January is for buckling down and starting new, healthy habits. And I am closing in on a third go-round with the Whole 30. But here’s the thing: I can’t stand to throw out food, so we’re just finishing up the holiday goodies at my house. And, while we’re slowly detoxing from the end-of-year chocolate and cheese fest by, oh, reincorporating veggies and fruits not coated in marshmallow dip, there’s a lot of relatively healthy stuff in my cupboards that would just sit and get stale during that Whole 30. Even if you’re not jumping into a diet reset it feels great to use up all the stuff that’s been sitting there forever. And so, January at my house has been a use-up-the-carbs-fest. It was my thriftiness that drove me to finish the tortilla chips off when we got home from vacation. Obviously.
First up was what we fondly refer to as pumpkin pasta. Or at least the middle kid and I refer to it fondly. The husband eats it and the other two kids make themselves bread with peanut butter. But when you find something that you can do just for your poor, beleaguered middle child that makes you happy too, you go for it. And this one, while carborific, is legitimately healthy—it would make all those doctors pushing Mediterranean diets happy.
I clipped the extremely overcomplicated recipe from the Spokesman Review in 2002 while living with my grandmother, who is one of 12 people in America who continue to get a hard copy of the paper, and I can’t find it anywhere online. The parts in brackets are what I actually do—basically mix all the sauce ingredients together, boil the pasta, then sauté some garlic in oil in the pasta pan while it sits in the colander. Ain’t nobody got time for making their own pasta when Barilla makes a perfectly serviceable green rotini that holds up to this sauce way better than angel hair every could.
I buy pie pumpkins for Decorative Gourd Season, cook them after Thanksgiving and sock the cooked squash away in 1lb. portions for the rest of the year, which makes this a super fast and and easy Meatless Monday. I haven’t tried it yet with canned pumpkin, but I think you could get away with it and have roughly the easiest dinner ever.
Bacon Tomato Pasta
My next favorite not only clears out the macaroni, it also takes down the bacon taking space in my freezer that I’m going to need for Whole 30 approved foods. My favorite Domestic Goddess, Nigella Lawson, published the recipe my kids call Bacon Tomato Pasta in a delightfully snarky 2004 NYT piece called, “Take that Dr. Atkins: Double Carbs.”
Chop some bacon, cook it with some onions, simmer with diced tomatoes and top with garlicy bread crumbs. Needless to say, this one is not actually healthy. At least there’s no cheese? It is, however, both delicious and kid friendly. Slip in some frozen chopped spinach if you want to feel virtuous.
When I start a Whole 30 I always think I’ll miss pasta and cheese, but what I end up still missing by the end are beans. And glasses of milk. And tortilla chips. Sob!
But beans, you guys. I don’t realize how many of them I eat until they’re not an option. I have a giant stash of canned chickpeas in my cupboard, occasionally roasted for snacks, but mostly for the illustrious “Number 40” from what may be the most useful food article ever written, Mark Bittman’s “101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes of Less.” The entire recipe reads,
“Put a large can of chickpeas and their liquid in a medium saucepan. Add some sherry, along with olive oil, plenty of minced garlic, smoked pimentón and chopped Spanish chorizo. Heat through.”
After 10 years my version involves sautéing a chorizo that’s precooked, but not as hard as a true Spanish Chorizo (it’s with the hot dogs at my grocer’s) in olive oil with garlic and sometimes onion, then adding a can of reduced sodium chickpeas, paprika and lots of dry sherry. And the aforementioned chopped spinach if I need to sneak it to the kids. Have some couscous to clean out of the pantry too? It’s makes a great pair with this.
Join me in cleaning out the pantry this month? What do you make when you need to use stuff up? Will you join me in hangrily eating too many vegetables next month? We’ll settle on a date once I’ve eaten that peach pie I put in my freezer last summer to celebrate Dr. King’s birthday…
Do you want to join me for a February Whole30?
Written by Bea
Bea loves life in the Pacific Northwest, rereading old novels and weird varieties of pickles. She can dive deep on Harry Potter, Twilight, 90’s CCM, celeb fashion or foreign policy. She’s trying to figure out what to do when the little one goes to kindergarten, what to make for dinner and how to be a feminist who can’t pass up a princess book.