Tofu Ricotta Pasta Filling – Dairy free

This dairy-free faux ricotta can be used in many pasta dishes – homemade tortellini, lasanga, stuffed shells… great to experiment with!   It’s a treat for people who can’t eat dairy, but I’ve also served it to the lactose tolerant to rave reviews.

What you need:

350 grams extra-firm tofu

3 cloves garlic, diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1 bunch fresh/box frozen spinach

2 tablespoons bread crumbs

1/4 cup vegan parmesan (or lactose free)

1/4 teaspoon pepper

What you do:

1.  Combine tofu, garlic, olive oil, chopped garlic, and salt in food processor and blend until the tofu is finely ground.

2.  If you are using fresh spinach, you can wilt it in a frying pan, let it cool, and squeeze out the excess moisture.  If you are using frozen it should be thawed, and then you can squeeze the moisture out.

3.  Add parmesan, bread crumbs and pepper to the tofu mixture, and mix in well.

4.  Add spinach and mix in well.

5.  Now you can adjust the seasonings to taste, and use it to fill your pasta.

I have used this to:

-fill large brown rice pasta shells, then cover with tomato sauce and bake

-use as a layer in a lasagna with tomato sauce and vegan pesto

-fill homemade tortellini and top with either parmesan or tomato sauce

-you can also use this recipe without the spinach, bread crumbs and cheese as a substitute for ricotta

Here’s what it look like if you puree the spinach rather than mixing it in at the end:

Roasted Vegetables and Spaghetti Squash

This delicious recipe is great if you’re looking to increase your vegetable intake.  You could substitute pasta for the squash, but this is quite filling on its own.  If you want a bit of meat you could add a little hot italian sausage.

The sesame seeds are ground so they are easily digested and you can utilize their calcium and iron.

You need:

1 spaghetti squash

For the tomato sauce:

1 small onion, chopped

2-4 cloves, sliced

1 –  796 mL can crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup tomato paste

oregano – 1 teaspoon fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1/4 cup fresh chopped basil – only fresh will do! *

1 tsp brown sugar

salt and pepper to taste

For the roasted vegetables:

1 onion, chopped in large pieces

2 red, orange or yellow peppers, chopped in large pieces

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets

1 zucchini, sliced about 2 cm

3-4 cloves garlic, cut in half

2 tablespoons olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons FRESH dill*

1/2 cup ground sesame seeds

salt and pepper

What you do:

1.  Start with the sauce.  While this cooks you will have lots of time to do the rest.  Chop onions, cook in a pot with a little olive oil, stirring occasionally for a few minutes.  Add garlic and cook until it has a hint of brown.  Add oregano, tomato paste and crushed tomatoes.  Give this a stir every now and then while you work on the rest of the recipe.

2.  Preheat oven to 425F.

3.  Cut squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place face down on a baking pan.

4.  Chop veggies and lay out evenly on another baking pan.

5.  Drizzle olive oil over veggies, then pour lemon juice all over them.  Sprinkle  sesame seeds over top.   Season with a little salt and pepper, and top with chopped dill.

6.  Pop the veggies and squash into the oven.  Take the veggies out about half way through and give them a little toss.  They are done when they get a little brown.  The squash is done when you can run a  fork through it and it makes those spaghetti-like strings.

7.  Just before serving, stir the basil, salt and pepper, and brown sugar into the sauce.  Adjust to taste.

8.  To serve, place some spaghetti squash on the plate, top with some sauce, then top with some veggies.  Yum!

*Some herbs taste completely different when they are dried.  Dill and basil are two of those.  When I find some great fresh basil or dill I put them in the freezer.  They are great to use in cooking – frozen basil not really great for using as a garnish or in something uncooked because it doesn’t look fresh any more, but great for sauces. Continue reading Roasted Vegetables and Spaghetti Squash

Guest Recipe: John’s Kung Pao Chicken

Mmmm.  Delicious.  If you’re averse to spice you can cut down on the peppers, but if you like it hot, then this one’s for you!



What you need:

1 & 1/2 boneless & skinless chicken breasts

3 tablespoons roasted peanuts

8-12 dried red chilies, deseeded and cut into halves (it was quite hot with 9 chilies, so you can experiment with the number that’s right for you)

3 tablespoons cooking oil

5 thin slices peeled fresh ginger

2 cloves garlic, sliced

1 stalk scallion

For the marinade:

1 tablespoon corn starch

2 teaspoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or other rice wine)

1 teaspoon oil

For the sauce:

1 1/2 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon black vinegar

2 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon corn starch

What you do:

1. Cut the chicken into small cubes, combine marinade ingredients and let the chicken marinate in it for about 30 minutes.

2. Mix the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

3. Heat the wok or large frying pan with one tablespoon cooking oil and stir-fry the marinated chicken until it is 70% cooked. Remove chicken and set aside.

4.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of cooking oil to wok and heat until it smokes.

5. Add in the ginger and garlic slices and stir quickly before adding the dried red chilies.

6. Stir fry the dried red chilies until aromatic, then stir in the partially cooked chicken.

7. Add the roasted peanuts and continue to stir a few times.

8. Add the sauce and stir continuously until the chicken meat is nicely coated with the sauce.

9. Stir in the scallions, then dish out and serve hot with steamed rice.

This recipe serves three to four people with some side dishes.  We had steamed baby bok choy with a drizzle of oyster sauce.

All of these ingredients were found in Vancouver’s China Town.

My Best Bran Muffins

These taste great, and they’ve got lots of fibre-rich bran.  I usually add raisins and pecans, but this time I substituted pumpkin seeds.  Dried cranberries are a great alternative to the raisins.

I mixed the dry ingredients the night before, so when I got up I just had to turn the oven on, add the liquids, and place the mix in muffin tins.  Fresh hot muffins in 20 minutes!

Makes one dozen, and freezes well.

You need:

1 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 & 1/2 cups bran

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chopped pecans

2 eggs

1 cup milk (soy is good too)

2 Tablespoons molasses

1/4 cup butter

What you do:

1.  Preheat the oven to 400F.

2.  Stir dry ingredients (flour to pecans) in a large bowl.  (If you are making it ahead for tomorrow, this is all you need to do for now.)

3.  Melt butter, then mix in the milk slowly, so the butter doesn’t harden when you add cold milk.  Add molasses.  Pour the liquids, along with the slightly beaten eggs, into the dry ingredients.  Mix only until the ingredients are combined; if you mix more you’ll get tough little muffins.

4.  Place mixture in muffin tins lined with paper baking cups.

5.  Bake at 400F for 20 minutes.  Take muffins out of tins and cool on a rack for a few minutes before eating.

6.  If you freeze them, make sure they’re completely cool.

Enjoying a muffin in the mountains!

Fresh and Healthy Quinoa Salad

This is a simple and healthy salad that works great for a lunch or picnic food.

Quinoa is a supergrain, originating in South America.  It is an excellent source of iron and fibre, and is a complete protein.  It is also gluten-free.

You need:

1 cup quinoa

1 can corn

1/4 red onion

1 jalapeno pepper

1 red pepper

1 orange pepper

juice of 1/2 lemon

juice of 1 lime

1/4 cup cilantro or parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon hot sauce

What you do:

1.  Rinse the quinoa – this is important to rinse off the slightly bitter coating.  Place in a pot with 1 & 1/2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover pot and cook for 15 minutes.  Take the pot off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes.  Allow to cool.

2.  Dice onions and peppers and chop cilantro.  Chop jalapeno, removing the seeds if you don’t like it very spicy.  

3.  Mix the veggies in with the cooled quinoa,  along with lemon and lime juices, salt and hot sauce.  You can add the juice along with the canned corn. 

4.  Mix it all up and it’s ready to go, but I like it after a few hours, as the flavours come together and the onion mellows a bit.

Un-Deepfried Zucchini

This one is for those times when you’re craving something that’s bad for you.  This is a much healthier version of deep-fried zucchini – but oven-baked.  I can’t stop eating them, and neither can anyone I’ve made them for.

Yum.

It’s simple, you just need:

1 zucchini

1/2 ish cup of bread crumbs (whole wheat, if you really want to be healthy)

salt & pepper

1 egg

Now just:

1.  Preheat the oven to 400C.

2.  Slightly beat the egg in a bowl with a fork.

3.  Put bread crumbs, salt & pepper in another bowl and mix.

4.  Cut the zucchini into 2cm thick rounds.

5.  Dip each zucchini slice into the egg, then the bread crumbs.  It helps to press the crumbs on a bit.

6.  Place the slices on a baking sheet.  I don’t grease mine and they come off fine. 

7.  Bake for 12 minutes on each side.

I eat them just like that, but you could make a ranch dressing with yogurt to keep it healthy.

 

My Best Biscotti – even Oma loves them

This is one of my alltime most popular recipes, and I am honoured that even my Oma adores them, as I have adored so much of her baking.

These biscotti don’t need to be dunked, as they are crispy and easy to bite on their own.  You can dunk them if you want to, or enjoy the flavour on it’s own.

You need:

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon anise liquor OR 1 teaspoon anise extract

2 cups + 2 tablespoons white flour

1  1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate

1 tablespoon anise seeds, toasted

What to do:

1. Toast anise seeds in a frying pan, then crush with a mortar and pestle.  If you choose not to do this, then add ground anise or fennel seeds.

2. Toast almond slivers in a frying pan until slightly browned and allow to cool.  They are easy to burn, so watch carefully – I usually keep them on low while I start making the cookie dough.

3. Cream the butter, then add sugar, then eggs one at a time and beat until fluffy.  Beat in vanilla and anise liquor.

4. Combine dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon until just incorporated.  Add chocolate and nuts and stir until just combined.

5. Divide the dough into two pieces.  With floured hands form into two logs on a baking sheet.  Bake at 325F for 25-30 minutes.

6. Slice the baked rolls diagonally and place on a baking sheet.  Lower the oven to 300F and bake for 10-15 minutes, until slightly browned.  Turn over and bake for another 10-15, until that side is also slightly browned.

7. Place on cooling racks, then package and give to people you love or are trying to impress.   They keep for quite a long time – which is why they were invented in the first place.  Of course, they are the best right off the cooing rack, so don’t forget to enjoy one.  Or two.

Prosciutto-wrapped Apple

I love entertaining, but sometimes I plan a dinner at a time that ends up being too busy, and I don’t have time to make something complicated.  This is a great recipe for those times when you’re really busy, so if you’re looking for a simple appetizer recipe to satisfy the sweet and salty cravings, then this one is for you!

Just head to the grocery store and pick up:

8 slices of prosciutto

one sweet-tart apple (I used a Jazz apple)

Now just cut the apple into 8 slices, peel off the skin, and wrap each slice with the prosciutto.  Place them on your favourite plate, and impress your friends!

Enjoy!

The Perfect Cup of Tea

Tea tastes best in a real china tea cup. I am lucky to have a few hand-me-downs from Omas and Tantes, but I have found a few treasures at thrift stores as well.

How to make the perfect cup of tea, according to me

you need:

a tea pot

strainer with lots of room for the tea leaves to expand

fresh water

loose leaf tea

tea cups

teaspoons

sugar – I’m using organic demerrera now

Here’s what you do:

1. heat the teapot with hot water from the tap

2. put tea leaves in the strainer, 1 teaspoon per cup

3. heat the water and as soon as it begins to boil, pour it over the tea leaves into the empty teapot

4. put a little of the boiling water into each cup to pre-heat so your tea stays hot for as long as possible

5. let the tea steep for a few minutes – some people like it dark, some like it light.  I like it medium, so I leave the leaves in for about 3 minutes. 

6. take the strainer with the leaves out of the pot – this is important because it will turn bitter if you leave it on for too long

7. pour tea into the tea cups and stir in a little sugar if you like

8. let the first sip remind you of all the times you’ve enjoyed a cup of tea with a good friend or in a moment of peace.  May this be another one of those times.