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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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 Рgreat 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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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 Р 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 ¬Ĺ 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

Shepherds Pie

As I was recovering from being quite ill for a few weeks I started craving shepherds pie – don’t ask me why but it was all I wanted to eat. ¬†Strange but true. Even now as I am pretty much back to normal,¬†I still feel a craving to eat it. Must be a comfort food thing. ¬†Anyway I decided to make a few containers of it so that I could freeze it for when I just had to have it again.

I do put a slight twist on the traditional pie. The secret which makes it very healthy is adding a can of lentils to the ground meat. It adds to the volume¬†and¬†fibre but also the taste. I also added a spice paste called harissa, a middle eastern spice combination that gives a slightly spicy (heat) note to your food. Another addition was¬†about a tablespoon of hoisin for a slight sweet note. Then there is the topping…I added shredded parmesan to the top of the potato before putting in the over to bake.

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Shepherds pie

Ingredients

Olive oil

1 pound ground beef (or ground turkey)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 large onion, chopped

1 cup frozen mixed vegetables

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1.5 tbsp Harissa paste

1 tbsp Hoisin sauce

1/4 cup low fat yogurt

1 can cooked lentils

Potato – white not yukon – 1 per person

Shredded parmasean cheese

 

Directions

Sauté onion in a large pan till browned (tip РI add a pinch of brown sugar to help it caramelize). Add garlic and sauté till cooked but not burnt.

Add ground beef (or turkey), mix and cook till lightly browned. Add frozen mix veg and cooked lentils, harissa and hoisin. Mix well. Cook on stovetop till well browned and veg is no longer frozen.

Peel potatoes and chop into even pieces. Boil or microwave until soft. Transfer to a large bowl or mixer, add yogurt and mix with a mix master or hand held mixer till light and fluffy and mashed.

Add a punch of salt to taste if you like (I don’t add salt as the cheese on top adds enough salt for my liking).

Put meat mixture into a pan, or glass container (I divided it into four double serving glass containers so I could freeze it). Spread the mash potato on top of each container and sprinkle parmasean over top. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes till slightly browned. Serve warm or let cool, cover and freeze.

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.

“Chicks-in-Charge” Lunch

We had a gathering of our “Chicks-in-Charge” group a bit earlier than usual as one of our long standing members was going away for 8 months and we wanted to have a catch up before she left. (This is our group of about 8-10 women who run their own business) As usual our host Sheryl outdid herself with lunch. She wouldn’t let any of us bring anything other than side items.

Sheryl prepared a lunch fit for a group of special people (which I think everyone in the group is). We had roasted red and yellow pepper shells filled with red quinoa, a lovely salad, roasted potatoes and artichoke hearts (couldn’t stop nibbling at these – oh so good). Dessert was some sweet items one of the “chicks” brought.

It was a perfect lunch on a lovely summer day – who could ask for anything more?

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Breakfast Pizza

Okay so it’s really an omelette but in my mind I was putting it together like a pizza so work with me on this…

I chopped up half a zucchini and a large handful of mushrooms and sautéd them in a small frying pan. Then I poured 2 beaten eggs with a drop of vanilla thrown in (adds a neat very subtle flavour). I then aded a few halved grape tomatoes. I cooked this up like an omelette and covered it. (You can also put the pan in the oven and cook it that way but for a small omelette it seemed like overkill in a big oven. Covering it worked fine).

When the top was pretty much cooked I used two spatulas to flip it and put some grated old cheddar cheese on top and slid it onto a plate. Then I added some slice avocado on top.  The heat from the eggs finished melting the cheese which held the avocado in place and within about 7 minutes I had a delicious breakfast. You could make this for dinner too and add different ingredients like sliced meat, onion, mushroom in larger slices etc Рanything that you might put on a pizza could work here. For my meal, I served it with a bit of hot sauce just to kick it up a notch.

This would be fun to make with kids and let them put different toppings on it just like a pizza.  Great way to get kids to eat a good breakfast!

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Reunion Dinner

I had dinner Friday evening with a friend whom I haven’t really seen in several years. Ginny¬†is an amazing chef so when we ran into each other after all those years and she invited me to dinner Friday evening how could I refuse?

Dinner consisted of veal tenderloin (which I¬†have never before seen), grilled sweet potatoes, grilled corn on the cob (soaked in water for 15 minutes with the husks, then thrown on the grill for 15-20 minutes until cooked and the husked are getting blackened), steamed broccoli and a fabulous salad which included beets, onion, massaged kale (yes you read that correctly – you massage the kale until it breaks down the tough fibres and¬†it becomes easily chewable and soft. Wonderful technique – see I knew I¬†would learn something new having dinner with her ;-). The rest of the salad had walnuts, romaine lettuce, chopped apple and the dressing was made with walnut oil. ¬†The second thing I learned at dinner….Walnut oil is fabulous! I must get some as it has such a lovely nutty flavour that enhances the dressing and salad and I am sure anything else you put it on.

Dinner was really nice and a real catch up on a beautiful evening.  Great way to spend Friday night in my books!  Thanks Ginny!

 

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Grilled Chicken with Goat Cheese and Roasted Peppers

I’m having some friends over on Sunday night for dinner and since our weather has been so wonderful I am planning on eating outside and grilling our dinner. I wanted to try making the dish I was planning on serving first to see how it tasted. It turned out well and I think I will have this on Sunday night.

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To make this chicken dish, I just butterflied the chicken breast and put some goat cheese in the middle along with some roasted sliced red peppers. Fold it over and use toothpicks to hold it tougher so the cheese doesn’t all ooze out while you are cooking. ¬†When it’s on the plate just drizzle some balsamic glaze (buy it in a bottle) over top. Simple.

The sweet potatoes I slice in rounds and put them in a ziplock bag with some olive oil and black pepper. Then put them on the grill and BBQ till each side has grill marks and the potatoes are somewhat soft.

 

I made a similar dish Friday for dinner with my friend Richard Рjust easy grilling chicken breasts and sweet potatoes.  Nothing fancy but tasted great. I just marinate the chicken breasts in a bit of olive oil, black pepper and garlic. To add a spark of flavour I add a tiny sprinkling of maple sugar on one side just to help it caramelize a bit. I love the flavour BBQ gives to food (and I love the low mess and clean up too!)

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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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