California Dreaming?

More like California Begging-for-Mercy!!

What in the world am I talking about? Ha…. Read on, my friends!!

Anybody that’s ever had the pleasure of living crammed into tight quarters with hundreds of strangers in a college dorm probably has some not so fond memories of the dining hall. Lucky for us down at the U of IL, the gag-inducing, horrible, completely and totally inedible meal only appeared about once a week. And for those days there was always cereal….or the the make your waffle or nachos bar….or the ever popular pizza bagel which involved nothing more than a plain bagel (left out all day since breakfast, of course, for that special day old taste) and trip through the condiment line where it could be loaded with sauce, cheese and veggies and then nuked in the microwave for a minute. Bam. Pizza bagel.

Now, there was one menu item that didn’t make us moan and groan and grumble and reach for those bagels that had been sitting out all day. In fact, it actually made us look forward to heading down for dinner — creamy, cheesy, delicious California Medley soup. Mmmmmm….

California Medley was essentially broccoli cheese soup, except that in addition to broccoli it was also loaded with cauliflower and carrots. So.freakin.good.

So where does the begging for mercy part come in? Well, my dear friends, it turns out that California Medley harbored a deep, dark, dirty little secret. Oooooo. It was a really hard secret to keep too, since at least a few dozen of us shared the same….facilities. For that very reason I know for a fact it wasn’t just me who was inflicted, but California Medley TORE YOU UP. Sorry for the TMI but DAMN! Must be the leathal combination of heavy cream, cheese, and gut busting veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, but about 45 minutes after consuming the deadly delcious concotion you were going to need a potty break. Bad. HA!! California Medley left the entire floor begging for mercy, cursing the dining hall for inflicting such pain on innocent bystanders.

I decided after a semester or so that the deliciousness of California Medley was just not worth the side effects. I had to give it up for good. But I always glanced longingly at the bowls gracing the trays of other brave souls and silently wished I could sneak a taste. I never forgot how good it was.

I decided to see what I could come up with that was reminiscent of the soup’s yumminess without the very unfortunate side effects. I wanted it be something quick that I could throw together after work and hopefully convince Eric to try. He’s not a big soup guy. I decided to stick with the veggie trio of broccoli, cauliflower and carrots, bulk it up with a little whole wheat pasta and toss the entire thing in a cheese sauce that had a lowfat milk base instead of heavy cream. The result — California Medley Pasta Toss! A yummy, meatless meal loaded with cheese and veggies. Of course, it didn’t hold a candle to that delicious UIUC dining hall soup, but it was pretty good. Brought back a lot of good (and bad, I guess) memories. And, I am happy to report, we were completely void of any….emergencies. LOL.

CALIFORNIA MEDLEY PASTA TOSS (Recipe inspiration: the fabulous dorm dining of UIUC and this Rachael Ray recipe from

Sorry about the terrible photo…I was starving by the time it was ready to eat!! I can’t wait for Daylight Savings this weekend! I am willing to sacrifice an hour of sleep for the greater good of my food pics!! Ugh!

  • 1 lb. of whole wheat rotini pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup fresh broccoli florets, chopped
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 cups milk (I used 1%)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 3 cups of shredded sharp yellow cheddar
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


  1. Heat olive oil in a small skillet, add onion and cook about 5 minutes, add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Add pasta to salted boiling water and cook until about three quarters of the way done. Add veggies for the last quarter of cooking time. Drain and return to pot.
  3. While the pasta and veggies cook, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, cayanne and paprika and whisk until well blended. Cook until the mixture bubbles. Add milk and broth, and turn up the heat to bring the mixture to a boil. Cook and stir until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and add cheese, stirring until melted. Add mustard, onion/garlic mixture and parsley, and stir to combine. Sesaon liberally with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over pasta and veggies, toss to combine. Serve!



Filed under pasta, veggies

5 responses to “California Dreaming?

  1. Cate

    It looks great, and I’m stoked it’s devoid of side effects!

  2. LOL, it looks really good! And your story I always enjoy your writing style 🙂

  3. brannyboilsover

    Great post!

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