April 02, 2015

Roasted Carrot Crostini with Dill Pesto & Feta

Roasted Carrot Crostini with Lemon Dill Pesto and Feta - an appetizer with bright Spring flavors that's perfect for Easter or anytime!

I'm happy I decided to try to start posting recipes again just in time for Easter.  I love all food-related holidays but Easter is especially nice because after the heavier meals at Thanksgiving and Christmas, we now get to celebrate bright and fresh flavours that go along with the start of springtime.

Roasted Carrot Crostini with Lemon Dill Pesto and Feta - an appetizer with bright Spring flavors that's perfect for Easter or anytime!

Whenever I try to think of Easter recipes my mind always goes straight to carrots.  As part of our Easter dinner last year, my sister made roasted carrots and radishes with a lemon dill pesto (inspired by With Food + Love) and the flavours worked really well together.  So I decided to turn that concept into an appetizer, with the addition of feta because feta makes everything better!

Roasted Carrot Crostini with Lemon Dill Pesto and Feta - an appetizer with bright Spring flavors that's perfect for Easter or anytime!

This dish looks a little fancy but is really easy to prepare. I just chopped and roasted some carrots in the oven, then whipped together a lemony dill pesto in the food processor.  I toasted some whole wheat baguette slices, spread some of the pesto on top, then topped them with the carrots and feta. I loved how the bright flavours of the pesto balanced out the earthy carrots and salty feta.

I'm in charge of apps for our family's Easter dinner this year so I think I'll be making these again!  I hope you all enjoy the long weekend and have a happy Easter if you're celebrating it!

Roasted Carrot Crostini with Lemon Dill Pesto and Feta - an appetizer with bright Spring flavors that's perfect for Easter or anytime!

Roasted Carrot Crostini with Lemon Dill Pesto & Feta

Serves 10-15

Ingredients:

For the carrots:
1-1/2 lbs carrots, peeled and chopped into small, about ¼-½” pieces
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the lemon dill pesto:
1-1/2 cups packed fresh dill
1/2 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

Other:
1/4 to 1/3 cup crumbled feta
1 large baguette, sliced diagonally into thin slices (I used a whole wheat ciabatta loaf)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss carrots with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and spread on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Roast in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, tossing halfway through.

Meanwhile, prepare dill pesto.  Place all ingredients (dill, parsley, garlic, walnuts, lemon juice, oil, salt, and pepper) in the bowl of a food processor (I used the smaller bowl) and process until the pesto is as smooth as you can get it.  Taste and adjust any seasoning or amounts to your liking if necessary.

When carrots are done, leave oven on, and spray baguette slices with cooking spray.  Set on baking sheet and let toast in oven for about 3-5 minutes, until toasted.

Prepare crostini by spreading pesto on baguette slices, top with crumbled feta and roasted carrots, and garnish with chopped parsley if desired.  Serve while carrots are still warm.

March 28, 2015

What I've Been Doing and Eating the Last Few Months!

It's a little hard to summarize what I've been doing lately when my last post was from Halloween 2014 and I don't even know where the last four months went!

I guess I should start by apologizing for my disappearance from this blog.  My posting had slowed down considerably last year as I began to spend all of my time locked in my room writing my PhD dissertation.  I then decided I had to stop all blog-related activities altogether in the fall as I prepared for my defense (which I passed!).  Following that, I moved right into a heavy workload on a large project, and by the time I settled in and was able to make time for blogging again, it seemed like taking on another large job that I wasn't ready for.

Now that I have a little more free time on my hands, I'm hoping to start getting back into somewhat regular posting.  I can't promise anything, and any time this blog becomes more of a hassle or unwanted workload than a fun pastime I may slow down or stop again, but for now I miss sharing recipes with you guys and hope to have time to do it a little more often moving forward!

Before I get back to posting regular recipes, I thought I'd share some of my favourite and random eats over the last few months, going back to last Fall!

Pumpkin pancakes

I can't remember which recipe I used for these pumpkin pancakes last October but they were fluffy and delicious.  Essential fall breakfast eating!

Cheese and charcuterie plates

Over the holidays my family enjoyed many gatherings over cheese boards and charcuterie.  If only I could eat cheese for every meal.

Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners

Pictured above were my Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner plates - my favourite meals of the year!  All of my family members and relatives are amazing cooks and all pitch in, often trying new recipes so every year is different and exciting!

Roasted grape and goat cheese crostini

As a Christmas Eve appetizer I made crostini with roasted grapes and hazelnut goat cheese. This picture doesn't do it justice but it was really tasty; if you haven't tried roasted grapes before you might be surprised at how much you like them!  The recipe I used is from MJ and Hungryman.

Italian stuffed mushrooms

On New Year's Eve we had an Italian food theme so I contributed some storebought antipasto and mozzarella sticks along with my Italian stuffed mushrooms and some caprese polenta squares. We also enjoyed a tomato mozzarella tart as well as other appetizers and delicious cannolis to end the meal!

Snickerdoodle biscoff sandwich cookies

The only holiday baking I had time for this year were these snickerdoodle biscoff sandwich cookies from Two Peas & Their Pod, which were some of my favourite cookies I've ever made!  I'll definitely have to make them again next year, though there's no reason to limit these to the holidays!

Peanut butter and jelly baked oatmeal for Valentine's Day

For Valentine's breakfast this year, I gave my baked peanut butter and jelly oatmeal a Valentine's twist by shaping the jam into hearts.  It turned out so well for each portion to be topped with a heart, but this recipe is great any time of year too!

Salmon, mashed potatoes, and broccoli

For our Valentine's dinner I made the Beeroness' molasses stout glazed salmon, served with Ellie Krieger's healthier mashed potatoes and some steamed broccoli for a lighter but still tasty meal.

Avocado chocolate pudding

We followed our meal up with a healthy dessert too, trying avocado chocolate pudding for the first time.  I know the poor lighting in this picture doesn't make it look good, but it was delicious!  I couldn't taste the avocado but it made the pudding so rich and creamy.  You have to try it if you haven't already!  I used this recipe from Two Peas & Their Pod.

Other regular meals throughout the past few months included:

Sweet potato skillet meal

This easy tex mex sweet potato skillet from ifoodreal - there was nothing not to love about this meal!

Crockpot shredded bbq chicken

We've been using our slow cooker a lot lately for easy meals and our favourite is shredded bbq chicken - so easy and perfect for sandwiches.

Vegan "parmesan"

I tried vegan almond "parmesan" made by grinding almonds, nutritional yeast, and some seasoning in a food processor.  It was surprisingly good and made a nice change from parmesan for topping pasta!

Broccoli, chicken, spinach, and rice casserole

Another easy dish we've made a few times is this chicken, broccoli, and rice casserole with kale from ifoodreal, though I prefer making it with spinach.  An easy and healthy weeknight  meal!

Green smoothie

Since  I've been working from home often, I love making smoothies for an afternoon snack - usually with frozen banana, almond milk, oats, flax, sometimes peanut butter, and spinach. So good!

Cauliflower rice with peanut tofu

I tried cauliflower rice for the first time and loved it!  I used it in this crispy peanut tofu and cauliflower rice stirfry from Minimalist Baker, which was a super flavourful and healthy meal that I can't wait to make again!

Peanutty Quinoa, Tofu, and Broccoli Bowls

A similar recipe I make often is this peanut quinoa bowl with broccoli, red pepper, and tofu from Oh My Veggies.  It's a little time consuming to prepare but worth it!

Salad with chicken

Often when we don't have time to plan dinner, we end up having salad, which is fine by me!

Lentil vegetable stew

I love stews in the winter and my lentil and vegetable stew is filling, comforting, and healthy. I usually make it with some adjustments, including adding potatoes and using beef broth instead of vegetable broth.

Baked squash mac and cheese

This "grown up mac and cheese" with whole wheat macaroni, squash, kale, and mushrooms was healthier than regular mac and cheese and still tasty!  As is becoming apparent, I've been relying a lot on one-pot meals and casseroles lately!


I've also gone on lots of cold and snowy walks this winter, which have been very refreshing, but now I'm ready for Spring and warmer weather!

Finally, I post a little more often on Instagram, so feel free to follow along there if you're not already!

October 31, 2014

Severed Fingers Cookies & Happy Halloween!

Severed fingers cookies for Halloween

Happy Halloween!

Halloween is one of the best holidays for getting creative with your food. I think there's a tricky line between food that's creepy and food that's just too gross to eat (I don't think I could ever bring myself to eat a kitty litter cake, for example, though I'm sure it would be fun to watch people's reactions to it!) but I think these severed fingers have just the right amount of scare factor without pushing the limits too much, at least for an adult party!  I brought these to a Halloween potluck with my lab on Wednesday and received a few comments on how realistic and creepy they looked, which was my goal, but people were still eating them which was also important!

You've probably seen some version of severed fingers or witches fingers cookies on the web before but I had to share mine too because I think they're so great for a Halloween party if you still need any ideas for this weekend!

Severed fingers cookies for Halloween

These cookies are easy to make - the recipe is sort of a cross between a sugar cookie and shortbread cookie.  It's a bit time consuming to shape and decorate each cookie but I had a lot of fun with it.  I wouldn't say the taste is anything extraordinary as the recipe is pretty basic, but in this case I wasn't as concerned about the taste compared to the look!

I'll post a link to the recipe I used below along with some tips I've learned from making these a couple of times.  If you're looking for a Halloween party treat that will get your guests talking, these cookies are perfect!

I actually don't have very exciting plans for Halloween other than staying home to watch a scary movie and try to fight off a cold, but I hope you all have a safe and happy Halloween!

Severed fingers cookies for Halloween

Severed Finger Cookies

The recipe I used for these cookies can be found at Cook and Be Merry.

It's similar to a Taste of Home recipe which I've seen several people make, but uses a little more sugar and a little less salt, which I think improves the taste.

Some tips I have and small changes I made to the Cook and Be Merry recipe are:
  • I did not use green food colouring.  If you want these to look more like witches fingers, then feel free to colour them green!
  • I used sliced almonds for the fingernails rather than whole blanched almonds, which was only because I couldn't find the whole blanched almonds.  Either work, but I think the nails look a little more realistic with whole almonds rather than slices.  You can blanch your own almonds as the recipe gives instructions for.
  • To shape the cookies, I divided the dough in four.  Keep the sections you're not working with in the fridge.  I shaped each of the four sections of dough into 10 fingers.  Just break it into ten even pieces, roll each piece into a cylinder, then shape the knuckles, press the almond in for the nail, and use a knife to add wrinkles at the knuckle and below the fingernail.  The wrinkles are important to make these more realistic!
  • It's really important to keep the dough chilled to prevent it from spreading.  If you don't do this your fingers will spread too much and won't look realistic.  I kept the dough refrigerated, and after I shaped each section into fingers, I stuck the fingers into the freezer for a few minutes to chill them back up before going in the oven.  As your first set of fingers bakes, you can shape the next set then stick them back in the fridge/freezer so they're ready to go in the oven as soon as the other ones are done.
  • Watch the baking time!  My first batch I cooked for 22 minutes because other recipes had said to bake for 20-25 mins, and they ended up overbaked (dry).  After that I reduced to 20 then 17 minutes for subsequent batches, but they still ended up a bit dry.  Next time I would start with Cook and Be Merry's recommendation of only 15 minutes.
  • After baking the fingers, take each almond off one at a time, squeeze some red gel underneath, then place the almond back on so the red gel oozes out from behind the fingernail (and helps the almond stick).  Add some red gel to the bottom of each finger too to make it look severed.

October 28, 2014

Southwestern Quinoa Stuffed Pepper Jack O' Lanterns

Southwestern Quinoa Stuffed Pepper Jack O' Lanterns - easy and fun dinner idea for Halloween!

I love making cute Halloween themed treats, and dinner ideas are even better since there are already so many sweets around this time of year.  I've seen the idea of carving stuffed peppers like jack o' lanterns on several blogs before and wanted to try it for myself this year.  Even though I'm certainly not the first to try these, they turned out so cute and tasty that I had to share them with you guys!

Southwestern Quinoa Stuffed Pepper Jack O' Lanterns - easy and fun dinner idea for Halloween!

These are also really easy to make and completely customizable!  Just find some orange peppers, cut the tops off and scrape out any seeds or ribs inside, then carve your jack o lantern face with a small knife.  You don't want to cut out too big of holes so that the filling could escape, but even though these are a lot smaller to work with than pumpkins, I found them much easier to "carve"!

After prepping your little pumpkin lookalikes, you make your filling, stuff the insides of the peppers, and bake them to soften the peppers.  I also like to parboil the peppers first to reduce the amount of time needed to soften the peppers in the oven later, which will also help save time if you're trying to make these on Halloween evening before trick or treating starts!

southwestern quinoa

I filled mine with one of my favourite southwestern-flavoured quinoa mixtures, which is vegetarian and pretty healthy too.  I cook the quinoa in vegetable broth which is important for giving it more flavour, then mix in some sauteed onion and garlic, tomatoes, black beans, corn, spices, and cheese.  You could add in more vegetables like spinach or mushrooms if you like, or leave out the spices if your kids won't like them.

I'm going to a Halloween potluck tomorrow and plan on making some scary cookies so if those turn out well I'll have another treat to share later this week!  Happy week of Halloween!

Southwestern Quinoa Stuffed Pepper Jack O' Lanterns - easy and fun dinner idea for Halloween!

Southwestern Quinoa Stuffed Pepper Jack O’ Lanterns

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup dry quinoa
4-6 orange bell peppers
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 small tomatoes, diced
1 (540mL) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn kernels (thawed if frozen)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (or Mexican or taco blend)

Directions:

Bring 2 cups of vegetable broth to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add quinoa, cover, reduce heat to simmer and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes.  Remove lid and fluff with a fork.

Meanwhile, cut the tops off the bell peppers and use a knife to scrape out the remaining seeds and ribs of the pepper, leaving the pepper in tact (as seen in pictures).  Leave the tops aside if you wish to include them for presentation later.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, with enough water to cover the peppers.  Add peppers and let simmer for about 4 minutes, until slightly softened.  Carefully remove and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium pan, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until softened.  Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds, stirring. Add tomatoes, black beans, corn, cumin, and chili powder, and season with salt and pepper.  Stir and saute for a few minutes.  Remove from heat, stir in quinoa and cheddar cheese and mix until incorporated.

Spoon quinoa mixture into the peppers.  There should be enough to fill 6 peppers or you can really fill 4 peppers quite full, and might still have some quinoa leftover.  You could also just stop now and eat the quinoa on its own!  Leave tops off the peppers, spray a 9x13 glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray, and place filled peppers standing up in the dish.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 25-35 minutes, until peppers are softened to your liking (I did 25 minutes as I was impatient but would have preferred 30).  Remove and serve with tops on the peppers if desired.  Eat by slicing everything up with a knife and fork and eating the quinoa and pepper together.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
For more Halloween dinner ideas, try these:

Halloween mummy potatoes with turkey meatballs

Halloween Mummy Potatoes with Meatballs

Pumpkin, chicken, & goat cheese quesadillas

Pumpkin, Chicken, & Goat Cheese Quesadillas(for Halloween!)

Ingredient Index

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...