Lentil Ragu with Pasta

lentil ragu

I have been meaning to make a meaty tomato sauce for pasta for ages and ages. I knew I wanted to use lentils but I just wasn’t inspired on how to do it, until I saw this recipe on CBC for red lentil ragu. Theirs isn’t quite what I had in mind though – I wanted pasta, not potatoes as the starch, and I wanted it to be a bit more tomato-y than their proportions allowed. So after a few tweaks, voila! I really like using leeks instead of onions, they make the flavour more subtle.

This ended up being just what I had in mind: vegan but also a perfect match for a little cheese, pasta but more filling. It would also be tasty served with a side of mashed potatoes as almost a deconstructed shepard’s pie.

I served it on pasta with some cheese on top for myself, but oddly my toddler who usually exclusively eats cheese and pasta just ate the ragu on its own, frantically signing “more” after every bite! You just never know what he’ll love.

lentil ragu

Lentil Ragu with Pasta

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large leek, sliced and well rinsed (I used three small ones)
  • 1 carrot, minced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 can (5.5 oz) tomato paste
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups vegetable stock (or water and a 1/2 bouillon cube or 1 tsp better than bouillon)
  • 2 cups dry red lentils
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
  • pepper
  • to serve: pasta and parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add leeks and carrot and cook for a few minutes. Then add the garlic and cook until the leeks have softened. Add tomato paste, canned tomatoes, 3 cups of water, lentils and bouillon. Simmer for 20-30 minutes, until lentils are soft. You may need to add a little more water as it cooks off, just add it 1/2 cup at a time.

Cook your pasta according to package directions, then top your bowl of pasta with a big scoop of ragu and cheese.

Cherry Pecan Granola

cherry pecan granola

It’s funny to be posting another granola recipe when a granola was my first post ever! This is basically the same recipe but with two notable differences: different add ins and it only yields half as much. I like my granola really fresh, and when it’s so easy to make, why not just make smaller batches more often?

My grocery store recently re-added a bulk section which is so perfect for recipes like this. Now I just just buy 1 cup at a time, instead of ending up with a giant supply of dried fruit that I would never use! I picked cherries and pecans just because those are two of my favourite add ins, but as I was digging the vanilla out of my spices, I looked longingly at the pumpkin pie spice. Another time!
cherry pecan granola

Cherry Pecan Granola

  • 1 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (or unsweetened shredded coconut)
  • 1 cup pecan pieces
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350. Mix the oats, coconut, peans and flax seeds in a large bowl. Melt the butter and add the maple syrup, vanilla and salt to it.

Put the oat mixture into a large glass baking dish – I used a lasagna dish. Pour the melted butter mixture over and mix well. Place in the preheated oven, and bake for 7 minutes, then stir. Bake for 8 minutes, then stir and add any fruit mix ins – cherries, apples or raisins. This stops the fruit from getting too dry. Bake for an additional 10 minutes, then remove from the oven, stir and let cool.

Store in an airtight container for up to a week.

This entry was posted in recipes.

Toddler-Approved Baked Tofu

baked tofu
No one warned me about how frustrating feeding babies and toddlers would be. Sure, it’s not the most frustrating part of babies (that would be the lack of sleep, for sure), but food is basically my love language. Every time my son throws all the wonderful food I’ve made him on the floor, I feel like he’s rejecting me and my pasta/casserole/zuchini chips too.

And add in the fact that his daycare wants me to send a meat alternative everyday and siiiigh I’m already tired of feeding him and I’m going to be doing it for the next 18+ years. Blerg.

But hey, at least I’ve found a form of tofu that he’ll eat. This is a recipe that my mom used to make all the time when I was a kid, but I hated it at the time. I blame the fact that she used nutritional yeast as the breading. Even now as an adult, I like nutritional yeast as a flavouring in things, but I can’t have it as the sole flavouring. So instead I used panko breadcrumbs and all my favourite spices. It ends up crispy on the outside and the insides are still soft enough for someone with only 8 teeth to chew.

Toddler-Approved Baked Tofu

  • one block of extra firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup tamari
  • 2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • pinches of black pepper and smoked paprika

Preheat your oven to 400°. Cut the tofu into tiny cubes – the tinier the better for more crispy surface area!

Mix up the breading by stirring the breadcrumbs and spices together in a bowl.

Take two tupperware containers with lids. Into one, pour the tamari. Place one third of the tofu into the tamari container, close the lid and gently shake to coat. Now move the tofu into the other container and add one third of the breadcrumbs and toss to coat. Lay the coated tofu on an oiled baking pan. Repeat with remaining tofu.

Place in the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes and checking for doneness after 15. You want the tofu to be crispy but not dried out at all. Serve on it’s own or use as a topping for salad!

baked tofu

Succotash (aka the perfect way to use up a CSA haul)

When I told Will I was making succotash for dinner, he was like, “Is that like sufferin’ succotash?” I’d honestly never heard that phrase, so apparently I didn’t watch as much Looney Toons as he did. This must be Sylvester the Cat’s way of swearing, like my friend who adorably calls people Timbits instead of dumb (so Canadian).

Oh right, so succotash! I first learned about its existence by searching Pinterest for something that used both corn and beans. My parents run a CSA (shout out to Sunflower Farm CSA!) so I get weekly deliveries of all their beautiful organic produce. But like most people in CSAs, I’m constantly struggling to just use all the veggies up! The best dishes are the ones where you can use three or four veggies in one. Usually I would just make soup, but since we’ve been in a heat wave since mid-July, that’s just not appealing.

I’ve made this twice now and with completely different combinations of veggies and both times it’s been so delicious that we both ate seconds (…I may have also eaten thirds). The only essentials are the corn and beans. Here I used green beans, but the more traditional bean to use is lima beans. Then to the corn and beans you can also add red or green peppers, celery and zucchini or other squash.

I served this with some crispy baked tofu breaded with cheese crackers – I’ll post that recipes if I can perfect it so the crumbs stay on better!

Sweet Summery Succotash

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 1 red or green pepper, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced (optional)
  • 1 large zucchini, quartered lengthwise and then sliced thinly (optional)
  • 3 ears of corn peeled and kernels cut off (I use this technique)
  • 2 cups of green beans, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

If you are using zucchini or another summer squash, begin by sautéing it in a little butter over medium heat until it softens and begins to brown. Once cooked, transfer it to a bowl and set aside.

Now melt 1 tbsp of the butter in a large frying pan. Add the diced onions and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the garlic, pepper and celery and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Now add the corn and beans, as well as the cream, remaining butter and spices. Start with the smaller amount of smoked paprika and taste it before adding more – it can quickly overwhelm a dish! Cook for 5-10 more minutes, stirring frequently. Test the beans for doneness – they should be sweet and crisp but not raw. Enjoy!

Chickpea and Carrot Salad

Why hello, internet. I really didn’t mean to abandon you for, oh, a year and a half. I had this baby, see, and he took up a lot of my time. After a year I am slowwwwly making my way back to my old self. And I made this salad today and thought the internet might like it.

chickpea and carrot salad

There’s only one picture, because that’s all I have time for these days. And only 5 ingredients. It’s inspired by this orangette salad which used to be my favourite thing to pack for lunch. It’s quick, so if you give yourself 15 minutes the evening before, you can have a filling tasty salad the next day.

Chickpea and Carrot Salad

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • pinch of salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and chill until ready to eat!

Kale & Mozzarella Pasta Bake

Oh February, I will be so glad to see you go. How can one survive in a city that has seen record breaking cold for the month? From conversations with my husband and my coworkers, I know that even the cold-weather-lovers amongst us have started to feel bogged down by the sheer amount of cold weather alerts and blizzards we’ve had this month. Rationally, I know spring will be here soon. But irrationally, I think perhaps I should just give into the cold and lay down on a snowbank. Or start hibernating for the last few weeks of cold.

kale pasta bake
But since we’re all expected to continue working and paying our bills and feeding our families, maybe we just need to turn to cozier meals? I’ve made my (vegetarian) beefy macaroni and cheese more times than I can count recently. And we got a little sick of regular mac and cheese so I decided to make a less dairy heavy, more veggie heavy dish. This bake is vaguely inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s mushroom and marsala pasta bake. But Will and I both hate mushrooms so those were out. And I’m not drinking right now (being knocked up, and all) so I wasn’t about to open a bottle of wine just for one dish. So mostly I was just took pasta + mozzarella + baked until crispy and ran with it.

kale pasta bake

Curly kale works best for this because the stuff on top will crisp up nicely, much like kale chips. I asked Will to buy fresh mozzarella but instead he bought just the round stuff from the deli case, which actually worked a lot better than fresh would – what a smart husband!

kale pasta bake

Kale & Mozzarella Pasta Bake
2 cups of dried pasta – whichever shape you like, I used rotini
1 bunch of kale – curly works bets for this since the edges get very crispy in the oven!
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups vegetable broth (or 2 cups of water and 1 tsp better than bouillon or 1/2 a bouillon cube)
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1 cup of diced mozzarella
1 cup of grated parmesan
Preheat oven to 350.
Begin by cooking your pasta. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add your pasta. Cook according to package directions, but drain when it’s still slightly before al dente – it will cook more in the oven. Leave your draining pasta in the colander and wipe out your pot to make the broth.
Remove the spines of your kale, and pull into bite sized pieces. Rinse well. Put 1 tbsp of the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and cook the kale until slightly wilted. DOn’t worry too much about draining the kale, this will help it wilt down faster!
Heat the remaining olive oil in the wiped out pan and add the onion. Cook over medium heat for 5 – 10 minutes, or until the onions have softened and are starting to caramelize. Add the flour and stir well. Then add the broth/water and bouillon and the spices. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly.
Mix the drained pasta, wilted kale, mozzarella and 1/2 the parmesan in a baking dish. Pour the sauce over and top with remaining cheese. Bake for 25 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the top is crispy.

Happy New Years! (and cheesy broccoli baked potatoes)

cheesy broc potatoes

Hooray, we made it to 2015! To celebrate, I baked some potatoes!

cheesy broc potatoes
Also I made Will take a picture of me and my creation because I realized that with all my cooking, there are zero pictures of me with food. That needed immediate fixing, naturally.

How were/are your holidays? Did you also get sucker punched by how busy and crazy December was? It’s pretty obvious I did because I meant to post about a dozen different recipes – my favourite Christmas cookies, the dip I made for my work Christmas potluck, my mom’s two mixes that she gifts – and then suddenly it’s December 31st and I didn’t post any of them!

Oh well. There’s always next year.

And since next year is mere hours away, I decided we needed something filling for dinner before we drink some bubbly (and what a bubbly it will be, as we have a bottle of Hinterland’s Ancestral 2014 that we picked up in Prince Edward County on our honeymoon!). Something starchy and cheesy but with enough green vegetables to make it feel like it confirms to any healthy eating resolutions one might be considering.

cheesy broc potatoes
Will choose to keep his potatoes and broccoli separate, which is a fair choice. I just can’t get enough veggies on veggies. It’s why vegetarianism works so well for me.

Cheesy Broccoli Baked Potatoes

(shamelessly stolen from Wendy’s except mine doesn’t contain anything unpronounceable!)

  • 4 medium potatoes about 2 potatoes per person)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1.5 cup 2% milk
  • 1 cup old cheddar cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper

To start, preheat your oven to 375. Scrub your potatoes under running water, dry and then rub all over with a few drops of olive oil. Pierce each potato a few times with a fork and place in the oven. Bake for around an hour, or until the potato gives way easily when squeezed (with an oven-mitted hand, of course!)

Melt butter over medium low in a small saucepan. Once melted, add the flour and whisk well. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly. Let the sauce cook for a few minutes until it begins to thicken – it will nicely coat the back of a spoon when it’s ready! Add the grated cheese and stir until the cheese is fully melted and the sauce has a smooth consistency. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Take the pot off the heat and set aside, covered, while you finish the other components.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil and steam the broccoli until tender.

Once the potatoes are done, slice x’s into the tops and squeeze them to open them up. Top with broccoli, cheese sauce, grated cheese and black pepper. Enjoy!

Vegetarian Lentil Taco Meat

veggie taco meat
Last night was our Taco Tuesday… on a Monday. Do people still do Taco Tuesdays? I think my husband (!) would love it if we actually religiously followed Taco Tuesday because his dinner requests are always either Mexican food or pizza. Perhaps that is clear from the fact that at least half of my recipes are Mexican-inspired in some way. As a bonus, this meal also counts for Meatless Mondays, so you could eat it TWO days in a row. That’s the dream.

Speaking of my husband (!), we’ve been married for over a week now and it’s still very thrilling to hear other people use those titles. I’ll be honest with you though, I’ve been calling him my husband to strangers for a few months now to practice. Just like, the lady at the post office – “Oh, this package is for my husband, can I pick it up instead?” But um, that’s not actually a new habit of mine. In my single days, I would refer to people who I was barely dating as my boyfriend to random people – baristas, hair dressers, etc. I guess I thought I might never use the term for real, so I wanted to know what it felt like. So now being legally allowed to call Will my husband, so weird!

veggie taco meat
Other than the new title though, not much else has changed in our life, which is good. We still spend a lot of time watching standup comedians on Netflix. The other night we watched Chelsea Peretti, who kept saying things that were eerily close to how I feel. Like, she talked about how much she hates eating in front of people, and that her dream eating situation is just her with a buffet, in a ditch, no one around. Yes. I hate eating in front of people, especially messy food. These tacos are not for eating in front of other people. They are for eating in front of your husband, who cannot judge you (pretty sure that was in the vows at some point).

veggie taco meat
Vegetarian Lentil Taco Meat

Lentils are amazing, right? They have like, 18 grams of protein per cup and also quick pretty quick. Cooked this way they almost have a refried beans texture. And come on, with tacos, do you really care what’s in the filling? Tacos are mainly an excuse to eat as much shredded cheese as humanly possible.

  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 cup red lentils (brown would be more beef-like but also take longer to cook)
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

Taco fixings: hard or soft taco shells, shredded romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, salsa, cubed avocado, sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, etc.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat for a few minutes, then add the minced onion. Cook for around 5 minutes, stirring often, until the onions have softened. Add the lentils, all the spices except the salt and 1 cup of water. Bring to a boil at high heat then turn down to medium and shimmer. Once the water has been absorbed, add another cup. Continue cooking for around 20 minutes, stirring and testing for softness occasionally. While the lentils are cooking, prep your toppings and heat up your shells. Once the lentils are soft and all the water has cooked out, add salt to taste and remove from heat. Scoop into a bowl and serve alongside any other desired toppings and some heated taco shells.

Pasta with Blue Cheese and Grapes

Hey there! So what have you guys been up to lately?

Me? Well, I got married.

blue cheese pasta

(photo credit: Flashing Lights Photo + Design)

So more on all that at a later date. Today I want to talk about my family.

First, is it weird that it took me until a few months ago to realize how good I had it as a kid? I don’t mean in terms of like, athletic ability or popularity or anything (mainly because those were two things I was lacking in). I mean in terms of my family.

A few months ago my mom and I were talking to a neighbour, and she mentioned how often it was just the four of us growing up. We didn’t always have extended family close by, so the majority of time in my youth, it was just my mom, my dad, my sister and me. Until she said that, it had never occurred to me how much time we had spent together. And we were a great little foursome! We genuinely liked each other’s company. I remember laughing a lot (mainly at my dad). And we always had a lot of adult conversations – about the news or politics or the world around us.

So we were a family that was very rarely apart. And because my parents ran their own business, we were often invited to business lunches. And that’s how I discovered this pasta!

blue cheese pasta

I’ve only ever found this pasta at Vittoria Trattoria in Ottawa’s Byward Market, which is a tragedy because it’s so delicious! The grapes might seem like a weird addition to pasta, but if you add them to the drained pasta and let them warm up, they lend this wonderful texture and sweetness that cuts some of that blue cheese zip. Their dish is a little fancier than mine: gorgonzola instead of the danish blue I picked up at Loblaws, stuffed pasta instead of radiatori. But in my defence, pasta that looks like tiny radiators is perfect for this because it catches so much of the sauce!

blue cheese pasta

Pasta with Blue Cheese Sauce and Red Grapes

For the cheese sauce:

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 3.5 oz crumbled blue cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups red grapes, washed well and halved
  • 2 cups dry pasta

Start by bringing a pot of salted water to a boil and cooking the pasta according to package directions. Once the pasta is cooked, drain and put back in the pot, adding the grapes to warm them slightly.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and cook until fully combined. Whisk in the milk and cook until thickened, about five minutes. Once the sauce has thickened, add the cheese and salt and pepper. Taste for seasoning (I added a tiny bit more cheese at this point as I wanted a zippier taste!). Pour the sauce over the pasta and grapes and enjoy!

Broccoli, Butternut Squash and Cheesy Rice Casserole

Broccoli, cheese and rice casserole

I’m always in danger of turning this blog into a Smitten Kitchen appreciation blog. I swear, all my favourite recipes have come from her. Like, I’ve posted her brownie recipe here already – both as peanut butter brownies and as two bite brownies!

Broccoli, cheese and rice casserole

Oh wait, unrelated story coming up: I left my veggie scrap bowl on the counter while we ate dinner and Will went into the kitchen (likely to get more wine) and went, “Hey, did you forget the salad in here?” No dear, that’s just my bowl full of carrot stems, squash peels and broccoli leaves. But nice to know my garbage looks appetizing, right?

Broccoli, cheese and rice casserole

As I was saying, pretty much everything Deb posts is gold to me, and this broccoli, cheese and wild rice casserole was no exception. It was like the much classier version of the processed cheddar and broccoli rice I’d had before. The wild rice adds a nice texture to it. And it’s a very filling dish, so while it could be a side dish, we usually eat it as a main, maybe with another veggie as a side (this time I made roasted carrots!).

Broccoli, cheese and rice casserole

I also added some cubed and roasted butternut squash to it, to really boast the veggie content. Squash tastes delicious with the cheddar sauce. And even if you’re not a huge fan out it, this is a great way to sneak it in!

Broccoli, cheese and rice casserole

Broccoli, Squash and Cheesy Rice Casserole

  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 tbsp and 1 tsp butter, divided
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 cup rice (usually I use a mix of wild rice and brown but I only had 1/2 cup of that so I stretched it with basmati! Wild rice tastes better, don’t be like me)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large head broccoli, florets separated, and stems peeled and diced
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup 2% milk
  • 2/3 cup broth (I used water and boullion)
  • 1/4 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese, divided

Start by heating your oven to 350°. Take the peeled and cubed squash and lay it on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tsp of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 minutes, or until the pieces are soft and beginning to brown.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tsp olive oil and 1 tsp butter over medium low heat in a saucepan. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the rice, 1/4 tsp salt and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high high, then turn the heat down and cook for 30 minutes or until all the water has cooked off and the rice has softened.

As the rice cooks, bring a pot of salted water to a boil, and then cook the broccoli for 3 minutes, or until tender. Drain the broccoli and set aside.

Wipe down the broccoli pot and start the cheese sauce. Melt 1 tbsp butter over medium heat and add the flour. Whisk the mixture until smooth, then add the milk, broth and mustard. Cook over medium low heat, stirring often, until the mixture begins to thicken. Once thickened, add 1 cup of the cheese and whisk until smooth.

Now it’s time to assemble! Place your squash, broccoli and rice in a casserole dish. Stir to combine and pour the cheese sauce on top. Top with the remaining grated cheese and broil until the top is bubbling. Top with a little black pepper and serve!