|The folks at Peace Lutheran Church in Bowling Green had a great idea the other week.
(Photos: Aaron Carpenter/Sentinel-Tribune)
With the aid of Heidi Phillips, a nutritionist at Ohio State University Extension Wood County, they hosted a most timely workshop on stretching your food dollar with nutritious meals.
The evening began with a potluck supper. Participants were asked to bring a copy of a favorite recipe and, if they chose, prepare the recipe and bring the dish to share. Phillips would then critique it and make suggestions for lowering the cost and increasing the food value even further.
"There was a recipe that was a favorite of lots of people at the workshop," co-coordinator Esther Nagel said after the event. "It was made by Mary Lou Hall."
Hall gave a lot of thought to how her contribution, bowtie-pasta salad, could fit into the healthy-but-affordable parameters of the program.
"She said we could bring whatever we wanted," Hall said of Nagel. "I'd been to a potluck a couple of weeks ago and a lady had it there."
Hall did a little recipe tweaking and added a few ingredients, emphasizing use of fresh produce currently available locally.
"I added zucchini and pepper. I got those from our community garden at Peace," where she is a member.
"I thought, 'gee, that would make it even more colorful'" she said of the vegetables' bright red and green hues.
With fresh spinach as a main ingredient, her basic pasta recipe clearly met the "healthy" directive, especially as it is a no-meat dish.
"We used Italian dressing and cottage cheese for protein."
The two dressing brands Hall likes best for this salad are Wishbone or Good Seasons, especially the Garlic Express version.
The topping should be nutty in texture.
"I used pine nuts," while another woman who made a version of the pasta salad opted for sesame seeds, instead.
"We diced up tomatoes" which are plentiful and juicy in northwest Ohio right now, despite the dry growing conditions.
"My husband likes fresh-sliced tomatoes." Beyond that, the recipe lends itself to individual creativity.
"We had parsley; we had chives. You could chop up zucchini, even a little chopped up ham or bacon.
"You could almost put everything out like Taco Night and choose whatever ingredients you wanted in the salad."
Hall, a Toledo native who formerly worked for Ohio Bell and as public relations person in the corporate office of McDonald's, has a compelling personal reason for cooking with as few additives and as many fresh items as possible.
Her husband, Nick, a Bowling Green native, is currently battling cancer.
"I really follow his chemo and his appetite, and he likes this a lot," she said of the bowtie-pasta salad.
She recommends the dish to anyone interested in good health and good taste.
1 1-lb. box Bowtie pasta
1/2 bag fresh spinach, cut into ribbons
1 16-oz. carton cottage cheese
1 16-oz. bottle Italian dressing (Wishbone or Good Seasons Garlic Express brands)
2-3 tomatoes, diced
1 cup cucumber, diced
1 cup zucchini, diced
1 T. dillweed (optional)
Pine nuts or shelled sunflower seeds
Cook, drain and cool the pasta. Add in the dressing and all vegetables, stirring to coat the mixture well. Top with pine nuts (Hall's choice) or sunflower seeds.
This is a recipe that lends itself to individual experimentation. For variety, add:
Meats: crumbled bacon, diced ham, or cubed cooked chicken
Herbs: Parsley or basil, in season; chives or dill
Vegetables: avocado, diced; red, green or yellow peppers, diced; Vidalia onion, diced; or celery, diced
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