This was the meal I was going to make on Valentine's Day. For some reason, Valentine's Day also falls on the same weekend as Family Day in Canada. That means that most restaurants and hotels are packed that weekend and Valentine's Day celebrations seem to be overshadowed by other things. Maybe the "family" part is more important now than those gushy, Valentine's Day gimmicks. In the case of my schedule it was, as my parents were visiting from out of town that weekend. I suppose beets aren't the most romantic of foods when you think about it.
When you do eventually have time to celebrate Valentine's Day alone or have a quiet night together, I would recommend not bringing up the subject of the "beet test" while you're eating something like this beet tart I made awhile back (pictured above). Did you know that you can discover the "transit time" of your digestion by eating beets? And guess why? Because of the bold colour. Although with our relationship, this is probably something we would laugh about because we're the type who aren't afraid to talk about each other's digestive habits. According to the "beet test," you should be "seeing red" within 24 hours otherwise your insides are too slow.
I am not normally a gluten-free eater, but sometimes a break from carbs is probably good for digestion. And luckily, Barilla knows the key to my heart with lots of pasta. The Zeno Group mailed me this lovely assortment of pasta and healthy living gifts to try, including 3 boxes of Barilla Plus pasta, a Barilla apron, a Mediterranean Diet cookbook, some 2012 Dolce Vita Chianti wine by David Rocco, some Olive and Olives extra virgin olive oil, an ibitz family activity monitor and a copy of the new Living with Gusto magazine. Barilla strongly supports the Mediterranean diet with its emphasis on vegetables, fresh ingredients and a balanced diet. According to the Mediterranean diet pyramid, you should be eating 55% carbohydrates, 30% fats and 15% protein.
With some of the Barilla rotini I made an eggplant stew from this Persian seared eggplant and tomato beef recipe. Although it's not quite a Mediterranean recipe, it was a hearty mix of meat, vegetables, protein (with a spicy yoghurt sauce) and carbohydrates with the gluten-free Barilla pasta.
I like to think of myself as somewhat of a pasta connoisseur. When it came to the difference between regular and gluten-free pasta, I really couldn't really tell the difference between the two taste wise. Barilla's is a white pasta using a blend of corn and rice flour. The only downside I would say is that after a few days in the fridge, the leftovers with the gluten-free pasta don't seem to hold up as well as regular pasta. For my next dish, I was inspired by one of the beet pasta recipes they sent me for a Valentine's Day inspired menu.
I used Barilla penne pasta and inspiration from a few other beet pasta recipes that I searched. When I am developing recipes, I usually search for quite a few recipes of the same thing and take bits and pieces from each to make my own. This beet pasta uses roasted garlic, milk and cottage cheese to add some creaminess to the tartness and bold flavours of the beets. To be honest, beets aren't my all-time favourite vegetable. I don't eat them by themselves as much as I probably should. It might be the fear of getting the colour everywhere or the strong earthiness taste. Either way, I did enjoy this pasta dish, as I usually do with most pasta dishes.
Roasted Beet pasta (adapted from this recipe)
3 medium sized beets, peeled and cut into slices
3 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup cottage cheese (or parmesan cheese)
1/2 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1/2 pound penne pasta
A splash of red wine
Oregano, thyme, salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a baking sheet with foil, toss the beets with olive oil, salt, pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Wrap the garlic cloves in foil with a bit of olive oil. Roast the garlic and beets for about 30 minutes.
2. Transfer beets to a food processor with 1/4 cup cottage cheese, garlic and a bit of water or oil if the mixture is too thick to blend.
3. Transfer the mixture to a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add the milk and the splash of wine. Add the remaining cheese, sugar and seasoning. You can also use a potato masher to make the mixture smoother. Heat for a few minutes until everything is combined.
4. Cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente. Add the beet sauce to the cooked pasta and sprinkle with a few more herbs and more cheese if you want.
As soon as the beet sauces hits the pasta, it turns a lovely pinkish, red colour. Alternatively, you could boil the pasta in a bit of beet water to get the same effect. Did you know that bakers sometimes use beet juice in red velvet desserts for colour? It's like an all-natural food colouring.
So there you go. You get some romance, digestion talk and a neat pasta dish that will impress your special someone. I'm pretty sure pasta is the second or maybe third love of my life--have to include my cat in there too. Barilla has some great pasta recipes on their website you should try that you can "feel good about."
Happy belated Valentine's Day!