What’s cookin good lookin?

Lately, as I have been tackling midterms, D and I have been spending a lot of nights in.  Besides nightly championship rounds of Jeopardy and Guitar hero (it was a study break ok?), we have been making some pretty delicious and healthy meals.  Not to sound completely domesticated, but I find something incredibly therapeutic in cooking and baking.  Even with all the stresses of finals, sitting down to a meal that D and I made is always a joy and keeps me grounded.

The first (and probably most important part) of making a meal an experience, is setting the right mood.  This requires a little advanced planning (which you can probably do while playing Angry Birds on the Subway ride home).  I like to put on the dimmer lights, set the table, and get a little music playing (see playlist at the bottom of this post).  Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly fancy, I’ll have a little wine while I cook, a little tip I learned from the chef who taught me how to cook in the first place — my mom.  The point with all this ambience mumbo-jumbo is that cooking should be relaxing, not a frantic, harried mess.  I know it sounds cheesy, but when you cook from a place of love, you can really taste that love in your food.  And frankly, cooking for someone you love can be really alluring and even a little sexy (if you’re not in a relationship, it makes an awesome date night, too).

Ok, back to the cooking.  After I get the mood all set I make sure I have all my ingredients out and start chopping anything that I need before I cook.  The French call this technique “Mise-en-place”, which means literally, to “put in place”, but I like to call it “my preparation so that I am not running around the kitchen opening drawers like a chicken with my head cut off”.  Then it’s time to get cooking!

Most of the time, D and I don’t cook anything too elaborate, just really good, simple food.  We like roasting fish with asparagus or spinach, making big salads with grilled chicken, tofu stir fries, filling bean soups with crusty whole wheat bread, and simple pasta dishes.  I always try to squeeze as much veggies as I can into any dish and keep the ingredients seasonal.  Below is a simple, pasta dish that D and I made recently that we both loved:

Pasta with Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce

This recipe is a great “starter recipe” to add different proteins too (chicken, shrimp, lean turkey).  It also tastes delicious on its own.  Serve with a simple, arugula salad and you’ve got a yummy light meal.

Other Time: 15 minutes minutes
Yield:  4 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 cups pasta and about 2 tablespoons cheese)

1 (9-ounce) package refrigerated fresh fettuccine (fresh is better, and whole wheat is even healthier!)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shaved (about 1/2 cup)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain; place pasta in a large bowl.

2. While pasta cooks, heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic to pan; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add tomatoes and salt; cover and cook 4 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in basil and pepper. Add tomato mixture to pasta; toss well to combine. Top with cheese

CALORIES 343 ; FAT 13.3g (sat 4.2g,mono 6.2g,poly 1.1g); CHOLESTEROL 51mg; CALCIUM 201mg; CARBOHYDRATE 43.4g; SODIUM 541mg; PROTEIN 14.8g; FIBER 3.7g; IRON 2.6mg
Cooking Light, SEPTEMBER 2010

And as promised, below you will find a little cooking playlist to jam out to while you whip up something scrumptious.

1)  “Something Good Can Work”  Two Door Cinema

2) “Check It Out” will.i.am & Nicki Minaj

3) “Bright Lights Bigger City” Cee Lo Green

4) “How sweet it is” James Taylor

5) “Mandy” Citizen Cope

6) “Make it Wit Chu” Queens of the Stone Age

7) “Don’t Lie” The Black Eyed Peas

8) “Lovely Day” Bill Withers

9) “The Girl from Ipanema” Getz and Gilberto

10) “Superstitious” Stevie Wonder

11) “Allure” Jay-Z

12) “Silver Springs” Fleetwood Mac

13) “Entre Dos Aguas” Paco de Lucia

14) “Let’s Get Lifted” John Legend

15) “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” Michael Buble

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