2009 Nude & Eco-Cheap Cooking Initiative Recipe 9: Happy Birthday Shawna

Shawna's Late July Bounty
Shawna's Late July Bounty

You may or may not know that today is Shawna Coronado’s birthday.  (If you want, click on that link and go wish her a happy b-day.  I’ll still be here!)

Anyway, rather that doing something sensible like giving her a gift, I figured I would take all of her delicious nude vegetables (that means no pesticides and bad chemicals) and, in the spirit of the 2009 Nude & Eco-Cheap Cooking Initiative, make her a birthday feast, all for under $11.50.  (Well, $11.50 plus the cost of cake!)

So for Shawna’s birthday, I am going to make

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto Pasta, Tomato Balsamic Salad and Garlic Bread

Okay, so it’s not steak and lobster, but it is healthy, delicious, and showcases all of Shawna’s delicious vegetables.  And what better way to celebrate one’s birthday than surrounded by the fruits of your labor?  Right?

Okay, so maybe I should send over some of my wife’s chocolate chip cookies and maybe a pie, too, even if it does break the budget!

Preparing the Birthday Feast

So like any truly good meal, this dish is going to take some time.  I went online and found a tutorial on how to make my own sundried tomatoes on PickYourOwn.org, which is the good news.  The bad news is that it’s going to take about 20 hours to do.  So if you’re making this for your friends and family, you better get started early.  Or shell out the $3 or so to buy some at the store.  After that, it’s just a matter of chopping, mixing, baking, and eating.

One thing to note, unlike a lot of pesto pasta dishes which are just pasta and pesto sauce, this recipe calls for the addition of a few caramlized onions because they add extra flavor and because Shawna grew them and they looked yummy.

You will need:

  • 2 large tomatoes (free from Shawna’s garden)
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil (25 cents)
  • Salt and pepper (free for the challenge)
  • 2 onions, sliced (free from Shawna’s garden)
  • 17 leaves basil, divided (free from Shawna’s garden)
  • 6 ounces butter, divided ($1)
  • 1 ounce pine nuts ($1.30)
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil, divided (free for the challenge)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese ($1.25)
  • 1 16 ounce package spaghetti noodles ($2)
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (free from Shawna’s garden)
  • 375 ml balsamic vinegar ($1.75)
  • Iceberg lettuce chopped (free from Shawna’s garden)
  • 1 loaf Italian bread ($1.50)
  • 1 clove garlic (10 cents)

Total: $9.40 + Birthday Cake + Candles (Yes, technically I failed the challenge :))

Day Before the Party: Make the Sundried Tomatoes

The first step is going to PickYourOwn.org and making the sundried tomatoes.  This will use the large tomatoes, the basil, and a little salt.

Day of the Party: Make the Sundried Tomato Pesto Pasta

Preheat the oven to 350.  Toast the pine nuts for 4-5 minutes or until they start to smell nutty.

Finely chop two basil leaves.  Melt 2 tablespoosn of butter in a skillet and then add the sliced onions, a pinch of salt, and the two leaves of basil.  Cook until the onions are clear, then turn down the heat to medium-low.  While you are making the rest of the sauce, those onions are going to turn slightly brown and totally delicious.  You can leave the onions on for up to an hour and fifteen minutes.  Any longer than that, you should take them off the heat.

Now, it’s time to make the pesto sauce.  Put the sundried tomatoes, 10 leaves of basil and toasted pine nuts into a food processor and pulse several times to break them up.  Then slowly start to drizzle in the olive oil until you have a smooth sauce.  You may not need the entire cup, but it’s good to have it there.  Set aside.

Boil the pasta in well-salted water according to package directions.   Then mix the onions, pasta, and pesto sauce right before dinner is served.

Make the Roasted Tomato Salad

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees if you have not already done so.  Arrange the halved cherry tomatoes on a sheet pan, drizzle with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Cook for 30 minutes.

Slice 5 leavaes of basil. 

Remove the tomatoes from the oven and let them cool.  Then mix with the basil, a good pinch of salt, 2 teaspoons of black pepper and the balsamic vinegar.  Add the olive oil 1/4 cup at a time.  Stir and taste.  If the pasta is dry, add more olive oil.  Don’t let the salad get too oily.

Serve on a bed of lettuce.

Make the Garlic Bread

Preheat your oven to 350.

About ten minutes before dinner, slice the bread into 1/2 inch slices.  Cut the clove of garlic in half and rub one side of the bread with the garlic.  Then butter and bake until just brown, about 5 minutes.  But whatever you do, keep an eye on the bread.  Unwatched bread burns.  It’s a law of nature.

If you are making the garlic bread with the tomato salad, you can turn a few slices of bread into croutons by cutting them into small squares and baking an additional 4-5 minutes or until the bread turns very brown and becomes hard.

Then serve to your favorite birthday boy or girl and enjoy!

Get healthy today and follow the “2009 Nude & Eco-Cheap Cooking Initiative” with Blog Well Done’s Chris Perrin and The Casual Gardener, Shawna Coronado

Thanks to Shawna Coronado for the picture.

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