Family Food Throwdown 2011

29 Jul

Image courtesy of Fat Free Vegan Kitchen

I like food. I like food a lot. Get use to lots and lots of posts about, surrounding, and including food on this blog.

My family has the same love affair with food.

Every year, my mother and stepfather sponsor a Family Food Throwdown (think Food Network-style food competition).  Ma and Pa choose a food item, and each individual or individual family does their own rendition of the selected item.

Combine a love of food with competition- you are welcome into my family at any time.

Previous Food Throwdown Competition Results:

FFT 2008 – Burgers
Winner: Andrea with the “Cowboy Burger”

FFT 2009 – Soup
Winner: Andrea with “Creamy Chicken Wild Rice Soup”

FFT 2010 – Cupcakes
Winner: Carly H. with “Death by Chocolate”

You’ll notice my name Carly W. does not grace any of those competition results…

I do enter every year and I am convinced that I will win every year. Let’s just say, people like food that they are familiar and comfortable with.

Note: Do not experiment with food when entering it into a food competition.

Andrea (the two-time champ) advised me last year to “always go with the tried-and-true”, meaning choose ingredients or ingredient combos that are always a crowd pleaser. Also, if you want a shot at winning, don’t even breathe the word “Vegan”.

Now, let me just say, I am a damn (yeah, I’m cursing now) good cook. I made a delicious Bleu Cheese Burger in ’08, dreamy French Onion Soup in ’09 and a to-die-for Cherry-Coconut Cupcake in ’10. So what gives?

This year, I was determined to win. The food? Pasta Salad. A BBQ and Summer classic. I pulled out all the stops and even spent $5 on 1/4 c. of pine nuts.

“I got this. I got this.”

Did I win? No.

Did I make it in the Top 3? Nope.

Is my recipe amazing and delicious enough to share here? Abso-freaking-lutely.

Asparagus Pesto Pasta Salad (adapted from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen)

  • 2 pounds asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (lightly toasted)
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • OPTIONAL: 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound whole wheat or gluten-free spiral pasta
  • 1/2 pound of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the asparagus spears. Cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. Without emptying the water from the pot, lift out the asparagus spears and place them in a colander. Rinse with cool water.

Bring the water back to a boil. Add salt, if needed, and add pasta. Cook until the pasta is al dente. Drain and rinse the pasta with cool water. Put into a serving bowl.

Place the asparagus on a cutting board. Trim off the top 3 inches of the asparagus spears, and put the tips into the bowl with the pasta. Cut the bottoms into several pieces, and set aside to use in the pesto sauce.

Use a food processor to make the pesto: With the processor running, drop in the garlic cloves and allow them to chop. Add 2 tablespoons of the pine nuts, and pulse to chop. Add the lemon juice, basil, salt, nutritional yeast, and the asparagus pieces (not the tips!) and olive oil. Puree until smooth.

Toss the pasta, asparagus tips, and tomatoes (if using) with the pesto, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts. Serve at room temperature or refrigerate until ready to serve. As the pasta salad sits, the flavors will develop.

Servings: 8

Carly’s Note: Add fresh bocconcini (mozzarella balls) or seasoned, grilled chicken or shrimp for a heartier version. 


One Response to “Family Food Throwdown 2011”

  1. Joy July 29, 2011 at 2:23 pm #

    Well, I think this recipe sounds delicious! I am always stumped about what to put in pasta salad. I know there are many possibilities but I am just not creative like that. After reading this Mom’s Guide (, I started taking better inventory of what I feed my family – too much sugar and processed foods. This recipe sounds a healthier option that could work for us. Thanks!!

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