Italian Chicken Soup with Quinoa and Spinach

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By Corinne

Doesn’t this sound like some sort of hipster healthy living type soup? Well. Sure it does. But just because it’s good for you doesn’t mean it can’t also be filling and delicious! If you don’t love quinoa, then feel free to use a small pasta instead.

This recipe calls for a parmesan rind. If you haven’t started using fresh parm (or asiago) I highly recommend it. While it’s more expensive than the stuff that comes in a can, it also has a great deal more flavour, since you know, it’s not mixed with sawdust. One of the best things about using fresh cheese is saving the rind for soups. When you get down to the rind, just throw it in a bag and put it in the freezer until you need it. It adds an incredible amount of flavour to soups and stews. It generally doesn’t dissolve fully in the soup, but does get softer. If your soup is at a full roiling boil it may somewhat dissolve, and I’ve accidentally forgotten to take it out before pureeing soups. Oops.

Serves: 3-4

Time: about 1 to 1.5 hours, depending on how long you let the soup simmer

You will need:

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/4 pound (250 grams) boneless, skinless chicken thighs – about 3
  • 1 tsp each dried oregano, thyme, basil
  • several generous grinds of fresh pepper
  • 1 cup white navy beans -I used dried, which I rehydrate and freeze. 1 cup is more than half of a standard can – you can probably just use a whole can if you’re using canned beans, unless of course you have a use for your leftover beans!
  • 1 can (28oz, 794g) tomatoes -I used whole and smushed them up, but diced would work great as well
  • 4 cups chicken or veggie stock – I used my favourite Homemade Veggie Bouillon
  • 1/2 cup dry wine – red or white, if you happen to have some open, it’s awesome to deglaze the pot with after cooking the onion/celery/chicken, but it’s ok to omit
  • 1 parmesan rind
  • grated parm or asiago for garnish if desired
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa (about 1/2 to 3/4 cup dry) – to be added to individual bowls
  • handful of chopped fresh spinach- to be added to each bowl

Dice onion and celery, add to a heavy bottomed pot with a few tbsp of butter or oil. Chop chicken into small pieces and add to pot with onion and celery. Allow to cook until the vegetables have some colour and the chicken is cooked. Add the minced garlic and stir around until fragrant, but don’t let the garlic burn.

If you are using wine to deglaze – pour a little in the pot and scrape up all the delicious browned bits.

Add the tomatoes, stock, carrots, beans, thyme, basil, oregano, pepper and parmesan rind. Allow to simmer for at least 20 minutes, but longer if you have time.

While soup is simmering, rinse quinoa well in a small mesh sieve to remove bitter saponins. Cook quinoa in a 1:2 ratio of water – if you are using half a cup of quinoa, use 1 cup of water. If you are using 1 cup of quinoa, use 2 cups of water etc. Bring to a boil and then cover and reduce heat to low for about 20 minutes. When liquid is absorbed and quinoa has ‘popped’ it is ready.

Chop a handful of fresh spinach for each bowl, ladle in hot soup, and then add a few tbsp of cooked quinoa to each bowl. Garnish with grated parmesan or asiago cheese if desired.

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Three Cheese Spinach Dip

By Corinne

With the holiday season quickly approaching, it seems everyone is having a party. What do the best parties include? Amazing apps of course – oh, and of course wonderful company, music, etc. But back to the food. Appetizers of all sorts abound in the Christmas season, and at the suggestion of a friend, I’ve decided to round up some of my favourites over the coming week.

This spinach dip is easily my favourite hot dip. One of the things I love about it is that even once it cools down, it’s still amazing, though it rarely lasts long enough to cool on the table! Speaking of cool though, if you’re looking for a non-heated dip, smokey caramelized bacon dip is amazing, can be prepared a few days in advance, and won’t take up any precious pre-party oven space.

If you’re feeling as though there is already quite enough cheese in the dip itself, you can skip topping with additional cheddar but unless you have a really good reason you shouldn’t skip it! Just stir twice in the same amount of baking time.

I always make a double batch of this dip and freeze half of it as it reheats well. It can be prepared a few days ahead (without the heating step!) and then popped in the oven when needed.

Time: Prep 10 min* bake 25 min

*depends on if you are using a food processor or hand mincing and mixing all ingredients. 10 minutes with food processor, at least 2o without.

Oven: 400F

You will need:

  • 1 package of frozen chopped spinach (300g package)
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion
  • 1/2 cup minced red pepper
  • 2 250g pkg of cream cheese (2 cups)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 cup grated fresh asiago or parmesan
  • 3/4 cup grated cheddar + more for topping
  • 1/8 tsp to 1/4 tsp cayenne

Thaw and drain frozen spinach, squeezing out all excess moisture.

Using a food processor, mince 1/2 cup of red onion and remove from processor. Mince 1/2 cup red pepper (about half of a pepper) and remove from processor. Add 2 bricks of cream cheese and 1 cup of sour cream and the cayenne pepper to the food processor. Process until smooth. Add 3/4 cup grated cheddar and 3/4 cup asiago and the drained spinach. Pulse in food processor until mixed.

Remove spinach and cheese mixture from processor and stir in the red onion and red pepper by hand to avoid over processing them.

Portion into  two oven safe dishes and bake uncovered for 15 minutes at 400F. If you portion the whole amount into one dish, the baking time with be longer. Baking time is accounting for the dip being portioned into two dishes.

At 15 min, stir the dip and top with a generous portion of grated cheddar.

Return to oven for another 10 minutes or until cheese on top is melted and bubbly.

Serve hot from the oven with pita bread or tortilla chips.

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Curried Parsnip and Cauliflower Soup

By Corinne

Lately I’ve been having a bit of an autumn love affair with parsnips. They are one of those vegetables we didn’t eat growing up, so I’ve come to this love rather late in life. At our local market there are a few vendors who sell them but for some reason I’m particularly enamored of these.

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I don’t even think they’re ugly. They’re sort of adorable. Can vegetables be adorable? Mostly though, they are delicious.

This soup is creamy and smooth, without being heavy. Most of the creaminess comes from the pureed vegetables rather than an excessive amount of cream.

Time: 30-35 min.  10-15 min prep, 20 minutes cook.

Serves: 4

You will need:

  • 1 large onion – diced
  • 2 stalks celery- diced
  • 2 cups parsnip, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups small florets of cauliflower
  • 1 1/2 cups diced potato (I left the skin on mine, whatever you prefer)
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic- minced
  • 1 chili pepper (if desired) minced
  • 7 cups of reduced sodium chicken broth, or veggie broth.
  • 1/2 tbsp cumin *I toasted and freshly ground my cumin- if you don’t, you may need to add more than this and adjust to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • salt to taste (if needed – I didn’t)
  • freshly chopped cilantro

Add 2 tbsp of butter to pot on medium heat. Dice onion and celery and add to pot once butter has melted. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. While onion and celery are cooking, prep other vegetables.

When onion and celery are softened and beginning to get some colour, add the garlic and chili (if using) and stir for about one minute until garlic is fragrant – do not allow the garlic to burn.

Add the broth slowly, scrapping up any browned bits from the bottom of pot.

Add the diced parsnip, cauliflower, and potato and increase the heat to medium high to bring to a boil.

Keep at a gentle boil for about 20 minutes until veggies are soft. Add the cumin, coriander and turmeric. Using an immersion blender, puree soup until smooth. Taste and add salt if needed – though this will depend on the saltiness of the broth you used.

Stir in cream and serve with fresh chopped cilantro.

Pumpkin Breakfast Cookies

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By Corinne

I love a breakfast cookie! These are hearty and delicious, full of all kinds of goodness. They are a soft cookie, but the pepitas give them a bit of a crunch.  I prefer them without chocolate chips, but my husband has more of a sweet tooth and prefers them with. If you are trying to reduce refined sugar, the brown sugar can be substituted for an equal amount of honey – though I find they are less sweet with honey, so you may want to add a bit more.  They are gluten and dairy free (if you omit chocolate chips).

Time: prep 10 min, bake 18-22 min per batch

Makes: about 45 cookies

Oven: preheat 350F

You will need:

  • 2 cups quick oats*
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Mix together all dry ingredients. Melt 1/2 cup virgin coconut oil in microwave, about 1 minute. Add coconut oil, canned pumpkin and eggs to dry mixture and thoroughly mix together. This can be done pretty easily by hand, or if you have a mixer, that works too.

Place scoopfuls of mix onto a cookie sheet. They will not spread as they cook, so you can snuggle them up close together. I like to press them down and flatten them a bit after I scoop them on, as they do not flatten or spread as they cook so whatever shape they go in is the shape they come out.

Bake for 18-22 minutes. Cookies will be slightly browned around the edges and tops. Cool completely and store in an air tight container, or freeze and take out just a few at a time as desired.

*oats are one of those ‘maybe’ items for many celiac people. While oats themselves are gluten free, crops may be contaminated with wheat. Some brands of oats will say ‘gluten free’ and others don’t.

Butternut Squash Soup with Turkey Meatballs

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By Corinne

I tend not to eat a lot of soup in the summer, with the exception of a fresh dilly bean soup that is my go to summer soup fix. But all it takes is the first rainy September day to rekindle my love of soup in preparation for the cold, snowy months ahead. Today wasn’t really a soup day, it was a glorious fall day, one where if you close your eyes and feel the sun on your face you might imagine that summer is still here for a few moments more. But still, I love soup and this is a good one for the fall as the squashes are coming in 🙂

This soup is inspired by Deb Perlman’s Carrot Soup with Turkey Meatballs.

Like most soups, this one freezes well.

Serves: 6

Time: 1 hour

You will need:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1-2 stalks of celery chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled if you like, chopped
  • 2 large clove minced
  • 3 generous cups of butternut squash, peeled and cubed
  • 7 cups water 3-4 tbsp veggie bouillon or equal amount of chicken stock
  • a generous handful of fresh spinach for each bowl of soup

For the meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs (to make this GF, leave out the breadcrumbs, the meatballs will still stick together fine, I find the bread crumbs just gives them a smidge of extra tenderness)
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 cup grated asiago cheese
  • 1 minced clove of garlic
  • salt and pepper

In a large pot over medium heat, add the butter, chopped onion, celery and carrot. Cook, stirring occasionally while you prep the butternut squash. Cut off ends, and peel and cube. I usually peel with a vegetable peeler, but a sharp knife also works. I love toasting my squash seeds the same way you can do pumpkin seeds. I usually mean to use them as a garnish, but sometimes we eat them before the soup is done 🙂

Add the squash and the water and bring to a gentle boil. While the squash is cooking, prep the meatballs. Add the 2 tbsp of milk to the bread crumbs, then add all ingredients together and mix.  Cook until squash is tender, and then using an immersion blender, blend until smooth and return to a boil.

After the soup is blended, form the meatballs, rolling into about one inch balls and dropping into the soup. I find this easier with wet hands as generally ground turkey and chicken is more ‘sticky’ than ground beef. Once all meatballs have been added, simmer for ten to fifteen minutes to ensure all are cooked through.

Shred or cut a generous handful of spinach into each serving bowl. Ladle hot soup over shredded spinach. Garnish with asiago if desired.

When I freeze this soup, I do so without the spinach. I like adding the spinach to the bowl rather than directly to the pot as it wilts but still retains a nice texture.

Slowcooker Pulled Pork

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By: Corinne

I have a busy life. One of the ways I manage cooking is just recognizing that sometimes I’m not going to have a lot of time to put something together for supper. I like my slow cooker for these applications, but even more so like things that I can prep and freeze and then throw into the slowcooker when I need to.

I like this recipe for pulled pork, mostly because I find it’s much easier to use the leftovers for a variety of things, pulled pork pizza, pulled pork wraps with avocado and sprouts, baked pulled pork pasta with peppers, or soup. I find a more thick BBQ saucy type pulled pork for sandwiches, but not much else. So if you like that style, but anticipate having a lot of leftovers, just pull out what you want for sandwiches and sauce it up.

I usually buy boneless pork rib roast as they go on sale fairly frequently. This tends to be a less fatty cut than others used for pulled pork. In the photo below you can see that I didn’t need to drain off any fat, but you may if you use a fatty cut of meat.

You Will Need:

  • 1.5 – 2kg roast, cut in half (mine was 1.86kg)
  • 2 large freezer baggies
  • 2 large onions chopped (one for each bag)
  • 4 cloves garlic chopped (two for each bag)
  • 1 beer (half for each bag)- not an IPA as the bitterness really comes through. Use a more boring beer like Alexander Keith’s or Sleeman’s honey brown. To make GF, omit the beer and add 1 cup of water or veggie or chicken stock, or use a GF beer. While I haven’t tried it, I bet a cider would be good in this recipe too, not one of the really pop-like ones.. but a dry cider would probably work just fine and would also be gluten free.

All of the following ingredients are that amount for each half of the roast- so you put that amount in each baggie

  • 1 tbsp chili powder (I used my homemade stuff, depending on your spice level you may want more or less)
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 3oz tomato paste-  half of a small can
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (for GF substitute balsamic vinegar or a GF Worcestershire)
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo chopped

Add all of the ingredients to the baggies, it really doesn’t matter what order you do it in, as long as you add the beer last and smush everything around so it mixes before you add the pork. If you happened to oopsie and add a whole beer to each bag instead of just half, don’t worry it will be just fine 🙂 Then pop it in the freezer and you are good to go for another day. If you are skipping the freezing step you can of course do this all directly in the slow cooker 🙂 When that other day comes, take your already good to go pulled pork from the freezer, let it thaw in your fridge over night (in the slowcooker even so it’s all ready to go in the morning) and then into your slowcooker on low for 6-8 hours. My slowcooker on low is quite gentle, so it’s been fine for up to 10 hours.

When it’s finished, if you used a very fatty roast and seem to have too much juice, feel free to pour some off (but don’t toss it yet!) before using two forks to shred the pork. If you have time to let it sit for another 15 min after shredding it gives the sauciness a chance to get right in the meat and you might find you want to use some of those juices you poured off.

Serve on soft buns with your favourite coleslaw. Even though this is just half of the original roast- it makes a lot and I always plan to make something with the leftovers.

Favourite things to make with leftovers- pulled pork pizza, pulled pork pasta and pulled pork soup!

Bocconcini Stuffed Meatballs with “Zoodles”

By Corinne

I feel somehow like cheesy stuffed meatballs get a pass here, since you’re not using “real” noodles, I mean really, it’s at least a serving of vegetables, right?

This is a wonderful summer meal. I love making a double batch of the meatballs and freezing them before they are cooked for a quick meal on another night.

You can of course use regular noodles rather than the zucchini ones, but I do really like them in this.

Serves: 4

Time: 30 min-1 hour -> depending on if you make your own sauce or not 🙂

Oven: 400F

You will need:

For meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 medium italian sausages (bump it up to hot if you like the heat!)
  • 20 bocconcini cheese balls 🙂

For the sauce – I always use my favourite drunken red sauce, but feel free to use your favourite marinara.

For the sauce:

  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1-2 stalks of celery diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 thai chili pepper – or other small hot pepper, finely minced
  • 1/2 a bottle of red wine – I like to use a cabernet sauvignon
  • 1 can of diced or whole tomatoes *you will be blending them up, so it doesn’t really matter
  • 2-3 tbsp of tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pat of butter for sautéing the vegetables

For the noodles:

  • 4 medium/largish  zucchini- spiralized
  • 1tsp salt
  • or your favourite pasta noodles 🙂

Make your favourite red sauce or follow these instructions for mine 🙂

Sauce

Add onion, celery and pat of butter to a thick bottomed pan you are making your sauce in. Cook onion and celery on medium low for at least 10-15 min. If you have the time to let your onion caramelize rather than just soften, it will only make your sauce better.

Add garlic and chili pepper to the onion and celery just before you add the wine. Give them a good stir around, but don’t let the garlic brown. Add a little bit less than half a bottle of the delicious wine you are using for this recipe. If you really feel like the need to measure here, that should be about 1 1/4 cup of wine, but I’ve never actually measured. You end up using half a 750mL bottle of wine. If you add all the wine here and then reduce, that totally works.  I usually reserve about 1/4 cup to add to the sauce later.  Let this bubble away for a while until it is reduced by a bit more than half. Add the can of tomatoes. Let this simmer away for 20 minutes, or as long as you like if you’ve got all day (in which case you will need to add some extra liquid to replace that lost in a long simmer).

Use an immersion blender to smooth out your sauce. Add remaining 1/4 cup of red wine (if you managed to reserve it) and 2-3 tbsp of tomato paste.

Meatballs

For meatballs, mix together ground beef and sausage. If you are using a good flavourful sausage, no other seasoning will be needed. Roll a smallish golf ball sized ball, then push an indent into it with the bocconcini, pull the meat around the cheese, give it a good roll and move on to the next one.

When you are finished rolling your meatballs, pop them in the 400F oven for about 25 minutes. Depending on the colour/seasoning of the sausage used, they may still look ‘pink’ but remember there’s really not that much meat wrapped around the ball of cheese!

Noodles

Spiralize your noodles (or prepare your favourite pasta). It will look like far more than you can possibly need, but they will shrink! Put zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt, mixing noodles around to distribute salt. Let them sit for 10-15 min. They will let out quite a lot of moisture in this time.

Just before your meatballs are finished, pop the zucchini in a bowl and then into the microwave. This time will depend on your microwave a bit- in mine (the smallest, cheapest microwave I could buy!) it takes about 5-6 minutes, but in my friend’s super power microwave it only takes about 2.5 min. You really just need them hot, don’t overcook them or they will lose their noodle like texture and turn to mush.

Plate noodles and top with sauce and a few meatballs.

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