30 April 2011

Pasta toss, frittata, and eggs

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I started to learn a lot more about nutrition after I found out I'm glucose intolerant.  Sure, I knew that we were supposed to eat mostly plants, but that's not always fun and it was easy for me to ignore.  One thing that I've mostly given up since then is pasta.  When I do have pasta, though, I make it count.  No more huge portions of watery tasteless pasta with jarred tomato sauce.  We've made the switch to whole wheat pasta and have never looked back (well, maybe once or twice).

One of my favorite ways to eat whole wheat pasta is to stirfry it in a pan with vegetables.  It gives leftovers some life and allows the noodles to be infused with flavor while helping to get rid of any bitter whole wheat flavors.  It also makes for a more nutritious meal because I can sneak in some extra flora.

1 lb whole wheat pasta ($1.50)
4 T olive oil (~$.60)
1/2 medium onion, diced (~$0.50)
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced (~$0.20)
4-5 medium-sized cloves of garlic, minced (~$0.15)

1 lb vine tomatoes, cut up ($1.70)
1 bunch spinach, thoroughly rinsed and roughly chopped ($1.98/bunch)
4 oz shredded mozzarella ($0.93)

1. Boil the pasta in salted water until al dente, which varies on the type of pasta used.  Angel hair pasta cooks rather quickly, where as things like penne pasta take longer.  I prefer angel hair in dishes like these.

2. In a pan, heat up the olive oil over medium heat.  Add in the carrots and onion and ~1 t salt and cook until translucent (~5-10 minutes).

3. Add in the garlic and stir until fragrant (~30s - 1 minute).

4. Add in the tomatoes and the pasta and stir until the tomatoes are heated through. (2-3 minutes or so).

5. Add in the spinach and stir until it's all wilted (~1 minute).

6. Stir in the mozzarella cheese until it's melted. (~1 minute).

7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This should make ~8 servings or so and costs $7.56 to make, which is $0.95 a serving.  These prices were based on prices I found at my local HEB.  Things like the olive oil and the garlic were prorated to what that portion would cost, though the price of salt and pepper were omitted.   A half pound of pasta is more than enough to feed a family of four with leftovers.  These leftovers can then be turned into a quick frittata for the next day's meal.

Remaining pasta+veggie leftovers
4 eggs, beaten  ($0.50)
4 oz shredded mozzarella ($0.93)
1 tsp olive oil  ($0.05)
~1 tsp salt+pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Oil a small casserole or oven-safe vessel.  A pie plate would work really well.

3. Beat the eggs, salt, and pepper.

4. Pour over the pasta in the oiled dish and sprinkle with the mozzarella.

5. Bake for ~20 minutes, or until the eggs are set all the way through.  You'll be able to tell when this happens because the center won't jiggle if you shake the dish.  Either that or see if you can cleanly put a knife in it.

This dish can easily be expanded by adding more eggs and either one of these dishes work well because the ingredients are so interchangeable.  The additional cost of this dish is $1.48.  Since we used leftovers, this dish ends up costing $0.25 per serving.  I'm claiming that the addition of the eggs and mozzarella bulk up the leftovers to 6 servings.  Both meals end up totaling $9.04, which ends up being $0.90 per serving.

So how does the pasta dish stack up nutritionally?  The pasta has the following nutritional values:
321 calories
10.2 g fat
9.13 mg cholesterol
505 mg sodium
48.4 g carbohydrate
9.16 g fiber
13.9 g protein

This isn't the whole story, though. Here are a selected set of vitamins/nutrients:
17.5% RDA iron 
19.0% RDA calcium
117% RDA vitamin A
34.4% RDA vitamin C

The same can be calculated for the fritatta by multiplying each of the above items by 2/3 and adding in the following values from the eggs, olive oil, and mozzarella:

104 calories
7.07 g fat
153 mg cholesterol
164 mg sodium
0.78 g carbohydrate
8.78 g protein
3.83% RDA iron 
5.50% RDA calcium
0.50% RDA vitamin A

These two dishes could feasibly provide a healthy dinner for two nights and two lunches.  In addition, there will still be leftover items like eggs.  Eggs are nutritious and filled with protein.  They can also be cooked in the microwave, which makes them a good after school snack option for a hungry middle schooler.  Here's how to proceed:
1 egg ($0.13)
smear of olive oil ($0.01)

1. smear a tiny bit of olive oil in a microwave safe bowl
2. beat eggs in the bowl
3. microwave for ~30 s, stir.
4. microwave again for ~10 s at a time and check for doneness.

You can also add in things like cheese, vegetables, herbs, spices.

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