Perfect Summer Spaghetti Salad

We all have our own definitions of “Winning,” but for me, it’s all about getting dinner made ahead of time! We are exceptionally busy this week, so make-ahead meals are the perfect go-to to get everyone fed without sacrificing health, flavor or the budget by eating out.  Today, I made a delicious spaghetti salad that came together quickly with some leftovers from the refrigerator and the pantry. Because this recipe is so adaptable, feel free to improvise with whatever you have on hand.

Prefect Summer Spaghetti Saladphoto

16 oz. cooked spaghetti

15 oz. can of Cannellini beans, rinsed

1/2 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced (I peeled my cucumber leaving strips of the deep green skin. Feel free to dress your cucumber to your own taste!)

1 med. red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 cup of broccoli florets (bite-sized)

1/4 cup of red onion, diced

8 leaves of fresh basil, torn into pieces

8-10 oz Vegan Fake-out Italian Dressing (this was the game changer for me, since I’ve NEVER found a good vegan substitute for store-bought Italian dressing. I saved some of the dressing to use on a salad at lunch. I was over the moon with joy over this!)

Vegan Fake-out Italian Dressing

2/3 c. Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

7 tbs. vinegar (I used plain white vinegar but you can also use red wine, balsamic, etc.)

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp. granulated sugar (you could also use agave)

1 tbsp. Italian seasoning blend (or eye ball a mix of dried oregano, basil and rosemary)

4 tbsp. nutritional yeast (This is the revelation! Most recipes contain Romano or Parmesan cheese, and since I substitute nutritional yeast in so many other dishes, I wondered if I could do the same here to get that nutty, cheesy taste. Miracle of miracles, it worked!)

* Mix all ingredients into a jar with a lid.  Shake vigorously to combine well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. Store any  remaining dressing in the refrigerator.

* Combine all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl. I recommend tossing them a bit before adding the dressing, but you will toss them again to ensure that the dressing is well-distributed, too.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to chill and let the flavors marry.

I must admit that this entire dish came together with a handful of this and a dash of that. It was only upon tasting it that I knew I wanted to share the recipe, but realized that I’d have to approximate the measurements for the salad.  I find this to be the inherent beauty of this dish though! You can use whatever you have on hand to make your own version of the perfect summer spaghetti salad! Just promise me you will try the dressing! It’s totally worth it, especially if you are used to buying bottled dressings! Don’t let the nutritional yeast throw you for a loop! (More on that product in an upcoming post!) 





Losing Focus

What does my “habitual focus of attention” say about who I am?

As the Bible tells us, “for where your treasure is, your heart shall be also.”

My mediation for the day cites Jose Ortega y Gasset who challenges, “Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.”

Where is my attention focused? On the internet? On Facebook? Probably. My husband and sons have gone out to see a movie for two hours and I pace around the house as though I have never been here before, utterly lost, rudderless.  I troll the internet, some for work, other times for fun, each time seeking a kernel of validation for my time spent.  Upon reflection, it occurs to me that where my attention is NOT focused is on God. Uh-oh.

During my morning run today, in spite of the beautiful sunrise, a mild summer morning awakening around me and the classical music streaming into my ear from my IPhone, I had no focus on HIM. I had not a moment of thankfulness for the ability to get up and run, not an appreciation for the mystery of creation around me, and no fleeting second of contemplation asking what HE wanted me to do today?  Why? Why?

The answer is that I am afraid of what he might say.  I have grown tired of waiting for him to make a life for me (the kind of  life I think I should have, I might add)…so I am instead trying to make one for myself, stubborn fool that I am!  What if  He tells me to be still and wait. No, I have anesthetized myself to the din of my constant state of rush; the hum of my own perpetual busy-ness, epitomizing the grown-up’s version of fingers in ears chanting, “La, La, La…I can’t hear you” to a Creator who has hardwired his own private entrance into my heart and my head.  The message isn’t a comfortable one! “Let go of the anger,” He demands. “Forgive more,” He encourages.  “Stop asking the world how you are doing, and start asking Me.” That’s a tough one.

I am heartened to remember that God doesn’t require us to  be perfect, just willing.  I am so busy trying to be perfect that perhaps, I have become unwilling, as well. Thankfully for me, every day is a new day to start over again.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. -2 Corinthians 2:9.