I have some really amazing readers. And it seems that just in the right moment, I get a message or a little bit of encouragement from them that helps me along my own journey. I have had numerous emails, comments, text messages, you name it that have turned my entire day, even week around. And I had one of these messages just the other day.
It all started with a craving for cottage cheese…
Early last week, out of nowhere, I wanted cottage cheese. Barely keep it around but that day my stomach was like, GIMME COTTAGE CHEESE. I was home for the day and not in the mood to run out at that point, but the next day, when the craving came again, I was like, ok, this girl is gonna have her cottage cheese! So I stopped and grabbed some at the grocery that day and headed home.
My favorite way to eat it is with cracked pepper and either crushed up pretzel crisps, or I use the pretzels to dip in it like hummus almost. Not sure if that is weird, but it’s the way I do it and I love the combination. And low and behold, this cottage cheese was almost like eating a big piece of cake the way I enjoyed it. I mean, my body was right in telling me what it wanted, and I was right in listening. Because I was so satisfied. And of all things, with cottage cheese.
Fast forward to a few days later. My body again gave me this nudge and in the direction of cottage cheese. But the conversation between my mind and my body wasn’t quite what I have been trying to practice lately. It went something like this:
My Body: You know what sounds really good right now??
My Mind: What’s that?
My Body: Cottage Cheese! You know, with the cracked pepper and those pretzels, yes, that’s what I want.
My Mind: What? Again? Come on, that’s a bit overboard, don’t you think?
My Body: But it is what I want. Please!
My Mind: But you have been overdoing it a bit on the dairy lately–and, pretzels are not really the greatest thing to have all the time. Maybe here and there–
My Body: I don’t care. I. Want. Cottage. Cheese. NOW.
I told both of them to just be quiet. I went into the kitchen to see if there was something else I may enjoy. I took a nibble of a few things, but they didn’t really cut it. So I left the kitchen. I plopped on my couch and busied myself on my phone. And there it was. An email from a reader named Rebekka. It was one of those emails that changed my whole day. It was so sweet and kind. But it also mentioned a particular post that she was so grateful to have read. Hmmm, I couldn’t quite remember what I wrote so I went back to it to see.
The post included an Overnight Oats recipe (I mean, you guys know me, right?!) but it was also one of the posts where I first started talking about the shift into my intuitive eating. (Read it here if you like!) I went on in the post about the fact that from here on out there were no more rules, foods weren’t good or bad, etc. And in that moment, I realized that I was doing none of that. My mind and body were arguing and it was my body that I was supposed to be listening to but was not at all. My body said cottage cheese, my mind said too much dairy. My body said pretzels, my mind said tsk, tsk, not the best carbs, and so on. But Rebekka’s email made me see my inconsistency and then reel it all in.
So I grabbed a bowl, and I made myself some cottage cheese. And pretzels. And I sent Rebekka an email thanking HER for what she did for me that day. Her message was the perfect callout to the fact that I was not being true to the journey I have been trying to partake in. And so I fed my body what it wanted and everything was good. My body was satisfied. My mind was settled. And I was back to the basics. Back to exactly where I needed to be. So thanks, Rebekka!
It seems perfect that the recipe I am sharing with you tonight has cottage cheese in it right?! Haaaa. You see, I am not a huge ricotta fan in savory dishes. I can do it sweet, but in savory, the texture doesn’t do it for me. So that’s where the cottage cheese comes in!
My Italian grandpa once told me my lasagna was the best he had ever had. I had surprised him and my mom one night after he had taken her to one of her radiation appointments by making my very own lasagna. I was so proud of myself. And to be told such perfect words by the man himself? I mean, this was the man who would argue with the waitresses if he didn’t get just the right amount of sauce in his dish (and once he was so mad that she was going to charge him for extra sauce!). Sigh, he was just the best. But to get the seal of approval from him was like a gold medal at the Olympics.
But I am not sharing that recipe with you, did I mention that? Yea, there is also this thing about Italians when it comes to their recipes. They tend to go the grave or they get passed down to family only. So no lasagna, but this one is a winner I promise and you won’t even remember the word lasagna after tasting! I have been making this baked pasta since Anthony and I got married and it is always a hit. I have so many memories of us sharing this meal with a bottle of wine on a cozy night. It is certainly not your average summer meal, but the reason I am sharing it now, is that it is actually one of those amazing dishes you can completely prep a day in advance and then bake it later. That is the big win for this one. If we are having friends or family over, I put this together the day before to allow all the spices to really meld and then bake it. Tastes sooo good. And leftovers? Just the best!
Like I said, I use cottage cheese instead of ricotta. I LOVE the flavor it adds and the texture is not so pasty. But if you love your ricotta, by all means, do it! You could easily make this gluten free with your favorite gluten free pasta, but I am not 100% sure a fully dairy free version would be exactly the same. If you do try it with dairy free cheeses and a combo you love, let me know!
This one is a great Meatless Monday recipe and also packs in lots of veggies. Biggest bonus? The best leftovers!
Baked Pasta with Spinach + Mushrooms
- 8 oz. rotini pasta
- 5 oz. fresh baby spinach
- 8 oz. white mushrooms sliced
- 1 jar of your favorite marinara I LOVE Newman's Own Sockarooni Pasta Sauce
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/3 c cottage cheese
- 1/3 c shredded mozzarella plus more for top
- 1/3 c grated parmesan
- 2 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- 1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
- Sea salt and cracked pepper to taste
- Fresh parsley or basil optional
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Cook pasta according to package.
- Drain and transfer to medium bowl. Stir in spinach to wilt. Drain pasta again if spinach seems watery.
- In another bowl, combine, egg, cheeses and spices. Stir Well.
- Pour cheese and spice mixture over pasta and spinach mix. Add mushrooms and stir to combine and coat pasta.
- In a 9X13 baking pan, spread a thing layer of marinara sauce.
- Pour pasta over marinara and spread evenly.
- Pour remaining marinara over the pasta and spread evenly. (If you are not baking right away, cover the pan and refrigerate at this point)
- If baking, place into oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until slightly bubbling.
- Sprinkle mozzarella over top to cover and bake for 10 more minutes or until cheese is completely melted.
- Allow to cool for about 5-10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle freshly chopped parsley or basil over to garnish for serving. Store leftovers in the refrigerator of freeze.