Thursday, December 17, 2020

Stock Your Panty with Superfoods and Dried Spices for Winter Wellness

Garlic and Thyme for the Holidays

Truth be told, I almost baked a batch of cookies. I updated my mom’s super favorite recipe for Pinwheel Cookies and then chose cute Gingerbread Men. It’s amazing how this woman worked full-time, raised three kids, and made time to bake cookies to love. I was whooped after thinking about the wide variety of colorful balls and bars.

After shoveling the wet snow off the deck, driving like a snail on icy roads to Carson City to see an ear doctor, and en route back to Tahoe spinning out of control, I thought, “Why not cook an easygoing but healthful meal?” Forget working all day and night mixing, rolling, baking, decorating and then eating a batch of cookies. It’s the 21st century!

After all, we’re all trying to slim down and healthy up, right? And keeping our immune system strong this holiday season is on our minds, too. So, I closed my eyes and images of a red, green, and gold pasta plate appeared. Perfecto!


Not only are the ingredients superfoods, they are simple to put together. What’s more, they are nutrient-dense. Also, likely you have all the foods in your pantry. If you don’t – now is the time to stock up for winter. It will give you peace of mind for a snowstorm, power outage or shortage of one of these food staples.

You will want to have olive oil, dried garlic (fresh doesn’t last very long), natural marina sauce (just in case you don’t have fresh tomatoes or zucchini and don’t want to make a store run), whole grain pasta (different shapes for variety), (canned Parm if you run out of fresh), dried thyme if you don’t have fresh, and an assortment of multi-grain crackers to substitute for fresh French bread. Don't forget adding other dried herbs and spices, teas, honeys, and bottled water.

Holiday Pasta Plate with Thyme

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons European Style Butter with sea salt

Garlic, 1 fresh clove, minced

3 large Roma tomatoes, slice

½ cup zucchini, sliced or diced

Whole grain penne pasta (a short thick diagonally cut tubular pasta)

Shrimp, cooked (optional)

Parmesan cheese, shavings (fresh)

Thyme, fresh or dried (I used McCormick dried thyme but also love fresh thyme)

Old country Italian Bread, fresh (Safeway bakery)

European-style butter or olive oil (for dipping bread)

In a deep skillet on medium heat sauté place olive oil, butter, and garlic. Add tomatoes. Turn to simmer. Cook about 15 minutes until the tomatoes and zucchini turn into a chunky sauce-like texture. (You can also bake the vegetables until tender.) While the sauce is simmering, cook pasta per box directions. When al dente, remove. Place pasta on plates, top with sauce. Sprinkle with cheese and thyme. Serve with slices of warm French bread and real butter or dip in olive oil. Serves two or three.

Ah, the aroma of fresh garlic in the kitchen and dining room is heavenly. Sure, sweet and spicy cookies feed the soul but garlic is heart-healthy. Yes, this is an easy dish to prepare. But this season at Tahoe is still full of twists and turns.

Why not prepare an old-fashioned, good-for-you pasta place that brings back memories of normalcy. Also, pairing pasta with red or white wine in moderation will give you antioxidants – the good stuff for your body. The quickie meal for lunch or dinner will take you to that happy place with promise of more happy times to come in 2021.

-- Cal Orey, M.A. Is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, Superfoods, Essential Oils, Herbs and Spices) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is

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