Thursday, June 30, 2016

"Eggplant Parm" Spaghetti

I love eggplant parm, but my other half isn't so fond of the mushy texture it can tend to have, and I'm not a fan of the idea of breaded & fried food. This meal is the perfect compromise - all of the delicious flavors of the classic dish, paired with wholewheat (or gluten free!) pasta for a much healthier twist. And, if you ask me, it has more flavor than the original!

I really wanted to throw a bunch of spinach into this dish, too, to up the veggie factor, but the stuff at our local market didn't look very fresh that day so I gave it a swerve. By all means, if you have a bag in your fridge, add a big handful or two right at the very end.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Cherry Berry Baked Oatmeal

Bring me your hungry, your hungover, your lazy, your busy moms, your health nuts. Everyone can gather around the table for a big warm bowl of this yumminess.

I love oatmeal, but I don't have time to stir it on the stovetop when I have a baby to tend to, and I don't own a microwave (seriously, I don't). Baked oats are the perfect cross between oatmeal and breakfast cereal, without any added nasties. You can serve it cold or warm, in a bowl or as a sort of soft oatmeal square. Personally, I like mine fresh out of the oven, hot with a drizzle of cold, creamy local milk (the milk from our local dairy is seriously delicious, and nothing like that which you get in a supermarket. If you can get milk from your local farmers market, seriously give that stuff a try. Liquid gold).

I can make a tray on the weekend, and it's the perfect brunch-y comfort food, and then keep the tray in the fridge (remember it has milk and eggs, so store it in the fridge!) to have cold with milk - like cereal - or in squares for the following few days.  With so many fruits and berries in season this time of year, the possibilities are endless, too.

Oh, and did I mention that it takes about 38 seconds to throw together?

The beauty of this recipe is not only in its simplicity, but also in that it has no added sugar. Nada. Only the berries.  But if you're like my hubby and you have a raging sweet tooth, a little drizzle of honey is positively perfect.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Vegetable Tagine with Cod

So my readers are pretty aware of my current obsession with harissa, right? Well, I hope you have some in your pantry, because here's a fabulous vegetarian & pescatarian option. If you want to omit the fish, that's fine, because this complete meal gets plenty of protein from chickpeas, and its plenty filling. If you're a carb lover, it would be great served with couscous or basmati rice.
If you're exploring the idea of a plant-based diet, it's a wonderful example to debunk the myth that a plant-based diet is made up of mostly salads. And it's a one-pot wonder, too, so your cleanup and actual cooking time is minimal, making it great for throwing together on a weeknight.

What is a tagine, you might ask? It's a round ceramic baking dish with a cone-shaped lid, popular for slow cooking in north African cuisine. As the heat and steam rises while food cooks, the cone-shaped lid helps the moisture to drop back down into the cooking, ensuring that the food (usually meat) is tender and moist. If you're like me and don't own a tagine (yet- it's on my wish list!) then you can make this dish in an enameled cast iron pot. Have you ever noticed the little bumps on the underside of the lid of an enameled cast iron pot? Well, they essentially are meant to do the same thing as a tagine, so it works great for these types of recipes.

You can adjust the heat of the dish to your liking, and I added a little bit of chili flakes to mine because the harissa I had on hand this time isn't as spicy as I'd have liked it to be. I also garnished with some chopped fresh mint, which goes fantastically with the flavors in this dish.

Colorful, flavorful, filling, and healthy! What's not to love?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Pesto Baked Mushroom & Eggs

Looking for a quick and easy weekend brunch idea that is totally fuss-free?

I always have pesto of some sort on hand - it's delicious, healthy, and a great way to add flavor to a meal. Sometimes I even just spread it on toast! This baked egg & mushroom recipe can be multiplied if you have guests, and you can experiment with other fillings as well (I just happened to have spinach and tomatoes on hand).

This recipe cooks the egg yolks solid, so if you like a runny egg, try baking the mushrooms with all of the other fillings, and then topping with a poached or fried egg.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Spicy Stuffed Eggplant

Aubergine, eggplant: whatever you call it, I love it! It's much more versatile than your run-of-the-mill eggplant parmesan, which is what I tried to highlight in this riff on a really traditional recipe. Stuffed eggplant is popular in both Moroccan and Greek cooking, and it's a fantastically filling grain-free recipe, keeping this beefy meal virtually guilt-free.

I used up the remaining ground beef from our Taco Tuesday; since there's only two of us (the little one isn't up to eating tacos yet!), we generally use 1/2 of the beef in a pack per meal, so this is a great way to use it all up without having two dinners that are really similar.

I chose to go the Moroccan route with my flavor profile, adding harissa paste to the veggie & meat mixture. But, if you're not a fan of the taste of harissa, feel free to sub in sriracha or your favorite hot sauce. If you're not using harissa, omit the cinnamon, as it might not work well otherwise. But if you do add the harissa, you're going to love how the cinnamon works in this dish! It's not just for baking, trust me! I would've garnished it with chopped parsley, but mine got infested with aphids or something so I chucked it outside and I'm too afraid of bugs to investigate it any further. I'm such a wimp; I love gardening, but the minute I have to touch a bug, I'm done. 

As a side dish, I cooked up some beet greens (which are chock full of great vitamins like B6) with a clove of garlic, salt, pepper, and a little of our fantastic local butter. You essentially can cook them just like spinach, swiss chard, or your other favorite greens. They even can bake in the oven like kale chips, so don't toss your beet greens next time you get some! Mine were quite wilted after spending a few days in the fridge, but they were still in perfect cooking condition, so don't let a limp bunch deter you as long as they're nice and green and dry.

A little greek yogurt with a tiny bit of harissa mixed in is a great cooling sauce for the eggplant, but if you're like me and mix everything on the plate together as you eat, it tastes great on the beet greens, too!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Roasted Fennel & Broccoli Soup

In honor of the No Food Waste challenge, I've come up with a recipe that uses one of the most frequently discarded edible foods (broccoli stem) and a seasonal delight (fennel). Broccoli stem has just as many nutrients as the florets - in fact, it has more calcium, iron, and vitamin C, and it's definitely just as delicious. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness and flavors of both of these veggies, so don't toss those stems!

Have some leftover bread laying around? I baked a loaf two days ago made from fantastic flour from a local mill, so when it began to go stale, I knew I couldn't let it go to waste. Croutons can be saved in a plastic bag and will keep their crunch for soups and salads, so make a batch up instead of wasting your stale bread! You can season them up with garlic (fresh, salt, or powder), or any spices you like. They add great crunch to this creamy soup. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Weeknight Dinners: Grilled Balsamic Lamb Chops

Summer is barbecue season, but sometimes we get so caught up on the same old burgers and hot dogs that we forget how versatile our grills can be! Don't save it just for a sunny weekend; here's a quick weeknight dinner that you can cook up (and eat) al fresco in just 30 minutes: Grilled roasted new potatoes with thyme, grilled courgette (zucchini) spears, and balsamic marinated grilled lamb chops. 

For the lamb marinade, mix together 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp dijon mustard, 1 sprig of fresh thyme (stem removed, leaves crushed between your hands), 1 clove of garlic (grated, finely minced, or popped in a garlic press) and salt and pepper. Put in a plastic bag or covered container and allow to marinate. I recommend marinating an hour in advance, or even overnight, but if you're pressed for time, simply marinate while you prep your veggies. 

New potatoes are in season, so what better way to bring out their natural sweetness than by roasting. Grilling potatoes in a foil packet gives them both the direct heat from the flames below, for crispy skins, as well as indirect heat as they steam in the foil packet and get nice and soft inside. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and some fresh thyme (leftover from the lamb marinade). Seal up the foil packet well - leave a little breathing room inside - and put on the grill ASAP over a medium flame. They need to cook the longest, so put the potatoes on first. 

Next, cut the courgettes (zucchini) into spears. Toss with a tiny bit of olive oil to prevent sticking, and sprinkle with your favourite grilling spice. I found this fish and seafood seasoning grinder at Aldi, and it has a lot of great flavours like lemon, fennel, chili flakes, dill and turmeric, and I thought it would work wonderfully for these veggies. 

The courgettes should go on the grill at medium heat with about 20 minutes to spare, turning regularly so that they cook evenly. When they are about halfway cooked (beginning to get colour and starting to get more tender), put the lamb chops over a high flame and sear both sides. Baste with the leftover marinade and allow them to rest for 5 minutes before serving. 

Happy grilling!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Summer Veggie Pizza (I'm back!)

It's hot out. Like, uncharacteristically hot for the North of England. I have no idea why it's sunny and sweltering for the past two weeks, but I'm not going to question it because once it starts raining, I don't know when we'll see the sun again.

I apologise for the hiatus whilst we were moving, and then when we had to wait a week and a half to have wifi installed in the new house. But I'm super excited to be cooking with a gas stove and oven again for the first time in 2 years!!

If you can stand to turn on your oven, this simple weeknight recipe uses all of the veggies that are so plentiful this time of year and turns them into a fabulous feast. It's a guilt-free, no hassle dinner that basically only requires chopping up veggies, and possibly making pizza dough, if you can't buy it. If you're fortunate enough to live near a Trader Joe's (American readers only, sorry), I do recall that they had fresh pizza dough in the fridge. Shop the line - if it's there, you'll see it. But I digress...

I cheated. I did not make my pesto for the pizza sauce. Nope, straight out of a jar. But it's good quality pesto, no added nonsense, and its so yummy. Now, below are my ingredients in the order that I assembled them, since I can't really call this a "recipe" because its so easy. Remember, it's totally fun to improvise! Clean out the fridge and chuck it all on there. I used three cheeses to amp up the flavour, so that you don't need much at all. One ball of mozzarella spread evenly over three (personal-sized) pizzas, along with some grated Parmesan and a little bit of mature cheddar (trust me). Get creative! But remember, the better the quality of the ingredients, the less you need to do to them, so get out to the farmer's market and shop for what's in season.

Pizza dough 
*par bake the dough for 3-5 minutes, then remove from the oven, add toppings, and finish cooking*

Courgette (zucchini)
Red onion
Orange bell pepper
Freshly ground pepper
Garlic powder
Italian dried herbs 

Bake until the edges of the crust are golden brown (you can use a spatula to lift the edge of the crust up and check the colour of the underside).

It's pizza time!!