Category Archives: Meat, Poultry

Meat, Poultry

Fresh Herb & Dijon Marinated Pork Loin

 

BBQ pork loin with white bean puree and cherry apple compote

BBQ pork loin with white bean puree and cherry apple compote

I absolutely LOVE fresh herbs with pork (with ANYTHING for that matter…).  Particularly thyme, rosemary and/or sage.  I have a ziplock bag in the freezer filled with these herbs.  I pick whatever herbs are left in my garden at the end of the season and freeze them to use in soups, stocks, marinades and sauces all winter long.

The below marinade is absolutely delicious, quick to make and very simple.  If you don’t have some of the fresh herbs available, just use more of something else or substitute with the dried version.  (Just use less if you’re using dried herbs).

I served the pork with a cherry apple compote and a white bean and leek puree.  The puree serves as an AMAZING, interesting and healthy alternative to mashed potatoes and the fruit compote really compliments the pork perfectly (:

NOTE: The following measurements for the marinade are estimates only.  If you use a little extra or a little less of anything it really won’t matter.  If you have some left over just freeze it to use in your next marinade or just refrigerate if you’ll be using it within 2 weeks…  I suggest marinating the meat for at least 4 hours and up to 24 hours, or even longer.  The longer it marinates the better the flavour!

INGREDIENTS – pork marinade (enough for 1 – 2 pork loins)

  • 1 pork loin
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp garlic
  • 1 Tbsp fresh sage
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp shallot and/or onion
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp worchesterchire sauce

METHOD

pork loin, marinade and herbs

  • Puree all ingredients together and slather generously all over the pork (this would be a great marinade for chicken as well!).  Marinate meat for 4 – 24 hours.

pork marinating

COOKING DIRECTIONS FOR THE PORK:

  • Right before grilling, season very generously with salt on all sides of the pork loin.
  • Preheat BBQ grill to 500 degrees.
  • Cook pork for approximately 4 minutes per side for a total of 16 minutes.
  • Remove from BBQ and cover tightly with foil.
  • Allow to rest for 5 – 7 minutes before serving to ensure juices stay in the meat (slicing it right away will dry it out).

porkloin bbq done

Suggestion:  Serve with white bean and shallot puree and cherry apple compote!

pork with bean puree and cherry apple compote

 

 

 

 

Chicken Tikki Marsala with Cucumber Raita

chicken tikki with cucumber

I got this recipe from a magazine and tweaked some of the ingredients and measurements to create something I feel has a little more flavour and a lot of added nutrition.  As I’ve mentioned in other posts, tomato based sauces are a perfect place to add loads of vegetables because the rich tomato flavour overwhelms the taste of just about anything else you add – in a good way.  This is especially helpful if you have picky eaters/kids who aren’t fans of lots of vegetables.  You can ‘shred’ veggies and hide them in this dish (:

In this recipe I added 1/2 cup of shredded zucchini and 1/4 cup shredded carrot to the tomato sauce.  It literally ‘disappears’ into the sauce.  I would have added cauliflower florets as well but cauliflower is at a ridiculous price right now ($6.99 for a teeny tiny head?!).  Bell peppers or even corn would be nice additions as well.

I served this dish on a bed of jasmine rice with a side of warmed naan bread.  Any kind of rice would be great with this dish and pita bread would work just as well as naan.  I just LOVE the chewy, dense texture of naan bread so I used that.

INGREDIENTS (serves 6 – 8)

  • 1 can (796ml) diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced/diced white onion
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • OPTION:  1/4 cup shredded carrot and/or 1/2 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp garlic – minced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground marsala (marsala is a blend of cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, mace and cloves.  You can find the ready-made mix in any grocery store)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • pinch cayenne pepper (more if you want more heat)
  • 1/4 cup 35% whipping cream (use half n’ half to reduce fat and calories)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • GARNISH:  Fresh cilantro and the cucumber raita (recipe below)
  • 4 – 6 chicken breasts (depending on size) cut into large 1 inch chunks

Cucumber Raita

  • 1 cup grater cucumber (I use a cheese grater)
  • 1 cup yogurt (you can use Balkan-style but I use fat-free Greek yogurt to save calories and fat)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/8 tsp garlic – minced
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp green onion
  • Salt and pepper to taste

chicken tikki marsala

METHOD

Cucumber raita:  

  • shred cucumber and put in strainer/colander with salt to draw out moisture.
  • Let sit for 5 – 10 minutes.
  • Squeeze out any excess liquid and mix with all the other ingredients.
  • Adjust seasoning and lemon juice as desired.
  • Put aside.  NOTE:  This can be made up to one day ahead.

Chicken Tikki Marsala:

  • In a large pot heat oil on medium heat and add onion, ginger, garlic and carrot – if using.  Sauté until onion is soft and garlic and ginger are fragrant (around 4 minutes).  Stir often as you do not want any much/any colour on the onion and be careful not to let the garlic burn!
  • Add brown sugar, cumin, salt, marsala, paprika, turmeric and cayenne pepper and stir for around one minute more until all is combined.
  • Add tomato paste and stir for one minute or so.
  • Add canned tomato.  Turn heat down to low and let the tomato sauce simmer and reduce/thicken for around 1 to 1.5 hours.
  • Rice:  depending on what kind of rice you’re cooking, get it on the stove at the right time to ensure it’s ready when the chicken is.  (As I used jasmine rice which takes around 15 minutes in total, I put the rice on when I added the chicken to the pot).
  • Add chicken and zucchini/cauliflower or whatever other vegetables you want to use.
  • Simmer on low heat until chicken is cooked through.  Around 15 minutes.
  • Turn off heat.
  • Stir in cream and lemon juice.

Serve over a bed of rice topped with cucumber raita, fresh cilantro and a side of naan or pita bread!  I also highly recommend enjoying this slightly spicy dish with a nice glass of wine.

Oven Roasted Vegetables with Herbs and Parmesan (served vegetarian or with your favourite meat)

roasted vegetables and sausage plated

roasted vegetables and sausage plated

I have some delicious Italian sausages in the fridge and small amounts of a bunch of vegetables and stuff that need using up ASAP (a few mushrooms and a tomato starting to shrivel, one carrot, a bit of cauliflower that’s getting little brown spots, a few sprigs of parsley and a 1/2 a lemon).  I love finding ways to use the last bits of lots of things in the fridge at once before my next big grocery shopping.  That way I make room for the new stuff and ensure nothing goes rotten before I get a chance to use it.  Last night I decided to roast it all up with the sausage for a terrific, super quick and simple ‘one tray’ meal!

I used cumin and zaatar in this dish because I love the flavour and it adds depth and a little ‘warmth’ to the vegetables.  The raw tomatoes, lemon and herbs add a wonderful freshness that I find really rounds out the vegetables and makes the flavours ‘pop’.  The addition of the cheese needs no explanation.  It’s cheese.

The measurements below are guidelines only.  Feel free to use more or less of something and add whatever you want.  I only used 2 sausages because that’s what I had, but there’s enough vegetables in the below recipe to serve 4 people.  Just add 2 more sausages and cook them at the same time as the vegetables on another tray, if you want to feed 4 people.

I served this dish by itself, but rice or polenta would be a nice addition.  I used green olives and parmesan this time but I’ve also made this dish with kalamata olives and feta (and some fresh basil) and it was awesome that way too.

NOTE:  The key to cooking this dish properly is to make sure you don’t cut any of the vegetables too small.  If you do, they’ll over cook and become mushy.  You want a nice roasted colour on them while still having just a slight ‘bite’.  This is why I roast the vegetables on a higher heat for a short amount of time.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups cauliflower – cut into large florets
  • 2 tsp garlic – chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley – chopped  and/or 1/2 cup fresh basil – chopped
  • 1/4 cup green olives – halved OR 1/4 cup kalamata olives halved  NOTE:  If you don’t like olives, just omit them!
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese – grated (good quality) OR 1/2 cup feta – crumbled
  • 1 small onion – chopped into large pieces
  • 2 cup button mushrooms – halved (about 6)
  • 1 bunch green onion – WHITE part only, sliced on a bias (angle)
  • 1 large carrot (1 cup) cut on a bias about a quarter inch thick
  • 1 cup tomato – cut into large pieces (use whatever tomato you have/like.  I used vine tomatoes)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp lemon juice + 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp salt – or more
  • 1/4 tsp fresh pepper
  • OPTION: 1/2 tsp Lebanese zaatar (a Middle Eastern spice blend of sumac, thyme, sesame seed and other spices).  You can add other spice instead.  Curry powder or fennel seed would give this dish a nice flavour as well!
  • OPTION:  Italian sausage or any kind of sausage you like!  If there’s room, cook them on the same tray as the vegetables.  If not, cook at the same time as vegetables on a separate sheet tray.

METHOD

  • Cut up all the vegetables and herbs.  Grate the cheese.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Right on the sheet tray, toss the olives and all vegetables, except for tomatoes, in olive oil, garlic, cumin, za’atar, salt and pepper and spread out evenly.  (You DON’T want vegetables overlapping or they won’t roast properly).
  • Add sausage to the tray, if using (and IF there’s room).  If using more than 2 sausages, use a separate tray so you don’t overcrowd the vegetables.
sausage and vegetables ready for the oven

sausage and vegetables ready for the oven

  • Cook for 8 minutes.
  • Flip sausage, if using, and cook for 5 – 7 minutes more or until sausage is cooked through and vegetables are cooked to desired tenderness.
  • NOTE:  If you find the vegetables didn’t get enough colour, remove sausage from tray and place vegetables under BROILER for 1 – 3 minutes more until they start to brown in spots.
roasted vegetables out of oven

roasted vegetables out of oven

  • Remove from oven and set sausages aside to rest for 3 – 4 minutes.
Italian sausage on plate. Rest for 3 - 4 minutes before slicing!

Italian sausage on plate. Rest for 3 – 4 minutes before slicing!

  • Meanwhile, transfer vegetables to a large mixing bowl/serving dish and toss with tomatoes, herbs, cheese and lemon juice.  Adjust seasoning as desired.
roasted vegetables in bowl with parsley, cheese and lemon

roasted vegetables in bowl with parsley, cheese and lemon

Serve with sliced sausage.

roasted vegetables and sausage plated

 

 

 

 

Hearty and Delicious Chilly Weather Chili

chili in bowl with spoon

Chili is something I learned to make from my mother.  It was a dish served often in our house due to the fact that it was incredibly easy to make and inexpensive – and my mom could ‘sneak’ in all kinds of vegetables without us kids freaking out (everything tastes great in this sauce!).  My version has even more vegetables added.  It’s filling, very nutritious and comforting on those dark, cold nights.

My mother was a bit of a push-over when it came to food.  She tried very hard (too hard, in my opinion) to please all 4 of us kids when it came to meal times.  I clearly remember her having at least 4 different pots of chili on the stove whenever she would make it.  There was the ‘regular beef chili’ for my father and herself.  Then there was the one without any spice for my brother who would even complain about the heat from black pepper.  There was one with no beans for my picky sister and one with no beef for my other sister who went vegetarian for a year or two.  It was ridiculous.  I remember arguments she and my father would have.  He would say ‘they should all eat whatever is put in front of them’ and my mom would reply, ‘I’d rather make a bunch of different kinds than force-feed all 4 of them and listen to them whine the entire time’. And so, we all got our chili our own favourite way whenever she made it.  (Thank you mom!  I loved your chili.  Sorry we were all such a pain in the ass!).  Haha.

Although at the time I loved being catered based on my food preferences, I tend to side more with my father on this issue.  I believe I and my kids are extremely lucky to be able to eat the food we do.  We want for nothing.  We have access to the some of the best and most nutritious food in the entire world.  My kids have never known real hunger and either have I.  So when I make a meal, I expect them to eat it regardless of whether they like it or not.  I want them to be grateful to have food at all.  Any food.  This is an uphill battle with children, but a battle I will continue to fight.  Appreciation and gratitude and very important to me.

Having said that, everyone has things they like and dislike more than others.  Especially kids.  That’s why this chili is so great.  It can literally be tweaked dozens of ways to suite the tastes of whoever is making it/eating it.  The below recipe is meant to be a guideline only!  If there’s something you really like and want to add, go ahead!  If there’s something you’re not fond of (or more likely, your kid(s) won’t eat), leave it out!

You could leave the beans out or substitute them with chickpeas, lentils or black beans.  You could even throw quinoa in there!  You can use ground beef or ground turkey or even leave the meat out altogether for a wonderful and healthy vegetarian version!  If you want a saucier chili don’t add as many vegetables as I have in the below recipe.  If you want more heat, just add more chili powder or even some jalapeno.  This chili is delicious when garnished with parmesan cheese, cheddar cheese, green onion, cilantro or any combination of these ingredients!

The below recipe is my favourite way to make it.  The kids weren’t huge fans of the kidney beans.  They don’t like beans in general so I expected this and thought about leaving them out but decided against it because I’m desperately hoping eventually they’ll come around and start to enjoy them more.  This will never happen if I don’t keep introducing them in different ways…  They ate them without much complaining.  It was the first time I’ve ever managed to get them to eat beans without force-feeding them though so I’ll consider this a small victory and a step in the right direction!

chili in bowl

INGREDIENTS (serves 4 to 6)  

Measurements are estimates only.  They do NOT need to be exact

  • 1 tsp olive oil (1 Tbsp if leaving the meat out)
  • 2 cups extra lean ground beef (or ground turkey or leave meat out for a vegetarian chili!)
  • 1.5 cups mixed bell peppers – diced (red, yellow, orange)
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper – diced
  • 1/2  cup carrot – diced
  • 1/2 cup celery – diced
  • 1/2 cup white onion – diced
  • 1/2 cup corn (frozen is fine)
  • 1 cup button mushrooms – diced or sliced
  • 1/2 cup zucchini – diced
  • 1 large can diced tomato (796ml can)
  • 1 can white or red kidney beans – rinsed  (540ml can)
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder (use 2 Tbsp for more spice)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 heaping Tbsp garlic – minced
  • 1 tsp za’atar (optional)
  • 1 heaping tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • GARNISH:  sliced green onion and parmesan or shredded cheddar cheese and a dollop of fat-free greek yogurt or sour cream

METHOD

  • In a large pot, add oil and heat on high until hot.
  • Add beef or turkey (if using), carrot, celery, onion, mushrooms, garlic, all the spices and salt.
raw meat, veggies and spices in pot

raw meat, veggies and spices in pot

  • Sauté on high heat breaking up meat into small pieces.    NOTE:  The fat from the meat will prevent the vegetables and garlic from burning.  If not using beef (or any meat at all) reduce the heat to medium to ensure the veggies and garlic don’t burn).
  • Cook for around 5 minutes, stirring often until spices are fragrant and meat is browned.
  • Add beans, canned tomato and the rest of the diced vegetables and bring to a boil.
adding tomato, beans and rest of veg

adding tomato, beans and rest of veg

  • Reduce heat to low and simmer for around 25 minutes.
  • Scoop into bowls and garnish with your favourite cheese and, if desired, a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream and green onion.

Suggestion:  Serve with warmed baguette or crusty bread for dipping into sauce a nice glass of red wine!

 

Moroccan Chicken with Carrots and Olives

Moroccan chicken with carrots and olives

Moroccan chicken with carrots and olives

One of my favourite things to do is sit with a cup of tea (or a glass of wine) and read different recipes in cookbooks and/or magazines.  Whenever I need a little inspiration I pick up a magazine or one of my cookbooks and just rifle though.  The other day I was reading the complimentary TASTE magazine I picked up from the liquor store and a recipe for Moroccan lamb caught my eye – particularly the spice mix.  The best part was I actually had ALL the spices listed.

I had some chicken thighs in the freezer and didn’t want to splurge on lamb so I used the rub on chicken instead.  I tweaked the measurements of the spices slightly.  I only used half the amount of cayenne pepper their recipe called for because my kids are still too young to endure too much heat.  The spice mix still had a fair amount of heat to it with the measurements I used, but if you like things really spicy, just double the amount of cayenne pepper.  I also added garlic because I love garlic with everything.

I LOVE this spice mix.  It’s delicious.  I’m already excited to try it in quinoa and rice dishes and even on roasted vegetables.  It’s warm and complex tasting and the smell in the kitchen when I was cooking the chicken was AH-MAZING! Perfect for the cooler fall temperatures.

NOTE: If you have a spice grinder you can use the whole seeds and grind everything up together.  I don’t have one (it’s on my xmas wish list) so I just used the powdered versions I had in the house.  I made this mix in a large batch so I have it on had to use whenever I want!  

**If you need to go out and buy some/all of these spices BUY THEM FROM THE BULK BINS.  IT WILL CUT YOUR COSTS BY AT LEAST HALF!  Super Store or Bulk Barn are great places to get spices in bulk.  (I go to the dollar store to buy all my storage containers/spice jars.  They’re around $1 each)**

INGREDIENTS – Moroccan Spice Mix

  • 4 Tbsp cumin (powder or seeds)
  • 3 Tbsp black peppercorns (or ground)
  • 2 Tbsp allspice (ground or whole)
  • 2 Tbsp coriander (powder or seeds)
  • 1 Tbsp cloves (ground or whole)
  • 2 Tbsp cinnamon (or 2 sticks)
  • 1 Tbsp cayenne pepper (2 Tbsp if you like a spicier mix)
  • 2 Tbsp ground ginger powder
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder (optional)

METHOD

  • Grind/mix together and store in an air-tight container in a cool place.

NOTE:  If you’re using whole seeds you can lightly toast them all in a pan for a few minutes before grinding to intensify the flavours.  Just ensure you’re stirring often and watch them constantly to ensure you don’t burn them

 

INGREDIENTS – for dinner (serves 4)

  • 8 – 10 chicken boneless, skinless chicken thighs (you can use chicken breasts too.  Just adjust the cooking time accordingly)
  • 2 – 3 cup carrots, sliced on a thin bias (ensure they’re not thick or they won’t cook through on time)
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp Moroccan spice mix (enough to generously coat the chicken on both sides)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp brown sugar (for the carrots)
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomato (optional)
  • 1/4 green olives – sliced in half (or whatever olives you want to use!)
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley – to finish

METHOD

  • Coat chicken in Moroccan spice and marinate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
  • Right before cooking, slice carrots and olives, chop tomatoes and toss all with chicken.  Season chicken, tomato and carrots with  salt.  Sprinkle brown sugar onto carrots.
  • Spread all into a baking dish and bake, uncovered, in a preheated 425 degree oven for 20 minutes.

The below picture has sausage.  I had 2 sausages in the fridge and decided to throw them in the dish because I had room!  You certainly do not need sausage in this recipe!

chicken and carrots going into oven

chicken and carrots going into oven

  • Remove chicken from baking dish.  Put in bowl and cover with foil to keep warm.
  • Turn oven up to 500 degrees and cook carrots for 8 minutes more or until they reach your desired consistency.
roasted carrots, olives and tomato

roasted carrots, olives and tomato

  • Plate chicken with carrots/olives and sprinkle with fresh parsley.

Serving Suggestion:  I served the chicken and carrots with a quick and easy creamy green onion polenta.  It was DELICIOUS.  You can make the polenta while the chicken is baking.

 

 

Healthy Chinese Style Chow Mein (loaded with vegetables!)

chow mein

chow mein

I really like Chinese food but I almost never eat it.  The kind you order from a restaurant is loaded with fat, MSG and sodium.  It also costs a lot to order Chinese food and you always get so much that you end up eating about four times the amount you should – or at least I do!

I’ve been trying for some time now to come up with a chow mein recipe that would satisfy my craving for Chinese Food but still allow me to eat it without having to work out for 3 hours after just to burn it off (which I would never do anyway).

After a lot of experimentation (sorry kids!) I have come up with a recipe that I’m very happy with.  It has all the flavours I’m looking for.  A little acidity from the rice vinegar, a little sweetness from the hoisin sauce, a fresh tangy taste from the ginger and orange zest and a wonderful richness from the oyster sauce.

I’m not going to lie to you.  The recipe below isn’t the same as you would get from a Chinese restaurant.  (That’s because it’s WAY healthier and loaded with vegetables).  But it’s damn good and won’t leave you with an empty wallet and a sore stomach!

This is definitely a recipe that will be in regular rotation around here from now on.  It feels like ‘fast food’ without the guilt (:

NOTE:  All ingredients mentioned below can be found in the Asian Food aisle of your local grocery store

mis en place chow mein

mis en place chow mein

mis en place chow mein

mis en place chow mein

INGREDIENTS (serves 2 LARGE portions or 3 to 4 smaller ones)

  • chow mein noodles (I used 2 ‘bricks’.  It worked out to 2 cups COOKED noodles)

Sauce:  (If stored in the fridge, this sauce can be made up to 4 days ahead.  Up to one month if you omit the chicken broth or use a powdered chicken broth base!)

  • 2 Tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (use 2 tsp if you really like the flavour of sesame oil!)
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce (reduced sodium soy sauce is fine)
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth/stock (just use water if you don’t have any stock)

Vegetables:  (if you don’t like some of these vegetables, or want to switch it up, cabbage, snap peas, and bean sprouts are other great options!)

  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 heaping tsp fresh ginger – minced
  • 2 tsp garlic – minced
  • 1 cup button or shiitake mushrooms – sliced or quartered
  • 2 cup broccoli – small florets
  • 1/2 cup carrot – julienned (thin slice like match sticks)
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper – julienned (thin slice like match sticks)
  • 1/3 cup green onion – chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste (the sauce is very salty so you might not want to use any at all)
  • FLAVOUR OPTION:  1/4 tsp orange zest or 1/4 tsp lime zest
  • SPICY OPTION:  1/4 tsp Asian chili sauce or other hot sauce
  • MEAT OR SEAFOOD OPTION:  1 cup shredded/diced chicken or shrimp/prawns
  • GARNISH OPTION:  1/3 cup cilantro
  • GARNISH OPTION:  1/3 cup peanuts

METHOD

  • Using a food processor/blender, or just a whisk, blend together all the ingredients listed above under sauce.
  • Put on a pot of salted water and bring to boil.
  • heat oil on high heat using a large pan with sides – or a wok.
  • Add carrots and mushrooms and a dash of salt to pan/wok and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes until there’s a bit of colour on the veg.  The carrots should still have some crunch to them.
  • Add noodles to water and cook according to package directions.  (NOTE:  always test the noodles to ensure they’re done.  My package said to cook noodles for 1 minute but it actually took 6!!).
  • While noodles are cooking, add garlic, ginger broccoli and peppers to pan.  Saute for one minute until garlic and ginger become fragrant.  DO NOT BURN.  TOSS CONTINUOUSLY.
  • Add sauce and noodles to pan (also and cooked chicken or shrimp now, if using).  Mix all together, reduce heat to medium and cook for a few minutes more until sauce is reduced and slightly thickened and broccoli is cooked to desired consistency.  NOTE:  Ensure you don’t cook too long or broccoli will be mushy and overcooked and the dish won’t be saucy enough.
chow mein in pan

chow mein in pan

  • Toss chow mein with orange zest and green onions.
  • Divide into dishes and serve immediately (top with cilantro and/or peanuts if desired).

chow mein plated

vegetable chow mein plated

 

 

Italian Style Spaghetti Squash with Chicken Parmesan

chicken parmesan and spaghetti squash plated

chicken parmesan and spaghetti squash plated

I’ve been trying to find a way to make spaghetti squash that I really like for a while now.  I’ve made several versions and the “Italian Style” is by far my favourite.  This squash dish would be great on it’s own, but I have 2 boys and a husband who eats like it’s his last meal, every meal, so I needed meat with this dish to make it filling enough for dinner.  Enter the chicken parmesan.  The flavours of this chicken dish compliment the spaghetti squash perfectly.  The kids have never liked spaghetti squash.  They both ate a large amount this time – without whining.  Even I was surprised!  This recipe is delicious AND healthy!

INGREDIENTS – Italian Style spaghetti squash (serves 4)

  • 1 small/medium spaghetti squash (should yield about 2.5 cups of cooked squash)
  • 1/3 cup black olives – sliced (you could use kalamata olives here but I prefer black for this dish)
  • 1 tsp garlic – minced
  • 2 Tbsp shallot – small dice
  • 1/4 onion – small dice
  • 1/2 cup red pepper – sliced thin
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup tomato – diced (any kind of tomato you like would work here!)
  • 1/4 cup green onion – diced
  • 1/2 cup basil – chopped
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

INGREDIENTS – chicken Parmesan

  • 8 – 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (you could also use chicken breast here)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (jarred is fine but homemade is preferable)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese
  • OPTION:  1/8 cup shredded mozzarella (use a little less parmesan if you’re adding mozza)
  • 1/8 cup panko breadcrumbs (or whatever breadcrumbs you like)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper – to season the chicken

METHOD

  • Using a large, sharp knife, cut into the centre of the squash LENGTHWISE.  Cut downwards and right through the squash so you have 2 equal halves.  This is not easy.  It’s really a hard vegetable.  Be careful.
cutting spaghetti squash

cutting spaghetti squash

  • Season with salt and pepper and a little olive oil (and I shoved a garlic clove into each side)
squash seasoned on sheet tray. Flip over before putting in oven!

squash seasoned on sheet tray. Flip over before putting in oven!

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place squash on sheet tray, skin side UP.  Flesh and seeds DOWN.  Cook for 50 – 60 minutes or until you can press your thumb gently into the skin of the squash and it should feel a bit soft.  (You do NOT want to over cook the squash until it’s very mushy.  the skin should still feel quite firm to the touch).
  • Remove squash from oven and let cool until you can handle it.  About 15 minutes.
squash out of oven

squash out of oven

  • Using a spoon, scrape the seeds out of the squash and discard.
squash with seeds scooped out

squash with seeds scooped out

  • Now scrape the flesh into a bowl using a fork.  (I use a dish towel on my hand and then cradle the squash in it and scrape the insides into a bowl).
squash in bowl

squash in bowl

  • Heat oil in pan.  Season chicken generously with salt and pepper and place in hot pan.  You should hear a sizzling sound when the chicken goes in.
uncooked, seasoned chicken thighs

uncooked, seasoned chicken thighs

  • Cook on medium high heat for about 4 – 5 minutes ensuring that there is a nice browning on the chicken.
adding onion, garlic and shallot

adding onion, garlic and shallot

  • Add add onion, shallot and garlic and flip the chicken.  Cook for 4 – 5 minutes more.  Add red pepper and continue to cook the chicken until just cooked through.  Another few minutes.
adding red pepper

adding red pepper

  • Remove chicken from pan and transfer to another oven safe pan or baking tray.  Turn pan down to low heat and add olives, diced tomato, green onion, squash and butter.  Combine and cook just until all the ingredients are warm.
adding olives and green onion

adding olives and green onion

adding squash and butter

adding squash and butter

  • Put oven on Broil.  Spread tomato sauce and panko/parmesan/mozza cheese over the chicken.  Place in oven for 2 – 3 minutes or until tomato sauce is warm and cheese is melting and beginning to brown.  BE CAREFUL NOT TO BURN THE PANKO.   Remove chicken from oven.
chicken parmesan out of oven

chicken parmesan out of oven

  • Toss squash with basil, parmesan, salt and pepper and add a little more butter if desired.
squash mixed with cheese and herb and butter

squash mixed with cheese and herb and butter

Serve Italian Style squash with chicken parmesan!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheesy Ground Beef & Vegetable Casserole (the veggies are ‘hidden’!)

cheesy ground beef and vegetable casserole

cheesy ground beef and vegetable casserole

I love this recipe.  It’s something kids and adults will both love to eat.  It’s perfect comfort food on a rainy day – with a healthy twist!

One of my favourite food memories from my childhood is going to my grandmother’s house and eating a cheesy, creamy, rich, oh-so-comforting ground beef casserole.  It was simple and amazing just the way it was, but unfortunately, it was definitely lacking in nutrition.

Well, I have found a way to make this dish MUCH healthier (completely guilt free!) WITHOUT sacrificing the flavour or texture of the original.  I used extra lean ground beef. I’ve also added three, yes THREE, cups of vegetables and cottage cheese to add tones of nutrients and protein.  Lastly, I used whole wheat macaroni.

My kids aren’t huge fans of vegetables in their food.  They’ll eat them on their own, but if I try to put anything into a dish, they call me out on it immediately and an argument ensues.  I gotta hand it to them though.  They have forced me to become very clever in how I ‘hide vegetables’.  Haha.

The trick with the vegetables is to buzz them (raw) in a food processor until they’re minced.  They just get lost in the creaminess and you won’t even notice they’re there!  (If your kids don’t mind and you WANT the vegetables to be obvious, just coarsely chop them instead of mincing them). Neither of my kids even tasted vegetables in this dish.

My 6 year old asked what the ‘green bits’ were and I told him to just taste it before complaining.  He did.  His eyes lit up and he plowed through that casserole in 5 minutes (after telling me he wasn’t hungry 10 minutes prior).  Then he asked for seconds and finished that too.  VICTORY!

INGREDIENTS (serves 4 – 6)

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp garlic – minced
  • 1/2 white onion – fine dice
  • 1 cup broccoli – minced
  • 1.5 cups cauliflower – minced
  • 1/2 cup celery – fine dice
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese (you could use ricotta if you don’t mind a little extra fat added)
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used 1% but any milk will do)
  • 1/4 parmesan cheese – grated
  • 1 can mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (I used Japanese panko breadcrumbs)
  • 2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or any cheese blend you want!  The mixed grated cheese blends from Costco are amazing)
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (if not using a cheese blend already)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 2 cups whole wheat macaroni (or regular if you prefer)
  • 2 cups extra lean ground beef (or turkey)
ingredients for casserole

ingredients for casserole

METHOD

  • Bring a pot of well salted water to a boil (I used about a tablespoon of salt).
  • Heat oil in pan on medium high heat.  Add onion, garlic, ground beef, celery, salt and pepper and turn heat up to high.  Saute until ground beef just cooked through and vegetables are soft.  4 – 5 minutes.
ground beef, onion, celery and garlic

ground beef, onion, celery and garlic

  • While beef and veg are cooking, drop macaroni into boiling water and cook for 4 minutes (pasta should still be quite firm and undercooked when you drain it).  Drain and leave to add to mixture within a few minutes….
  • Turn heat down to medium and add cottage cheese, mushroom soup, parmesan cheese, milk, broccoli and cauliflower.  Stir until all is warm and mixed together.
adding minced cauliflower and broccoli

adding minced cauliflower and broccoli

adding soup, parmesan cheese and cottage cheese

adding soup, parmesan cheese and cottage cheese

  • Add par-cooked pasta, mix together and pour into a baking pan.
Casserole ready for baking pan

Casserole ready for baking pan

  • Sprinkle with HALF the cheese, cover with foil and bake in middle of pre-heated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.
casserole ready for oven

casserole ready for oven

  • Remove from oven.  Turn oven on to broil.  Mix bread crumbs and remaining cheese and spread across the casserole.
adding the rest of the cheese & panko before putting under broiler

adding the rest of the cheese & panko before putting under broiler

  • Place under broiler, without the foil, for 2 – 3 minutes or until cheese is melted and panko is starting to brown.

NOTE:  The panko burns easily and will go from brown to burned quickly, so keep your eye on it!!

  • Let cool for 8 – 10 minutes before serving.

Suggestion:  serve with garlic bread and caesar salad or on it’s own with a glass of red wine!

Ways to make this even healthier: (or as I like to call it, the grown-up version!)

  • Use low fat mushroom soup
  • Use 1/2 the amount of cheese
  • Use lean ground turkey instead of beef
  • Use a 1/2 cup less macaroni and add more broccoli and/or cauliflower instead

Simple Honey Garlic and Orange Marinade (for pork or poultry)

honey garlic chicken with orange

honey garlic chicken with orange

I love coming up with/using marinades for chicken and pork.  It’s a chance to experiment with new flavours and try out spice combinations.  It is extremely rare that I come up with something I don’t like, and once in a while I come up with something that becomes a family favourite.  The following recipe has become just that.  I’ve used it about a half a dozen times this summer already.  Partly because I always have these ingredients on hand and it’s SO quick and easy, and partly because my kids love it as much as I do.  It’s a wonderful and extremely versatile summer dish.

INGREDIENTS (for 8 – 10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs or 4 – 6 chicken breasts or pork cutlets)

  • 1 Tbsp garlic – minced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp ginger – minced
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard (or you could use mustard powder if you don’t have dijon)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp orange juice – fresh squeezed (or 100% orange juice from a container but fresh is better)
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 tsp fresh pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt (don’t add this until right before cooking!)

METHOD

  1. Mix all the ingredients (except the salt) together in a bowl and pour over chicken (or pork).
  2. Let marinate for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days.  Right before grilling on BBQ (or you could cook these in a pan on the stove as well) season both sides of the meat with salt  NOTE:  the reason I don’t add the salt ahead of time is because salt draws moisture out of food.  I want the chicken to be as juicy as possible
  3. Cook chicken about 4 minutes per side on 450 degree heat or until just cooked through

Serve this dish with your favourite salad, veggies, or anything else you can think of!  

I served the chicken with caesar salad, corn on the cob and twice baked potatoes (:

chicken with corn and twice baked potatoes!

chicken with corn and twice baked potatoes!

 

 

 

 

Jamaican Jerk Chicken & Mango Flatbread

Jerk chicken flatbread

When I hosted a big party last year, the first thing I wanted to figure out was what food to serve as, in my opinion, there are three things that make a party.  1.  Having great guests  2.  Serving delicious food 3.  a great playlist to get everyone in a happy and festive mood.

The playlist was easy thanks to Songza.com (if you’ve never checked out this music app I would HIGHLY recommend you do.  It’s awesome); and the ‘great guests’ part was no problem since my friends are amazing (:   The booze was not an issue either.  My husband is a bartender and everyone brought something to drink anyway.  We set up a cocktail bar and ensured there was a variety of liquor, beer and wine, sparkling water, juices, etc., along with various fruits and herbs out for people to mix their own drinks.

So all I really needed to worry about was the food.

I wanted a ‘signature dish’ for the party that would have people talking.  At least ONE thing that showed I had put some effort into it, as opposed to just going to Costco and picking up a bunch of frozen appetizers.  (Not that Costco doesn’t have AMAZING appetizers, because they do.  I also served some of that stuff so I didn’t have to spend all night in the kitchen).  The food isn’t as important as the host having FUN and mingling with guests at their own party so try to find a balance between personal touches and effortless dishes that won’t stress you out!

I decided to do something fun and interactive.  Enter the Jerk Chicken and Mango Flatbread.  It was really cool because I had all the ingredients prepared before everyone got there so when people started getting hungry, they all gathered in the kitchen, drinks in hand, and watched me roll out the dough and put on the toppings.  (I also put out a whole bunch of other toppings so guests could custom make their own flatbreads.  The kids especially LOVED making their own pizzas!!).

The ‘showstopper’ of the night was definitely the Jerk Chicken Flatbread though. I literally had several people at the party tell me it was ‘the best pizza they had ever eaten’.  Granted, hungry guests who’ve already had 2 or 3 drinks are incredibly easy to please!  Haha.

Now I’m not saying that this will be the best pizza you’ve ever eaten because I’m not that pretentious, but I can almost guarantee that you’ll be extremely happy with it.  It’s the PERFECT dish to wow guests with and serve on a summer night (or any time of year) with a big glass of your favourite white wine or prosecco.

TIME SAVING TIP: I suggest making the Jerk Marinade way in advance and freezing it so it doesn’t feel like you’re doing so much work all at once. There are a lot of ingredients in this so I also strongly suggest making 4 – 10 times the recipe and freezing this marinade in a zip lock bag.  Then you can just spoon some out right out of the freezer whenever you want it!

STEP 1 – Marinate the Chicken one to two days ahead (I use skinless, boneless chicken thighs but you could also use chicken breast if you want less fat)

JERK CHICKEN MARINADE

Jerk sauce in freezer bag

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 bunch green onion
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger – peeled
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 small white onion (about 1 cup)
  • 2 – 3 scotch bonnet peppers – seeded unless you want serious heat!  (habanero peppers would work too)
  • 1.5 Tbsp fresh thyme (or 1 tsp of dried thyme)
  • 1 lime juice (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp allspice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon (freshly grated is preferable)
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 Tbsp white vinegar

METHOD

1.  Combine all in food processor and puree.  2.  Cover chicken in marinate and let sit at least 4 hours, but preferably over night.


STEP 2 – Make the pizza dough (make this dough 2 to 4 hours before you want to use it.  You COULD just buy the dough, but I love making dough.  It’s so simple and immensely satisfying.  Plus then you get the bragging rights!)

PIZZA DOUGH – (Yields enough for 2 large pizzas)

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 1/4 tsp dry instant yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (or honey)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup milk (or you could just use 1.5 cups warm water and omit the milk)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 1/3 cups flour (START WITH 3 CUPS AND ADD MORE AS NEEDED UNTIL DOUGH IS NO LONGER  ‘GUMMY’)

jar of yeast

dough before rise

pizza dough

METHOD – The method is VERY important here.  If you don’t make the dough properly, it won’t rise properly and you’ll end up with a dense, cardboard like pizza.

1.  Dissolve yeast in warm water.  2.  Add milk and sugar and whisk together.  3.  Let sit for a few  minutes.  4.  Add oil and salt and mix all together.  5.  Now add about 3 cups of the flour and start to combine.  6.  Add in the remaining flour as needed and knead the mixture until it’s all combined and forms a nice roundish ball.

NOTE:  The dough should just come together.  It shouldn’t be wet enough that it’s sticky, but you don’t want it so dry that it’s flaky and falling apart.

7.  Once you’ve formed a nice ball, turn the oven on for a minute and then turn off as soon as it’s warm.  8.  Put the ball of dough in a clean dry bowl with some olive oil in the bottom (so it won’t stick once it rises).  9.  Put a cloth over the bowl and place in oven for 1 – 1.5 hours.  10.  Take dough out of bowl, knead it a few more times and then let rest again for 5 minutes.  11.  Using your hands, press out the dough onto lightly greased baking trays (I use 2 sheet trays ).

ONCE THE CHICKEN and VEGGIES ARE COOKED PREHEAT THE OVEN TO 450 DEGREES.

COOKING:  Put trays of dough into oven and cook for about 6 minutes.  Take dough out, add toppings and put back in to finish cooking for another 6 – 8 minutes or until crust is golden brown.


STEP 3 – BBQ the Jerk Chicken and grilled vegetables (you can do this a day ahead!)

  • 6 to 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs – marinating in Jerk Marinade from 4 hours to 2 days
  • 1/2 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper
  • 1/4 large red onion
  • 1 tsp garlic – minced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

(Ignore the mushrooms and zucchini in the below picture.  I just threw it on for another recipe to save time)

veggies on BBQ

METHOD

1.  Turn BBQ heat on high.  2.  Toss veggies in garlic, oil, salt and pepper (this can be done hours ahead of time) 3.  Once Temperature on BBQ reaches around 400 degrees, put chicken and veggies on grill and cook meat for about 4 – 5 minutes per side or until cooked through (this will vary depending on the size and type of your chicken).  4.  Cook veggies until just starting to char but still firm.  About 2 minutes per side.  5.  Remove all from grill and let cool.


STEP 4 – “Smashed” tomatoes in garlic oil  (can be made up to 3 days ahead)

  • 2 cups ripe tomatoes (use whatever kind you like the best/have on hand!) – LARGE DICE
  • 1/4 cup white onion – diced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tsp garlic – minced
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • pinch red pepper flakes

METHOD

1.  Put oil, red pepper flakes, onion, and garlic in pot and place on medium heat.  2.  Cook for about 5 minutes or until garlic is fragrant (there should be NO colour on anything).  3.  Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and continue to cook for another 2 – 3 minutes.  Turn off heat and let tomato mixture sit in pot until ready to use if using within a few hours.

NOTE:  The tomatoes should still be holding their shape.  You want to cook just enough to infuse all the flavours together but not so much that it turns into a tomato sauce.


STEP 5 – Assemble Jerk Chicken Flatbread!!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large pizza dough (already par cooked for 6 minutes)
  • 1 cup mango – medium size chunks (I use frozen mango and just defrost it about 20 minutes before using)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1 cup smashed tomatoes in oil
  • 1/2 cup feta – crumbled (feel free to use more if you want more!)
  • 1/4 red onion – grilled and sliced or diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper – grilled and sliced or diced
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper – grilled and sliced or diced
  • 6 Jerk chicken thighs – grilled and sliced
  • OPTION:  Yogurt sauce with cumin, chipotle, lime which you can drizzle over the pizza using a squeezy bottle.  I had some leftover from fish tacos so I used it, but the pizza is great without it too

METHOD

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  2.  Place dough on 2 greased trays and ‘par cook’ (meaning partially cook) in oven for about 6 minutes.  3.  Remove dough from oven and add all the toppings starting with the smashed tomatoes in garlic oil – except the cilantro (and sauce, if drizzling on).  4.  Place flatbread with toppings back in oven and cook until crust is golden brown.  Around another 6 – 8 minutes.  5.  Remove flatbreads from oven and top with cilantro.  6.  Cut into as many pieces as you want and serve!