Feeling Good, Eating Good: Veggie Pasta Salad w/Mustard Dressing

The last week of January and first 3 days of February were pretty good. I ended January having lost another 2.8 pounds, bringing me within 5 pounds of my mini-goal of reaching 50 pounds lost by my birthday in March! It's getting to be time for the the Chinese New Year, on February 7th, The Year of the Rat. We move into the leap year month of February with its 29 days - always a bonus when Black History Month gets an extra day to make it Daily Equal to the rest of the months; I don't feel like a fat old depressed troll because I was able to ride 18 miles over the weekend - including a trek over the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. My photography projects have been enjoying a revived interest in subject matter. There are several photography projects on which I'm working, and I'm enjoying the process.
As for feeling stuck in a rut, it's not quite that extreme. I'm definitely trying to figure out what my next move is creatively speaking. I'm mulling around some ideas with cooking, writing, recipe creation, photography and the weight loss. An idealized and fully realized concept of my blogs? I'm not sure, but an idea is morphing within me. Like the weight loss, it may be slow in coming off, but I think I'll get to a new place.
Last week's Weight Watcher's theme was a variation on "Stirring it Up." The folks in my group have been emailing each other with ideas and questions, all of us trying to find ways to stir things up within ourselves in order to stay on a road of success. This time of year makes me think of hibernation and slowing down. The short amount of sunlight and too many over-cast cold days have a psychological affect on me. I wonder how it effects others. We may all be experiencing a a natural dormancy behavior. Not that we should give up our successes and backslide, mindlessly eating and not exercising. It might be a slow process that will suddenly bloom once spring arrives. Or so I hope...
Another reason why for feeling good is I've been good to myself. Eating right and cooking some great meals. Planning my lunches for work in advance, and taking healthy foods. What a difference it makes to have my little picnic lunches each day! A co-worker with said my packed meals reminded her of the the Molly Ringwold character in The Breakfast Club. My lunches are not as affected as the Japanese Bento Box with fancy chopsticks shown in that movie, however, I do pack a mean meal with decent dishes, napkins and silverware. Hey, you have to show you care and it extends to your brown bag too. If I'm not going out to eat, I might as well feel like I'm dining out.
Here is one of my newest pasta salad/side dish creations, a low-fat whole grain pasta with sauted veggies. I whipped this up and discovered a neat new way to make a pasta dressing that incorporates sauce ideas that I've been using a lot. I'm listing the recipe as I made it. Feel free to substitute whatever veggies you have on hand, mixing up the colors and textures for visual and taste appeal.

Vegetable Pasta Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette Ingredients:
  • 2 Cups Uncooked Whole Wheat Pasta - Penne, Fussilli, Shells or Elbows
  • 1/2 Pound String beans- trimmed
  • 2 Medium Carrots - peeled and julienned
  • 1 Medium or 1/2 Large Red Pepper - julienned
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
For the Dressing:
  • 1/4 Cup Rice Wine Vinegar or Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard or Whole Grain Mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon Capers
  • 2 Garlic Cloves - peeled (papery skins removed)
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
Directions:
  1. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until the pasta is cooked through but still has a firm bite - al dente.
  2. When the pasta is cooked, drain it but do not rinse it. Set pasta aside in a large bowl, cover and keep warm.
  3. While the pasta water is coming to a boil, prepare the vegetables - Blanch the string beans until they are tender but still crispy - 6 minutes maximum in boiling salted water.
  4. While the string beans are cooking, add in the 2 garlic cloves and blanch them at the same time. Drain the string beans and carefully remove the garlic cloves. Add the string beans to the cooked pasta and set the garlic cloves aside.
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in saute pan over medium-high heat. Saute the peppers until they are crisp tender - about 5 minutes. Remove the peppers from the pan and add them to the pasta and string beans.
  6. In the same saute pan, add in the carrots and 1/4 cup of water. Bring the water to a simmer and cook/blanch the carrots until they are crisp tender - about 3 minutes. The water should evaporate as the carrots are cooking; if all of the water has not evaporated, remove the carrots from the saute pan with a slotted spoon. Add the carrots to the pasta, string beans and peppers, toss to combine and season lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper.
  7. Make the dressing - Whisk together the vinegar, mustard and capers. Mash the blanched garlic cloves either with the back of a fork or through a garlic press and add to the vinegar and mustard. Whisk to combine and slowly add in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over the pasta and vegetables and stir to combine thoroughly. Serve warm or cold.

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