THE HEALTHY HAG

I COOK … I EAT … I SHARE.

Saucy Polenta Fingers December 10, 2009

After feeling like I hit a culinary wall of non-creativity (why is it that we always go back to the same old same old after a while??), I went a huntin’ in the great abbyss that is my pantry.  My prey?  Turned out to be a big fat zippy filled with cornmeal.  Enter… inspiration!  I’ve made both the store bought and homemade kinds before, but I wanted to jazz this lil diddy up, so I made this into fingers.  Cooled ’em, cute ’em, grilled ’em, then smothered ’em in sauce.  Outcome?  A brilliantly cheap, quick, hearty and luscious winter-time meal.  Bonus was the totally gluten-free day I had!  Woot!

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INGREDIENTS:

For the polenta –

4 cups water

3 1/2 cups of milk

2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups cornmeal

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 tbsp butter (I used unsalted)

For the sauce –

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and chopped into 1 inch pieces

2 cups diced canned tomatoes

1 tsp EACH dried parsley and dried basil

Salt and pepper to taste

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DIRECTIONS:

1. Bring water and milk to a boil in a medium pot, then turn down to a simmer – watching closely so you don’t burn the milk.

2. Add cornmeal  into pot in a slow stream, stirring, then add dried basil and salt, and continuing to whisk for about 2-3 minutes.

3. Continue to simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes more – polenta will be gloppy and stiff, but try to keep stirring so the bottom does not burn, then remove from heat.

4. Mix in Parmesan cheese and butter, then plop into a greased 9×11 baking dish and cool for at least 30 minutes until completely solid.

5. While polenta is solidifying, in a large skillet heat oil over medium heat, and saute onions until translucent, then add in garlic and cook until garlic is fragrant and slighly browned (about 1-2 minute).

6. Add canned tomatoes and dried spices (and salt and pepper to taste), simmer for 5-7 minutes, then add in diced green beans and cook until tender – about another 5 min (simmer sauce on low until ready to use).

7.  Slice soild polenta into fingers, remove fro baking dish, and grill in a grill pan until heated and slightly browned (you could also broil in the oven, turning so all sides are browned).

8. Place grilled polenta fingers on a plate, and cover with sauce – sprinkle with parmessean and serve HOT!

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Incredible Italiano Veggie Lasagna December 1, 2009

Making homemade lasagna may seem like an exercise in blood sweat and tears – but it’s all well worth it in the end, and once you’ve made it a few times, it’ll all come together in a snap.  I’ve tried to make the process as simple as possible here, without sacrificing any of the necessary steps required for a tasty dish that will leave you and your guests sated and elated beyond belief!  You could skip making the homemade sauce and use pre-cooked noodles and get a good result … but if you want the spectacular … you’re just going to have to be patient.  Have a BIG glass of wine and play your favourite tunes right through the process – and enjoy!

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INGREDIENTS:

1 box of good quality lasagna noodles

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp olive oil

1 head broccoli, finely chopped

1 large zucchini, finely chopped

12 crimini or button mushrooms, finely chopped

2 cups baby spinach, chopped

1 tsp each dried basil and parsley

1 tsp salt

Pepper

1 x 16 oz can diced tomatoes

1 x 3 oz can tomato paste

1 x 500ml tub of ricotta cheese

2 eggs

2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated

¼ cup parmesan cheese, grated

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DIRECTIONS:

1)  Boil water and follow the package cooking directions of the lasagna noodles – and set aside once cooked.

2)  Chop onion and garlic, and sauté in a very large saucepan along with olive oil until well browned and translucent.

3)  Add the can of crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and dried herbs to the onion and garlic pan, and simmer until well heated (about 10 min).

4)  In a separate pan, heat to medium-high and sauté broccoli, zucchini and mushroom in a bit of olive oil until softened and vibrant in colour – near the end sprinkle with salt and pepper, add the spinach and cook until wilted.

5)  In a large bowl, slightly beat the 2 eggs, then mix in ricotta cheese, and combine until smooth.

6)  Using a 13 x 9 glass baking dish, spoon the simmered tomato sauce into the bottom to barely cover – set aside 2-3 tbsp of sauce for the very end.

7)  Layer noodles into pan, then follow with 1/3 of the roasted vegetables, then 1/3 of the ricotta/egg mixture, then 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese, then 1/3 of the tomato sauce.

8)  Repeat these layers until you are left with only the top layer of the noodles – then drizzle with the remaining tomato sauce and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

9)  Bake in a 350F oven for 40 minutes, until nice and bubbly.

10) Remove from heat and allow to set for at least 20-30 minutes!  NOTE – You can re-heat slightly if it’s too cool, but it needs to set in order to slice properly.

11)  Serve in gorgeous big bowls and enjoy with some crusty bread!

NOTES:

– Feel free to swap in and out any vegetables you like.  Carrots can be swapped for the zucchini, and you could add cauliflower or eggplant for a nice switch too.

– Using fat-free cheese won’t work really, but you can get away with using lower-fat version.  If you can’t find ricotta, use cottage cheese instead, but always go for the ricotta if you can.

 

Polenta with Broccoli and Tomato June 11, 2009

I usually stick to grilling or toasting the pre-made roll-o-polenta, but after a week of unexciting regular go-to’s, I decided to branch out and experiment.  Success!  Not only is basic polenta delicious and cheap, it’s super easy to make and goes with just about anything you’d pair pasta with.  It’s hearty and luscious, and a great way to showcase your favourite vegetables … plus it suits gluten-free diets perfectly! I had a head of broccoli that needed some love, and one brand new hunk of tasty parmesan that was just begging to be grated … and voila!

 

 

INGREDIENTS:

For the polenta

4 cups vegetable stock (although you can use water too)

1/4 tsp salt

1-1/4 cups cornmeal

1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling

2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into bits

 

For the vegetables

2 tbsp olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 large bunch broccoli, chopped into tiny florets (5-6 cups total)

1/3 cup water

3 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped (you can use canned if you forgot to buy fresh)

Salt and pepper to taste

 

DIRECTIONS:

1. Bring vegetable stock to a boil in a medium saucepan, then turn down to a simmer.

 

2. Add cornmeal to stock in a slow stream, whisking, and continuing to whisk after it is all added for about 5 minutes.

 

Note – Allow to polenta to cook gently while the vegetables are prepared.

 

3. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat, and once oil is hot, add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until garlic is fragrant (about 1 minute).

 

4. Add broccoli, toss with oil, then add the water and cover to steam until tender.

 

5. Uncover broccoli once tender, then add tomatoes, and cook until liquid evaporates (about 2 minutes more) – season to taste.

 

6. Season the polenta to taste, mix in parmesan cheese and butter, then pour onto plates and top with cooked vegetables (serve with a sprinkling parmesan cheese).


polenta

 

Eggplant Pasta Bake May 1, 2009

I am a pasta-holic.  Along with coffee and wine, pasta is one of my top vices – most definitely.  So, I try to make it only once (okay, maybe twice) per week, and as healthy as I can.  That said, here is my take on an easy casserole style pasta dish that is loaded with flavour and other than some fat from the cheese (which is good in my books), it’s a healthy way to add some fibre, veggies, and cozy-food goodness into your day.  And oh yes, this pairs deliciously well with a gorgeous Pinot Noir!!!

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups whole wheat penne pasta
2 medium eggplants, peeled and cut lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices
salt (to sprinkle)
1 TBSP olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
2 + 3/4 cups tomato sauce
6 Roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup basil pesto
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated

DIRECTIONS:

1) Cook pasta in boiling salted water for 8-10 min, until tender but firm, then drain and return to same saucepan. Set aside.

2) Meanwhile, sprinkle both sides of eggplant slices with salt, and place on wire rack set on a baking sheet.

3) Let eggplant stand for about 15-20 min, then rinse with cold water and blot dry (tea-towel or paper-towels will do).

4) Brush both sides of eggplant slices lightly with olive oil, and cook eggplant on greased grill or BBQ for 2-3 min per side until golden.

5) Transfer grilled eggplant to cutting board or large plate, and cut into 1 inch pieces, then add to pasta.

6) Heat olive oil in small frying pan on medium – add onion and cook for 5-10 min (stirring often) until softened.

7) Add onion to pasta, stir, then add tomato sauce, Roma tomatoes, basil pesto and stir again.

8] Transfer everything into greased 3 quart casserole dish (bust out the Le Crueset!!!), sprinkle with both cheeses and bake uncovered, in 350°F oven for 30-40 min until heated through and cheese is bubbly and golden.

9) Let stand for 5 min before serving – then enjoy!!

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Fettuccine in Mushroom Broth with Truffle Oil March 12, 2009

Sounds luxurious … and tastes just like it sounds (but believe me, it won’t break the bank).  Last night consisted on giving in to my pregnant-lady-like-hankering for pasta and mushrooms (no, I am not even remotely with child … I just obsess over food like someone who is!) … by satisfying my craving with one amazing savoury dish!  I happened to have Truffle oil  – it’s a long story – and one incredible bag of organic whole-wheat pasta.  Lucky me!  If you don’t have Truffle oil, you can substitute another oil like walnut or almond or a high-quality olive oil.  Don’t be afraid of the ‘brothy-ness’ of this dish.  The pasta soaks up most of the liquid and what you’re left with is something spectacular!  Good for a date night or one of those dinners where you just have to make all your friends jealous of your mastery in the kitchen.

Ingredients:

* 2 Tbsp olive oil

* 1 cup dried porcini mushrooms

* 2 cups shiitake or cremini mushrooms, stemmed and diced

* ½ cup finely chopped shallots

* 3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbps)

* 1 cup stock (I used mushroom stock!) or water

* 1 cup dry white wine (and 2 cups for you!)

* ½ cup frozen peas

* 1 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley

* 3 tsp truffle oil, divided

* 8 oz fettuccine or any other noodle you desire

Directions:

1) Boil the stock (or some water) and place dried mushrooms in 1 cup of the boiled liquid – and allowthe mushrooms to hydrate for about 30 min.

2) Heat olive oil in very large skillet over medium-high heat, add porcini mushrooms, shallots, and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and sauté 5 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft.

2) Remove the now hydrated mushrooms, squeeze dry, and ad to skillet and sauté for another 2-3 min.  NOTE – do not throw out the liquid, keep it for later!!!

3) Add wine and the remaining stock, and simmer 10 minutes, or until mushrooms are very tender.

4) Add peas, simmer 2 minutes more, then stir in parsley and 1 tsp. truffle oil (season with salt and pepper again if necessary).

5) Meanwhile, cook fettuccine in large pot of boiling salted water according to package directions until al dente (usually 7-12 min, depending on the noodle).

6) Drain pasta, and toss with mushroom sauce, then drizzle 1/2 tsp. truffle oil over each serving, and sprinkle with grated parmessean. pasta

 

Baked Tomato Risotto February 9, 2009

Okay, sometimes I just don’t have the time to stand over a simmering pot for an hour stirring away … sometimes I just want the quick-and-dirty route.  So here’s a fix for a mid-week hankering for sumptuous creamy risotto – start this healthy risotto on the stove, then simply plop it in the oven and walk away.  Don’t worry – you’ll come back soon enough once it’s done … your nose and growling tummy will make sure of that!


Ingredients:

2 tbsp butter

1 onion, finely chopped

1 cup arborio or long-grain rice

19-oz can stewed tomatoes (any “Italian” flavour will work really)

2 cups vegetable broth

1 tbsp dried oregano leaves

1 tsp each garlic powder, salt and sugar

5 oz (1 log) goat cheese, crumbled

5 oz pkg baby spinach, about 8 cups

extra shaved Parmesan cheese

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400F (200C)., and melt butter in a large, ovenproof saucepan over medium heat.

2) Add onion and stir often until soft, 5 min.

3) Stir in rice until coated, then tomatoes – ensuring to stir often until liquid is almost absorbed, 4 to 5 min.

4) Then stir in broth, seasonings and sugar, and bring to a boil (stirring often!)

5) Tightly cover pan and bake in centre of oven until all liquid is absorbed, about 30 to 40 min.

6) Remove from oven, and stir in cheese and half the spinach.

7) Spoon into bowls and top with remaining spinach (and shaved Parmesan cheese if you wismicrowave-tomato-risotto-de-31096358h).


 

Pea-sotto July 14, 2008

Risotto. Rice and peas. Oh, and wine, butter and cheese. It rhymes and it tastes like heaven. Don’t be afraid of making risotto. Yes, you have to stand over the stove for 30 minutes or so, but as long as you slowly stir continuously, it’s literally easy-peasy. You’ll impress yourself and your guests with this simple and succulent side or main. Tastes just as good on day 2 as well, if you’re lucky enough to have any left over that is.

INGREDIENTS:

1 small spanish onion, finely chopped

olive oil

1 cup arborio rice

5-6 cups of stock (use any you’d like – I used veggie obviously, but you could use chicken)

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1 cup white wine (use one you’d drink, as it retains the flavour)

1 tbsp butter

1/3 cup grates parmesean cheese

salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

1) Heat olive oil in a large saucepan, add onions to pan, and saute until transparent (about 3-5 min).

2) Meanwhile, in a separate pot, heat stock and simmer.

3) Add 1/2 cup stock and 2/3 cup of peas into a blender and blend until smooth.

4) Turn saucepan heat to high, and add rice to onions and toast slightly for 1 min, then add 1 cup of wine and simmer until evaporated.

5) Add 1/2 cup of stock and simmer on high until absorbed. Continue adding stock 1/2 cup at a time, making sure it is completely absorbed before adding next cup – for about 25-30 min (until rice is still somewhat firm and just cooked).

6) Add in pea mixture into rice along with salt/pepper to taste plus the cheese and butter, and cook for 2-3 mintues until butter and cheese are completely melted.

7) Add in remaining peas and stir. Serve with freshly grated parm on top and voila!!