Zucchini Noddles with Slow Cooker Tomato Garlic Sauce

zucchini noodle tomato garlic

I’m all about fancy kitchen gear: a colorful cast-iron pot, vintage cutlery and artfully crumpled linen tea towels. I want all of the pretty things that I can’t afford. (Williams-Sonoma, you saucy minx.)

But sometimes kitchen tools can border on superfluous - keeping it simple and uncluttered is where I’m at these days.

I’ll admit, those spiralized zucchini noodles look pretty rad. (You know what I’m talking about right? The Spiralizer is a thing.) But for now, and probably forever,  my vegetable peeler serves me just as well for similar results.

We’re going for simple here. Just you, the vegetable peeler and some zucchini with a super easy garlic-packed slow cooker tomato sauce.

I’m not joking about the garlic. I used a whole head of garlic, because that’s the kind of girl I am.

It’s cooked low and slow in the crock pot for maximum tomato-garlic goodness and minimal effort.

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Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Pasta Salad

sundried tomato pasta salad #voraciousvander

This pasta salad is summer. It’s backyard barbecues and days at the beach.

I hated summer camp as a kid. Loved summer (duh), hated summer camp. I went to one of those day camps with my best friend at the local high school. I mean, we were in a school during the summer – what’s that about?

We spent our days trying to avoid playing volleyball and kickball and sitting around in our overalls, making friendship bracelets and talking about which Now and Then character we were. The highlight of my day was getting a frozen Snickers or a Gatorade from the vending machine.

Another thing I always looked forward to was lunch (yes, some things are very much the same.) I think my mom knew I hated camp, (I may have made it painfully obvious. In fact, that may have been the summer I perfected my signature eye roll.) so she sent me off with some extra special lunches in the summer months. Ones like this one, that I still think about.

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Kale Pistachio Pesto with Soba Noodles and Oyster Mushrooms

vv - kale pesto soba

We’re moving on today. Moving on from November, moving on from the weekend, moving on from losing the contents of our hard drive and moving into the holiday season.

Kale, in my opinion, makes for a fresh start. I know it’s not time for resolutions yet (thank God) but let’s be real, Mondays are when we get back on track after watching terrible movies and eating too much cheese all weekend. (P.s. Can someone give me another free day to watch bad movies and eat more cheese with my fiancé, please? Thanks.)

That’s where the kale comes in. It rights wrongs, just because it’s so dang good for you. That’s how it works in my brain anyway.

Pesto has always been one of my favorite ways to dress up pasta, sandwiches, grilled vegetables and salads. Today, we’re making it even more excellent with the (SMASH! BANG!) super powers of kale.

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Eggplant Sun-dried Tomato Spread

I got two plump eggplants in my vegetable box last week, which I thought was odd…considering it’s winter here. This week I got fresh peas. And strawberries. And brussels sprouts. Aaaand I officially have no grasp on the Australian growing cycle.

Nothing to do but roll with it.

Make this spread to eat on toast or crackers, chicken or fish, over pasta, rice, quinoa, pizza or with eggs. Stir in some chickpeas or white beans to give it a protein boost.

If you like creamy eggplant and sweet roasted garlic, make this immediately. It’s easy to put together, packed with good Mediterranean flavors and tastes great warm, cold or at room temperature. And in all seasons.

Eggplant and Sun-dried Tomato Spread
(very slightly adapted from Gourmet)

- 1/2 head garlic
– 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
– 1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch/1 cm pieces
– 1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes (3 ounces), chopped, plus 2 tablespoons tomato oil
– 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
– 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
– salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F/205 C.

Cut off and discard the bottom (the woody end) of garlic head to expose cloves. Brush top of head with olive oil. Wrap garlic in foil and roast until tender, about 40 minutes. Cool to warm, then squeeze garlic cloves from half of the skins into a small bowl, discarding skins. (Reserve the other half for other things like this or this.)

Meanwhile, toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt in a large colander. Let sit for 30 minutes. Squeeze eggplant in a kitchen towel to remove excess liquid.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat, saute half of eggplant until browned and tender, about 6-10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Cook the other half of the eggplant in olive oil the same way, transferring to bowl.

Add 1 cup cooked eggplant to garlic and coarsely mash together. Stir into remaining eggplant with sun-dried tomatoes (without tomato oil), parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Drizzle with tomato oil and serve.

Lazy Girl Baked Chicken Legs

I cooked some chicken. This is kind of a big deal for me.

Chicken, in raw form, had always made me squeamish. In fact, it played a large part in my decision to become a vegetarian for 3 years. I figured it wasn’t right to keep eating something that I was uncomfortable handling in my own kitchen.

Over the course of my re-initiation into omnivoredom, I’ve had more of an appetite for beef and various types of pork (hello, prosciutto) but I took my sweet time coming back around to chicken. I never order it off a menu, and only eat small amounts if offered it at someone’s home.

Until one day, while indulging in an episode of Nigella Kitchen, I found myself wanting – craving - chicken. Oh Nigella! You make me want to use scissors to cut bacon, pour golden syrup over everything, and, of all things, eat chicken. What can’t you inspire a home cook to do?

A tip from Nigella that I took to heart was to buy the legs or thighs of a chicken, instead of the breast. These, like the breast, are available without skin if that’s your thing – but have loads more flavor and tend to be cheaper. Win win.

I am most wary of where the chicken is coming from and how it is treated, so free-range organic chicken is the way to go for me.

With all of this in mind, I finally took the plunge and bought chicken for the first time in a long time. To celebrate, I prepped the chicken in a matter of minutes and let the oven do the rest. The result is juicy, flavorful chicken that’s perfect for a weeknight dinner or a lazy Sunday night.

Lazy Girl Baked Chicken Legs
Inspired by recipes from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen

- 6-8 skinless chicken legs (bone in)
– 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
– salt and pepper
– 1 medium onion quartered
– 6-8 whole cloves of garlic
– 4 thyme (or lemon thyme) springs and 1 tablespoon thyme leaves for scattering

Pre-heat oven to 200 C/ 400 F.

Place chicken legs in a roasting pan. Pour olive oil over, sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Place onion sections and garlic cloves around the chicken and scatter with thyme springs and leaves.

Place in the oven and bake for 45 minutes until golden brown.

I suggest serving with a PAB salad.

Zucchini, Garlic and Rosemary Soup

Dang, if ever there was a soup day in Sydney – today is it.

Each day I’ve been trying to write down 3 things that I am thankful for. It doesn’t matter how big or small, I just throw them in an Evernote list as I think of them. It’s supposed to be a practice in positivity. I learned it from a TED talk, so it must be a good idea.

A lot of times, I find myself thinking of  things I am grateful for in times of frustration, which makes me think that it’s working.

Stuck at the bus stop for 45 minutes in the rain? I am thankful for a warm, dry home to go to, fresh banana bread on the counter and a slack tea with my favorite guy.

I have also noticed that a lot of my gratitudes are weather-dependent. You can usually tell what type of day it was by at least one item of the three.

Today’s thankful three would look something like: sweatpants, cookbooks and soup. (Food is another common theme, as you might have guessed. I’ve mentioned important things like cheese, popcorn at the movies, curry and banoffee pie.)

I usually have a couple of zucchini kicking around in my fridge this time of year. Most of the time, I just roast them with heaps of seasoning until they taste like candy. But I thought I’d branch out when I saw a recipe for zucchini and mint soup in Gourmet Traveller. I decided to swap the mint for rosemary to justify the addition of cheese. I also doubled the amount of garlic, just because.

And that is what I call good decision-making.

Zucchini Soup with Rosemary and Chili
inspired by Gourmet Traveller

- 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 onion, finely chopped
– 6 cloves garlic cloves, thinly sliced
– 1 small red chilli, finely chopped
– 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
– 4 medium zucchini, diced into 1 inch/ 2.5 cm pieces
– 3 small chat potatoes, diced very small into .3 inch/1 cm pieces
– 600 ml of hot vegetable stock
– 1/4 cup Parmesan, plus an extra to garnish
– salt and freshly ground pepper
– sprinkling of toasted almonds to garnish

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.

Add onion, garlic and chilli and stir occasionally until tender, about 5-6 minutes.

Add zucchini, potatoes some fresh ground pepper and sprinkle of salt. Stir occasionally until the zucchini is bright green, about 4-5 minutes.

Add hot stock, increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium, simmer until zucchini is just tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Let cool for about 5 minutes. Process with a hand-held blender or in a standing blender until smooth and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bring the pureed soup back up to a boil. Stir in Parmesan.

Serve warm with more Parmesan and toasted almonds.

Broccolini Chickpea and Soba Salad

Do you want to take a second to talk about the fact that it’s almost Christmas? You probably know this, but I’ve been working hard trying to remember.

I’ve made a playlist comprised of Mariah Carey, Tchaikovsky (what? my childhood dream was to star in the Nutcracker. I was a ballet nerd.) and Bing Crosby. I’ve baked my first batch of red sprinkle-encrusted cheer and I’ve even made a couple of paper snowflakes in a rare crafty moment.

And yet, I have barely begun my shopping and am crossing my fingers that my holiday cards make it to the States in time. It’s time for me to get a move-on.

Here’s a noodle salad you can make ahead so you can grab a bowlful between wrapping presents, addressing cards and baking glorious holiday treats. It’s good for someone like me, whose blood sugar level needs to be kept in check if I am going to accomplish anything. The spicy garlic dressing is a nice reprieve from all the candy canes too.
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