Category Archives: Pasta, Rice, Grain, Vegetarian

Pasta, Rice, Grain, Vegetarian

Pickled Parmesan Zucchini Bites

zucchini rounds front

I’ve been having a great time coming up with fun and delicious ways to use up zucchini this summer as I have more than I know what to do with growing in the garden.  Of all the recipes I’ve created/found (Chocolatey Zucchini Banana Brownies, Cheesy Stuffed Zucchini BoatsZucchini & Parmesan Fritters with Lemon Zest) to name a few, THIS one has to be my favourite.

 

A few weeks ago I decided to bread some zucchini and fry it up as an appetizer.  I served it with a simple lemon, dill dip and although it was tasty, I knew I could do better.  I find zucchini, even fried zucchini, quite bland.  I also love fried pickles but sometimes find them to be too ‘pickly/sour’.  SO, I decided to combine the two flavours, add some cheese and lemon and voila!  I came up with fried Pickled Parmesan Zucchini Bites!

These turned out GREAT.  The longer you soak the zucchini in the pickle juice the more intense the pickle flavour becomes.  I recommend a minimum of 4 – 6 hours but you could even let them sit over night.  The zucchini is actually delicious eaten right out of the pickling liquid but once you bread them, fry them and serve them with dip, they are insanely tasty!!  A MUST TRY!

NOTE:  If you have a very large zucchini you may want to scoop out the centre ‘spongy’ part.  In this case, you could cut the zucchini into ‘moon’ or half circle shapes instead…

zucchini wedges

RECIPE (serves 4)

  • 1 medium zucchini (sliced into 1/4″ rounds – around 20 – 25 pieces)
  • pickle juice (enough to completely cover the zucchini)
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs (or regular bread crumbs, if you prefer)
  • 2 small eggs – beaten and seasoned with salt
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • vegetable oil – enough for frying (about 1 cup)
  • salt (for sprinkling on zucchini before and after they are fried)
  • pepper

Click link for: Lemon Dill Dip to serve with the zucchini bites!

METHOD

  • Slice zucchini into about 1/4″ rounds and soak for 4 – 8 hours in pickle juice.
  • Remove zucchini from juice and pat dry with paper towel.  Salt BOTH sides of the zucchini generously and sprinkle pepper on one side.

zucchini salt and pepper

  • Arrange 3 large bowls.  Add flour to one, panko and parmesan to another and egg, salt and lemon zest to the third.  Whisk egg and lemon zest together.
  • Dip each zucchini round in flour and tap off any access.
  • Next, dip into egg mixture ensuring each piece is well coated in egg but not dripping.
  • Lastly, add zucchini round one to three at a time to the panko mix and press down on both sides to ensure zucchini is getting as much panko mixture on it as possible.

zucchini panko

  • Repeat this process until all the zucchini is nicely breaded.
  • Heat oil in a large pan until quite hot.  NOTE:  Test heat by dipping a zucchini round in the oil using tongs.  The oil should sizzle and bubble.  If it doesn’t, the oil is not hot enough.  It is CRUCIAL that the oil is hot enough of the zucchini will become soggy instead of nice and crispy.
  • Add zucchini to oil in batches ensuring you are not overcrowding the pan (overcrowding will bring the heat down too much causing the zucchini to become soggy).

zucchini one side uncooked

  • Watch the heat and increase if the zucchini is not browning fast enough (or turn it down if zucchini is browning too fast).
  • Watch closely and check zucchini often to ensure it’s not getting too browned.
  • Once brown and crispy on one side, flip and brown other side.

fried zucchini

  • Remove from heat and place on an even layer on paper towel (to soak up any access oil) and immediately sprinkle with salt.  (NOTE:  do not stack zucchini on top of each other or overlap right away because this will cause the zucchini to go limp).

Transfer to a serving plate and serve with lemon dill dip!

Curried Lentil and Vegetable Salad

curried lentil and veg salad in bowl

My favourite thing about summer isn’t the beach or the warm, sunny weather.  It’s not the longer days and mid-afternoon cocktails (although those things are wonderful too!).  My favourite thing about summer is the abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs from my garden and/or the local Farmer’s Market!

I LOVE making salads during the warmer months.  They’re light, healthy, delicious and there are a million different ways to make them.  I came up with a salad a few weeks ago for a get together at my  place and everyone agreed it was very yummy.  We snacked on this salad along with buffalo mozzarella and heirloom tomato flatbreads, smoked salmon platters and grilled baguette slices topped with everything from mushroom duxelle to garlic and basil marinated cherry tomatoes.  And of course the rose, bubbles and Sauvignon Blanc was flowing (:  It was a perfect afternoon (and evening) on the patio spent with my favourite people, great drinks and wonderful food.  My idea of HEAVEN.

This salad is incredibly versatile.  If you really like an ingredient, by all means add more of it.  If there’s a vegetable you don’t like, just leave it out or substitute it with something you do like.  For example, you could use kale in place of cabbage or just use cauliflower if you don’t like broccoli.  You could use cilantro instead of parsley and cashews instead of almonds….  You get the idea.

Have fun with this salad and enjoy it by itself or topped with some grilled chicken or fish for an amazing, healthy dinner entrée!  Serve salad warm or chilled.

NOTE:  I use the trio of organic lentils and the organic quinoa that you buy in bags from Costco so the cook times mentioned below are based on that specific type of lentils.  If you’re using a different kind, ensure you follow the cooking directions on your package so you don’t over or under cook them or end up with tonnes of extra liquid (if you do, just drain it).

pictures of lentils and quinoa in bag

INGREDIENTS (serves 4 large salads or 6 small)

Cooking in pot:

  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup lentils
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1 cup cabbage (or kale)
  • 1/4 cup white onion
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp curry powder (I used a mild curry but use whatever you love!)
  • 1 1/3 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp salt

Adding to above ingredients just before serving:

  • 3 cups broccoli (or cauliflower or BOTH)
  • 1/2 cup bell peppers (red, yellow, and/or orange)
  • 3/4 cup cherry tomatoes (or whatever amazing summer tomatoes you want!)
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 1/3 cup cranberries (or raisins)
  • 1/2 rough chopped unsalted almonds (or cashews)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup – 1 cup parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt and pepper to taste
  • OPTIONAL:  1/8 cup olive oil to finish

METHOD

  • Finely dice/chop carrot, garlic and cabbage OR just buzz in a food processor until coarsely chopped.
  • Add olive oil, garlic, cabbage, carrot, salt, curry powder, and cumin into a pot and sauté on medium heat until ingredients are softened and fragrant (about 5 minutes).
  • Add water (or stock) and bring to boil.
  • Add lentils and quinoa and reduce heat to simmer.
  • Simmer for 8 minutes then remove from heat, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, chop broccoli (and/or cauliflower) into bite sized florets and steam for 2 minutes MAXIMUM.
  • Run under cold water or plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking.  You want the broccoli to still have lots of crunch!
  • half or chop the tomatoes, dice the peppers into bite size pieces and chop the parsley.
  • Once slightly cooled, transfer lentil mixture to large bowl and add vegetables, parsley, salt, pepper, lemon juice, chopped almonds and cranberries.
  • Toss together to combine.
  • Add feta and mix gently so the feta doesn’t fall apart and turn the salad ‘creamy’.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning and lemon juice to your liking.

Transfer to bowls and serve on its own or topped with grilled fish or chicken.  Enjoy!

curried lentil and veg salad in bowl w spoon

 

 

 

 

Rosemary, Mushroom & Leak Risotto with Parmesan Cheese

creamy mushroom risotto

I love a good risotto.  Lobster risotto, crab risotto, and my absolute favourite – mushroom risotto.  I decided to make lamb loin chops for Father’s Day.  It was cooler and raining out and it seemed like the perfect afternoon to make a delicious, creamy mushroom risotto to go with the lamb (I also LOVE risotto with any kind of braised meat, particularly braised lamb shank or beef short ribs!).

Great risotto is all about technique and quality of ingredients.  You don’t want to rush it and you want to use the best stock and parmesan cheese you can afford.

I’ve had bad risotto MANY times and it’s so disappointing.  If you don’t take the time to do it right and then take it off the heat at the just right time you either end up with slightly hard, chewy pieces of rice OR you end up eating something that tastes like a big pile of mush.  The key to a perfect risotto is allowing the starches to be released slowly to ensure you get that amazing creaminess without overcooking it.  You want to be able to tell you’re eating rice and not porridge.  And of course, seasoning properly and using excellent ingredients is always incredibly important as well.

I like using a good-quality mushroom stock and grana padano for this risotto.  When it’s a really special occasion, I use the best mushrooms I can find as well (chanterelle, morel, shiitake, Portobello, oyster, etc – or a combination of any/all).  However, this risotto is also delicious using good old button mushrooms is you don’t have access to, or don’t want to pay for, the more expensive kinds.

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

  • 1.5 cups Arborio rice (can be found in any grocery store)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup diced leak (white part only)  *use white onion if you don’t have leak
  • 1/4 cup white/Spanish onion – diced
  • OPTIONAL:  1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 Tbsp garlic – minced
  • 1.5 tsp fresh rosemary – minced
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 4 – 4.5 cups mushroom, vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1.5 packed cups mushrooms (button or any kind you like!) – large dice
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • OPTIONAL:  1/2 cup frozen or fresh cooked peas

METHOD

  • Bring stock to a boil in a pot and set aside.
  • In a large pot, add butter, leak, garlic, onion and rosemary and sauté on medium-low heat until onion is translucent.  A few minutes.  Ensure there is no colour on the onion.
  • Add arborio rice and cook, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes more or until rice starts to become translucent around the edges.  Again, don’t brown the rice.
  • Add salt and pepper.
  • Turn the heat up to high and deglaze with white wine, if using.
  • Cook out for 1 – 2 minutes or until wine is almost completely absorbed.
  • Using a ladle, start adding boiling hot stock to arborio rice, ONE CUP AT A TIME.
  • Allow the rice to absorb the stock almost completely before adding another cup to it.
  • Ensure you are stirring the rice constantly over medium-high heat as it’s absorbing all the liquid.
  • When the last of the liquid is almost completely absorbed and risotto is still quite liquidy and creamy, turn heat off.  (It will continue cooking and absorbing liquid so you want to turn heat off JUST before it’s ready!)
  • Add peas (if using), lemon zest and parmesan cheese.
  • Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
  • Serve with a sprinkle of cheese on top.

Enjoy on it’s own or with your favourite meat or seafood on top and serve with a nice, big glass of wine!

Thai Vegetable & Rice Salad with Warm Peanut Sauce

thai vegetable salad

Last weekend I was going for a ‘girls night’ at my friends house and I wanted to make something  interesting, fun, simple and delicious to bring for dinner.

(My friend is a vegetarian so I didn’t include meat with this recipe but some strips of pork, steak or even chicken would be great with this dish.  Prawns would also be AWESOME).

This recipe turned out REALLY well.  We all agreed it was a keeper.  It’s inexpensive to make, full of amazing flavours and textures, incredibly nutritious and satisfying enough to eat for dinner without feeling hungry half an hour later.

NOTE:  Rice, peanut sauce AND eggs can be prepared up to 3 days ahead and simply reheated when you want to serve with salad!!

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

Sauce

  • 1 red Thai chile, seeded and minced
  • 1 small clove garlic, grated
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 heaping Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • pinch salt

Salad

  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 3 packed cups green cabbage, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup scallions/green onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cup beet, shredded
  • 1/2 cup celery, sliced thin on bias
  • 1/2 cup carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper, sliced (red, orange and/or yellow)
  • 1 cup english cucumber, halved, seeded and sliced crosswise
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 cup chopped mint
  • OPTIONAL:  1/2 cup bean sprouts and/or 1 cup mango chunks for garnish!
  • GARNISH:  1/3 cup – 1/2 cup roasted peanuts

Rice

  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Thai chile
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp coconut oil

METHOD

Sauce

  • Using a blender/hand-held mixer, pulse all ingredients together until blended and smooth.
  • Transfer peanut sauce to a small pot/saucepan and add 1/4 cup water.
  • Heat over low heat, whisking often, until smooth and hot.
  • Keep warm over very low heat until you’re ready to serve the salad.

Eggs

  • Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Add eggs and cook for 8 minutes.
  • Run eggs under cold water (or put into an ice bath) until cooled, then peel and set aside.

Rice

  • Add coconut oil, garlic kaffir lime leaves and whole thai chile to pot and sauté on low heat until garlic is fragrant.  About 2 minutes.
  • Add coconut milk, water and salt and bring to boil stirring often to ensure you don’t burn the coconut milk.
  • Add rice, stir, cover with lid and reduce heat to very low.
  • Cook rice for 55 minutes (or whatever the cook time for the rice you’re using reads).
  • Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.
  • Remove lid and take out the lime leaves and thai chile.
  • Taste and adjust salt as desired.

Salad

  • Prepare all the vegetables and herbs as instructed above.
  • Mix together in bowl and season generously with salt.

ASSEMBLY

  • scoop warm rice into four bowls.
  • Add the salad into the bowls on top of the rice.
  • Drizzle each salad generously with warm peanut sauce.
  • 1/2 the eggs, season with salt and pepper and add an egg to each bowl.
  • Top salad with peanuts (and mango chunks if using).
  • Put extra peanut sauce into a small bowl so everyone can add extra sauce as desired.

veggie salad with peanut sauce

 

 

Spring Asparagus, Orange and Spinach Salad

orange, asparagus and spinach salad

I saw some beautiful baby asparagus on sale for $2 a bunch at the corner vegetable market yesterday and immediately decided that I would buy it and find a way to incorporate with the fish I had thawed out for dinner (Snapper).

bunch of asparagus

It’s been unusually warm on the West Coast this spring and when it’s hot out I just want light foods like fresh fish/seafood or grilled meats paired with delicious salads and vegetables.

This is a light, tangy, healthy salad and it’s great on its own or as a side with your favourite meat or fish.  I absolutely love the combination of slightly crunchy asparagus spears, juicy orange, crunchy almonds and salty parmesan cheese.  I’ll be eating this salad a lot in the coming months!

About the recipe:  I decided to throw some chickpeas, avocado and almonds into this salad for added fibre and healthy, filling fat since I didn’t want to cook a grain/starch…  I used shallots because I LOVE shallots and ALWAYS have them on hand but if you don’t have them, red onion would also work.  I garnished with shaved parmesan but feta or even goats cheese would also work beautifully in this salad.

NOTE:  I made the dressing and cooked the asparagus in the pan with it to infuse the flavour because I wasn’t using the BBQ.  If you are barbecuing, I would suggest grilling the asparagus on the BBQ and making the dressing separately because grilled asparagus is AWESOME.

INGREDIENTS (serves 2 large salads or 4 small ones)

  • 1 bunch asparagus (about 2 cups)
  • 3 cups packed baby spinach leaves
  • 3/4 cup chickpeas (pre-cooked and rinsed) – or other bean/lentil
  • 1/2 large avocado – diced
  • 1/3 cup orange segments + 1/4 tsp zest
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard (or grainy dijon)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice + 1/4 tsp zest
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 Tbsp shallot, diced
  • OPTION:  1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Garnish:  1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese & a handful unsalted almonds

METHOD

  • Trim off the fibrous/tough ends of the asparagus (note: to figure out where to cut the bottom off, simply bend a piece the asparagus.  It will break at the point where you should discard the bottom part).  Cut asparagus on a bias (angle) into bite sized pieces. NOTE:  IF GRILLING THE ASPARAGUS, DON’T CUT IT UP UNTIL AFTER IT’S COOKED OR IT WILL FALL THROUGH THE GRATE.
  • Zest and then segment the orange (see how to segment and orange): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQr9QQLtBU0
  • Add shallot and olive oil to a pan and cook on medium-high heat for one minute.
  • Add asparagus and sauté until asparagus is tender with a slight crunch (al dente).
  • Add chickpeas.

chickpeas and asp in pan

  • Turn heat to high and add red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Allow it to reduce for about a minute.Turn off heat and allow the asparagus and chickpeas to cool in pan with the dressing.
  • Meanwhile, using a large bowl, add your spinach, diced avocado, orange segments, orange and lemon zest, cherry tomatoes (if using) and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Add cooled asparagus, chickpeas and using a spatula, scrape down all the dressing from the pan and add to bowl.
  • Gently combine all ingredients and check seasoning.  Add lemon juice and/or salt as desired.
  • Transfer to serving bowls and garnish with parmesan cheese and almonds (whole or slivered).

Serve alone or with your favourite fish/meat!

 

 

 

Whole Wheat Couscous, Tomato and Herb Salad

couscous salad

As soon as it starts to warm up, dry up and stay light outside longer I feel an immediate shift in the kinds of foods I want to cook/eat.  (I also start leaning more towards a nice crisp white wine as opposed to the reds I enjoy so much when it’s darker and colder outside).

Instead of craving roasted meats, hearty pastas, comforting soups, root vegetables and other winter staples, I start shifting towards lighter foods.  Fresh fish and seafood, grilled meats and lighter salads filled with all kinds of seasonal fruits and vegetables.

I love this couscous salad because it’s incredibly quick and easy to throw together, super healthy and delicious and really versatile.  I enjoy this salad on its own for lunch or I throw salmon, grilled chicken or prawns on it for a wonderful and fuss-free dinner!  It’s great both warm and cold so you can make this ahead of dinner and just serve it at room temperature, which makes it the perfect dish for entertaining or when you want to get most of the dinner prep done way ahead of time!

About the recipe:  I use whole wheat couscous to make it healthier and use chicken broth for flavour.  You can, of course, use regular couscous OR substitute couscous for quinoa!  If you’re a vegetarian, just use water or vegetable broth in place of chicken broth.  If you don’t have fresh basil on hand, this is wonderful with just parsley or you could even throw some mint or cilantro in there!  Personalize the salad however you want!

INGREDIENTS  (serves 4)

  • 1/2 cup boiling hot chicken broth (or water/vegetable broth)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat couscous
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp shallot – small dice (use red onion if you don’t have shallot)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives (or use whatever kind of olives you like!) – sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley – chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil – chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper – diced (red, orange and/or yellow)
  • 1/4 cup green onion – sliced
  • 3/4 cup cherry tomato – quartered or sliced
  • 1/4 cup feta – crumbled + a little more for garnishing on top
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp fresh pepper
  • OPTION:  1/2 cup diced english cucumber (if serving the salad cold)

METHOD

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine couscous, salt, pepper, shallot, lemon juice and half the olive oil and stir to mix.
  • Pour BOILING hot chicken broth or water over the couscous and immediately cover tightly with plastic wrap.
  • Let sit for 5 – 10 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  • Mix in all other prepared ingredients in with the couscous.
  • Top with a little more feta and herbs for garnish and enjoy on its own or with grilled chicken, seafood or fish!

 

 

White Bean and Leek Puree, Dip and/or Spread

 

white bean dip

I have committed to eating more fibre this year.  Beans (and lentils) are an amazing source of fibre as well as vitamins and minerals.  (For more information on the health benefits of kidney beans click here:  http://www.livestrong.com/article/233551-what-are-the-benefits-of-white-kidney-beans/).

I am absolutely loving incorporating lentils, chickpeas and kidney beans into my recipes.  They really are delicious, inexpensive and SO versatile (I add them to soups, sauces, salads, curries, and stir-fry to name a few things…).

The below recipe is quick, simple and SO, SO good.  When I first decided to develop it, it was meant to be a dip for vegetables.  But when I tasted it still warm, I immediately thought it would be a PERFECT substitute for mashed potatoes!  It pairs SO well with chicken and especially pork.  It’s also wonderful served tepid or cold on crackers or on naan or pita bread as a spread.

Basically, this puree/spread/dip is just amazing and can be eaten at any temperature, just about any way you can think of!  (Yesterday I spread it onto crackers, topped it with some sardines and a squeeze of lemon juice and ate it as a fibre-rich, protein-packed lunch).

Once you’ve made this, I’m sure it will become a regular recipe in your house!

NOTE:  You can also experiment with the flavour profile by adding spice such as cumin to it or fresh herbs such as parley or dill!  I’ve also made this with 1/4 cup parmesan cheese to finish and it’s AMAZING.

INGREDIENTS 

  • 1 can pre-cooked, rinsed white kidney beans
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp shallot
  • 2 Tbsp leek OR green onion – WHITE AND PALE GREEN PART ONLY
  • 1.5 – 2 Tbsp lemon juice (depending on how lemony you like it)
  • 1/2 cup water (or stock of your choice) NOTE:  use a little more water for a thinner puree.  A little less for a thicker puree.
  • 1 heaping tsp garlic
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pinch red pepper flakes
  • OPTIONAL:  1 tsp plain yogurt (or sour cream)

METHOD

  • Sautee garlic, shallot, red pepper flakes and leek with olive oil on medium-low heat until soft and fragrant.  About 5 minutes.  Stir often to ensure it doesn’t burn.
  • Add rinsed beans, water, lemon juice, salt and pepper.
  • Bring to boil and turn off heat.
  • Add yogurt, if using.
  • Puree the mixture and taste.
  • Adjust seasoning and lemon juice as desired.

Serve warm as a puree with pork,  or serve cold/tepid as a dip/spread for vegetables, crackers and bread(s)!

White bean and leek puree with pork and cherry apple compote

White bean and leek puree with pork and cherry apple compote

 

Cheesy Stuffed Zucchini Boats

cheesy stuffed zucchini boats

cheesy stuffed zucchini boats

Zucchini has never been one of my favourite vegetables.  It doesn’t have a whole lot of flavour.  However, this can be a good thing because it’s basically a blank slate.  You can do a LOT of things with zucchini (http://www.frugalfreshfood.com/zucchini-parmesan-fritters-with-lemon-zest/) and ‘hide it’ in just about any dish (http://www.frugalfreshfood.com/10-whatever-ways-sneak-vegetables-food/)!

It’s also incredibly good for you.  Zucchini is an outstanding source of manganese and vitamin C and is the best source of dietary fiber that will keep your body in the best shape for the long run. It also contains vitamin A, magnesium, folate, potassium, copper, and phosphorus.  To learn more about all the amazing health benefits of eating zucchini check out the following link: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/vegetable/health-benefits-of-zucchini.html

I’ve been trying for a while now to get my kids to eat more zucchini, but it’s been an uphill battle.    I’ve tried serving it raw with dip, sautéed in a stir-fry and diced into quinoa and/or rice.  I’ve even shredded it and tossed it in with pasta.  Although they will eat it all of these ways, I haven’t heard them tell me they actually like it yet.  That was until I served it to them in the form of a cheesy zucchini boat!  This recipe is DELICIOUS, easy to make and a fun way to serve zucchini.

About the recipe:  I used cottage cheese to add protein but ricotta would be wonderful too.  If you want to keep this dish lower in fat and calories, just reduce, or forgo, the mozzarella cheese on top.  I baked these but they could also be cooked right on the barbecue!

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1.5 tsp garlic – minced
  • 2 Tbsp shallot – minced (white onion or leek would also work)
  • 2 Tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup cottage cheese (or ricotta cheese)1 cup mozzarella cheese (1/2 for mix and 1/2 for topping)
  • 3 Tbsp panko break crumbs (1 Tbsp for mix, 2 Tbsp for topping)
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp olive oil (plus more for rubbing on zucchini)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbsp parsley – chopped
  • OPTION:  2 Tbsp green onion – chopped

METHOD

  • Cut end off zucchini and slice in half length-wise and right down the middle to make 4 equal pieces.
  • Using a vegetable peeler, slice down back of zucchini so that it has a flat surface and won’t roll around.
  • Using a melon baller, scoop out the inside flesh and chop the ‘flesh’ into small pieces.

zucchini scoop

  • Place in a colander/strainer with a bowl underneath and coat generously with salt.
  • Allow to sit for 10 – 15 minutes to draw out the moisture then squeeze out any remaining liquid.

zucchini in strainer

  • Season the zucchini ‘boats’ with salt, pepper and olive oil.
  • Heat oil, garlic and shallot in pan and allow to soften and become translucent.  About 3 or 4 minutes on medium-low heat.  Stir often to ensure garlic does not burn.
  • Scrape garlic/shallot into mixing bowl with the drained zucchini bits and add all other ingredients EXCEPT 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese and 2 Tbsp of panko (mix the remaining panko and mozza together and reserve for topping zucchini later).
  • Taste mixture for seasoning and adjust as desired.

zucchini mix in bowl

  • Scoop mixture into seasoned zucchini boats.

zucchini stuffed

  • Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and bake zucchini boats uncovered for 20 minutes (up to 25 minutes if you like the zucchini very soft).
  • Remove from oven and turn oven up to BROIL.
  • Sprinkle remaining cheese and panko onto zucchini boats and place under broiler for 3 – 5 minutes or until the top is browning and crispy.

Suggestion:  Serve as a vegetarian dish with rice or quinoa or serve with your favourite meat (I really like these with steak or pork!

zucchini - at dinner

zucchini boat with bowtie pasta and steak

 

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.

Mexican Charred Corn and Black Bean Salad

charred corn and black bean salad with rice and feta

charred corn and black bean salad with rice and feta

This salad has become a favourite of mine.  I love it because it’s healthy, inexpensive and SO easy to make.  The best part though is it’s versatility.  You can serve this salad as a vegetarian/vegan dish or you can top it with anything from grilled chicken to fish or prawns.  I also like to add a few spoonfuls into eggs, soups and/or on a green salad for added flavour and texture.  Lastly, I’m HUGE fan of adding this salad into wraps with some shredded chicken or turkey and a little chipotle sauce and guacamole!  If I want to turn this into more of a ‘Caribbean’ dish  I’ll add some mango and Jerk chicken to the salad.

What elevates this dish from good to great is charring/blackening the corn.  It really brings out a unique and wonderful flavour.  I also like to either grill my red onion and bell peppers on the BBQ before dicing or ‘char’ them in a hot pan with the corn.  Again, it just intensifies the flavour.  These steps aren’t a necessity, but if you have the time and patience to do them, it really does bring this recipe to the ‘next level’.

SUGGESTION: If you want to serve this salad with avocado and/or feta cheese I strongly suggest just adding those ingredients on the top as a garnish.  If you mix them into the salad, the dish becomes creamy and milky and it’s not as nice to look at that way.  Also, if you want to keep this salad in the fridge for more than 1 to 2 days, just add the tomato ‘to order’.  Tomatoes (and cucumbers) don’t last well once they’re cut up so I always leave them out until I’m serving a dish if I’m not serving it the same day (:

INGREDIENTS (serves 4)

  • 1 can cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cup corn, thawed and patted DRY with paper towel
  • 3/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup mixed bell peppers (red, orange, yellow – or combo of all!), diced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup green onion, sliced
  • 3/4 cup tomato (cherry, roma, or vine tomato are all fine), diced
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1.5 tsp cumin
  • 2 – 3 tsp lime juice, + 1/2 tsp lime zest
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • OPTION: 2 tsp jalapeno pepper, minced (if you want a little heat) or 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • OPTION:  1 cup cooked rice (brown, jasmine, white, wild or whatever you like!
  • GARNISH OPTION:  Top with feta cheese!

NOTE:  I often cook some brown rice with a little onion, garlic, cumin and kaffir lime leaf  and add it into the salad once it’s cooled just to add another flavour element into the dish.  I especially like adding the rice when I’m putting the salad mix into wraps and serving it ‘fajita style’.

METHOD

NOTE ABOUT CHARRING:  Charring is basically browning something deeply (almost burning/scorching) to bring out the flavour.  This is done quickly using high heat so you don’t cook the product.  You just get the desired colour and flavour.  When the corn is put in a smoking hot pan it will pop just like popcorn!  BE CAREFUL.  I hold a pan lid a few inches above the pan to avoid corn shooting out all over the place.  You DO NOT want to put a lid right on the pan or it will create steam.

  • Get a large pan hot to the point where it’s smoking.  You need the pan to be really hot.  DO NOT ADD OIL.  The pan should be DRY.
  • Once the pan is HOT, add the corn and diced red onion.  DO NOT overcrowd the pan.  Ensure the corn and onion are spread out pretty evenly on the bottom of the pan.
  • DO NOT stir, shake or move the corn and onion.  Let it sit for around a minute or two or until corn is browned on one side.
  • NOW you can give the corn a stir.  It should be dark brown on the spots that were touching the pans surface directly.  Allow other side of corn and onion to brown for another minute then remove from heat and put in bowl.
  • NOTE:  If you would like to char your diced bell peppers, you can repeat the exact same steps as above with the peppers  (the only reason I don’t throw them in with the corn is because there isn’t enough room in my pan!).
  • Mix all other ingredients together in bowl and adjust seasoning until desired flavour is reached.

Serve alone or top with avocado, feta cheese, chicken, fish or any combination of these!