Farmers Market Challenge: Asparagus & Sausage Pasta Bowl

Feeling inspired by our favorite cooking challenge shows, Amanda and I decided this week to give ourselves a bit of a challenge. Since I needed to get out and discover more of the area in which I live, and the warmer weather was in full swing, we decided on a farmers market challenge. The rules: try and get as many ingredients to create a dish from your local farmers’ market as you can. Everything in the dish must be made with something from the market with a few exceptions. The protein, salt & pepper, and three other ingredients to be personally determined could be used in addition to the fresh market items. It seemed simple…until I went to the market.

Let’s just say, the turnout was a bit underwhelming. There was one vendor of vegetables, and not much variety at that. However, the real treat of the day was a local farm selling their own meat. We picked up some locally produced pork sausages from this vendor, and then traipsed over to the vegetable cart to acquire some asparagus and garlic. This was my not so impressive haul from the market, although I suspect with the recent flooding in the area that it might not be typical. Needless to say, I looked at my purchases like a stressed-out contestant on Chopped, wondering what to do next. There was also a chocolate covered pretzel purchased, but that was promptly eaten on the ride home.

In the end, I used my three TBD ingredients (lemon, pasta and saffron) to put together this surprisingly quick and easy pasta dish and I will definitely be keeping it in mind for future weeknight dinners. The sausage added so much flavor that no other seasonings we needed, although the saffron did add a nice flavor if desired. I gobbled up this meal more enthusiastically and more quickly than many others I had made for this, and cleanup was a breeze.


  • 4 oz small pasta, I used rotini, but orzo or shells would work too.
  • Water for boiling.
  • 15 threads of saffron (optional)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2-3 chicken or pork sausages of your choice, sliced into 1/2 inch slices
  • 10-15 stalks of asparagus, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced.
  • Freshly squeezed juice of half of a lemon
  • Pepper to Taste


  1. In a large pot, add enough cold water to handle the amount of pasta you have, probably no less than 1 quart, but more if needed. Add the saffron threads if using and the salt, and bring to a boil.
  2. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 6-10 minutes depending on your pasta. Once finished, strain the pasta, but do  not rinse.
  3. While the pasta is boiling, add the sausage slices to a skillet over medium heat and allow to brown for about 3-4 minutes. Add the asparagus and the garlic, which should be able to cook in the rendered fat from the sausages.
  4. Cook over medium heat for another 4-5 minutes until the asparagus is bright green and everything is cooked through.
  5. Add the drained pasta and stir to incorporate and re-warm the pasta.
  6. Remove from heat, add lemon juice, stir and serve! Top with pepper to taste.

Wine Pairing: This dish just seems so spring-like to me, maybe because of the journey to the market and eating on a warm spring evening before the sun sets. Because of this, a chilled glass of pinot gris just feels right. 


Go-Back-to-Sleep Baked Oatmeal

Merideth and I are both runners, and that means getting back from early morning races having to prioritize going back to sleep or having a nutritious breakfast. This quick prep oatmeal solves both of these problems (eventually). Also handy for, let’s face it, mornings you just want to go back to bed for just a little bit longer.

Like some of our other recipes, this oatmeal is flexible to your preferred ingredients. In this case, I used the blueberries and almonds I had on hand, but granola, walnuts, and/or strawberries (or chocolate chips…) would be good too!

Serves 4


  • 2-3 bananas, sliced
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups blueberries or raisins
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tbs honey or agave
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 cup coconut


    1. Arrange sliced bananas on bottom of slow cooker. Top with raisins or other preferred fruit.
    2. In separate bowl, combine oats, nuts (if using), cinnamon, and salt. Add milk, honey and vanilla and stir.
    3. Pour oatmeal mixture over bananas. Top with any remaining ingredients and coconut.
    4. Cover and cook on low for 2 hours, or until oatmeal is cooked through.

    Wine Pairing: Mimosas, of course!

    Beef, Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup

    The slow cooked meal is such a wonderful convenience in all seasons. While at first thought, it seems that it is best served during the winter months as the slow cooker rewards you with hearty stews and belly-warming chilis, it can definitely be a summer blessing as well. An oven or even a simmering pot on the stove can make the kitchen uncomfortably warm on an already warm day, and a slow cooker silently cooking away in the corner is an excellent alternative to using your kitchen towels to wipe sweat from your brows every two minutes.

    This week, Amanda and I wanted to go low maintenance. I had some obligations on the day of our skype date so a set-it-and-forget-it recipe was just what the doctor ordered.  Since it was an unseasonably cold day, I did opt for a heartier beef soup but it could easily be enjoyed during warm weather as well. As stated above, the reduced use of heat emanating appliances would definitely make me more receptive to a soup in the middle of July for sure. Regardless, this soup was tasty, easy and made plenty of leftovers for weekday lunches.


    • 2 lbs beef chuck, cut into 1 inch chunks.
    • 1 cup wild rice
    • 1 cup of sliced mushrooms, I used baby bellas but you could branch out with varieties.
    • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch thick clices.
    • 1 onion, diced.
    • 2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
    • 1/2 bell pepper, diced.
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 6 cups beef broth
    • salt & pepper to taste

    Instructions (I know. See if you can keep up with me here):

    1. If desired (and you will be rewarded in flavor), brown the beef over medium heat before adding to the slow cooker. However, if you’re like me and and feel that the point of the slow cooker is not to dirty any other pans, add all ingredients to the slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Enjoy with your favorite crusty bread or however you would like!

    Wine Pairing: The umami flavor of the mushrooms and the rich beefy taste can stand up to a full bodied red like a syrah, which would warm the belly and bring even more comfort to a dinner with this soup.