Friday, March 19, 2010

Tomato Ricotta Penne - a meal in minutes

It's almost supper and you have no food planned or thawed to be cooked.  Here is my meal in a pinch that is fast, easy and absolutely delicious.  From start to finish, about 20 minutes to make and it is filling, very healthy and beats toast and cereal.  Sorry I don't have any pictures to add right now.  I will take some the next time it is made. Enjoy!!

Tomato Ricotta Penne

3 cups uncooked Brown Rice Penne Pasta - cooked according to directions
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion - finely diced
1 medium zucchini - diced into bite-size pieces
1 pepper (color of your choice) - diced into bite-size pieces
2 cups Classico Tomato and Basil pasta sauce (or a sauce of your choice)
1 cup ricotta cheese (or half of a small 454 g container)
1/4 cup sheep feta cheese or parmesean cheese
1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces (optional)

Cook the pasta according to directions.  See cooking notes at the bottom.

In a large skillet, pour the oil into a heated skillet. Saute the onion for a few minutes until tender.  Then add the zucchini and pepper and saute until they are tender (about 5 minutes?).  Add the pasta sauce.  Once that is heated through, add the ricotta cheese and heat for a few more minutes. 

Serve the sauce over cooked pasta.

What would I do different?
If I have leftover cooked chicken, I will add it to the sauce. Since this recipe is mostly used in a pinch, I won't bother to thaw frozen chicken to add.  The ricotta and walnuts add the protein in the dish.
You can also add fresh garlic when sauting the onions but I find the choice of sauce has plenty of flavour.
I am not one to measure my diced veggies so please use your common sense in the amount used.  I like lots of veggies so sometimes use more or less or whatever is in my fridge.

Cooking Notes:
Rice pasta cannot be overcooked.  Follow the directions on the package as different brands will cook different.  I use my timer when cooking pasta to ensure I will not over cook them.  Mine is cooked for 7 minutes from the time it is added to the water and it is perfect every time.

The walnuts in here really do add a beautiful texture and flavour.  As bizzare as it may sound, it really is worth a try.  Pine nuts are often the choice nut for something similar but I find them fairly expensive and will use walnuts instead.  I also always lightly toast the nuts I use as they taste much better than raw ones.

Rating: 4-Star
We really do love this recipe but since it is fairly simple, I can only give it a 4-Star.  If the sauce were from scratch, I would give it 5 but then it is hardly a meal in minutes.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Better Nutter Bread - a power snack

It is friday morning and I am pretty much out of snack-type foods (aka baking).  A new favorite recipe I discovered is a Nut Loaf which is filled with all sorts of nuts and things that are healthy for you - unless you live on Weight Watchers.
I have modified the original recipe to remove the sugars and white flour and am very very happy with the new it makes 2 loaves which doubles your efforts at one time.  One for you and one to give away!  Hope you enjoy it.

Better Nutter Bread

1 egg
1 c vanilla rice milk with 1 tbsp apple cider
1/4 cup butter – melted

1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
¾ cup apple butter*
½ cup toasted nuts - chopped (walnut, almonds)
1 – 2 Tbsp each coconut, wheat germ, ground flax, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds
½ cup dates – chopped (optional)
2 cups spelt flour
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
Combine egg, milk, vinegar, butter and apple butter and apple sauce in a large bowl. Mix remaining ingredients (nuts, dates, and dry ingredients) in a separate bowl. Pour the wet mixture into the dry and gently stir. Pour into 2 greased 5x9 loaf pans. Bake at 350 F for 30 - 35 minutes or until done. Wait about 10 minutes before removing the loafs from the pans to cool on a rack.

Cook's Notes:
The only apple butter I use is Wellsley Apple butter which can be bought in the grocery store or in the Bulk Barn stores in Ontario (at least in the Niagara Area).  If you use a different one, please make sure it tastes sweet otherwise it will not be a good replacement for sugar.  The Wellsley brand has the consistency of a soft honey and is dark brown in color.  It is always in my fridge.

Sweet Potato Salad - My new favorite summer salad

So here is my rendition of a lovely salad I will definitely be making for all the potluck/BBQ's coming this summer. With a day as warm as today, I had to give it a test-drive and we were not disappointed.

I found this recipe out of a new cookbook I have been trying: The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook by Tosca Reno.  The picture alone was so appealing I had to try it.  I did "modify" just so slightly.  Seems I can hardly get myself to follow an actual recipe to a "T" any more.  Hope you will find it as inspiring and delicious tasting too!

Sweet Potato Salad

4 cups cubed sweet potato - peeled, cubed and precooked
1/2 cucumber (about 6 inches long) - deseeded
1 green onion - trimmed and chopped
1 - 2 stalks celery - diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (half of a lemon)
2 Tbsp white vinegar
1/2 cup plain yogurt
zest of the half lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Optional: 3 cups precooked quinoa*

Precook the cubed sweet potato in a pot of boiling water.  Cook them until just tender so they will not mush up in the salad.  How long?  Your guess is as good as mine and depends on how small you cut them as well.  Start with boiling for 5 minutes.  Once done, set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, mix together the lemon juice and vinegar for the dressing. 

Remove the seeds from the cucumber (inner section of the cuc, even if seedless) so it is not so mushy for the salad.  This can be done with a knife or spoon or melon baller.  Cut the cucumber into bite-size pieces and add to the vinegar dressing.  Add the chopped celery, green onion and fresh cilantro.  Toss with the dressing.  Add the sweet potato and toss gently.

In a small bowl, mix the yogurt with the lemon zest.

To serve, plate the sweet potato salad, top with pumpkin seeds and yogurt.  If using the quinoa, first plate this, top with the sweet potato, seeds and dressing.  Season with salt and pepper and enjoy! 

*If you are new to quinoa, it is a high-protein grain that is kinda like couscous and rice.  I cook it up like rice (1:2 grain/water) and always make extra to use for salads like this, soups, or extra protein in our porridge.  For this salad, it adds a protein component, more texture and color which makes this salad all the more delicious!

What would I do different next time?
I think one thing I would change would be the pumpkin seeds.  I have a great recipe for seasoned seeds and I think that would add a delightful spark to the light salad.  That recipe will be coming as soon as I find it again.

Definitely a 5-star rating in my opinion which basically means a definite make again.