Recipe: Rice Pasta with Goat Cheese and Broccoli

The final Product!

One of the things that I had time giving up, and this may sound disgusting to some, was the Canadian classic, Kraft Dinner. Even just talking about it makes me want to bust open a pack of KD and throw in some butter, some whole milk and then, after it’s been cooked and that powdery “cheese” goodness has been lovingly mixed in with those enriched yet bleached wheat noodles, I’d drench it in ketchup (and maybe add some hot dogs to it).

Now that I know better – that sounds like a recipe for disaster – even though my stomach is growling at the thought.

I’ve had to come up with other creative ways to include my love for pasta and my love for gooey cheese in a nutritious dish.

This, my friends, has become an oldy but a goody!

NOTE: If you don’t like broccoli, I won’t hold it against it you. You can always substitute it for spinach or even roasted green or red peppers or even zucchini – actually, any veggie that you think would be delicious. But I wanted to keep this somewhat simple, so I went with broccoli.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of brown rice pasta (spirals, penne, whatever you prefer, just not spaghetti – doesn’t bode well).
  • 1/2 head of broccoli
  • 1/2 of a large portabello mushroom or 3 baby bellas – chopped
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 1/3 large red onion – finely chopped
  • 1 cup of goat mozerella cheese – shredded
  • Olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp of black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp of sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp of coriander
  • 1/2 tsp of chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp of 0regano
  • Garlic (2 cloves, minced)

Method:

Boil water and cook the rice pasta. TIP: Add a table spoon of olive oil to the water so that the pasta doesn’t stick together.

While the pasta is cooking, steam the broccoli (should take about 10 to 20 minutes, but keep an eye on it). When it’s tender, it’s ready!

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

In the meantime, in a medium frying pan, heat 1 table spoon of olive oil and add your spices. Let them simmer for about a minute or until fragrant. Then add your onions and stir until they become soft.

Then add the mushrooms, sundried tomatoes and garlic. Let this simmer for about 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Layer so that the rice pasta goes in first, then the veggies, then the cheese.

When the pasta has finished cooking, drain it and add it to the frying pan. Same goes with the broccoli. TIP: Once the broccoli florets have been steamed, cut them into smaller pieces or in half.

Mix all ingredients together. Let the flavour soak in for a couple minutes then transfer to a medium sized baking dish. Add the shredded goat mozerrella cheese on top and bake for about 10 minutes or until cheese starts bubbling.

Remove from oven and let cool for  a few minutes before serving.

Serves between 2 and 3.  Serve with some chicken or fish and salad or on it’s own – why not?

Cook time: 30 to 40 mins

Enjoy!

Lunch! Veggie Gnocchi

How many of you out there buy your lunch everyday? How much money do you spend, on average per day? How about per week? Luckily, where I work, we have a cafeteria subsidized by our company, so lunch, on average, costs no more than $4 a day…so $20 a week…and roughly $1,040 a year (maybe a bit less if you have vacation days).

What if you worked for a company where they didn’t have a caf? So, if you bought your lunch from outside you’d probably be paying about $10 a day…that’s $50 a week…and about $2,600 a year! PLUS you don’t know 100% for sure what you are eating, since you didn’t prepare it yourself.

Until my health scare in March, I was just like some of you: I could not be bothered to make my lunch and thought I was pretty clever for buying it everyday; less to carry and no dishes to do.  But, not only did those pounds creep in, I also would feel ill after eating…probably because I was eating an ingredient that didn’t agree with my system (most likely sugar, wheat or dairy).  Does this sound like you? Looking for a change but don’t know where to begin or how to get motivated?

Well, starting today I will posting “A Lunch A Day” for the month of November to give you all some ideas of what to bring for lunch.

I was a bit busy yesterday and did not get a chance to post yesterday’s lunch, so here it is:

Leftover gnocchi from the night before, with an apple, some nuts (to add protein with the apple), and a berry protein shake (for the afternoon).

Here is the recipe for the gnocchi (vegetarian and gluten free!):

Ingredients:

  • 1 package of rice gnocchi
  • 1/2 can of chickpeas (drained)
  • 1 medium sized tomato, chopped
  • 2 cups of spinach
  • 1/2 medium sized onion
  • goat cheese (cheddar) – half a stick or as much as you need to make it cheesey (shredded)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped finely
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 cup of low sodium organic chicken stock

Method:

  1. Boil the gnocchi according to the cooking instructions on the package. Preheat the oven to 350f.
  2. In a medium/large sized pan (depending on what you have), put the onions and half of the chicken stock in the pan. Let it simmer until the onions are clear. Then, add the spices and cook until the onions are almost a golden brown. Then, add the red peppers and spinach and the rest of the chicken stock.
  3. While this is simmering, blend the tomatoes, garlic and chickpeas. Add either water or chicken stock to get a creamy consistency.
  4. Grate the cheese.
  5. Once the gnocchi is boiled and the veggies are cooked, layer the ingredients in medium sized casserole dish, as follows: gnocchi, sauce, veggies, cheese.
  6. Bake in the oven at 350f for 10 minutes or until the cheese has melted.
  7. Let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Serves 2-3 and is GREAT the next day for lunch! Serve as a side with salad or soup or as a main.

Enjoy!

Back to Tuna

Today was one of those glorious fall days where it was warm enough to not see your breath but cool enough to have wear cozy layers. If I didn’t have to go to work today, it would have been glorious day to be curled up on my couch with a nice, hot cup of tea and a good book!

I had a few errands to run today after work and ever the multi-tasker, I thought it would be wise to get all of my shopping done before heading home. Did I mention they were calling for a rain storm this evening? I had to go to the dollar store and buy enough plates, cups, napkins and cutlery for 100 people (my Toastmasters club is hosting the Division contest tomorrow!) and then I needed a few things at the grocery store. I was on my way home, when I realized that I had to pick up a parcel from the drug store’s post office. So, in the cold rain, I have a massively awkward box under one arm and in the other, my purse, lunch bag and a huge plastic bag from the Dollar Store. Sometimes I daydream that a devestatingly handsome man will offer to carry my bags home for me. But instead, I get dirty looks from oncoming pedestrians as I take up half the width of the sidewalk because the box that I’m desperately clinging to is large and in charge.

By the time I made it in – I was drenched, hungry and miserable! I knew just the thing to make for dinner…an oldy but a goody… You may know her as Tuna Casserole.

Having fish for dinner tonight really tied in well with my nerdy, internal debate: Flax or Fish oil: Which one is more beneficial? Yes, these are the thoughts that occupy my mind. Scary? Sad? I can’t think of another “s” word so I will end it there. My good friend, who works for an Omega-3 company, informed me that though flax has ALA, which is needed to help convert the omega 3, it has a lower level of DHA and EPA than fish oil. BUT flax has other benefits like fibre and magnesium and aids in the absorption of calcium. BUT the whole point in me taking these oils was to get more Omega 3, so once I’ve finished this flax bottle, it’ll be back to ole fishy oil. UNLESS, I take Omega 3-6-9 capsules and the flax oil to help with the absorption… SEE?! Not straightforward. Or is it?

Back to Tuna.

One thing about me is that, when I’m hungry and tired, I don’t often make the best decisions…

Here is an example:

That’s 2 cups of shell pasta in the smallest pot I own. WHY? I do own other, larger, more useful pots. It all turned out for the best, though, but seriously…seriously.

Back to Tuna.

Here’s how to make the casserole that saved my sanity!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 tsp of oregano, chilli powder, paprika, salt, pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of corriander
  • 2-3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion (cooking or red)
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/2 peeled zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup (packed) spinach
  • 1 can of flaked tuna (packed in water, not oil)
  • 2 cups of brown rice pasta
  • goat’s cheese (cheddar or mozerella), grated
  • sundried tomatoes, chopped

Method:

1. Pre-heat oven to 350f. Then, in  a large pan or skillet, pour the oil until heated. Then add the spices and stir until fragrant. (about 3 minutes). While this is heating, start to boil water for the rice pasta and prepare this on the side. See the above photo! But please, use a larger pot.

2. Add the onions and cook until they start to become transparent.

3. Add the diced tomatoes. Stir in with the onions and spices. Let the tomatoes simmer until they start to become juicy. About 3 minutes.

4. Add the zucchini and stir it in with the tomatoes, spices and onion. After about 3 more minutes, add the spinach and stir in gradually. It will look like this… but as the heat and juices rise up, the spinach with shrink and it will be easier to stir it in. I PROMISE! But you have to be patient!

5. Once the veggies are stirred and the pasta is cooked, you can then add the following to a medium-sized casserole dish: Layer : pasta, tuna, veggies, sundried tomatoes, grated cheese.

6. Bake at 350f for 10 to 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

The end result should look something like this!

Serve as is or with a side of your choice. This would go well with a salad or even a creamy soup (like cauliflower or something seasonal like butternut squash or sweet potato). This also would have been amazing with a nice glass of merlot…but my hands were way too full to carry anything else home. This weekend, I’ll be sure to stock up!

Serves 2-3.

Total time: 45 minutes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook Time:
Rice Pasta: 20 minutes
Casserole: 10-15 minutes

Enjoy!

I’m back!

September proved to be a very hectic month both personally and professionally. When I wasn’t travelling around for work, I was working hard as the club president of my Toastmasters club, doing a 30 day running challenge with my friend and just trying to catch up on some rest.

Now that things have calmed down and the hoopla is over (for now), I’ve settled into a routine and I’m able to dedicate some time to blogging.

Over the weekend, we had some pretty disgusting weather here in Toronto. Nothing like walking around the city with an armload of groceries while gusts of wind are pushing against you. By the time I got home, I felt like I had a workout!  I was so glad to be home and relax but as soon as I unpacked a few things, I realized that I forgot dish soap and lightbulbs. Since there was enough dish soap left to wash a spoon and 2 out of 3 light bulbs in my kitchen had burnt out, I had to suck it up and get back out there. The fun never ends.

The upside? Yes, there is an upside! Now that the weather is cooler and I don’t need to strategize what time I can cook without melting (I suffered without A/C this summer), I get to bust out my skillet and crock pot and make yummy warm foods without sweating buckets in the kitchen. Like I said, the fun never ends! Stay tuned for new recipes that I’ve been working on for fall.

On Saturday, after running errands and buying groceries, I made myself a nice, veggie lunch. I just bought some Ezekiel bread (the seseame kind) so I decided that I would make myself a sandwich. Then, I realized I had some left over avocado and some cucumber, which would go perfectly.

Here it is in its finished state:

How to make:

Veggie Sandwich

Ingredients (Serves 1)

  • 2 slices of sprouted grain bread toasted (I use Ezekiel).
  • Butter
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Mustard Powder
  • Goat’s Mozerella Cheese
  • Zucchini
  • Sun dried tomatoes

Method

Lightly butter the toasted bread and sprinkle the spices on the melting butter. Add a few slices of zucchini and sundried tomato and some cheese (enough to cover the veggies). Put the second slice of bread on top and broil in the oven at 350F for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Slice in half and enjoy!

Avocado and Cucumber Salad

Ingredients (serves 1 or 2):

  • 1/3 of a cucumber (sliced into small pieces)
  • 1/2 an avocado (sliced into small pieces)
  • Garlic power
  • pepper
  • salt
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 tbsp of rice wine vinegar

Method

In a medium sized bowl, toss the cucumber and avocado pieces with the spices, olive oil and rice wine vinegar until coated. Then, chill in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes (this could be done while your sandwich is heating up in the oven). Serve as a side dish or eat as a refreshing snack!

Enjoy!

Just left of leftovers.

What’s so great about leftovers? Especially a mish-mash of veggies sitting in your fridge that don’t quite fit into any other recipe?

You know what?

What?

They’re great for making soup!

The other day, when I was looking through my fridge, I noticed that I had about a handful of spinach, half of a head of cauliflower and a half a bag of baby carrots that weren’t going to eat themselves and I couuldn’t think for the life of me what I could use these for. Then it hit me…I decided to get creative and make a soup out of them. Yes! Genius! I know it’s about 40c here, BUT I couldn’t let these go to waste and it’s SO easy to make soup. Plus, I’m feeling pretty confident these days about my mad cooking skillz so I decided to try out my very own original recipe (though I’m sure someone has made this at some point in time). Anyways, it was easy, and delicious!

If you love creamy soups with a bit of kick, then this will totally be up your alley.

Ingredients:

  • ½ head of cauliflower
  • 1 cup of baby carrots
  • 1 handful of spinach
  • 1 TBSP of chopped ginger
  • 1 TBSP of chopped jalapeno pepper (don’t feel pressure if you don’t like it hot)
  • 1/3 TSP of all spice
  • 1/3 TSP of paprika
  • A pinch of salt or salt to taste
  • 1 cup veg broth or enough to add consistency
  • A dollop of goat cheese (optional, but amazing!)

Method:

  1. Steam the cauliflower, carrots, ginger and jalapeno pepper until soft. Test it by sticking a fork in the carrots and cauliflower.
  2. Add some of the steamed veggies, the spinach and spices to a blender. Slowly add the veggie broth to blend. Slowly add broth and veggies until all ingredients are mixed.
  3. This will be a hot soup, so make sure that your blender or food processor can handle the heat.
  4. Serve immediately and add that dollop of goat cheese and mix it in the soup.

TIP: Freeze extra portions for later!

Serving: Makes about 4-6 cups.

Time: However long it takes to steam your veggies plus 10 minutes of blending.

Enjoy!