Miz Chef

Cooking Up a Healthy Life


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Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Kale & Creamy Avocado Dressing

Summer is finally here, and with the coming of sunshine and warm breezes comes the need for pasta salad. After all, you need something easy to bring to all those picnics, barbecues, and beach parties, right?

Pasta salad, however, need not be fattening or unhealthy. In fact, it can be quite the opposite. This pasta salad calls for whole wheat pasta, which already is healthier than regular pasta salad, but you can use gluten-free pasta as well. Rather than mayo or other fat-laden dressing, this one uses avocado. It makes the pasta creamy, rich, and loaded with nutrients (plus some good fat). Add raw kale to the mix and you’ve got a healthy, but delicious, alternative.

Kale can be tough, but squeezing kale with avocado softens the leaves. The salt in the dressing further breaks down the cell walls of the kale, helping it along its journey to tenderness.

This is an excellent start to the summer. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Kale & Creamy Avocado Dressing

Makes 4 servings.

8 oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups whole wheat pasta
2 teaspoons table salt
2 Haas avocados
2 tablespoons lime juice
½ teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 packed kale leaves, shredded*
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
¼ cup grated parmesan

Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil in a small bowl. Spread the tomatoes out on a small baking sheet lined with foil and roast until soft and charred, about 20 minutes.Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and table salt and bring to a boil. Boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente, about 8 to 12 minutes (depending on what pasta you choose). Drain and set it aside while you prepare the sauce.

In a food processor, combine the meat from the avocados, lime juice, 1 tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Process until smooth.Place the kale in a medium bowl. Pour the avocado sauce over it and squeeze the kale with your hand until everything is well blended. Mix in the balsamic and red pepper flakes, if you’re using it.Add the cooked pasta and parmesan and mix well. Taste for seasoning and adjust it to your liking.Transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

*To shred kale, first strip the leaves off the stems by lightly pinching the stem and running your fingers down the stem to the tip, pulling the leaves off along the way. Stack a few leaves and roll them up into a tight log. With a sharp knife, slice the kale thinly.

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Avocado Pineapple Cake

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This weekend was my mother’s birthday. She just turned 81. She’s very spry for her age and still sharp in mind, and I’m thankful every day for that.

She’s also set in her ways. She likes what she likes, and doesn’t like what she doesn’t. She’s never liked going out to restaurants much, since, in her opinion, restaurant food lacks in many departments. The one and only time she was ever really excited to go to a restaurant was when my brother and I took my parents to Felidia, Lidia Bastianich’s place in Manhattan. She’s a huge fan of Lidia and just being in her world was a thrill for Mom. (One of my regrets is not getting a picture with Lidia when I met her at the James Beard House when I was interning there. She treasures the picture of me with Jacques Pepin and I think one of me with Lidia would have made her swoon.)

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Chocolate Cake with Avocado Mousse

This week, I wanted to offer my recipe for Chocolate Cake with Avocado Mousse. It received raves when I made it and I’m finally getting around to posting it.

The first ingredients is a chocolate sheet cake. You can certainly make it from scratch, but if you’re pressed for time, you can go and buy one from the store.

Rich chocolate cake paired with a zesty avocado mousse makes a luscious sweet-tart flavor combo. The white chocolate chips give it a gratifying chewy element without competing with the cake. Besides, with antioxidants in chocolate and omega-3 fatty acids in avocado, who can argue that this is a decadent dessert with health benefits? And it’s vegan!

Chocolate Cake with Avocado Mousse

1 chocolate sheet cake (9×13”)
2 Haas avocados
1/4 cup lime juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon citrus zest (orange, lemon, lime or a combo)
1 teaspoon maple crystals
1/3 cup white chocolate chips

1. Trim off about 1 inch from each end of the cake. Split the cake in half, lift off the top half, and set aside.

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2. Combine avocados, lime juice, vanilla, honey, citrus zest, and maple crystals in a food processor and process until completely smooth. (Stop the machine and push down the mixture with a rubber spatula, if necessary.)

3. Spread the avocado mixture evenly over the bottom half of the cake. Sprinkle the chips evenly over the avocado. Replace the top half of the cake.

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4. Cut into 12 squares, or use a 2 1/2-inch ring mold to cut out circles. Serve as is or sprinkle powdered sugar over the top.

Makes 12.

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