Monthly Archives: September 2013

Hasty Tasty Mushroom Pasta Florentine

This recipe originated as part of my research for the romance novel I’m currently writing, Return to Drake Springs. The hero is on a tight budget but wants to impress the heroine by cooking her dinner. While shopping, I bought only sale items (the lengths we writers go in the name of research!) at my local supermarket, which included bags of fresh, ready-to-eat spinach and boxes of pasta (Both Buy-One-Get-One free), and a discount on fresh baby portabella mushrooms and red bell peppers. The result of my experiment is Mushroom Pasta Florentine.

This recipe is a hearty and delicious meal for meat free Monday or any day. Whole grain pasta bumps up the protein, and the spinach and mushrooms give two servings of vegetables per meal. It’s affordable, too. This has become one of our household’s favorite meals. A writer never knows where research will lead. ☺

Mushroom Pasta Florentine with Whole Wheat Pasta

Mushroom Pasta Florentine with Whole Wheat Pasta



Hasty Tasty Mushroom Pasta Florentine

Serves Two



  • 4 oz. dried thin spaghetti, whole grain or whole wheat
  • Water
  • Salt


  • 1 package fresh spinach leaves, washed and ready to eat
  • 8 oz. crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • ½ tsp. grated fresh nutmeg


  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh herbs (i.e. Rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley)
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


  1. In a large pot, bring 4 – 5 quarts water to a boil. Add salt and pasta. Cook to al dente (follow instructions on the package).
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add spinach.
  3. Cook spinach until it wilts and leaves room to add mushrooms and red bell pepper.
  4. Using tongs, toss cooked mushrooms, spinach, and pepper with nutmeg and garlic. Cook another two minutes and remove from heat.
  5. In a large shallow bowl, pour extra virgin olive oil, garlic, and herbs.
  6. Drain pasta and immediately add it to the bowl. Use tongs to toss hot pasta with the oil, garlic, and herbs until pasta is coated and fragrant.
  7. Add the spinach-mushroom mixture. Toss with the pasta.
  8. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and serve.

Recipe can be doubled.

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Filed under cooking, Healthful Eating, pasta, Recipes, sauces, Vegetables, whole wheat

Elk Burgers

We love bison burgers and have eaten them for many years. The meat is leaner than beef, and it has no antibiotics or added hormones. When we stopped by our favorite market today to pick up more bison burgers, we bought elk burgers instead. They were about $2.00 cheaper than bison, and elk is something we had never tried. I expected elk to taste like venison, which I like although it’s rather strong and gamey, but elk tasted mild in comparison. We had the burgers for lunch, with a side of baked beans and a baked sweet potato, and we will buy elk burgers again. Delicious!




  • 2 ground elk patties, 1/4 lb. each, thawed.
  • 2 whole wheat burger buns + toppings of your choice (I use lettuce, tomato, sweet onion)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper (I use McCormick Pepper Medley)


    1. Preheat grill or grill pan over medium heat. (I use a Lodge cast iron grill pan.)
    2. Combine oil, honey, and seasonings and rub mixture over both sides of each burger.


    1. Cook burgers over medium heat 4 minutes. Turn using a spatula and cook an additional 3 minutes or just until juices run clear. Don’t overcook.


  1. Serve on whole wheat buns. Add toppings if desired.

Yield: Two burgers

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Filed under Burgers, cooking, Healthful Eating

Hasty Tasty Yogurt

From previous posts you’ve seen that I like making my own food as much as possible to avoid mysterious or harmful additives. I’m a breast cancer survivor who’s especially vigilant about my food. Much as I enjoy yogurt, I don’t enjoy a) paying too much for premium quality or b) consuming nasty additives like carrageenan, which my doctor tells me to avoid. So as with mayonnaise and barbecue sauce, I make my own.

Three Ingredients

Three Ingredients

It’s time-consuming to make yogurt, but I’ve come up with a hasty (or as hasty as possible) and tasty version. It has three ingredients only: 1 quart milk (Skim works if you want less fat), 2 Tbsp. honey, and ½ cup plain yogurt with live cultures (always save 1/2 cup of your homemade yogurt as a starter for the next batch). The honey may add calories, but it makes this the best tasting yogurt I’ve had. I eat it plain most of the time, although it’s great with fruit or cereal. Give it a try.

Here’s all you have to do:

    • Combine milk and honey in a 2 quart saucepan and whisk to combine.
    • Heat gently over medium heat to 120°F.
Heat gently to 120°

Heat gently to 120°

    • Remove from heat and allow temperature to drop to 115°F.Important: Use a thermometer. Overheating kills the cultures
    • Temper the yogurt by mixing it with 1 cup of the heated milk.
    • Gently fold yogurt mixture into milk/honey mixture. Pour into a large glass jar or container.
    • Wrap container in an electric heating pad and place in a larger pot. Cover.
Set Heating Pad to Medium.

Set Heating Pad to Medium.

    • Plug in heating pad and set to medium (do not allow yogurt temperature to exceed 115°)
    • Allow yogurt to ferment for 8 hours.
Ferment 6-8 hours.

Ferment 6-8 hours.

    • Cool the yogurt overnight in the refrigerator.
    • Using yogurt strainers or cheesecloth, strain the whey from the yogurt to thicken it. Allow yogurt to strain in the refrigerator for about two hours.
Strain whey from yogurt.

Strain whey from yogurt.

  • Gently spoon thickened yogurt into containers, label, and refrigerate.
  • Avoid stirring the yogurt. Fold added fruit, granola, etc. gently into yogurt before serving.

Yield: 2 pints



Note: Use within a month (But mine never lasts that long!).


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Filed under condiments, Healthful Eating, Recipes, Yogurt