Friday, October 24, 2008

Cooking Light Night: Pasta with Spinach and Prosciutto, and some Award Business

I'm really excited to finally join in on some Cooking Light Night fun. Clara, a really fun and talented blogger from I Heart Food for Thought, put together this cool avatar:

and has graciously allowed those of us who are interested to use it when blogging about our own cooking light nights. Just link back to Clara when you use it! Thanks, Clara!

Despite what you may think given the decidedly non-light nature of the Dorie Greenspan and Barefoot Contessa recipes that I enjoy blogging about on a weekly basis, the vast majority of the cooking that I do myself would be considered "light" cooking. I've been a Cooking Light subscriber for years. I love the philosophy of this magazine. It believes, first and foremost, that food should be a pleasure, and that it should taste good. It never compromises on flavor. It preaches moderation -- I don't think there is a food in the world that Cooking Light would consider verboten. If a particular ingredient is a stereotypically "unhealthy" one, such as bacon or cream, Cooking Light finds ways to use small amounts of it in high-impact ways. I'm rarely disappointed by a Cooking Light recipe. It is really hard to go back to "saute onion in stick of butter"-type cooking after making enough Cooking Light recipes to realize that healthy preparation methods can turn out equally good (and in many cases, better) food. So when I saw that Clara was doing a Cooking Light Night, and had kindly welcomed others to join her? Sign me up!

Speaking of Cooking Light, do you mind if I digress for a moment and show you my own personal prison? Here is an end shot of our island, which holds some of my cookbooks:

Let's zoom in closer:

Oh, I can hear your collective gasp of horror from here. Yes I did. I started collecting the Annual Recipes cookbooks. And now I can never stop. This is the problem with collecting in general, but PARTICULARLY with collecting items that are part of an annual series. Christmas ornaments. Lenox plates. Cooking Light cookbooks. If they decide to retire the series, you are off the hook. But what if they don't? Well, then you have some tough choices to make. There is the obvious "keep collecting until you die" option. That way, your children and grandchildren are left to figure out what to do with your 73 Cooking Light cookbooks, and maybe as they tag them for the yard sale they can laugh about what a crazy old bird you were, and how you refused to stop getting those damn cookbooks, even though you hadn't cooked a blessed thing in thirty years. Or, you can just decide RIGHT NOW to stop the insanity, and declare 2008 your final year. Does that make you as uncomfortable as it makes me? Yeah, who just abruptly stops an annual series collection in 2008? That completely offends any sense of order and symmetry. I may consider stopping in 2010 -- that's a nice round number, and I will then have the cookbooks from 2000 to 2010, nice round numbers all around (well, that's actually 11 cookbooks, not 10. Hmmm. I can't think about that too much. See why it's easier to just keep getting them?). If for whatever reason I don't stop in 2010, then I'm committed until 2015 at the earliest. I'm open to suggestions for dealing with this quag. I do enjoy these cookbooks, but I don't want to have to build an addition to house them.

Okay, on to my first Cooking Light Night dinner! Nancy, a really great food blogger and one of my favorite daily reads, is doing her own Cooking Light Nights, and she made a really fabulous dish last week - Pasta with Proscuitto and Parmesan. Well, after reading Nancy's post I was suddenly really in the mood for pasta with prosciutto and parmesan, go figure! -- so I was thrilled when I saw a very similar dish in the October 2008 issue, Pasta with Prosciutto and Spinach.

This is a very simple weeknight meal. Boil up some tortellini. Toast some pine nuts. Saute some garlic. Wilt a little spinach.

Am I the only one who finds wilting spinach to be oddly relaxing? When I am wilting spinach, I think of nothing else except how cool it is that spinach does that. My mind is rarely so focused on one thing. If you've had a stressful day, go wilt some spinach -- you won't regret it! It's better than yoga!

Not a whole lot more to say about this one. Once your spinach has wilted, you just mix it all up in a big bowl -- pasta, pine nuts, spinach/garlic, parmesan and prosciutto. It was a great dinner -- score another one for Cooking Light!

My only issues: I sorta kinda overdid the garlic, like I often do. I should know by now that even though all the recipes say brown garlic in oil on medium, I need to do it on medium low or I'll burn it. It's just what I do. But the meal was still good. Also, I might throw some raisins in there next time. Call me crazy, but one of my favorite sides is wilted spinach/olive oil/garlic/salt/raisins. I think a handful of golden raisins would provide a nice sweet element to this dish. Don't worry, if the very thought of that makes you cringe, and you're coming over for dinner anytime soon, I'll leave the raisins out of yours. I promise.

Here's the recipe:

Pasta with Prosciutto and Spinach, from Cooking Light, October 2008

1 (9-ounce) package fresh cheese tortellini (such as DiGiorno)
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 teaspoon olive oil
6 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
1/4 cup (1 ounce) preshredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 ounces prosciutto, thinly sliced

1. Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Transfer pasta to a large bowl.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add nuts to pan; cook 1 1/2 minutes or until toasted, stirring occasionally. Add nuts to bowl.

3. Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add garlic to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add spinach to pan; cook 2 minutes or until spinach wilts, stirring constantly. Add spinach mixture, cheese, and remaining ingredients to bowl; toss well.

Nutritional Information
Calories:292 (28% from fat)
Fat:9.2g (sat 3.2g,mono 2.3g,poly 1.1g)
Alyson Haynes, Cooking Light, OCTOBER 2008

Now, switching gears. I started blogging on a whim, because my friend Amanda said that TWD was fun, and because I wanted an excuse to start baking more. I could never have predicted how much that I would love it. The best part, hands down, has been getting to "know" fabulous cooks, writers, and photographers from all over the world.

Prudence Pennywise was one of the first non-family members to visit my blog when I first started. I remember jumping over to Prudy's blog at the time and being blown-and-I-mean-BLOWN away by her blog. Her writing is so sharp, crisp, and just plain fun. Her recipes are inventive, beautiful, and healthy. But I think what sets Prudy apart is not only the quality of her blog, but her generosity as a member of the blogging community. Even though Prudy already has her own large daily readership (just read her blog one time, and you'll become a daily reader, too!) and is well-established and well-respected in the food blogging world, she consistently finds the time to support her fellow bloggers (including many new bloggers) by visiting their blogs and commenting on them.

Matt of Matt's Kitchen is a newer blogger, like I am. The first time I read Matt's blog, I knew right away that I'd become a regular reader. I feel a little bit smarter by association every time I read Matt's blog. His posts are always fun, interesting and honest, and I always find myself eagerly awaiting Matt's next post.

Prudy and Matt tagged me for this award:

and given the respect that I have for their talents, I'm flattered, to say the least. Thank you, Prudy and Matt!

There is a "meme" (i.e., chain letter of sorts) attached to this award, in the form of lists of sevens. Heck, I'm game! But if I "tag" you below, and you don't feel like playing along, that's fine by me. I just wanted you to know how much I enjoy your blog!

7 things I did before
1. Small town grocery store cashier in the days before scanners
2. Ice cream scooper on Martha's Vineyard, where I served Billy Joel a frozen yogurt cone and uttered the highly forgettable "you should see our large!" in response to his "that's a small?" comment
3. Waitressed and then bartended (despite not knowing how to mix drinks) at a fun restaurant in Westport, CT -- I just prayed every day that the townspeople would order beer or wine. Never did see Martha.
4. Research assistant for renowned legal historian
5. Spent three glorious years in Charlottesville, VA, where I met my hubs. Hope we retire there someday!
6. Clerked at a law firm in Manhattan, and then practiced law in same firm's Washington, D.C. office before getting married and moving South.
7. Slept 8 hours a night

7 things I do now
1. Laundry, and lots of it!
2. Drive around town in my Odyssey, picking up and dropping off people.
3. Serve as a den leader (along with hubs) for my son's cub scout den
4. Work part time as a bankruptcy lawyer in a large corporate law firm
5. Set up the DVR to "record series" of Jon & Kate Plus 8
6. Pick up toys, even though I know that they'll just get dumped out again immediately.
7. Read the following periodicals online daily: New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Slate and Pop Sugar.

7 things I want to do
1. Learn to sew
2. Create beautiful scrapbooks/babybooks for each of my children
3. Run a half marathon in February (I'd better get on that!)
4. Become a better money saver
5. Learn how to accessorize
6. Get organized.
7. Travel with my family someday, once we are done with diapers, pack 'n plays and the need for naps.

7 things that attract me about the opposite sex
1. A great sense of humor
2. Intelligence
3. Loves, and is loved by, children
4. Loves, and is loved by, the elderly
5. Intellectual curiosity
6. Kindness
7. Open-mindedness

7 Favorite Foods
1. Brick Oven Pizza
2. Lasagna
3. Mashed potatoes
4. Macaroni and cheese
5. Steak
6. Chocolate chip cookies warm out of the oven
7. Parmaggiano Reggiano

7 things I Say Most Often:
1. Ouch.
2. I wish that I could help, sweetie, but I don't speak whine.
3. Do I need to start counting to five?
4. This is like trying to herd cattle.
5. Just try one bite.
6. This place is a complete wreck.
7. I hope that Santa Claus didn't see that.

7 Tags (and award too; pick one up)
1. Kelly at Baking with the Boys -- for being laugh-out-loud funny every week
2. Flourchild -- for the cool blog name, the sweet story behind the blog name, and for always doing creative and wonderful things with recipes!
3. Mary Ann of Meet Me In the Kitchen -- for sharing a smorgasbord of mouthwatering recipes that help me figure out what to make for dinner every week!
4. Bridgett of La Bella Cook, for always wowing me with her recipes. Her passion for cooking really shines through in her posts!
5. Deb of Kahakai Kitchen --for an all-around great blog that allows us to live vicariously through her as she cooks, eats and lives in paradise.
6. Caitlin of Engineer Baker --just good old fashioned fun reading, week in and week out. And Caitlin(mostly) does not even taste her creations -- she just gives them all away! I think that puts her on the short-track to sainthood!
7.Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes -- a baker and cake decorator, and wonderful at all of it. Check out these adorable mummy cookies!

HELLO? Is anyone still there? Thanks for making it to the end. I'm really trying to be less long-winded with my posts, but when you add seven lists of sevens to my usual long-windedness, well, it's like being on long-winded steroids. Sorry!


Audrey said...

Cathy, I've been so wanting to be just like you, and now I am. I just need to put my CL books in chronological order ... One year, I even got the annual book as a freebie from Fidelity Investments. Gee, maybe they'll be giving stuff away THIS YEAR too!

Prudy said...

Am I still here? I'll probably read it again tomorrow. You know I'm hooked on your blog. I'm amazed by your life and all you do and did and are planning. And dinner looks great. I love raisins in savory dishes. Huge cooking light fan here too. One year I didn't subscribe and I gained ten pounds. Seriously. I'll never jinx myself like that again. Thanks for all the kind words. A little praise at 9 am will get me through the day...week...month...year.

n.o.e said...

Wow, three posts this week - we're all going to get spoiled! Focus and inner peace sounds great, but it's too bad that spinach wilts so darned fast...

The golden raisins sound great in that dish. When we come for dinner, you can put them on my plate but leave them off for my husband, okay?

Hey, I'm a UVa law grad also (met my husband there) from the class of '81. We were back in C-ville two years ago for our 25th reunion; many changes of course, but some important things have remained constant. Foods of All Dollars still has the best imported food selection of anywhere. I actually brought food home in my suitcase. And the grillswiths at the UD are still amazing. Cheap donuts fried with ice cream - how can you go wrong?

Did you grow up in CT? My parents lived in Fairfield for 30 years. We never ran into Martha, either, but heard plenty of rumors about her.

Finally (well long-winded posts should beget long-winded comments, right?), I believe you and I could share a last meal - those are all of my favorite foods also.


Cathy said...

Nancy, I will post this over on your blog too in case you don't come back, but I can't even believe what a small world it is! David and I are '97 Law Hoos. We were back in C'Ville last year for our 10 year reunion. I grew up in Prospect (little town between Waterbury and New Haven) and went to Fairfield University for college (great Jesuit education!) We actually got married in Fairfield!

Foods of all Dollars, yes, it was the original Whole Paycheck! I can still order my Bodo's sandwich (smoked turkey on everything with provolone and lettuce, heated) in my sleep from pure muscle memory. The hardest part of going back is figuring out how to fit in all of the required eating!

Maria said...

I love your long winded posts, don't stop:) I enjoy Cooking Light recipes too. I will have to give this one a go!!

Candy said...

I'm with you on the cookbooks. I even have trouble throwing out that years magazines. I've got crates and crates. My children will be able to have a huge bonfire.

Audrey said...

Because all the cool kids are (obviously) from Connecticut, can I just say that I grew up in Simsbury (near Hartford) and once had Mechanics and Farmers bank and that fancy clothes store in Westport that everyone goes to as clients? (and I once bought some cheese at Hay Day).

Mary Ann said...

First of all, thanks for thinking of me. People like you really give me confidence and make my day when you check out my blog and comment. I love your posts. You are not long-winded at all. It is so interesting to find out more about you!
I have to laugh about the Cooking Light collection! I have every cookbook they have ever published, get the monthly magazine and then tear out the pages and make my own cookbook. I use their recipes more than anything else. I really try to cook healthy every night so I can make dessert whenever, eat it and not feel too guilty. Oh, and don't forget the exercise, that is essential for me, when I am participating in all these blog events.
Good luck on the half marathon! Do you have one you are training for? Me and my hubby did one last April and watch out for mile 11. That is what will get you!
If I even showed a picture of my cookbooks, I think you would gasp. I am out of control. I have way too many. But I love them!
Thanks for sharing so much. If only we still lived in Georgia, we could probably get together somehow!

CB said...

Awesome! I have that recipe starred to try from Nancy's blog too! I love having more CL cooking buddies. I've been a big CL slacker lately but I'll probably get back in the swing of things when the holidays pass. Its just so hard when there's so many good (translation: fattening) things I wanna bake and cook right now!

Natashya said...

Ha! I am the same way about collecting. I will never be able to stop. I must have every book by my favourite chefs. I have 4 foodie magazine subscriptions (plus Martha) and can't even look at another one or I know I will subcribe and not be able to let any of the others go.
I love the pasta dish, all of my favourite flavours. Must... resist... temptation.... to.. look.. at... Cooking Light!

Debinhawaii said...

Another great post--not long winded at all just lots of humor and personality--the way I like them. Thanks so much for the award--it means a lot coming from you! I love your blog as it always makes me laugh. I love Cooking Light too and had a couple of the recipe annuals but because I didn't have them all and missed a year in between the three I had I gave them away BECAUSE I did not want to have an incomplete collection! So either you are normal or we are all crazy! ;-)
Mahalo again for the nice comments and pretty award!


Veronica said...

I agree about spinach...maybe it's because I love spinach so much but I love to watch it wilt too. I'm very impressed with your Cooking Light collection!

Proud Italian Cook said...

Keep writing long posts Cathy, I enjoy reading every word all the way down to the bottom!

n.o.e said...

Wow, Audrey, one of my favorite cookbooks EVER is the (first) Hay Day Cookbook. In fact, I've just bought a copy for each of my girls from the used book site Rumor has it that Paul Newman was a regular at the Westport store. We never saw him either, although we loved visiting the store...

Jacque said...

Oh my gosh!!! Thanks so much, you've just made my head swell to twice it's normal size.

LOL, I'm also a den-leading, part-time-working, counter to five. I've gotten SO good at counting to five :)

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

I love this post! I'm going to have to remember your line "I wish that I could help, sweetie, but I don't speak whine". Good one. I'll also have to try wilting spinach more often.

Pamela said...

Cathy, I love reading your posts! They always make me smile. This was another good one. I'm a huge CL fan and have been a subscriber for so many years now. I only have 2000 and 2001 of the annuals, though. I bow to you!

I've been meaning to get on the Cooking Light Night bandwagon. Hopefully, soon.

I've been talking a lot about Santa these days, too. And I love the "I don't speak whine" comment!! LOL!

Andrea said...

I've missed so much on your blog, so happy to see you post more! Your Cooking Light Night dish looks and sounds wonderful as does your pot pie for Barefoot Bloggers. You are such a talented writer, every post your write is fun to read all the way to the very end :) Loved the meme... I remember sleep as well, vaguely, and can't wait until travel time when the kiddos are out of diapers!

Matt said...

The even-keeled part of me would say to you, "Now, Cathy. Do you really need all of those Cooking Light anthologies? After all they do have a website where you can look them up."

The other, more real part of me would say, "What are you thinking? Stop now? You can't stop now! What if the perfect recipe is in the next book, the one that will become part of your cooking repertoire? What if the next volume is in a really cool color that complements the pale blue spine of the 2008 edition? How will you know what the editors' picks are for 2009? I hope Santa didn't hear you say that..."

What a great post and recipe. I also enjoyed reading your lists of sevens!

Prudy said...

OH, Cathy, so sorry about your 24 hour chicken. You are too kind to leave a taco dinner for the babysitter. Next time you better run through Little Caesers. Also, I'm just jealous that you had a babysitter! Can I have her number?:)

Anne said...

I am the same way about collecting things. I wish you lived next door so I could check out that awesome cooking light collection (and have some of that pasta... yum!)

BTW, I linked to the oreo recipe in my post- I got it from Jenny at Picky Palate and they are delicious, although far from worthy of mention in a "cooking light" post! :)

Bren@Flanboyant Eats said...

tell me u don't miss practicing! lol. i was a paralegal for 9 years and so so thankful to be out of it!

Flourchild said...

Ahhh thank you so much for saying those sweet things about me and my blog. Your blog really is wonderful and I enjoy reading it so much. Thanks again and for pointing it out to me..i really did miss it..I even read your cooking light blog!

Debinhawaii said...

Cathy--Thanks again for the award. I finally got it and the meme posted! Hope you are having a great weekend!
Mahalo & Aloha,

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