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.

As much as I enjoy cooking, there are enough times where I simply do not feel like spending any amount of time or effort in the kitchen. So when my husband suggested we go out for dinner tonight, I was very tempted to agree. However, then I thought about how much effort is involved in getting three hungry children out of the house, and the bill that would be handed to us at the end of the meal, and decided against it. Besides, there was a gigantic basket of freshly picked blueberries (thanks, Mama!) on my kitchen counter, waiting to be eaten. Then I remembered the bag of Bob’s Red Mill Organic Scottish Oatmeal in my pantry with a recipe for Scottish Oatmeal Pancakes or Waffles on the back that I’ve been wanting to give a try. Who says you can’t have pancakes for dinner?!

Although my children can devour fresh blueberries by they bowl fulls, for some reason they do not like them in any baked goods, including pancakes. So for them I made a plain batch, which they LOVED. Every bite they took was accompanied with a heartfelt, “Mami, make these again!” My husband and I savoured the warm, juicy bursts of antioxidant goodness in every bite of our batch. I will be making these again very soon – maybe as soon as tomorrow’s breakfast!

(I’ll also be using some of these berries in my Flax & Bran Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, replacing the 1/2 cup of chocolate chips with at least 1 cup blueberries.)

Blueberry Scottish Oatmeal Pancakes or Waffles

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (I used regular whole wheat flour)

3/4 scottish oatmeal* – UPDATE: IF YOU LIVE IN CANADA, THIS CAN BE PURCHASED AT SOBEYS!

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted (I used 1/3 cup grape seed oil, but canola oil would also be good)

fresh blueberries

Directions:

Mix flour, oatmeal, baking powder, salt and soda. Stir in buttermilk, eggs and butter until smooth. While this batter is best on the thicker side, stir in a little more buttermilk if the batter is too thick. (For waffles, just add 1 more egg and 1 tbsp of oil.) Gently fold in however many blueberries you would like!

* As per the packaging: “Oatmeal originated in Scotland centuries ago and was different from our modern rolled oats. A coarse meal was produced by slowly grinding the kernel between two large millstones. Bob’s Red Mill Organic Scottish Oatmeal is produced in the same old-fashioned way and contains all the health-giving nutrients of the best quality oats from which it was ground – the germ, the oil and the fiber.”

Do you go blueberry picking? What’s your favourite recipe using blueberries?


It has been a very busy summer to date: we celebrated my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary at the end of June and then my son’s 5th birthday on the 13th of July (it was a Friday this year, just like the year he was born!). Last week my two eldest children had one-on-one swimming lessons in a nearby backyard pool every morning at 9am for half an hour, and they both did so well and enjoyed it so much that I have signed them up for one more week (check out some photos from their lessons below!). There have been plenty of playdates with some very amazing friends, including an overnight visit from our friends who live in London, Ontario which means there were four adults and six children under the age of six sleeping in our house! Oh, and then there has been some serious potty training going on with my youngest and I am happy to say that we are well on our way to being completely diaper-free!

So with all that business and the extremely hot summer we have been experiencing, I have not found the time or desire to do much cooking in the last few weeks, which explains why I haven’t posted any new recipes lately. Many evenings I have simply served the children some healthy snacks and/or sandwiches and a big bowl of salad for my husband and myself. Tonight, however, we actually enjoyed what my husband refers to as a “real meal”: Zucchini “Boats” With Home Fries. I’m excited to share the recipes with you because they’re really quick and easy to prepare, super yummy, and reasonably healthy and kid-friendly! I found the recipe for the zucchini several years ago in one of the “Canadian Cheese” magazines (I think!) and it has been a staple ever since, especially in the summer months when zucchini is readily available. I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine does!

Home Fries
Ingredients:
1-2 medium potatoes per person (I generally prefer to use Yukon Gold, but today I used regular white potatoes and they were equally delicious!)
olive oil
salt to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Gently clean potatoes with water if leaving the skin on the potatoes (which I highly recommend, as that is where most of the fibre and vitamins are found!) Or, peel potatoes (which I do when the skin is not very nice looking anymore) and then rinse them under cold running water.
3. Cut potatoes into fries and place in a large bowl. The thinner you cut them, the faster they will bake!

4. Drizzle potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Toss until all fries are coated with oil.
5. Spread potatoes onto a baking sheet and bake for 30 – 45 minutes, until they are golden and crispy. You should turn the fries occasionally while they are baking.

Zucchini “Boats”
Servings: 6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 to 25 minutes

Ingredients:
4 large zucchini, halved and cored
1 pound ground meat (your choice – I used beef)
1 or 2 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed
2 tbsp fresh basil or oregano, chopped (I used dried oregano, paprika, ground coriander)
3/4 cup Havarti cheese – plain or with jalapeno or tomato and basil (I used Gruyere, but you could use pretty much any cheese)
3/4 cup Feta cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Place zucchini on cookie sheet.

3. Combine remaining ingredients and use to stuff zucchini.
4. Bake 15 to 25 minutes or until meat well-cooked and zucchini are fork-tender.
5. Serve immediately with Home Fries (or brown rice or quinoa or barley!). Oh, and a side garden salad with my Honey Mustard Dressing is highly recommended!

What is your favourite way to enjoy zucchini?!

Below are a few pictures from the children’s swimming lessons:

Erik & Emma practice treading water in the deep end of the pool.


Erik swims in the deep end after jumping in!


Emma swims in the deep water with the aid of a noodle!

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.

Chicken Parmesan Bake

May 6, 2012

Imagine you’ve had an extremely busy day and now you are supposed to quickly prepare a healthy and super-delicious meal using the chicken breasts you had thawing in the fridge since last night, but the thought of all those dirty dishes to wash once dinner has been served and devoured is enough to make you want to order in a pizza instead. What if I told you I have a recipe that, approximately 35 minutes after starting to follow said recipe, results in a healthy and super-delicious meal with just one dish to clean?!  Impossible, right?! That’s what I thought, too, when my friend first told me about this recipe not that long ago. I have made it several times now and it has always exceeded my expectations.

You can click here to view the original recipe (literally, as there is no written recipe – it’s a video demonstration!), or you can read below to see my (healthier still) version of this recipe.

Ingredients:

1 jar of your favourite tomato sauce (as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my two favourites are the “Blue Menu” tomato sauces by “President’s Choice” available at No Frills, etc. and “All Natural Marinara Sauce” by “White Linen Collection – Gourmet Pasta Sauce” available at Costco – both are low in sodium and contain no added sugar)

fresh Basil leaves, chopped

1 – 2 cloves garlic, chopped or pressed (optional)

4 – 6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (I typically purchase the chicken breasts with the skin on and bone in and remove these myself – it’s usually cheaper this way AND allows me to make homemade chicken stock with the discarded bones – I’ll be doing a post on how to make your own chicken stock soon!)

1/2 bag whole grain, garlic croutons

shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese – as much or as little as you like!
 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pour some tomato sauce into a 2.8 L baking dish (I prefer glass), just enough to provide some moisture for the chicken breasts, which you then place on top of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle the chopped basil and garlic (if using) over top of the chicken breasts.

Pour tomato sauce over chicken breasts (I LOVE tomato sauce, so I am generous here). Next, sprinkle croutons over top, however much or little you like. (I would have used more if I hadn’t run out!) Sprinkle cheese over top, again as much or as little as you like.

Place in oven and bake for 30 – 35 minutes.

Steamed broccoli makes a good accompaniment. Or, as pictured above, enjoy with some brown and wild rice and a garden salad with my Honey Mustard Salad Dressing!

 

If you have ever wondered how to incorporate cabbage into your diet other than through cole slaw and cabbage rolls (and it’s not likely you’re eating these on a regular basis!), then this is THE recipe for you! The best thing about this recipe is that it requires only one pot (well, really a large frying pan or wok) and it can be seasoned using different spices to suit your taste! A very good friend of mine recently came up with the recipe when she wanted a quick, tasty way to incorporate cabbage into her diet. I have since made this dish several times, and though the kids turn their noses (tonight I served them chicken enchilada “pie” instead – recipe to follow soon!), my husband eagerly helps himself to seconds (and sometimes thirds)!

Ingredients:

1 pound ground turkey (ground chicken or beef will also taste great)

1 onion, sliced or diced

1 – 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cabbage, shredded (I use a mandolin to do this)

1 – 2 carrots, coarsely shredded

1 – 2 Tbsp curry powder (or, you can leave this out entirely!)

1 – 2 cups tomato sauce (my favourite for this recipe is from Costco and is called, “All Natural Marinara Sauce” by “White Linen Collection – Gourmet Pasta Sauce” – I highly recommend using this over the PC Blue Menu version for this recipe unless you’re in a pinch)

1 and 1/2 cups water

Directions:

Cook the meat (I used ground beef tonight, though I actually prefer it with ground turkey) in a large frying pan or wok, over high heat.

Once no longer pink, add onion and garlic. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes.

Add cabbage and cook for approximately 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add carrots and cook for approximately 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the curry powder (if using) and stir.

Add 1 – 2 cups tomato sauce (depends entirely on how “saucy” you want it to be).

Add water and reduce temperature to medium. Continue cooking for approximately 25 minutes, or until cabbage is tender and sauce thickened.

Serve with “Cucumber Salad” (see my recipe on a prior post) or garden salad using “Honey Mustard Dressing” (see my recipe on a prior post). And if you haven’t banished carbs from your dinner menu as I have (in an effort to finally lose the remaining pregnancy weight), serve with brown rice or quinoa! Oh, and a dollop of plain greek yogurt or drizzle of kefir would taste great, too!

Will you be giving this recipe a try? Please post a picture and give your verdict once you’ve done so!