One of Ben’s and my favorite games to play is “Surprise!”
Whenever Ben’s out running errands, getting gas, or stopping by the grocery store on his way home from work, to pick up the block of feta cheese I forgot to get earlier in the week for instance, he always brings home a special, sweet treat to surprise and delight me with.
He’ll pull into the garage, open the door, yell Surprise!, then reveal the goods. It’s really fun.
Said goods range anywhere from a Reese’s Big Cup, to fun size Twix Bars, a strip of Starburst Fave Reds, or the latest treat that gave me a giggle – a package of Sprees.
1995 called and wanted their candy back.
Once he drove home with a big slice of ice cream cake snagged from a birthday party at work, but it melted en route all over the passenger seat. He was pretty upset, as it was going to be the best surprise yet.
Anyways, now that I’ve given up sugary treats during the week, he’s had to think outside the box a little in terms of surprise options. So what did my sweet & thoughtful husband bring home late last week, when Peanut Butter Snickers was no longer an option?
Quinoa Pasta. Bahahaha!
Dee commented on my Quinoa Mac & Cheese post that I ought to try quinoa pasta, and I responded that if I found it I would most definitely swoop some up. Ben loves to read the comments on the blog so he saw it, and made it his mission to surprise me with a box. Mission accomplished!
Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta is gluten-free, organic pasta made with a blend of both quinoa and corn flour. It cooks up very quickly, and was the super-tasty base for tonight’s supper of Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto & Chicken Pasta!
Oh. Mah. Gah, you guys. This dinner was ROCKIN’!
The dish was made up of several different components, but let me tell you about my favorite one first. The Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto.
Basically what it boils down to, is this pesto is the ‘ish. The bee’s knees, if you will. I just whipped up my regular pesto recipe, which combines fresh basil leaves with garlic, cheese and walnuts, and pumped up the flavor with sweet & chewy sundried tomatoes. SO GOOD!
The ingredients are whirred with extra virgin olive oil, and some of the oil from the sundried tomatoes, which results in a luscious sauce that is exploding with flavor. It’s absolutely unbelievable. And so easy to make!
K. Let’s turn our attention to the rest of the dish. Whooo – we got all four burners blazin’ tonight!
In corner one we have zee aforementioned quinoa pasta cooking in boiling, salted water. This pasta only takes 6-7 minutes to cook to al dente, and the box warns to not overcook.
In corner two we have chicken breasts, seasoned with Italian seasoning and garlic salt, then cooked up on a flat top skillet.
A saucepan of balsamic vinegar reduction took over corner three. That’s just 1 cup balsamic vinegar that I let simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until it’s the consistency of thin maple syrup. This stuff is black GOLD, people! Sweet & syrupy, I’d drizzle it on near anything.
And last but not least, a skillet of shallots, garlic, fresh spinach and baby heirloom tomatoes took over corner four! I just sauteed shallots and garlic in a little olive oil until soft, then added in torn, fresh baby spinach and quartered baby heirloom tomatoes, and let them saute until the tomatoes were warm.
Drained pasta, pesto and the tomato mixture into the pot.
Plate, top with chicken, and drizzle with some of that scrumptious balsamic reduction.
Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto
Makes ~1/2 cup
1 cup loosely packed basil leaves
2 Tablespoons sundried tomatoes packed in olive oil
2 Tablespoons walnuts (or almonds, or pine nuts)
2 Tablespoons parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove
salt & pepper
1 Tablespoon oil from sundried tomato jar
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Combine basil, sundried tomatoes, walnuts, parmesan cheese, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor. Process until finely chopped. Stream in oil while pulsing until pesto is completely mixed together.
This pesto permeated the pasta, so every bite was 100% packed with flavor. The quinoa pasta itself had amazing texture. I will definitely be buying it again.
The sweet & tangy balsamic reduction just took everything over the edge. This is totally my kind of dish!
This pesto would be amazeballs with Crispy Pesto Gnocchi with Tomatoes and Goat Cheese, BTW!
Sugar-Free Jebruary Update
Well I’m one full week into Sugar-Free Jebruary, and feelin’ groovy! For real though, giving up extra sugar during the week has not been as hard as I thought it was going to be. Since choosing fresh clementines, apples, and pomegranate seeds over twizzlers, reese’s peanut butter cups, and chocolate chip cookies, the fresh stuff is what I’m really starting to crave. Not the crap that makes me feel like, well – CRAP!
While the Blueberry Muffin Top Cookies I made on Saturday were Heavenly (Ben has requested I make them every weekend,) I kind of baked them because I felt obligated to. Like I had to make them to celebrate the fact that I could eat a couple if I wanted.
That is insane to me!
Besides craving that stuff less and less, the biggest thing I’ve noticed physically is that I feel so much less PUFFY. Sugar has a way of blowing my face and stomach up like a balloon, and also with me, sugary snacks lead to salty snacks (to balance out the flavors, natch) which also cause bloating. Less sugar = less salt = leaner me.
These babies have also been a great help. Clementines, and Trader Joe’s Reduced Guilt Popcorn.
I love that Clementines are not a lot of work to peel and enjoy, and they’re perfectly sweet and satisfying. Plus, since I’m a volume eater, I like that you can have more than one since they’re so small.
This popcorn is absolutely phenom because, again, I can have a giant bowl for just 110 calories.
Sometimes, I think it’s just the crunch I need for a snack, and this delicately flavored (near non-existent, actually) popcorn totally fits the bill. Love that ingredient list too!
Fellow sugar-free peeps – how are you doing? Struggling? Hanging on? Thriving? Either way – kudos for trying!
How do you surprise, or treat, your significant other?