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The Dinner Bar: Pasta Primavera and Spiced Apples

Vegetables take the show this month on the Dinner Bar with a classic pasta primavera (pasta and vegetables).  If you have been following the Vitamin series, you’ll realize this dish supplies many of the important nutrients your child needs.

We showcase this dish with a crowd-pleasing light alfredo-tomato sauce.  Pour it over the pasta and vegetables, dip the veggies in the sauce, or separate the two and have a traditional pasta with sauce and veggies on the side.

The combinations are many, and up to your children, allowing your child to mix, match, and create their own dinner.

You will need:


  • (See dairy)
  • Chopped walnuts, optional


  • Whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour


  • Marinara sauce, jarred
  • Squash
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • 1 clove garlic, minced


  • ¾ c. grated Parmesan cheese, plus additional for topping
  • 1 c. cold low-fat milk (1%)
  • ½ c. evaporated nonfat milk


  • Olive oil (EVOO)
  • Margarine


  • Gala or Fuji apples, small (plan on about 1 per person)
  • 1/2 c. 100% apple juice
  • Raisins, optional


  • Honey
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper

To Make the Apples:

Remove the core from the center of the apples.  Spray a microwave safe baking dish, just big enough for all the apples, with cooking spray.  Arrange apples upright along the bottom. 

Place ½ tbsp.  margarine inside each apple.  Pour ½ c. apple juice and ¼ c. water in the bottom of the pan.  Drizzle each apple lightly with honey, and sprinkle with ½ tsp. cinnamon and ¼ tsp. nutmeg. 

If desired, add raisins to the liquid in the bottom of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap; pierce with a fork. Microwave for about 4-8 minutes, depending on the number of apples. 

They should be tender when pierced with a knife.  You can also add a small bowl of chopped walnuts to your dinner bar to top off the dessert.

To Make the Pasta Primavera:

Cut the vegetables into 1-2” bite-size pieces.  Place each into separate large plastic baggies, along with 1/2 tbsp. EVOO and salt and pepper, to taste.  Make sure the bag is sealed tightly. 

Shake the bags to coat the veggies; pierce with a fork to allow steam to escape.  Microwave each on high for 3-5 minutes, or until just tender.  Let stand for two minutes. 

Be careful when opening the hot bags, as steam can cause burns.

Prepare the pasta according to package directions.

To Make the Alfredo sauce:  (adapted from Ellie Krieger,

Whisk the flour and low-fat milk in a bowl. Place the garlic and 1 tbsp. EVOO in the skillet and cook over medium-high heat, 30 seconds. Add the flour-milk mixture and bring to a boil, stirring.

Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add the evaporated milk, 1/2 tsp. salt, and the grated parmesan cheese; stir to melt, 1 minute.

Add the jar of marinara to the prepared Alfredo sauce, stir, and heat through.

Place pasta, sauce, and the individual veggies in separate bowls, along with the apples and nuts, on your dinner bar.  And let the dinner begin!

Note: You may use fresh vegetables in microwavable bags from the produce section.  If you don’t have a corer for the apples, simply slice the apples and layer the ingredients in the dish.

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    1. The alfredo-tomato sauce is particularly nice–and the use of non-fat evaporated milk really lowers the calorie and fat load–always a nice factor for the parents!