Archive | Cooking/baking RSS feed for this section

Squash your spaghetti craving

7 Feb

 It wasn’t long after I first started Weigh Watchers that I first tried spaghetti squash. For those of you haven’t heard of it, allow me to explain. On the outside, spaghetti squash just looks like your average squash – yellow, oblong, oval-shaped. But after it’s been cut in half and cooked (I typically do it in the microwave for about 10 minutes on high), take a fork and it separates into strands – just like spaghetti. Since its flavour is fairly mild, it makes a great low carb, low calorie substitute for pasta. Now, as you have seen before, I do love to eat pasta. I certainly would never cut it out of my diet completely. But if you ever just want a giant bowl of a pasta-type dish minus all the calories, spaghetti squash does the trick. The picture at the left is a whole cooked spaghetti sqaush, the half on the right has been separated into strands with a fork.

I cooked an entire spaghetti squash on the weekend and made a delicious lunch – then doubled it so I’d have one of my weekday lunches taken care of. Here’s what I did for the topping. I made an easy homemade tomato sauce. In two tsp of olive oil, I sauteed one chopped onion, 2 minced garlic cloves and some chili flakes. Then I added most of a can of the tomatoes I bought at Costco (I crushed them by hand), seasoned with salt and pepper, and let simmer for almost an hour. For extra veggies, I blanched some broccoli rabe in the microwave and grilled a portabello mushroom and part of a red pepper inder the broiler. I added them to the “pasta” dish and topped it all off with some goat cheese (for the packed lunch version, I used Parmesan). The result? A filling, fibre-rich but calorie-light Itlian lunch. All of the flavour I love, but far fewer calories than it would have been with pasta.

The whole spaghetti squash, which I would consider about average size, gave me enough for two large lunch servings, with a bit left over. I also find that cooked spaghetti squash is yummy in salads. if you haven’t tried it…you should!

Happy World Nutella Day!

5 Feb

Happy World Nutella Day everyone! Here is the first of the treats I made: Nutella Brownies that I found on this page. I made these brownies for two 30th birthdays that are 5 months apart…allow me to explain.

My brother-in-law Tim turned 30 last September. Like me, he has an insatiable sweet tooth. So I gave him a “sweet a month” for a year. This weekend, my sister and brother-in-law’s friend Jen is turning 30. To celebrate, her husband rented a cottage in Collingwood for several couples, including Catherine (my sister) and Tim. Back in August, my sister had me over for a delicious birthday lunch. Jen happened to be over that day, and did a lot to help prepare, including picking up some absolutely gorgeous flowers (picture at left), and giving me some of her homemade fig preserves (the ones I used to make this sandwich). So I suggested to Catherine that for Tim’s bday treat this month, I combine it with Jen’s birthday as sort of a thank you for the help she was in my birthday. Cat thought it was a good idea, and given that the weekend falls on World Nutella Day, I pretty much had to go with something Nutellicious (don’t you love that new word I just made up? 😛 ).

I made this recipe as directed, except for: I *very* slightly reduced the sugar, I melted the butter in the microwave instead of over the stove, I sprinkled the brownies with chopped toasted hazelnuts before baking, and instead of simply baking in a greased pan, I baked in a greased and parchment lined pan. This is one of my FAVOURITE tricks for baking squares – it makes cutting and cooling squares so much easier. You just spray the pan with nonstick spray (essential to do this before lining with parchment paper so it has something to adhere to), line the pan with parchment paper, making sure that you have a generous overhang so you have “handles” to lift the squares out with, and then spray the paper with more nonstick spray. After the squares are baked and have cooled slightly, you can lift them out using the paper handles, and they will cool faster. They are also much easier to cut and separate, since you don’t have to worry about wedging out those pesky corner pieces and cutting all the way to the edge of the pan.

The result? Well, *technically* I didn’t eat any. Why do I say “technically”? Of course, I made sure to eat copious amounts of batter (as I’ve confessed before, it is a HUGE weakness for me – tasting as I bake). And then, of course, as I was cutting them, there are those corner pieces that don’t look quite right (I AM giving these as a gift here people) so I had to trim them up a bit, and some pieces were just too large, so I had to cut off the excess….and I couldn’t let those pieces go to waste, could I? 😉 So from the pieces I “didn’t” eat (don’t you just love my rationalizations – anyone else do “food math” like this?)  – I thought the brownies were deliciously rich and fudgy. I thought they could have stood for a bit more Nutella flavour, but I’m not complaining – they were still amazing!

Hope you are celebrating WND with some delicious treats! Another Nutella post (or 2) are coming up…including the recipe I am making for the Super Bowl Party I am co-hosting (you heard that right)…neither me or my friend who I’m hosting with are football fans…we’re just in it for the food!

Happy WND everyone…and Happy 3-0 Jen (and Tim too)! 🙂

Mmmm….creamy

4 Feb

So, the other night, I made a supper that included a DELICIOUS cream sauce. This may not seem news-worthy to you, but I have long been a follower of “the golden rules of healthy eating” – avoid cream sauces at all costs! But if you make the sauce yourself, cream sauce is totally do-able without wrecking your diet. I wanted to write the post before I forgot everything I put in the sauce – since I completely made it up!

So the sauce was a wild mushroom and balsamic cream sauce – does that sound good or what?! Here’s what I did:

I started by soaking some mixed wild mushrooms in boil water. In half a tsp of olive oil in a small nonstick pan, I sauteed one sliced portabello mushroom and a clove of minced garlic. After a few minutes, I added the softened dried mushrooms and their cooking liquid. I also added 2 tbsp of half and half cream, 2 wedges of the Laughing Cow light cheese, a couple of splashes of chicken broth, a couple splashes of balsamic vinegar and a spoonful of Dijon mustard. I seasoned with salt and pepper, and let it simmer together until the Laughing Cow had melted in (I had to keep adding a bit more liquid to thin it out).This made enough for 2 servings.

What did I serve this oh-so-delicious sauce with? As you can see in the photo (sorry the quality’s not so great, I was in a bit of a rush), I used some of it to top my mashed cauliflower/celery root. The rest of it topped a “turkey broil” I bought from a vendor at a local farmer’s market. I think the broils are basically just lean ground turkey, parsley and spices, shaped into nice little medallions. I baked them in the oven for about 45 minutes at 350, then topped them with the sauce and a little bit of goat cheese (I was a little short on my dairy servings, so this got in the last 1/2 serving I needed ;)). On the side, I had some roasted brussels sprouts (olive oil, garlic salt, pepper – roast at 400 for 30 to 40 minutes).

It was a delicious dinner that included non-diet-wrecking cream sauce. One healthy cooking tip is that if part of your meal is a little more decadent (meat topped with cream sauce and cheese, hello!), cut back on other parts. If you noticed, the rest of the meal was entirely vegetables (except for the Laughing Cow pureed with the cauliflower). The meat was a bit of a splurge, so I wasn’t going to pair it with a load of pasta or a rich side dish. But it was so flavourful, I didn’t need to.

Do you have any favourite healthy “cheats” that taste like splurges?

Mashed Makeover

3 Feb

Looks like a nice bowl of mashed potatoes, right? WRONG! It’s a bowl (well actually a Pampered Chef Micro-Cooker) of mashed cauliflower and celery root – one of my favourite swaps!

If you I was until about a year or so ago, you have heard of swapping cauliflower for mashed potatoes for a side dish that’s lower in calories and carbs but have never tried it. I am here to de-mystify mashed cauliflower for you. I have learned a few tricks that make it delicious and easy to prepare.

But first, you may be wondering, what the heck is a celery root? I figured you’d ask, so here’s a picture for you. Celery root has a mild, slightly sweet flavour with a hint of celery. You can use it raw in slaws (although I’ve never tried this) or boil it and use in soups or purees. You just hack away at it with a knife until all the gnarly brown stuff is gone from the outside, then boil until tender.

I don’t always use it when I make mashed cauliflower, but I had a celery root at home today, so I combined the two. Mashed cauliflower is great on its own though, the celery root is a nice addition but by no means a necessity. So my basic method is to dice up cauliflower (and the celery root, if using) and put in my micro-cooker (you could just as easily do this on the stove). I add water and salt (sometimes use chicken broth for added flavour) and cook for about 10 minutes (more or less depending on the quantity).

One important thing: cook until it’s quite soft, almost mushy…much softer than you’d want it if you were just making boiled/steamed veggies (I normally HATE mushy veggies…but this is the exception). My creamy ingredient of choice is Laughing Cow light cheese wedges. I use 2 for every individual serving. I drain the cauliflower then I use my immersion blender to mash up the cooked veggies and cheese. Mash away, making sure you’ve completely blended up any remaining chunks. *PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT*: Unplug the immersion blender as soon as you are done. Failure to do so can result in stitches in the finger from trying to scrape the blade off with your finger and accidentally turning on the blender (if you are more clever than me though, you shouldn’t have this problem).

For seasoning, you can keep it basic and use salt and pepper (I almost always go with garlic salt) or use any seasoning blend you’re in the mood for. Some that I’ve tried (and liked) are: taco seasoning, ranch dressing/dip mix and this random garlic seasoning stuff we have from Costco. After you’ve blended and seasoned, you’re good to go. Enjoy your faux potato concoction…and since it’s so low in calories and carbs, make yourself a nice big portion (that’s what I do!).

Look what I made!

2 Feb

See that adorable heart-shaped wreath at left? I made it! And it’s made of old t-shirts cut up and glued on a heart shape. My very talented and crafty friend Megan is a regular craft blog reader and on the weekend she showed me the link for this cute craft. I was hoping (but not planning, because that would jinx it) for a snow day today and my wish was granted, so we had a nice little crafting session in the comfort and warmth of my house while the weather raged on outside. I have been telling Megan lately that I have “craft envy” of all the cool stuff she makes…so I was glad to make something together! The hardest part was cutting out all those tiny little squares (it took just over 2 men’s XL t-shirts)…we passed the time sitting on the couch watching an episode of 4 Weddings that I had DVR’ed…after that, it was only a matter of hot-gluing them on the heart shapes that Megan had cut out of cardboard. Megan made a few little rosettes out of a white t-shirt we bought, but I decided I wanted to go with the plain look.

Not only did I do some crafting today, I took advantage of the extra time at home to make some delicious eats! Breakfast was French toast, made using my basic method. I topped it with a sauteed pear (cooked in water, a little chai tea, with cardamom, ginger and cinnamon and Brown Sugar Twin) and 2 tbsp of light ricotta cheese mixed with vanilla extract and Splenda. The drink on the side is a latte-esque drink made with 1/2 cup almond milk, coffee, Splenda and vanilla and almond extracts. The perfect way to kick of a snow day!

If French toast makes a great snow day breakfast, then pancakes are a great snow day lunch (I don’t recommend this for a regular diet, but hey, it was a snow day, and they were both healthy recipes 🙂 ). I made a hungry girl recipe (are you shocked?) for Oat-rageous Chocolate Chip Pancake Minis from Hungry Girl: 200 under 200. As you can see in the picture, the mini thing didn’t work out perfectly – I doubled the batch (since it makes a single serving) so I used two pans – and one pan was smaller and the batter is kind of thin, so it just made one big pancake. And although the minis don’t have a perfect taste – everything tasted delicious, no matter what the size. They were a perfect lunch for hungry crafters. Here’s the recipe:

Oat-rageous Chocolate Chip Pancake Minis(from Hungry Girl: 200 under 200)

3 tbsp rolled oats (not instant)

3 tbsp fat-free liquid egg substitute

2 tbsp whole wheat flour

1 tbsp light vanilla soy milk

1/2 tbsp mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp vanilla extract

1 no-calorie sweetener packet

dash salt

Place all ingredients in a small bowl, except for chocolate chips. Add 1 tbsp water and stir until thoroughly mixed. Fold in chocolate chips.

Bring a large pan sprayed with nonstick spray to medium heat. Pour batter in the pan to form 5 mini pancakes. Once pancakes begin to look solid, after 1 minute, gently flip.

Cook for an additional minute, or until both sides are lightly browned and cooked through. Plate and enjoy!

I really like HG recipes because they often serve just one person, which works well for me. Pancakes are something I enjoy, but if you’re cooking for 1 or 2 people, you will wind up with a lot of extra pancakes if you make an entire batch. The single recipe doubles easily though if you are cooking for two.

Now, as much as the pancakes were tasty, they didn’t totally fill me up. No surprise really, given the lack of protein in this meal. So I snacked a bit more after Megan left. I made some sweet and sour braised cabbage (kind of a weird snack, I know, but I had a bit of cabbage that needed to be used up and I needed to get in some veggies). To make this dish, I heated a tsp of olive oil in a nonstick pan, then added the cabbage and sauteed for a couple minutes over medium high. I added chicken broth and red wine vinegar, as well as salt, pepper and Splenda, then covered and simmered until tender.

My next snack was another HG classic – a strawberry cloud. This is a drink that Hungry Girl created as a swap for Starbucks’ Strawberries & Creme Frappucino. For some reason I was thinking about this drink the other day and how I hadn’t had it in a while. A snow day was the perfect opportunity. Nothing like sipping while watching tv on the couch!

I love snow days! I also took the chance to make a loaf of pumpkin cranberry bread today (I didn’t snap any pictures though). I am on the food committee at my church and was asked to make something for Sunday, so I figured I might as well get it done today while I was home and freeze it for the weekend…speaking of the weekend…I am looking forward to it….but also dreading a bit…lots of eating events coming up…dinner(s) out, one of which is at a wing place and a Super Bowl party. Looks like I will be exercising the 80/20 rule quite a bit! I just need to remember my self control….wish me luck!

What did those of you who had a snow day do with your day? (and my sincere apologies for those of you who are reading this and had to go to work).

Eat fat to lose fat

1 Feb

There are some foods that I like, I know are healthy, but I don’t eat that often because they tend to be higher in fat/calories – foods such as nuts or avocados. While I love both of them, and they are chock full of flavour and heart-healthy fats, the higher calorie price tag keeps me from eating them on a regular basis, which is a shame really, as they’re delicious. A couple of weeks ago, I bought an avocado to use in a recipe to make for dinner guests. The dinner was cancelled, so the avocado sat in my fridge.

As you know, I’m not one to waste food if I can help it, so last weekend I resolved to use the avocado in my fridge. I used 3/4 of it to make a nourishing hair masque from a spa book I had (I believe the recipe was for a whole avocado (I didn’t use it all because I wanted to eat some!), 1 teaspoon or two of oil, and some grated ginger). It was the perfect thing for dry, frizzy winter hair and made my hair feel wonderful (not so fun to clean out of the bathtub though) :P!

For supper last Sunday, I used the remaining 1/4 avocado in one of the most flavourful wraps I’ve made in a long time. I still had some leftover ham to use up too, so I diced up 2 ounces and threw that in. For the same recipe that I had bought the avocado for, I had also purchased a jalapeno pepper. I charred it under the broiler, diced it up and threw half in the wrap (the other half went in the spicy/sweet slaw you see on the side). I diced up a bit of diced pineapple and that went in the wrap too (and a bit in the slaw), as well as some sliced red onion. I seasoned with salt and pepper and added some BBQ sauce. Let me tell you – that combination of flavours – sweet, hot, smoky, spicy and textures – creamy and crisp was phenomenal! And the slaw I made on the side (dressing was light Miracle whip, salsa, vinegar, lime juice, cumin and splenda) with broccoli slaw mix, diced fresh peppers as well as the charred jalapeno, pineapple and onions – was a great complement. I also had some mashed, cooked squash on the side.

As for the title of the post, you may have heard this before, but it is important not to eliminate fat from your diet when you want to lose weight. It is an important nutrient for your body, and if you don’t get enough of it, your body can over-compensate and hold onto whatever fat you do get, preventing weight loss. So healthy fats are key to a healthy diet! I learned that on WW – I can testify that having 2 tsp of olive oil a day helped me achieve my goal weight. I had reached a weight loss plateau and adding the oils really did boost my weight loss.

So, in conclusion – don’t be scared of fatty foods (as long as they’re the good fats). Maybe I will try to use avocado more in the future. Do you have any healthy, but fatty foods you avoid? Any tips on incorporating these kinds of food in your diet?

Chocolate Mint Cookie Snowballs

31 Jan

*Note: Although this blog has the word healthy in the name, I also love to bake (and occasionally eat) treats that are decidedly unhealthy. The treats in this post fall into that category. Read on at your own peril  – they are absolutely delicious – so if you face a chocolate mint craving, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

You may have noticed this by now, but when the weather turns bad, I love to stay in and bake. You also may have noticed that I love to use up leftovers, especially when I can re-invent them in a new creation. So when the snow changed my plans on the weekend, I took the opportunity to do both of those things and came up with Chocolate Mint Cookie Snowballs.

I had some cookies leftover from Christmas in the freezer. Normally, this isn’t a problem, as I like to have cookies in the freezer in case I need a quick dessert if we have company. But these cookies were particularly festive-looking: chocolate chip cookies made with Christmas m&m’s and chopped candy canes, do I felt it would be quite obvious that I was using Christmas leftovers if I served them, and it is almost February. I also had quite a few leftover mini candy canes (which I bought to make the cookies) and some green peppermint frosting leftover from when I made Christmas cupcakes for my class at school. Obviously I couldn’t just save these items for next Christmas, so I got to work on an idea to use them up while downplaying their festive look.

I got the idea from Bakerella’s Cake Balls, which I have made numerous times and are always a crowd-pleaser. The shot on the right is the “before” shot. I let the cookies thaw, and the icing come to room temperature. Then, I placed the cookies in my mini food processor and ground them until they were nice, fine crumbs. I put the crumbs back into the mixing bowl and added the icing, mixing with a spoon and my hands until the mixture came together. I rolled the mixture into balls, put them on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet and popped the sheet into the freezer for about 20 minutes so they could firm up.

While the balls were freezing, I chopped the candy canes (using the old reliable “put them in a ziploc bag and whack with a heavy object until desired consistency” method). I also melted my chocolate – I like to use melting wafers (those round discs you can find at bulk stores or the bulk section of some grocery stores) because they have a better consistency for coating when melted. I melted the chocolate in a small mug (in the microwave) so it would be deep enough to submerge the balls and thinned it out with a little vegetable oil to make dipping easier.

I dipped the balls in the melted, thinned chocolate and tapped off excess chocolate with a spoon. After placing each dipped ball back on the cookie sheet, I finished them off with a dusting of candy cane “snow” before the chocolate set. I was quite pleased with the final product (see top photo) and I think the recipients of these treats were pleased as well :). No festive leftovers wasted and yummy cookie balls to share – everyone wins! I still have a few left…who wants them?

Cozy and Warm

30 Jan

I swear, I am turning into more of an old lady/wuss every day. I’ve been driving 40 minutes a day for school the last couple of weeks, and went to meet up with friends out of town last weekend – and on several occasions, the weather was less than ideal for driving. So last Sunday, I decided I had it…I was sick of driving and I was not leaving the house…so I stayed in all day – did not get dressed until 3:30….it was wonderful! And for me, nothing completes a cozy, lazy day like some baking.

I wanted to bake something healthy that I could enjoy, so I turned to one of my Hungry Girl cookbooks. I had previously made a recipe for caramel pumpkin cupcakes that were quite yummy. So I took that recipe and played around with it a bit. I had some soft apples to use up, so I added that to the batter, halved the recipe, baked it in a pan and eliminated the caramel topping and came up with these pumpkin apple spice squares. Now you’ll notice in the photo, there’s a box of cake mix. Personally, I am not a big fan of cake mixes. I enjoy baking so much that I honestly feel that using a cake mix would take a lot of the fun out of making a cake. But, if I am making a recipe for something else that calls for a cake mix as one of the ingredients, I will follow along. Here’s my adapted recipe:

Pumpkin Apple Spice Squares

Adapted from Hungry Girl

1 cup moist style yellow cake mix

1/2 cup canned pure pumpkin

3 tbsp fat free egg substitute

1 tbsp sugar-free maple-flavoured syrup

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp Splenda

Dash salt

1 apple, chopped (I didn’t peel it, but you could if you want to)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients except apple in a mixing bowl with 3 tbsp water. Whip with a whisk or fork for 2 minutes or until well blended. Fold in the chopped apple.

Spray an 11 by 7 inch pan with cooking spray (this size is a little tricky to find…you could probably use 2 loaf pans). Spread batter evenly in the pan. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cut into 6 squares – each one will have only a little over 100 calories! I enjoyed one of these squares as is, and it was good. Not anything super-special, but nice and moist. But then I came up with a little sundae-inspired dessert, fancied up the square a bit, and it was FANTASTIC! I topped the square with one tbsp of fat free caramel dip. Then I scooped on a 1/4 cup scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt and added a dash of cinnamon. Of course, like any dessert enjoyed during the winter months, I washed it down with a cup of tea.

Do you like to bake when the weather is cold? Any winter favourites?

My Favourite Things – meals for one

27 Jan

Time for another installment of My Favourite Things. As per a request after my last post, this one is devoted to some of my favourite meals/cooking tips for one person. I lived on my own for three years during university, and I am alone for meals a lot of the time now, so cooking, shopping and eating for one have become second nature to me. I really didn’t even realize that cooking for one is a challenge for some people until my sister mentioned it to me. So here are a few of my best tricks/favourite meals.

A nice big pasta supper. See my basic recipe for pasta with meat and veggies. Then you can change up the veggies and meat (or go meatless, use cheese or beans) and play with it until you have the flavours you like. Pasta is a fairly inexpensive meal that comes together quickly, which is great after the end of a long day.

Soup and Sandwich Supper

The nice thing about eating alone is that you have no one to answer to. If you just feel like a soup and sandwich, you can go for it! The sandwich can be whatever you like – grilled cheese, meat, both, veggie. You can use any kind of bread – make a quesadilla with a tortilla (or roll it into a wrap), use normal bread, a bagel, pita or English muffin. I really love sandwiches made with grilled or roasted veggies (and you can make these ahead – use them in salads or soups too) and goat cheese. Sandwich these between bread, grill it in a panini press/grill pan/frying pan and enjoy cheesy deliciousness. 🙂 Grilled portabello mushrooms also make FABULOUS vegetarian sandwiches. Grilled cheese sandwiches with a little bit of fruit (sliced apples are great) are another favourite of mine. If you want a meatier option, sandwich meat is always a quick option, or you can use up your leftovers to make another meal. And if all else fails, there’s nothing wrong with a good old peanut butter sandwich for supper.

As for soup? Mmmm…love it, especially this time of year! Here are a few of my favourite soup tips:

Classic quick chicken noodle

Veggie puree – I love vegetable cream soups…with just about any veggie. Broccoli; cauliflower; squash and apple is a great combo; zucchini…the list goes on.Basically, you just cook the veggies (I usually saute in a bit of olive oil), puree with a bit of liquid (you can just use water and salt or use broth), add milk (or fat free cream cheese or laughing cow cheese are really great), season and heat through. Nutmeg is always good in veggie cream soups. Squash soups taste great with a bit of cinnamon mixed in, or curry is good if you like it (I am not a huge curry person myself though). I love using my immersion blender to make soups (LOVE this gadget, one of the best birthday presents I’ve ever received…seriously).

A lot of canned goods are inexpensive and great for adding to soups. Canned beans make a great healthy, tasty and cheap addition to soups for protein. Canned tomatoes are excellent for adding volume/liquid to soups, particularly veggie ones. You can add the trinity of southwestern flavour (as I like to call them) – paprika, chilli powder and cumin – and do a yummy southwestern veggie soup. Tomatoes, corn and black beans work well together.

Chili

I love a nice pot of chili. I never use a recipe – like many other things I make, it depends on my mood/what’s on hand. Quite often, I make vegetarian chili using just beans, or sometimes add soy crumbles. You can use whatever meat (or not) is your preference.  Two of my favourite “secret” ingredients are a pinch of cocoa powder and coffee (either add liquid or even some dried instant coffee). Both add a nice depth of flavour to chili – try it sometime! Even if you’re only cooking for one, make a big batch. Chili freezes well and is GREAT for leftovers. You can use leftover chili to: top a baked (or “microwave-baked”) potato, put on a taco salad, top chili fries (either make homemade regular or sweet potato fries, or use frozen ones) or nachos (and of course, don’t forget the cheese!) and to make a dip – nothing like a good old Mexican layered dip with chili – you can do one layer of taco seasoning mixed with cream cheese/sour cream, a chili layer, then cheese over all, microwave and enjoy (ok, I know that last one is not a traditional “meal,” but it sure is a tasty way to use up chili).  You know what’s great about all of these recipes? If you don’t feel like/don’t have time to make chili, they all work with canned chili (such as my FAVOURITE one).

Stir Fries

Stir fry is a healthy, quick meal that can be easily reduced or expanded depending on how many people you are serving. Again, you can use whatever protein (chicken, pork, beef, tofu, shrimp) and veggies you have on hand. For me, garlic is a must for seasoning. Fresh ginger adds a nice Asian flair. And, if you’re like me and can take the heat, dried chili flakes are great too. I start by having my ingredients all chopped and ready to go. The basic method is to heat a pan (non-stick is best) till it’s nice and hot over medium-high heat, add a pit of oil (or use PAM), then add your meat and garlic (and ginger and chili flakes if using), cook until the meat is almost done, stirring occasionally but not too often (or the meat won’t brown). Then add all your veggies, cooking and stirring until crisp-tender. Near the end comes the fun part – seasoning! Now, if you’ve used ginger, garlic or chili flakes, you can just add salt and pepper and call it a day. But in the last few years I’ve discovered some Asian sauces that make your stir-fry taste decidedly more “restaurant-y.” Try any of these on their own, or mix and match to create your own “secret sauce.” Soy sauce is a classic, Teryaki is great, but my three new favourites are black bean sauce, oyster-flavoured sauce (doesn’t taste fishy, trust me, I HATE all fish/seafood) and chili garlic sauce. I bought these because I was making recipes that called for them, and now I love them on their own. They are available in the Asian section of most grocery stores (even here in Simcoe!). Once you’ve sauced and seasoned your stir-fry, cook and stir a few minutes more. You can serve your stir fry over rice, pasta, bulgur, couscous or quinoa (all of which are pretty cheap and easy to make).

I have more ideas, but this is a long enough post already. These are just some of the classic single stand-bys. It looks like I’ll have to do a Part II of favourite meals for one.

Let me know if you have any great single meal ideas or if you have any requests for favourite things posts.

Cheap and Cheerful Chicken

26 Jan

I didn’t get home until 7:30 last night (I met a friend for coffee and then had my weekly hula hooping class) and my mom also had a busy day, so for supper, we got some help from the grocery store with the good old rotisserie roast chicken. I always love this meal – the meat is so juicy and tasty, and it’s a healthy standby for when you’re in a hurry. And, at only $8 or $9, a whole roast chicken is a pretty good deal – even better if you can stretch it through the week.  Here are some of my favourite ways to use up leftover chicken:

Soup – just add the cooked chicken to any soup (canned or homemade) for added protein to fill you up more. For a quick chicken noodle soup, cook a combo of carrots, celery and onions (or any other veggie for that matter) until tender in a bit of broth. Add cooked chicken and cooked pasta and enough broth for desired volume, season with salt and pepper, a bit of thyme is great too…cook until heated through.

You can use leftover roast chicken in any recipe that calls for cooked chicken – this can be a huge time saver if you’re using it in a casserole or other dish and don’t have time to cook the chicken yourself.

Sandwiches – you can simply slice the chicken, put it on bread and add your favourite toppings or condiments. Or you could add some cheese, grill it and call it a panini. How about mixing in some light mayonnaise or Miracle Whip, apples, and celery for a yummy chicken salad?

Salads – top off any salad with leftover chicken for a great protein boost. Good on anything from a basic garden salad, to Greek, to Caesar….whatever you can create!

This post is short and sweet, but hopefully it has lent some inspiration as to what you can create with a humble kitchen staple? And good ideas I’ve missed? Leave them below!