One of my “tricks” for creating quick and healthy dinners is that I often shove an extra item or two into the oven while making dinner. For example, when I make roast chicken, I cook two at one time. That way I have left-over chicken for another night that can be used in a variety of dishes, including the recipe I shared with you yesterday. Or, I will bake some salmon in the oven for the following night while I’m cooking dinner on the stove top for that night. On occasion I have been known to cut up squash and/or sweet potatoes, toss them with some olive oil and sea salt, and put them into the oven (at 425 Fahrenheit for approximately 20 minutes) just before I go pick up the kids from the bus stop. These can then be used either as a side vegetable, in a soup, or in a casserole-type dish later that night, or another night!

The recipe I am sharing with you today uses that baked salmon and roasted squash I mentioned above and yields a quick and tasty pasta dish that I would even consider to be kid-friendly – though I recognize not everyone would agree with me!

Ingredients:

whole wheat linguine noodles (I prepare an entire box, and then use any leftovers for lunch the next day in my Quick and Easy Noodle Frittata)

broccoli (approximately 2 cups)

1 Tbsp butter

1 Tbsp flour

1 cup vegetable broth (or water)

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp lemon rind

1 Tbsp dill (I buy a large bunch of fresh dill and then chop it all up and freeze it in jars for when I need it – tastes so much better than the dried version)

salt & pepper to taste

baked salmon, broken into chunks (approximately 2 cups)

roasted squash (approximately 1 and 1/2 cups)

Directions:

1. Cook pasta according to directions. If possible, steam broccoli on top of noodles. Otherwise, cook in a small amount of water in another pot.

2. Meanwhile, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add flour. Combine using a whisk.

3. Add a small amount of vegetable broth (or water) and whisk until water is completely absorbed. Repeat this step until all or most of the liquid (including milk) has been used and desired consistency is reached.

4. Add Dijon mustard, parmesan cheese, lemon juice, lemon rind, and salt & pepper. Whisk until well combined.

5. Add salmon and squash. Add cooked (and drained) pasta and broccoli. Toss gently. Serve.

Late this morning, as I stood in front of my open refrigerator, I wondered what on earth I would make for today’s lunch. I couldn’t help but notice that I had a lot of green onions – they have been included in every CSA box since the deliveries started in June and I have not been able to use them all up before the subsequent week’s delivery, so there were A LOT! After searching for some recipes online, I decided to make a Creamed Green Onion & Broccoli Soup Sans Cheese (from Group Recipes), Green Onion Pancakes (from delicious days), and Green Onion Quick Bread (from Best Recipes Ever).

The soup was a big hit with everyone, even the children. It is quite similar to the Broccoli Leek Soup I posted not too long ago, though it is a little more indulgent than the leek version because it calls for butter, which along with flour and milk, is used to thicken this soup. I even had fresh broccoli from my latest CSA box delivery from just a couple of days ago, so the flavour of the soup was outstanding. I used some of my homemade chicken stock from the freezer, to which I barely add any salt, so this soup was definitely as low sodium as you can get! If you do not have any homemade chicken stock on hand, I recommend using PC Blue Menu Reduced Sodium Chicken Stock. The recipe suggests pureeing the soup only slightly, so there are still broccoli pieces in the soup, however knowing my children’s aversion to chunky soups, I opted to puree the soup until all the vegetables were liquified. I love it when my children say, “Mami, make this again!” and that’s exactly what they were saying today!

I actually started preparing the Green Onion Pancakes first (though why they’re called pancakes is beyond me, since they resemble more a flatbread). Despite the blogger’s command to, “make them now, you won’t regret it”, I quickly became skeptical that these would turn out (I mean, hot water added to flour and  a little salt hardly sounds or looks appetizing, I don’t care how many green onions you add to it!). So while I put the dough to rest for 30 minutes as per the recipe’s instructions, I decided I’d better make the quick bread, too (besides, I still had lots of green onions available)! The quick bread looks so tasty in the picture on the website, and everything I have ever tried making from “Best Recipes Ever” has always been a success, so I thought for sure it would be a winner. Well, the quick bread tasted quite bland and I was so glad I had continued making the “pancakes”, because they were truly amazing  to the point that I will overlook the fact they are made entirely with white flour and are fried in oil, which is so not in line with the purpose of this blog! Given that the quick bread has whole wheat flour and is baked (not fried), I will try it one more time, except I’ll add a little more salt and some (or maybe lots of) grated cheddar cheese.

So, if you have a bunch of green onions and broccoli in your fridge, I highly recommend making this soup. And if you have a little extra time on your hands and would like to try out something different, I highly recommend making the “pancakes” to accompany the soup. If you decide to make the quick bread with my modifications, please let me know how it turns out!

Here are a few photos of my “in-progress” lunch preparations:

This is the soup just before I pureed it, thickened it, and simmered it for 5 more minutes.

 

These are the “pancakes” just before I added the green onions and then fried them in olive oil.

 

This is the quick bread before I placed it onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper and baked it in the oven for 35 minutes.

Are you part of a CSA? What is your favourite part about receiving your box of vegetables?!

There’s just something about a roasted red pepper that takes a meal to the next level. Last night it was just me and the kids for dinner and so I decided to make something vegetarian. Thursdays is when my weekly CSA box arrives so it made sense to use at least one of its (entirely green!) contents – enter broccoli. I had opened a new jar of tomato sauce (my favourite one is from Costco – see picture below) at lunch time for some 10-Minute Pizza and so I decided to boil some whole wheat Fusili and voila – I had a quick and tasty meal for the children. I usually stay away from carbohydrates at dinner time, but I was famished and the children’s dinner smelled soooo good, and who really wants to eat like a rabbit every lunch and dinner!?!? Then I recalled the roasted red pepper in the fridge, left over from a BBQ dinner earlier this week, and together with some of the fresh basil in my CSA box I served myself a big bowl of bliss!

How to Roast a Pepper on the BBQ:
Spray* with olive oil (or rub on some oil using your fingers)
Place on hot BBQ and turn pepper every few minutes (leave BBQ on medium-high)
Remove the pepper once it has softened and blackened (approximately 10 – 15 minutes)
Let pepper cool slightly and then peel the skin off and discard the skin, stem, and seeds

How to Roast a Pepper in the oven:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
Spray* with olive oil (or rub on some oil using your fingers)
Place pepper on baking tray or in casserole dish
Remove the pepper once it has softened and blackened (approximately 15 – 20 minutes)
Let pepper cool slightly and then peel the skin off and discard the skin, stem, and seeds

* Several years ago I purchased a refillable oil mister and highly recommend them, as they make it possible to use as little oil as necessary for stir fries, etc. I have seen them at Winners, Kitchen Stuff Plus and Costco.

Broccoli Leek Soup

May 2, 2012

Soups are a great way to incorporate vegetables into your diet, and most soups can be prepared quickly. Here is one of my favourite vegetable soup recipes, which can be found on page 66 of “The Oprah Magazine Cookbook”. Personally, I think the best way to enjoy this soup is alongside a grilled cheese sandwich. Today, however, I decided to add some left-over quinoa to make it extra healthy!

Ingredients:

1 large bunch broccoli

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

2 medium leeks, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced

1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (I have omitted this on occasion and it tastes just as good!)

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

3 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

3/4 tsp salt

Pinch of freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup half-and-half (optional)

1/4 cup snipped chives (optional) – I used green onion because I didn’t have any chives!

Directions:

Separate broccoli stems from florets. Using a vegetable peeler, peel stems to remove tough outer layer, then slice into 1/4-inch-thick “coins”. Break or cut the florets into small pieces. Reserve stems and florets separately.

In a medium saucepan, heat oil and butter over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring often, until softened and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add broccoli stems, potato, and garlic, and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add 3 cups water, broth, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover partially and simmer until broccoli and potato are tender, about 12 minutes.

Add florets; bring to a boil and then simmer 5 minutes.

Transfer soup in batches to a blender or food processor, and puree until smooth. (I use an immersion hand blender directly in the saucepan instead, so there is no need to transfer the soup!) Return soup to saucepan; add half-and-half and chives (if using) and reheat briefly.

Makes 4 servings.

What’s your favourite vegetable soup?

Noodles and Cheese

April 30, 2012

Need a quick but healthy meal (lunch or dinner) to whip up for the kids? Then here is a great recipe for you! I make this so often that I could make it blindfolded – and still, the kids always tell me: “Mami, make this AGAIN!!” – music to a mother’s ears! And it’s so much better for you than Kraft Dinner (which is SO not good for you!) – health wise and taste wise.

I never actually measure anything when I make this recipe, so all measurements are my best approximations. If you have never made a sauce from scratch, then you may need to try this a few times before you get it perfected, but really it isn’t difficult. And it’s so worth the effort to learn how to make your own cheese sauce!

Ingredients:

2 – 3 cups cooked whole grain pasta – use your favourite or what you have on hand! (Bulk Barn sells quinoa noodles, as well as kamut noodles, and I also use the whole grain varieties available at the grocery store – the ones pictured in the photo above are “Catelli” brand’s “Healthy Harvest”, which are yolk free, cholesterol free and whole wheat – and are cooked in 5 minutes!)

1 Tbsp butter

1 and 1/2 Tbsp white, all-purpose flour

1 and 1/4 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock, or milk (I usually save the water that I cook my broccoli in and freeze it until I add it to whatever else I’m using in this step – usually I add chicken broth from PC’s “Blue Menu”, though I do occasionally make my own chicken broth for this and other recipes)

1 cup grated cheese (I like to use Gouda and/or cheddar and/or parmesan, but you can use just about any kind of cheese your kids like)

1 tsp dijon mustard

1/4 to 1/2 cup vegetable puree (I used a blend of sweet potato and butternut squash puree in the one featured in the above photo – every so often I bake a few sweet potatoes and a butternut squash in the oven and then make the puree and freeze it in 1/2 cup portions so I have it handy for when I need to prepare something quickly! Or, you can add a baby food jar of vegetables!)

1 cup cooked broccoli (or any other vegetable your kids will eat! If you have a very picky eater, puree the broccoli and tell them it’s green cheese in the sauce!)

Directions:

Cook the pasta according to their directions. If you don’t have any left-over cooked broccoli, then add the broccoli to the same pot as the pasta and they should be ready at the same time!

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium to high heat.

Once completely melted, add flour.

Use a whisk to “soak up” the butter with the flour.

Next, remove the saucepan from the heat source and add a VERY SMALL amount of liquid (if you’re using milk, it’s best to first use either some broth or water in this step) and immediately whisk until all the liquid is “soaked up”.  Do not add more liquid until all the liquid is gone!

Return saucepan to heat and keep adding slightly larger amounts of liquid to saucepan, whisking well before each addition of liquid.  (If you want the fancy terminology for this process, it’s called making a “roux”.) Once you have used up all the liquid, add the grated cheese and stir. Add the mustard and vegetable puree and stir. If sauce is too thick, add more liquid and stir. Pour sauce over desired amount of cooked pasta, add cooked broccoli and gently toss. Voila! You’ll never want to serve Kraft Dinner again!

I have also added canned tuna to this recipe (at the very end) and it was super yummy.

I usually end up with left-overs, which I freeze in small portions and then re-heat in the microwave and send to school in a small thermos for my son’s lunch

Have you ever made a cheese sauce from scratch? What’s your kids’ favourite “speedy” meal?