand. Here are some of the best homemade veggie burgers out there, I'm sure I've missed some, but these are a great place to start. -h

1. Ultimate Veggie Burger - (101 Cookbooks)
These have been a real favorite for over a decade. They were the first veggie burger I made (chickpea base) where I used the patty as the bun, stuffing that with all sorts of good stuff. You can also make this with black beans, black lentils, white beans, or mung beans in place of the chickpeas. Get the recipe here.

Eight Great Homemade Veggie Burgers

2. Sweet Potato Burger - (Hello Glow)
I love this offbeat sweet potato plus millet combination. Spice boosted and served in a sprouted bun, this is some veg burger aspiration. Get the recipe here.

Eight Great Homemade Veggie Burgers

3. Grillable Veggie Burgers - (Minimalist Baker)
Longtime veggie burger makers know the keyword here is GRILLABLE. This is a smart rice-based patty boosted with walnuts, and generously spiced. A great jumping off point for infinite riffs. Get the recipe here.

Eight Great Homemade Veggie Burgers

4. Vegan Wild Rice Burgers With Grilled Avocados and Heirloom Tomato Salsa - (Gratitude and Greens)
Every time I encounter wild rice I wonder why I don't cook with it more often. These wild rice burgers are the perfect example. Side note: wild rice freezes quite well, so make extra, and you can pull these together in a weeknight flash. Get the recipe here.

Eight Great Homemade Veggie Burgers

7. Carrot & Halloumi Burgers - (Dagmar's Kitchen)
You can also make these with shredded beets, winter squash, or sweet potato in place of the carrots! Get the recipe here.

Eight Great Homemade Veggie Burgers

8. Vegan Sweet Potato Sliders - (Love & Lemons)
Sweet little sweet potato sliders. Clever use of tofu and tahini accented with fragrant rosemary and paprika. Get the recipe here.

Eight Great Homemade Veggie Burgers

5. Zucchini Quinoa Burgers - (Food 52)
If you have cooked chickpeas and quinoa on hand, you're already halfway there. Love the dilly mustard thing going on here as well :)... Get the recipe here.

Eight Great Homemade Veggie Burgers

6. Vegan Cajun Chickpea Burgers - (The Almond Eater)
Another great example of how you can play around with a range of spices and flavors. Cajun spices with onion, and green pepper (I like serrano) come together nicely here. Get the recipe here.

Eight Great Homemade Veggie Burgers

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Inspiring Hand-painted Watercolor Cookies

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Hand-painted cookies are incredibly special, and the care and attention that goes into them, remarkable. I keep a running folder of inspiration for when I have a quiet Sunday for baking. And lately, I tend to love the cookies that have a watercolor vibe. I'm linking to a bunch here. Illustration isn't my strongest suit, so graphic designs and patterns are typically where I land. Hope some of these inspire you as much as they have me!


1. Calendula Shortbread with Saffron Stripes

I do variations on these quite a lot. Made with shortbread dough (a nut-free version of this) The icing is made by mixing 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 2 egg whites, and enough water to thin to desired translucency. Divide the icing into separate bowls, and add color from there. The yellow was created using by infusing 1 teaspoon of vodka with a pinch of saffron and allowing it to sit for a couple of minutes. Strain the saffron liquid into the icing base a bit at a time, more or less depending on how saturated you'd like it.

Inspiring Hand-painted Watercolor Cookies

2. Ayako Kurokawa - (Burrow)
Ayako Kurokawa of Burrow patisserie in Brooklyn is the master. I love her work on so many fronts. Look at the detailed handwriting, the cat whiskers, and stripes. Ayako's work is as personal as a signature, and I love seeing her talent expressed in the most beautiful charming treats. Have you seen her paint Julia? Or, look at these if air-brush is more your thing. Follow Ayako on Instagram.

Inspiring Hand-painted Watercolor Cookies

3. Ultimate Sugar Cookies
Dream team at work here - Alison Roman + Nikole Herriott + Michael Graydon. Bold, graphic, fun, & super inspiring. Get the recipe here.

Inspiring Hand-painted Watercolor Cookies

4. Jacquelyn Clark's Water Color Cookies
Love the soft colors here, and the mix of florals with abstract. Super pretty. Get the recipe here.

Inspiring Hand-painted Watercolor Cookies

5. Albion x Sweet Marie Watercolor Cookie Tutorial - (Albion)
So pretty - I'd use natural coloring from ingredients like beets, dragonfruit, berries, and the like, but the general concept is perfect for a treat plate or dessert spread. See the process shots here.

Inspiring Hand-painted Watercolor Cookies

Tools: Some of my cookie tools: A range of brushes, cutters, and ruler. See that little salt cellar on the left? It has a pretty texture on the outside, I sometimes use textures like that as a bit of a template for designs. Simply roll it across the dough, and bake the cookies. It will leave a hint of the design, and you can use that as a guide for your patterns. For example, I rolled some striped pottery across the dough in the lead photo and used that as the template for the irregular stripes! Play around!

Inspiring Hand-painted Watercolor Cookies

Resources:
- Make your own Natural Food Dyes or, I tend to be a bit lazy * last-minute, so I like to keep a collection of powdered fruit/vegetable powders on hand. For example, I have blueberry, hibiscus, raspberry, saffron, cacao, charcoal (good for pencil effect). Play around!

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