May 29, 2014

Roasted Veggie Spaghetti with Balsamic & Basil

This past week has been a bit crazy for me, as I've had to pack up over three years worth of my belongings and move into a new place (I know three years isn't that long, but somehow I've accumulated a lot of stuff - mostly junk haha). Not surprisingly, I've been relying on quick and easy meals that don't involve much cooking to get me through the process!

Now that I'm finally settled into my new place, I'm looking forward to getting back into a routine and testing out my new kitchen!  Although I'm not sure how my baking is going to turn out with a stove that currently only has one oven rack that appears to be stuck in the lower half of the oven...

The first actual meal that I cooked for myself after moving in was this simple summery pasta dish of thin spaghettini noodles tossed with a variety of colourful roasted veggies and balsamic vinegar, and topped with some fresh basil.

This dish was inspired by a recipe from the cookbook Appetite for Reduction, which used fusilli pasta and a slightly different mix of vegetables (I left out the yellow squash and added spinach and basil). The original recipe was called a pasta primavera, but to me primavera usually implies pasta with veggies in a creamy white sauce, and this dish is quite different!

Instead of adding a sauce, the vegetables are simply roasted until tender with lots of herbs and garlic, then tossed with the noodles in balsamic vinegar for a nice light meal that really highlighted the veggies - perfect for summer evenings!

The basil was a nice addition, and feel free to add other toppings you like, such as parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, or maybe even a touch of pesto!

Roasted Veggie Spaghetti with Balsamic & Basil
Adapted from Appetite for Reduction

1/2 bunch asparagus
1 large zucchini
1 small red onion
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1 bell pepper (I recommend orange, red, or yellow)
4-6 cloves garlic (4 large or 6 smaller)
1-2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried thyme or basil (I used basil because I didn’t have thyme)
Salt and pepper
1/2 lb spaghettini (or another pasta)
2 cups packed baby spinach leaves
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
A few handfuls of fresh basil

Preheat oven to 450°F and line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.

Prepare the veggies: snap the woody ends off the asparagus and slice the stalks into smaller pieces (3-4 pieces per stalk). Slice the zucchini into half-inch slices. Peel the onion and cut in half, then slice each half into thin slices. Cut the bell pepper in half, remove the seeds and core, and thinly slice. Peel the garlic and cut into thin slices as well.

Divide the veggies among the baking pans and toss with the olive oil. Sprinkle the dried herbs over top and season generously with salt and pepper. Toss to mix. Place in preheated oven for 15 minutes, then remove pans and give the veggies a toss. Return to oven for another 10-15 minutes, until tender and browned.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, then drain.

Add the pasta and roasted veggies to a large bowl. Stir in the spinach so that it wilts. Add balsamic vinegar and toss well to mix. Divide into serving bowls, top with some fresh basil and season to taste with salt and pepper. You might want to add another drizzle of balsamic vinegar as well.

Makes 4 servings.

May 21, 2014

Hearts of Palm, Orange & Avocado Salad

I mentioned in my last post that I recently got two new vegan cookbooks as a gift, and I couldn't wait to try the recipes in Straight from the Earth.

One recipe that stood out that I decided to try my take on first was the grilled hearts of palm salad with grapefruit and avocado. I love the combination of avocado with citrus fruits, and I've been wanting to try hearts of palm for awhile so I was excited to try this!

I'm not a huge fan of grapefruit though, so I decided to use orange instead, which I thought worked really well as a substitute. I had to try a couple of stores before I found canned hearts of palm, but I was glad I managed to get them because I loved their unique taste and texture!

If you've never had hearts of palm, it's a vegetable that actually comes from a palm tree, and I would describe them as having a similar texture as artichokes, but with a milder flavour somewhat like water chestnuts.

The original recipe called for grilling the sliced hearts of palm, but I just sauteed them in a pan and that worked fine too! For the dressing, I modified it to have much less oil and I added some dijon and a bit more orange zest. I also added a sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds to my salad for a little bit of crunch.

This was such a fresh tasting salad that would be perfect to eat on a warm summer night. I loved the combination of buttery, creamy avocado slices with the juicy oranges and the warm hearts of palm. The dressing was nice and light and tangy, and you can use whatever greens you like as the base - the original recipe called for arugula but I used baby spinach instead.

I hope to try more recipes from this cookbook soon, and if you've tried any that you recommend, please feel free to share in the comments!

Hearts of Palm, Orange & Avocado Salad
Adapted from Straight from the Earth

2 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp agave
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
3/4 tsp orange zest
Salt and pepper to taste

1 seedless orange (*Note: you will need the zest first for the dressing before you slice it)
1 14oz can hearts of palm, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 ripe avocado
Baby spinach or other baby greens

To make the dressing, whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl (or place in a bowl with a lid and then shake to mix). Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.

Use a knife to slice the peel off the orange. Carefully slice the orange into thin segments and set aside. Slice the hearts of palm in half lengthwise and let dry out a bit on paper towels.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Toast the pumpkin seeds just until fragrant and beginning to brown. Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl. Add olive oil to the pan, then place the hearts of palm flat side down. Let cook for about 2-3 minutes, until lightly browned, then flip and cook the other side for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate.

Cut avocado in half, remove the pit and scoop out the two halves. Slice each half lengthwise into thin pieces.

Place desired amount of spinach or greens in a bowl and drizzle some of the dressing over top. Toss well to mix, then lay out greens on plates. Top plates with the sliced avocado, oranges, hearts of palm, and toasted pumpkin seeds. Drizzle more dressing over top if desired.

Makes 2 large servings or 4 small servings.

May 14, 2014

Recipe Round Up: Spring 2014

With our Mothers Day brunch and dinner this past weekend, and a month or two worth of other treats and snacks that I've made from other blogs, I thought it was time for another recipe round up to share some of kitchen successes I've had lately!

For my birthday last month, my sister Natalie got me a couple of new cookbooks that she knew would be exactly my style - the Oh She Glows Cookbook by Angela Liddon (mine is the Canadian cover), and Straight from the Earth by mother-daughter duo Myra and Marea Goodman.

I knew I wanted my own copy of the Oh She Glows book after seeing so many other bloggers rave about the recipes, and I know from my own experience that Angela's recipes are not only healthy but they always turn out well!

I've only made one recipe from the book so far - the 15 minute creamy avocado pasta (one that I've made from her blog a few times before as well) and if it's any indication of the quality of the other recipes in the book, then I definitely can't wait to try more!

Another birthday treat that I haven't mentioned on my blog yet was the one I made for myself! Instead of making a cake this year, I opted for miniature "cheesecakes" that I could bring in to the office to share with people. I based the recipe off of Chocolate Covered Katie's greek yogurt cheesecake, except I used a regular (non-vegan) lemon greek yogurt and reduced the sweetener a bit.

Instead of making one large cake, I crumbled the graham cracker base into muffin liners and made individual cups that I baked for about 20-25 minutes. The texture was definitely different than a regular cheesecake, but it got better after one or two days in the fridge and I loved how creamy they were! 

Another recipe from Chocolate Covered Katie's blog that I tried recently was her one-minute coffee cake in a mug (pictured below). I left out the topping and added cinnamon to the batter instead, and I also baked mine in a wider ramekin so it was a bit flatter, but it came out perfectly! I thought it did taste like coffee cake and had a nice texture - hard to believe you can make it so easily just in the microwave!  Topped with some yogurt and a sprinkle of granola, this made a nice light breakfast along with a smoothie. 

I've also been loving the recipes posted by Lauren on her blog Oatmeal with a Fork - she always has new ideas for healthy no-bake treats that I keep bookmarking!

I tried her double layer chocolate cookie bars recently and loved the combination of oat-based cookie dough on top with a cocoa and date layer on the bottom. I made a few changes based on the ingredients I had on hand, including adding some PB2 to the top layer for a bit of a peanut butter flavour which worked well.  

Another healthy treat I made recently was this vegan banana bread chocolate chip snack cake from Ambitious Kitchen. I loved the flavour that the oat flour added (although I substituted half of the oat flour with whole wheat flour), and I thought they had the perfect amount of banana taste. These were nice and light with a touch of richness from the chocolate chips. I would definitely make these again!

I actually made the banana cake for a daytrip with my family that we organized for my dad's birthday. Along with the cake, I also made these no-bake fig newtons because my dad loves figs! I followed this recipe for date newtons by the Pancake Princess, adapted from the blog Rawified (who also made a fig version). The outside is made from ground up nuts, oats, and flax, and the inside is a paste made from dried black mission figs. They were soft and chewy, and pretty rich so you only need a small piece for a healthy snack!

Finally, I wanted to share a few of the recipes that I tried this past weekend for Mother's Day.

For brunch, my sisters and I got together to eat with our parents and we prepared a fun and interactive breakfast buffet!  I set out a couple of kinds of yogurt with a variety of fruits and some granola so that everybody could make their own yogurt parfait, and my sister also made some amazing biscuits that we ate fresh out of the oven with different jams.

My favourite part of the meal though was this no-cook strawberry lemon chia curd from Edible Perspective that I made the night before and let thicken in the fridge overnight (I used all black chia seeds so mine turned out a little darker). It was the perfect addition to both the yogurt parfaits and the biscuits! 

For dinner later on in the day, my sister made a strawberry goat cheese salad topped with chicken, and for a vegetarian option I decided to make some tofu to go with the salad. I followed this recipe for breaded tofu from Divine Healthy Food, making a couple of small changes to the marinade and sauteeing it rather than grilling. I've never made breaded tofu before but I loved how it turned out!

I also made this strawberry focaccia with maple-balsamic caramelized onions and basil from Saveur to go with the meal. The crust came out a little crispier than I wanted, but I loved the topping combination and I thought the leftovers were even better the next day because the crust had softened up a bit. 

It was a great meal overall, complete with rhubarb and lemon custard tarts made by my sister for dessert! You can check out a more detailed post about our Mother's Day meals on my sister Natalie's blog Once Upon a Cutting Board.

Hope you're all enjoying the Spring weather and hopefully I'll be back soon with a new recipe to share!

May 01, 2014

Soft-Baked Fig, Hazelnut & Pumpkin Seed Granola Bars

This past couple of weeks have been extra busy for me, as I've been trying to balance a stressful time in my graduate studies with other family and social events like Easter, my own birthday and my Dad's birthday which we are celebrating belatedly this weekend!

During times like this when I'm too busy to worry about cooking or grocery shopping, I like to make sure I have still have enough healthy and nutritious food options easily available, and homemade snacks like today's recipe are the perfect way to get in a boost of energy to keep me going!

I've tried a lot of granola bar recipes in the past, and while I've enjoyed all of them, I tend to prefer the chewy, soft-baked kind. I also like when they have an interesting texture and when their sweetness comes from fruit rather than added sweeteners.

So these dried fig, hazelnut, and pumpkin seed granola bars that I made recently were definitely my kind of tasty and healthy snack!

Not only are they soft and chewy while still holding together well, but the base of them is made up of a mix of ground hazelnuts and pumpkin seeds with oats and rice crisp cereal, giving them a lot more nutty flavour and texture than a regular oat-based granola bar.

They're also held together with some almond butter to add more richness and a bit of maple syrup for sweetness. What really made these unique though was the addition of dried figs. I've never really eaten dried figs before, but these dried black mission figs changed my mind - if you can find the black mission ones, they really make all the difference because they're so soft and sweet!

The original recipe for these bars called for only pumpkin seeds instead of any nuts, and used all rice cereal without any oats, so I was happy that they still turned out so well even after the changes I made. 

While these involve a somewhat long list of ingredients and some more expensive ingredients than other homemade granola bars, I thought they were worth it! 

Feel free to make some substitutions though, like using a different type of nut than the hazelnuts, or leaving out the chia seeds and cocoa powder (these were additions that I made but they're not necessary). You could also add extra fruit like raisins or currants, but I don't recommend skipping the dried figs!

Soft-Baked Fig, Hazelnut & Pumpkin Seed Granola Bars
Adapted from Daily Bites

2 tbsp ground flax, divided
3 tbsp water
Scant 1/2 cup raw hazelnuts
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup rice crisp cereal
1 tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp cinnamon
1.5 tsp cocoa powder
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped dried black mission figs
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp almond butter (I used a homemade almond butter)
2 tbsp pure maple syrup (or up to ¼ cup if you prefer a sweeter snack)
2 tbsp almond milk
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F and line an 8x8 square baking pan with parchment paper.

Mix 1 tbsp of the ground flax with the water and set aside to thicken.

In a food processor, process the hazelnuts and pepitas until roughly ground. Add the oats, rice crisp cereal, remaining 1 tbsp of flax, chia seeds, cinnamon, cocoa, baking powder, and salt and process until everything is finely ground. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and stir in the chopped figs.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the almond butter (you may need to microwave it a bit if yours isn’t very liquidy and smooth), maple syrup, almond milk, vinegar, and vanilla until smooth.

Pour liquid mixture into dry ingedients and stir with a rubber spatula or spoon until everything is mixed well. Transfer mixture to the prepared pan and press down firmly with your hands and/or a rubber spatula so that the mixture is evenly spread out across the pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes, until the edges are starting to crisp. Remove and let the pan cool on a wire rack. Once cool, carefully remove the bars by pulling on the parchment paper (you might want to run a knife around the edges first) and cool completely before cutting into bars.

Makes 10 bars. 


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...