Cooked by TFW: Spicy Veggie 'Pasta'
This week’s recipe meets all the requirements I have for these posts: It’s simply, yummy, and… the word I almost never used before having my own recipe blog… versatile. I first had it almost a decade ago, when my friend of 29 years (whoa) and counting – shout out Ashley “Queenie” Drumm – made it for me with shrimp and I learned “oh, maybe I like shrimp.” Over the years, this meal has been called many things. Ashley and I call it “Queen’s Quisine;” I have a former roommate who calls it “Good Stuff;” but the last couple years, I’ve just called it “Spicy Veggie Pasta,” because I clearly lack creativity these days.
Speaking of things I lack, let’s take a quick peek behind the #CookedByTFW curtain before we hop into the recipe. I’ve had this meal in mind for about two months now. At the beginning of July, I knew we would be crunched for time between two fights, a national holiday, the gym’s first ever Facebook Live stream, and the 32nd anniversary of Yours Truly being born and all. Normally, I will make the week’s recipe a few days in advance of posting it. I had full intention of getting this one done like two dang weeks ahead of time and wow everyone involved with my on-the-ballness… Between Devon’s monster win and my monster birfday, “the best-laid plans of mice and men” yadda yadda yadda.
So here we are! Perhaps I was still hungover while making this meal Monday night, because you’ll notice one of the ingredients is completely missing from any pictures I took. Not just any ingredient… Spinach. Folks, I LOVE spinach (2lbs bags for only $4 at Costco… #CostcoSponsorsTym). Then, on top of that, when I started cooking everything, I doubted myself and whether zucchini noodles would work.
I ended up making it how I used to back in the day, on a bed of Rotini noodles. I truly felt like I let you all down. We’re trying to cut out processed foods and here I am with some store-bought pasta, as possibly one of the greatest late-20th Century philosophers – William Fredrick Durst – would say, “like a chump. HEY! Like a chump. HEY! Like a chump. HEY! Like a chump. HEY! Like a chump. HEY! Like a chump. HEY! Like a chump. HEY!”
Yes… I just googled both Fred Durst’s birth name AND the lyrics to Limp Bizkit’s “Nookie” to confirm Durst says “Like a chump. HEY!” seven times… HEY! Fun fact that has nothing to do with this recipe: Did you know Fred Durst directed a Disney movie starring rapper Ice Cube? 2008’s The Longshots. Go impress your friends with this newfound knowledge.
Anyway, knowing that I alone can save y’all from process foods, I made zucchini noodles Tuesday night and put some of the leftovers from Monday on top… it works amazingly well. Sautéed zucchini noodles (I still refuse to call them Zoodles) are game changers, y’all.
And that, proverbially, is how the sausage is made… I have a meal in mind. I make it a few days before the post is published. Sometimes (honestly, most times) I screw it up and have to do it over the night before it gets published. Quality pictures of these meals matter and I DO IT FOR YOU! With that said… this week’s meal is enough to feed 2-4 people… OR IF YOU’RE LIKE ME, this could be stretched out multiple days as you wonder if ever you’ll “cook for two” again and the two won’t just be “Today Me” and “Tomorrow Me.” This got dark pretty fast… ON TO THE INGREDIENTS!
(I am adapting this from the recipe Ashley gave me years ago… I love that she measures things about as well as I do. She says “1/2 bag spinach.” How big is the bag?! 1/2 bottle of olives… Sis… c’mon!)
- 1 White Onion
- 5 Cloves of Garlic
- 1-2 Yellow Squash
- 1-2 Bell Peppers (I used half of both a red and orange sweet bell pepper – from Costco, of course – for the pictures)
- 1-2 Zucchini (More if you plan on making zucchini noodles)
- 2-3 “Handfuls” of Cherry Tomatoes
- 1/3 Cup Pitted Kalamata Olives
- 1-2 Tablespoons of Capers
- 1-2 “Handfuls” of Spinach
- 1/2 Pound Lean Protein (I used chicken breast, but original recipe used shrimp. For our non-carnivores (“Nonivores!!!!!” Have I made this joke before? I can’t remember), you can use tofu or Jackfruit or any of your favorite meat substitutes.
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Salt & Pepper to taste
1. Chop everything ahead of time, if you have the kitchen space. I cut up my onions in strips, but – as I always say – follow your heart. Mince the garlic. Set the two aside together as you cut up the rest of your veggies; you’re going to cook them first. I toss my capers in the Slap Chop when I’m too lazy to use the food processor. Cut up the Squash, Zucchini, and Bell Peppers however you see fit. Halve the tomatoes. Cube the Chicken. Carry the 4. Divide by X. Solve for Y.
(Pro Tip: I can’t believe I have to say this, but I know some folks who don’t… season your dang chicken. Even if it’s a little salt and pepper. After you have sliced up your lean – assuming it needed slicing – just toss it in a bowl with some salt and pepper or any of your favorite seasonings.)
2. Veggies First. Place a large skillet over medium heat. Coat with oil (cooking spray… this is the last time I’ll say it. Going forward “coat with oil” and “grease a pan” just means “use cooking spray”) and then toss in the onion and garlic. Let it cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent. Add the rest of your veggies (including the spinach, because you’re going to remember the spinach) plus a pinch of red pepper flakes and let it cook down.
3. Now the Chicken. Transfer the cooked veggies to a bowl. Spray the skillet again and toss your protein in. Let it cook through and then add your veggies back to the skillet. Reduce the heat to low and stir it all together for a few minutes.
4. Choose your own destiny. I’m not going to tell you how to boil noodles… follow the directions on the box. If you decide to go Zucchini noodles, use your Veggie Noodlifier™ to noodlify the Zucchini, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and toss in a skillet over medium heat… If you want to save on dishes, use the same skillet you’ve been using this whole meal, just transfer the previous contents to a bowl for serving first. To plate, noodles on bottom, chicken/Veggies on top.
And there you have it! Add as much or as little red pepper as you’d like. If you add any seasonings not mentioned here, be sure to share with us on social media using the #CookedByTFW hashtag.
And, as always, thank me in the morning!