Here is a guest post for you, my dear readers. This post is by Kate, who is a busy mom (like me) and one of my favourite mommy bloggers from This Place is Now a Home. Kate is not only a busy-working mom but she is also a passionate food lover like me! Without further adieu, here is Kate's guest post with her beautiful photos by her husband Benjamin. Stay tuned FTY readers for more posts by Kate in the near future. Thank you Kate for posting!

Hi everyone! My name is Kate from This Place is Now a Home. Usually I write about my 15 month old son's antics and being a working mom, but I was so excited when Nancy asked me to do a guest post about my other favorite thing in the world - FOOD. And cooking. And cooking food. For me, weeknight dinners need to be fast, healthy and delicious, and not require weird ingredients or all day prep. This recipe meets all of those needs and then some. Yum.

Noodles. Who can resist noodles?

Now you may be thinking Italian. Heaping bowls of spaghetti with bolognese or fettuccine alfredo. But you'd be wrong. At least in my noodle fantasy. I do love a good rich, cheesy, buttery pasta dish from time to time, but for a quick and healthy weeknight dinner I almost always go for an Asian noodle dish.

First things first, I'm not Asian. So my version of "Asian noodle dishes" are somewhat like Americanized Mexican Food. Not. Exactly. The. Real. Thing. But they are full of flavors like soy sauce, ginger, lime, honey and cilantro. I say "they" because although I cook an Asian noodle dish about once a week, it's never the same twice. That's the beauty of this concept. It's so versatile and easy to switch up based on what I have sitting in the 'fridge on a given night.

Noodles + Veggies + Sauce + Protein.



To start, many kinds of Asian noodles have a leg up on Italian pasta. Rice noodles are made with (duh) rice, and there are even some brown rice versions. Cellophane noodles are made from mung beans. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat (very healthy and not actually wheat at all!). Next, you can use just about any veggie. Chop it into sticks or bite-size pieces and saute it up. Frozen, fresh, whatever. Don't be scared to throw totally frozen veggies in a hot wok; it couldn't be easier. It's an awesome way to clean out that veggie drawer. Asian sauces are pretty easy to make from pantry staples (soy sauce, oil, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, peanut butter, etc.), and you pretty much can't go wrong. Just taste as you add stuff, and balance the oil with the acid. The protein can be an egg or two fried and tossed with the noodles (think fried rice-style), tofu, grilled chicken or marinated beef - whatever you like. It can even be a nice, big spoonful of peanut butter mixed into the sauce.

Don't know where to start? Try this one. It's chock full of veggies, both sliced up and in the (mind-bogglingly delicious) peanut sauce.

Weeknight Veggie-full Peanut Noodles

NOODLES
Udon noodles (Found in the Asian section of the grocery store. I used 2 out of 4 of the little rolls of dried noodles)

VEGGIES
1-2 Bok choy (I had intended to use baby bok choy and keep them somewhat in tact for a cute presentation...but I sent my husband to the store without explicit instructions to get the baby kind, so I chopped the big kind up into bite-sized pieces)

  • 1 red pepper, cut into matchsticks
  • 3 carrots, cut into matchsticks
  • A handful of snap peas
  • 3 scallions, greens and a little whites, sliced



SAUCE (inspired by Jack Bishop's Emerald Peanut Sauce from "A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen")
  • 3 cups packed baby spinach
  • 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar



Bring a pot of water to boil (like you are going to cook pasta). Once boiling, cook the noodles until a little al dente (slightly less than the full cooking time). When they are finished, strain them and run cold water over them so they stop cooking. Put them back in the pot with a little sesame oil so they don't stick together and set aside.

Put all of the sauce ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until smooth.



Heat sesame oil in a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, toss in your hardest vegetables (in this case, bok choy through snap peas, above). Saute until veggies are crisp-tender (cooked through but still with a little "bite" to them). Add in scallions and cook 2 minutes more.

Toss cooked veggies and sauce into the same pot with the waiting noodles.

Stir and enjoy :)





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TURKEY KIELBASA & BROCCOLI RABE CHEESE RAVIOLI TOSS

When I buy pre-packaged fresh ravioli from the grocery store I usually end up making either a ravioli bake or some type of tomato sauce, whether it be spicy or sweet. Really there is no real variation. I mean yes it tastes great! I mean who doesn't love a really well made basic tomato sauce but eventually ravioli would become boring for me. I saw broccoli rabe on sale a couple weeks back and decided to use this bitter vegetable in my ravioli dish. To mask that bitter flavour I paired it with a delicious smokey turkey kielbasa sausage. With the cheesy filling in the ravioli the flavours married beautifully! A very simple and rustic dish that can be served to guests! Sprinkle a good amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and you've got dinner in a pinch. Love that!

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:
  • 1 pkg of fresh cheese ravioli (or use your favourite)
  • 2-3 cups of broccoli rabe, chopped (discard stems)
  • 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • pinch of chili flakes
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup turkey kielbasa sausage, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • Freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (to serve on top)

1. Put on a large pot of boiling water, salt it. Open the package of fresh ravioli and put it aside for now. Take the chopped up broccoli rabe and place it into the boiling water to blanche slightly for a few minutes. This will help the broccoli rabe to be less bitter tasting.

2. Using a fine mesh strainer, take out the cooked broccoli rabe and place it into a bowl. In a few minutes, add in the fresh ravioli into the boiling water, and cook as per package instructions.

3. Preheat a large shallow skillet on medium high heat, drizzle 3-4 table of good quality extra virgin olive oil. Saute the garlic, minced shallot, chili flakes, and kielbasa sausage for about 5 minutes. Let the sausage render some of it's fat, and let it crisp up slightly.

4. Zest and juice the lemon at this point, and stir in the cooked broccoli rabe. Pour in the chicken stock and let the flavours cook together for a minute, then quickly add in the cooked ravioli. Toss all of the ingredients together to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste at this point. Serve immediately with tons of freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.


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HERBY TUNA & VEGGIE SPAGHETTI

Here is a recipe that I came up with one night when I had literally nooooo idea what to make! I'm sure you all know what I mean. There are just days you look and look and look in the pantry/fridge and wonder what in the world can I make, and what in the world do I feel like eating??? On those particular nights I tend to grab things that are quick and easy i.e. like canned tuna. Although a tuna sandwich is good in it's own way I like to experiment in my kitchen and see what I can come up with. I added a lot of herby notes in this dish so that the fishy taste of the tuna would be masked a bit. The surprise ingredients here are ketchup and teriyaki. I wanted to use similar flavour notes as pad thai for this dish. This was a crowd pleaser that night! This was a dish that I knew I had to share with my readers. Tuna lovers take a look at this!

Serves 2

Ingredients:
  • spaghetti (about 205g) - That is about half a small pkg
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, use the top ruffage herby part as well
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • pinch of chili flakes
  • 1 zucchini, chopped slightly thick
  • 1 head broccoli, florets only
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 2 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp teriyaki sauce
  • 1 can (170g) chunky tuna, packed in water or oil - drained
  • large handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • crumbled feta cheese (to serve on top)

1. Put on a pot of boiling water and cook the spaghetti, following the package instructions. Cook until al dente. Preheat a large shallow skillet on medium high heat. Add in the oil, onion, celery, garlic, and chili flakes. Saute for 3 minutes.

2. Then add in the chopped zucchini, broccoli florets, and chopped tomato. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, until the tomato starts to melt into the sauce. Drizzle in the ketchup and teriyaki sauce and stir to cover the veggies. Add in the chunked tuna, and break it up using your wooden spoon. Let the tuna heat through.

3. Once the veggies are cooked to tender-crisp and the sauce starts to come together; quickly add in the cooked spaghetti and the chopped herbs. Toss using tongs to coat the spaghetti. Add a few tablespoons of water or stock if you find the pasta a bit dry. Serve immediately with crumbled feta on top and enjoy!


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SWEET & SPICY MINT-GINGER-SOY SALMON

My hubby and I are huge fans of salmon. Not only is it a fish that is packed full of nutrience but it's also a fish that actually has some flavour! There are so many types of "white" coloured fish that are really bland in flavour, but salmon tastes great no matter how you cook it (at least to me). Here is a recipe that I came up with using only a select few ingredients that are each packed full of flavour. I know that adding mint sounds unusual but it really helps to give it a slightly sweet herby flavour, and as for the ginger well it of course it gives it that spicy kick that I love! So without further adieu, here is a simple weeknight salmon recipe for you all to enjoy!

Makes 4 small salmon fillets

Ingredients:
  • 4 salmon fillets (not too thick)
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated (add another tsp if you like it spicy)
  • 1-2 tsp yellow mustard
  • 3 tbsp real maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce (low-sodium)
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 tbsp chicken or fish stock

1. Take a medium non-stick skillet and place in the salmon fillets. They should not be overlapping. On top of the salmon fillets, add in the oil, salt, pepper, grated ginger, mustard, maple syrup, soy sauce, lemon juice, fresh mint, and stock.

2. Turn on the heat to medium high and let the fish cook for a good 15 minutes; with the lid on. Turn the heat down to a low simmer after 8-10 minutes. The fish should be moist and fully cooked through, and the sauce should've come together nicely. Slightly thick and shiny. Serve immediately with potatoes or rice and steamed veggies.

Cook's Tip: If you find the sauce disappearing while cooking because maybe the temp is too high on your burner, than go ahead and add another tablespoon or two of stock.



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OATMEAL BLUEBERRY MUFFIN TOPS

Being a parent of a little toddler, I have become an avid reader of anything parent-child related. I just read really out of curiousity and if I learn a thing or two great! I don't necessarily take everything at face value, but the one section I do pay close attention to in parent magazines is definitely the food-recipe section. They usually have great nutritional ideas for kids, and I am one person that will try it and see if my kid will like. If it brings a smile to her face, and I get a mouth opened wide for the next bite I know it's clearly a winner! Hey we all know, kids will never open their mouths for something that they hate. This recipe is one of those "winner" recipes. Now although this recipe is geared towards kids I think it's a fantastic easy recipe for those adults that are always on the go in the morning. Grab a glass of milk (or coffee in my case hehe) and have a couple of these and you're ready for the day. My husband's co-workers certainly liked! So here it is folks, give these a try today!

Adapted from the Oatmeal Muffin Tops recipe in the ParentsCanada Magazine (August/September 2011 issue)

Makes about 18 muffin tops

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F

Baking time: 14-16 minutes

Ingredients:
  • 1-1/2 cups old fashioned large flake oats
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp canola oil or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (OR 1/2 cup raisins)

1. In a large bowl, stir together the oats, buttermilk, and milk and let it sit for an hour. You can also do this ahead of time, and cover and refrigerate overnight. Preheat the oven to 350 F, and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In the same bowl, add in the egg, brown sugar, butter, oil and vanilla extract to the oat mixture. Stir until just combined. Make sure not to overmix.

3. In a small bowl, combine the two flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Then add it to the oat mixture and stir until almost combined. Add in the berries or raisins and stir until just combined.

4. Drop the muffin batter in large spoonfuls (or use an ice cream scoop for equal measurement) onto the lined baking sheet. Allow plenty of space between them to spread while baking. Place it into the oven and bake for 14-16 minutes, until golden and slightly springy to the touch. Enjoy warm or cooled to room temp.

Cook's Tip: Since there are fresh berries in the muffin tops, these won't last long! So I recommend storing these in an airtight container for no more than 2-3 days. You can place it into the fridge and reheat slightly to serve warm.




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