Linguine with Lemon-Dill Vodka Cream Sauce

It’s snowing like hell out… I’m lazy, sick with a cold, and want something easy but decadent for dinner.  Enter pasta and a salad.

I am not in the mood for anything with tomato sauce (or fat-free apparently), so I’ve shifted my attention to a cream sauce. I have fresh dill and a couple of lemons in the fridge and a bag of frozen peas in the freezer. Hey, just because it’s a creamy dish doesn’t mean we can’t lighten it up a bit with some tasty peas! If you have asparagus laying around, that would work well too.

This sauce takes some time to reduce, so plan ahead. I like to eat dinner early so I don’t mind starting it at 4 and letting it simmer down until 5 or so. Dinner can be on the table by 5:30. Score.

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If you don’t have fresh dill you could use dry, but fresh is the way to go if you can. Know how you always end up with more dill than you need when you buy it? We usually use so little of that massive amount of fresh herb. Here’s my solution: chop it up, evenly distribute it into ice cube trays and pour olive oil over each ‘cube’. Freeze. Pop them out and store in a freezer zip-lock bag, in the freezer.  Next time you need dill olive oil combo, you’re ready to go. (Makes for easy salad dressings too!) Brilliant huh.

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For my salad, I’m keeping it simple with a baby kale/spinach mix, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, sliced oranges, fresh buffalo mozzarella and some fresh mung bean sprouts I’ve been sprouting. They are crunchy and perfect to round out the salad. For the dressing, I’ll probably just drizzle some olive oil and finish with a squeeze of lemon and zest. Simple and perfect.

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Enjoy this sauce with parpadelle, linguine or wagon-wheel pasta. Toss pasta in sauce and enjoy!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cups organic vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup vodka
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup frozen sweet peas
  • ½ cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh lemon zest
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp fresh ground pepper
  • Knob of butter
  • Grated parm cheese (optional)

Directions:

  1. Cook onion in oil in a heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened (but not browned), about 4 minutes. Add garlic and stir.
  2. Add broth, cream, vodka, and salt and boil over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce is significantly reduced to 2 cups, 50-60 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in peas, dill, lemon zest and juice, dijon mustard, pepper and butter. Stir to combine.
  4. Pour over pasta and toss until pasta is completely coated. Sprinkle fresh parm cheese on top (optional).

Worth The Wait Focaccia!

In addition to my bread obsession, I have discovered a love of fresh homemade focaccia.  If you have never tried to make this wonder-bread before, you must try. It is SUPER simple, but takes patience as does any good bread. You can however, make a quick version of it and it will be great but if you’re looking for the moistest, fluffiest and most flavourful focaccia? Well you had better take a nap, find a hobby or play some video games while you wait. The good news is that most of the waiting can be done overnight, so just find something to do for 3 hours or so 🙂

This recipe is not mine, I found it while scouring online and OH MY am I ever glad I tried it and am thrilled to share it on my blog.  It is now filed in my ‘keep’ list because it’s just absolutely perfect. I’ve made it once and will be making it again for an upcoming family gathering. Caution: people WILL swoon.

in the tray

I had some crispy garlic infused oil from some Filipino garlic rice I made recently, and I decided to throw it into the dough mix right at the beginning. Excellent idea! (Pats self on back).  If you have any infused oil that you like, I suggest adding it to the mix. It adds another dimension of flavour you can’t get from just adding fresh/dried herbs to the top of the dough before baking. Don’t add too much, I’m talking a 1tbsp or two at max.

The tray

The rest of the directions in the recipe I followed to a T. I did let it rest from 9pm at night until 11am the next morning before starting to ‘turn’ the dough. It had plenty of time to ferment and create oddles and oodles of delicious pillowy bubbles. Right before baking, I halved some cherry tomatoes and carefully pushed them into the dough. I picked some fresh rosemary, sprinkled it on top along with some chopped kalamata olives and thinly shaved red onion.  I finished it off with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt and popped it in the oven.

close up

My batch was the perfect size.. I think I was able to get over 30 pieces from the rectangle tray. Only three pieces were left over at the end of the night. It was a HUGE hit, and I know it will be in your home too!  Thank you SO much to Jenny for posting this recipe on her awesome blog, which I recently discovered. You will want to bookmark her page folks, she’s a keeper! 🙂 To find the full recipe, click here.

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Three perfect pieces

Raw Food Reset – Day 1

I’m in need of a system reset. I’ve been eating well, exercising, but equally drinking and snacking on chips. Counteracts all the goodness I’ve been working so hard on. SO… I decided to go raw vegan for a few weeks to reset my system.  I used to eat a few vegetarian meals a week but since we’ve acquired our house guests, that hasn’t been happening. I feel like I need to get back to that.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon prepping and washing a bunch of veggies that I bought for the week.  I am keeping it simple, but tasty. Nothing like shocking your system and being hangry. I don’t do hangry well, so I need to keep myself interested. It’s not only for my benefit, but also for the public’s well being too.

The Goods

No dairy, no meat, no wheat and no alcohol.  Vegan, raw options only.

I can do this.

I downloaded the DO EAT RAW app from iTunes this week and decided on a few recipes to make. I also did some poking around on the ‘net and planned some snacks that are easy and quick. The first ‘meal’ is a raw collard spring roll/wrap. I’ve had them before at random farmers markets and loved them so I wanted those for lunch. I also wanted a chickpea salad (which is SUPER simple and delish and versatile for lunch/dinner -Thanks Snack Girl- I even like the raisins in it) and lots of greens (spinach, kale, collards) .  My go-to snack is raw broccoli and crunchy almond butter. So so good. For dinner options I plan on making a raw gazpacho type cleanse soup and cauliflower ‘rice’ bok choi boats.  I also stopped off at the apple farm and picked up a HUGE bag of organic Russet apples. They are a fall apple, just picked a few days ago. They have a dark skin that resembles a potato, and you wouldn’t think they are an apple at first glance. Sweet, crunchy and satisfying.

So far so good. I went for a quick run after work, and felt great.

Here’s what I ate today:

Breakfast: Organic banana, kiwi

Lunch: raw collard wrap with almond cream, green salad topped with chickpea salad

Raw Collard Wrap

Moroccan Chickpea Salad

Snack: assorted veggies (broccoli, cucumber, red pepper) dipped in almond butter

Almond Butter

Dinner: leftover salad from lunch with zucchini ‘pickles’, half an avocado, raw pumpkin seeds, raisins and balsamic/dijon dressing

Washing it all down with a big green tea then heading to bed. Cheers to another day of healthy eating!

Run baby run

Stuffed peppers with nut-free purple pesto rice and baked eggs

Last week I experimented with a fun dish: stuffed peppers.  I had a vision for this dish, and it came together beautifully.

I was able to incorporate the awesome nut-free purple pesto I made last week, some left-over pulled pork that was in the freezer and the last of the home-made tomato sauce. The resulting dish was an awesome combination, and everyone cleaned their plates at dinner. There’s nothing more satisfying as a cook, to see your guests almost lick the plate, right?

You can adapt this recipe to be vegan, vegetarian or full on meat-lover. Whatever you choose, I promise you’ll love it to bits.

Ingredients

  • 4 peppers cut in half (red, orange, yellow or a combo of all three!)
  • 1.5 cups basmati rice, cooked
  • 2 tbsp of nut-free purple pesto, or whatever pesto you have on hand
  • 2.5 cups homemade tomato sauce, or canned tomato sauce, heated
  • 4-5 eggs (depending on how many you’re feeding that night)
  • 1 cup of chopped/shredded cooked meat (your choice or none at all)
  • 1 cup Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 green onions or chives, finely chopped
  • 6-10 leaves of finely chopped basil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Cut peppers in half length-wise, from stem to bottom. Remove seeds and white parts, wash and dry.
  3. Place cut peppers on a plate and microwave until cooked. About 5 mins depending on how many you have). You want them to be soft, but not mushy. They will continue to cook when stuffed and baked in the oven.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine basmati rice and pesto. Mix until combined. Taste for seasoning, adjust as needed (add salt, pepper or even some parmesan cheese).
  5. Place halved peppers in the bottom of a deep baking dish.
  6. Take 1-2 tbsp of rice and layer on the bottom of each half of pepper.
  7. Take cooked meat and make another layer on top of the rice on each half of each pepper.
  8. Crack one egg into each half of each pepper.
  9. Cover and bake stuffed peppers in oven for 10-12 minutes until whites of eggs are cooked and the yolk is semi-firm.
  10. Remove from oven and finish eggs with shredded mozzarella cheese, chopped basil and chopped green onions,

To plate: pour heated tomato sauce on a plate. If you have leftover rice, add some on top of the tomato sauce.

rice

tomato sauce and rice

Place the stuffed peppers on top of the tomato sauce/rice.

Plated

cut open

Finish with cracked black pepper.

Nut-free Purple Basil Pesto

I have a whackload (yes that’s a word) of beautiful dark opal basil growing in the backyard and I love it.  I use it in recipes or as a garnish as much as possible and it’s been growing wildly all summer.  This weekend we made flat-bread and wanted pesto instead of tomato sauce (which I made from our garden tomatoes a few weeks back, and it was the bomb. And I don’t even LIKE tomato sauce).

So out I went to the garden. I make it sound like it’s a hike to get there. It’s probably 20 feet from my sliding door.  Whatever, point is, I have cool shit growing in my garden.

I don’t even like pestos.

I know. You’re probably thinking why the hell not. What did they ever do to you, you ask. Nothing – but I am not a fan of the nuttiness for some weird reason. I love nuts, but not pesto. I’ve made a few in the past and I am not a fan. Alas, somehow I wanted a pesto on this flatbread. So I had a whackload of beautiful purple basil that was green around the edges… so beautiful and a huge bag of lightly roasted pumpkin seeds. I normally buy raw, but Costco had a sale. Don’t judge me.

I threw this pesto together and it’s awesome. Nut-free, it’s perfect for anyone with allergies. It’s flavourful and has great texture without the overpowering pine nuts. It’s also an awesome dark purple colour which looks friggin cool spread on anything. No, it’s not weird.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh packed purple (and green if you have it) basil
  • 1 tbsp raw apple cider
  • 2-3 cloves of really good local garlic, chopped
  • ½ cup good quality olive oil (more if you like a wetter pesto)
  • 1 ½ cups of pumpkin seeds (if using raw (pepitas), ensure you soak those bad boys for 2 hrs as it helps break down the phytic acid which reduces our bodies ability to absorb the wicked awesome nutrients of the raw seeds).
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp Himalayan salt

Directions

Combine all ingredients in your handy-dandy food processor.  Blend until smooth.  May take up to 10 minutes of blending/scraping/blending.  I like mine smooth, so I keep blending and adding olive oil until it’s the right consistency.  Taste along the way and add salt/honey if needed.  If you like it chunkier, blend only for a few seconds.

Enjoy!

Post Series: Health Benefits of Sprouting Fenugreek Seeds

I am new to sprouting, and so far have been LOVING it! This past weekend, I have started sprouting alfalfa and fenugreek.  Oriental mustard is on it’s 2nd day (needs another day or two), and at this very moment I am soaking green kale seeds.  Since I’ve started, we’ve been able to enjoy sprouts in salads every day. I’m THRILLED! Not only are they incredibly tasty and quick to produce – the health benefits are crazy yo! You can read about some of the benefits in my last post, here.  (Scroll to the bottom to see photos of the fenugreek seeds in sprouting action!)

I thought I’d start a series of posts, detailing what I’m sprouting, showing pictures and the health benefits of each seed. Many of you probably didn’t know that you can sprout pretty much any grain or seed. The main thing you want to ensure though, is that is is organic and non-GMO. You can read about non-GMO here.

So what about the health benefits? Sprouts are much more nutritious than the dormant seed or bean from which they spring from. By “awakening” these seeds, we are actually eating all of the live potential energy of the sprout.

Because of the higher water content in sprouts as opposed to dry seeds and beans, we find a higher nutritional content. Sprouts contain absorb-able protein, and contain increased calcium, potassium, sodium, iron, as well as vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and C.

Even though alfalfa was the first seed I sprouted, I don’t feel the need to write about it because we’re all probably familiar with it. It’s so common in grocery stores and health food places, I thought I’d go off the beaten path and spark your interest in something different. Want to learn more? Read on my friends!

I was intrigued by this seed because I recently started using the leaves in recipes. It’s a very potent smelling leaf, and the spice fenugreek, also called methi and menthulu, are the small, hard, yellowish brown, angular, protein-rich seeds harvested from the pods of the plant. The seeds have a bittersweet taste and are highly aromatic once ground. Because of those qualities, fenugreek has become a key ingredient in curry powder. Fenugreek seeds are also used in other spice blends, fish and vegetables dishes, dahl, breads, stews and preserves, such as pickles and chutneys.

Like cilantro, fenugreek is a plant whose leaves and seeds can be used in all sorts of ways. It is native to India and southern Europe, and for centuries has grown wild in those and other places. It’s also one of the oldest cultivated plants known to humans and, according to the Complete Spice Book, has been grown in the Nile Valley since 1000 BC.  If you buy the dried leaves for cooking, make sure you have it wrapped up tightly in a Ziploc or in a glass jar to avoid having your kitchen cupboard smelling like it. It will overpower other spices in your cupboards. Despite fenugreeks many uses, you are unlikely to find it at any mainstream grocery store. If you’re wanting to use the leaves, try a local Indian grocery store.

So, back to sprouting and the benefits of fenugreek. If you’re looking to sprout the seeds, I suggest buying organic, non-gmo seeds from Mumms or another online seed sprouting company. Do your research because organic non-gmo seeds are DEFINITELY the way to go.

Fenugreek is one of the oldest recorded medicinal herbs, highly esteemed by both east and west, and has been regarded as a treatment for just about every ailment known to man. Fenugreek has a beneficial action on cleansing the blood.

What are the benefit of these super cool seeds/sprouts?

  • Did you know that fenugreek is regarded as a sister herb to garlic? A traditional herb for colds and flu, fenugreek has the same properties. It is also attributed with being a blood cleanser and a lymphatic cleanser.
  • Another attribute of fenugreek is it’s apparent capacity to create a protective coating over inflamed areas of the stomach and bowel including peptic ulcers. Fenugreek is a practical herb for all mucus conditions of the body, particularly the lungs, by helping to clear congestion. It is a powerful antioxidant and it acts as a mucus solvent and throat cleanser, which also eases the urge to cough. Even drinking the water that seeds have soaked in and been rinsed with, helps to soften and dissolve, accumulated and hardened masses of cellular debris. Use fenugreek for head colds, influenza, catarrh, constipation, bronchial complaints, asthma, emphysema, pneumonia, pleurisy, tuberculosis, sore throat, laryngitis, hay fever and sinusitis.
  • Fenugreek has also been noted as increasing breast milk production in nursing mothers. On the other hand, pregnant women should not ingest fenugreek.
  • Fenugreek has had the reputation for enhancing libido. No wonder it has been called an aphrodisiac. I smiled, when I read in a herbal book, ‘Fenugreek, for making an old man into a young man’!. Some men use fenugreek for herniaerectile dysfunction (ED), and other male problems.
  • Fenugreek appears to slow absorption of sugars in the stomach and stimulate insulin. Both of these effects lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.
  • As a diaphoretic it is able to bring on a sweat and to help detox the body. This takes place through the pores of the skin. The pungent aroma of fenugreek may be smelt on the skin and in under-arm perspiration. This is evidence that the herb is working well: shower frequently! The body odour of fenugreek is nowhere near as offensive as a body reeking of garlic. After using the sprouts for a while, this fenugreek body aroma, does not seem to be so apparent, maybe, the sprouts have done a pretty good cleanse.
  • Fenugreek seeds are rich source of minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients. 100 g seeds provide 323 calories.
  • The seeds are a very good source of soluble dietary fiber. Soaking the seeds in water makes their outer coat soft and mucilaginous. 100 g of seeds provide 24.6 g or over 65% of dietary fiber.
  • This prized spice is an excellent source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, iron, selenium, zinc, manganese, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure by countering action on sodium. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome-oxidases enzyme.
Raw hard seeds, right out of the package.

Raw hard seeds, right out of the package.

How much to seed to sprout?

  • I used 1/4 for the tray, and 1-2 tbsp for the jar method. You don’t want to over pack the jar because the seeds won’t aerate properly and become mushy and rot. Not good peeps. Keep enough room in the jar or a spread out layer in the try to allow the seeds to do their thang. Sprouted, fenugreek grows large vigorous, crunchy sprouts with an unusual maple flavour. Quite awesome on a salad. Try it for yourself and let me know what you think!
Seeds in the tray, see the tail starting?

Seeds in the tray, see the tail starting?

The final product! Yummers!

The final product! Yummers!

Storing your spouts:

  • Be sure to only store your sprouts when they are DRY. Let them air out after the last rinse before putting them in a seal-able container. You can keep them in the fridge for up to 4 days, if they last that long!
Store in an air tight container for 3-5 days

Store in an air tight container for 3-5 days

RECIPE: Lemon Balm Tea

I planted a couple of lemon balm plants in the garden these past couple of weeks. Not only do do they smell great when the leaves are rubbed, it self-seeds readily in flowerbeds or even gaps between paving. It is a common but under appreciated garden plant, possibly because it is easy to grow – it is tolerant of a range of conditions, including drought, and isn’t affected by many pests and diseases.  Want to try planting it? Even a small scrap of stalk will readily root in a glass of water, making it a plant for garden visitors to take home and grow on a windowsill or in their own garden.

Lemon balm is often used as a flavouring in ice cream and herbal teas, both hot and iced, often in combination with other herbs such as spearmint as it is actually from the mint family. It is also frequently paired with fruit dishes or candies. It can be used in fish dishes and is the key ingredient in lemon balm pesto.  For companion planting: If you are growing tomatoes, plant lemon balm beside them, it will improve flavour and growth in the tomatoes.

Today I made a lemon balm tea. It is said that lemon balm has a calming effect and is a good night time tea.  You can add a little honey or stevia to sweeten it up if you need it, or it can be drank alone as it has a very light but aromatic flavour.

To make the tea:

  1. Grab a handful of leaves from the garden
  2. Wash them gently in cool water, pat dry
  3. Bruise the leaves by crushing them together or pulling apart
  4. Add to a large pitcher and add 4-5 cups of boiling water.
  5. Allow the leaves to steep in the water, keep the lid on or you will lose the aromatics of the leaves.
  6. Allow the tea to cool. When ready to drink, pour it into a mug and reheat. Add a 1/2 tsp of stevia or natural honey if you want sweetness.

You’ll notice that the tea is very light but has a slight lemony-mint flavour. It’s beautiful and so nice to have fresh tea, made right from the garden!

Enjoy!