lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

bean and veggie salad with cumin dressing

Happy Labor Weekend all! I hope everyone is having a fun and amazing summer. I’ve been canning and freezing up a storm from my garden, but it’s always worth it when the days become shorter and colder. Brrrrrrrrr.

Thought I’d share one of my easiest salad recipes with you this holiday weekend. I’m not even going to try and give you measurements on this, because it’s different every single time I make it. The only constants are the cilantro, cumin, cider vinegar and olive oil. There are always beans, veggies, garlic and onion involved, but the beans, veggies and even the onion vary, depending on what I have on hand or what I’m in the mood for.

Give it a whirl and see what you think!


bean and veggie salad with cilantro, cumin and cider vinegar dressing

  • beans of your choice (I personally love to mix them – black beans, garbanzo beans, dark red kidney beans, etc.)
  • diced veggies of your choice
  • minced garlic
  • chopped fresh cilantro
  • ground cumin
  • cider vinegar
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Toss the beans, veggies, garlic and cilantro together in a large bowl. Sprinkle on some ground cumin, to taste. (remember, you can always add more, so go easy at first) Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle on a bit of olive oil and cider vinegar. You just want to coat everything well, without drowning it all. Toss everything well – best when it sits at least an hour.

As a side note, using a great cider vinegar here is worth it. I highly recommend Bragg‘s  which can be found at most markets and grocery stores. It’s organic, live and raw, so it’s very good for you.

Hope you all have a wonderful holiday weekend! Bon Appetit!

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

navy bean soup with ham

Leftover ham from the holidays? My motto is: make soup! I was lucky enough to get a wonderful ham bone from a dinner at my mom’s, so stock and soup were calling my name.

Since I know we’re all busy with the holidays, I’ll keep this short and simple. These are guesstimated amounts, since soup is a wing-it kind of thing for me and I don’t really measure, The key is really ratio – add more of what you like, less (or none) of what you don’t.

To make your ham stock, cover the bone with cold water in a large stock pot. Add onions, garlic, veggies, a few peppercorns. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until liquid is reduced by half, about 2 1/2- 3 hours. Strain our bone and veggies, discard.

homemade-navy-bean-soup-recipe-with-ham-lola-rugulahomemade navy bean soup with ham and veggies recipe

  • 1 lb dried navy beans, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed
  • 6 cups stock made from ham bone and veggies
  • 3-4 cups diced ham
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (I dry my own, so it’s very high quality. By all means use fresh, if you have it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (see my note on thyme)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Black pepper, to taste

In a large stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and stir for a minute or two, then add garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes, until onions are translucent.

Add stock, herbs and spices and bring to a simmer.

Add beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover, and cook until beans begin to become tender, about 1 hour.

Add ham, carrots and celery and simmer for another 30 minutes, or until beans and veggies are tender. Want to customize this? Add veggies of your choice here – chopped tomatoes, potatoes, kale, asparagus, broccoli – whatever you like and have on hand.

Definitely serve with some crusty bread.

Maybe not a noteworthy photo, but trust me, this soup is delicious, hearty and will warm you up on a cold winter night.


lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

black bean burgers with chipotle mayo

Want an easy, healthy, delicious meal to throw together? Put black bean burgers on your menu this week. They’re quick to come together, full of vitamins and fiber and trust me, they’re delicious. This time I put them on onion rolls, but choose whatever type of roll or bun you prefer. Also, feel free to add your favorite greens (arugula?) and other burger toppings. Also, feel free to adjust the heat and spices to your own tastes,,,,remember, play with your food and make it your own.

homemade spicy black bean burgers with chipotle mayo recipe lola rugula

spicy black bean burgers with chipotle mayonnaise recipe

First, make the chipotle mayo, so the flavors have time to come together

  • 2 chipotles in adobo sauce, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise with olive oil

Mix ingredients together well in a small dish.

Now, onto the black bean burgers:

  • 1 20.5 oz. can low-sodium black beans, rinsed, drained and dried of excess moisture (I drain mine and put them into a paper towel lined dish in the fridge, overnight. If you don’t have that much time, just make sure the beans are patted dry very well)
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced red pepper (I use roasted red peppers, to add a smoky flavor)
  • 1-2 scallions, whites and greens, chopped fine (mine from the garden were huge, so I only used one this time)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350’

Place the black beans in a medium-size bowl and, using a potato masher or fork, roughly mash the beans up. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Form mixture into patties, then place on a pan that’s been lightly greased with olive oil. This batch I made just 3 huge burgers with but it will depend on how big you want them for the buns you’re using. These also make great sliders if you have the mini-buns.

homemade black bean burger recipe lola rugula

Bake for 12 minutes and then flip the burgers over and cook for another 12 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes before placing on bun with chipotle mayo and serve.

homemade black bean burger recipeYes, those are some of my half-sour fermented pickles on the plate! So, if you were wanting a new Meatless Monday recipe to try, this is a great one. Beware the mayo though – it’s definitely got a kick to it.

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

orzo pasta salad

Am I a horrible person because the word “casserole” sends me screaming to the hills? Just the sight of the tater-tot-topped, canned-chicken, Velveeta-cheese-oozing, can-of-soup-required concoctions that pass as casseroles all make me start to contemplate a Double Whopper with Cheese as a healthier option.

Sadly, “salad” also seems to take on a whole new meaning at times. I’ve seen bloated macaroni salad literally swimming in Miracle Whip and I’m still unclear on how anything that contains marshmallows and jello constitutes a salad and not a dessert.

So having said my little food-snob rant, I’ll be the first to admit that this recipe is not very fancy, nor very original. What I will say is this: it’s made with fresh veggies, no mayonnaise, (just like with my mayo-free coleslaw), and is a much slower way to clog your arteries and expand your waistline. Oh, and it’s pretty delicious if you like pasta and fresh veggies.

This is a dish that you have to customize to suit your tastes, along with using what you have on hand. I’ve made this pasta salad a number of ways based on the contents of my pantry and fridge. Black beans, cubed tofu, steamed broccoli or broccolini, snow peas, carrots, celery, chopped jalapeno, fresh basil, olives, artichoke hearts, goat cheese or feta cheese…use your imagination and your on-hand supplies. Here’s how I made this particular batch of pasta salad with my recent overly-ambitious veggie purchase at the store though I will warn you, it makes a big batch. Feel free to halve the recipe if this is for just a few people….

orzo pasta salad with fresh vegetables no mayo recipeOrzo Pasta Salad with Fresh Veggies Recipe (No Mayo)

  • 1 one-pound box dried orzo pasta, cooked al dente’ according to package directions and then rinsed under cold water and drained well
  • 15 nice stalks of fresh asparagus, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces and steamed for 3 minutes (rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process)
  • 1 English cucumber (really, any kind will do), partially peeled (I “stripe” mine with a veggie peeler), then sliced in half with the seeds scooped out and diced (the skin can be bitter and the seeds will add too much moisture, in case you’re wondering)
  • 1 orange bell pepper, stemmed and seeded and chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed and seeded and chopped
  • 1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 20 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (or quarters, if they’re large)
  • 3 scallions, whites and greens, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil or grapeseed oil (I used both)
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. You may have to add a bit more of the oil or vinegar, depending on taste – the pasta and salad does absorb it after sitting. This is best once the flavors have had a chance to come together – usually at least a few hours.

orzo pasta salad with veggies no mayo recipe

Pretty simple, right? And no jello or marshmallows required.


lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

beef and tomato goulash

I grew up on this dish and it’s still a favorite of mine on a cold winter night. There are probably hundreds of variations on this and my own recipe often changes depending on what I have on hand. The basics to this dish are ground beef, tomatoes, and pasta and, though it may be different from the goulash recipes you’re used to, give this one a try! And don’t hesitate to customize this and make it your own – it’s a very flexible recipe. It just so happens that this time around, I had a pound of ground beef and a pound of ground sweet Italian sausage, so I used them both. That’s about 1/2 pound more meat than I usually add but what the heck. The recipe that follows is how I made the goulash pictured.

lola rugula beef-and-tomato-goulash


Beef Goulash Recipe

  • 1 lb of ground beef (or chicken, or turkey)
  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage (optional – omit and add more ground beef, if preferred)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 10 medium mushrooms, sliced
  • 2  28-ounce cans crushed tomatoes (absolutely used fresh tomatoes if you have them)
  • 1 16-oz can low-sodium dark red kidney beans, rinsed (add any bean you like or, if you’re not a fan of beans, don’t add any)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound of macaroni noodles, cooked according to package directions. Cook only to al dente.

In a large pan brown the beef and sausage over medium heat. Drain off fat. Back on the heat, add olive oil, onions and garlic and stir until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and continue cooking for 5 more minutes. Add both cans of tomatoes, along with 1 can of water. Add beans, red pepper flakes and black pepper (to taste – I like a lot ) and stir. Heat to a gentle boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, cook your macaroni and drain.

When sauce has simmered for 30 minutes, remove from heat, stir in noodles and serve.

We always have a bowl of this fresh from the stove but, like a lot of tomato sauce dishes, the goulash tastes best after it sits in the fridge overnight. I add the can of water for a little more tomato broth but you can certainly omit it if you prefer your goulash on the thicker side.

Stay warm and pray for an early spring!

lola rugula how to make easy pasta carbonara

adventures in sprouting

My husband’s convinced that my recent interest in home sprouting stems from my need to be growing something. He thinks I’m going through summer-garden-withdrawal, which may or may not be true. Whatever the reason, I’m pretty excited to have a go at it.

I’ve always enjoyed sprouts but have never considered growing my own until just recently. The first sprouts I ever had were mung bean sprouts, typical in a number of Chinese dishes. Then, as a teen, I discovered alfalfa sprouts and truly fell in love.   In my thirties, I heard about broccoli sprouts and their concentrated nutritional power and I ate them like they were going out of style.

Fast forward to present time and sprouts are becoming harder and harder to find. Due to the risk of e-coli and salmonella occurring in sprouts, there are a number of stores and restaurants that have stopped offering them. Commercially grown sprouts are subjected to a number of possible contaminants, typically contaminated water or unclean practices.

After much research, I’ve decided to grown my own and recently received my first order of seeds, nuts, grains, and sprouting tray from SproutPeople.Org.

Here is the mix of seeds that I ordered:

lola rugula growing sprouts at homeI finally found the time on Friday to get some started and decided to try the Broccoli Sprouts and Madison Market Mix first.

Following the directions on the website, I soaked 2/3 cup of the Madison Market Mix for 4 hours and 3 Tablespoons of the Broccoli Sprouts for 6 hours.

After soaking, the seeds need to be rinsed well and then drained very, very well.

I’ve only had one glitch so far, which is my own fault for not considering it. This is the only sprouting tray that I bought, which is the 8 x 10 Sprout Master Tray:

lola rugula how to grow sprouts at home

If you look closely, you can see that some of the Broccoli Seeds have transferred over to the Madison Market Mix side. That little slide-in divider is not very tight and, while shaking the tray to remove excess water, some of the Broccoli Sprouts migrated. Well, now I know better. And did I have to buy the tray? No, not really, but I wanted to start this experiment off on the right sprout, so to speak.

Both of the seeds shown in my last photo have been soaked once, then rinsed and drained twice. I have to tell you, the Madison Market Mix is delicious! This mix is really considered a “Soak” and not a “Sprout.” Soaking seeds and nuts have a myriad of health advantages and benefits. The site Food Matters has a good explanation, so I won’t go into all of it here.

I will tell you the Madison Market Mix is almost gone already. Soaks don’t take as long as Sprouts, which I’m currently pretty happy about. This mix is chewy and flavorful and maybe when I make the next batch, I’ll have enough left over to toss into a salad or mix in with some steamed veggies.

I will be sure to try and follow up with some more photos of my Broccoli Sprouts as they develop. *crossing fingers*