Mom Challenge: Whip Up a Healthy Dinner with What’s in Your Pantry

by Deirdre Hahn, Lifestyle Contributor | It was 5:00 p.m. last Sunday and I had a grumpy child on my hands. Lilly and I had just arrived home after a frenzied playdate where her friends made terrariums at a local terrarium shop called Ephemera. The store and workspace were the size of a hall closet with no less than 10 humans crammed inside. If HGTV ever makes a show about tiny stores, this place would top the billing. Yet, this store is really amazing… one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” kind of places. Ephemera is where every tiny plastic thing-a-ma-bobber goes after you clean out your kids’ closets and ‘donate’ it to the large black barrel parked next to your house. The tiny store was stuffed with everything a terrarium would need… little G.I. Joes, tiny reptiles, miniature animals and shapes, colorful beads, superhero figurines, sand in every shade of the rainbow, tiny cocktail umbrellas, itty bitty people and plastic bugs, as well as the tiniest living succulents and tropical plants. Lilly had a blast making her terrarium! Honestly, to hear Lilly’s peals of laughter as she and her friends cut up about all the tiny things was definitely worth the cost of admission.

The finished product and an awesome playdate!

Okay, so after the playdate we pull into the garage and Lilly realized two important things: the first is that it’s Sunday evening and the weekend is over which always puts her into a snit, and the second is that she is hangry. This is a dangerous combination. What was worse, given the three hours we had spent inside the terrarium-cloister-of-dreams, I didn’t have time to plan for dinner. Major mom fail.

If you can imagine the total opposite to a full belly laugh, that is what Lilly was expressing when she asked me the question of the day: “What’s for dinner?” I knew that no matter my answer, she was going to be truly irate because she wants to eat in the next 60 seconds. Inside the few seconds I took to give her an answer, I ran through quick and healthy dinner options given my own ephemera on hand. My inventory included a few random carrots and celery in my vegetable drawer, frozen green beans, weeks-old thyme, a box of curly pasta, some cans of butter beans, and an expensive bottle of white wine being saved for a special occasion. The special occasion had clearly arrived.

I gave grumpy Lilly a handful of Jelly Bellies, plugged her into Minecraft, and told her to give me 35 minutes. I filled up a goblet of wine, asked Alexa to play Talking Heads at volume 7, and then I got creative.

Voila….creamy butter beans and pasta.

Long story short: Lilly has a new favorite dish and a cool terrarium, while I have a new 35-minute meal. Winning!

Creamy Butter Beans with Pasta
Serves 4-5

Alternatives: Use a combination of butter and olive oil, substitute cavatelli for gluten-free pasta, eliminate white wine and add more broth, use another herb like sage or tarragon.

2-3 tbsp. olive oil
2 cans Bush’s Butter Beans, drained and rinsed
2 carrots, small dice
2 celery, small dice
1 tbsp. fresh thyme
2 large garlic cloves, minced
14 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 cup frozen green beans, rough chopped
1 cup white wine
1-2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup dried cavatelli noodles (or some other short, squiggly pasta)
Big pinch of kosher salt
Generous grinds of fresh black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Sprinkle fresh parsley (optional)
Dried onions (optional)

  1. Start small pot of salted water to boiling.
  2. In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté diced celery and carrots for 5 minutes.
  3. Add thyme and butter beans, and sauté these for 5 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and white wine, and reduce white wine for 5-7 minutes.
  5. Add green beans, tomatoes, broth, generous pinch of salt and big grinds of black pepper.
  6. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat.
  7. In the meantime, cook cavatelli noodles to al dente and drain.
  8. Combine the cooked cavatelli noodles and beans together.
  9. Ladle creamy beans and pasta into a big bowl and sprinkle with Parmesan, parsley and dried onions.

Bon appétit!

P.S. If you make this yummy entree, drop me a comment and let me know what you think!


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