Dutch-Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

This recipe is just too, toooooo good not to share. One of the workers at Amanda’s Lady Bug Acres (the Veggie Barn) here in Fargo made these dark, chocolatey yummies for her customers. I was blown away by how rich and decadent they were.

She used, as the original recipe calls for, coconut sugar and unsweetened applesauce in place of the granulated sugar and coconut oil (you know I love me my coconut oil!) I chose to use. I also kept the skin on the zucchini (original recipe called for it to be peeled) and I increased the salt. I made sure I used a high quality pure vanilla extract.

If you buy a normal sized zucchini, you’ll use all of it for this recipe. If you use a jumbo one, you’ll use about half of it.  I buy a couple at a time (at The Veggie Barn, of course!), chop ’em up in my mini-food processor (it has two settings; chop and puree) and freeze them.  I did grate the zucchini the first time but in an effort to save time and my sanity, I went with the ‘chop’ selection on my mini-processor.

DON’T over bake these lil’ guys. They’ll still be good but more on the drier side.  Make sure the center jiggles a bit and to stop the cooking, cut them immediately once you remove from the oven.

I’m still working on the baking time.  It’s about 22 to 23 minutes depending on if I use a tish more zucchini than the recipe calls for.

Another thing, which I didn’t know, is there is a difference between Dutch-processed cocoa and natural cocoa powder (this is usually what we all use). Dutch-processed is stripped of acids making it darker in color which implies it is richer and deeper in flavor. You use baking soda in recipes that use this type of powder. Natural cocoa powder (think Hershey’s) is lighter in color, has all of its acidity and is used in recipes that call for baking powder.   Cool huh?

These are great by themselves or with vanilla bean ice cream.  The flavor is dark, rich and intense and really hits the chocolate craving mark in my book.

Zucchini Dutch-Chocolate Brownies

Adapted from: texanerin.com – August, 2014

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T quality vanilla extract
  • ¾ c unrefined or granulated sugar
  • ¼ c coconut oil – melted
  • 1 c whole wheat flour or whole spelt flour
  • ½ c Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ t baking soda
  • ½ t salt
  • 2 c grated (or finely chopped) zucchini (about 1 large or ½ of jumbo)
  • 1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ½ c mini semi-sweet (or milk chocolate) chocolate chips
  • ½ c chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×9 pan with parchment paper or spray with baking spray.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, vanilla, sugar and melted coconut oil and let sit for about 5 minutes until the sugar dissolves.

In a separate medium bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder (sifted if lumpy), baking soda and salt.  Make sure there are no lumps before continuing. Add the dry mix into the wet and stir gently until combined.  Be sure not to over mix. Fold in the grated zucchini and 1 cup of the semi-sweet chocolate chips.  Pour the batter into the pan and even the surface with a spatula.  Sprinkle the ½ cup of mini-chocolate chips on top.

Bake for 22 to 24 minutes or until the middle doesn’t move when you jiggle the pan.  To stop the cooking process, once out of the oven, cut the brownies immediately.

You could store these in an airtight container on the counter for two days, but they won’t last that long.  These suckahs are that GOOD!

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Bow Tie Pasta with Basil and Tomatoes – A Vegetarian Meal

Bow Tie Pasta with Basil and Tomatoes

(Adapted from: The New Mayo Clinic Cookbook; Farfalle with Fresh Tomato Sauce)

This recipe has become an easy favorite in our family as there is minimal prep and lots of flavor. You can add mozzarella pearls to increase the protein/fat content if you want, but really, it’s a perfect dish without it.

  • 4 tomatoes (about 2 lbs total weight), diced and seeded  (Note: you can also use halved cherry/grape tomatoes, unseeded, of course)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, julienned
  • 3 T chopped red onion
  • 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly round pepper
  • 1/2 lb bow tie (farfalle) pasta

To make the sauce, in a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, julienned basil, onion, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss gently to mix.   (Melissa’s Note: Make this ahead of time and let it marinate, mixing occasionally, on your counter for at least an hour. It really enhances the flavor.)

Boil the pasta in a large pot according to al dente directions or 10 to 12 minutes. Drain the pasta thoroughly and return to the pot.  Add the sauce mixture and stir.  Serve as is (luke warm) or continue to heat until warmed through.

Coconut Oil

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I’m a relative newcomer to the coconut oil bandwagon.  A few years ago, Charmaine told me how I could evenly substitute coconut oil for butter when making cookies or while cooking.  It took me a while to warm up to the idea but once I did, it was bub-bye butter.

Shannon has told me she uses organic, unrefined coconut oil for almost everything. She takes tablespoons of it each day to help with her Fibromyalgia, reduce her sugar cravings and allow her to feel satisfyingly full. She uses it as a facial/body moisturizer and mixes essential oils with it for a deodorant. She tells me it’s the MacGyver of oils. If she can’t use coconut oil with or for something, it’s not worth doing. Connie, who has a strong background in cosmetology, tells me she uses coconut oil as a deep conditioner for her hair and a moisturizer for her lips and cuticles.

Ahhhhh, the humble coconut; so unassuming and yet so multi-dimensional. According to Mercola.com, these two gals are spot on with their uses. In fact, here’s a few more:

·         Shaving lotion: Just apply a thin layer and shave as usual. The lauric acid in the coconut oil will also act as an antiseptic for shaving nicks and cuts. Good to know for people like me who, um, like to get the most out of their disposable razor.

·         Insect Repellant: Mixing coconut oil with a high-quality essential oil(s) such as peppermint, lemon, rosemary, tea tree, citronella or catnip oil can help repel those little buggers. Wait. Catnip oil? Really? Yep. According to one study, catnip oil is 10 times more effective than DEET. Well, shizzle my dizzle! I wonder if you’ll have all the kitties in the neighborhood after your milkshake?? I also wonder if this study was done on ND/MN mosquitos! 

·         Head Lice: LICE?! Yep. Combine coconut oil and anise to create a treatment that is nearly twice as effective as the prescription Permethrin.

It can also be used alone, or in some cases, in combination with a high quality essential oil for cold sores, ear infections, bug bites/stings, athlete’s foot, chicken pox and eczema.  I can attest to the eczema part as my daughter is prone to bouts of eczema during the winter months. This year I am using organic, unrefined coconut oil on her and her eczema is almost non-existent. In contrast, last winter we went through a tube of (sparingly used) hydrocortisone.

It’s also said that coconut oil destroys free radicals and can help your skin look more youthful by diminishing fine lines and wrinkles.  If looks aren’t your thing, how about your health? Coconut oil contains 50% of a ‘miracle’ ingredient called lauric acid. This acid can actually destroy viruses such as measles, HIV/herpes, influenza, pneumonia, UTI’s and vaginitis.

What are some of the physical benefits to using coconut oil over others? Well, a HUGE one is organic coconut oil isn’t genetically modified, however over 90% of soy, corn and canola oils are. Zoinkies Scoob!  Organic coconut oil promotes weight loss, metabolism, immune system and heart health as well as providing immediate energy.  Yes, you read right: immediate energy. That’s because coconut oil is immediately converted to energy, via your liver, instead of being stored as fat. No kidding.

I was curious about the difference between refined and unrefined (virgin) coconut oil. Refined is good for baking and cooking as it can withstand higher temperatures (450 degrees). It also doesn’t have any coconut smell.  The reason for this is because unrefined coconut meat is often dried in open air and, because of this drying method, can result in salmonella poisoning. To ensure this doesn’t happen, the coconut meat needs to be purified and is put through a bleach filtration system. Once that’s done, it’s heat treated to remove any odor.1

Unrefined (virgin) coconut oil uses fresh, not dried, coconut meat. This ensures the oil is sanitary and doesn’t need additional purification, however it can only withstand 350 degree heat. To produce unrefined coconut oil, there are two methods used and while I’m not going to go into detail (you’re welcome), I will say that both methods result in a coconut oil that wasn’t purified by bleach. Because of this, it does maintain some (mild) coconut odor. 

Through personal experience, I find the unrefined coconut oil to be a better choice for lotion as it melts like buttahhh when rubbed between your palms. The refined is more difficult to melt and now that I know bleach is used to purify it…well….. (gulp).

And what coconut oil blog would be complete without dispelling what you think you know about the saturated fats in coconut oil? Pishaw, my faithful readers! Not this blog!  It’s not the enemy you may believe it to be. The saturated fats in coconut oil are naturally occurring. Ding ding! The key words here, in the saturated fat fight are, ‘naturally occurring.’ You see, again according to Dr. Mercola,2  there are  other fats which are “artificially manipulated into a saturated state through the man-made process called hydrogenation.”  If this is the case, it will result in trans-fats which actually contribute to heart disease.  Fair warning! Some of the coconut oils on the market contain hydrogenated oils and trans-fats.  Blasphemy!

I guess the long and the short of it is coconut oil is a dynamo. It has healing, healthful properties and is safe to use both internally and externally. Be sure to read labels (check for trans-fat, hydrogenated oil and even ‘animal byproducts’ – euwwwww) and buy a good quality organic coconut oil; don’t just go for the cheapest.

Maybe make the switch in cooking first and then baking. Then, maybe think about switching your expensive facial moisturizer or maybe even your methyl paraben’d body lotion for plain old coconut oil. Why stop there?  Toothpaste? Sure! Polish furniture? Yes! Oil rusty door hinges? You bet!  Moisturize leather, including the interior of your car? Yes, Yes, YES!  Coconut oil could quite possibly become your MacGyver, too.

Jonesing

It occurred to me just the other day, after years and years and YEARS of bingeing on processed sugar (most specifically, anything chocolate), that I am an addict. I actually said those words out loud two weeks ago and I know it’s true.  I was out of control with my sugar consumption and when I say ‘out of control,’ I mean there is no earthly way I shouldn’t be in a sugar-induced coma.

Yes, processed sugar is HIGHLY addictive and highly dangerous. Some websites call it a major player in the spread of cancer. Evidently cancer cells thrive on processed sugar. Soon there will be a test that scans the body for accumulation of sugar and that will be a predictor of cancer. Oh my GOD. What am I DOING to my body?!

Sugar is my crutch. It’s my go to. It’s my energy when I’m exhausted, overly tired or stressed. It’s my salve when I’m in pain (emotional or physical). I tell myself I can stop with just one cookie and end up eating a BOX. Most recently I was on a junior mints and peanut turtles tangent. I found myself skipping meals and eating chocolate instead. I would justify my turtle consumption by telling myself it contained peanuts so I was getting something healthy, but I know better. I AM educated on this but I am also an addict whose hormones, routines and/or daily stressors get the better of me. When they do, I turn to my old comforting friend; processed, refined sugar.

As a child I remember eating sugar in the form of Kool-Aid, chocolate pudding and Pixy Stix candy. Some websites say I may have inherited my love (lust) for processed sugar while in the womb. I don’t doubt it. When I was born, I probably asked the doctor for a spoonful of sugar.

Here are some interesting facts about processed sugar (Huffpost Healthy Living):

  • 1.    It’s a major player in cancer growth.
  • 2.    Sugar can affect the pumping mechanism of your heart and brings about muscle protein changes that could lead to heart failure. Humm…so when I was stuffing my maw full of processed sugar and alcohol after a bad breakup, I was actually adding insult to injury to my broken heart.
  • 3.    Sugar can affect the aging of your brain AND body.
  • 4.    It targets your belly and adds fat directly to it.
  • 5.    Sugar can create chronic inflammation which is responsible for a host of medical issues ranging from arthritis, Alzheimer’s and heart attacks.

I was never much of a soda drinker, but I loved my sweets. Back in the day, I could eat all I wanted and remain the weight I desired to be. It was because I did some form of a workout (cardio and/or weights) 6 to 7 days a week and I didn’t eat all that well. It’s no fun cooking for one. Then came husband, baby and breastfeeding and I got used to eating extra (sugar) calories a day. When breastfeeding ended, my extra calorie consumption did not, my exercise was not like it was pre-baby and I gained weight.

The additional weight isn’t what bothers me; it’s what I’m doing to my body by uncontrollably eating this crap. I am a vegetarian for ethical and health reasons.  I take known inflammation reducers like pharmaceutical grade fish oil and extra vitamin C to combat the self-inflicted punishment. I’m trying to trick my mind into believing my sugar consumption will be less damaging because of this, but I know better.  It’s the same mentality I use to justify bingeing on chocolate that contain nuts.

I am keeping a daily diary this time around to document when I want chocolate and how I’m feeling when I do.  I’ve started my detox during a time when my body does not normally crave processed sugar in order to be past the intense cravings by the time it does crave sugar. I’ll journal for 30 days and I may publish it with the hopes others can read about my journey and recognize themselves in me.

I noticed the first two days I was off processed sugar, I had a hard time with my memory. I carried my water bottle into my gym class, sat it down and walked out to do something. Before returning to the room I thought, “Oh crap! I don’t have my water bottle. Is it in the car?” So I bundled up and went out to my car. Not there. Well, what the hell. Did I leave it at home? Crap. Double CRAP! As I was grousing inside my head, I had reentered the class and there was my water bottle, exactly where I had left it, right by my yoga mat. Hello!!!

My friend Shannon has offered some suggestions as to how to get through my sugar cravings. I guess cinnamon bark oil is a great help as is using healthy fats (coconut oil/avocados, etc.).  I don’t know. When I want chocolate, I want CHOCOLATE, not just something sweet.  I’m willing to give her suggestions a try, though. She’s been down this road a time or two as well.

I’m going to break routines I’ve established and create new ones. I’m going to watch my inclinations to turn to sugary food when I’m stressed, agitated or mentally bored and opt for something else.  I’ve got to take care of my body; it’s the only one I have and I need it to stay healthy. I’m not saying I wont eat processed sugar again as that’s completely unrealistic.  I’m saying I’ll introduce the word ‘moderation’ into my vocabulary and faze out the word ‘bingeing’.

Red Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa, Barley and Spinach

Here’s one of my newest favorite vegetarian recipes.  This dish has 19 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber. Best of all there is minimal prep work. This recipe is  EASY, quick to prepare and it’s really tasty.

Red Peppers Stuffed with Quinoa, Barley and Spinach; a Vegetarian Recipe

Adapted from: Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook – 15th edition

1 - 14 oz can of vegetable broth
1/4 c quick-cooking barley
1/4 c uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
1/2 c chopped yellow onion
2 T coconut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1 14.5 oz can of fire roasted tomatoes
5 oz frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
2 c Monterey Jack cheese or Jack blend
4 large red sweet peppers

1. Preheat oven to 400. In a medium saucepan, bring broth to a boil. Add barley and quinoa. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Cook, covered, about 12 to 15 minutes or until tender. Drain, reserving cooking liquid; set aside.

2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic. Cook and stir for about 7 minutes.  Add in 1/4 teaspoon of salt and black pepper, undrained tomatoes and spinach.  Mix well. Stir in quinoa mixture and 1/2 to 3/4 cup of cheese. Remove from heat.

3. Cut washed peppers in half, lengthwise. Remove and discard seeds and membranes. Sprinkle insides lightly with salt. Fill pepper halves with quinoa mixture. Place peppers, filled sides up on a greased 9×13 baking dish. Pour reserved cooking liquid into the greased dish around the peppers.

4. Bake, covered for 35 minutes. Uncover and top with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered for approximately 10 more minutes.


			

Avocado Soup – A Vegetarian Recipe

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Avocado Soup

Adapted from: Unknown

Makes 4 to 6 servings

This recipe is like taking guacamole and adding hot veggie stock. It’s easy, filling and really, really good!

Soup:

4 medium ripe avocados
2 limes, juiced
¾ c sour cream
3 or 4 T onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped (I like romas)
1 small garlic, minced
¼ t cayenne
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 c hot (not boiling) vegetable stock

Topping:

Corn tortilla chips (we like Garden of Eatin’ – Spouted Blues)
1 c grated cheddar cheese

 

Scoop out the avocado flesh and mash it with lime juice (a potato masher is good for the job). Stir in the sour cream, onion, tomato, garlic and cayenne, season with salt and pepper. Mix well.  Add the hot stock and blend. Place into individual serving bowl and add chips and cheese. Serve immediately.

 

Note: You can go through all the trouble of turning on the broiler and warming up the bowl(s), but that’s too much effort for me.  The recipe does state to put the soup under the broiler to melt the cheese but again, too much effort.  Just don’t boil this soup – the sour cream will not like it.

Vegetarian Taco Salad

(adapted from: EatingWell.com)

This is a hands down winner. It has a little kick (it’s pretty gentle), so add more chili powder if you like a big kick. I make guacamole to accompany this, otherwise it stands on its own.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons organic coconut oil, an oil of your choice OR use about 1/4 c of vegetable broth
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels or frozen, thawed
  • 4 large tomatoes (we like romas)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked long-grain brown rice (to save time, buy this in the frozen food section)
  • 1 15-ounce can black, kidney or pinto beans, rinsed (we use black)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/3 cup prepared salsa
  • 2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup shredded pepper Jack cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups coarsely crumbled tortilla chips (we LOVE Sprouted Blues by Garden of Eaten’)
  • Lime wedges for garnish (optional)

Preparation

  1. Heat oil or broth in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and corn; cook, stirring, until the garlic and onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Coarsely chop 1 tomato. Add it to the pan along with rice, beans, chili powder, 1 teaspoon oregano and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato cooks down, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly.
  2. Coarsely chop the remaining 3 tomatoes. Combine with cilantro, salsa and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon oregano in a medium bowl.
  3. Toss lettuce in a large bowl with the bean mixture, half the fresh salsa and 2/3 cup cheese. Serve sprinkled with tortilla chips, salsa and the remaining cheese.

Vegetarian Roll Ups

Trinity found this recipe on some website (he has since forgotten the name). We have adapted, of course.  The only thing labor intensive is draining the chopped veggies but be sure to do this as the mixture gets watery/runny if you don’t.

For those of you who have a food processor, life is but a dream. For those of you who don’t? Get one. Even a ‘baby’ one like we have is better than chopping all the ingredients.

Vegetarian Roll Ups

  • 2 – 8oz pkgs of cream cheese
  • 1 pkt of Ranch salad and seasoning mix
  • 1 large can of black olives – chopped and drained
  • 1 red pepper – chopped and drained
  • 1 green pepper – chopped and drained
  • 6 green onions/scallions with some of the green tops
  • 1 cucumber – peeled (if non-organic), seeded, chopped and drained
  • Tortillas of your choice (burrito or soft taco size)
  • Organic kale

Here’s some additional veggies ideas, if you really want to get jiggy with it:

  • carrots
  • celery
  • chestnuts
  • etc.

Place all of the required chopped, drained ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add cream cheese and ranch packet.  Blend with mixer.

If you’re like me, you’ll have to put the mixture into a clean bowl or you won’t sleep that night.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.  When you’re ready, put some of the mixture on a tortilla (size of your choice) with a spatula. Add some kale and roll it up.

Makes a great appetizer (omit kale) or picnic/camping lunch. YUMMY!!!

 

 

Vegetarian Broccoli Cheese Soup

I have a teensy tiny confession to make. I, um, miscalculated the amount of cheese needed for this recipe and ended up doubling what the recipe calls for. It was really oooey-gooey cheesy good though. Maybe I should ‘miscalculate’ more often. 😉

I’ve adapted this recipe to substitute a modicum of coconut oil for the 1/2 cup of butter the original recipe calls for.  I ONLY use organic milk for reasons I think are best to skip while I’m writing a recipe that is suppose to be appetizing and delish.

Vegetarian Broccoli Cheese Soup

  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1/3 c chopped celery
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1 c flour (I use whole wheat)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper – to taste
  • 6 c organic milk
  • 2 1/2 c (organic) veggie stock
  • 1 lb (organic) chopped broccoli
  • 8 oz (1/2 pound) of diced American cheese (If you’re like me, you can put in 16 oz and act like it was suppose to be that way.)

Saute celery and onion in coconut oil; add salt/pepper.  Whisk flour into stock and whisk into sauteed ingredients.  Add broccoli and bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat and add milk stirring constantly until creamy and broccoli is desired tenderness. Add cheese. Cook/stir until cheese melts. Serve.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Zucchini – A Vegetarian Receipe

This recipe is adapted from Shine.yahoo.com and it’s a healthy, good alternative to the ‘old’ butter and cream original.  I like this better. It’s rich, flavorful and downright YUMMY!

This recipe feeds 4. Well, unless you’re my husband and I and then it feeds two. 😉

FETTUCCINE ALFREDO with Zucchini

  • 1 1/2 c vegetable broth
  • 8 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • 8 oz whole-wheat fettuccine
  • 2 small zucchinis, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 T cornstarch OR flour mixed with 2 T water (or veggie broth) – to taste
  • 4 T sour cream (I use the full-fat version)
  • 1/8 to 1/4 t nutmeg (this adds so much flavor!)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese – divided

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Once water is rolling, add fettuccine, stirring often, for about 8 minutes.  Drop in the zucchini matchsticks and cook until tender, about two minutes.

Combine the broth and the peeled garlic cloves in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Cover.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the garlic is soft and tender – about 15 minutes. Transfer the garlic broth to a blender. Process until smoothe, about 1 minute. (NOTE: I recommend making this broth ahead of time and allowing it to cool. If that’s not an option, USE CAUTION when blending hot liquids!)

Return the garlic broth mixture to the pot and bring to a simmer over med-high heat.  Add cornstarch/flour mixture; whisk until slightly thickened, about 15 seconds. Remove from heat and whisk in sour cream, nutmeg and pepper.  Return the pot to a very low heat to keep warm. DO NOT BOIL.

Drain the pasta and place in a large bowl. (Note: If you put this back in a hot pan, the cheese will stick to the sides and bottom. There will be less for you to enjoy and more clean up work.)  Add the sauce and 1 cup of Parmesan cheese; coat well.  Serve immediately with the additional cheese.