Category Archives: diet diary

Whistle while you work…. Penne, navy beans and pine nuts.


Ever since I realized how easy it is to make my own pasta sauce from scratch, I never went back to buying the jarred stuff. It’s so expensive, plus I like being able to customize my sauces (cream or no cream? Basil or thyme? Or both? Or red peppers? Or aubergines? Should I roast the sauce, or not? Etc.). Anyway, I was stuck at a software workshop allll day Saturday, and by the time I got home it was past 3pm, and I hadn’t eaten a bite. I was ravenous, and a wee bit hungover. I had to eat something right away, or else. So I whipped up some pasta with marinara, and I’m still feasting on the leftovers. The dish took me less than 30 minutes. Take that, Rachel Ray!

Also, this is a great ‘customize’ dish. Want a different bean? I picked navy beans because I love how creamy and silky they make the tomato sauce — mash some of them up, and it becomes the most velvety (and insanely healthy) sauce. Want more vegetables? Squash would be lovely here. For a texture contrast, I bet chard would be great, too. If you using meat, some boneless, skinless chicken thighs would add a really rich flavor. Cheese Louise, maybe some silken tofu? The possibilities are endless! Make it your own! Eat the pasta joyfully! Throw out your scale! Damn the man! Save the empire! Ahem. Sorry. Got caught up in my rhetoric there. Let’s move on, shall we?


Penne with navy beans, toasted pine nuts and spicy tomato sauce.

1/2 pound penne (I would recommend whole wheat pasta, but I was out, so I used the plain old bleached white stuff)
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
15 oz. can cannelli, or navy, beans (no salt added, plz)
1 red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced finely
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp dried oregano
2 thyme springs
2-3 medium sized dried bay leaves
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp olive oil (I really like the flavor blend of the fats, personally)

For garnishes:
1/8 cup raw pine nuts
basil, torn
1/2 cup freshly shredded parmigianno reggiano (no idea how to spell that, natch)
salt and pepper

So simple, right? Let’s get started. Throw the diced onion into a hot skillet with the oil and butter. Let the onions sweat out, without too much caramelization. Deeply inhale. That’s the stuff.

Add garlic, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Stir.

Add the crushed tomatoes and let it bring to a boil, and then take down to a verrrry gentle simmer. Add the dried oregano, bay leaves, and thyme. Oh, I also found some rosemary hidden in my fridge, which I added as a very fine chop. You’ll noticed I didn’t use the typical trio of aromatics, which I would normally do (i.e., add carrots and celery with the onion). That is because I had no celery. And was too lazy to dice carrots. And I don’t have an immersion blender, and I wanted this to be a pretty smooth sauce, which it wouldn’t have been, had I added more aromatics. Anyway.

Let that simmer for 10-20 minutes. Inhale again. Lick your wooden spoon a lot. I highly recommend it.

Bring pot of (well salted) water to boil. When the water comes to a boil, throw in the pasta and cook until al dente. That is, with bite. For me, this means undercooking by at least 3-5 minutes. I hate mushy pasta.

Right when you throw in the pasta, add a can of cannelli beans to the tomato sauce. I washed and realllly well rinsed my beans, because I didn’t want to add more moisture to the sauce than I had to. Stir them around and let them heat up. After a few minutes, mash up about half the can into the sauce, roughly. The sauce will get gorgeously colored and silky smooth. And taste fantastic.

When the pasta is finished, dump and let drain. I do NOT rinse my pasta – EVER – as it washes away the starches and makes it harder for sauces to adhere, which is muy annoying.

Add pasta to your skillet and gently fold to incorporate sauce.

Top with torn basil leaves, tons of toasted pine nuts, and a healthy amount of shaved cheese. I save half to sprinkle on top, and I stir the other half directly into the pasta to boost the flavor.

Spoon into bowls. Admire. This dish is so healthy and super-filling. It would be better paired with, say, a spinach or escarole salad, but it’s good as an easy lunch, too. Note: Your pasta will not look weirdly red as it inexplicably does in my photos. I feel like my camera has a weird red filter on it, but I don’t know how to take it off. So, ignore weird submarine lighting. That is all.


Manchego Mama.


The everything-but-the-kitchen-sink spinach salad.


Last night I was too lazy/busy to cook dinner — although I REALLY wanted to make some red lentil dahl from scratch, another night methinks — so I literally took everything out of my fridge (that was edible; dangit I guess I should throw away that weird sundried tomato pesto that now more closely approximates fuzzy poop) and threw it into a bowl, and ate. And it was good. Really effing good. As long as you have a ‘base’ — in my case, it was baby spinach, but I think brown rice, lettuce, or something equally light would do the trick too — you can take the most disparate of ingredients and mix it all up into a glorious slurry of taste. Flaverz, I can haz them.


Here’s what I threw into my clean-out-your-damn-refrigerator-already salad:

-1/4 breast of leftover rosemary-lemon roasted chicken
-a few leftover roasted fingerling potatoes and cherry tomatoes
-1 cup of sprouts
-a handful of tamari almonds
-1/2 cup leftover parsley chickpea salad
-thinly sliced manchego shavings

I served this on top of a huge bed of tender baby spinach and gently tossed it with some black pepper, 1 tsp good balsamic vinegar, and 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. I enjoyed it with a couple slices (slightly stale) crusty bread and low-fat hummus from Wegmans. One of the best dinners I’ve had in a while. Ignore Round #2 of Ghetto White Paper Plate. Ahem.


Food on the go: Lemon chickpea salad with red onion and parsley


Happy Thursday! I am inordinately happy that today is Thursday — the first half of my week was really rough, work-wise, it feels like such a weight has been lifted from my shoulders now that it’s all over. Now I’m ready to let it all hang out, metaphorically and literally!

Sometimes it’s really hard to eat healthy when I’m so busy, and I end up grabbing a sandwich or paying money for food that would be easy to make at home. But yesterday I made an amazing cold bean salad that takes about 10 minutes to prepare, and is so fresh and healthy-tasting that you’ll want to eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That being said,  I had it for dinner last night, I’ll eat the rest for lunch today, and I’m making another batch for my dinner party tonight! It’s the perfect snack — cheap, super healthy, and so pretty to look at.

This chickpea salad goes great with toasted whole wheat pita (as I had it last night), but I can see it being tossed with some lightly dressed spinach or greens for a salad, or over a bed of curry-flavored couscous. This also seems like a great side dish to something more substantial, like grilled chicken or a piece of fish. And part of me just wants to throw the whole bowl into the food processor you gave me (THANKS! by the way), because it’s essentially the ingredients for hummus. But deconstructed.

Moving along:


Chickpea salad with red onion

You need:

2 cans chickpeas (I like to call those little suckers ‘banzos)

1 lemon

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 medium-ish red onion

1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

lots of freshly cracked black pepper and flaky salt

That’s it! That’s all the ingredients. Rinse the chickpeas well and pat dry. Chop a red onion really finely. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and salt to taste. Let it hang out for a few hours to let the lemon really incorporate all the flavors. That’s it!

You can also mix in endless variations to this — maybe add a can of black eyed peas, too. Or some chopped tomatoes and cilantro for a more “salsa-ish” variation. Add bulghur to make tabbuleh. Add cumin to make it smoky. And you know what else would be good? Putting the entire pan into a 350 degree oven and roasting until they’re crispy and insanely addictive — like this. Lawsies, how I love the Mighty Pea!!!

Exxess and ohhhhs,

Manchego Mama.

Tuesday Toss-up. Who won: Me or My Food?


Breakfast:  Cheddar Chap and I both enjoyed a cup of plain, lowfat, probiotic yogurt and one cup of granola with cashews and raisins.

100_2542I enjoyed two cups of English Breakfast tea with skim milk.

100_2545Lunch:  Green leaf lettuce, green apple, onion, broccoli, green bell pepper, pepperocini, shredded cheddar cheese, hard-boiled egg, and black olives topped with 2 (maybe 3 : ) !) tbs of tarragon vinagrette.  The deliciousness on the left … 3 oh so good vegetarian corn dogs!  The box said only about 100 calories!

100_2546small strawberry shake:  360 calories!

large fries:  540!

mcdouble:  570!

grand total:  1470!

okay, but fo’ realz now.  let’s look at what else i consumed…  sensible and satisfying breakfast.  yes, i know granola is high in fat.  homemade salad with a ton of veggies and sensible amount of low calorie dressing.  my beverage intake:  2 mugs of tea, a half can of diet coke and water.    QUICK!  somebody add up my calories!

it was my blunder with the dinner choice.  i was away from home and had gone too long without eating.  i should have packed a snack to hold me over until i returned home – where i could have enjoyed more delicious veggies or substituted a veggie burger for that disgusting 555555555555555555555555555555555555 – haha – kitty just stepped on the keyboard!  anyway, for that disgusting (but somehow satisfying ) meat heap.  i thought i was going to pass out from not eating.  it’s times like those that i have to remind myself of the unfortunate people of the world who struggle for days without food, not pathetic hours.

monday monday

m.m.  – alcohol is the catalyst for the vicious cycle of calorie consumption.  i felt it yesterday, too!

actually, my posts may be a little sparse this week as all of my attention will be focused on John Keats.  i have a 20 page paper due Thursday evening.  i’m not stressed, but i have to focus.  i’ve done all my research, but now it’s time to write.  ooo!  ooo!  what do you think of my title?  The Ladies and the Legends: Keats’ Troubled Mortal Dreamers…??  that’s all the writing i’ve accomplished.  so, this is relevant because i worked long and hard through the daylight hours on my paper because i knew i would have to wait tables that evening.  turns out the restaurant wasn’t expecting much business so, i had the night off!  i headed down to where cheddar chap was feverishly working on a model for his final review so that we could do a little vehicle exchange.  (carpool – shrink your carbon footprint)  anyway, it was in fact dinner time, and he immediately suggested Uncle Joe’s.  i knew i was taking the night off so, 32 oz. beers were exactly what i wanted.  i ordered a buffalo chicken salad – better than ordering a plate of wings, right?  but i also had two 32 oz. coors lights.  thank goodness ched was driving!  upon my return home i consumed 2 miller high lifes.  this stirred my hunger for 6 or 7 oreos, a handful of tortilla chips and a couple yogurt covered pretzels.  not horrible, but not good.  earlier that day i had a turkey sandwich with spinach and berry chutney and a few cups of tea.  food consumption wasn’t terrible for the day, but i did eat too late.  and to top it all off, i’m experiencing a little bit of lady problem that prohibits me from going to the gym today.  on the plus side, i drunkenly painted my toe nails and got 10 hours of solid sleep!


cheeselouise xoxo

the rules

i like m.m.’s positive recipe contributions, but i’m not ready for that.  admittedly, when it comes to dieting, i do not have a positive relationship with food – or myself for that matter.  i have the ability to control what i eat, but i have to play mind tricks with myself to achieve this.  the things i tell myself are not positive or healthy.  self-deprication keeps me going.  thinking about it, this does sound like the makings of an eating disorder.  perhaps you can already categorize it as one.  i don’t like labels.

i felt really good after my first post.  i made myself a green salad for dinner and even used the disgusting salad ‘spritz’ instead of the dressing that i oh so very much desired.  i tried to fool my body into accepting this meager plate as a well balanced dinner – which it was not.  i felt really great eating the salad and should have followed it up with some protein.  however, i launched into a very dissatisfying food binge.  i didn’t eat a lot, nor did i make poor decisions about what i did eat.  but i was out of control, and i didn’t like it.

willpower. i can has it.
so, it’s time to set some rules for myself.  while working hard to achieve diet and exercise goals, i believe this is imperative.  the title of this post is deceiving.  i will not present the stone tablets high upon the hill for you now, but i will mention the one that is pivotal to my success.  i cannot eat after 7pm.  obviously, this makes me think of the cinematic masterpiece, Gremlins.  okay, masterpieces.  i loved the third installment.  but look what happened when Gizmo ate after midnight… gremlin
i say to myself, cheese louise, “if you put another morsel in your mouth it will course through your body, gain control and make you hideous!”
i thought about providing the other rules required for caring for your very own gremlin, but i came across this gem – especially appropriate for this chrismukkah season.  let us turn to phoebe cates’ character (does anyone else want to watch Drop Dead Fred?) in Gremlins for some holiday cheer.
” The worst thing that ever happened to me was on Christmas. Oh, God. It was so horrible. It was Christmas Eve. I was 9 years old. Me and Mom were decorating the tree, waiting for Dad to come home from work. A couple hours went by. Dad wasn’t home. So Mom called the office. No answer. Christmas Day came and went, and still nothing. So the police began a search. Four or five days went by. Neither one of us could eat or sleep. Everything was falling apart. It was snowing outside. The house was freezing, so I went to try to light up the fire. That’s when I noticed the smell. The firemen came and broke through the chimney top. And me and Mom were expecting them to pull out a dead cat or a bird. And instead they pulled out my father. He was dressed in a Santa Claus suit. He’d been climbing down the chimney… his arms loaded with presents. He was gonna surprise us. He slipped and broke his neck. He died instantly. And that’s how I found out there was no Santa Claus. “
i’m just hours away from commencing day 2 at the gym.  it’s nearly 1 a.m.  another rule i should follow is getting a good night’s sleep…


exercise once you’ve made the decision to live a healthier lifestyle through diet and exercise, there is no greater coincidence than that of your best friend deciding to do the same!  look at that – an instant support system.  so, manchego mama and myself decided to start Ciao, chow, ciao! as a sort of diet/exercise/food/cooking blog and journal.

personally, i’d like to lose weight to feel healthy again.  i want a strong body and mind.  i want to  run faster, jump higher, be cooler.  sorry, i used to sell sneakers.  seriously, though.  it’s hard to stay on task.  sometimes i’d rather hit the snooze button than the gym.  i’m always up for chicken wings and beer.  and i love cheese.  cheese alone.  cheese on cheese.  cheese on anything.  i’m going to use this forum to share my diet and exercise experience with you.  you’ll taste my sweat, hear my stomache rumble, and shake your head when i break down and eat a block of cheese.  i need this.  i need to be honest with myself and what i’m doing.  what better way than to make myself somewhat vulnerable, sharing my victories, defeats, milestones and fears?  who knows what time and evolution will bring to these posts?

there will be stories.  some funny.  some sad.  some inspiring.  there will be recipes and pictures of delicious healthy food.

join me as i share my efforts with you.  i look forward to hearing about yours!


cheese louise