Spinach Penne Salad w/ White Wine Vinaigrette

I don’t know if you’re aware, but this Spinach Penne Salad with White Wine Vinaigrette is the first ever salad to grace Smart Cookie.

How can that be possible, you ask? After all, Smart Cookie has been around for almost a year. And in all that time, I’ve never posted a salad.

Here’s the thing: I don’t really like salad.

Go ahead and say it; everyone does: “You’re a vegetarian and you don’t like salad?” I know, I’m a walking contradiction, just like in those Starbursts commercials. My rationale is that a) I prefer veggies cooked, not raw and b) I hate dressing. It is the most rancid substance on the planet. Mother Cookie, unlike me, is a salad fiend, and she makes bowls of dressing-drenched greens almost on a daily basis. When I smell that stuff, I run for the hills. It’s stink city.

I can’t hope for you to understand my lack of love for salads. I can only hope we can move past this. Perhaps you’ll feel better when you hear this: I found a salad I like. Okay, I’m still not into the dressing. That is included for your sake, because I realize normal people like dressing on their salads. Mother Cookie can attest to this being one bangin‘ vinaigrette.

So why do I like this salad? For one, it’s got pasta, tender multi-grain penne to be exact. That’s probably my favorite kind of pasta (next to orecchiette). Plus, this salad isn’t bombarded with hard-as-rocks raw veggies like carrots, or the kind of raw veggies that are just plain boring and unpleasant when not cooked, like broccoli. Instead, it has mild spinach, sweet and juicy cherry tomatoes, and tangy olives. Not only are all three of those tolerable when not cooked; they’re plain delicious. That’s raw food I can get behind.

Oh, did I mention there’s cheese? One of my favorites: salty, tangy feta. That really amplifies this salad. Combined with the juice of the fresh tomatoes and the tang of the olives, you get one flavorful and fresh salad before the is even dressing drizzled on.

Best of all, this dynamic and nutritious salad takes mere minutes to put together. That, my friends, is salad done right.

Maybe salad and I have a relationship in the foreseeable future after all?

A Few Tips Before You Get Cooking:

  1. Don’t like penne? Use whatever kind of short pasta you like. However, I recommend sticking to multi-grain and whole wheat pastas. They’ve got much more protein and fiber than white pasta, plus they’re heartier.
  2. You could really use any greens in place of spinach.
  3. Some people don’t like raw tomatoes. If you’re one of those people, drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake at 450 degrees F until they’re juicy and bubbly.
  4. Don’t like Greek olives? Black olives work just fine.
  5. You can use store-bought dressing if you really prefer. Or try plain olive oil + vinegar.

Spinach Penne Salad with White Wine Vinegar
Adapted from Taste of Home



  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper


  • 1 lb. whole wheat penne pasta, cooked according to box directions & drained
  • 1 6-oz. package fresh baby spinach
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 cup crumbed feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup sliced Greek or black olives


  1. In a small bowl, whisk the vinaigrette ingredients. In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, spinach, tomatoes, feta, and olives. Add vinaigrette; toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Personal Spinach-Bean Pesto Pizza

Beans don’t get the credit they deserve. They’re underdogs, often forgotten and underestimated. People think beans are boring, failing to see them as the blank canvases they truly are. But contrary to popular believe, beans are a super food. They’re delicious, nutritious, and incredibly versatile. No matter how you make ’em, beans are delicious.

So what do you do with the little guys? The better question is what don’t you do with them? There are so many delicious beanibilities (bean possibilities) from Ultimate Vegetarian Tacos to Kale & Bean Soup to Cheddar Jack Bean Dip. Beans are also great for veggie burgers, salad toppers, nachos, and more. Did you know you can even use ’em in pesto?

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Spinach-Nut Pesto w/ Roasted Tomatoes & Rotini

Is beautiful food overrated?

Sometimes people argue that it doesn’t matter what the food looks like as long as it tastes good. I must disagree. It is possible for unattractive food to be delicious, but if said food is made attractive, it will always taste better. This is psychologically proven. We like pretty things. Pretty things taste good. Now, of course there are exceptions here as well, but 99% of the time, visual appeal is directly correlated to how food tastes.

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3-Cheese Wagon Wheels with Spinach


Wagon wheel pasta is really great. I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, because up until last night, I hadn’t even fully understood myself. You see, when I make any form of pasta, wheels basically never pop into my mind as an option. I think of penne, fettucine, and orrechiette. Sure, wheels seem fun, but they never quite fall under my pasta-making radar.

About a week ago, while I was grocery shopping, I spotted a box of wagon wheels in the pasta aisle. I could almost see them rolling along in the box as a sudden impulse took over and I thought, “I must do something with wagon wheels.” This realization pestered me like a little voice in my head until, at last, a pastatunity* presented itself. I was dying to make mac and cheese without a recipe for the first time, and I needed the perfect pasta for the job.

Enter the wagon wheels.

I should’ve never doubted these circular little guys. I mean, just look at them; they’re adorable! Simply gazing upon a bowl of these cheesy wheels is enough to put a smile on your face. But if you really want to be spilling over with joy, then you’ve got to eat them too.

I hate saying things like, “This is the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had,” because then you’re just like “yeah, whatever.” Nevertheless, I feel you have a right to know that this is my favorite mac and cheese I’ve tried. I’ve tried countless recipes, and I’ve had some delicious ones no doubt, but I could never quite get it perfect. Turns out, all I had to do was ditch the recipes and cook from my own mind.

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Healthy Cookie: Spinach, Feta, & Tomato Egg Wrap

Have you ever been in a healthy food slump? Sometimes, when you make the effort to eat better, you get into a bad habit of eating the same things over and over again. This is a slippery slope, my little cookies, because you eventually become sick of what you’re eating and revert to bad eating habits. When I start to find myself growing tired of the same ol’ same ol’, I know it’s time to branch out. Rather than seeking out delicious but not so nutritious eats, I start searching for new healthy recipes to incorporate into my meals.

Egg beaters are a big part of my diet, especially as a vegetarian. They’re packed with protein, relatively low-calorie, and so good for you. However, if all I do is scramble them with some salt and pepper, it’s easy to get really sick of them really fast. The key is to mix it up, and that is where this Spinach, Feta, & Tomato Egg Wrap comes in.

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