July 11, 2014

Sundried Tomato Pesto Pasta with Chicken, Spinach, & Tomatoes

Whole Wheat Pasta with Sundried Tomato Pesto, Chicken, Tomatoes, and Spinach

I don’t buy chicken that often anymore because it’s so expensive (and the cheaper stuff scares me a little) and now that I know I like tofu, I’m more likely to buy it for much cheaper.   When I saw some of the “good” chicken on sale the other day I impulsively threw it in my basket, then got home and had a hard time actually thinking of something to make with it!

Whole Wheat Pasta with Sundried Tomato Pesto, Chicken, Tomatoes, and Spinach

In the end I decided to go with pasta because I've been thinking about this sundried tomato pesto dish from Oh She Glows that I made last summer and really loved, and chicken and sundried tomatoes go together much better than any other proteins I could think of.

But since I did my grocery shopping at a small market instead of a grocery store, they didn't have any of the ingredients I needed to make my own pesto.  They did, however, sell prepared sundried tomato pesto, so I went with that instead, which made this dish even easier!

whole wheat pasta with flax and chia

They also sold this whole wheat fettucine with flax and chia, which cooked in only 3 minutes and was delicious. In the past I used Catelli's sundried tomato and basil spaghettini, which also goes great with sundried tomato pesto!

In addition to the pesto and chicken, I decided to add more sundried tomatoes, some sauteed grape tomatoes (cherry tomatoes would have also worked), and a bunch of spinach for added nutrition, though you could easily leave the spinach out if you're not fond of it.

Whole Wheat Pasta with Sundried Tomato Pesto, Chicken, Tomatoes, and Spinach

All the flavours came together perfectly in a nice light-feeling summer meal.  If you have the time to make your own sundried tomato pesto (and/or you want a lighter version than the storebought heavy-on-the-oil type), I still recommend Oh She Glows' version, though I was happy that the few minutes I saved not making my own pesto meant a few more minutes to sit outside and relax after dinner before going back to schoolwork!

Whole Wheat Pasta with Sundried Tomato Pesto, Chicken, Tomatoes, and Spinach

Whole Wheat Pasta with Sundried Tomato Pesto, Chicken, Tomatoes, & Spinach

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
85g (3oz) sundried tomatoes – dry in a bag (not oil packed)*
1 (341g or 12oz) package of whole wheat pasta – I used fettucine
2 teaspoons olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup sundried tomato pesto**
5 oz baby spinach (I used a spinach/arugula mixture)
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese for topping

Directions:

Season chicken breasts, if desired (I used salt, pepper, and dried basil) and cook however you prefer.  I saute mine in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes per side, let rest, then slice.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add sundried tomatoes and blanch for 2 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon, let dry, and thinly slice.  Use the same boiling water to add your pasta and cook according to package directions.  Reserve 1 cup cooking water then drain pasta.

While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and grape tomatoes and sautee until softened, about 5 minutes.

Toss together the pasta, reserved cooking water, pesto, chicken slices, garlic & tomatoes, and sundried tomatoes.  Stir in the spinach so it gets slightly wilted.  Season the dish with salt and pepper if desired.

Serve hot, topped with parmesan cheese.

Notes:
*I used dried sundried tomatoes to add to the pasta because there was already so much oil in the pesto I used, but you can use oil-packed sundried tomatoes if you prefer.
**I used storebought pesto, but you could easily make your own, lighter version, in which case you might want to use more than 1/2 cup.  Use your own judgment and preferences to determine how much pesto to add.

July 08, 2014

Monthly Recap - June 2014

summer sunset in ontario

Summer's here!

I am so happy that summer has returned, even if our weather has been a little unpredictable over the past month.  It's still been bringing us beautiful sunsets!

reading outside

Lately I've been loving stepping outside as the sun goes down to take a little break for reading (for pleasure, not school!).  Sometimes with tea..

summer sunset and beber

.. and sometimes with beer (my preference, but I'm trying to limit my beer consumption!)

avocado toast

I've also been loving simple meals, like avocado toast (and I'm waiting for ripe local tomatoes to join the party!)

mushroom grilled cheese

Grilled cheese is always a nice easy meal - this one had mushrooms added in for a little added nutrition!

pizza

Of course, dinner out is always nice too! I loved this pizza with chicken, sundried tomatoes, spinach, garlic oil, asiago, and mozzarella from Veloce.

ice cream

Ice cream has been a must. Pictured above is actually one ice cream, one gelato, and one frozen yogurt - my bowl contained quinoa milk frozen yogurt which was surprisingly good!

frozen banana soft serve

I also made some banana soft serve (just frozen bananas pureed in a food processor until they reach soft serve consistency) for the first time in a while this month and remembered how much I love it! This version had a little natural peanut butter, honey, and cinnamon added in - so good!

zpirit infused water

I've also been refreshing myself with these naturally infused waters that Zpirit kindly sent me.  It's water infused with fresh herbs and fruit, with no artificial preservatives, flavour, or sweetener.  I love that you can see the actual pieces of fruit floating in the water!  I think the spiced pear & vanilla flavour was my favourite because I loved the vanilla scent, but the others (pineapple & sage, mandarin & mint, and peach & basil) were all good too!

Greek dinner and strawberry shortcake

For my sister's birthday dinner this month, my parents made a delicious Greek-themed meal of chicken souvlaki with tzatziki on pitas (and halloumi as a vegetarian option), Greek salad, and roasted potatoes, with a delightful strawberry shortcake for dessert!

foraging

On Father's Day, our whole family went out on a guided foraging expedition. We went to several different locations to learn about and forage naturally growing food in forests and along trails. At some points we were so deep in vegetation we felt like we were in Jurassic Park!

wild leeks

Here's a picture of some wild leeks we collected. We also gathered some cattail shoots, wild ginger, nettles, and a few fiddleheads.

wild nettle soup

That evening, my mom made a nettle soup using everything we'd collected and it was so good!

lunch

That afternoon we had lunch at Monforte in Stratford, where we all shared a bunch of small meals, including a lovely selection of cheeses and a ginger cookie ice cream sandwich with buffalo milk ice cream!

charcuterie and apps for dinner

For dinner on Father's Day, we were all still full from our late lunch, so we set out a variety of appetizers and charcuterie to share throughout the evening. Easy and fun!

banh mi sandwich from thrive

I went to one of my favourite healthy restaurants (and restaurant in general) this month, Thrive, where I had the banh mi sandwich, which has fresh and pickled vegetables, avocado, thai basil, sesame tempeh, and garlic aioli.  SO good!

kombucha

And I had a ginger white tea kombucha to drink - I love kombucha!

oatmeal pancakes

I made healthier versions of pancakes a couple times this month.  First were these oatmeal chocolate chip banana pancakes from Ambitious Kitchen, which had a dense texture but tasted great, especially topped with a little melted peanut butter and maple syrup!

oatmeal cookie pancakes

I also  made these gluten-free oatmeal cookie pancakes from Yammie's Gluten Freedom, which again had a different texture than regular panacakes, but taste like oatmeal cookies!

baked fish and chips

After a trip to the beach one day we picked up some fresh-caught lake pickerel to make baked fish and chips for dinner.  I cut the fish up and coated it in some seasoned panko breadcrumbs (I didn't have any eggs so I just dipped it in some milk to help stick) then baked it along with some oven fries using this recipe.  It definitely tasted 'light' compared to regular fish and chips, but we both enjoyed it!

peanut tofu quinoa

One of my favourite meals I tried this month was this peanutty quinoa bowl with baked tofu from Oh My Veggies.  The tofu is marinated in a soy dressing (giving it that funny colour) and baked, and the quinoa is tossed with broccoli, red pepper, grated carrot (my addition) and a delicious homemade peanut sauce.  I doubled the recipe to have leftovers and am so glad I did!

strawberry rhubarb crisps

Finally, I had three versions of strawberry rhubarb crisp this past month.  The first (on the left) was a regular rhubarb crisp, which was good, but needed strawberries and vanilla ice cream to balance out the tartness.  Next I attempted to make a healthy version (top right) with oats, dates, fruit, and a little maple syrup for sweetener, but it didn't turn out that well, unfortunately.  Then I got to enjoy my mom's classic strawberry rhubarb crisp which was of course the best!

That's it for June!  Hope you're all having a great summer so far!

June 25, 2014

Lentil, Grape, & Blue Cheese Arugula Salad

Lentil, Grape, Apple & Blue Cheese Arugula Salad

Now that it's officially summer, I've been craving salads for dinner a lot more, but my salads have to be interesting to keep me interested, with plenty of different textures and flavours and a good source of protein - usually either beans, quinoa, edamame, or lentils.

Lentil, Grape, Apple & Blue Cheese Arugula Salad

I saw the combo of grapes and blue cheese somewhere a while ago and have been thinking about how to use them together since.  Because lentils have a pretty earthy flavour that need brightening up from other ingredients, I figured they would make the perfect base for a salad with grapes for sweetness and the sharp flavour of blue cheese that I can't even describe because it tastes like nothing else (in a good way!)

Lentil, Grape, Apple & Blue Cheese Arugula Salad

After doing a bit of searching I found out that lentils.ca, one of my favourite resources for lentil information and recipes, had a recipe along the lines of what I was looking for, with lentils, arugula, grapes, blue cheese, and walnuts.  I followed their lead, adding apples for crunch (a necessary addition, in my opinion), using a slightly different dressing, and leaving the walnuts raw instead of candying them (though that would probably be good too; I was just lazy).

Lentil, Grape, Apple & Blue Cheese Arugula Salad

Not only did this make for a healthful meal with plenty of fiber, protein, and vitamins, but it had such a great combination of flavours and textures.  I loved how the bursts of sweet grapes and crunchy apples balanced out the sharp arugula and blue cheese along with the nutty, earthier flavours in the lentils and walnuts.
Lentil, Grape, Apple & Blue Cheese Arugula Salad

You could eat this as a main course on its own or as a side dish.  We ate some of our leftovers piled on top of whole wheat naan bread as a sort of knife-and-fork salad, which we really enjoyed.  Ryan thought this dish would have been better covered in buffalo sauce, which I strictly forbade, but considering he was willing to eat it for three meals in a row (and it was pretty inexpensive for the amount of food we got), I'd say it won him over!

Lentil, Grape, Apple & Blue Cheese Arugula Salad

Lentil, Grape, & Blue Cheese Arugula Salad

Recipe inspired by Lentils.ca

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

Lentils:
4 cups water
1 cup (dry) green or brown lentils
1/2 teaspoon salt

Dressing:
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 shallot, minced
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

Salad:
1-1/2 cups red seedless grapes, halved
1 apple, diced (I used a gala)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted if desired
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (you could use up to 3/4 cup for a stronger blue cheese flavour)
5oz baby arugula

Directions:

Rinse lentils.  Bring water, salt, and lentils to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until lentils reach desired texture, about 15 minutes.  Drain excess water and let lentils cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, prepare dressing by whisking together the olive oil, vinegar, honey, shallot, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Add cooled lentils, grapes, apple, walnuts, and blue cheese to the arugula.  Add dressing and toss to combine.  Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.  Eat on its own as a main course or as  side courses.  It’s also good on top of naan bread!

June 19, 2014

(Healthy) Strawberry & Chocolate Chia Pudding

Healthy Strawberry and Chocolate Chia Pudding

I've been wanting to try chia pudding for so long now - I think I've had this mango coconut chia pudding bookmarked for two years - but for some reason I've never gotten around to it.  Lately I've been craving dessert much more, likely because the days feel longer, I've been staying up later, and thus need more food to sustain me, so I've been trying to find healthy desserts that still satisfy a craving.  So when I saw Dietitian Debbie's beautiful layered chocolate and strawberry chia pudding recently I decided to give it a try!

Healthy Strawberry and Chocolate Chia Pudding

I feel like chia seeds are everywhere lately, but if you haven't heard of this little superfood before, it's basically a tiny seed that's packed with nutrition, including lots of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, other vitamins, minerals, and antioxidantst, and even protein!

And because they can absorb somewhere around 10-12 times their weight (I've seen various numbers floating around) and take on a sort of gel-like consistency when they do so, they're great for making healthy pudding (though of course, you can use them in many other ways, too)!

Healthy Strawberry and Chocolate Chia Pudding

The version I came up with is different than the original idea, but this pudding is still really easy to make.  Both the chocolate and strawberry portions contain unsweetened vanilla almond milk, chia seeds, and pure maple syrup for sweetener, then the chocolate version has added cocoa powder while the strawberry version contains fresh strawberries and a little vanilla extract.

I also used Oh My Veggies' idea to blend the chia pudding after to give it a smoother texture, but you can leave out this step if you like.  I topped mine with more strawberries and sliced almonds for crunch, but you could use chocolate chips, coconut flakes, or anything else you like!

Healthy Strawberry and Chocolate Chia Pudding

The only difficult part about this recipe is waiting for the pudding to set.  It's best to leave it overnight, but otherwise plan for at least 4-6 hours to let the chia seeds work their magic and turn this into pudding!

This makes a perfect light summer treat that satisfies a dessert craving but leaves you feeling good, and it would also totally be appropriate for breakfast!  Ryan was skeptical about the whole idea but after trying it, he said he could eat it every day, so I'd say it was a big success!

Healthy Strawberry and Chocolate Chia Pudding

Strawberry & Chocolate Chia Pudding

Note: The idea for this recipe was inspired by Dietitian Debbie; ingredient amounts were adapted from All Recipes

Serves 4 (servings are on the smaller side)

Ingredients:

For the Strawberry Layer:
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or your choice of milk)
8oz (half a package) fresh strawberries, chopped
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Layer:
1-1/4 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or your choice of milk)
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons cocoa powder

For Topping:
8oz sliced strawberries
Optional: Slivered almonds, chocolate chips, coconut flakes (I used almonds)

Directions:

To prepare strawberry pudding, blend almond milk and strawberries in a blender until smooth.  Transfer to a bowl or container and stir in chia seeds, maple syrup, and vanilla until well combined.  Cover and keep in refrigerator overnight or until set, at least 4 hours.

To prepare chocolate pudding, stir together the almond milk, chia seeds, maple syrup, and cocoa powder, and also store in the fridge along with the strawberry pudding.

When ready, the mixtures should have a more gel-like consistency.  If you like you can serve the pudding as is, but if you want a smoother consistency where you won’t notice the chia seeds as much, transfer each mixture to the blender separately (cleaning in between) and puree until smooth.

To prepare pudding, layer chocolate and strawberry puddings in glasses or bowls with sliced strawberries and almonds in between each layer and on top.  If you like you could also top with chocolate chips and/or coconut flakes and an extra drizzle of maple syrup or honey of it’s not sweet enough for your tastes.

Ingredient Index

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