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.  

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

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.  

roast chicken with sweet potatoes and chickpeas

I'm all about easy dinners these days and this one definitely fits the bill.  All it takes is tossing all of the ingredients together, spreading them on a baking sheet, then popping it in the oven.  Easy-peasy!  This made more than enough for the three of us for dinner + leftovers.  Hannah LOVED the chickpeas and would pick them out first :)  On top of the veggies the chicken developed yummy, crispy skin while underneath the sweet potatoes developed a wonderful flavour and became buttery soft and the onions just melted.  I'll be making this one again for sure.  

Roast Chicken with Sweet Potatoes and Chickpeas

  • 4 lbs bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (about 8 pieces)
  • 2 medium sized sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 large red onion, cut into wedges
  • 1 15oz can chickpeas
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 3-5 tbsp olive oil (I found I needed 5 tbsp in order to coat everything, but you could use less)
  • 2 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 400F.  Toss chicken pieces, sweet potato, onion, chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, paprika, cumin seeds, salt & pepper together in a large bowl.  Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet, placing the chicken on top of the veggies - skin side up.  Roast until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through, 50-70 minutes. 

Adapted from Real Simple Magazine

crispy roasted pumpkin seeds

So, we had quite a few pumpkins this year... so many, in fact, that we ran out of time to carve all of them!  But with the six we did manage to turn into jack-o'lanterns I collected a big bowl full of pumpkin seeds.  To me, roasted pumpkin seeds are just part of Halloween - I have lots of great memories of carving pumpkins, squishing my hands around in the 'guts' and my mom roasting the seeds.  My mom's standard recipe was a sprinkle of seasoning salt.  Then my sister and I would sit and happily munch on our bowl of pumpkin seeds while watching the Halloween classics like Disney's Halloween Treat, The Great Pumpkin or Hocus Pocus (I still watch those every year).

I always roast my pumpkin seeds too, but I don't really have a standardized method - a few of my girlfriends asked me for my recipe this year, and I realized I sounded a bit vague..."roast them at 250 or 300F for, oh, I don't know, like an hour..."  I had another friend tell me that she's always disappointed with how her's turn out - still kind of chewy in the middle.  So I decided that this year I would pay more attention, and also work on making sure the seeds turned out nice and crispy.  So here's my method (just a heads up, this way will take two days):

Crispy Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Separate as many seeds as you can from the pumpkin 'guts' and put them in a large colander.  Rinse the seeds under cold water as you swish them around to clean them off.  Dump them out onto a rimmed cookie sheet and spread them around evenly.  Let them dry out for a day - this helps make crispier seeds, because some of the moisture evaporates before you put them in the oven .  When you're ready to roast the seeds, preheat the oven to 275 F.  Drizzle a tablespoon or two of olive oil over the seeds (depending on how many you have) and sprinkle them with sea salt, then toss or stir them around to coat.  Spread them on cookie sheets in a single(ish) layer.  Bake for 45-60 minutes, stirring the seeds around after about 30 minutes.  They're done when the seeds look lightly golden brown.  I'm not exactly sure how long these keep for... I usually leave them in a bowl on the counter and they disappear in about a week :)

I hope you had a spooktacular Halloween!