Pasta with Broccoli Romanesco and Chickpeas

For reasons I cannot quite pinpoint, my cooking mojo has disappeared the past few weeks. Maybe it is the neither-here-nor-there winter we are having in Northern California, or the inevitable decline in innovation that comes at the tail end of a season. But whatever the case may be, thank goodness that some variation of pasta with vegetables and legumes always works for a quick weekday dinner. The beauty of this meal is that it primarily relies on ingredients you typically have on hand, and exact proportions don’t matter. Cooking these humble basics together elevates them to something far more special, with very little effort.

As I’ve probably mentioned too many times, my cooking inspiration usually comes from the CSA box and the crisper drawer. Grounding a meal around a (preferably local and organic) vegetable is somehow easier than starting with any other pantry staples. Not to mention healthier. This simple meal begins with the bumpy, lumpy, gorgeously lime green broccoli romanesco, which appears to have landed in the 21st century straight from the Jurassic era.

But any broccoli would be a perfect substitute, as would a combo of other cruciferous vegetables. I throw in olives and capers for a salty tang, and chickpeas for protein. This is a great “transition” dish for kids who prefer their food components separate but are willing to try a more “adult” meal where everything is tossed together.

On a separate note, in honor of my one-year anniversary of blogging at A Happier Meal, I made some updates to the design and functionality of the site, including a direct to Pinterest button. Enjoy!

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Salted Caramels: Happy Valentine’s Day!

My crafty and creative older daughter started her class Valentine’s project early this year, knowing even without my prompting that burnout can set in quickly once the novelty of fancy paper, glitter and flashy pens wears off. In addition to the lovely cards, she also settled on the lofty goal of making homemade candy.

Salted caramels seemed easiest to tackle though I have to admit I was skeptical, given previous experience that resulted in a lovely sauce instead of a cute candy. Using a different recipe, she made her first attempt last week. Unfortunately, that turned into teeth-cracking toffee.

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February Weekly Meal Plan

February is upon us, and though it feels like spring outside, I’m still in winter cooking mode. Here is what I plan to make for dinner next week. A combination of simple weeknight meals (even simpler if you make the lentil soup on Sunday night) and a roast chicken to celebrate the end of the week. I’m assuming various vegetables will be added as side dishes. Don’t forget to consider organic when buying produce for your family. How to make organic choices without breaking the bank is discussed in more detail here.

MONDAY: Winter Lentil Soup with Greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc), crusty bread and a good cheese on the side.

LUNCH NOTE: Make a large batch. Freeze half for future use, send the rest to school for lunch this week.

TUESDAY: Store-bought ravioli of your choice with either a simple marinara sauce and parmesan; or butter/olive oil, sautéed kale and toasted walnuts. Maple-glazed brussels sprouts would make a great side dish.

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