Asparagus lemon pasta

Photo: Justin Logan

I love Pastini’s farfalle with lemon asparagus. At least I did until they quit offering it.1And they haven’t started making it again, even after receiving multiple customer feedback cards. ;-) Update: They did bring it back, though I think just for a seasonal dish. I’ll take it. So I searched for an alternative I could make. I found the Best Asparagus Lemon Pasta recipe at This is my take on the recipe with directions that help me keep everything straight.

Sauce Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest2The first time I tried this recipe, I tried to zest my lemons after squeezing them. That order doesn’t work very well. Zest ’em first! Or, just leave it out. You might not notice.
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

Other Ingredients

  • 1 pound pasta3I prefer farfalle pasta, probably because that’s what Pastini’s uses.
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, finely cut
  • 1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper


  • Substitute broccoli for asparagus
  • Pistachio nuts


Preparing this goes fairly fast. It will be done in the time it takes to heat the water and cook the pasta.

Put the water on the stove for the pasta and turn the heat on high. Add salt according to the directions and your taste.

In the meantime, after starting the water, add the butter to a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. After the butter has melted, add the heavy cream. Stir occasionally while it’s heating.

While waiting for the water to boil and the butter and cream mixture to heat to near boil, cut the asparagus4The grocery store didn’t have asparagus I wanted so I got broccoli instead and cut it into small pieces. into smallish pieces, maybe an inch long. A diagonal cut could be nice.

Squeeze lemons to make the lemon juice.

Maybe about this time, the water has started to boil. Add the pasta and start a timer. Put the veggies in a steamer or the microwave to cook, but not overcook. Then add the lemon juice, lemon zest, and salt to the sauce. Stir occasionally while the rest of the stuff cooks.

Finely5And finally? ;-) cut the fresh basil.

By now, the veggies should be done and the pasta cooked. Before you drain the pasta, you can put 1/4 cup of the pasta water in the sauce.6If one of your kinds of pasta is gluten-free, that’s probably the water you want to use. Your friends with celiac will thank you. The starch helps the sauce stick to the pasta.

At this point, you could add the sauce, asparagus, basil, and some of the parmesan cheese to the pasta and stir. Because we cook multiple kinds of pasta, we let everyone mix their own.7A word of warning: the sauce is good and lemony. If your pasta is dripping with sauce, it’s probably too much.

Salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Mmm… Asparagus lemon pasta. :-)


Asparagus isn’t always in season. We like to use broccoli as a backup.

When Pastini’s makes their version of this, they also sprinkle pistachio nuts on top. Pine nuts would probably be good, too. Recommended.

Photo credit: Thanks to Justin Logan for (1) trying out the recipe, (3) taking a picture of his results, and (3) letting me use it here! :-)

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

I found this recipe searching for “noodles and company tomato basil soup recipe.”1You’ll find this recipe all over the internet. I put it here so I can easily find it, plus be reminded by all my notes. I think it’s a reasonable match.

Don’t miss the footnotes. ;-)


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup half and half


Chop2That’s what the recipe I’m copying says to do — and that’s what I did the first time I made the soup. The next time, I chopped the onion quite fine in the food processor and grated the carrots. It was easier. the onion and carrots. Melt the butter in a pan3A 4-quart pan is large enough. and saute the onion and carrots for 4-5 minutes. Chop the garlic and add to the pan, cooking an additional 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, stock,4Chicken stock works, too. basil, bay leaf, red chili flakes,5I like the heat, but it might be a little too much for some. Experiment on your family. and sugar. Salt and pepper to taste.6In other words, add everything else. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf and blend7You might want to experiment with how fast and long you blend the soup. The first time I made it, I didn’t blend it very long, and something was not fully blended. So, the next time, I really blended it, probably too much. It was too smooth. The next time I make this, I’m going to chop more before cooking, simmer a little longer, and blend a little less. the hot mixture.8Remember that hot gasses expand. When you blend the hot mixture, the air will heat and want to blow the top off the blender. Hold the lid down to prevent this. If your blender lid leaks, put a washcloth on top first. Return the blended mixture to the pan and add the half and half. Heat and serve.

Enjoy your tomato basil soup.9Then call your mother and thank her for all the times she cooked for you. :-)

Corn Chowder

We love soups. This corn chowder is one of our favorites. In fact, we enjoyed it just last night.


  • ½ cube margarine
  • ½ cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 cups peeled, cubed potatoes
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon celery salt
  • ½ teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • 1 can whole corn
  • 1 can creamed corn
  • 1 12-oz can evaporated milk


Melt the margarine in a pot and add the onion and celery; saute. Add the salt, potatoes, water, bay leaf, celery salt, and parsley flakes. Cook slowly until the potatoes are half cooked. Add the whole corn (drained) and creamed corn and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the evaporated milk and let stand for 15 minutes.


To make it vegan, we’ve used soy milk instead of evaporated milk. If you do the same you’ll want to note that the required amount is 12 ounces.

We’ve also used unpeeled yellow potatoes. Bigger cubes are fun!

Vegan Cream of Broccoli Soup

I travel to the Sacramento area for work. As a plus, I get to visit my parents and Melissa. On one trip, my mother served a wonderful, green soup. I had to ask for the recipe.

Vegetable ingredients

  • 2 stalks broccoli (approximately 4 ½ cups)
  • ½ medium onion
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • 1 cup of water

Vegetable directions

Cut the vegetables into chunks. You’re going to blend this up later, so don’t worry about cutting the veggies pretty. You’re cutting them so they’ll cook more evenly and faster.

Put all of the vegetable ingredients in a covered kettle and cook. Don’t overcook the vegetables. If you do, your soup might turn gray like it sat on a cafeteria hot plate for hours and will taste icky.1Okay, maybe not icky, but it could look like it should. I cooked a double recipe for 20 minutes or so and it was great.

Sauce ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup slivered almonds or raw washed cashews
  • 1 tablespoon chicken seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • â…› teaspoon dried dill
  • â…› teaspoon marjoram

Sauce directions

Blend all the sauce ingredients in a blender until they are smooth and creamy.

Add cooked vegetables to the blender and blend smooth. Be careful when blending hot ingredients, especially hot liquids.2As I explained in the vegan tomato basil bisque recipe, the expanding hot air wants to blow the top off your blender, mess up your kitchen, and burn you. Don’t let it.

Return the mixture to a kettle and reheat. Add ½ to 1 cup of water as needed.


We made it without salt and didn’t miss it. Others in my family seem to think it’s great with grated cheddar cheese or cottage cheese. So much for keeping it vegan…

Pumpkin Pancakes

We received this recipe for pumpkin pancakes in the mail from Anthem Blue Cross. I suppose that suggests these are healthy pancakes — depending on what you top them with. We tried them for breakfast this morning. They were delicious!

Dry ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (see variations, below)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Wet ingredients

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 3/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil


  • Mix dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.1I used a 3-quart mixing bowl. It was perfect.
  • Mix wet ingredients in another medium mixing bowl.2I used a 1-quart mixing bowl. The ingredients fit — just barely. A 2-quart bowl would be better.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir just enough to mix, but no more. It should still be lumpy.
  • Heat griddle to medium heat. Lightly oil with spray.
  • Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to put the mixed batter on the heated griddle. Turn after bubbles begin to burst. Cook the other side until desired darkness.3For some reason, we used to pat down pancakes while they cooked. All it does is make them dense. Who wants that? Don’t do it.
  • Serve and eat. We top them with whipped cream.4For some, I should add one more step: Hose down the kitchen. I find that if I clean all the way through cooking, there’s less of a mess at the end. I know others who wait until the very end to clean. Your choice. 

Makes about 12 pancakes.5I counted because I like “trust, but verify.” I got 14.


You might not have pumpkin pie spice; we don’t. has a recipe for making your own pumpkin pie spice. To get the 1 1/4 teaspoons needed for this recipe, I used:

  • 3/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoons ground allspice

Pad Thai

Photo by Chez Pim
Photo by Chez Pim

I was going to post a Pad Thai recipe. Before I clicked “publish” I thought to look for other Pad Thai recipes to include as additional resources. What a stroke of luck! Now instead of posting a recipe, I’m just linking to Chez Pim’s Pad Thai for Beginners.

After reading Chez Pim’s tutorial, I’m too embarrassed to post the recipe I had, but inspired (and hungry). :-)

Photo credit: Photo by Chez Pim used under a Creative Commons license.

Vegan Tomato Basil Bisque

“Another View” by Darwin Bell

With the first rain in Hillsboro after what seemed like months of dry weather and an honest-to-goodness record-breaking heatwave, it seemed like the right time to try a new soup recipe. Ashley found a recipe for a vegan tomato basil bisque in The Candle Cafe Cookbook at our local Hillsboro public library. That recipe, with our modifications (some not so intentional), is found below.


  • 1 small beet
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ? cup chopped onion
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 12 small tomatoes
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ? teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 cup cubed tofu
  • Salt and pepper


Preheat your oven to 350?F. While the oven is heating, trim and peel the beet. Put the beet on a baking pan and bake it until tender (1 to 1? hours). Let the beet cool and chop it. There’s no need to be precise. You’re going to run it through a blender later. Maybe just chop it in half while it’s still hot.

Saute the onion, garlic, and celery in the olive oil until tender (about 5 to 10 minutes). If you don’t like lots of dirty pots and pans, use the same large pan you’re going to use to heat the soup. And don’t worry — you’ll still have lots of dirty pans. I did…

Add the vegetable broth, tomatoes, basil, thyme, and oregano to the saut?ed mixture. Bring it to a boil and then let it simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir occasionally. Or frequently, if you’re like me. A watched pot is quite enjoyable. A stirred, watched pot, even more so.

Using a food processor or blender, blend the soup, beet, and tofu until smooth. Unless your food processor or blender is very large, you’ll need to stage this in several batches. No problem. As my mother used to say, it all ends up in the same place. (I think she was talking about something else, though…) In this case, everything ends up in another large pot or large bowl. Yup, another dirty dish.

Reheat the soup and add salt and pepper to taste. The cookbook recommends garnishing with a whole basil leaf.

Variations (Or maybe just more directions…)

When we tried this recipe, we already had some boiled beets in the fridge and used one beet’s worth of that instead of trying to bake a beet. We used a food processor to blend the beet and tofu together to get a bright purple mixture that we added to some of the blended soup. Oh my! It’s still bright purple!! By the time we added all the blended soup to the mixture, it still seemed a little … purple!

We don’t know if a baked beet is less bright purple than a boiled beet. It might be worth a try. I don’t think it could be brighter purplier.

Regardless, we were concerned about the color. Drastic measures were called for. Out came the blender and we ran everything through again. This resulted in a much smoother mixture. It was also less purple, and more red, closer to what we had expected. By the time the soup was blended (twice) and reheated, the color was normal. Next time, we’ll just use the blender. And not worry so much.

Be careful using the blender. When blending hot mixtures, any air in the blender container will heat up and expand rapidly. (That’s according to Charles’ gas law for those interested in chemistry and/or physics.) The expanding air will blow the lid off at the exact moment the hot, purple mixture is testing its limits of containment. Fortuitously, I learned this by having my hand on the blender lid when I pushed “blend,” inadvertently holding the lid down and preventing any renegade soup from escaping and staining the cabinetry. You might want to put a washcloth over the blender lid if yours has a central opening (like mine) with a smaller cap in it. Hot soup could escape through the cracks, burning your hand.

If you have no sense of adventure, let the soup cool before attempting to blend it — OSHA approved (and recommended by the cookbook).

We didn’t have fresh basil. Sacrilege, I know. So we substituted ? cup of dried basil. Although the soup was good (why else would I be typing this recipe if it wasn’t?) next time we’re going to try fresh basil. After all, this is tomato basil bisque. Why go cheap on the named ingredients?

Speaking of which, the book mentions you can use a 15-ounce can of whole tomatoes instead of the 12 small tomatoes. We went with the fresh tomatoes. Canned tomatoes would be a lot easier and probably would affect the flavor a lot less than using dried basil. Obviously, I recommend using fresh tomatoes and basil you lovingly planted, tended, and harvested from your own garden. Probably the celery, onions, and oregano, too. You’re on your own making extra-virgin olive oil.

While I was pouring the vegetable stock into the pan, I realized the recipe might specify a recommended amount. It did! And I’d already added one cup too much. Oh well. I’ll just say it was intentional because I wanted more soup and leave it at that. We used a store-bought vegetable broth that touted its absence of gluten. The recipe book includes directions on making your own.

Have a go with this soup. I think we proved the recipe is quite tolerant of modifications while still resulting in delicious soup. :-)

Photo credit: “Another View” by Darwin Bell on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Pasta Salad


  • 3 cups cooked pasta
  • 1 cup Italian dressing
  • 1/2 cup green pepper
  • 1/2 cup red pepper
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 can sliced olives
  • 1 cup artichoke hearts
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Prepare the pasta according to the directions on its package. While the pasta is cooking, cut the red and green peppers and the red onion into thin strips about 1 to 2 inches long. When the pasta is done cooking, drain it and combine it with all other ingredients. Chill and serve.


For pasta, we prefer to use pasta bows. Other small pasta shapes would work well, too. I don’t think I’d want to try a long pasta like spaghetti. When we’re in a hurry, we’ll drain the pasta and then rinse it with cold water (and maybe even use a little ice) to cool it off quickly.

We use marinated artichoke hearts and have never tried the non-marinated variety.

We have tried different Italian salad dressings and have settled on Newman’s Own Olive Oil & Vinegar Dressing.

And, maybe it goes without saying, but our standard variation is to make a double recipe. It just works out well. One box of pasta bow pasta, one red pepper, and one green pepper, one red onion, and one bottle of salad dressing yield the appropriate amounts for a double recipe.


Gazpaco Ingredients
Gazpacho Ingredients

Gazpacho is a perfect summertime recipe. Many of the ingredients can come straight out of your garden or from a friend’s (thanks, Rodney!).

Like tabouli, gazpacho is easier to make with a food processor. Or you could be much better with a knife than I am (not that hard) and have lots of patience.


  • 4 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 cup tomato juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • salt and pepper to taste


Peel and chop the vegetables very fine. Mix all ingredients together and chill before serving.


It’s not much of a variation, but we almost always make a double recipe. We also use vegetable juice (V-8) instead of tomato juice. Wikipedia has even more variations.

Be brave in your experimenting. You can’t go wrong with gazpacho.

Photo credit: “ingredientes gazpacho” by po.psi.que (Juan Carlos) on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.