Stuffed Spaghetti Squash for Dinner with a Friend

Went skiing last week for a couple of days and visited with my friend Victoria (you remember her – she’s the one who I talk with about solving all the world’s problems ūüėČ ). This time we planned out each others complete¬†financial retirement plan. ¬†The good news is neither of us will be eating cat food when we are old! ¬†Yeah!

I was supposed to only be there for 2.5 days but we had a huge snow fall and I didn’t want to drive home till the roads had been cleared so I got to stay an extra day. Was a real bonus day as we got to just hang out and play games, read and talk. Oh yes and the other thing we always do when we get together…..Cook!.

I blogged my friend Zannats spaghetti squash recipe a couple of weeks ago and we thought we would make a version of it for dinner one night. Here’s what we added and how it was prepared (using ingredients already in the fridge) – Healthy, satisfying and tastes great – the trifecta!

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Ingredients:

1 spaghetti squash cut in half

1 chicken sausage removed from casing and crumbled (can leave this out to keep vegetarian)

6-8 mushrooms chopped

¬Ĺ chopped red pepper

1 can of white kidney or navy beans

¬Ĺ tsp Italian spices

Parmesan cheese grated

Mozzarella shredded

1 tomato diced

Directions:

Trim the ends off the squash first, then cut squash in ¬Ĺ and take out the stringy centre. Coat lightly with some olive oil and place cut side down on a tray covered with parchment paper and bake at 350 degrees F for about an hour till slightly browned and fairly soft.

Using a fork, scoop some of the squash out to make room for the mixture (should scoop¬†out like strands – hence the name “spaghetti” squash). Add the strands of squash to¬†the bean and chicken mixture along with some grated or shredded Parmesan. Mix well and pack¬†into the ¬†semi hollowed out¬†halves of¬†squash shell and top with mozzarella. Put back into a 350 degree (F) oven till cheese¬†is melted and lightly browned.

Enjoy!

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Roasted Vegetable Soup – guest post

Roasted vegetable soup – Guest post by Victoria Ryce

Suddenly finding myself with many root vegetables, I decided to roast a few pans of squash, sweet potato, parsnips, and carrots. I had some with my dinner, some in a salad, and some in a sandwich. I’d run out of ideas of what to do with them, so I thought I would make soup.
All I did was chop up an onion and fry it in some olive oil, then add the roasted vegetables. Thinking it was looking a little monochrome, I opened the fridge and found some mushrooms that were at their best by date and a rib of celery.  I chopped these up and added them to the onions. Then added 2 cups of broth.
When I roasted the parsnips I added a dash of olive oil and some salt-and-pepper. When I roasted the carrots I added a bit of garlic. And when I roasted the sweet potato I sprinkled a few leaves of rosemary over them. So I didn’t add any spices to this soup.
I gave some away to two friends and they asked me to please forward the recipe. Yikes! ¬†It’s leftover vegetable soup, I said. So here is my attempt at telling you how the recipe worked. Please feel free to roast any vegetables and add any other spices to make your own version. ¬†I dropped some Twistos asiago crackers on top of my soup. Cindy turned me onto them and now I am hooked.
Also, you could pur√©e the vegetable soup if you want a creamy, blended flavour soup. ¬†Your choice. ¬†It’s winter so time for hearty soups and curling up with a good book or movie. ¬†Roast a bunch of vegetables and you will be fed for days.
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Salmon, peppers and arugula

I had one of those evenings where I knew I was going to make some salmon but didn’t know what to have with it. I looked through the fridge and didn’t see much so I went for a walk to the green grocer up the street and picked up some peppers and arugula. Couldn’t resist them – they looked so fresh and colourful.

I came home and thinly sliced up an orange pepper along with a leek. I sautéed them till wilted and then threw in a handful of baby arugula to wilt it.  I turned the burner off so the heat that was left in the pan wilted the arugula nicely.

I did a quick maple and dijon glaze for the salmon and put it in the toaster oven for about 12 minutes then placed the fish over the peppers, arugula and leeks, sprinkled some toasted sesame seeds on top and dinner was ready in about 20 minutes.  How easy is that!

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I only managed to eat half and shared a small taste¬†with my cat who was quite happy to indulge as well ;-). Now I don’t have to think about lunch tomorrow.

Dinner Club – Korea

The other Saturday it was my turn to host Dinner Club. This is where a group of 8 of us (plus 2 host guests) gather for dinner and it is all about a specific country of choice (the host picks a country). The food is mostly prepared by the host and each guest brings a bottle of something to drink from that area (or surrounding area) and we each give a 2-3 minute presentation on a different topic. These topics range from economics, government, culture, arts and literature, customs etc. ¬†It’s always a fun evening and we all go away learning something about that country.

Last night was my turn to host and I chose Korea as the country for the evening. I must say by the end of the evening I learned a great deal about a country I knew very little about. It was great and kudos to the guests for all their input!

 

Now for the food (which is pretty much what this blog is all about!)

The menu was as follows:

Salad with sesame dressing

Side dishes included РKimchee (spicy pickled cabbage), edamame, pickled carrots and radish and sesame spinach. (Most of these items I bought Рedamame is just steamed and recipe for spinach follows)

Main course – Seared miso salmon on a bed of grilled corn and steamed baby pea sprouts, Korean sizzling beef, jab chae – a sweet potato noodle with spinach and carrots in a soy marinade (a real favourite)

Dessert was fresh fruit – peaches and blueberries, green tea cookies and sesame cookies.

Recipes to follow after the photos.

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Seared Miso Salmon with Corn and pea sprouts (you can use anything as a base veg for this)

 Serves: 4 (I doubled this recipe but had extra left over)

Ingredients:

4¬†skinless, boneless salmon filets (I didn’t double this portion as I was serving small pieces along with the other food)

1 cup white miso

1/4 cup mirin

1/4 cup sake (I didn’t have this so left it out)

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil plus a few extra drops for sautéing sprouts and corn)

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

3 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen (I grilled the cobs on the BBQ and then sliced the kernels off (yes I am Type A ūüėČ )

Toasted sesame seeds to sprinkled over before serving (I also crumbled some roasted nori on top)

 

Directions:

Place salmon in a shallow dish and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together miso, mirin, sake, brown sugar, and sesame oil. Reserve 5 tablespoons of the mixture, cover, and refrigerate. Pour remaining mixture over salmon, cover, and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

In a large nonstick pan, add ¬Ĺ cup of water and a drop or two of sesame oil. Steam¬†pea sprouts till wilted, about 2 minutes. Take sprouts out and pat dry. Add canola oil and a few drops of sesame oil to the pan. Add corn and pea sprouts and saut√© another 4 minutes until flavoured. Toss in scallions and reserved miso sauce. Mix gently to warm through and set aside, keeping warm.

Heat some canola oil in the same pan. Remove salmon from marinade and shake off any excess. Place filets in a single layer in pan and sear until centre is no longer raw. Divide corn and sprout mixture among four plates and top each with a piece of salmon. Garnish with sliced scallions and sesame seeds.

 

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Sesame Spinach

Ingredients:

1 lb. spinach, stemmed and washed (16 cups)

2 Tbs. Asian sesame oil

1 Tbs. soy sauce

Toasted white sesame seeds for garnish

1 tsp. plain rice vinegar

1 tsp. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. minced garlic

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions:

Mix (whisk) all ingredients (except spinach) in a medium bowl.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the spinach in the boiling water, stirring, just until bright green¬†and wilted (this doesn’t take long). Transfer the spinach to a¬†colander. Drain well and squeeze or press out excess water. Using your fingers, loosen the spinach slightly as you transfer it to a medium bowl.

Mix the spinach with the ingredients in the bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to let the flavors meld. Return to cool room temperature before serving. (The spinach is best served on the day it’s made). Photo is a bit blurry Рmy apologies but had to shoot fast as people were going to dig in!

 

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Korean sizzling beef

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

1/4  cup soy sauce

2   tablespoons sugar

2   tablespoons dry white wine

2   large garlic cloves, very finely chopped

1   tablespoon toasted sesame oil

2   teaspoons crushed red pepper

1 -2 1/2 pound beef flank steak, cut across the grain into narrow 1/4-inch-thick slices

2 scallions thinly sliced on an angle

Steamed rice, for serving

 

Directions:

Using a Ziplock bag, add all ingredients without the beef. Mix ingredients in the bag then add the thin slices of beef. Seal bag and marinate overnight turning the bag on occasion to ensure the mixture saturates the beef.

Set the BBQ to med high heat (about 300 F) and grill the beef slices (this sounds tedious but they only take about a minute per side).

Serve beef with some rice on a plate and scatter scallions over top.

Last image is the Jab Chae which I purchased as I really wasn’t sure I could make it.

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Shrimp, Quinoa and Asparagus (Risotto?)

So I thought I would try making quinoa like a risotto. In a deep frying pan adding the liquid a bit at a time like you do with a risotto rather than just pouring in the liquid and letting it cook.  My rational was that I wanted to add asparagus and shrimp to the the mix so that all ingredients would be flavoured and I could control the level of cooking more evenly.

The result worked out well and I had a lovely dinner with lots of leftovers for lunch the next day.

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Here’s how I made it:

 

Ingredients:

‚Öõ-¬ľ cup of lemon juice (depending on how lemony you like it)

1.5 tbsp olive oil

1 onion – diced

1 cup of quinoa (I use an organic white)

2 cups of chicken stock (approximately as I added as needed – you can also use vegetable broth)

1 tsp of lemon pepper

5 shrimp per person (more or less depending on size of shrimp)

1 bunch of fresh asparagus – about 15-20 stalks

 

Directions:

Dice the onion and put in pan with the olive oil. Sauté until cooked (almost translucent but not browned). Add quinoa and mix well to coat. Add the lemon juice and let it mix in. Trim asparagus and then cut into 1-2 inch pieces and keep to the side. Once the lemon juice has mixed in, add chicken stock to cover the quinoa and let it cook on medium heat. Keep adding liquid as it gets absorbed and after about 5-7 minutes test the quinoa to see how close it is to being ready. Add asparagus and mix well. Cook for another few minutes and then add the shrimp. I laid the shrimp on top of the mixture and added a last bit of stock which steamed the shrimp. Flip the shrimp over when they are cooked (you can also just put the shrimp in the mixture and stir it and the shrimp will cook in the quinoa). Once the shrimp is cooked the quinoa should be ready too.  If it still needs some time Рtake out the shrimp to avoid over cooking and making them tough and add a bit more liquid to the quinoa till done.

Plate and serve! ¬†All together¬†this took about ¬Ĺ hour to make. (NOTE: I put some grated parmesan over top when serving to add a bit of saltiness since I don’t add salt when cooking)

 

Oh I almost forgot – leftovers for lunch the next day with my neighbour Zannat – on a bed of arugula with a light apple cider vinaigrette.

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Maple Soy Glazed Salmon Salad

I had made a salmon dish for one of my food clients and had some leftovers. Since I wasn’t that hungry I decided to make a salad and use up the extra cooked salmon. The fish¬†I had made for the dinner had¬†a maple soy glaze that turned out really well.

Simple recipe – mix in a ziploc bag – 1/4¬†cup of maple syrup, 2 tbsp of soy sauce (I use low sodium), 2 garlic cloves crushed or minced and some black pepper. At the last minute I tossed in a ginger cube that was frozen (equivalent to 1 tsp). The cube didn’t melt so I don’t think it contributed to the flavour. Put your salmon in the bag and marinate for about 15-20 minutes. ¬†Then sear it till it begins to caramelize on one side. As you see the flesh turn that light orange colour when it is cooked, flip it over and cook till the other side is also that light orange and darkened on the outer side. Just takes about 15 minutes in total depending on the thickness of your piece of fish.

I happen to really like cold salmon especially in salads to add as a protein. This time I made the salad with romaine lettuce, baby cucumbers, sweet grape tomatoes and some goat cheese.

It worked out very well. I¬†was full but not stuffed. ¬†Try it –¬†I¬†think you will enjoy it. ¬†Use whatever dressing you like on the salad.

The beauty is you can have the salmon for dinner one night and then lunch or dinner the next day with the leftovers but as a completely different flavour.

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Chef Michael Smith – the Lentil Hunter

The other night my friend and fellow blogger Zannat invited me to a food blogging event featuring chef Michael Smith and his travels around the world looking for interesting lentil dishes. ¬†You won’t believe the info I walked away with – aside from the fabulous food and presentation…

Did you know that Canada is the worlds largest producer of lentils?

Did you know that Canada is the worlds largest exporter of lentils?

We export to places like India, Morocco, France, Dubai and Italy!  It turns out we have a perfect microclimate for growing lentils and not just one or two kinds of lentils but apparently lots of varieties, most grown in Saskatchewan. Our Canadian lentils are the gold standard in the world.  Who knew?

The evening was made up of tasting stations from each country Chef Michael visited. The tour and recipes can be found on his Tumblr page –¬†http://chefmichaelsmith.tumblr.com¬†or go to his own webpage –¬†http://chefmichaelsmith.com/lentil-hunter/¬† Make sure to watch the¬†videos of his travels – they are really interesting and the recipes in most cases are not difficult. Check out his new cook book too –¬†“Back to Basics”.

I am now on a lentil craze and will be trying many of these recipes.  Below is a sampling of pictures taken at the event.  Thanks Zannat for inviting me, thanks Crave PR for putting on such a great event!

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Brunch with Elizabeth and David

My friends Elizabeth and Dave are busy people. Trying to organize a get together is not easy, so when someone has a day free we jump on it.  The other Saturday afternoon we gathered for brunch at their place.

Brunch is one of my favourite meals because it is usually laid back, spent with friends and served with delicious food. Does it get any better?

This day was no exception. While Dave may have been worried that the brunch wasn’t over the top enough I am here to say it was outstanding! ¬†Perfect meal to enjoy with friends and just kick back and have a good yak.

Brunch was an avocado dish that I thought was quite brilliant and have to try making. ¬†We had avocado mixed with baby shrimp put back into the avocado shell which it was served in (so smart!). Beautiful tri-coloured tomatoes (one of my favourite things) and a touch of smoked salmon on the side. ¬†It screamed springtime even though it was only 1 degree outside and pretty darn cold (if you can’t get your fill of spring with the weather you may as well get it with your food ūüėČ ).

Take a look at how beautiful this brunch was.  2 hours later we were talked out and we all had other stuff to get done. I left with a big smile on my face and the feeling of warmth and contentment.

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Vietnamese Buns

My cousin Tamara was in town recently and that means we get to indulge in Asian flavours as we both love that style of food. This night we went to our neighbourhood Vietnamese hangout called Pho Huo’ng. The restaurant is on the corner of Pacific Ave and Dundas St. West and is a real local spot in the Junction. The restaurant is always busy but we always manage to get a table as the turn over is quite fast.

When you sit down they hand you menus and an order sheet where you write  down what you want.  The waiter swoops back and picks up your order, brings you a lovely tea and within 5 minutes your order arrives Рfresh and delicious.

This night I had the lemongrass chicken bun and Tamara had the grilled chicken and pork with a spring roll bun.  Oh so good!!! Including tip and tax the meal is between $9-$10.  How can you go wrong?

For those not familiar with what a “Bun” is – it is “everything in a bowl” – fresh steamed rice noodle vermicelli on the bottom with sliced cucumber, sliced lettuce, bean sprouts, pickled carrots along with whatever grilled protein you order. You pour a vinaigrette over top that is a bit sweet and a bit tangy. Then you dig your chopsticks into it and enjoy.

Highly recommend this restaurant!

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Shepherds Pie (with a twist)

So who doesn’t remember growing up having shepherds pie and loving it? Okay perhaps some of you didn’t have it – but I did, and I always loved it. ¬†For the last few years though I have tried to reduce the number of carbohydrates I consume so I switched to sweet potatoes from white potatoes (when I have potatoes which isn’t that often). The “twist” I learned from my friend Zannat (who’s blog I have reposted a number of times – food4happiness). The twist is to add lentils to your ground beef. It adds fibre, protein and increases the amount of the beef mixture so you get much more for very little extra cost. I happen to love lentils so this is perfect for me. I substituted white potatoes for sweet and didn’t use too too much on top so it still remains healthy and low fat.

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Ingredients:

1 lb of lean (I used extra lean) ground beef

1 tin of lentils (cooked)

1 cooking onion – chopped

1-1.5 cups of mixed frozen vegetables (add as much as you like really)

1 pint of mushrooms chopped (about 10-12 large)

1 egg whisked

4-5 sweet potatoes medium sized (add more if you want a thicker topping)

¬ľ cup of low fat yogurt

¬Ĺ cup of grated parmesan cheese

A couple of dashes of ketchup (less than ¬ľ cup)

1 tsp of Harissa spice mix (if you don’t have just add a pinch of cumin and a tiny pinch of cardamon and a pinch of cinnamon – really only a tiny amount of each).

1 tbsp of chopped garlic – about 2-3 cloves

I don’t use salt but if you want you can add a pinch of salt

¬Ĺ tsp of cornstarch mixed with 3 tbsp of water or beef broth (not obligatory – this step just helps thicken the beef mixture and absorb some of the liquid)

3 tsp olive oil

Directions:

Sauté a chopped onion till tender and slightly browned in 1 tsp of olive oil (I sometimes add a tsp of brown sugar to help caramelize the onion a bit). Add 1 more tsp of oil with the garlic, mushrooms and  frozen vegetables once the onions are pretty much done. Sauté all together and add the broth and corn starch. Remove and put in a bowl for the time being.

Add beef and a tin of lentils to the pan along with the spices, ketchup, salt and pepper. Brown the meat with the lentils and then add back in the vegetables, onions and mushrooms and stir together. Add the egg and mix everything up.

While the meat is cooking, peel and cube the potatoes (try to make them even sized pieces so they will cook evenly). Microwave them in water until they are able to be pieced easily by a fork. You can also boil them if you prefer – if boiling then start the potatoes before the meat and vegetables.

Turn off the heat on the meat when all cooked and let sit in pan. Drain potato pieces into a bowl and add yogurt and parmesan cheese and whip using either a hand blender or a stand mixer. Using this type of equipment whips air into the potatoes and makes them a bit lighter. You can also do it by hand it just takes a bit longer and is more work. Once the potatoes are whipped taste and add seasoning as needed.

Put meat mixture into a deep dish and pat it down so it is firm. Then “frost” the top with the potato mixture as you would a cake. Bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees (F) to brown the top a bit and then serve. I made it in several containers as you can see in the picture and froze it so I had lots of meals from the one cooking session.