Whole Wheat Cranberry-Walnut Couscous

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This is a super-quick side dish that adds fiber, protein and omega-3‘s to any savory meal. Have a small serving for a filling afternoon snack to keep you going through those hours that drag. Look for whole wheat couscous at any store, or find it at Trader Joe’s on the cheap! Couscous is actually a pasta, not a grain, which it’s sometimes mistaken for, but the whole wheat kind can pack even more fiber and protein than quinoa!

For each serving, mix:

1/3 cup whole wheat couscous

1/4 dried cranberries*

2 TBSP chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon olive oil

sprinkle of cinnamon

1. Prepare couscous according to package (this takes 5-10 minutes). Add oil, walnuts and cranberries and stir. Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve!

*Always read the labels on dried fruits. While it’s difficult to find unsweetened dried cranberries, it’s easy to avoid buying brands that throw in extras like hydrogenated oil!

Ladies Luv Lasagna (non-ladies do too!)

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Real women eat carbs, ladies. So load up on some ’sagn! This healthified version combines whole wheat noodles, low-fat cheeses and tons of veggies, making it a protein-, fiber– and vitamin-packed meal. It’s also the perfect meal to serve when you’re hostessing (just ask my buddy & fave dinner guest Pete, who asked for the recipe!)

Whole wheat lasagna noodles aren’t always as easy to find as the regular kind. Health food stores are your best bet, and if your supermarket has a natural foods aisle, you may find them there. I won’t lie, they’re more expensive—I generally pay about $4.50—but that’s one item I don’t mind splurging on. Simple carbs make your bod unhappy; they’re basically nutrient-less yuck create a spike in your blood sugar and make you hungry sooner. Whole grains, on the other hand (and I mean WHOLE grains, not products that mix “wheat flour” with “whole wheat flour”) are naturally full of nutrients, including a good deal of protein and fiber, which keep you full longer!

I like to make my lasagna with lots of creamy low-fat ricotta and cottage cheese, and just a sprinklin’ of shredded mozzarella. This way, I don’t feel deprived of the warm, cheesy gooiness I crave, but I can keep the fat content of my meal in check.

Finally, I encourage you to use your favourite veggies to make your lasagna just the way you like it. My faves combos are mushroom & spinach, and zucchini, squash & broccoli (or all of them together!) Eggplant can also be a yummy addition, but I seem to encounter a lot of peeps who don’t care for eggplant in their ’sagn. Omnivores can toss in chicken sausage to satisfy a meat craving.

A word to the wise: though this meal only takes about 15 minutes to prepare, allow plenty of time for baking. The taller you pile your lasagna pan, the longer it will take to cook through. If you’re having company or need to eat by a specific time, allow an hour and a half for to be safe; this should allow for cooling time as well.

Lasagna makes GREAT leftovers! I find that the flavour is even better the next day!

Ingredients (makes at least 8 servings):

1/2 package whole wheat lasagna noodles

1/2 jar tomato sauce, your favourite flavour

1 small container low-fat or fat-free cottage cheese

1 small container low-fat or fat-free ricotta cheese

1 package shredded mozzarella*

2 10-oz packages spinach leaves

1 package sliced baby bella mushrooms

1 zucchini

1 squash

1 head of broccoli

2-3 cloves garlic

3 tsp. olive oil, separated

Italian seasoning or your favourite Italian herbs (like basil, oregano, thyme & marjoram)

Salt & pepper

optional toppings: 1-2 vine-ripe tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, sliced black olives & shredded parmesan cheese

*I recommend using part-skim mozzarella, but NOT reduced-fat; it doesn’t melt well and tastes plasticy when it’s cooked.

1. Begin by pre-heating the oven to 350º and boiling a big pot of water (if your noodles require pre-cooking, that is; not all do).

2. Wash veggies dry them really well to prevent watery lasagna (spinach is the major culprit here.) Mince garlic and slice zucchini, squash and broccoli.

3. In a large frying pan, sautee garlic in 1 tsp. olive oil until lightly browned. Set aside and let the zucchini, squash and broccoli have a turn. Add another tsp. or two of oil if you need too. Add the mushrooms when zucchini and squash have begun to soften just a bit. Careful not to overcook—your veggies should have a bit of crunch to them.

4. While the veggies are cooking, combine cottage cheese & ricotta in a medium mixing bowl and stir well. Add Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.

5. When your veggies are cooked, and them to the garlic and sautee the spinach alone.

6. Your noodles should be done by now (you want them al dente—not too soft,) so you’re ready to assemble! Start with a thin layer of tomato sauce at the bottom of the pan to prevent stickage. Next comes a layer of noodles; use only enough to cover the pan rather than piling them on. Begin your layer of veggies by spreading the spinach over the noodles, trying to get the layer as even as possible. Add the garlic & veggie mixture. Top with tomato sauce—the amount you use can depend on your taste. Next, add another layer of noodles and top with the creamy cheese mixture. You may not need all of it; this will depend on the size of your lasagna pan. Top with a light sprinkling of shredded mozzarella—you don’t need to use the whole package if you’re concerned about keeping the fat content down.

7. Toppings can really jazz up your ’sagn! I like to add thinly sliced tomato, black olives and fresh basil leaves.

8. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for an hour. When time is up, slice into the middle to check for doneness. This can be difficult, because your lasagna will inevitably be a little runny, but some of that will set as it cools. If you’re using a larger or deeper pan, it may require another 10-15 minutes. If you like your cheese nice and brown, remove the foil before you return the pan to the oven.

9. Allow about 10 minutes for cooling. Approach with caution—tomato sauce is evil when it’s hot.

Serving suggestions: mixed greens with bell pepper and black olives; a slice of crusty whole grain bread (you don’t really need bread to go with your pasta, but I LOVE to mop up tomato & cheese with crusty bread!)

Baked Pasta for Amy


My friend Amy has some crazy stomach problems going on, and she has to be very careful what she eats to prevent a seriously painful episode. She’s trying to stay healthy and put some variety into her diet, so I’ve been coming up with yummy things her sensitive tummy can handle. Bread, cheese and veggies with low acidity get the go-ahead, so I threw together a simplified version of lasagna that anyone can enjoy. Feel free to experiment with the content of this dish–try adding your favourite veggies and maybe some veggie sausage or ground turkey (got some left over from Turkey meatloaf?)

I can’t talk about Amy during Homage Week without mentioning her fabulousness, so as a serving suggestion for this Amylicious meal, I recommend throwing on some bling and donning your 4″ Louboutin booties.

Ingredients:
1/2 box whole wheat spaghetti*
1/2 large eggplant, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 yellow squash, chopped
1 bag frozen chopped spinach
1/2 bottle tomato sauce (omit if you’re Amy)
1 bag shredded mozzarella (I used reduced fat, and it tasted alright but the consistency after baking was kinda weird)
1 tsp olive oil for cooking the veggies
salt, pepper, garlic powder and Italian seasoning to taste

*Go ahead and make the whole box of spaghetti if you like; in the next week, I’ll feature 2 recipes you can make easily with pre-cooked spaghetti.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and boil water for the pasta. Cook the spaghetti until it just barely turns al dente; you don’t want it to get overcooked in the oven.
2. Thaw the spinach & chop up your veggies. You can either sautee or roast them while you wait for the pasta to be ready (I prefer roasting, both because it gives the veggies a nice flavour and it doesn’t require standing at the stove.) If you do roast them, drizzle no more than a teaspoon of olive oil over the baking sheet, then mix the veggie pieces around to coat them on both sides. If you sautee them, use a non-stick pan and 1 tsp or less of olive oil (in either case, it is possible to omit the olive oil completely.)
3. Drain pasta and return it to its pot. Add cooked veggies and spinach to the pot along with a little tomato sauce and all the spices, and mix everything well. Transfer your concoction to a lasagna pan and top with shredded cheese.
4. Cover the pan with foil and bake for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and brown the cheese for another 5-10. Reapply your Chanel lipstick and enjoy!

Whole Wheat Pasta with Shrimp, Goat Cheese, Spinach & Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Walnut-Stuffed Zucchini Boats


This pasta’s great if you prefer a variety of textures and flavours to sauce-smothered noodles. Roasting cherry tomatoes makes them absolutely burst with flavour, and when you split them open over the pasta, they subtly infuse the dish with that nice roasty taste. I like to overload pasta with veggies and whatever protein source I’m feeling; this way, you’re getting a well-rounded, vitamin-packed meal rather than several servings of carbs (don’t get me wrong–ain’t nothin wrong with carbs!)

For a really fantastic veggie-filled meal, try this dish with 1/4 of a walnut-stuffed roasted zucchini–you won’t believe how filling it is, (I couldn’t eat the whole half pictured above) and it takes about 3 extra minutes of work. If you feel like making extras, try 1/2 a stuffed zucchini for lunch tomorrow with a side of yogurt & fruit! They’re easy to reheat in the microwave (FYI: you’ll need a food processor to whirl up the walnuts.)

A note to the chef: this meal took me 40 minutes to prepare, including cook time. Not the fastest recipe, I know, but it’s still pretty simple to throw together, considering all the ingredients involved.

Pasta Ingredients (makes 4 servings):
1/2 box whole wheat pasta, any shape you like
1 package frozen large tail-off shrimp, precooked (you can use uncooked shrimp too, of course; I find heating precooked shrimp faster & easier)
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 10-oz. package spinach leaves
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP goat cheese for each serving (feta’s delish in this recipe too)
kalamata or california olives to garnish
1 tsp. each of olive oil & balsamic vinegar to drizzle over each serving
salt, pepper, italian seasoning & crushed red pepper to taste

Stuffed Zucchini (makes 4 servings):
2 large zucchinis
1/4 cup walnuts
a drizzle of olive oil
s&p

1. Start by getting everything ready: preheat oven to 400 degrees; bring a pot of water to boil for the pasta; wash spinach & tomatoes. Slice zucchinis in half length-wise and place them on a baking sheet with the tomatoes.
2. Pop the zucchini & tomatoes into the oven. Place shrimp in a colander and run cold water over them for about 5 minutes until thaw, pressing with a paper towel to release excess water.
3. Mince the garlic. When pasta is almost ready, place the garlic in a frying pan & drizzle with a teaspoon of olive oil. When it juuuust begins to brown, add spinach and stir. When spinach starts to wilt, add shrimp. Heat over medium-low heat just until shrimp is warm (it can be overcooked very easily!) Throw the contents of the frying pan in with the drained pasta and cover to keep warm while you finish prepping.
4. The zucchinis are ready when the middles are a bit soft. Scoop the middles from two of the halves and place them in your food processor. Chop the other two halves up and add them to the processor, along with the walnuts and a teeny drizzle (1 teaspoon or less) of olive oil. Grind a little salt & pepper over the mix, and whirl it up. Spoon the mixture back into the zucchini shells, and cut the pieces in half to make four small servings.
5. The tomatoes are ready when they’ve begun to shriveled a bit and leak some of their juice. Dish up the pasta and add some tomatoes to each serving. Drizzle a teaspoon each of olive oil and balsamic over each dish, and flavour to taste with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, basil & oregano to taste. Happy eatin!