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Healthy foods in disguise!

21 Mar

I am in constant awe of the Internet. I tell the internet “Hey there Internet! I want to find healthy, yummy ways to get more veggies, fruits, and legumes into my diet – can you help me out?” With a bit of time and just a few Google searches, I discovered a plethora of suggestions. How wonderful is the Internet?! Oh, let me count me the ways!

The following suggestions are all from brainiacs on the Internet – I am not innovative enough to come up with any of these ideas myself but I always think that we can all use a bit of help with finding interesting and tasty ways of adding more veg into our diets so I’d like to share some that have been successful for me.

1/ Smoothies

Now, I know that I’m not letting you in on some big secret here but did you know that you can hide a bunch of veggies in a smoothie and as long as you add a big scoop of protein-rich peanut butter, you can barely taste them? I tried this at first with just a big ol’ bunch of spinach, a banana, a scoop of peanut butter, and some water…and ta-dah…a tasty, yet healthy smoothie. I then took it up a notch by keeping the banana, spinach, and peanut butter, but then I also added a handful of frozen blueberries, some avocado, a scoop of flaxseed, and some almond milk, and I got this kick-ass smoothie. Smoothies are great as a meal supplement as they are really quite filling and, as you can see from all the goodies you can hide in them, pretty good for you too (although I don’t advocate skipping meals).

2/ Cauliflower “Rice”

This would have to be the change that has had the biggest impact on my veggie intake. I really enjoy rice and a lot of my go-to meals revolve around rice – curries on rice, chili on rice, stir-fry on rice…you get the picture. This is a genius way of cutting your calories, adding some veggies, and cutting back on cooking time. Basically you take some cauliflower florets and chop them up as small as you can and then gently fry them for a few minutes. If you wanna get adventurous, you could add some garlic or leek, or a sprinkle of turmeric for some added cancer-fighting goodness. Once it has cooked slightly and is slightly golden, take it off the heat and use it as rice. It truly couldn’t be more simpler!

Cauliflower “rice”

Serve your favourite curry or stir-fry over your rice, and you have even more veggies!

3/ Zucchini “Pasta”

This is a trick I have been using since the New Year when my goal was to cut back on pasta. I love pasta (oh man, do I love it!) but I know it is essentially empty carbs so when I’m craving pasta I just use zucchini instead. Get a zucchini and use your vegetable peeler to slice thin “ribbons”. I have found it best to do this until you get to the seeds and then turn the zucchini and start peeling another side until you end up with a cube of zucchini (see picture). Boil some water and added a generous pinch of salt and blanch the zucchini for just a minute. Drain them and try to squeeze out the excess water. Serve your favourite pasta sauce over the top. Yum!

4/ Lentil “Mince Meat”

I really love my beef-based dishes such as bolognese sauce, chili con carne, and tacos, but as I have been trying to cut back on my meat intake I have been using veggie ground as an alternative to minced beef. That’s all very well and good but I prefer to eat real food so when I discovered this genius idea from Chow Times I got to using it straight away. Boil some lentils in vegetable broth (or if you want a real short-cut you can buy a can of lentils from the store) and then mash them with a potato masher. Add them to your dish as you would mince. I tried this with spaghetti bolognese and it was a great alternative as the texture is similar and the flavour of the lentils was very discreet. I will definitely be using lentils instead of beef from now on and the great thing is that a can of lentils is much cheaper than minced meat anyway! Bonus!

Lentil Bolognese on Zucchini Pasta

I’m going to keep exploring other ways of getting more fruits and veggies into my food, which I’ll share with you as I find them. With these changes, and all of the bean dishes, and mushroom pâté, and kale chips that I’ve been making, I feel like I’ve come a long way in just a few months. I’m consuming way more veggies now than I was before and it’s encouraging that there is more to veggies than just salad.

Mario Batali’s Wilted Greens with Garlic and Anchovies

11 Mar

I am always searching for tasty recipes that include lots of green vegetables. I enjoy eating most green veg but at times it can get a bit dull so I look for recipes that add some much-needed flavour and variety. I recently came across a Mario Batali recipe for “Wilted Greens with Garlic and Anchovies“. It sounded quick and easy, yet tasty – exactly what I was looking for. I used kale as the recipe calls for any sturdy green leaf and we have an abundance of kale here in BC. Mario recommends escarole or turnip greens.

Overall, it was a simple dish, although not particularly memorable nor impressive. I felt that it needed more of the fishy flavour so I would add 5 anchovy fillets, rather than just 3, next time. I also finished it with grated parmigiano reggiano for just a bit of added flavour.

Mario Batali’s Wilted Greens with Garlic and Anchovies – Serves 6
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 anchovy fillets, rinsed
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 head escarole or 1 head or bunch other sturdy leafy green, such as dandelions or turnip greens, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide ribbons, washed and spun dry
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 lemon

Heat a 10- to 12-inch sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the olive oil, anchovies, and garlic and cook just until the garlic is light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Add the greens and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, squeeze the lemon juice over, and serve.

Recipe from Epicurious.

Thomas Keller’s Salmon Crisps

10 Mar

Today I realized that it has been a year since my visit to The French Laundry. Our evening at TFL will always be one of the highlights of my life – everything about it was just so perfect. Thomas Keller’s standards are incredibly high so, in some ways, it is almost pointless to re-create his dishes at home as they are so perfect, yet that didn’t stop me from attempting to re-create his famous “Salmon Cornets” recipe. These are served at both Per Se and The French Laundry as a prelude to the meal and are served like miniature ice cream cones. I wasn’t brave enough to attempt to make the cornets as I had read that it is finger-burning work but, thankfully, there is a cheaters version of the recipe – crisps! Rather than making gorgeous, perfect cornets, you can cook them flat and serve them as crackers.

I thought that making the crisps would be much simpler than it was but I have since found this blog, French Laundry at Home, which gives a really detailed description on how to make the cornets or crisps (I wish I had found this before I made mine!). I would highly recommend reading the post before you embark on this dish. The stencil would have been a HUGE help and there are some great tips, such as seasoning the salmon with salt (it was definitely needed) and adding red onion to the whisked creme fraîche, which would have added a bit of “oomph”. I found making the crisps to be quite challenging, perhaps because the recipe seems slightly off. The main red flag for me was that the recipe claims to make 3 dozen crisps but I found it only made about 15 (my sister also had the same issue when she made the same recipe). I just found this post on Zen Can Cook and the recipe looks more accurate than the one I used. Perhaps use that recipe instead of the one below. These would be absolutely perfect served at a dinner party as they are beautiful to look at, yummy to eat, and easy to make prior to the dinner (just don’t assemble until you are about to serve).

Thomas Keller’s Salmon Crisps
4 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 chilled large egg white
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds (I used white ones)
4 oz (120g) of salmon, preferably sushi grade, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons very finely chopped shallot
1 1/2 teaspoons very finely chopped chives, plus a few snipped for garnish
1/4 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest and a squeeze of lemon
Freshly ground white pepper and a sprinkle of salt
1/2 cup crème fraîche

Preheat the oven to 400F (I recommend lowering it to 380F). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the sugar and salt. (I found that my KitchenAid Mixer was handy for this). Add the egg white and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the butter until smooth and creamy.

Spoon teaspoons of the batter 3 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets and spread to 2-inch rounds (this is where the stencil would come in handy). Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and bake in the upper and middle third of the oven for about 15 minutes, shifting the pans from top to bottom and front to back, until the tuiles are golden and fragrant. Let cool flat.

In a medium bowl, combine the salmon with the shallot, chopped chives, lemon zest, squeeze of lemon, and a pinch of white pepper and salt. Spoon the salmon onto the tuiles and top with a dollop of slightly whisked crème fraîche and a couple of snipped chives. Serve immediately.

Recipe from All italics are personal suggestions.

Jackaroo Pie (aka Shepherd’s Pie)

5 Feb

I grew up in a traditional Australian household in the 80’s and so we ate a lot of British-influenced dishes, such as stews, roast dinners, and Shepherd’s Pie. If you haven’t had Shepherd’s Pie before, it is a combination of veggies and meat in one hearty dish and it is similar to a pie but with no pastry crust.

Whilst I am now more adventurous in my food choices, I still enjoy those dishes that I was raised on. I was recently flicking through my brand new delicious magazine (thanks Mum and Dad for the subscription!) when I stumbled upon a recipe for Jackaroo Pie (a lamb version of Shepherd’s Pie). When I saw that the second ingredient was Vegemite a wave of nostalgia (and Aussie pride) washed over me and I vowed to make that recipe.

The pie had a great depth of flavour, mostly due to the combination of ketchup, Vegemite, Worcestershire sauce, and stock. I did, however, find the mixture too wet. I had to drain some of the mixture out of the stock before putting it into the pie dish and yet it was still wet. Next time, I’d try only 1 cup of stock first and see how that goes. Also, my mashed potato top didn’t brown up as much as I’d hoped so next time I will finish it under the broiler. Besides those minor changes, the pie was the perfect comfort dish for a cold and wet winter’s day.

*If you are wanting to try this recipe and you live in Vancouver, you can get Vegemite at some IGA stores and Nester’s Markets.

Jackaroo Pie by Matt Preston – Serves 4

1/4 cup olive oil
500g lamb mince
2 teaspoon Vegemite
1 large onion, finely chopped
6 springs onions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
1 1/4 cups frozen peas
2 tablespoons tomato sauce (ketchup)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 cups (500ml) chicken stock
1 1/2 cups warm mashed potato
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Butter for putting on the top

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a saucepan over a medium heat. Increase the heat to medium-high. Add the lamb mince and cook, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon, for 3 to 4 minutes until browned. Stir in the Vegemite. Transfer the lamb to a bowl and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the onion and the white part of the spring onion. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes until softened. Mix in the peas, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce, and stir thoroughly to combine. Return the lamb to the pan and add the stock. Stir to combine and season. Mix the green spring onions through the warmed mashed potato.

Divide the lamb mixture among four 2 cup (500ml) ramekins or place in a 2 L pie dish, then top with the mashed potato and parmesan. Pattern mash with a fork and top with little dabs of butter. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is nicely browned. Serve immediately.Recipe from February 2013 issue of delicious. magazine.

Roasted Cauliflower and Aged White Cheddar Soup

26 Jan

Do you ever find yourself staring into the fridge wondering “What the hell am I going to do with that“? I do. Although I love cooking I’m not very innovative – I am much better at following recipes than creating my own. I had a whole head of cauliflower in my fridge this week and was at a loss as to what to do with it. As if she could read my mind, a friend of mine randomly emailed me a link to a site with many different cauliflower recipes, called The site is similar to Pinterest but entirely focused on food.

It took me no time to find a use for my head of cauliflower; Roasted Cauliflower and Aged White Cheddar Soup from Closet Cooking would be dinner! The final product was an incredibly delicious soup with a velvety smooth texture and cheesy, rich flavour. It had a lot more flavour than I was expecting. Although the recipe is vegetarian (if you opt to use vegetable broth), the amount of cheese and cream/milk added probably nudge this tasty dish out of the “healthy” category but enjoy it for what it is; a yummy, filling way to get some more veggies into your diet.

Roasted Cauliflower & Aged White Cheddar Soup – Serves 4

1 small head of cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
3 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
1 1/2 cups of grated aged white cheddar
1 cup of milk or cream (I used half and half)
Salt and pepper to taste

Toss the cauliflower florets into the two tablespoons of oil, along with the salt and pepper, and arrange them in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast the cauliflower in a preheated 400F oven until lightly golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and saute until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.

Add the garlic and thyme and saute until fragrant, about a minute. Add the broth, deglaze the pan, add the roasted cauliflower, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.

Puree the soup in a blender or with a stick blender until it reaches your desired consistency.

Mix in the cheese, let it melt without bringing it to boil again. Mix in the milk (or cream), season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Recipe from Closet Cooking.

Tangy Lemon Smashed Chickpea Salad

24 Jan

Whilst recently searching the internet for some new and healthy recipes, I decided to start by searching for some local inspiration. Vancouver has some great local healthy food bloggers, including Foodess, The Bounty Hunter, and Everybody Likes Sandwiches (to name a few).

Whilst deep in the rabbit hole of Everybody Likes Sandwiches, I found many bean and legume recipes, and this particular dish, Tangy Lemon Smashed Chickpea Salad, stood out as a “must-try”. The writer of the blog, Jeannette, recommends using this salad as a sandwich filler. As I’m currently trying to avoid wheat I had to come up with another way to get this delicious salad into my face. I opted for; 1/ Heaped onto gluten-free crackers, and 2/ Sprinkled over a salad of mixed greens. Both ways work a treat!

As with the Tomato, Basil, Chickpea Salad that I made this week, this recipe can be made in advance and kept in the fridge for easy lunch-grabbing. This recipe comes together fast and takes about 5 to 10 minutes to make, depending on how fast you can chop your onions and pepper.

Tangy Lemon Smashed Chickpea Salad – Serves 4
1 cup of chickpeas, drained
1/4 of a cup finely diced red onion
1/2 green pepper, finely diced
1 lemon, juiced (though you might just want to use half a lemon if you aren’t so into the tangy like I am)
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon of good mayo (vegan mayo if that’s your thing)
1 teaspoon of capers, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon of flakey sea salt
A few shakes of your favorite hot sauce

In a medium bowl, dump in your chickpeas and use a potato masher to smash your chickpeas. This shouldn’t be hummus texture here – just smashed with some whole chickpeas and a lot of roughly chopped ones. Stir in the red onion, pepper, parsley, capers, lemon juice and the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve on toasted bread or crusty rolls or just eat as is, salad-style.

Recipe from Everybody Loves Sandwiches.

Tomato, Basil, and Chickpea Salad

23 Jan

I must admit that I’m feeling pretty happy with myself at the moment. As we near the final week of January, I’ve not only managed to stick to my resolution of limiting my consumption of sugar, wheat, and meat (albeit there have been some permitted indulgences), but more importantly I’ve been eating waaaaay more beans and legumes than I’ve ever eaten in my life. I’ve really been making an effort to cook more recipes that include beans and I’ve been rewarded with some wonderfully tasty dishes, such as this one. As a bonus of cooking with beans, I’ve been finding that most of the recipes come together quite quickly (this one took about 10 minutes), meaning that I’m spending less time in the kitchen – always a plus!

I don’t know about you but I’m always looking for new dishes to take to work for lunch. This recipe is perfect for lunch (pack some gum!) as you can make it in advance and it doesn’t leave you sluggish, but fills you up more than a regular salad would. This dish would also be absolutely perfect in the summer. The tomatoes, basil, and garlic give it a Mediterranean taste, and it is quite tangy and light. Served at a BBQ, or taken to a picnic, this is a fast, tasty, healthy salad, with fairly few ingredients. It is certainly worth adding to your recipe collection if you are wanting to add a few more bean dishes to your diet.

Tomato, Basil, and Chickpea Salad

1 can (410ml) of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved
A large handful of basil leaves
3 cloves of garlic, minced (lessen this amount if you don’t like a lot of garlic)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon honey
Pinch of salt

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Allow to chill for 20 minutes before serving.

Recipe credit unknown, but I don’t claim to have created this recipe.


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