Meal Planning

I don't know about you but I hate the grocery store. Maybe it's because we have very little variety to choose from up here on the West Coast (one grocery store to be exact.) I also try very hard to not spend a ridiculous amount of money on groceries each week so I have found meal planning to be the best way to stop this. I have three go to food blogs that I visit weekly to get ideas for dinners each week. My three favourite food blogs are: What's Gaby CookingHalf Baked Harvest and A Cozy Kitchen

I try to choose meals that will incorporate ingredients from one dinner to the next so I am not buying the whole produce section at the grocery store. Below is a list of my meals, groceries and then each meal I had last week. I also incorporate my own recipes which I sometimes include on the blog (I need to do this more often.) Another thing I try to ensure each week is making a snack, usually some kind of homemade baked good as well as something for lunches in case there isn't enough leftovers from the night before. Hope this is helpful for all of you out there that sometimes find themselves uninspired to make dinner on Mondays. 

Monday: Roasted Sweet Potato and Salmon Soba Noodle Bowl from Half Baked Harvest

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This soba noodle bowl soup is the perfect meal for meal planning. It is both healthy but also a substantial dish that both makes you full but also makes you want more. I always make enough for lunch the next day even without the fish because the veggies, noodles and broth is good the next day. If you don't eat fish change it out for another protein, even tofu would be great! I also change out the vegetables depending on what's in my crisper. 

Tuesday: Cauliflower Shawarma Wraps with Green Tahini and Feta from Half Baked Harvest

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This recipe was super easy! You only have to roast the cauliflower and make the sauce and it's pretty much done. I love eating vegetarian meals throughout the week to balance out the meat dishes I eat (usually just chicken and fish though.) This is a great dish again for leftovers but easy enough to make for friends coming over without getting stressed about what's cooking! 

Wednesday: Buddha Bowl

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Buddha bowl's are my go to. Whenever we don't have a meal planned in the week or are going away for the weekend and need to use up what's in the fridge, our go to is a buddha bowl. You can use whatever grain, protein or vegetables you want. Here we used quinoa, prawns, sweet potatoes, spinach, avocado, carrots, green onions and cilantro. I always like to make a delicious sauce to top the bowl off with like a tahini dressing or a peanut sauce. The perfect lunch for work the next day too. 

Thursday: Cheesy Tomato Basil Stuffed Chicken from Half Baked Harvest

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This dish was delicious and a little bit more work than the others but well worth it. The chicken breasts are stuffed with mozzarella, basil and sun-dried tomato for a deliciously cheesy interior. We paired it with a salad to balance it out and I would definitely make this one again. 

There was no Friday meal because we were in Victoria. Hope this inspires you and your cooking! I look forward to meal planning each week!

My Dad's Famous Meatballs

 The perfect dinner for a cold night

The perfect dinner for a cold night

 

As you all know from reading previous posts, my dad is an amazing cook and my mum is an incredible baker. Since I can remember my dad would make meatballs, which I absolutely love. Whenever I go back to Victoria my dad asks what I want for dinner while I'm at home and I always say pasta and almost always say meatballs. Just ask any of my friends or cousins who have tried them and they would agree, Mario's pasta and meatballs are the best! He doesn't use recipes for anything so when I decided to make them with Dave the other week I called him for his "recipe." All he replied with was: "It's so easy!" Below is a rough recipe with homemade tomato sauce you can find in one of my previous posts. Make it for a date night and impress your loved one with this delicious recipe. 

 Cooking them up before adding them to the sauce

Cooking them up before adding them to the sauce

Recipe:

  • 1 package of ground pork (I don't eat beef so I use pork but you could even use, turkey, chicken or crumbled tofu)
  • 1/2 cup or so of grated parmesan
  • 1 egg
  • handful of chopped up fresh parsley
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • handful of breadcrumbs (or leave them out if you are GF)
 Even delicious on their own as an appetizer

Even delicious on their own as an appetizer

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl mix together all ingredients. 
  2. Don't be afraid to get dirty and use your hands. Roll them into small balls and place aside.
  3. Heat up frying pan with a small amount of oil. When hot, place meatballs on the pan and begin frying.
  4. Fry for 5-10 minutes, until cooked through. 
  5. Remove from heat and add to already made tomato sauce.
  6. Boil pasta according to directions and heat up tomato sauce and meatballs again.
  7. Serve up with grated parmesan on top and fresh chopped parsley. 

Enjoy with a glass of wine. Perfect for a Sunday night dinner. This recipe made quite a few meatballs (over 15) so there were leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.

 Ready to enjoy! 

Ready to enjoy! 

Veggie Pie

I have never made pastry before. I have been baking since I was a little kid but still have never bit the bullet to make my own pie crust. The other weekend Dave and I decided we had to try it and were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was in the end. We decided for dinner we would make a vegetarian pie, something warm and comforting on a cool and wet evening. It was almost perfect. The pie crust at the bottom wasn't as crispy as we would have hoped but we learned our lesson and now know where to go from there. The rest of it was delicious though and we had it for leftovers for a few days after. If you are looking for a little dinner inspiration this week, try it out and you won't be disappointed. You can change the filling out with whatever you like too!

 Sifted flour

Sifted flour

Recipe: (Double Crust Pastry)

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2/3 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup shortening
  • 5 tbsp water
  • 1 egg

Directions:

  1. Sift flour into large bowl.
  2. Chop up shortening into small pieces. Add to flour and rub in with hands until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Stir in salt then add water and mix until it becomes a firm dough.
  4. Knead the dough briefly on flour surface.
  5. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30ish minutes while making the filling.
 Chopped up shortening for the flakiness of the crust

Chopped up shortening for the flakiness of the crust

Recipe for filling:

  • 1/2 butternut squash roasted
  • goat cheese
  • 1/2 white onion roasted
  • bag of spinach
  • salt & pepper to taste, or add curry flavours like we did

Directions:

  1. Roast butternut squash and onions in oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until cooked. We sprinkled curry seasoning on it to give it some extra flavour.
  2. Let the butternut squash cool a bit before adding it to the pie.
  3. Steam spinach and ring out any excess water.
  4. Crumble 1/4-1/2 goat cheese log.
  5. Mix all the filling together, then add to pie.
 Ingredients for the inside of the pie

Ingredients for the inside of the pie

  1. We egg washed the bottom of the pie and baked it at 450 degrees for a few minutes to let it cook before adding the filling. (Next time we will add some weight to it like dried lentils to let it blind bake before filling it because it was not as crunchy as we would have liked.)
  2. We added the filling, then covered it.
  3. Final step before baking was egg washing the top to give it a nice browned look.
  4. Bake for 8 minutes at 450 degrees, then turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes or until it looks cooked.
  5. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes before eating.
 Delicious combination

Delicious combination

 Dave putting together the pie

Dave putting together the pie

 Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

 Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

My Dad's Famous Lasagna 

 

As you have probably realized from previous posts about my dad's cooking he does not use a recipe. The other weekend we had friends visiting from Victoria so I thought the perfect meal to make for a group of us would be his lasagna. So I called him up and of course he said: "Oh you know, a little of this, a little of that. It's so easy." Well I guess it was lucky that I watched him cook so much throughout my life that I think I've got most of his recipes down pat. However, they will never taste as good as his. Maybe one day though! 

 Some of the ingredients for the layers

Some of the ingredients for the layers

 Letting the pasta cool

Letting the pasta cool

Recipe for Lasagna:

  • 1 package of lasagna sheets (unless you want to make your own!)
  • 1 package of spinach
  • 1 package of mozzarella (I used fresh)
  • tomato sauce (which I always make from scratch, you can see my dad's recipe on the blog)
  • 1 package of ground pork (or use more vegetables like eggplant if you are vegetarian)
  • grated parmesan

Recipe for Bechamel:

  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
 First layer down

First layer down

 Some greens in between

Some greens in between

 Second layer of ground pork and tomato sauce

Second layer of ground pork and tomato sauce

 Finished off with bechamel sauce and parmesan

Finished off with bechamel sauce and parmesan

Butternut Squash & Chanterelle Risotto

 Before baking the butternut squash

Before baking the butternut squash

When squash is in season I can't help but want to cook with it as much as possible, like my love affair with pumpkins! This butternut squash was huge so I used it to make butternut squash soup and risotto with freshly picked chanterelles when friends were visiting a few weekends back. When I was living with my cousins in London a few years ago my cousin's wife would make this delicious Butternut Squash Risotto. It quickly became my favourite meal she made and every fall when the squash is in season I immediately think of that delicious meal. Risotto is the perfect food for a rainy day, instantly warming you up with delicious fall flavours. I always keep some in the pantry because it is so versatile and you can add so many different things to it. My go to flavours for risotto, other than this recipe are: mixed mushroom, mixed vegetable or seafood risotto, depending on the mood I'm in! Below is my all time favourite recipe that my cousin Michelle taught me, with some chanterelles added in, because why not?!

 After it was baked (I only used one half for this recipe and the other for soup)

After it was baked (I only used one half for this recipe and the other for soup)

Recipe:

  • 1 small butternut squash (or half a large one, like I used)
  • bowlful of chanterelles (or regular mushrooms)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup of arborio rice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 2 shallots
  • 1 glove of garlic
  • 1/2 cup white wine 
  • 4-6 cups of stock (vegetarian, mushroom or chicken)
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • splash of cream
  • chopped parsley for garnish
 Chanterelles we had foraged for earlier that day

Chanterelles we had foraged for earlier that day

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and chop up butternut squash into small cubes. Roast with olive oil, salt and pepper for roughly 30 minutes. Poke them with a fork to make sure they are soft but not overcooked. Set aside.

2. Clean off chanterelles and set aside. In large pot heat up 2 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp butter on medium to high heat. Chop up garlic and shallots and throw in pot. Once they have cooked, roughly 2-3 minutes, add chanterelles and let cook. As you let everything begin cooking, prepare your stock in a medium sized pan. I used 2 mushroom stock cubes with 4 cups of water (with 2 extra cups on the side if I need it.)

3. After the mushrooms have cooked add rice to pot, stir all together then add wine. Cook on medium heat. Continue stirring and put timer on for 20 minutes, this will give you a good idea of when the risotto should be cooked. Once the wine has absorbed into the rice, add a ladle full of stock to pot. It is important to only add a ladle amount of stock to the rice one at a time so that the rice can slowly cook. You also have to continuously stir the rice as it cooks with the liquid (this might seem very annoying, Dave hates to do it, but it's how my dad taught me.) 

4. Once you had added all the stock and the rice has begun to puff slightly and look more like risotto add the butternut squash. This usually happens once 20 minutes is up, however, be sure to taste the rice to make sure it isn't crunchy anymore. If the rice is cooked you can turn the heat off for the last steps. After adding the butternut squash, add a splash of cream to make the risotto even creamier. Finally add the parmesan to the risotto and stir all in. 

5. Let the risotto sit for a few minutes before plating so all the liquids can be absorbed and the risotto isn't a runny substance. Serve it up and top with chopped parsley and grated parmesan. Serve with a glass of wine and enjoy! It also makes great leftovers for lunch. 

 Grated parmesan to achieve the creamy texture

Grated parmesan to achieve the creamy texture

 Arborio rice is the best to use for risotto

Arborio rice is the best to use for risotto

 Frying up the chanterelles and shallots first

Frying up the chanterelles and shallots first

 Slowly cooking the risotto with stock

Slowly cooking the risotto with stock

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Ministrone

 Onions and garlic from my dad's garden

Onions and garlic from my dad's garden

Ever since I was a kid, my dad used to make a pot of ministrone the second the weather changed. My friends and I would come home from school starving and on the stove top would be ministroni ready for the taking. We loved it! My dad usually paired it with torn up spaghetti for a light and easy lunch, or made it a bit heartier with chicken and tortellini for dinner. Whatever way you ate it, it was always delicious. This is a recipe my friends have been asking from my dad for as long as I can remember. He always answers them: I don't know, I don't use recipes, it's so easy! So I finally got him on the phone and demanded he explain how he makes his delicious soup and I tried making it last week. Of course it will never be as good as his, but it was pretty great and lasted a week of lunches, the perfect meal.

 Potatoes and carrots, also from my dad's garden

Potatoes and carrots, also from my dad's garden

Recipe (very rough):

  • 2 onions
  • 2 gloves garlic
  • 1 large potato, or a few smaller ones
  • a handful of carrots (I probably used 6 small ones)
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • can of diced tomatoes (or use fresh if you have them, like I did)
  • 1 chicken stock cube (or veggie stock)
  • 3-4 cups of water
  • 1 chicken breast (again if you want to make it vegetarian, it is just as good without the chicken)
 My dad's pride and joy, his award winning tomatoes

My dad's pride and joy, his award winning tomatoes

Directions:

Heat a few tbsp of olive oil in large pot. Fry up onions and garlic until cooked through (a few minutes.) If you are adding a chicken breast you can throw it in the pot now. I used one that was frozen and by the time the soup is finished cooking, the chicken has cooked. Add the vegetables that take longest to cook next: potatoes, carrots, celery (if you like it.) Add 3 cups of stock to the pot. I used one chicken stock cube with 3 cups of water. Let this simmer away on medium heat for a few minutes. Add the rest of your vegetables: broccoli and tomatoes. Let cook for 30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. I added tortellini to it for dinner when I made it, however, it is just as tasty and filling on its own. Take it to school or work for lunches for the week or continue eating it for dinners. Will keep up to a week in the fridge. Top with grated parmesan and chopped up parsley and enjoy!

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 Tortellini and ministroni, the perfect cold day dinner

Tortellini and ministroni, the perfect cold day dinner

Dave's Famous Pasta Carbonara

 Cream and eggs for the sauce

Cream and eggs for the sauce

 

As you all probably already know, I love pasta. Probably more than any other food (other than chocolate of course.) I like pasta in all different forms: baked lasagna (one of my favourites my dad makes,) simple tomato sauce, or pesto. But sometimes I like to indulge in a really creamy sauce with lots of parmesan, pancetta and egg. For those of you who don't know, this is Dave's specialty and I remember him making it for me pretty early on when we were dating. So whenever we're stuck for a meal or feeling like eating something really comforting I usually request my favourite of his dishes: Pasta Carbonara. You think it would be hard to make with the eggs and the timing of the pasta and sauce, but this recipe is actually quite simple. Once you have perfected it you will definitely be making it more and more! Enjoy it with a glass of wine on a cool fall evening! Below is the recipe and steps to follow, written by Dave, hope you enjoy it! 

 Pancetta bought locally from Picnic in Tofino

Pancetta bought locally from Picnic in Tofino

Recipe:

  • 100-200 grams pancetta (if not, bacon works too)
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • handful of mushrooms
  • 250 ml whipping cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • olive oil
 Grated parmesan

Grated parmesan

Directions:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook pasta according to the directions on the package, we prefer using spaghetti or fettucine.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the cream, eggs and parmesan together in large mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. On medium heat, fry shallot and garlic in olive oil for two or three minutes, add pancetta and then the mushrooms and continue cooking until pancetta is crispy and mushrooms are cooked. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting.
  4. Drain the pasta and transfer it to the frying pan quickly so the pasta still has some hot water on it. Pour the sauce on top of the pasta and mix everything together. The heat of the pasta will cook the eggs, however, make sure you do not overcook the eggs and scramble them. Top the pasta with chopped parsley and grated parmesan and enjoy! 
 Mixing up the sauce

Mixing up the sauce

 Cooking up the garlic, shallots, mushrooms and pancetta

Cooking up the garlic, shallots, mushrooms and pancetta

 Ready to enjoy! 

Ready to enjoy! 

Curry Yam & Carrot Soup

 The ingredients for the soup

The ingredients for the soup

As the days are starting to cool off I find myself craving comfort foods. This fall and winter I'm really excited to experiment with some recipes and make them my own, specifically soups. This one I adapted slightly from one of my favourite food blogs: Half Baked Harvest. If you have never checked it out you definitely should! Not only are the photos of food enough to make your stomach grumble, the recipes are easy to make and always turn out delicious! I took some of the ingredients of one of her soup recipes and spun it into my own. Now it's one of my go to soups to make, especially when I'm meal planning for the week ahead. More about meal planning to come on the blog soon! Below are some photos of the ingredients I used in my soup, mostly homegrown and the recipe. Try it out and adjust as you want, it's the perfect warm food to have on a cool autumn day.

 Carrots from my dad's gardens and the yams I'll be using

Carrots from my dad's gardens and the yams I'll be using

Recipe:

  • Yams (I use 2 usually)
  • Carrots (mine were small so I used quite a few, but you could probably use 2-4 large ones)
  • 1-2 tbsp of curry powder (depending on how spicy you like it)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil 
  • 1-2 onions (I used a mix of 1 red onion & 2 shallots)
  • 2-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • 3-4 cups of water
  • 1 stock cube (I used mushroom to make it vegetarian)

Directions:

In a large pot heat up olive oil. Throw in chopped onions and garlic and let cook. Add curry powder and mix together with onions and garlic till coated. Peel and chop up yams and carrots and add to pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour in can of coconut milk and hot water (with stock cube dissolved in it.) Let cook for 15-20 minutes at medium to low heat. Check to make sure the carrots and yams are cooked through. When they are cooked through let cool. Once the soup has cooled puree it. Serve with a spoonful of plain yogurt on top and chopped cilantro. Enjoy with crackers or bread on the side! 

 The spices

The spices

 Garlic, Shallots & Red Onions all from my dad's garden

Garlic, Shallots & Red Onions all from my dad's garden

 Ready to eat! 

Ready to eat! 

Watermelon Salad

 Chopped watermelon

Chopped watermelon

Once summer hits my favourite food to make is fresh salads and summery salads. This salad is one of my favourites and I make it all summer long until I'm sick of it (seriously, ask anyone I know). The flavours go perfectly together and it's so fresh that you will be addicted to it too once you try it! The sweetness of the watermelon is balanced with the salty feta and the minimal dressing lets all the flavours stand out on their own. Below is the recipe, add or take out whatever you want, just make sure there is feta and watermelon! 

 Greens from the garden

Greens from the garden

Recipe: 

  • Watermelon (1 mini watermelon or 1/4-1/2 a large watermelon)
  • 1 avocado
  • mixed greens
  • 1/4 cup crushed peanuts
  • 1/4 cup feta
  • handful fresh basil
  • juice of 1 lime
  • pepper to taste
  • olive oil
 Avocado to give the salad another dimension

Avocado to give the salad another dimension

Directions:

In large bowl add mixed greens, chopped watermelon, avocado, crushed peanuts and crumbled feta. Add handful of basil. Lightly coat with olive oil. a few tablespoons (depending on how many you are making the salad for.) Squeeze lime over top and fresh cracked black pepper. Serve as a side or main and enjoy! 

 Crumbled feta (my favourite!)

Crumbled feta (my favourite!)

 Crushed peanuts

Crushed peanuts

 The simple dressing

The simple dressing

 Ready to eat! 

Ready to eat! 

Homemade Pesto

 Garlic Scapes given to us by a friend

Garlic Scapes given to us by a friend

Pasta is probably my favourite thing to eat, other than chocolate of course, and summertime is the best time to make pesto. My dad's garden is like no other garden with trees of tomatoes, basil in numerous pots, too much lettuce to eat, plus so many more vegetables and fruits. I would love to one day have a garden like his, however, I don't know if I have that green of a thumb, yet. This past spring he planted tomato plants, lettuce, basil and parsley for me to take up to Ucluelet to grow in our own garden and they're finally coming along. It's not as sunny and warm here so the veggies don't grow as fast but they're doing well so far! We had a lot of basil grow all at once so what better way to deal with basil than to make pesto pasta. Homemade pesto is much better than store brought and really easy to make. Below is an easy recipe to follow, try it out next time you're in need of something for dinner. 

 Basil from the garden

Basil from the garden

Recipe: (very rough, add or adjust as you need)

  • 1 cup basil
  • 2-4 garlic cloves (depending how spicy you want it)
  • 1/3 cup walnuts (or cashews, pine nuts)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup parmesan
 Grated parmesan

Grated parmesan

Directions:

This recipe is very rough and I adjust it every time I make pesto depending on what I've got in the kitchen. As well you may need to add more oil or a bit of water if it appears too thick. Use a blender or magic bullet to mix everything up. Continue to stir and mix until a consistent and not too thick mixture comes out. It may take some time with the nuts especially but it will work and taste delicious when it does! We used garlic scapes this time because someone had given them to us, however, I use garlic usually. As well if you don't have basil, substitute it out with some arugula. Once you have finished mixing up the pesto, put some water on to boil and cook pasta according to instructions. Strain the pasta and top with pesto. If you want some added protein add a chicken breast, prawns or salmon fillet to top the pasta off (like we did here.)

 Fresh peas from my dad's garden

Fresh peas from my dad's garden

 Pesto pasta with peas and white Chinook Salmon

Pesto pasta with peas and white Chinook Salmon

Taco Tuesday

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Since it's Tuesday (and the Tuesday after a long weekend) what better way to get back into the week than with tacos! For this batch of tacos we made our own salsa, guacamole and crema to top our chicken and charred corn tacos. We used the small corn tortillas, they are my go to because they make the taco taste that much better (especially if they are fried or toasted.) We also made black beans to go on top, however, you can pick and choose whatever toppings you like from this recipe and make it your own. That is the best thing about tacos! 

 Three Sauces

Three Sauces

Recipe for sauces:

Homemade Salsa

  • chopped cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 chopped red onion 
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive
  • salt and pepper for taste
  • cilantro 
  • peppers (not used here)

After chopping everything up, mix all together and let sit for optimal flavours. 

Homemade Guacamole

  • 2 ripe avocados
  • 1/4 red onion chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • salt and pepper for taste
  • 1 clove garlic
  • cilantro 

Mash the avocados up, add the onion and garlic. Juice the lime in and add cilantro and salt and pepper and mix. Let sit while you continue cooking.

Homemade Crema

  • 1 cup yogurt
  • juice and zest of 1 lime
  • cilantro

This is a great alternative to plain sour cream. Mix the lime in with the yogurt and add cilantro. 

 Corn Tortillas

Corn Tortillas

 Charred Corn

Charred Corn

After making the three sauces above, preheat the oven to 250 degrees to warm your tortillas. Don't leave them in for too long or else they crisp up too much. To make the charred corn we used a can of corn, however, if fresh corn is available use that. Heat up a cast iron pan and cook the corn until it browns. For the black beans, rinse them off and then heat up on the stove in a saucepan with 2 tbsps of salsa to give the beans a nice flavour. If you are a vegetarian the beans are a good option for protein and you can add rice or quinoa to make them more filling as well. However, for this recipe we used chicken flavoured with some spices to give it the tacos a little kick. Finally put the tacos all together however you please and enjoy! Hope everyone had a great long weekend! 

 Ready to Eat! 

Ready to Eat! 

Sushi Bowl

 Chopped up veggies

Chopped up veggies

I'm always looking for new ideas for dinners during the week, especially ones I can turn into leftover lunches for work! Lately I've found meal planning to be really helpful, that way I can just go to the grocery store once for the week and have all my meals planned out. It's been really good so far and helpful in eating better, rather than going out one night because Dave and I are too lazy to cook. 

I based this Sushi Bowl roughly on a recipe I found on Half Baked Harvest's website. She's got some great recipes that have been inspiring me to try cooking new ways. For this recipe I used brown rice as my base, prawns as my protein and carrots and avocado as my vegetables. I love this sushi bowl because it feels like you're having sushi without all the fuss of making it. The best part about this recipe was the Mango Salsathough, it had enough liquid that it topped the whole bowl with a delicious dressing that can't be missed. 

 Mango Salsa

Mango Salsa

Recipe for the Mango Salsa:

  • 1 mango
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 1 lime

I chopped up the mango, garlic and cilantro and tossed it with all the liquids and set it aside while I cooked the rice and prawns. 

For this bowl you can choose whatever vegetables you want. However, top the bowl off with cilantro, nori sheets and sesame seeds to give it that sushi taste and texture. When the rice and prawns are cooked. Put them in a bowl and top with all your delicious toppings and enjoy! 

 Cilantro and Nori sheets for garnish

Cilantro and Nori sheets for garnish

 The finished product, ready to eat! 

The finished product, ready to eat! 

Eggplant Pizza

 ggplant crust is a healthy alternative to pizza dough

ggplant crust is a healthy alternative to pizza dough

Dave's new favourite pizza is a healthier version of regular pizza with an eggplant crust. From there you can add whatever toppings you like. This pizza we chose a few different toppings: mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, kale, mushrooms and ham. The first time we made the pizza it didn't work quite how we wanted to, however, we keep trying and even though the pieces don't come out like perfect pizza slices every time they still taste delicious!

 Second step, carefully flip the eggplant

Second step, carefully flip the eggplant

Ingredients:

  • 1 eggplant
  • 1/2 cup of parmesan, grated (add more if you need)
  • handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • dried oregano, or any Italian spices/herbs you want
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 slices of mozzarella
  • your choice of toppings: 1 mushroom, 2 slices of ham, handful of chopped kale
 Homemade cherry tomato 'sauce'

Homemade cherry tomato 'sauce'

Directions:

Slice eggplant in 1/4" rounds, salt and let stand for 10 minutes. Arrange on parchment lined baking tray and sprinkle with parmesan. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove from oven and carefully flip off of parchment onto pizza oven tray (or baking sheet). Put back into oven for 10 minutes to crisp up parmesan base. Remove from oven again and top with desired toppings. For our homemade cherry tomato 'sauce,' chop up cherry tomatoes and finely chopped garlic and place in bowl with olive oil, spices and herbs of choice. After adding the toppings, put back in oven and bake for 10-15 more minutes. Carefully slice into pieces and enjoy! 

 First layer: cherry tomatoes

First layer: cherry tomatoes

 Second layer: mushrooms

Second layer: mushrooms

 The finished products with mozzarella, ham and kale

The finished products with mozzarella, ham and kale

Homemade Ramen

 Making the broth

Making the broth

My cousin recently made homemade ramen and sent me a photo and I instantly wanted to recreate it and make it my own. We used prawns and soft-boiled eggs to give it some extra protein. The perfect dinner for a cool evening in, instead of going out for dinner.

 We added prawns for extra protein

We added prawns for extra protein

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 lb shiitake mushrooms (or brown/white mushrooms)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 packages of Soba noodles (or whatever noodles you prefer)
  • 3 cups baby spinach
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives (or green onions)
 Boiling away

Boiling away

Directions:

Heat 1 tbsp sesame oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook. Whisk in chicken broth, mushrooms, soy sauce and 3 cups water. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until mushrooms are soft. Stir in noodles and cook through. Stir in spinach, carrot and chives until spinach begins to wilt. Serve immediately.

 Ready to eat

Ready to eat

Family Recipe: Tomato Sauce

 Frying up garlic, shallots and basil

Frying up garlic, shallots and basil

When I asked my dad to make me his famous tomato sauce to take back to Tofino, he replied in his strong Sicilian accent: "No, I will teach you how to make it yourself. It is so easy!"

He was right, it was relatively easy, even without a recipe since he never writes anything. My dad has been making this sauce for as long as I can remember. When I was younger our garden would be filled with tomato plants just so he could make sauce to last him till Christmas. Every summer he would call his sisters and brothers to ask them how many bottles of tomato sauce they had made, nothing like a little competition between siblings, right? Those days are in the past now and he's dedicated his garden to a variety of vegetables instead of just tomatoes, however he still grows a lot of them but eats them fresh instead. Now he buys canned tomatoes to make his sauce, which obviously don't taste the same as the fresh tomatoes but come in a close second.

 Don't forget the white wine! 

Don't forget the white wine! 

 The juice from the tinned tomatoes

The juice from the tinned tomatoes

Directions:

Chop up garlic and shallots. Heat up large frying pan with olive oil. Throw in garlic and shallot and fry up till browned. Add in a few leaves of fresh basil for flavour. Next add a few splashes of white wine, this is important for taste and one my dad's secret ingredients to make his tomato sauce so delicious! Pour tomato juice out of canned tomatoes, hold the whole tomatoes from falling in and place aside. Chop up whole tomatoes into small pieces then add to pan. Rinse out can with water and throw 1/8 of the can in the pan for extra liquid. Add a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper (add more salt and pepper for seasoning if it needs it). Stir and let simmer on stove for 30 minutes at a low heat. Top with fresh basil leaves. 

 After removing the liquid from the tin, pour out the whole tomatoes and chop

After removing the liquid from the tin, pour out the whole tomatoes and chop

 Add a bit of water and stir

Add a bit of water and stir

 Simmering before it's ready to be eaten with a delicious bowl of pasta!

Simmering before it's ready to be eaten with a delicious bowl of pasta!

Cauliflower Coconut Soup

 The first step was roasting cauliflower with spices and garlic

The first step was roasting cauliflower with spices and garlic

I have never been a big fan of lunch, call me weird but it's just a meal that I am very uninspired by. I really don't like to go out for lunch either. If I am going to splurge on a meal it's going to be brunch or dinner. However, everyone has to eat and now that I have been making a conscious effort to have more than just a snack for lunch I realize how much my energy levels change throughout the afternoon. 

I had never really made soup before. My dad's minestrone is something I grew up eating and he still saves me a pot of it even after moving out. So making soup seemed a little daunting since I had his 'famous' minestrone to live up to (I will try to get some semblance of a recipe for you guys next time I am home). I decided to try my hand and making soup before moving to Tofino and decided this Cauliflower Coconut Soup by Jamie Oliver would be a good first try. 

 Add the roasted cauliflower to a pot and top with coconut milk

Add the roasted cauliflower to a pot and top with coconut milk

Recipe: 

Ingredients:

  • 2 onions
  • 1 large cauliflower
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp of ras el hanout (I did not have this so I used curry powder)
  • olive oil
  • 1 handful of unsweetened coconut flakes (I did not use these because I don't like the texture, unless it's in my granola)
  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • 2 1/2 cups of vegetable stock
  • 2-3 tbsp of chilli oil (I did not use this, I added chilli flakes instead)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Chop onions and cauliflower. Place it all in a roasting tray and add unpeeled garlic cloves. Sprinkle with cinnamon and curry powder and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until cooked through and a little charred. Remove from oven and remove garlic gloves. Toss everything into large pot on stove top and squeeze garlic out of its skin and throw it in the pot too. Pour in the coconut milk, then the stock and gently bring to boil. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat. Using a hand blender, blend the soup until creamy and smooth. If it is too thick add more water. Taste and add seasoning if you need to. Then serve hot and enjoy. You can top it with a basil leaf like I did, or coconut flakes and chilli oil. Enjoy! 

 Bringing the soup to a boil

Bringing the soup to a boil

 It was the perfect soup for lunch or a light dinner. Enjoy! 

It was the perfect soup for lunch or a light dinner. Enjoy! 

Broccoli Pasta

 My dad's 'famous' broccoli pasta

My dad's 'famous' broccoli pasta

I have loved broccoli since I was a kid and I have also loved pasta for as long as I can remember. So why not put them together? My dad has been making this pasta forever. He used to call it the 'poor man's pasta' since pasta is always cheap, and broccoli isn't very expensive either. Many of my friends who have tried this pasta love it and always ask for the recipe. If you know my dad, you know he does not use recipes, he just knows it off the top of his head. This is great for him, but not so great for the rest of us who want to recreate his dishes. So last time he was cooking this delicious pasta dish, I watched him and made notes to come up with a 'recipe' of sorts.

 Boiling the broccoli

Boiling the broccoli

Recipe:

  • a head of broccoli (add more if you're cooking for lots of people)
  • 6-10 cloves of garlic (depending on size and how much garlic you like)
  • pasta (according to how many you are cooking for)
  • parmesan
  • parsley
  • olive oil

Directions:

Chop up broccoli into pieces and place in large pot of water. Bring to boil and cook for 15 minutes, the broccoli should be overcooked. Do not strain water. Remove broccoli from water and add pasta, cooking it in the same water. In large bowl mash up the broccoli and set aside. Cook pasta according to directions on package. In large frying pan put 1 or 2 tbsp of olive oil and let it heat up. Throw garlic in and cook for a few minutes. Add broccoli to pan and continue cooking. Strain pasta and place in pan with cooked broccoli. Serve and top with parsley and parmesan. Enjoy! 

 Broccoli and garlic frying up

Broccoli and garlic frying up

 Ready to eat! 

Ready to eat! 

Gnocchi Mac & Cheese

For girls night a few weeks ago, my friends and I decided to make this delicious Gnocchi Mac & Cheese recipe, with a few adjustments. One of my friends is vegetarian so we opted out of using the pancetta. This recipe is a favourite of mine, it was my second time making it and it never ceases to amaze me how delicious each bite is. I like the idea of using gnocchi instead of macaroni, for a twist on an old classic. 

 After the gnocchi is cooked, add the cheese = melted goodness

After the gnocchi is cooked, add the cheese = melted goodness

Recipe from Tastemade (I love watching their videos to get inspired)

  • 1 package of gnocchi
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp parsley
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper (to taste)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook gnocchi to al dente, drain and set aside. In a pot melt butter and whisk in flour. Slowly add the milk and cook until sauce begins to thicken. Add garlic, shredded cheddar and gruyere cheese, stir until melted. Add the gnocchi and stir till well combined and remove from heat. In a bowl mix together panko, parsley, parmesan and olive oil for the topping. In an oven safe dish, pour the gnocchi in and top off with the topping. Bake for 10-15 minutes until browned and enjoy! 

 Before...

Before...

 After...

After...

 Ready to eat! We had a delicious green salad on the side, to balance out all the cheese we consumed

Ready to eat! We had a delicious green salad on the side, to balance out all the cheese we consumed

Focaccia Pizza

I've been into making pizza lately (Italian roots) and after trying out this recipe I think it will be my go to pizza dough and toppings from now on. Dave and I made one pizza but split the toppings in half: 1) cherry tomato, oregano, feta, kale and 2) pear, red onion, balsamic reduction, blue cheese.

 The pizza dough

The pizza dough

Focaccia:

  • 2/3 cup lukewarm (not hot) water
  • 1 tsp active dry (traditional) yeast
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups flour

In a bowl combine and mix water, yeast and sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes. Mix in olive oil. Add flour until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the bowl. If it is too sticky mix in more of the flour. Mix and knead the dough for about 5 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl with olive oil and place the dough inside and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature for 60 to 75 minutes. Next line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly oil. Lightly coat your fingers in oil and gently press and stretch the dough. Top the dough with whatever toppings of your choice.

Cherry Tomatoes and Feta Toppings: 

  • Chop as many cherry tomatoes as you like and either roast in oven or fry in pan with olive oil and garlic
  • Fresh oregano (or dried if you don't have any)
  • Kale 
  • Feta

Pear, Red Onion and Blue Cheese

  • Pear sliced thinly
  • Red onions chopped up quite small and then fried in frying pan with olive oil
  • Blue Cheese
  • Balsamic Reduction (I used Nonna Pia's)
 The start of the cherry tomato half, fried garlic, tomatoes and feta

The start of the cherry tomato half, fried garlic, tomatoes and feta

 Starting the second half, fried up red onion

Starting the second half, fried up red onion

 Before the baking

Before the baking

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Pumpkin Ricotta Stuffed Pasta Shells

IMG_1377.JPG

I made this recipe for a friends potluck and it was a big hit. I would probably try making it with roasted butternut squash for the filling next time, as the canned pumpkin doesn't have as strong of a flavour as I would have liked. The recipe called for a jar of store bough tomato sauce, but coming from an Italian family, I thought this wouldn't have as a great a flavour, so I made my own tomato sauce. 

Ingredients:

  • 24 jumbo pasta shells
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 22 oz ricotta 
  • 1 can pumpkin puree
  • 2 1/2 oz Pecorino Romano (parmesan)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 jar tomato sauce (or homemade)

Directions: Cook pasta shells according to package instructions, drain and transfer to a baking sheet to cool. Drizzle with olive oil to avoid sticking. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together ricotta, pumpkin, 3/4 cup parmesan and remaining ingredients, except tomato sauce. Preheat over to 350 degrees. Spread tomato sauce in bottom of 9" x 13" baking dish. Fill each pasta shell with about 3 tbsp of pumpkin mixture and arrange in pan. Cover pan with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil, sprinkle shells with remaining parmesan and bake for 15 minutes more. 

Enjoy with a side salad and a glass of wine! 

 Cooked pasta shells

Cooked pasta shells

 Recreating my dad's famous tomato sauce

Recreating my dad's famous tomato sauce

 Pumpkin Ricotta mixture

Pumpkin Ricotta mixture

 Stuffed pasta shells before baking

Stuffed pasta shells before baking

 The final product! 

The final product!