Stuffed Pasta Shells

I know I know – I’m supposed to be on a hiatus. But I got into a crazy cooking frenzy on Sunday and cooked meals for a week! I tried a new dish for me (got the idea from my friend and neighbour Zannat) called stuffed pasta shells. Very simple dish and total comfort food.

pasta shells

Ingredients

1 lb Ground turkey (can use beef or chicken or tofu)

1 can lentils (because I always add lentils to any ground meat I make)

1 onion chopped

3 cloves of garlic chopped

8-10 mushrooms sliced or chopped

1 cup of Ricotta cheese

1 tbsp dried oregano

2 cups of tomato sauce (I used a marinara)

Grated parmesan cheese to top with

Directions

Sauté onion, mushrooms and garlic first. Then add ground meat and cook till browned. Add in oregano and ½ cup of tomato sauce and the can of lentils.  Sauté all until cooked and then add the ricotta cheese and mix thoroughly.

In a large pot, boil the water for the shells and drop in pasta. Stir occasionally until el dente. Drain pasta when ready.

Using your hands and a fork (I found this the easiest way), stuff each pasta shell with the meat mixture and put in a baking dish. Cover with remaining tomato sauce and sprinkle parmesan cheese over top and bake at 350 degrees F for ½ hour (check to be sure it doesn’t burn – or if it needs more time leave it in for a bit longer – technically everything is already cooked so it is just to crispen the edges of the pasta and heat everything through).

Thats it! pretty simple.  I tend to double the meat portion of the recipe and keep it aside before putting the ricotta in. It is perfect for stuffed squash and or several other dishes or just eating as is with a nice salad.

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 😉 ). 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

½ chopped red pepper

1 can of white kidney or navy beans

½ tsp Italian spices

Parmesan cheese grated

Mozzarella shredded

1 tomato diced

Directions:

Trim the ends off the squash first, then cut squash in ½ 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!

Lunch at Good Fork (Toronto)

I have blogged about this restaurant before for breakfast or brunch I believe but I had a perfect lunch there the other day with my friend Kevin.

I was hungry but didn’t want a really heavy lunch so I opted for what is on the menu as “Anatolian delight” (I think that was it). The lunch included a bowl of delicious red lentil soup – thick and creamy and tasting of wonderful middle eastern spices. The bowl comes with a small container of olives, a small tomato and cucumber salad and another small bowl of the creamiest crumbled feta I have ever had.  I put some of the cheese into the soup and mixed it in. The meal also comes with a wonderful long flat piece of bread (actually it comes with two of these but it really only needs one). I put some of the feta on small pieces of the bread and it was out of this world.

Good Fork soup

It was such a good lunch and all for $12. I think that is a pretty good deal.

Good Fork restaurant is located on Bloor Street West just  east of Jane Street).  http://goodfork.ca

It’s a definite recommend!

 

Cooking with friends

Recently I was visiting my friend Victoria in the Peterborough area and we always get into cooking when I go to spend a couple of days there (We also talk about financial ideas, the economy, the psychology of people – great brain work out). Anyway, we decided to do a combo dinner where I would bring the soup and she would make the salad. I made my homemade vegetable soup with beans sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese- recipe below.

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…and Victoria made a wonderful spinach, pear and caramelized walnut salad.  Perfect dinner. The salad was from the cookbook called “The Pollan Family Table” by none other that Tracey Pollan (remember her – married to Michael J. Fox and starred in Family Ties? – click on link above for recipe).

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Vegetable soup recipe:

Talk about hearty! I used the vegetables that were in the fridge and usually I add some pasta to this soup but thought I would add white beans to give it more protein and fibre.

Ingredients

1 tbsp of olive oil

2 sliced medium sized carrots

2 sliced stalks of celery

2 small onions chopped

1 tetra pak of vegetable broth

1 large can of low sodium diced tomatoes

1 can of navy white beans

1.5 tbsp brown sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

1 handful of chopped kale (I buy a fabulous product called “Chopped Greens” which is a bag of frozen chopped and cooked kale.  I add it to everything and it is wonderful! – use as much as you want)

 

Directions

In a saucepan add the olive oil and the diced onions. Stir till translucent. Add the chopped carrots and celery and sauté for about 3 minutes. Then add the diced tomatoes. Stir well and then add the vegetable stock. Add some salt and pepper to taste.

Stir this and let it simmer for about 15 – 20 minutes. Then add the kale (since it is already cooked it doesn’t need as long). Cook for another 15-20 minutes and then add the canned beans. Sprinkle in the brown sugar (takes some of the acidity out of the tomatoes and adds a slightly sweet note to the soup). Let this simmer all together for another 10-15 minutes and you have a wonderful hearty soup.

I served it with some shaved parmesan on top and it was perfectly filling and warming. Just what you need on these cold cold days.

 

Breakfast the next day was one of my favourites.

I have developed a craving for poached eggs. I always loved them but used to make egg whites for breakfast every morning. Now I make a poached egg on a slice of toast with a bit of cheese as my go to brekkie every day.  The whole egg has all kinds of things that are good for you and if cholesterol is not an issue then I say go for it.  Keeps me feeling satiated until lunch. This time we shared an english muffin (whole wheat) and I used some baldersons 4yr old white cheddar cheese with a couple of slices of avocado. YUM!!!

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Braised Chicken Thighs

One of my food clients requested braised chicken thighs for a dinner. I didn’t remember making this dish before but though “how hard can it be?”

It was super simple in actual fact and the result was a very tasty dish layered with flavours.

braised chicken

 

Ingredients (feel free to add anything you like to this – I used what was in the fridge)

1 tbsp of olive oil

Sliced mushrooms (1 pint container)

Carrot pieces – cut or slice anyway you like – about 20 small pieces

Rice – enough for 4 people

6 chicken thighs – boneless and skinless

¼ cup of sherry

Salt and pepper to taste

A dash of oregano

A dash of basil

2 chopped garlic cloves

1 onion thinly sliced (cut in half and slice each half)

Sprinkling of brown sugar (about 1-2 tbsp)

¼ cup of chicken stock mixed with a tbsp of flour (stir till combined)

Chicken stock – enough to cover chicken in pan – approx. ½ – 1 cup

 

Directions

Season chicken with a bit of salt and pepper. In a frying pan sauté chicken thighs till lightly browned on each side.  No need to over cook as they will be braising for a while.

Take chicken out of pan and add onions. Sauté them till they start to get a bit brown then add mushrooms, garlic and carrots. Add flour and water mixture and then add the sherry. Stir till mixed and then put the chicken back in the pan. Cover chicken with vegetables and liquid then add chicken stock to just cover the chicken. Add the oregano and basil and brown sugar. Cover and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour adding chicken stock if it gets to low. Chicken may start to fall apart but that is even nicer.

Make the rice while the chicken is cooking. You can use either white or brown rice as desired.

Flank Steak

I may have mentioned that I cook for a couple of people once or twice a week (an elderly couple and a hectic younger family). The other night one person requested flank steak. I love this cut of meat – prepared properly it is tender and very flavourful.

I first put on a rub I use for many things (see recipe below) that has a slight smokey but mostly mediterranean style flavour (fabulous on ribs). I rub this onto both sides of the meat and let it sit in the fridge for several hours up to overnight. When getting ready to cook it remember it is important take the meat out at least an hour before cooking so the meat can come to room temperature.  That way the fibres relax and the meat becomes less tough. Last addition is a thin brush of maple syrup over each side before searing. This gives a slightly caramelized outer edge.

I always sear the steak in a cast iron frying pan –  any heavy pan will do though. I sear it until each side is browned and then put it in the oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

Once cooked, take the meat out of the pan and put it on a plate or cutting board and let it sit for at about 10 minutes to again relax and re-absorb the juices.

Always cut against the grain and with this cut of meat you should cut thin slices. It makes a great meal or a really good sandwich.

I like to make a thin gravy using the pan I cooked the steak in and adding any kind of broth – for this recipe either beef or vegetable broth works well. I add about 2/3 to 1 cup (depending on how much I want) of broth. 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon of butter and about ½ cup of sherry or port.  Whisk all of this together and let it reduce by about half (about 10 – 15 minutes).

Pour some of the gravy over the meat when serving and put the rest in a cup for adding as you go. I served this with boiled baby red potatoes.

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Spice Rub ingredients

2 tbsp group cumin

1 tbsp chili powder

1 tbsp dry mustard

1 tbsp coarse salt

1.5 tsp cayenne pepper

1.5 tsp ground cardamom

1.5 tsp ground cinnamon

Quinoa crusted tuna

Forgive my only reblogging the last few weeks.  I caught a virus (flu?) a few weeks ago and am only now getting my full strength back. Haven’t cooked much lately so I am relying on the amazing blogs that are out there with fabulous recipes.

This one is for Quinoa crusted tuna. The recipe sounded great and the pic made me want to make it.  Check it out by clicking on the name of the recipe above or clicking the URL here http://www.azestybite.com/quinoa-crusted-tuna/

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The recipe comes from a blog called a zesty bite which has some really nice recipes in it.

I hope to be back to regular blogging next week.

Cheers

Cindy

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.

Fabulous Tuna Dinner

Well it was dinner with Ted and Judy again last night – my favourite “restaurant” ;-). I can’t get over the cooking that these friends do! So last night we had a starter of mussels which where so good I totally forgot to photograph them as we just dove into the bowls. Trust me they were delicious.

The rest of the meal was no exception. Actually I have to backtrack….I was starving when I got to T&J’s place as I had forgotten to eat lunch. Judy had some smoked salmon which she artfully put on top of a tiny dollop of hungarian cream cheese (made with paprika – yes it was awesome) on a  thin slice of left over roast potato. Topped with a couple of capers it was an appetizer fit for any restaurant.

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Later we had the mussels followed by a tuna dinner that was out of this world! Ted got some sushi grade tuna from a local fish monger and covered it in sesame seeds with a bit of black pepper ground on top.

 

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He seared it for 3 minutes per side in a hot cast iron frying pan. Prior to cooking, Ted made a small dish of sauce to go with the tuna. Mix the ingredients below and add to taste. It really does take on a different taste though once you drizzle it over the cooked tuna.

1 tbsp sesame oil

3-4 tbsp soy sauce

½ – 1 tsp wasabi paste to taste

1 tsp rice wine vinegar

Along with the tuna Judy made her secret mashed potatoes – all I can tell you is there is some butter and her secret weapon is a mix master ;-). They are the smoothest creamiest potatoes ever.

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The salad Judy came up with (so creative) was made with the following ingredients:

Red tipped boston lettuce (beautiful looking)

Cubed field tomatoes (from the farmers market that day)

Cubed bocconcini cheese, 4-5 pieces

1 whole diced/cubed avocado

4-5 sun dried tomatoes chopped with a lime infusion (lime juice squeezed over to moisten)

In a bowl, mix all the ingredients (not the lettuce leaves) and pour the juice of one lime over them and mix/stir. Then put into individual boston lettuce “cups”/leaves

The tuna was timed perfectly for when the salad and potatoes were done. Plated, it looked fit for royalty. What an outstanding meal! I of course got to take home the leftovers. Thanks again to my favourite restaurant!

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Vancouver Island Holiday


I just spent a week out on Vancouver Island with my cousin Rebecca – what a fabulous week! Aside from the most perfect weather, she has just purchased the most perfect house. It’s a heritage home that was “floated” over from Victoria a few years back.

Rebecca is planning on having a B&B at the house and I can’t think of a better place to be. The house has so much character and Vancouver Island is so beautiful. This was a sort of working holiday as I was helping to get things done around the house.  My cousin has some beautiful art that needed hanging so we put up at least a dozen pictures, a beautiful carving of loons and a gorgeous hand made wall hanging.  I also built a headboard from an old door that was left outside (solid oak – they don’t make doors like that anymore).

Now for the food….

Salmon, seafood and more salmon.  It doesn’t get any better than heading down to the fishing boat and buying some salmon for dinner. We had salmon in scrambled eggs for breakfast, in omelettes, seared salmon and BBQ’d salmon. Oysters that were half the size of my palm were $9 for 14!!! And oh so fresh.

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Farm fresh eggs and salmon and grilled potatoes for breakfast

One night we had maple salmon with boiled potatoes and sea asparagus. Some of you may remember I talked about sea asparagus in an older post – I had never heard of them and here they were growing wild at the waters edge right in front of her home!  We picked them and soaked them and I sautéed them with some garlic to put over the salmon.  Yummy meal. We had some fresh tomatoes that a neighbour brought over that day from their garden.  We decided this was a 10 mile meal (as opposed to a 100 mile version)

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Sea asparagus growing wild

 

 

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Soaking in water as they are very salty

 

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Wild Pacific Salmon

 

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Yum!

My cousin Rebecca is a champion pie maker and since blackberries grow wild everywhere around the island where she lives she made a blueberry and blackberry pie that was outstanding.  We had it my last night at a dinner party given by Kim and Tom with Mary Jo and Veer. What a great night – drinking blackberry wine and eating fresh BBQ’d salmon with oysters. What a great week with great people!

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Before going into the oven

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Baked – what an incredible smell!

 

See below for pics of the house and the neat headboard (yes I am proud of it) 😉

Rebecca's house

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