cheese noodles & roast broccoli

This is usually how the conversation with myself goes as I'm driving home:

"Uggh...I don't know what to make for dinner.  I can't remember what's in the fridge....Was there a plan for tonight?  No, probably not.  Sooo, what can I make that's easy, fast and that Hannah will probably eat?....Noodles, yes, she'll probably eat noodles....With what?  Ummm, sauce?  And we need some sort of veggie.  She likes broccoli.  I think there's some in the fridge.  Ok, broccoli, noodles and sauce....Protein?  I'll figure that out when I get home."

So that's basically how I arrived at cheese noodles with roasted broccoli and sliced porchetta (deli meat ham).  This meal came together so quickly - a win in my book!  While the pasta was cooking I made the sauce and roasted the broccoli and everything was ready at roughly the same time.  Making your own cheese sauce is super easy, and then you know exactly whats in it (rather than using something like Cheese Whiz).  I looove roasted veggies - I think it's the texture variation that roasting gives; some tender parts, some crispy parts.  Anyhow, I'd take roasted broccoli over steamed broccoli almost any day, so that's why I decided to roast it this time.  I had some porchetta from the Italian Centre in the fridge and I figured that broccoli, ham and cheese was a good combo, so I sliced it up and added it on top.   

Cheese Sauce

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp dry mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (I used whole milk)
  • 1 cup grated cheese

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the flour and spices and stir to combine.  Gradually pour in the milk, whisking until no lumps remain.  Turn the heat down to low and cook, stirring frequently, until the sauce is smooth and thick.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the grated cheese.  Serve immediately.  Leftover cheese sauce freezes nicely in a Ziploc bag.  

Roasted Broccoli

  • 1 head broccoli, cut into large florettes
  • drizzle of olive oil (about 2 tbsp)
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Toss broccoli with olive oil and lemon juice either in a large bowl, or directly on a baking sheet (like I do).  Sprinkle with salt & pepper.  Roast for 25-30 minutes, or until the edges start to get brown and crispy.  

slow cooker pork tacos

Happy Cinco de Mayo!  What better way to celebrate than a round of tacos and margaritas for dinner - yum!  Really, I would use any excuse to eat tacos - they're one of my favourite foods.  

This is a super easy meal.  You could even prepare the pork the night before, then just get it going in the morning before you head out for the day.  If your pork loin is bigger than you need, no worries - the cooked meat freezes beautifully!  

Slow Cooker Pork Tacos

  • Sorry, there aren't any specific measurements for this one - just mix the spices together according to your taste and what you have on hand. 
  • pork loin
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • garlic powder
  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Mix together the spices in a small bowl.  Cut the pork loin into 4 pieces, then rub the spices all over the meat.  Place into the slow cooker.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours.  Use two forks to shred the pork.  At this point you can package some up for the freezer.  

When you're ready to make tacos heat up 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over high heat.  Put the pork into the heated pan.  Let it cook on one side for a few minutes before flipping it over so that it gets little crispy, browned bits on it.  

Serve on warmed corn or flour tortillas.  Top however you like!  (I like a bit of pico de gallo and a drizzle of Valentina)

thai chicken salad

This salad is sooo easy and sooo delicious - I'm going to be making it all summer long!  The flavours are crisp and bright.  The dressing is the perfect blend of spicy, sweet, savoury and salty.  This one definitely brings back strong memories of Thailand - the combo of toasted peanuts, mint and fish sauce I think.  Anyhow - this is definitely one to add to your meal plan, you won't regret it!

Thai Chicken Salad

  • 1 bag of broccoli slaw (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup cucumber, sliced into matchsticks
  • 2 cups baby bok choy, chopped
  • 1 red chili pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped mint
  • 1/2 cup toasted peanuts
  • 2-3 chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • juice from 2 limes
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes 

Start by cooking the chicken breasts however you like (pan fried, grilled, roasted, etc.).  While the chicken is cooking prep the salad.  Add the broccoli slaw, cucumber, baby bok choy, chili pepper, mint and toasted peanuts in a large bowl and toss together.  Add all of the remain salad dressing ingredients together into a small jar or container with a lid.  Give it a shake to mix it up, then pour over the salad and toss to combine.  Once the chicken is cooked allow it to rest for a minute or two, then slice it against the grain.  Serve the chicken on top of the salad and voilà!  Dinner is ready!

Recipe adapted from Jo Cooks

chicken mushroom spaghetti & a giveaway!

Did you see my last post about Catelli's new ancient grains pasta?  I was given a few boxes to take home with me, so I tried some out as soon as I could.  Yep, still delicious.  

I decided to make a chicken and mushroom spaghetti inspired by a dish my mom used to cook when I was a kid.  She used to use cream of mushroom soup with either chicken or pork chops and serve it with noodles or rice.  Straight up comfort food for me :)

Keep scrolling down past the recipe to find a Catelli pasta giveaway!

Chicken Mushroom Spaghetti

  • 1/2 box Catelli Ancient Grains Spaghetti
  • 2-3 chicken breasts
  • salt & pepper
  • 1-2 cups shitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 2-3 cups white mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp fresh or dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup reduced-fat cream cheese
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Put on a large pot of generously salted water.  While it's coming up to a boil, start preparing the chicken and mushrooms.  

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat.  Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt & pepper.  Sear the chicken breasts for 5 minutes each side, so they get a good golden colour.  After the chicken is seared remove it from the pan.  Don't worry if they're not cooked all the way through yet - they go back in the pan later.  

Get the pasta cooking, then start on the mushrooms.  Add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, then add the mushrooms, shallot, garlic and thyme.  Saute for a few minutes, then deglaze the pan with the chicken stock and continue cooking until the mushrooms are softened.  Add in the cream cheese and stir until it melts into the mushrooms.  Season with salt & pepper to taste.  Put the chicken breasts back in the pan, cover and turn the heat to low and continue cooking for 5 minutes.  

Drain the pasta - reserving a bit of the cooking water in case the sauce is too thick.  Toss the spaghetti with the mushroom sauce immediately, sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve.  

This recipe is Hannah approved

Win a year's supply of Catelli pasta!  

Here's what you need to do:  Post a comment on this post telling me what your favourite pasta dish is, then enter the contest through Rafflecopter.  The contest closes on April 11, 2015. 

Post update (April 12):  The contest is now closed.  Thank so much to all who participated, I loved reading through your favourite pasta dishes!  The winner was Sandra M.  - I hope you enjoy lots and lots of delicious pasta Sandra!

catelli ancient grains pasta & chef lynn crawford

Last week I was lucky enough to attend a cooking event hosted by Catelli & Chef Lynn Crawford.  The event was to introduce Catelli's new line: Healthy Harvest Ancient Grains.  The pasta contains 100% Canadian whole wheat, quinoa, amaranth, teff, sorghum and millet.  Have you tried all of these grains before?  I hadn't!  

Chef Crawford told us that she was excited to pair up with Catelli because it's what she uses at home and in her Toronto restaurant, Ruby Watchco.  I'd loooove to visit her restaurant sometime.  

Chef Crawford was great!  She was hilariously funny, easy going and totally approachable.  Hanging out with her for the evening was like stepping into an episode of 'Pitchin' In'.  She brought a few of the participants up the front to help her cook and plate.  She had my friend Megan (check out her blog here) make pesto in the amount of time it took to cook the pasta al dente and there was an impromptu 'Chopped Canada' plating challenge for a fellow blogger.  

Shaking the salad dressing to the tune of taylor swift (complete with dance moves)

Chef Crawford prepared pasta for us in several ways.  First we enjoyed a duo of rotini with marinara sauce and spaghetti with basil pesto.  Sooo good!  I finished every last bite, which shows that healthy eating doesn't have to be boring - Catelli's Ancient Grains pasta tastes great and delivers a ton of nutritional benefits.  In fact, I liked the taste and texture better than regular whole wheat pasta.  This Ancient Grains pasta will be my new go-to choice for delicious and healthy dinners (or lunches... or any other time I need some pasta!)

After Chef Crawford's cooking demo we moved into smaller groups to try our hands at preparing 'Chilled Noodle Salad with Ginger Wasabi Dressing' using Ancient Grains Spaghettini.  It had a ton of fresh, crunchy vegetables and the noodles held up really well to the zippy dressing.  I'll definitely be making this one again - in fact I'm already imagining enjoying this tasty salad by the bowlful for summer evening dinners on the patio.   

Chilled Noodle Salad with Ginger Wasabi Dressing

  • 1 pkg Catelli Ancient Grains Spaghettini
  • 2 cups snowpeas, blanced in hot water, then thinly sliced on a diagonal
  • 1 cup shelled edamame beans
  • 1 cup red pepper, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 small long english cucumber, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups napa cabbage, finely shredded
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 3 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp fresh grated ginger
  • wasabi to taste
  • 1 ripe avocado, sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 tbsp black sesame seeds

Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package.  Rinse with cold water and drain well.  Toss with a few tbsp of canola oil and set aside.  While the pasta is cooking, prepare all the vegetables.  Add the rice vinegar, canola oil, soy sauce, lemon zest & juice, brown sugar, sesame oil, ginger and wasabi into a jar with a lid (or something similar).  Shake everything together until mixed well.  (According to Chef Crawford shaking is better than mixing, especially if you're dancing at the same time).  Toss the salad dressing with all of the prepared vegetables.  Put into a large serving bowl and top with avocado slices, cilantro leaves and black sesame seeds.  

The event was held at Get Cooking.  Their kitchen is beautiful!  All of the staff were so friendly and helpful.  Get Cooking prepared several appetizers for us and everything was super tasty.  I loved the chickpea pancake with kale on top and the beet macaron with hummus filling.  This was the first time I had heard of Get Cooking, but I'd love to go back and take one of their cooking classes some time.  

I had a wonderful evening cooking, laughing and meeting fellow bloggers.  Big, big thank yous to the following: Catelli, Chef Lynn Crawford, Gail Bergman PR and Get Cooking.