How To: Big Batch – Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Baked Orzo

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Can you believe it? I have an ACTUAL meal to share with you. Not a snack, not granola, but a real live dinner MEAL!

After watching my daughter eat one too many bowls of mac and cheese (and it wasn’t the homemade kind), I finally got the kick in the butt I needed to get back on the meal planning track. And what did I make? Well, I guess this is kind of an upscale version of mac and cheese – but instead of mac we have orzo, and instead of plain old cheese sauce, we have lots of delicious vegetables, chunks of mozzarella, and lemon zest and oregano.

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This recipe makes a double batch – perfect to eat one now and freeze one for later. If you don’t want such a big serving (then I think you are crazy because this is delicious) but feel free to half the recipe and make just one pan. Big batch meals are perfect for me as you all well know summer is not my prime cooking time – who else can second that?

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One of the great things about this baked orzo casserole is that there is no need to pre cook the orzo. Everything gets cooked together in the same pan – a one pot meal means less clean up. Something I also would rather not do in the summer, or anytime for that matter.

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While I hope my cooking mojo is here to stay, at least if it’s not I have a dinner waiting in my freezer. No boring old mac and cheese tonight kids!

Dara

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Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Baked Orzo

Serves 8
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Freezable, Pre-preparable
Website Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggplant
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 carrot (diced)
  • 2 celery stalk (diced)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 450 gram box orzo
  • 2 tsp tomato paste
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 ball mozzarella (diced)
  • 1 cup parmesan (grated)
  • 5 tomatoes (sliced)
  • salt and pepper

Note

If you didn't want to bake a big batch, you could easily half this recipe to serve 4. You can roast the eggplant ahead of time and store in the fridge until you are ready to make the orzo.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Spread eggplant cubes evenly over sheets and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil. Roast in the oven until tender, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
2. Heat remaining 2 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add carrots, celery, onion, and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Stir in the orzo, tomato paste, and roasted eggplant and cook for another two minutes.
3. Remove pan from heat and add half of the oregano, mozzarella, parmesan, lemon zest, water, and salt and pepper. Mix until combined.
4. Spray 2 8 x 8 baking dishes with cooking spray and divide orzo mixture evenly among them. Lay sliced tomatoes out evenly along the top and sprinkle with remaining oregano, and salt and pepper.
5. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and cover baking dishes with foil. Bake for 20 minutes with foil on and then another 25 minutes with foil off. Let sit for about 5-10 minutes before serving so orzo can firm up.
6. Once cooled, you can cover tightly and freeze as is, or separate into individual servings and freeze.

 

 

How to: Recipe Makeover – Grilled Potato Poutine with Mushroom Gravy

IMG_5516I’m not even sure where to start.  I am without words.

Ok, one word.

Poutine (drops mic, walks off stage)

IMG_5437This one’s killer, guys.

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It’s potato salad season and I’ve been looking for something new and cutting-edge. A real crowd pleaser.

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Things that please crowds:

  • Gravy
  • Cheese
  • Grill marks

This, I can work with.

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This gravy recipe is out of this world.  I’m going to make it and put it on everything from now until forever, amen.

It’s super complex and ‘meaty’ with the perfect amount of sweetness and acid from the balsamic vinegar.  A perfect complement to the cheese curds.

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And yes, fries are traditional.  I’m telling you though, the grilled potatoes…boomshalaka. Also, there’s the improved healthiness factor. So, bonus.

IMG_5464This can be served on individual plates as a side, or even as a meal with a little side salad.  It’s super impressive on a big platter served family style too.  You’ll want to make sure no one else is bringing potato salad if this is for a potluck, lest you shame them from the party.

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Holy cannoli that looks awesome.

Erin

Grilled Potato Poutine with Mushroom Gravy

Serves 4-6
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Website Gravy adapted from Epicurious.com

Ingredients

  • 1 ½lb new potatoes (halved or quartered into 1 inch pieces)
  • 1 bunch green onion (washed)
  • 2 tablespoons olive or canola oil (divided)
  • salt & pepper
  • 200g cheese curds

Gravy

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1lb cremini mushrooms (or a combination of any other varieties)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • salt & pepper (to taste)

Directions

1. Preheat barbecue to medium-high, about 350F.
Toss potatoes in 1½ Tbsp of oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss green onion with remaining oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Transfer potatoes to a grilling basket or wrap in aluminum foil. Place on indirect heat on the grill. Place green onion on direct heat and grill for about 2 minutes, flipping once, until slightly softened and charred. Remove onions, cool slightly and slice.
Close barbecue and continue to cook potatoes for 20-25 minutes on indirect heat, stirring once halfway through.
Move potatoes over to direct heat (if you're using aluminum foil and you want a grilled flavour, put potatoes directly onto grill). Continue cooking over direct heat for additional 10 minutes, stirring/flipping potatoes every minute or two for even grilling.
3. While potatoes are cooking, in a 10" heavy bottom skillet heat butter over medium heat. Add onions, cook for 3-4 minute until soft. Add garlic and cook for 1 additional minute.
4. Add mushrooms and soy sauce. Cook over medium-high heat until all liquid is evaporated and mushrooms begin to brown, about 7-9 minutes. Add broth and balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil and simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated.
5. Add corn starch to cold water, stir until completely dissolved and add slowly to mushrooms. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer for 1-2 minutes until gravy consistency reached. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
6. Top warm grilled potatoes with cheese curds, hot gravy and green onions. Serve immediately.

How To: Snack Healthy – Chocolate and Dried Fruit Granola Chunks

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If we are being honest, this recipe didn’t quite start out as “chunks.” In fact, it wasn’t even in the “healthy snack” category. I had originally titled this post a “make your own granola bar” post. However, that didn’t turn out quite as planed. I even posted a photo on instagram commenting on my failed recipe for chocolate chunk granola bars.

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Well sometimes your biggest failures can actually be your biggest successes. I’m sure there is a famous quote somewhere that can say that better but moral of the story here is, a granola bar failure lead to a granola chunk success.

As I was attempting to cut these into uniform bars, they sort of formed more “chunk”-like shapes, with some of the oat mixture crumbling to the sides. Side note – this is why it is very important to listen to my instructions and press down firmly before baking and let them cool completely in the fridge prior to cutting. Back to the story- my husband came by, grabbed a chunk, moaned in delight, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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These granola chunks are loaded with dark chocolate and dried cranberries and make the perfect afternoon snack. You can wrap them individually in plastic wrap and freeze them for a grab-and-go option or store them for about a week in a sealed container at room temperature.

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My granola bar failure is your chocolate snack reward. And lets face it, chocolate granola chunks just sounds so much better than your boring old granola bars, no?

Dara

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Chocolate and Dried Fruit Granola Chunks

Serves 30ish chunks
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Snack
Website Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup oat flour (or grind oats in the food processor until finely ground)
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2/3 cups quinoa (raw)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 1/2 cup all natural peanut or almond butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup canola oil

Note

These granola chunks tend to be a bit crumbly, so make sure to press down really well before baking and cool in the fridge. The odd crumbly bits are delicious sprinkled over yogurt or ice cream.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9 x 13 baking dish with parchment paper so that it hangs over the sides a little.
2. In a large bowl combine oats, oat flour, quinoa, coconut, salt, chocolate chunk and dried fruit. Mix to combine.
3. In a small bowl combine oil, peanut butter, and honey. Mix to combine. Pour wet ingredients over oat mixture and stir until evenly coated. Pour into prepared pyrex and spread out evenly, pressing down as you go. Take another piece of parchment and use it to protect your hands as you press down very hard, spreading the mixture as flat as you can to the edges.
4. Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Remove and let cool in the fridge until cold, a couple hours or over night.
5. Once fully cool, cut bars into squares or chunks. Some of the oat mixture may crumble a bit but you should get about 30ish chunks of delicious oats and chocolate. Store at room temp or wrap them individually and freeze them, defrosting for about an hour before you wish to eat.

 

How to: Seasonal Cooking – Crispy Goat Cheese and Cherry Salad

IMG_5398We’re getting to a point in the growing season when I hit the farmers’ market hard and pretty much overdo it every time.

This week, cherry overload.

Actually…scratch that. No such thing.

I’M IN LOVE WITH CHERRIES AND I DON’T EVEN CARE WHO KNOWS IT! (…jumping on couch)

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Uh.

Sorry. HaHa. That may have been a bit much.

I do really really really love seasonal cherries though.

I bought a big ol’ batch of sweet and a big ol’ batch of sour, which you would recognize as cherry pie cherries.

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This salad is a terrific vehicle for sweet cherries.  I do several takes on this salad year round.  Sub cherries and almonds for beets and pecans or pears and walnuts – boom…seasonal fall/winter salads.

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The goat cheese rounds are sooo delicious.  They can make any salad a nice light meal.

IMG_5377The freezing step will make life easier so try not to skip it.  It’s very frustrating trying to flip a round of melty cheese with tongs. It may or may not send you into an unreasonable rage.  Especially if you’re hungry.  Not that it’s ever happened to me :o

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Such a pretty little thing, no?

Erin

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Crispy Goat Cheese and Sweet Cherry Salad

Serves 4
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 5 minutes
Total time 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 cups mixed salad greens (washed)
  • 1 ½ cup sweet cherries (pitted and halved)
  • ¼ cup sliced almonds (or any nut of choice)
  • 125g log of goat cheese (one small package)
  • 1 egg (lightly beaten)
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ cup canola oil

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • ½shallot (about 1 Tbsp, minced)
  • 1 teaspoon liquid honey
  • ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

1. Unwrap goat cheese and transfer to a small plate or cutting board. Place in freezer for 15-20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a frying pan over medium heat toast almonds by tossing or stirring until golden brown - about 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
3. Prepare dressing in small bowl by whisking all ingredients together.
4. Once cheese partially frozen, slice into 8, roughly ½" rounds. Set up a dredging station with the egg in one bowl and the panko, salt and pepper in a second shallow bowl. Transfer each goat cheese round into the egg, followed by the panko mixture ensuring each is well coated on both sides.
5. Heat canola oil over medium-high heat in a skillet or frying pan until it shimmers on the surface. In two batches, fry the goat cheese rounds, for 30-45 second on each side. The panko should be golden brown and you should still be able to flip the cheese using tongs without it falling apart/melting. Flip with a spatula if the cheese becomes too soft. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate.
6. Toss greens with ¾ of the dressing and transfer to serving dish. Top with cherries, toasted almonds and goat cheese and drizzle with remaining dressing. Serve while goat cheese is still warm and crispy.

 

How To: Make Your Own Granola – Cranberry and Walnut Maple Granola

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I go through these phases of being so on top of the meal prep and planning I even impress myself, versus, flying by the seat of my pants and ending up ordering delivery more often than I’d like to admit. And my friends, I’m sad to say we are currently in the latter phase.

I think it has something to do with summer – warm weather has me wanting to spend more time outside and less time in the kitchen. And really, when a cottage or pool beckons, who am I to turn them down?

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So where does this delicious and easy granola fit into all this? When you want easy and healthy snacks on hand to tide you over while you figure out what the heck you are going to make for dinner, this granola fits right there! Not to mention it is the perfect summer breakfast when paired with some yogurt and berries – mmmm, berries!

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I know this is not the first granola recipe we have shared with you. We have a classic take on this breakfast treat, a banana bread version, and even an almond butter and jam variation. This one features the classic combo of maple and walnuts, my ice cream flavour of choice more often than not. And a secret ingredient, an egg white. The addition of the egg white cuts back on the oil needed and adds extra clumps and crispy edges, the key to good granola in my opinion.

Let’s hope this granola helps fuel me through a Sunday morning of meal planning and prep – fingers crossed!

Dara

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Cranberry and Walnut Maple Granola

Serves 6 cups
Meal type Breakfast, Snack
From book Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perlman

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup walnuts (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

Note

This simple granola is great served with milk or yogurt. Sub pecans for the walnuts and dried cherries for the cranberries if you would like. It will keep for a couple weeks in a sealed container on your counter top.

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Combine all the ingredients except the egg white and dried fruit in a large bowl and stir to combine. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until frothy and pour over oat mixture until evenly coated.
3. Spread mixture evenly on baking sheet and bake for 55 minutes, mixing about half way through. Once brown and slightly crisp remove from oven and let cool. Mix in dried cranberries.

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