Thursday, July 2, 2015

Dreamfields #Pastapalooza Gourmet Market Basket Challenge to Help End Hunger

UPDATE! The #Pastapalooza Gourmet Market Basket Challenge has ended and, it appears that with 306 votes, we've won for my local Food Bank! I cannot thank you enough for your participation!
Remember... One lucky voter will be chosen to receive $1,000 for their food bank and a load of pasta to keep so PLEASE watch your SPAM/Junk folders so you don't miss the e-mail from Dreamfields. Per the official rules, winner must respond within 48 hours of being notified. Again, thank you for your votes and thank you for your continued friendship!
              Please cast your Vote for this deliciousness here!

For many of us, summer is a time to relax and enjoy the warmer weather... Slower schedules... and more than likely, a cookout or two! But for the 49 million Americans identified as “food insecure” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), summer is no trip to the beach. Hunger doesn’t take a vacation for them, but in fact intensifies.

One of the primary reasons for the increased need for food assistance during summer is because federal breakfast and lunch support programs only operate during the school year. That translates into 21 million children missing out on free or reduced-price meals from June till September.

Adults and seniors need assistance too. According to a Hunger in America study, the majority of the clients being served by the Feeding America network (54%) have visited a food pantry in six or more months during the prior year. Also, more than half (56%) of elderly clients aged 65+ have used a pantry every month within the prior year.

It is for these reasons I agreed to participate in the fifth annual Dreamfields #Pastapalooza campaign the moment my dear friend Susan asked me!

The fact that my local food bank, Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina receives a $200 donation for my effort and that it could potentially turn into a $1,000 donation when you vote for my recipe (and it wins) doesn't hurt either! Oh, and the fact that YOU may win a Dreamfields Pasta Prize Package and a $1,000 donation for your local food bank too also meant I was all in on this challenge!

So what is the Gourmet Market Basket Challenge? Well, it's a bit like my favorite FoodNetwork show, Chopped - I, along with four other bloggers received a short list of random ingredients with which to create a recipe. On this Chopped-inspired list was: Any cut of Dreamfields pasta, flavored or wine Vinegar, Almonds, fresh Fennel any Protein and dried Fruit. We were also allowed two wild-card ingredients to use as we wished.

But Janet, wait a minute... You've worked so hard to eat clean, lose weight, and hello?!... You haven't posted a new recipe or cookie design to your blog in nearly a year! I know... and, I hear you! In fact, I can't actually remember the last time I ate pasta! However, I can tell you the last time I enjoyed pasta it was Dreamfields' healthy-carb living #Healthypasta! 

Nevertheless, to help avoid temptation during my food break-up and still take advantage of this incredible opportunity to benefit my local food bank and of course, you... I decided to collaborate with and enlist the help of one of my favorite blog friends and Army Veteran, Brian who authors the blog, This Cookin' Dad!

With Brian's agreement to do all the tasting, we created what I think is a winner! It's called, Fennel Pesto Pasta with Fennel, Roasted Tomato and Cannellini Salad - How would I describe it? Well, if you enjoy Pasta e Fagioli, that Italian soup with pasta, beans, and veggies, then you'll love this recipe because it winds up being a lighter, more summery riff on that classic. Serve it with grilled chicken, a juicy filet or simply plate it up as a meat-less meal all on its own!

Honestly, just between us... The fennel pesto pasta alone is to die for! However, married with roasted tomatoes and bites of sweet and tangy apricots and creamy, slightly nutty cannellini beans, this dish turns into one incredibly delicious and beautiful thing... See?!
Now remember, just for voting you have a chance to score a family pack of Dreamfields pasta and a $1,000 donation to your local food bank too... So please, help me and Dreamfields kick hunger's butt this summer by clicking here to vote for your favorite Gourmet Market Basket recipe... Which, I sincerely hope will be mine in support of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina.

The voting page will be live from 12:01 a.m. EDT Thursday, July 2 through 11:59 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 8 and, you may cast a new vote every day so please do! I also hope you will spread the word to your friends and family to help put my Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina and your local Food Bank in first place!

Fennel Pesto Pasta with Fennel, Roasted Tomato and Cannellini Salad
Preparation Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time

Fennel Pesto Pasta:
1 Box Dreamfields Angel Hair pasta
2 Cups Chopped Fresh Fennel Fronds
1/2 Cup Whole Almonds, toasted and crushed
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
1/4 - 1/2 Cup Water
Salt and Pepper

Fennel, Roasted Tomato and Cannellini Salad:
16 ounces mixed color cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and Pepper
1/2 Cup, plus 1 Tablespoon White Balsamic Vinegar
1/4 Cup Dried Apricots, thinly slices
2 Cups Fresh Fennel Bulb, thinly sliced
1 15.5 ounce can Cannellini Beans, drained/rinsed
Fennel Fronds (optional)
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Place pasta in large bowl; set aside.
3. Meanwhile, for pesto place fennel fronds and almonds in bowl of food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. With food processor running, slowly add oil. Add Parmigiano, salt and pepper, as desired. Process to combine ingredients. Add water if necessary for pesto consistency. Toss with cooked pasta.
4. Place tomatoes cut-side-up on rimmed baking pan lined with aluminum foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Roast 15 to 20 minutes or until tomatoes have started to caramelize, but still retain their shape.
5. While tomatoes are roasting, combine 1/2 cup of the vinegar and the sliced apricots in small skillet. Cook over medium-low heat 5 to10 minutes or until vinegar has reduced by about half. Remove sliced apricots; reserve for garnish. Reserve reduced vinegar.
6. Add remaining 1 tablespoon vinegar, remaining 1 tablespoon oil, salt and pepper, as desired to sliced fennel. Gently toss with roasted tomatoes and beans; season with salt and pepper, as desired.
7. Add fennel-tomato mixture to pasta. Drizzle with reserved reduced vinegar. Garnish with reserved apricots, fennel fronds and Parmigiano, as desired. 6 servings.

Nutrition information (1/6 of recipe): 650 calories; 20 g protein; 75 g carbohydrates; 32 g total fat; 5 g saturated fat; 7 mg cholesterol; 240 mg sodium; 13 g total dietary fiber.

Disclaimer: Although I was compensated for my effort, all opinions and thoughts about this campaign are my own. xo
Go cast your Vote here now!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Last year's 75-mile ride was so much fun...

I'm doing it again... On my dad's birthday no less!
This is my sweet friend Valerie. We met at last year's
BIKE MS event and have been riding together ever since!
I'd love and appreciate your support. So please... Please visit my
BIKE MS page here to donate because when it comes to finding a
cure for Multiple Sclerosis, every dollar counts... Especially yours!
Wish me luck!