Monday, September 16, 2019

Vegan Thai Pasta Salad

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ChooseMazola #CollectiveBias

Protein packed Thai Pasta Salad is a better-for-you 20-minute dinner recipe. Full of fresh ingredients and a lightened dressing, this one is a keeper! 



Who doesn't like pasta salads? Especially if it is packed with better-for-you ingredients, comes together in just a few minutes and is super easy to make! This recipe made with Mazola® Corn Oil is all that and more! A clinical study showed Mazola Corn Oil reduces cholesterol 2x more than extra virgin olive oil. To learn more about this claim, see Mazola.com.

September is National Cholesterol Awareness Month. I am celebrating the month with light and delicious pasta salad that is one of our favorite recipes. Hope you enjoy it as much as we do! It's possible to reduce saturated fats and cholesterol in your meals easily with simple swaps, such as substituting butter with Mazola Corn Oil.​


What is a Pasta Salad?

The easiest way to describe any pasta salad would be a mix of cooked pasta, vegetables and a dressing of your choice. These are generally lighter than traditional pastas, as they are not laded with sauces, cream or cheese. They use fresh vegetables and can be made ahead. 

Today's Thai Pasta salad is just like that. Combining pasta with a flavorful yet light dressing gives the pasta a characteristic flavor. The end result is moist, crunchy and does not feel dry at all. 


What makes this Pasta Salad Better-For-You?

Traditional pastas and pasta salads are loved by our family. It is a great idea to swap up a few ingredients in the recipe and make it better-for-you. That is exactly what I do each time I make a pasta salad. Today, I have made these swaps to make the dish better-for-you. 
First, I used lentil pasta in place of regular pasta. This fiber rich pasta is packed with protein, making it a great addition to the salad. 


Next, this lighter version of pasta has fresh vegetables. No frozen vegetables and no meat. Everything is chopped right in the kitchen, keeping the salad super fresh.


And yes, I used Mazola Corn Oil instead of butter to make the dressing. Mazola Corn Oil is an all-purpose, cholesterol free cooking oil that is a smart heart-healthy* choice for your family. *See Mazola.com for more information on the relationship between corn oil and heart health. It has a variety of uses including baking, grilling, sautéing, stir frying, or mixing up a marinade or dressing.

With these swaps in place, the salad becomes a great addition to any party or weeknight dinner. Just whip up everything a few minutes before you are ready to serve and dig all forks in! 


Variations

This pasta salad is made using red lentil penne. These are my personal favorites from all the lentil pastas, but chickpea pasta, black rice pasta, etc. will work great too. Pick the one that you like the best. 

We love sauces and dressings made from peanut butter here. However, the same recipe can be made with almond butter or cashew butter too. The flavors for the dressing come from the butter, so pick your favorite here! 

I love making my salads colorful. It almost feels like eating a rainbow. So I have all the colorful vegetables in there. However, if you dislike any of the vegetables like red cabbage, peppers or cucumber, swap that with something like scallions, steamed broccoli florets or corn. 

Lastly, the toppings. I added cilantro and fried noodles here. But roasted peanuts, roasted sesame seeds or a sprinkle of seaweed adds a lot of crunch to the salad too. Pick and choose what you like! 

The salad is versatile and it is super easy to mix and match ingredients to suit everyone's taste. Plus, the recipe comes together in under 30 minutes, making it a great weeknight dinner! 


Ingredients

For the dressing 

Peanut Butter 2 tbsp
Soy Sauce 1 tsp
Vinegar 1 tsp
Chili Flakes 1/4 tsp
Oregano 1/4 tsp
Salt 1/4 tsp
Black Pepper 1/4 tsp


For the Pasta

Dry Red Lentil Pasta 2 cups
Diced Red Pepper 1/4 cup
Diced Green Pepper 1/4 cup
Diced Red Cabbage 1/2 cup
Diced Carrots 1/4 cup
Diced Cucumber 1/2 cup
Salt 1 tsp
Cilantro to top
Fried noodles to top (optional)


Method

Place a pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Once it boils, season with a tsp of salt and then add the red lentil pasta. Cook for 7-8 minutes (or as per package instructions), until the pasta is al dente. Drain and set aside.

In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients under 'dressing'. Mix well and set aside. 

In a large bowl, mix together pasta and vegetables. Pour the sauce over and toss to combine. Top with cilantro and fried noodles and serve. 


Note: If making the salad ahead of time, reserve some dressing. Refrigerate the pasta and serve topped with the reserved dressing, as the pasta tends to become dry in the refrigerator. 


Friday, September 6, 2019

A Balanced Vegetarian Meal plus Product Review

Elements of a Balanced Vegetarian Meal plus reviewing Vegetarian products from Healthy Choice, Gardein and Birds Eye. 

This post sponsored by Babbleboxx.com on behalf of Conagra Brands. All opinions are mine alone.


It is Friday and we are gearing up for the weekend. Fridays call for easy meals that are delicious and filling. Today I am showcasing a meal that is all this and MORE! 

A perfect vegetarian meal consists of protein, vegetables, greens and a delish side that brings everything together. I got a bunch of items from Healthy Choice, Gardein and Birds Eye that completed my meal. A perfect mix of plant based protein with other items, the meal was great for busy days and beyond. 


A Balanced Vegetarian Meal

For those who enjoy a meat free lifestyle, it is often a struggle to get the right amount of nutrition from a meal. In order to get everything right, it is essential to include a little bit of all kinds of food on the plate. I have been meat free all my life and was striving to get a balanced meal for myself. 

With several experiments and changes in my diet, I realized there is a need to include the following elements in the platter. Today I am sharing my findings which are purely based on my experience with food over the years. 

Proteins in Vegetarian Meals

A meat based diet boasts of a LOT of protein options, the vegetarian diet has quite a few options too. From legumes, nuts, seeds, milk based protein to tofu, tempeh and seitan. Having one of these plant based proteins is always a great idea. 

A few protein rich recipes that are easy to make: 


Nutrient dense whole foods 

After the protein content in the food, next comes the nutrient dense whole foods. These include fruits, vegetables and whole grains that help bridge any nutritional gaps. Including fresh salads, fruit based recipes and a LOT of whole grains makes any meal PERFECT. 

Here are some recipes that include one or more of these nutrient dense whole foods: 

Nuts and Seeds in a meal

Having a handful of nuts and seeds is always a great idea. If you do not like them as is, you can include them in recipes and have some in any meal. They are a source of natural oil and other nutrients in the diet. 

To include nuts and seeds, here are a handful of recipes:



Healthy fats in the diet

A vegetarian diet can only be complete by including some healthy fats. These range from coconut oil and olive oil to oil rich ingredients like avocados. Include them to cook meals or to make salad dressings. They form an essential part of the diet for sure. 


A box full of DELISH products

Having considered everything above, I recently reviewed a box of delish goodies from Healthy Choice, Gardein and Birds Eye. The box had everything to make a perfect dinner. The box had three products that complemented the others perfectly. We definitely intend to get more of these for easy to make Friday meals! 


I started off with the Gardein Nashville Hot Chick'n Tenders. The Vegan side made from plant based protein is amazing. Perfectly seasoned, great taste and texture describe these nuggets in the best way. Whether served as a side or as an appetizer, these would definitely make an appetizing plant based dish. We thoroughly enjoyed these as a side for our meal! 

The next side in the box was Birds Eye Oven Roasters Sheet Pan Vegetables. The pack had a mix of cauliflower and broccoli and was seasoned with sea salt, pepper and herbs. All that needed to be done was to place them in the oven and let them cook for a few minutes. The result was perfectly crisp vegetables that made a great Vegan side. The herbs were just right to not overpower the taste of the vegetables. Get a bunch of these folks; they are totally worth it! 

The last part of the meal was the main dish. Power Bowls from Healthy Choice, we had the Mango Edamame bowl from the box. Edamame, mango and vegetables served on top of brown and red rice, red quinoa and black barley; the red wine vinaigrette, dried cherries and sunflower seeds made perfect toppings for the dish. We loved every element of the meal, especially the combination of mango and edamame. 


Overall, the meal was amazing. Different flavors, textures and colors came together wonderfully on the platter. Everything came together quickly and easily and the portion size was just right too! If you would like your own meal from the box, get it here. You can mix and match flavors and combinations you like to complete the meal!