Italian Meatball Soup

Over the course off this past school year, probably fueled mostly by health-issue related tiredness and a general feeling of unwell, I decided to revisit the Whole 30 way of eating. I had completed a Whole 30 on two different occasions after Hunter was born, but never really committed to it beyond the 30 days.  In October, I decided I was going to do another one, and I really made a point of working with recipes that made this way of eating less boring.  After the first few days of feeling terrible, you enter what they call in the Whole 30 community, call the “Tiger Blood” stage.  You just feel amazing.  I was sleeping better than I had in a long time, my energy levels were great, my skin looked amazing, and overall I just felt better.  

 

My colleague and friend took notice of this, and when November rolled around, she decided to join me in this lifestyle.  We both committed to 30 days in November, and I feel like having a partner through the journey helped me stay committed.  We commiserated about missing wine and chocolate, and we brought each other Whole 30 compliant snacks and powered through.  My friend was noticing the same positive health impacts as I did and we were both feeling pretty motivated.  Things fell a bit apart over Christmas, but I did notice how I felt when I ate certain foods that maybe weren’t the best for me.  We came back to school in January, ready to start another Whole 30.  

 

At this point, the Whole 30 cookbook came out.  It is full of amazing meals.  This soup is one that I’ve adapted from the cookbook, and it has become one of my go-to’s for lunches.  I often double the batch and freeze portions that are easy to pull out during the week for lunch.  My husband also really enjoys this one and was shocked to hear it was a Whole 30 recipe.

 

I tend to lean towards using fresh herbs in this recipe whenever I can, as I feel like it just gives it a better taste.  You can also sub out the kale for any greens that you prefer (the original recipe calls for Swiss chard).

 

Try this one out, and serve it with a nice crusty Italian bread if you are so inclined.  This one is filling and hearty, and can be served straight up for dinner.  Enjoy!

 

Meatballs

Ingredients:

2 pounds ground pork

⅓ cup minced fresh parsley

½ tbsp. Salt

½ tsp. black pepper

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

¼ c. warm water

1 tsp. cream of tartar

½ tsp. baking soda

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the pork, parsley, garlic, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes.

In a small bowl, mix together the water, cream of tartar, and baking soda (the mixture will bubble). Add the water mixture to the meat mixture and combine. Shape the meat mixture into 1-inch balls.

Place the meatballs on the baking sheets and bake for about 20 minutes, until the meatballs are browned. Let cool.

Soup

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 medium sweet onion, diced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ tsp. dried oregano, crushed (fresh is even better if you have it)

½ tsp. dried basil, crushed (fresh is even better if you have it)

½ tsp. dried parsley

¼ tsp. salt

⅛ tsp. granulated garlic

⅛ tsp. onion powder

Pinch of red pepper flakes

2 cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained

4 cups chicken broth

1 bunch kale, stemmed and leaves cut into 1-inch strips

Handful of fresh basil leaves, minced

1 portion pork meatballs (from above recipe)

Method:

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, minced garlic, oregano, dried basil, parsley, salt, granulated garlic, onion powder, and red pepper flakes to the pot. Cook until the tomato paste darkens, about 2 minutes. Add the fire-roasted tomatoes with their juices, broth, kale, and meatballs to the pot. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the soup is heated through and the kale is wilted and just tender, about 10 minutes.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with fresh basil.

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Ravioli Lasagna

This recipe takes a bit of work to put together, but it is a fun twist on classic lasagna.  It’s definitely worth the extra effort.  What I love about cooking, as opposed to baking, is that it lends itself to experimentation.  I don’t have an “exact” recipe for this, more of a method, but you can’t really screw it up.  This is a good recipe to batch cook as you can freeze it before baking, pull it out of the freezer when you need it, and have a nice home cooked meal fairly quicky.  Pair with a salad and a nice loaf of crusty bread.

Method:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and grease the bottom and sides of a 9×9 baking dish (I have a nice deep one that I use so I can add an extra layer).

Start by browning your ground beef, breaking it up to crumbles as it browns.  I use a regular sized package of use lean or extra lean beef.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce of your choice (if I don’t have homemade, I usually choose Classico Sauce in Sweet Basil or Spicy Red Pepper, depending on who will be eating the meal) on the bottom of your baking dish.

Put a layer of ravioli on top of the sauce, as close together as you can get them (a 9×9 dish holds 9 raviolis perfectly).  I like to buy the fresh packaged ravioli you can get at the grocery store, but frozen would work too.

Finish browning your meat and drain off excess fat.

Add the remaining tomato sauce to the meat.

To the meat and sauce mixture, add a 500g container of ricotta cheese.

Stir to combine.

Spread a thin layer of meat/sauce/ricotta mixture over top of the ravioli layer.

Top with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Put down another layer of ravioli on top of the cheese.  To change things up, I bought different types of ravioli and made each layer different (i.e., regular cheese ravioli, spinach and ricotta ravioli).

Keep layering (ravioli, meat/sauce/cheese mixture, shredded cheese) until you get close to the top of your pan.  On your last ravioli layer, top with straight tomato sauce.

And then more shredded cheese (there is no such thing as too much cheese!).

Bake in the over at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes (longer if cooking from frozen) until the cheese on top starts to brown.

Slice and serve!  The first piece will come out sloppy…this is the second piece!

Look at all those tasty layers!

Seriously easy, and it looks like you slaved away all day!  Enjoy this new family favourite with a salad and a nice loaf of crusty Italian bread!

 

 

Grocery List:

1 package lean (or extra lean) ground beef

2 jars tomato sauce (you probably won’t use all of both jars)

2 or 3 packages of fresh ravioli (in any flavor you like)

1 500g container of Ricotta cheese

Mozzarella for shredding

 

 

Chop and Drop Roasted Veggies and Sausage

This is a regular dinner staple in our house, we have it once a week for sure.  I’d have it everyday if I could, it’s just that delicious.

It’s pretty much a “chop and drop” meal that takes minimal preparation, but leaves you with a hearty meal.  The bonus is this meal is grain free and is great if you are following a paleo way of eating.

I start by cutting up sausage links into 4 or 5 pieces (I used a package or about a pound of sausages) and frying the pieces in a frying pan.  You can use whatever brand of sausage you like.  I prefer to use the homemade sausages that my dad makes, but when we run out, I like to use the Sobey’s brand sausages in spicy Italian.

Frying up the sausage

Frying up the sausage

While the sausages are frying, I start chopping up my vegetables.  I like to use a red pepper, sometimes yellow or orange as well for colour (depending on what is in my fridge), a sweet onion, carrots, sweet potato, and some type of tart apple.

Yellow pepper...

Yellow pepper…

...red pepper...

…red pepper…

...onions, carrots, sweet potatoes...

…onions, carrots, sweet potatoes…

...tart apple...

…tart apple…

You could add any number of other vegetables, brussel sprouts, beets, parsnips, etc.  Pretty much anything that tastes good roasted.

Once the veggies are chopped, I toss them with a very liberal amount of extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, pepper, and a liberal sprinkling of cinnamon.  You could leave out the cinnamon, and use rosemary, or other savoury spices.  I just really like the combination of the apples, sweet potatoes and cinnamon.

Toss in EVOO, salt, pepper, and seasoning

Toss in EVOO, salt, pepper, and seasoning

Spread the vegetables out into a 9×14 glass or ceramic baking dish.  You want to have a single-ish layer in the baking dish, otherwise the veggies won’t soften up and roast well.

Once the sausages are browned (if they’re not fully cooked, don’t worry too much as they will continue cooking in the oven), spread them out on top of the veggies in the baking dish.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Pop the whole dish into the oven at 375 degrees for about 45-60 minutes, until the vegetable are soft and starting to brown.  Make sure you turn the veggies and sausage twice during cooking.  Pull it out of the oven and enjoy the smell!

Yummy!

Yummy!

Serve.  The beauty of this dish is you don’t really need any sides if you don’t want to have any.  Be ready for the compliments.  They’ll just keep coming.

I always make enough so that I have a fair amount of leftovers.  I really like how this tastes the next day as the flavours have even more time to meld together.  My favourite breakfast these days consists of this dish reheated with some soft cooked fried eggs on top.  AMAZING.

Breakfast for the next day!

Breakfast for the next day!

Ingredients

    • 1 package (or about 1 lb) of your favourite sausage links – cut into 1-inch long sections
    • 2 sweet potatoes cut into 2-inch chunks
    • 2 medium-size carrots, chopped into small rounds
    • 1 red pepper (or yellow, or orange), cut into large slices
    • 1 sweet onion, peeled and cut into large slices
    • extra virgin olive oil
    • sea salt & pepper to taste
    • cinnamon
    • any other herbs/spices you desire to taste
Serves 4-6

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375-degrees farenheit
  2. In a large mixing bowl, add all sliced veggies
  3. Next add olive oil and toss everything to coat
  4. Sprinkle in all seasonings and mix again to distribute
  5. Spread out the veggies and sausage into a 9×13 baking dish
  6. Put sausages on top
  7. Place uncovered in oven
  8. Bake a total of 45 to 60 minutes, turning veggies and sausage twice during cooking.
  9. Test doneness by checking the sweet potatoes – if they’re soft, it’s done
  10. Serve hot and enjoy!

Nothing says fall like Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

A friend of mine had the most brilliant idea.  She invited me to a fall soup exchange.  The idea is that everyone who is invited makes 4 freezer bags full of soup.  On the day of the exchange, I will leave her house with 4 freezer bags of a variety of soup.  Like a Christmas cookie exchange, except healthier and four meals basically done for me.  Win!

My favourite soup to make in the fall is any involving butternut squash.  Butternut squash is so healthy for you, full of vitamins and minerals which make your skin glow, and let’s be real, everyone could use some extra glow, especially as the weather turns colder.

Soup is one of those things that I don’t actually use recipes for.  You can’t really mess it up.  So this post has more of a step-by-step thing going on, without too many measurements given.  Change it up to work with what you like, but here is the basic idea.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Cut a butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out all of the seeds.  Place the squash face up on a foil lined baking sheet and brush on some melted butter (or olive oil), and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Pop it in the oven and bake until it is tender and pierces easily with a fork, about 1.5 hours.

All nice and roasty

All nice and roasty

 

While your squash is roasting away, melt about a tablespoon of butter in a large stock pot.

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Now, coarsely chop up a sweet onion.  It doesn’t have to be finely chopped, because eventually you are going to blend the soup with an immersion blender.

Coarsely chopped onion

Coarsely chopped onion

 

Saute the onion in the melted butter in the stock pot until it starts to soften up a bit.

Saute the onion in the butter

Saute the onion in the butter

 

While your onion is cooking, coarsely dice up about 4-6 pears (or apples, I just happened to have pears in the fridge).  I like to leave the skins on for extra fibre and nutrients, just make sure you wash them well.

IMG_5705

 

Add the pears into the pot with the onions and continue to saute for a few more minutes.

Pears and onions

Pears and onions

 

Once your onions and pears are soft and onion have started to brown, pour in about 4 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, lower the temperature to a simmer.  I also added a splash of white wine that I had open in the fridge at this point, gave it a nice taste.  Add in some salt, pepper, and a dash of cinnamon to taste.

Stock added as well as spices

Stock added as well as spices

 

At this point, if your butternut squash is done roasting, remove the peel and cut into chunks.  I actually just scooped the squash out of the skin and added it to the soup.

Scooping out the squash

Scooping out the squash

 

Once all the squash is added to the pot, give it the soup a stir and continue to simmer so all the flavours mesh.

Stirring in the squash

Stirring in the squash

 

Simmering away

Simmering away

 

After the soup has simmer for a bit, remove from the heat and use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth (you could use a regular blender, I just find the immersion blender less messy!).

Nice and smooth

Nice and smooth

 

Once smooth, season further to taste, and you’re done!  At this point you could also mix in some milk, or sour cream.  For the soup exchange I was trying to keep things dairy free.

When serving, garnish with a dallop of sour cream and some roasted pumpkin seeds.  Delicious.

Yum!

Yum!

 

 

 

Cauliflower Pizza Crust…Not even kidding!

I enjoy most vegetables.  Cauliflower is not one of them.  I might even go so far as to say, I hate cauliflower.  Darren might dislike cauliflower even more than I do.  Dousing it in cheese sauce doesn’t even help, and Scarlett is a lost cause when it comes to most vegetables, so cauliflower doesn’t stand a chance.  The fact that the gross, mangled ears of boxers and other contact sports athletes are named after this vegetable does not help its case in my book.

An example of cauliflower ear.  Ewww.

An example of cauliflower ear. Ewww.

 

So, when our weekly fresh produce box contained a GIANT head of cauliflower, I was feeling a bit panicky.  My first instinct was to give it to my mom, but the thing was huge, there was no way she could eat it all.  My next thought was to make soup, but then I kind of felt like that was taking the easy way out.  I wanted to find something to make cauliflower, if not delicious, at least tolerable.

Here she is, in all her glory.

Here she is, in all her glory.

 

Okay cauliflower, let’s do this.

And I think we did it.  Cauliflower pizza crust, friends.  It seriously tasted like a fancy, gourmet, thin crust pizza.  Darren was talking about how delicious it was.  He knew it wasn’t a “real” crust (because I told him he would be shocked when he found out how I made it), but he thought it was good!  Now, when I told him it was made out of cauliflower, he said, “I really wish I didn’t know that,” but he continued to eat it, and reconfirmed it’s deliciousness when he was done.

Here is how I did it.

First, I used a box grater to grate the cauliflower florets.  You want the texture to be like rice.

 

"riced" cauliflower

“riced” cauliflower

 

Next, I added a cup of grated mozzarella cheese, a beaten egg, minced garlic, salt, and oregano.  I stirred this so everything was uniformly moistened.

the "dough"

the “dough”

 

Then, I turned this out onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, and using the back of a spoon and my hands, flattened and shaped it into a round “crust” that was about 9″ in diameter.

"Crust" spread onto parchment paper

“Crust” spread onto parchment paper

 

Next, I popped it into a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes.  It came out all beautiful and golden brown and crunchy looking.

Baked "crust"

Baked “crust”

 

Then, I let it cool for about an hour.  I was hoping that it would “harden” up a little bit if I let it cool, and it did.

Once cool, I dressed it like I would dress any pizza.  Started with tomato sauce, added shredded mozzarella cheese, salami, tomato slice, hot peppers, and goat cheese.  But really, you can put whatever you want onto it.

IMG_5459

After dressing the pizza, I  popped the cookie sheet back into the oven which was now set to broil for about 5 minutes, just until the cheese started to bubble and everything looked nice and pizza like.

Ready to eat

Ready to eat

 

After pulling it from the oven, I let it sit for a few minutes, and then sliced and served.  The texture of it was great, seriously, just like a thin crust pizza.  You could not taste even a hint of cauliflower.

Looks legit!

Looks legit!

 

This one was a home run.  The deliciousness of a gourmet pizza, without the carbs, gluten-free even!


 

Cauliflower Pizza Crust
Makes one 9 inch pizza crust

Ingredients:
1 c. cooked, riced cauliflower
1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
tomato sauce, shredded cheese and your choice of toppings

Method:
Remove stems and leaves from 1 head of cauliflower, and chop the florets into chunks. Use a box grater to “rice” the cauliflower. Place the “riced” cauliflower into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for about 8 minutes.

One large head of cauliflower will produce between 2 and 3 cups of riced and cooked cauliflower.

To make the pizza crust:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray (or use parchment paper on a cookie sheet). In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup cauliflower, beaten egg and mozzarella. Add oregano, minced garlic and salt, mix well. Transfer the mixture to your cookie sheet, and pat out into a 9″ round. Bake at 450 degrees for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool awhile. This helps to make the crust more solid.

To make the pizza:
Add sauce, toppings and cheese. Place under a broiler at high heat just until cheese is melted (approximately 3-4 minutes). Slice as you would any pizza, and serve.

 

Pear Prosciutto Pasta with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

Darren has a subscription to Runner’s World magazine, and it often has really good and healthy recipes in it.  This weekend he decided that he wanted to make us a pasta dish from the magazine.  Darren isn’t the most savvy in the kitchen, most likely because I’m a “Kitchen Commando” (his words) and I don’t really let him do much cooking, but it turned out the recipe was for a pasta salad more than a pasta meal.  I used to ingredients and the idea of the recipe and added a few more ingredients and turned it into a really amazing hot pasta dish.

Here is what I did:

I started by chopping about 100 grams of prosciutto into thin strips. (While I was prepping and cooking the “sauce” I had a large pot of water on the stove to boil, I cooked about 6 cups of penne pasta as I was preparing the rest).

Thinly chopped prosciutto

Thinly chopped prosciutto

 

I then sliced about 2 cups worth of fennel, really thin.

Thinly sliced fennel

Thinly sliced fennel

 

Next I minced 2 cloves of garlic very finely.  We happened to get some fresh, organic garlic in our harvest box this week, and wow, what a difference in taste!

Beautiful, local, organic garlic

Beautiful, local, organic garlic

 

I put the prosciutto, the fennel, and the garlic into a frying pan that had been heating up with about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.  I sauteed this until the fennel started to soften up a bit.

Sauteing until the fennel softens

Sauteing until the fennel softens

 

Next I peeled and thinly sliced 2 pears and added the sliced pears into the frying pan, continuing to saute lightly over a medium heat.

Added in thinly sliced pears

Added in thinly sliced pears

 

Next, I added about a 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts into the frying pan and continued sauteing.

Toss in some walnuts

Toss in some walnuts

Continue to saute

Continue to saute

 

Next, I chopped up about 2 cups of fresh argula and tossed that into the frying pan, sauteing until the leaves were wilted.

Adding arugula

Adding arugula

Still sauteing

Still sauteing

Arugula starting to wilt

Arugula starting to wilt

 

(It’s starting to look like the toppings for a really delicious gourmet pizza! I may have to try that sometime!)

 

At this point, my penne was cooked to a nice al dente texture.  You don’t want your noodles too soft or they get a bit starchy.  I drained the pasta (rinsing it under cold water to halt the cooking process), returned it to the pot and turned the heat off under the frying pan.

Drained penne

Drained penne pasta

 

Next, I added about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to the pasta and tossed it over a low heat.  I then added in the contents of the frying pan, and continued to toss, adding in a good few cranks of freshly ground pepper.

Adding the "sauce" to the pasta

Adding the “sauce” to the pasta

Tossing over low heat

Tossing over low heat

 

I then added a liberal amount (maybe 1/3 of a cup, okay probably more, I love goat cheese) of crumbled goat cheese.

Adding in some goat cheese

Adding in some goat cheese

 

I continued to toss the pasta until the goat cheese started to melt into the pasta a little bit.

YUM!  Goat cheese makes everything 100% more delicious!

YUM! Goat cheese makes everything 100% more delicious!

 

Then, I plated and served.

The finished product.

The finished product

 

I’ll admit, as I was making this, I was a bit skeptical.  It could have been so wrong, but I got lucky and it was SO right.  The licorice flavour of the fennel was very mild and subtle, and the saltiness of of the prosciutto and the goat cheese totally balanced the slight sweetness of the pear.  It was so good.  A kitchen win.  It was even good cold, and also as reheated leftovers (just tossed it in a frying pan with a bit of EVOO).

Try this.  You’ll thank me.

 

 

Black Bean Quesadillas – My (very regular) Answer to Meatless Monday

Meatless Mondays are relatively new in our house.  I grew up with a dad who was the director of Engineering at Schneider’s, so meat was just the regular, and one of my fondest childhood memories were getting together with the extended family every winter and making sausages in one of my aunt’s basement kitchens.  My one attempt at being a vegetarian in grade six or seven was quickly squashed because, steak and ribs and bacon and salami (and by my dad telling me I was ridiculous)!  So along comes the idea of Meatless Monday and when Darren first suggested it, I got downright defensive, but I LOVE black beans, so once I calmed down, I started Googling recipe ideas.

With some experimentation, I came up with these quesadillas.  They are delicious.  You may not even notice that there is no meat.  I like to pair them with a salad, usually with salsa ranch dressing for some added Tex-Mex flair.

Start by chopping up about 1/2 of a sweet onion, a jalapeno pepper, and 1/2 a red bell pepper.  I saute these lightly in a bit of extra virgin olive oil.  Once the peppers and onions are soft, I transfer the mixture to a bowl and mix in a can of black beans that has been drained and rinsed.

Black beans with cooked onions and peppers

Black beans with cooked onions and peppers

I then mix in a generous amount of medium or hot salsa (enough to moisten the black bean mixture), and a shake or two of chili powder.  I then mix in a handful (maybe a 1/2 cup) of frozen corn for colour and flavour.  This mixture is what you will fill your tortilla shells with.

Filling all ready to go

Filling all ready to go

Next, I start heating up a frying pan, and give it a good spray of Pam (or any generic cooking spray).  When the pan is hot, I place one tortilla shell (you can use white or whole wheat, whatever your preference) into the pan to start browning it up.

photo 1-1Next, toss a sprinkling of shredded cheese (if the pre-shredded Mexican blend cheese is on sale, I use this, otherwise use marble, or cheddar, or whatever cheese you like best) onto half of the tortilla shell.

photo 2-1Next, scoop a liberal helping of the bean mixture on top of the cheese.

photo 3-1

Then, top with more cheese.

photo 4-1Next, fold the tortilla so that the filling is in the middle.

photo 5Then, brown this tortilla pocket of deliciousness on both sides (the cheese should start to melt).  Put the browned quesadilla onto a cookie sheet.  Repeat as many times as you need to to make the number of quesadillas you need.

photo 5-1The beauty is, you can do all of this ahead of time.  If you aren’t ready to eat, you can put the cookie sheets in the fridge until you are ready.  Or better yet, make some extras, wrap each individual quesadilla in a few layers of plastic wrap, and freeze (makes some quick and easy single serve quesadillas).

If you are ready to eat, put the quesadillas (on a cookie sheet) into an over pre-heated to 350 degrees and bake for about 10-12 minutes,  If cooking from frozen, bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping the quesadillas halfway through.

Once you pull them from the oven, let sit for a few minutes and then cut into quarters (I like to use a pizza cutter for this).  Serve with salsa, sour cream, guacamole, or any combination of the three.

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These actually get me excited for Monday!  Try them and let me know what you think!