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The Four O-Clock Hour

** I worked on this post before the massive fires in my home county of Sonoma County began, and it’s been heavy on my heart and mind all week. If you feel so moved, please consider donating to help those who have lost everything or have been evacuated as wildfires suddenly spiraled out of control late Sunday night.

Redwood Area Food Bank
Redwood Credit Union Community Fund

The hours between four and six p.m. in our house are always a bit fraught — my girls get a serious case of the hangrys, and they get them early. Dinner is often completed by 5 and the movement toward bath and bed is soon going ahead in a rush. Last Friday afternoon was particularly bad as the time got away with me during a game and suddenly everyone was SO HUNGRY with the vegetables not yet cooked and a very unhappy baby tumbling around at my feet. I placated her with a bit of cheese while I put together the rest of a vegan lemon pasta dish and quickly sauteed some broccoli. I got both girls satiated in the nick of time and quickly whisked them upstairs; I think lights out was accomplished by 6:30. Whew. This is perhaps why my evenings are spent sprawled out on the couch with a book and my own bedtime is locked in at not a minute past 10 p.m.

During the winter months I was making a wonderful pasta with a lemon cream sauce but I do like to keep things on the lighter side if possible, so when I came across a recipe for a similar pasta with a cashew-lemon sauce I had to try it. I love how soaking and blending raw cashews turns them creamy and luscious but without the heaviness the (admittedly delicious) full cream imparts. I make a creamy and vegan tomato sauce using cashews and want to incorporate them into some of my other meals to give an extra hit of protein and good fats without the cholesterol.

This particular pasta has become one of our favorites. That it’s enjoyed by adults and kids equally is another point in its favor. I initially made this dish with just peas but added broccoli the last time I made it and I think many vegetables would be lovely here — try with sauteed mushrooms, roasted or sauteed cauliflower, kale, etc. I like to serve this with a healthy dose of freshly cracked black pepper over the top as well as a good helping of charp Parmesan cheese because, well, I do love cheese. But it’s just fine without if you keep vegan, and it’s certainly not a necessary indulgence.

When Sierra was a baby I was much more on top of the snacks and meals game; after all, I had all my time and energy to devote to her! She was also a nibbler with a relatively small appetite, so it was easy to keep her satisfied. This second time, with a very healthy eater, I find that snacks end up being: cheese, bananas, a handful of blueberries to tide over the morning hunger, crackers … which works but is terribly uncreative. I want and need to do better — for awhile I was making fruit/almond meal muffins and sticking some in the freezer for the desperate times when she was really on empty and I have a few recipes I need to revisit and post here. Smoothies, too, are a great way to get in fruit, vegetables, and protein and since for the time being she still will eat mostly anything (knock wood/cross fingers/etc.) I want to expand the menu a bit. Suggestions welcome.

For now, I’m riding the waves of their bio rhythms which have us all on an early to bed, early to rise, and early to eat tide. My four o’clock may look different from yours — and I laugh to think about hitting four o’clock at my day job in San Francisco; I still had an hour to go before taking the walk to Market Street for the bus, my thoughts already turned to how many miles I could log in Golden Gate Park before the fog really socked in. How life has changed! — when we’re on the cusp of choosing the night’s bedtime story. But this dinner will still fit in your evening plans whether you eat dinner early or late.

[print_this]Lemony Pasta with Peas and Broccoli, adapted from Kitchen Treaty

Makes 6 servings.

1/2 cup raw cashews
1 box whole grain penne or pasta of choice
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chopped broccoli
Juice from one medium-large lemon
1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (plus more to taste)
1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Place cashews in a bowl, cover with boiling water, and soak for at least 15 minutes, then drain and blend in a high-speed blender with 1/2 cup water until smooth.

Cook the pasta according to package directions and reserve one cup of cooking water while draining.

In a large frying pan, heat olive oil on medium. When hot, add the garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for about two minutes. Add the broccoli and cook a few minutes more.

Stir in the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a ladle of the pasta water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has mostly evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add the cashew sauce and about 1/2 cup of the pasta water, then add the cooked pasta and peas. Reduce heat to low. Stir gently until the pasta is coated with sauce, adding additional pasta water as needed to make sure the sauce coats all of the pasta.

Taste and add additional salt and pepper if desired. [/print_this]

One Comment

  1. Good post….giving the reader a peek at your current life. Photos are excellent as is the recipe. Sonoma Strong!

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