A Recipe a Week: Week 5

Someday I will get off my soapbox about easy meals and meal planning and the wonders of meal prep. But today is not that day!!!

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While I wish I had a better picture, I was hungry and forgot until I was almost at the end of my bowl. Which says a lot about this meal. This week I kicked my challenge off early with the Roasted Gnocchi and Brussels Sprouts with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette from Eating Well Magazine‘s November/December 2016 issue.

A key aspect of meal planning is looking at what meals you’ll have lots of time to cook, what meals you’ll have a little bit of time to cook, and what meals you’ll have no time to cook. This one was in the middle, and the prep time was cut down tonight even more because I trimmed all those sprouts up while I waited for things to cook while doing my meal prep for the week yesterday. Meal prep to the rescue!!! I’m also a big advocate of sheet pan dinners because they’re simple. You just throw everything together, throw it on the pan and then throw it on a plate. This takes about 20 minutes to cook, which is about how long I have until I’m totally starving after the gym.

I’m not usually the biggest fan of Brussels sprouts, but the more I roast them, the more I like them. Boiled, still not so much. The sundried tomatoes and the acidity of the lemon really took away from the bitterness that I normally don’t like about the sprouts. The only thing I would change, is that when using normal lemons instead of Meyer lemons, the vinaigrette turns out a bit more sour. Next time I’ll probably skip adding the lemon juice towards the end and just let the lemons on the pan do their thing. But that’s a personal preference and using what’s available.

The vote in our little household is that this Meatless Monday-friendly dish will definitely be making a repeat performance. I have leftovers in the meal plan set for Wednesday night and I can’t wait!

A Recipe a Week: Week 4

Another week, another recipe and we’re still going strong. I feel like this challenge I’ve set for myself is definitely helping me finally cook some of the recipes I’ve flagged in the cookbooks I’ve accumulated, and so far it’s been great as far as prepping things ahead to have for lunch or dinner on busy nights.

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This week’s recipe is from Three Times a Day by Marilou and Alexandre Champagne. Even if every recipe in this book was awful, I would still love it for the photography. Everything is so carefully styled and presented. The recipes are just a great, with everything from simple recipes for everyday snacks, up to showstopper desserts and really fun main courses. I’ve only made a handful of thing from the book up until now, including the Eggs Benedict & Express Hollandaise Sauce (you make the sauce in the blender, it’s so simple!), the Coconut, Almond & Dark Chocolate Bars multiple times and the Butter Chicken. I find the recipes simple to follow, I’ve only had to hunt for a few ingredients I didn’t normally buy (garam masala, I’m looking at you), and the ingredients for each recipe are broken down into categories to make assembling everything easier. For the recipe I made tonight, all the salad ingredients were listed, and then the vinaigrette ingredients were under a separate heading. I know lots of cookbooks and recipes do this, it just makes actually cooking it great.

 I expected putting together this Orzo Salad with Roasted Vegetables, Fresh Herbs & Garlic Vinaigrette to take much longer than it did in real life. Once the veggies are all chopped and in the oven, all you ave to do is cook the orzo and throw together the vinaigrette. In the 20 minutes it took the veggies to cook, I had everything else done. My other favourite thing about this recipe is that it uses winter vegetables. So often in pasta salad, you have the standard tomatoes, cucumber and peppers. Those are great, but what if you want to get seasonal veggies? That’s where this recipe comes in. Carrots, squash and celeriac are great options to cook with in the winter months.

I’ve never cooked with celeriac before this recipe. I haven’t been actively avoiding it, I just can’t find it at our local grocery store, and never think to pick it up when I’m somewhere else. Once I figured out how to peel the ugly little bugger, I was away to the races. Did you know that 1 cup of celeriac has 20% of your daily vitamin C and 2.8 g of fibre? Now you do. I have a few pieces left after measuring out what I needed for this recipe, so I’m planning to chop them up and roast them to toss in a quinoa bowl for lunch next week.

In the mean time, I have this orzo salad to keep me going for days! It makes 6-8 servings, and we had it with some leftover chicken tonight.

I feel like the recipes I’ve been making have all been pretty veggie-centered, so maybe for next week I’ll move onto something a little different. I’m sure over the next 48 weeks you’ll see at least one more recipe show up from Three Times a Day.

A Recipe A Week: Week 3

This week for my A Recipe A Week challenge, I made the Spicy Red Lentil Soup from Homegrown, by Mairlyn Smith. Homegrown is a really unique book for a few reasons. For starters, it celebrate Canadian foods. There are so many twists on dishes from around the world, but they are all created with specifically Canadian ingredients in mind. Another reason I love this book is because the recipes have seasons listed at the top when the ingredients will be available. For example, all the asparagus recipes have “spring” listed at the top. It makes it super simple to know what dishes are going to taste the best with what’s available right now. The third reason I love it is because all the recipes were submitted by members of the Ontario Home Economics Association, which is a group I am very proud to be part of. Home Economics is a profession most people aren’t familiar with, and I feel like this book really showcases what we’re all about.

So this recipe…

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As per my own rules for this challenge, I had to make the recipe for this week between Monday and Sunday. This ended up with me making soup on Monday night instead of Sunday, like any normal meal-prepper.

There is something weirdly meditative about setting out all your ingredients and chopping the vegetables and measuring everything out that makes you feel very in control of your own little world. I cook a lot for work (that is my job), and I absolutely love it, but being able to cook for yourself and not worrying about following the recipe to the letter is an entirely different process. For example, I somehow lost the bag of lentils I really needed for this recipe. Like, lentils are in the name, how am I going to make this without lentils? I still haven’t found them, I have no idea where they went. But it’s not the end of the world. No one says I can’t put a can of chickpeas in my soup instead! Yes the lentils would melt into the soup a little better and make a different texture, but chickpeas still have protein and fibre and are tasty. It’s just not the end of the world. Not everything you make has to follow a recipe perfectly. It does have to feed you and make you happy.

And this recipe seriously makes me happy. The spice blend includes black pepper, turmeric, and cinnamon. Combined with the shallots and garlic, the kitchen smelt soooooo good. The spices make the soup spicy in a kind of unexpected way. The other unexpected thing here are the dried apricots. They soften up and add the subtle sweet pieces to the soup. Combined with the cinnamon, it reminds me kinda of Moroccan-inspired dishes. I am so excited to have a big bowl of this in my lunch every day this week! Meal prep doesn’t have to be this big awful chore. Sometimes it can just be you making a big pot of soup on a Monday night to feed you through a drizzly foggy week.

The big lesson here this week: find something that is just really pleasant to make to feed you all week and that you will look forward to eating every day. Calling something “pleasant to make” sounds weird, but what I mean is something simple, something uncomplicated, something that’s not stressful and that is open to your own unique tastes and pantry. Something that isn’t totally wrecked when you manage to lose the main ingredient.

Now I’m off to find something to make for next week!

A Recipe A Week: Week 2

Saturday night is a weird time for me to be posting but I did just make my new recipe for the week, so I figured I should write while I’m thinking about it.

For those who missed the last post, I have set myself a challenge for the year. Each week I’m cooking up a new-to-me recipe in order to break myself out of my food rut. The goal is that by Sunday night each week I will have tried a new recipe and posted about it. Two down, only fifty to go!!!

This week I made Pesto Spaghetti Squash from Thug Kitchen 101. I added the original Thug Kitchen to my shelf two years ago when I was looking for vegan cookbooks, because beans and legumes are cheaper than meat, and I was looking for cheap ways to up my protein and iron intake. I ended up loving how they use different ingredients to create totally unique dishes that everyone will love, vegan or not. When I got Thug Kitchen 101 for Christmas this year, I was so excited to start cooking my way through it.

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Like kale salad, spaghetti squash is not really outside of my comfort zone. As I have proven in a handful of posts (with meat sauce, as a taco skillet, or in this first post that desperately needs new photos), spaghetti squash is a staple in my cooking and has been for a while. Usually I make it in the microwave because it tends to go a little bit faster. For this recipe, I cooked it in the oven and whipped up the pesto sauce while it was cooking. Pesto is a great way to use up those odds and ends of herbs that can end up hanging around the fridge after you only needed them for a garnish or a tiny amount in a recipe. Things like cilantro, parsley and basil are the obvious choices, but some thyme thrown in would be a nice surprise. Green onions could easily make themselves at home here too. Add your favourite nuts, some olive oil, garlic and lemon juice and you’re away to the races! Any strategy for keeping food from going to waste!

I topped my squash off with some leftover rotisserie chicken for some protein. I do realize that adding meat to a dish from a vegan book kind of defeats the purpose, but this is what was in the fridge and needed to be eaten up. I was super happy with how this recipe turned out and it has definitely been added to the make-again list!

Next week I’m tackling a red lentil soup. The plan is to make it on Monday night and portion it out so I have lunch for the rest of the week. I’m trying to get pack into the habit of meals planning and meal prepping so there is never a scramble to figure out what to take for lunch or what to make for dinner, so this recipe fits in perfectly. I’m also starting to get bored with my lunch salads and I want something warm when I come in from going for my walk at lunch, so this sounds like the perfect fit. Stay tuned!

 

A Recipe a Week: Week 1

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Do you set new year’s resolutions? Most people do. And most people say things like “I want to lose weight” or “I want to eat healthier” or “I want to travel more”. These are awesome goals, but they are not nearly specific enough to be attainable. How much weight do you want to lose? How are you going to do that? Eat healthier how: more veggies? More protein? Track your food? Eat mindfully? And where do you want to travel? When? How are you saving up to be able to do that? Who do you need to bring into the loop about any of these goals?

The point is, a resolution with no kind of plan to it is pretty easy to brush aside, and it’s easy to give up because you don’t know where to start.

My new year’s resolution is to get out of the cooking rut I’ve been in lately. To that end, my more specific plan is that I will cook one new recipe every week. These don’t have to be gourmet, they don’t have to be complicated, and they won’t be my own original recipes. To make this goal achievable, I’ve gone through a bunch of cookbooks and flagged all the recipes I’m interested in with sticky notes, which cuts down a bit on dithering over whether something looks good. I’m also picking each recipe the week before, and putting the ingredients on the grocery list, so I don’t get to the end of the week and need to make a new recipe but don’t have ingredients, or haven’t planned ahead.

I’ve set this goal because I feel like I’m in a food rut. I have changed my eating a bit in the last few months and am eating a much healthier diet than before. However, I don’t know how many dinners I’ve had that consist of a relatively plain protein and plain veggies. I work with food and cook all day. By the time I get home and have to feed myself, there’s so many days I just don’t have the effort left to get creative with my food. I’m hoping that by taking on this challenge, I will find some new fall-back recipes that I will love, and that I’ll be able to try out some new kitchen skills and new techniques and learn lots along the way.

IMG_1082.JPGTo kick things off this week, I can’t say I went too far out of my comfort zone. I made the Kale Caesar Salad with Roast Pistachios from the Whole30 Cookbook by Melissa Hartwig.

While I haven’t followed a Whole30 diet too much since I did mine in the summer, I have stuck with some of the concepts in my every-day healthy eating. Things like filling up on veggies and fruits, incorporating healthy fats, avoiding processed foods, limiting all types of sugar, etc. I love that there’s a whole new book of these recipes, since I do love to cook with as much of a whole-food approach as possible.

This recipe isn’t really branching out for me, since I have my own version of a Garlicky Kale Salad, and we go through a ridiculous amount of kale salad when it’s in season and heaps are coming out of the garden. I love making recipes that are similar to my staple foods, but different, because it gives me a different perspective on how to make the dish, or how to tweak those foods I make constantly so that it keeps getting better, or I can do something different with it. This dressing uses a hard-boiled egg yolk to hold everything in the dressing together, which I love for a few reasons: 1) I don’t love mayo based dressings. 2) There are always hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. 3) I don’t have to worry about raw-egg food safety things when I have leftovers for 4 days. The pistachios are something different, and I didn’t miss croutons or bacon or cheese at all. Since it is kale, the leftovers hold up really well for a few days too! We had the salad with some slow-cooked beef roast and potatoes. I have to say, I’m super happy with how this salad turned out, and I can’t wait to try some other recipes from this book!

Stay tuned for what I decide to make next week!