Friday, February 24, 2012

Lazy Lasagna




This is one of the first recipes I ever made. I think the first time I made this I was in 8th grade. I thought it was great. I still do honestly. Really I'm a sucker for anything with broiled cheese on top. Cheese makes everything better for me. YUM! Now that I know how to cook more than just pasta and sauce from a can topped with cheese I have added a few more facets to the recipe that make it a bit more well rounded flavour wise and nutritional wise. 

This has become my "lazy lasagna" dish. It's the same ingredients just a LOT easier and quicker to make. 

This is also a freezable dish so you can make this, portion it in little foil take out dishes and place in your freezer to pop into your oven and bake on a rush. Your own frozen food! Just a bajillion times healthier!


FUNDABBLER FACT
Ricotta and Parmesan are 2 high protein cheeses, less gult. :) YUMMY!



INGREDIETNS

Your choice of chunky pasta (I like Cavatappi, rigatoni, penne etc.) - a big bag (900) grams but I ended up using only 2/3 of it. So depending on the bagging of your favourite pasta brand you need a total of at least  675 g (about 1.5 lbs, maybe more but not less) 

Grated Parmesan Cheese - 2 cups
Grated Mozzarella - 600 grams (about 21 oz, about 5.25 cups)
Ricotta cheese - 1 small tub (about 425 grams)
Garlic - 4 cloves crushed/finely grated
Dried Oregano - .5 teaspoon
Dried Basil - 1 teaspoon
Dried rosemary - .5 teaspoon ground 
Salt and Pepper to taste

Spag Sauce - about 1 tub of yogurt or an extra half a tub more if you like your pasta super saucy)
or
use a good low sodium marinara pasta sauce. If doing so you can use it as is (vegetarian) or  I add about a half a pound or pound of ground meat (beef, veal, lamb your choice and adjust the meaty-ness to your desire). It makes it that much better. If you have some frozen (as I suggest in the For the love of Cooking- Must haves in the Freezer) it will take very little time for you to get a great meal on the table.

NOTE My recipe is not very saucy and very cheesy.. adjust accordingly

Serves 6-7
Takes about 1 hour to make

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat your oven at 350 F.
Cook your pasta to directions, drain and add back to the pot. 



While your pasta is cooking mix in your spices/herbs and garlic with your ricotta cheese. 



Mix in your spaghetti sauce with your pasta.



In an oven safe dish (I use a 8x12 Pyrex) layer half of your pasta and sauce then top with half of your ricotta and half of your cheese.



Then add the rest of your pasta with sauce with the rest of the ricotta and the rest of your cheese. 



Place in the oven for 30 min then broil until your cheese is nice brown and bubbly. Be sure to watch the broil. I really have to put the timer on otherwise I burn the cheese every time. 



Take out of the oven, let it sit a bit so that it cools and settles. (about 10 min).



Serve and Enjoy! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

In the Spirit of Freezing - Spinach, Cilantro, Green Onions and Parsley







Yesterday I went to the market and decided that this week I have some room in my freezer and so I will break up my days and with a little effort, prepare a few meals.

I thought I continue sharing my logic and process as to show that there is some peace in my madness :)

I bought:

3 bunches of Spinach
3 bunches of Cilantro
6 bunches of Green Onions
4 bunches of Flat Leaf Parsley
1 bunch of regular Parsley
1 Romain Lettuce



It took me about 1 hour to wash all of the above.

but what comes out of it all?

Today I spend about another hour or so chopping it all up in the food processor and frying it. Getting piles of my greens.



Tomorrow I will make something out of it all, and freeze the rest. 

From it all I have the difficult part of the following done:

8 servings of Allo Esfenaj (Persian Prune and Spinach Stew with red meat)
8 servings Ghorme Sabzi (Persian Stew with greens, red kidney beans and red meat)
4-6  servings of Kookoo Sabzi (a crustless quiche type Persian Meal traditional for Persian New Year)
and some onions to chomp on, garnish with or make fried rice with (like I did last night for dinner)
Now that's awesome. Ok maybe a bit too enthusiastic but I truly feel that way! 



HOW I WASH
How I wash my veggies, herbs, and even fruit is with Vinegar! 


Even my delicate raspberries? I wash with vinegar and rinse after. Nobody has EVER detected a taste. 


I use regular White vinegar I buy in bulk from Costco. It is my cleaning solution for most everything. Non-toxic and a natural disinfectant! And inexpensive. 


I put it in a dollar store spray bottle and use it ALL THE TIME!



Also it makes me feel like my pesticides have been washed off of my fruits and veggies (if I am not buying organic).


Hope this tip helps... ENJOY!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

For the Love of Cooking - Things I Always have in my Freezer



My freezer is my best friend when it comes to cooking. I am still in the process of finding a space for an external freezer for my tiny apartment. But that is how much I see it as my best tool in the kitchen. I can buy foods on sale, FREEZE IT! I buy veggies and fruits in season, therefore less expensive. I clean it, cut it, bag it, FREEZE IT! I have fruits or veggies almost going bad. I may not feel like eating it now, cooking it now. What do I do? Wash it, cut it... and yes FREEZE IT! It is often times less expensive when in season. I also enjoy buying local/organic or both. It is often times less expensive for me to do it myself.

When I freeze I cook once, and use at least 3 times. So I make huge batches that I separate into servings, put it in bags and freeze. I then can pull it out and literally dump my ready made veggies and meats in a pan or pot and my dinner is almost done! Healthy, quick, and easy!



FUNDABBLER FACT

Assuming your freezer is at the correct temperature, and that your foods are well packed meats, veggies, and fruits have a freezer life. 

Cooked meats - stays in freezer for about 2-3 months
Fruits and Veggies - stays in freezer for 8-12 months
Uncooked meats - stays in freezer for about 3-4 months

For more detailed information check out the USDA's Food Safety Fact sheet 


THINGS ALWAYS IN MY FREEZER



MUST HAVE

Chopped carrots
Frozen Peas
Ground beef already fried
Ground Turkey already fried
Chicken pieces already cooked
Beef cubes fried

WHY

These must haves fill the needs to a well rounded meal with some quick carb and/or salad on the side. The beef cubes are good for Indian food, Persian food any stew really as are the chicken pieces. The ground meat can be made into a quick sauce, Shepard's pie, meat pie or just defrosted to eat. Simple as that




JUST A BIT MORE EFFORT

Chopped celery
Organic Frozen Spinach 
Parmesan Cheese grated 
Cheddar and mozzarella cheese (ideally grated and in baggies)
Tortillas (corn or flour)
Old bananas (to later make banana bread or shakes in the summer)
Berries of choice and whatever fruit I have that is going bad I cut and freeze for baking or smoothies. 
Frozen spag sauce home made 
Well washed knob of ginger in a baggie ready to grate

WHY

Your veggie choice becomes a bit more refined and higher in nutrition with this category. Better food really in a lot less time. Your range of choices for meals increases as well. With your spinach you have stews as well as quiches, omelets, yogurt sides... your creativity is the limit!

The fruits make a base for baked goods as well as smoothies. Always a good insert for nutrition when you don't have time.

Tortillas because some times you don't want to eat 12 tortillas in one week.

Cheese because it always makes everything better, adds flavor, and with your frozen spag sauce, you always have a great well rounded meal in 30 min or less!

The ginger trick is really fabulous. Seriously it adds such flavor (and nutrition) to your meal, but a little goes a long way. You buy a nice big knob, wash it, freeze it and it is even easier to grate frozen than fresh. Promise you'll try it (if you like ginger).




LUXURY
If you want to get fancy and I love it because I feel like I cook well without having to kill so much time. It's already in the freezer and ready to go after some prep work:

Small bell peppers cubes
Small  zucchini cubes
Pizza Dough
Cookie Dough


WHY


Bell peppers and zucchini just another additive to your depth of food. Although cooked, bell peppers lose a bit of nutrition and become just major sources of fiber, but flavor wise, they are great toppers for home made pizzas, another dimension to your stews, omelets, quiches, quick spag sauce (with a can of tomatoes and some ground meat w spices/herbs and garlic.) Fried rice... again the list goes on.


Zucchini cubes fall under the same category as the bell peppers. More nutrition, more fiber, more flavor. 


NOTE:


It really is worth the bit of time. You save when you use things on sale. Freeze it use it and enjoy it. You are already washing your veggies, and cutting them. Adding a few more to the batch adds a few more minutes but a lot less work. PROMISE! 


Happy freezing... and ENJOY!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Coriander Lentil with Fresh Cilantro



This is my "I-REALLY-have-nothing-else-to-make-but-we-need-to-eat-healthy" So if you're like me you don't always have fresh cilantro on hand. You can make it with dried, but it won't be as fresh tasting and well rounded as if you were using freshly chopped cilantro. I usually serve it on some nutty brown rice. Even with a drizzle of olive oil on top after it has been cooked. The cumin and the lentils make such a happy marriage in your mouth!

FUNDABBLER FACT
Lentils are amazing... no really! They are super high in fiber, amino acids, lower cholesterol, great for your heart, and D-lectable!

INGREDIENTS

Vegetable oil - 3 table spoons
Lentils uncooked - 3 cups OR 2 cans cooked lentils rinsed
Fresh Cilantro - a healthy bunch 
Green Onions  -1 bunch chopped (or red onion or sweet white onion)
Garlic - 3 cloves crushed
Ground Cumin - 1.5 tsp
Tuermeric - .5 tsp
Cinnimon - .25 tsp

Boullion cube - 1 (vegetable or chicken whatever you have on hand) ONLY IF COOKING LENTILS 

Salt and pepper to taste (I normally just add pepper)

If cooking lentils - takes about 40  min to make 
if using canned lentils - takes about 10 - 15 min to make
Serves 6-8


INSTRUCTIONS
Use either canned lentils or cook your own.

IF USING UNCOOKED LENTILS  

Add bouillon cube along with your spices and boil with equal parts water until tender. If you see your lentils are not tender add more water and let them continue to boil. 





IF USING CANNED LENTILS
don't add salt and drain water before 
Once you have your lentils add to a frying pan with some oil. 
Add your spices and fry a bit to warm and marry the flavours. 

FOR BOTH

Top with your freshly sliced onions of choice (here I used green onions)



Freshly chopped cilantro



Drizzle of Olive oil and serve on top of your choice of white/brown rice, quinoa, couscous, etc. This could be a side salad, served even cold, or hot as a main course (like I did here) with your choice of carb.



ENJOY!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

For the love of Cooking - Foods I Always have in my Pantry



To add protein, flavor, fiber to my foods, I keep the following in my pantry to make my last min meals, a lot easier to make. When I cook my goal is flavor, nutritional value, and enjoyment, not in that order but all smushed together. Lets go! I usually use at least 1 of each section in my meals. Hope this helps.


FOODS IN MY PANTRY




Flour (white, wheat, rice, and buckwheat, all you really need is all purpose)
Sugar
Baking soda
Baking powder (aluminium free)
Spices/Herbs


WHY
For things like crusts, doughs, baked goods it is essential to have the above. I use them regularly I would even say weekly. Sauces often times need a thickening agent, you have your flour. It's a basic that I insist be in your pantry.

Spices and Herbs- see my For the Love of Cooking - Spices and Herbs

Be sure to Store your fours and sugars in an airtight package to be sure there are no moths or odd bugs that find their home in your flour. It happens if you don't use it often. I know in Arizona the heat makes abundant weird little bugs. Here in Quebec our biggest problem is salt and sugars absorbing moisture and becoming one big rock (note if that is your problem, add some rice to your salt and it will sacrifice itself for the rest!)







Vanilla (bean, extract, flavouring, whatever floats your boat)
Chia seeds
Chocolate Chips
Honey
Maple Syrup (because we are in Quebec)
Nutella


WHY

As far as honey, I am careful because kids under 2 cannot have honey, but Maple syrup and honey are great natrual sweetners. I use them in everything from fruit salads to yogurt parfaits for breakfast.

Chocolate chips, my hubby loves in his cereals as well as his cookies so need that on hand. They also make for great eyes, noses or mouths on kid's sandwiches and is quite exciting for them.

Chia seeds really for 2 reasons - 1) you can sprinkle it on your yogurt, cereal, anything, and it ads a bunch of fiber and omegas to your daily nutritional intake. 2) Because I use chia as a butter/oil replacement in my baked goods. You read that right, in the place of butter/oil. And it works!

HINT basically use 1 table spoon of chia for every half cup of oil/butter you need in your cakes. It keeps it moist and high in nutritional value! Kind of like when I was a kid and we use to use apple sauce instead of oil in the ready made cake mixes! :)

Nutella becuase it can become a filler, a topper, breakfast, a snack, motivation or just a break in your day. A must have in our house for sure!





Couscous
Quinoa
Brown/White Rice
Pasta (a few shapes)

WHY
I love the variety. I need the variety. I go crazy if we end up having rice with something for a whole week. Honestly I alternate daily and it helps me not get sick of it all.





Tomato paste
Diced tomatoes
Corn
Lentils (dry and in a can)
Yellow Split Peas
Black beans
Chick peas
Coconut milk (in a can)


WHY
These are my "thickening agents" or "bases" to my meals. I add beans to my salads and rices often. Corn for me is an easy flavor and color adder to my meals. I also like corn so.. winner for us!



White Vinegar
Balsamic Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar
Olive Oil
Canola Oil

WHY
Vinegars are great for marinades and salads and cold sauces. Oils, well for cooking as well as marinades and almost anything else - so a must.

NOTE
I use my Olive oil as much as I can at the end of a meal to keep its authenticity in providing me with Omegas and being healthy. Once Olive oil is heated, it becomes less "good for you".


Extras- 
I also have added a new member to my pantry basics. They are not NEEDS but perhaps more of a luxury. Coconut Butter/oil it's super healthy. Tahini, Almond butter, or Peanut butter in my pantry/fridge. All of which I eat with honey and bread. My daughter loves it. I add sprinkles and/or hemp seeds that I call sprinkles and she thinks she is having such an amazing treat/meal.



ENJOY!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Kabab Digi - Kabab in a Dish





Kabab Digi is a quick fix for me it takes about an hour to make. You can really prepare the night before  in your Pyrex dish and leave it in your refrigerator. When you get home, turn on your oven and pop it in for 40 min. By the time you prepare your rice or sides, you are almost ready to eat! Super easy! 

FUNDABBLER FACT

My grandfather says my Kabab Digi is too thick. He makes it on the stove and a lot thinner than me (perhaps a final measurement (cooked) at 1/4 inch thick) Decide on what you like and be sure to adjust your meat and spices accordingly. I think it is just much easier in the oven as I don't have to stand on my feet while it cooks and watch it. Thicker kabobs means less portions to me. So call me lazy. :)




INGREDIENTS

Ground Beef (or just red meat) - about 2.5 lbs
Onion - 1 large grated
Garlic - 2 cloves crushed or finely grated
Turmeric - 3/4 teaspoon
Cinnamon - 1/3 teaspoon
Salt and pepper to taste - about 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper
Tomatoes - about 5 medium sized sliced in rounds

Serves about 4-6 people
Takes about an hour to cook
Takes about 20-30 min to prep

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F

Mix your ground beef (or what you chose to use in red meat) 



with your onions and garlic.



Add your Cinnamon



Add your Turmeric



Add your Salt and Pepper and mix. It is something you do with your hands. You can use a plastic disposable medical glove to do so if it's just too much for you.



Spread the meat in the Pyrex and cover with foil. Place in the oven.



While it is cooking, slice the tomatoes into round slices about 1cm thick



After it is cooked about 40 min (when it has shrunk and browned a bit), take it out and cut into pieces and separate so the juices are between each slice of kabob. 



Add your tomatoes on top. Pour some of the juices onto the tomatoes and kabobs. Put back in the oven. I literally cover it with tomatoes so you no longer can see the meat. Tomatoes are what adds to your final dish.



Pull out once your meat is browned nicely along with your tomatoes. If your meat juices are gone and your tomatoes are still not a bit brown, put your oven on broil. Be sure to put a timer because it would just stink if you burnt your dish at the very last min. (I speak from sorrowful experience!)



You can serve it with Persian rice and a side of Salad Shirazi or Yogurt and cucumbers (Masto Khiar). My mom always served with Fried potato rounds as well as some extra fried tomatoes on the side. I always love mine with some green onions or just raw onions! YUM!


If you're feeling adventurous or traditional, feel free to top your kabob with some Sumac. It's a tart red powder believed to aid in digestion. Persians eat it with Kabob, a heavy mea, and follow their kabob with some nice Ceylon tea to, again, aid in digestion.



Enjoy!





Tuesday, February 7, 2012

For the Love of Cooking - Herbs and Spices I Always have in my Pantry


I keep my non-perishables in my pantry. Of course the treasures in my pantry are my spices and herbs.

Before I start cooking I decide what type of food I will be cooking. Italian, Mexican, Persian, etc. I do that to know which herbs and spices to pull and use in my cooking so the flavours are there and appreciated. 

Once you decide on your spice group, you take your protein, and season accordingly. You can literally take the same protein add a different spice group to it and VOILA a new meal!

I broke my pantry down to what I'm calling "spice groups". Some are repeated, but you can pick and chose what you use to add to your pantry.


Also please note that I made these spice groups up. Yes, they are based on the whole list of herbs of a culture however they are not official or all inclusive of what each culture has to offer. I just find it easier to have a well rounded pantry while still being realistic in my range of pantry content. The flavours are present regardless.

Your herbs/spices must be fresh too so if you do not use them for over a year, most likely they are not going to be as strong. You will notice you are missing flavour. 

FUNDABBLER FACT




Spices/Herbs:




ITALIAN
Rosemary
Basil
Oregano
Cilantro





MEXICAN
Paprika
Coriander powder 
Dried Oregano
Smoked Paprika or Chipotle Powder
Chili Powder of choice
Cinnamon





INDIAN
Turmeric
Coriander
ground Chili powder
Ground Fennel seed
OR
Just a pack of curry powder

Ginger powder/Ginger
Whole Black Mustard Seeds






PERSIAN
Turmeric
Saffron
Cinnamon
Cardamom





CHINESE
Cilantro Leaves Dried 
Soy Sauce
Ginger Powder
Sesame Seeds
Dried Orange/Tangerine Zest (or you can do fresh when you cook)

5 Spice Powder

OR

Ground Cloves
Ground Fennel seeds
Pepper corn (Sichuan pepper corns)





MOROCCAN
Saffron
Turmeric
Ginger
Mint
Cumin
Cinnamon
Dried parsley/corriander
Cloves


Of Course...

Salt & Black Pepper
Bouillon cubes (Chicken/veggie broth cubes)



NOTE: if you decide to use garlic or onion powder to make things a bit easier for yourself (mind you flavours will not be completely the same when using powder over fresh) be sure you are not purchasing the SALT. So read the ingredients on the back of your container to make sure the only ingredient in your Garlic or Onion powder is just that.

To be fair, in my pantry I also have ground nutmeg, dried fenugreek, star anise, dried dill, poppy seeds, dried lemon powder, and sumac in my pantry. When you start cooking you realise what you and your family like so you personalise it! Don't be afraid to experiment!

ENJOY!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Ground Turkey Couscous





This is something I originally whipped up for my best friend while visiting. She had just had her little boy and every mom knows, someone who shows up at your house and makes you food when you are a new mom is just a happy thing! I knew I had to make it quick or she would freak out that "I'm doing too much" and not let me finish. SO! Originally I had used oregano (because that's one of the only strong herbs she had in her pantry) but the mix below is also good :)

INGREDIENTS

Dried cous cous - 1.25 cups
Water - 1.25 cups
Bouillon cube - (or substitute 1.25 cups of water for chicken/veg broth)
Garbanzo beans (chick peas) - 1 can
Frozen Green Peas - about 1 cup
Garlic - 3 cloves
Ginger - about an inch knob
Dried mint - about 2 table spoons
Dried mint - about 2 table spoons
Ground Turkey - 1 to 1.5 lbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Turmeric - .5 teaspoon
Cinnamon - .25 teaspoon
Cumin - .5 teaspoon
Vegetable oil- about .25 a cup

TOP WITH

Drizzle of olive oil
Green onions - 1 bunch sliced 
Clantro - .25 bunch finely chopped

NOTE: 
for left overs, keep the toppers aside to add once you have microwaved your dish. I find it hard to cook with ground turkey. It's difficult to spice. I tend to double my quantities so it tastes like something. For this reason, I would say the fresh toppers are a must in the dish.

Takes about 20-30 min to make
Serves 6-7 


FUNDABBLER FACT

Fresh cilantro is used in a lot of detox programs for cleansing the liver and gall bladder! Also a great source of vitamin C!


INSTRUCTIONS

Warm a pan with your vegetable oil. Add your ground Turkey.



To it add your spices, so - cinnamon, turmeric, salt, pepper, dried parsley, and ground cumin.



Grate your garlic cloves 


Grate your ginger into the mix. (HINT: if you freeze ginger, it is a bajillion times easier to grate (on a microplane or a very fine grater). The other good thing is you don't always need ginger so instead of throwing most of it away, you almost always have it at hand and don't waste)



While that is going on get started on your couscous. Always measure your couscous water ratio. That's the only trick. I also like to dilute my bouillon/chicken broth cube in the water before adding my dried couscous to the water. You can use actual broth if you prefer, but be sure to substitute that IN PLACE of your water. 


Add your boiling water to the pan of browned turkey, that is still hot and quickly add in your dried couscous. Stir. By adding the water you are also deglazing your pan (if you are using a stainless steel one) pulling up all of your flavours into your meal. 


Stir in your frozen green peas and chick peas.




 Serve and top with your fresh green onions and cilantro.


Drizzle with some olive oil to taste.





ENJOY!