DINNER IMPROV: Spicy Mexican Inspired Pasta

Allow me to set the scene:

I have nearly recovered from a bad cold, then Ryan gets hit with it. There has just been a snow storm the night before, and the street still hasn’t been plowed. In the daytime, the sun shines on the snow and everything is so bright it nearly burns your corneas. At night, everything emits a pale glow. Everything’s quiet.

Working from home has it’s perks, as we were able to stay in pajamas all day long. (ALL DAY!) The bed was like a liferaft, and the only time I left it was to make some food in the afternoon. I wanted something filling (all that laying around and cat-petting makes you hungry, after all) but also full of lots of nutrient rich foods to aid in our flu-symptom recovery.

And I came up with this! Let’s break it down, nutritionally.

The TOMATOES have a ton of lycopene (one of the highest of all foods!), which is an awesome antioxidant. The CHIPOTLE PEPPERS have capsaicin (the thing that makes your mouth burn!) which is great for aiding digestion and helping to relieve pain. The super-amazing GARLIC can help your immune system, and has antibacterial and antiviral properties. The SWEET POTATOES have so much great stuff, not limited to fiber, protein, iron, calcium and lots of vitamins A and C. The BLACK BEANS have health-protecting isoflavones, fiber and protein. And the AVOCADO supplies healthy omega-3’s.

Okay, plus it was delicious, easy and inexpensive! Here’s what I did:


  • 1/2 box of whole wheat pasta (I used linguini)
  • 1/2 large red onion, sliced into half-moon pieces
  • 3 small sweet potatoes, skins removed and then cubed
  • 1 large 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large chipotle pepper
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano OR cilantro
  • 1/2 can black beans
  • 1/4 avocado, sliced
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Boil water for the pasta. Preheat oven for 425 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, add the sweet potatos, red onion and enough olive oil to coat. Toss with salt and pepper. Add mixture to an oven tray and cover with aluminum foil. (The foil will trap the steam and cook the potatoes faster!)  When oven is ready, add the potato and onion tray. Cook the pasta til desired tenderness.

In a food processor, add the can of tomatoes, garlic, chipotle and oregano. Blend on high until garlic is mixed in. Add salt to taste.

After about 15 minutes, the potatoes should be soft. Take the tray out of the oven and test one to make sure! Add the potatoes and onion to a large mixing bowl.

To the mixing bowl, add the pasta and black beans. Mix everything together.

Add the tomato sauce. (I had a little sauce left over… use as much as you’d like!) The sauce won’t be very thick, but it will coat the pasta and veggies nicely and pack a lot of flavor!

Add sliced avocado to the top, add a little freshly cracked pepper.

This colorful, flavorful dish will hopefully lift your spirits if you’re feeling a little under the weather or have gone stir crazy from being unable to leave the house due to icy roads and ferocious winds.

Stay healthy and warm! And if you need some help in the “warm” department, consider getting a new addition to your family and adopting a pet! (*Pet adoption is a big deal and shouldn’t be done unless you’re sure you can properly care for it.)

But if pet adoption is something you’ve considered for a while, decide if you’re ready to be a cat or dog Mom/Dad and if you ARE, check out some of the cuties at your local shelter. Think about how nice it would feel to share a cozy bed with a furball that loves you unconditionally!

Go over to PetFinder.com to see who’s up for adoption in your area.

Weekend Cuteness: Adoptable Animals!

Is anything better than cold noses and scratchy tongues? For you, this week’s sampling of precious pets at local (Lehigh Valley) shelters that want YOU to take them home. They really do, they emailed me.

Dazzle – Orange Tabby, Domestic Short Hair Yawwwn. I feel the same way after people scratch my belly. Dazzle is one of three brother kittens. He is described as the friendliest of the three, loving to play and be petted. Dazzle has all of his shots and is neutered, and wants to run around your apartment. Read more about him here: http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/14746940?recno=18

Larry – Boxer Larry! Larry is an older boxer who is well-mannered and gets along well with other dogs. He has all of this shots and is house-trained. Boxers are loyal and affectionate dogs that bond well with their family. See how his ears are all cute and perked up? He heard you say you want to take him home! More on Larry here: http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/15104998?recno=17

Angel – Orange, Persian DON’T BE ALARMED, this little Angel is okay! She’s just so round and fluffy sometimes she gets lost among herself. Angel is described as loyal and healthy… and clearly isn’t a picky eater! She would like to live in a home with no other cats or dogs, so you can pamper her properly. Are you’re arms just aching to scoop her up? Do some pushups to build those biceps, and then go here: http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/14615229?recno=17

Conrad – Lhasa Apso Just in time for the red carpet… Conrad is looking edgy and stylish with that sassy haircut! He is a Lhasa Apso mix who loves going on walks with excellent leash-manners. He is very loving, and would love to be seen with you walking him all over town! Go here to learn more about the handsome Conrad: http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/15892784?rvp=1

Buttercup – Cocker Spaniel I’m a little biased. My first dog and best buddy growing up was a cocker spaniel that looked very much like Buttercup. These dogs have stunning, curly shiny ears and a just as beautiful a disposition. Buttercup is getting better right now – she came from a puppy mill that forced her to stand on chicken wire flooring, so she has puncture wounds on her feet. She also has an appointment with the doggie-dentist soon to take care of some problems with her teeth. Despite her prior living conditions, she gets along well with pets and people! This lovely lady has been through a lot, and deserves a very loving home: http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/15647742?recno=5

If you can’t take home a new friend, local shelters would still love your time as a volunteer! Thats right – you can actually go and hug a bunch of animals – you win and so do they!  All photos via Petfinder.com

Have a lovely weekend everybody – it will be full of sunshine, so keep your minds and hearts bright!

Weekend Cuteness: Pet adoptions!

I’ve decided to make a recurring weekly theme – listing adorable animals waiting to be adopted at local shelters!

I suppose the people in my current city of the Lehigh Valley, PA and surrounding areas would be the likeliest candidates of folks who could take these particular pets home, but maybe it will encourage you to support your local shelter, wherever you are!

And at the very least, it’s an excuse to look at cute animals. As if you needed another one.

Gabby – English Bulldog Gabby ended up at the shelter because her pervious owners found “no use” for her since she couldn’t have babies. They must have been complete idiots – obviously she’s the cutest ball of chubby love with arms and legs sticking out!   Read more about her, and get her foster mom’s info here: http://www.petfinder.com/petnote/displaypet.cgi?petid=15823873

I have to move along because if I keep looking at that picture my head is going to literally explode. I cannot handle how freaking adorable she is. AHHH!

Coco Chanel – Basset Hound A glamorous name for a glamorous dog! Look at the rest of her pictures to see those long, flowing ears looking so shiny! Her description says she has “elegant bassetude”. If a dog is so wonderful it causes you to make up words, she must be something special. Check her out here: http://www.petfinder.com/petnote/displaypet.cgi?petid=12899533

Sammy – Tuxedo, Domestic Long-Hair This handsome little guy looks like a well-dressed puffball (or an allergy attack, if you’re me). Need a handsome date to cuddle up to and watch all this crazy weather? He looks so nice and soft!  His description even says he loves to give kisses.  Read more about him here: http://www.petfinder.com/petnote/displaypet.cgi?petid=15003950

Damon – Black and White, Domestic Short-Hair Can you feel your heart breaking looking at that picture? I know. I’m sorry. It hurts, doesn’t it? He is just so darn CUTE. As a kitten, he has a ton of energy. Apparently, he has some allergy issues as well, so his new mom or dad needs to make sure they can take care of him. But look at that face. Look at it. Now go here so you can apply for the adoption: http://www.petfinder.com/petnote/displaypet.cgi?petid=15545785

Beuford – Bloodhound I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bloodhound in person, so this fellow really caught my eye. Although he’s big, he’s young! Bloodhounds are described as “kind, patient, noble and mild-mannered”, so don’t let his size intimidate you. Give this oversized teddy bear a chance, and read more here: http://www.petfinder.com/petnote/displaypet.cgi?petid=15824519?rvp=1

All animals and photos found via PetFinder.com