Archives for category: Lunch and Dinner

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a recipe on here, which is a shame – the food posts are some of my favourites!

I recently realized it had been a while since I’d actually put substantive effort into making a meal, so I resolved to make myself a nice dinner entirely from scratch.  No shortcuts allowed (well, maybe one or two).

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One of my go-to recipes while at school was a chicken stir-fry: a chicken breast, some frozen veggies and a dollop of my housemate’s honey garlic sauce sneaked from the fridge.  I decided to rework the recipe with fresh veggies and quinoa instead of the rice I had used at school.

Here’s what I used (approximately…I tend not to measure things much when I’m cooking):

  • 1 cup mixed red and white quinoa
  • 2 cups water
  • Olive oil
  • 1 raw chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • About 1/3 package sliced mushrooms, rinsed
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, rinsed and sliced
  • Handful broccoli florets, rinsed
  • Handful snow peas, rinsed
  • 2-3 tablespoons Asian sesame dressing (I used Renee’s store-bought version–there’s my shortcut–but you could make your own using this recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

This makes 2-3 servings, depending on how hungry you are.  I’m eating my second portion for today’s lunch!

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^ Note: You’ll probably want a skillet or wok that is bigger than this, so you can cook everything more evenly.

Here’s what I did:

  1. Combine quinoa and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Once boiled, reduce to a simmer and cover for 15 minutes or until all water is absorbed.
  2. Drizzle a good amount of olive oil on a large skillet (or wok if you have one) and warm over high to medium-high heat.  Add chicken breast, mushrooms and onions and stir around, making sure to flip the chicken pieces so they are cooked on all sides.  Add a drizzle more oil if chicken or veggies start to stick to the skillet.
  3. When chicken is nearly cooked through, reduce heat to medium and add pepper and broccoli.  Again, add a drizzle more oil if needed.  Continue to stir.
  4. Once peppers have softened and broccoli has turned a darker green, reduce heat to low and add in snow peas, Asian sesame dressing and sesame seeds (I leave the snow peas til the end because I like them crunchy).  Stir to thoroughly coat chicken and veggies with dressing and seeds.  If quinoa is still cooking, leave on low heat to keep warm.

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^ That shadow…

Once it’s all done, scoop some quinoa onto your plate, top with stir-fry mixture and toss, adding a little more dressing and another sprinkle of sesame seeds if desired.

Stay hungry!

Caj

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Kyle is in Toronto for the week, and last night we decided to make dinner for my parents. Craving something warm and feelin’ the fall flavours, we adapted the butternut squash-apple soup recipe from Dr. Andrew Weal’s cookbook True Food.

Here’s what we used (serves 4):

  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
  • 5 honey crisp apples, peeled, cored and cut into wedges
  • 1 large onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, mashed in a garlic press
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 5% cream (optional)

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Here’s what we did:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 °F and line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.
  2. Toss the squash, apples, onion, and garlic in a large bowl with the canola oil, salt, and cayenne pepper.
  3. Arrange the mixture in an even single layer on the two baking sheets and roast for 45 minutes.
  4. Transfer 3/4 of the roasted squash-apple mixture to a blender and add 1 1/4 cups of water. Blend until relatively smooth (there will be a few chunks). Add the rest of the mixture (and a little more water, if needed) to the blender and blend until smooth.
  5. Transfer to a pot. You may want to use an immersion blender (hand-held) to target any more chunks you do not want.
  6. While heating in the pot, you may wish to whisk in some cream or more water until you reach your desired consistency. Cream will make the soup richer and, well, creamier.

The cooking didn’t stop there. We wanted to create an appetizer-slash-side to go with the soup, and decided to make crostini. These crostini have all my favourite appetizer ingredients placed on one convenient little piece of toast. Genius!

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Here’s what we used:

  • 1 white baguette
  • 1 package of spreadable goat cheese
  • 1 package of prosciutto, with strips ripped into halves
  • 1 small box of arugula
  • 6 figs, halved
  • Balsamic vinegar (optional)

Here’s what we did (we made 12 crostini, but you can make as many as you’d like):

  1. Slice baguette thinly.
  2. Spread slices out on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler to toast for 2-3 minutes (check to make sure they don’t burn!).
  3. Spread each slice with goat cheese and top with a folded strip of prosciutto, a few arugula leaves, and a fig half.
  4. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar if desired.

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This is a deceptively simple dinner and was a big hit in my house. It even inspired my parents to break into the liquor cabinet for a “digestif”. Let me qualify this by telling you that they have not broken into the liquor cabinet since–well, I actually don’t think they ever have.

Stay hungry!

Caj

A couple of weeks ago, I was experimenting with spaghetti squash and submitted this healthy recipe to Lauren Conrad’s Fall Flavors contest. Turns out, my recipe was chosen for the entree category! Few things in my life have felt as exciting as being featured on Lauren Conrad’s website. Ahhhh.

I hadn’t gotten around to posting the recipe here, but now there is simply no excuse not to.

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Here’s what I used (makes 4 servings):

  • 2 medium spaghetti squashes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Allspice
  • 2 small ripe avocados
  • 1/4 lemon, juiced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 pinch salt
  • Grated parmesan cheese (to taste)

Here’s what I did:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 ºF.
  2. Cut each spaghetti squash in half using a large, sharp knife and a sawing motion.
  3. Scoop the seeds out of all four squash halves.
  4. Use a pastry brush to lightly coat each half with 1 tablespoon (total) of olive oil.
  5. Season with salt, pepper, and allspice or whichever spices you prefer. I think allspice is a good option for bringing out the flavours in the squash.
  6. Places the halves face-down on two cookie sheets and bake for 45 minutes.
  7. Combine the avocado, lemon juice, garlic, salt and remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  8. Once cooked, use a fork to scrape out all of the spaghetti-like strands from the squash into a large bowl and strain. Add the avocado sauce on top and toss to mix in thoroughly.
  9. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Now excuse me while I go freak out about this some more.

Stay hungry!

Caj

I am a firm believer that salads can be filling and fun if you use the right ingredients. A nice big salad is one of my favourite kinds of meals, provided it’s kept interesting: if it doesn’t have protein, fruit or nuts of some kind, I’m not interested.

Now that we are back in full school/work mode with less time and energy to worry about cooking, I thought I’d share the recipes for some salads I’ve made or eaten recently that are quick to prepare, satisfying and—most importantly—super tasty.

Grilled Chicken & Peach Salad (recipe adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients (makes 4 servings):

  • Box of arugula or spinach
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2-3 ripe peaches (depending on size)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • Crumbled goat cheese, to taste
  • 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard

(Avocado would be a nice addition too – ours was past its prime when I made this)

This salad may not be ideal now that it is no longer peach season, but you can always substitute another fruit of your choice. The nice thing about peaches is that they’re delicious when grilled.

  1. Grill the chicken and peaches–the peaches should only take about 2 minutes on each side.
  2. Heat pine nuts in a cast-iron skillet until golden brown and fragrant.
  3. Slice the peaches and cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
  4. Whisk vinegar, oil and mustard together in a small bowl.
  5. Put salad greens, chicken, peaches, pine nuts and goat cheese in a large bowl and drizzle dressing on top. Toss to coat and season with salt and pepper.

Fig-Pomegranate Salad

Ingredients:

  • Box of romaine lettuce
  • 8 figs, quartered
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • Seeds from 1 pomegranate
  • Crumbled goat cheese, to taste

This salad was made by a family friend, so I am not exactly sure of the ratios or dressing used, but I made my best estimates. I think this salad would go best with a dressing on the sweeter side, like something with honey in it. Salad is really the kind of thing that you can play around with to suit your own tastes. When I recreate this one, I plan to add in some prosciutto. 🙂

Note: To gather the pomegranate seeds in the easiest/least messy way, break the pomegranate into segments first. Place one segment at a time into a bowl of water while you use your fingers to pry the seeds out. The seeds will sink to the bottom while the white membrane floats to the surface. When you’re done, you can just scoop the membrane off the top and strain the water from the seeds. Voilà!

Shrimp, Corn & Avocado Salad (recipe adapted from Cooking Light)

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Ingredients (makes 4 servings):

  • Box of romaine lettuce
  • 3/4 pound frozen peeled and deveined shrimp (the pre-cooked variety is easiest)
  • 2 cobs of corn
  • 2 large tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • Pinch each of salt and pepper

Probably my favourite of the three: hearty, filling and flavourful. Pre-approved by the two biggest eaters in my family, who usually do not accept a salad as a full meal.

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and then add the cobs of corn. Cook for 10 minutes.
  2. Thaw the shrimp by placing them in a colander under cold running water for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Place lettuce in a large bowl and add shrimp, tomato and avocado. Cut the corn off of the cob into the bowl.
  4. Whisk together lime juice, canola oil, honey, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour over salad and toss to combine.

Another bonus about these recipes? It’s also guaranteed easy clean-up!

Stay hungry,

Caj

P.S. ATTENTION READERS: I have switched over here to WordPress for the foreseeable future. I’ll likely be playing around with the appearance for a little while, but overall I think it is easier and more fun to read. So keep checking back on keepingitcaj.wordpress.com!

When I visited Kyle in Campbell River back in August, I made chili one night for us and his parents. It was an unseasonably cold day, and we were craving something warm and comforting. Now that we are approaching colder months, it finally seems like a good time to post the recipe. At the time I had never made chili before, but I figured it was the kind of recipe you could pretty much just “wing”. I used this recipe from Merely Marie just as a jumping-off point, but mostly just played around with the ingredients that were available to me.

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(Photo credit to the blog What About Second Breakfast?, which also has a great recipe for bison chili.)

Here’s what I gathered from the fridge/pantry:

  • 1 lb. ground bison meat (from a few bison burgers)
  • 1 can (~16 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (~16 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (~16 oz.) crushed tomatoes (I would have used diced, but Kyle and his dad both hate tomatoes/tomato chunks)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 (or whole) red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • Hearty sprinkle of cinnamon
  • 1 square dark chocolate, grated
  • A few twists of ground pepper

*I didn’t use them, but sliced mushrooms would also be a great addition.

Here’s what to do:

1. Drizzle a little bit of oil in a large pot over medium heat and add the bison meat, breaking into chunks with your spoon/spatula. Cook (you will have to stir them around a bit) until all the chunks are browned on the outside.

…I hate the word chunks. Shudder.

Note: The bison burgers I used were frozen initially, so I had to defrost them first before cooking.

2. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot.

Note: The recipe on Merely Marie calls for two cups of water. I didn’t notice that when I made this recipe, and it ended up being fine without (the juices from the meat and crushed tomatoes were enough), so add water to your discretion based on the consistency you want.

3. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1-2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes. I cooked my chili for only one hour – we were hungry!

4. Top your bowl with grated cheddar or mozzarella cheese, sour cream, and/or whatever else you like on your chili. This recipe made roughly five heaping bowls.

Enjoy!

Final note: Feel free to use another kind of meat in your chili. Bison happens to be quite a flavourful and lean meat, so I thought it would be great for chili, and I used nutmeg/cinnamon/dark chocolate to help complement its slightly gamier flavour. But you could use turkey, chicken, or beef and adjust your other ingredients accordingly. Chili-making is really a creative process, so don’t be afraid to experiment!

Stay hungry,

Caj

Ah, peach season. There are few things better than taking a bite out of a perfectly ripened peach and feeling the juice dribble down your chin. But what to do with the basketfuls you’ve purchased before they go bad? This was the dilemma I was recently faced with. Life is sometimes hard like that.

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Having already made a pie this summer (and eaten at least four), I wanted to do something different. Fortunately, I remembered something Pat—Jaclyn’s boyfriend and chef extraordinaire—did when grilling pork tenderloin a few summers ago: he grilled some peaches to go alongside. And it was delicious.

Marina was coming over to make dinner last night, so I picked up the pork tenderloin and asked her to bring over some peaches (all of ours had just been eaten). And then we set to work:

1. We decided to make a sauce for the pork, and opted for a peach-balsamic reduction. Loosely following this recipe, Marina did the following:

  • Simmered 3/4 cups of balsamic vinegar and a healthy sprinkle of rosemary in a pan, until it was reduced by half (in other words, we watched until the vinegar shrank to fill only half of the pan).
  • Melted 2 tablespoons of butter in another pan, sliced two peaches, and added the slices to the butter to cook until “browned,” or very soft.
  • After everything cooled down a bit, she poured the balsamic vinegar and peaches into my Magic Bullet and pureed the mixture before setting it aside to thicken.

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^ Marina cooking the peaches for our sauce.

2. I turned on the BBQ and grilled the pork on medium-high heat. Pork tenderloin has a sort of cylindrical shape, so I continued to rotate it while it cooked, grilling it for 5 minutes on each side until it was cooked through with just a hint of pink on the inside. It was perfect – very soft and tender.

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Note: I didn’t marinate the pork—or put anything on it at all—before grilling, because we had the peach-balsamic sauce to drizzle on it afterward. The sauce had amazing flavour, but you can always add a little something extra if you like!

3. When the pork was almost done, I sliced up a couple of peaches, tossed them in a bowl with some olive oil and rosemary, and added them to the grill (perpendicular to the grill lines) for 2-3 minutes each side. You want them to be soft, but not so mushy that they’re falling through the cracks of your BBQ!

4. At the same time that I was grilling the peaches, Marina prepared the baby bok choy that I picked up at a farmers’ market earlier this week:

  • First, she heated some olive oil and three diced cloves of garlic in a pan until the garlic was fragrant.
  • She added the bok choy a little at a time, letting it shrink down to make room before adding more (this stuff shrinks a lot – I had a whole heaping bag’s full, and she somehow managed to fit all of it in the pan!).
  • When the bok choy was dark green and wilted (after about 4 minutes), she added a splash of soy sauce and sprinkled on some chili flakes, sesame seeds, and a little ground ginger before tossing to mix it all in.

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^ The grilled peaches and (some of) the bok choy.

5. We put it all together on our plates. I must say this is one of the best (and most colourful!) dinners I’ve ever made:

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^ Practicing my presentation!

Note: the peaches can be eaten as a side, but are best enjoyed in mouthfuls with the pork and balsamic-peach sauce. It’s melt-in-your-mouth perfection – I promise you won’t regret it!

Stay hungry (and creative),

Caj

Today I thought I’d post a quick and easy recipe that is very popular in the Harvey-Parsons household. It is healthy, requires minimal effort, and tastes pretty wonderful: what more could you ask for?

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 and 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can white beans (we use a “bean medley” can that contains chickpeas, kidney beans, romano beans and black eyed peas)
  • 3 slices of prosciutto ripped into pieces, or sliced and quartered salami (this for some added protein and salty flavour – prosciutto is my personal fave)
  • ground pepper
  • 2/3 box of arugula

Here’s what to do:

Step 1. Heat the garlic and olive oil in the bottom of a large pot on medium heat until the garlic is golden.

Step 2. Remove from heat and let cool for a minute or so before adding the diced tomatoes, broth, beans, prosciutto/salami and a few twists of ground pepper. This is important – I failed to remove from heat before pouring the tomatoes in and was sprayed by hot oil when the tomato juice touched the bottom of the pot. Dangerous!!

Step 3. Give everything a good stir, and re-heat while covered until it starts to boil.

Step 4. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes.

Step 5. Mix in the arugula and let simmer for another 1-2 minutes.

Step 6. Remove from heat and serve!

This will make a large pot – great for leftovers or for a family dinner!

Note: vegetarians can omit the prosciutto/salami, and if you are concerned about sodium intake, you can make your own stock and/or buy beans fresh from the grocery store.

Stay hungry!

Caj

P.S. I owe credit to my sister, Jaclyn, who first introduced me to this recipe, adapted from Gourmet Magazine. Her blog is great, too – check it out!

I’m a quinoa fan, but I’ve never made it myself before, so this week I decided to give it a try. It’s pretty bland unless you make it into a salad with lots of other interesting ingredients, so I used my trusty Pinterest to find this recipe for mango and black bean quinoa salad.

It is deceiving – quinoa really expands so if you cook about 3/4 cup you will end up with 2 cups of cooked quinoa. This recipe was really simple to make: bring 3/4 cups quinoa + 1 1/2 cups water to a boil (or whatever amounts as long as the quinoa:water ratio is 1:2). Then let it simmer for about 15 minutes, and in the meantime wash and prepare the rest of the ingredients. Once the quinoa is done cooking, you can mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl and add the dressing.

One thing I will say is that I would use fewer black beans next time – I found they kind of took over the salad. Also, I might add a little more vinegar, lime juice and/or salt and pepper to take the flavour up a notch.

Pretty, though, no?

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P.S. I bought a line-a-day journal today, and I’m so excited about it. Basically, it’s a notebook with a page for every day of the calendar year, with space to write a few lines that sum up that day in any way you like. Each page has space for five entries so that you can keep a record of all your memories across five years. Being the nostalgic person I am, I thought it was brilliant.

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P.P.S. I’ve been going on some adventures this week and have more planned, so stay tuned!

Caj

Time for another food post. Jaclyn and Pat came for dinner on Monday night, and it was requested by my parents that I make it, so I took the opportunity to try something new.

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In flipping through my June 2012 issue of Cooking Light that I bought last year, I came across two yummy-looking recipes: Summer Grilled Vegetable Pizza and Melon and Fig Salad with Prosciutto and Balsamic Drizzle. I took the ideas as my jumping-off points but didn’t really follow any recipes.

I like salads when they are unique and different, and I LOVE prosciutto, so I was excited about this one. I quartered about 8 figs, shaved several very thin slices of cantaloupe, and tore a few slices of prosciutto before tossing it all with a box of arugula. So simple! Pat made the dressing with a mix of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and dijon mustard.

Unfortunately I forgot to take photos of the process and only remembered when the bowl was almost completely empty:

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For the pizzas, I decided to make cauliflower crusts like I had done before because they were just so damn good last time. I cut and grilled red pepper, yellow pepper, zucchini, yellow zucchini, red onion, and portobello mushrooms, and added a generous amount on top of the baked crusts along with tomato sauce and crumbled goat cheese before popping under the broiler.

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I served the remainder of the grilled veggies, including grilled leftover cauliflower, as another side.

It was a hit with the whole fam!

Stay hungry,

Caj

P.S. Last week’s new recipe was fish tacos – the ones Kyle and I made for his parents. There isn’t really much for me to describe – my contribution was the guacamole I have already posted about, and Kyle’s dad seasoned and cooked the cod – but they were great too! We sautéed peppers and onions and used vegetable tortillas for the tacos. If you want to do something similar, just get some good tortillas and serve the fish with veggies and whatever condiments you like: guac, salsa, sour cream, etc.

Hi, friends! I’m doing this week’s recipe early this week, because the rest of my week is pretty booked up with family and friends leaving little time for cooking.image

For the Cinco de Mayo potluck yesterday, I decided to make my own guacamole from scratch. I think guac is one of those things you can more or less make however you want, so I didn’t want to follow a recipe – instead I just added stuff as I saw fit in the proportions I thought would taste good. And let me tell you, OH EM GEE, this is a good one.

Here is the (approximate) recipe:

– 2 ripe avocados

– 1 ripe plum tomato, seeded and diced

– 1 cup diced ripe mango

– about 1/8 cup diced red onion

– juice of 1/2 a lime

– chopped cilantro

– chili powder

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The first thing I did was mash the avocado with a potato masher, which made it really smooth. If you’re like me and like some chunks in there, though, mash it with the back of a spoon instead.

Then just add the rest of the ingredients, mixing with a spoon as you go! The amount of cilantro and chili powder you want to use is up to you, but I was extremely generous with the chili powder, because I wanted to offset the sweetness of the mango and lime with an equal amount of spice.

Deeeeelish!

Stay hungry!

Caj