Whole Grain Penne with Roasted Zucchini & Red Pepper

One of my favourite meals my mom would often make at large family gatherings was a  pasta dish packed full of vegetables, sausage and shrimp. I can still remember the large white bowl she would serve it out of. I had asked her a little while back why this was her go to recipe, and it was simply because it was easy to prepare for large groups, while still tasting phenomenal. The following pasta recipe is exactly that, an easy to prepare meal that will quickly become a favourite.

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Recipe

Type: Good for the Body

Time: 1 hour

Serves: 4 large portions (pasta only), 6 smaller portions (bread & salad on the side)

Ingredients

3 large (4 small) hot Italian sausages
1 large red pepper
1 large zucchini
1 cup of cremini mushrooms
1/2 red oninion
1 1/2 cups of your favourite pasta sauce
2 1/2 cups of whole wheat penne
1 tbsp of thyme, dried
Salt & pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°C
  2. Chop zucchini,  red pepper, red onion and mushrooms into large chunks. Mix together in a bowl with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp dried thyme and salt & pepper to taste
  3. Add 3 sausages in a glass pan so they are not touching, and then add the chopped vegetables
  4. Place in oven and cook for approximately 35 minutes, or until an internal temperature of 74°C (165°F) has been reached
  5. Once sausages are cooked through, remove from oven, let them cool and then cut into 1 cm slices*
  6. Cook your penne pasta according to instructions on box, aiming for an al dente, or firm, texture
  7. Drain pasta and add to sausage and vegetables mixture
  8. Heat pan over medium heat and add above mixture with tomato sauce. Stir over medium heat until heated through
  9. Serve and enjoy

* If wanting to pre-prepare part of this recipe, cook the vegetables and sausage as above and store in refrigerator. I would wait to cook the pasta until right before serving.

 

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– Magical Properties –

Zucchini. A prized vegetable in many gardens, with claims of some as long as 7 feet. This green, yellow, purple or stripped member of the squash family is packed with potassium. Due to it’s mild flavour and high moisture content, it can also be a fabulous addition to your baking.  Zucchini bread & muffins are tasty baked goods that let you sneak in a little vegetable where it’s least expected.

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Chicken & basil rice paper rolls with homemade peanut sauce

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We are all strapped for time, that’s why meals that work well as leftovers can be an absolute blessing. These rice paper rolls will satisfy your taste buds and pack up easily for lunch the next day. The Chinese 5-Spice blend brings together a perfect balance of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, fennel and Chinese coriander, while the basil keeps it fresh. Paired with a homemade peanut sauce, you might be tempted to eat all 12 at once.

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Recipe

Type: Good for the Body

Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4. Makes 12 spring rolls, with 3 per serving.

Ingredients

Rolls
1 package extra lean ground chicken (approximately 600 grams)
1 tbsp canola oil
1 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp of Chinese 5-Spice
1 large carrot
8 radishes
1 english cucumber
1 bunch of basil leaves
1 bunch crisp romaine lettuce or leafy greens

Peanut Sauce
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (or whatever you have on hand)
1 lime, juiced
1/3 cup water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tsp fish sauce (optional)

Directions:

Rolls

  1. Add 1 tbsp canola oil to large pan over medium heat. Add package of ground chicken, breaking meat up into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Once cooked through, drain excess fat and return to heat.
  2. Mix together chicken stock and Chinese 5-Spice. Add to ground chicken and reduce heat to a simmer. Let mixture simmer uncovered for approximately 10 minutes, or until broth has slightly thickened. Set aside.
  3. Peel and slice carrots into small matchsticks, also known as a julienne cut.
  4. Slice radishes into small matchsticks.
  5. Cut cucumber in half and remove seeded middle. Cut remaining cucumber into small matchsticks. *Side note: You can also add the carrots, cucumber and radishes to a food processes on medium grate. The result still works, but will be slightly more watery vegetable mix.
  6. Wash and tear lettuce into 12 pieces about the size of your hand. You want pieces large enough that the vegetables can be rolled into it.
  7. Add chopped carrots, radishes, cucumber and 1-2 basil leaves to middle of lettuce leaf, rolling to make a lettuce wrap. Complete all 12 and set aside.
  8. Take rice paper and wet under cold water. Place onto flat surface and rub rice paper with fingers until it begins to soften. Once soft, place 1 rolled lettuce leaf with 2 heaping spoonfuls of chicken towards the back of the rice paper.
  9. Bring the back of the rice paper over mixture, and then fold in sides. Continue to roll the mixture forward so that the rice paper wraps around mixture. Repeat until you have 12 rolls.
  10. Serve 3 rolls with a side of peanut sauce as a main. Pair with a salad for a complete meal.

Peanut Sauce

  1. Make while chicken is simmering to save time.
  2. Whisk together peanut butter, lime juice, water, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, garlic, ginger and fish sauce in a medium bowl until fully blended.
  3. Cover and place in fridge until serving.

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– Magical Properties –

Winner, winner chicken dinner. There is a reason chicken is often seen as the darling of the animal proteins. Particularly, it is a great source of protein while keeping calories to a minimum. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for vegetarian protein choices. In fact, a minimum of 2-3 vegetarian meals per week is good idea for both your health and the environment. That being said, if weight loss is a goal of yours, chicken might be the kinder option. A serving the size of your palm (100g) provides 175 calories and 30g of protein. In comparison, you would have to eat 2 cups of chickpeas to get the same amount of protein and that would be around 540 calories. Chicken is also a great source of your B vitamins and zinc.

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Roasted sweet potato & barley salad with lemon dressing

Sweet Potato and barley Salad - with lemon and utensils - cropped

Vegetables are one the best thing we can put into our body,  but they can be seen as boring at times. I get it – steamed broccoli and carrots does get old. Enter above salad. The lemon dressing is refreshing while the barley, sweet potatoes and toasted almonds bring an earthy and nutty taste. Finished with some tang from feta cheese for a flavourful bite each time.

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Sweet potato and barley salad - copped side

Recipe

Type: Good for the Body

Time: 45 minutes

Serves: 2 as a main, 4 as a side.

Ingredients

Salad
3 cups leafy greens
2 cups arugula
2 small or 1 large sweet potato
1/4 cup of pearl barley, uncooked
1/2 cup of toasted almonds
feta cheese

Dressing
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°C.
  2. Wash and cube sweet potatoes. Place in bowl and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and salt & pepper to taste. Spread onto baking sheet.
  3. Add 3/4 of cup of water and 1/4 cup of barley to a pot (Tip – always cook barley at a 1:3 ratio. 1 cup barley to 3 cups water). Bring barley to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce  to a simmer and cover for 30 minutes. Barley is finished when  water has been absorbed and the texture is light and fluffy.
  4. Place sweet potatoes in the oven when you have started to simmer the barley, as these should both be finished at around 30 minutes.
  5. Roughly chop almonds. Toast in frying pan on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes. Set aside.
  6. For the dressing, whisk together lemon, olive oil, pepper and brown sugar until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
  7. When barley and sweet potatoes are finished and slightly cooled, add to leafy greens/arugula with toasted almonds. Whisk lemon dressing and add to salad. Mix until dressing evenly covers salad.
  8.  Once plated, top when a sprinkling of feta cheese .

* Add meat, fish, poultry or tofu for an extra protein boost.

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– Magical Properties –

It’s easy to always reach for the same grain, especially when they can be sensationalized in the media as food that cures all (I’m looking to you, quinoa). The reality is that all grains bring something to table. Barley is fantastic for your health in a few ways, one being its soluble fibre content. Simply put, soluble fibre moves slowly through your GI tract due to its gel-like texture. This is particularly beneficial as it helps to keep you full, reduces cholesterol levels, moderates blood sugar levels and helps keep you regular. Barley is also a source of folate, iron and magnesium.

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Homemade pizza sauce

Homemade pizza sauce - cropped 2

Pizza. A staple in most people’s lives. From birthday parties, family parties and post bar munchies, it undoubtedly exists in all of our diets. The beauty of pizza is it’s ability to become a healthy meal by loading on the veggies and skipping the processed toppings. This recipe is a quick way to make homemade pizza sauce with fresh ingredients. Freeze the batch in small containers for healthy pizza sauce in a pinch.

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Recipe

Type: Good for the Body

Time: 20 minutes
Serves: Makes approximately 2 cups.
Use about 1/2 cup for an 8″ pizza.

Ingredients

1 28 oz can of plum tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
10 fresh basil leaves
2 tbsp tomato paste
drizzle of olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Open and drain half the juice from the can of tomatoes and pour tomatoes into food processor or blender.
  2. Roughly chop basil and garlic. Add with remaining ingredients to tomato mixture.
  3. Blend on high until mixture is smooth.

 

– Magical Properties –

Basil, and many other herbs, claim to fame is something known as phytochemicals or phytonutrients. These are naturally occurring chemicals found in many plants, fruits and vegetables that are thought to have a protective effect on the body. Specifically, basil contains flavonoids which may be beneficial in protecting against inflammation and viral infections. Try and include fresh or dried herbs in all aspects of cooking for a nutritious kick.

Additional notes: Skip the supplements, and aim to include daily in your meals instead. Oh, and chemicals isn’t necessarily a bad word in the nutrition realm.

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French-toasted baguette topped with strawberries & coconut flakes

French Toast

I grew up with my Mom’s homemade french toast made from baguettes and would never switch to the more traditional thick bread slices. What I like about using smaller pieces is that you get a bit more surface area to taste that deliciously crunchy outside, while keeping it light and fluffy inside. Serve with a slice or two of bacon for a perfect Saturday brunch.

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Recipe

Type: Good for the Body

Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

1 small French baguette
3 eggs
¾ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 quart of strawberries (about 4 cups sliced)
¼ cup of unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tbsp butter
maple syrup, to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°C. Spread coconut flakes evenly on a baking pan. Set aside.
  2. Wash and slice strawberries into quarters. Set aside.
  3. Cut baguette into 12 even slices and arrange in large glass pan.
  4. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  5. Pour egg mixture over bread slices. To make sure they are soaked through, leave soaking in egg mixture for approximately 3 minutes, turning over once.
  6. Melt butter over medium heat on a frying pan.
  7. Once bread is soak through, place slices on frying pan without crowding the pan. You may need to cook in two batches.
  8. Cook for about 2 minutes each side, until a dark golden brown.
  9. Once the French toast is cooking, place coconut flakes in oven for approximately 5 minutes, taking care to make sure they don’t burn.
  10. Once French toast is cooked, plate 3-4 pieces per person and top each plate with 1 cup strawberries and 1/3 of toasted coconut flakes.

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– Magical Properties –

It might not be the lowest calorie or highest fiber breakfast, but this recipe can definitely provide you with a nutrient boost on a Saturday morning. Strawberries are they star of the show by providing all of your vitamin C needs in one serving of this recipe. This nutrient is important in collagen formation, strengthening bones and blood vessels,  supporting your immune system and acting as a powerful antioxidant. These bad-ass fruits are also low calorie and contain small amounts of folate, magnesium and manganese for added power.

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