Healthy Tuscan Chicken

Many of our meals are decided on by ingredients that I need to use up. This one came along because I had peppers and tomatoes that needed to be eaten. We had chicken breasts in the freezer and I had been watching a cooking show, Wall of Chefs, with my eldest the night before which inspired my taste buds. Italy and Tuscany were on my mind and I really wanted roasted veggies! An idea started forming and this was the result. I wasn’t sure how my kids would respond, but both cleared their plates and the youngest kept asking for more, which is ALWAYS a good sign! The chicken was so tender and juicy and kept the tenderness even as leftovers. This dish can have ingredients substituted based on what you have on hand, or to suit your vegetable preferences. The ingredients listed is for a four people, you can lessen or increase depending on how many people you are serving!

Ingredients

4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 Bell Pepper

4 Roma Tomatoes

1 small yellow onion

6 cloves of garlic

1/2C Basil sliced into ribbons

1/2 a lemon

1tbsp olive oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

1/2C Chicken broth

Directions

Start by prepping your vegetables you want to as a base. I used cauliflower and grape tomatoes. Next, cut the peppers, tomatoes, garlic and onion for the chicken and set aside. Preheat your oven to 400F and place a heavy bottom pan that is oven safe on the stove top at slightly higher than medium heat.

Diced and ready to add to the chicken!

I cut half a head of cauliflower and sprinkled the tomatoes throughout, then drizzled olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast at 400F for about 10-15 min, turning once in between. If you have more dense vegetables, like carrots or sweet potatoes, your cooking time will be a little longer. Other great options are artichokes, asparagus, even brussel sprouts.

While your vegetables are roasting, start cooking the chicken. Your pan should be warmed by now. Pour 1tbsp of olive oil into the pan. Olive oil does not have a high temp point, so be careful that you haven’t set your stove top too high or the oil will smoke. Place the chicken breasts, one at a time into the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Let them cook for a few minutes until a nice sear develops. The chicken should be starting to brown on the side touching the pan, and you will see it change from pink to white on the outer edges. Using tongs, turn your chicken to sear the other side. Once the chicken has been seared on both sides, turn the temperature down a bit to slightly under medium and add your peppers, tomatoes, garlic and onion. Let the vegetables sautee around the chicken and begin to soften for about 5 minutes. Add your warm chicken broth to the pan. Bring the broth up to a simmer. By this time the roasted vegetables should be done and can be removed from the oven. Turn the temperature down to 375F. Squeeze the half a lemon over the chicken and add half of your basil. Cover and place the whole pan carefully in the oven to finish cooking. Leave in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked all the way through, reaching an internal temperature of 165F.

I chose to serve this on pasta, but later had it on rice. This chicken goes well with either starch as a base. Once your chicken is fully cooked, remove the pan from the oven and let it sit for 3-5 minutes. I popped my vegetables back in the oven and sauteed some sliced zucchini in olive oil while the chicken sat. The pan will have a delicious chicken broth that can be spooned over the dish. I think the broth was my kids’ favourite part! You can serve this with bread and soak up any remaining broth, or sauce your dish as heavy or as light as you wish.

This dish took a bit of prep work cutting the vegetables, but overall was a very simple dish to prepare with light, fresh flavours that the whole family enjoyed. You could easily prep the vegetables the night before or morning of to save time when you’re ready to cook. If you want to keep it to a one pan meal, you can omit the extra roasted veggies. I hope you enjoy as much as my family did!

Simple Beef Stroganoff

Such a family favourite, this is lunch the next day!

I used to dread this as a kid. I thought it looked awful, didn’t want to eat it and wondered why mom made it for dinner. Fast forward a few years (okay, decades) and I decided to try making Beef Stroganoff for my kids. I looked up different recipes, I wanted something simple, easy, using up ingredients I had on hand. After reading a few recipes and getting the general idea, I came up with my own easy and kid requested, version. I still haven’t figured out why my kids ask for this on the regular, but I do know when I make it, I better make extras! This recipe is so easy, I can make it before I go to work and all my husband has to do is cook the egg noodles. These pictures are from exactly that situation, and lunch the next day.

Ingredients

1 lb beef steak (I usually use fast fry or marinating cuts, thin that you can easily slice)

4 cloves of garlic, diced

1 can Campbell’s Mushroom Soup

1/4C milk or cream

1 large spoonful of sour cream

Salt and pepper to taste

1 package Egg Noodles

Directions

This dish is so simple, and only requires a pot, a pan and a cutting board. I start by slicing my beef into small strips. Thin, but also short enough that my kids don’t have to complain about cutting them. I vary what beef I use, based on what the store has available and at what price. A thinner, fast fry steak is my go to. It is easier to cut and cook. Whichever cut you choose you want to be able to slice it thin and into small pieces to make eating easier. Start heating your water to boil and set your pan on the stove to get it warming. If using a non stick pan, no oil is needed. If using cast iron or steel, add a tbsp of oil.

Once the beef is sliced, add it to your warmed pan. Season with salt and pepper. Salt helps bring out the flavour of the beef and season your dish well. Add the diced garlic and sautee your beef until browned.

Once your beef is browned, add the can of mushroom soup to the pan. Then add the 1/4C of milk or cream and stir together. Once stirred, add the dollop of sour cream. You can add a little more or little less, depending on your tastes, but I find a big spoonful is the right amount.

Not the prettiest looking, but this is how you
know you’re doing it right.

The egg noodles should be done by now, don’t forget about them! Stir the ingredients with the beef until combined and steaming. The sauce will thicken a bit, but will still leave enough to cover your noodles. Plate the noodles first, then spoon the stroganoff mixture on until you have the desired amount of sauce. If your sauce gets too thick, add a little bit of milk or cream at a time and stir until incorporated and you get the desired consistency.

This recipe is super simple, it has mushrooms which my kids don’t like, but for some reason, they LOVE this! If you need a quick, easy meal on a busy night this is our go to. You can substitute plain yogurt for sour cream, depending on what you have on hand.

This dish makes leftovers easy, as you can store together for a quick reheat and enjoy!

Whipped Peanut Butter Cookies

Whipped cookies are usually reserved for shortbreads, or meringues, so to think of a, rich, hearty cookie like a peanut butter one seems absurd! I stumbled upon this becoming a light, airy, whipped dough by accident. I never seem to focus on one singular task at once, I always have three or more going at the same time, especially when it comes to baking! I had started this recipe and let it mix longer than I intended. With softened butter and peanut butter blending together longer, it created a lighter, whipped base that the rest of the ingredients incorporated into beautifully. I watched the baking time closely as I was a little concerned with such a different dough, but the end result was a slightly crunchy cookie, with a soft, melt in your mouth middle that was just simply, perfect!

Ingredients

1/2C Butter, softened

1/2C Peanut Butter

1/2C Sugar

1/2C Brown Sugar, firmly packed

1 Egg

1 1/4C Flour

1/2tsp baking powder

1/2tsp baking soda

Dash of salt

Directions

Start by preheating the oven to 375F. The start mixing your butter. Mix until there are no big lumps. Add the Peanut Butter and mix until it looks smooth and well blended like this:

Then mix in both sugars. Blend them well until the sugar is incorporated and there are no lumps or big grains. Add the egg. As always, I prefer one bowl baking, so I add the baking powder and baking soda next. Toss in your dash of salt, then slowly start adding the flour. Shake a little flour in and give it time to mix into the dough before adding more. Once all the flour has been added and is mixed it, it’s time to bake. You want to blend your flour in well, but not over mix.

Use a non stick cookie sheet or line with parchment paper. Spoon the dough onto the sheet in tablespoon size balls. Take a fork and lightly flatten criss cross wise. These will flatten and spread a bit, so leave about 2″ in between cookies. Bake for 8-10 minutes, watching closely for the edges to begin to brown. With such a light dough, you want to be careful not to overbake as it can happen easily. Taking the cookies out, just as the edges turn golden will leave you with that soft, melt in your mouth middle. Once baked, let cool for a couple minutes, then finish cooling on a cooling rack. Seal tightly to keep freshness, or freeze in a sealed container to defrost at room temperature when needed,

Simple Fluffy Pancakes….or Waffles

Sundays meant waking up early, getting ready and going to Church. It also meant a big family breakfast, complete with Mom’s homemade pancakes or waffles! This was one of the first recipes I learned when I moved out many years ago. It is so simple to make and loved by my daughters and coworkers!

Ingredients

1.5C flour

2Tbsp Sugar

2Tsp Baking Powder

1 Egg

1/4C Oil (Vegetable or Canola)

1 1/4C Milk

1tsp Ground Cinnamon (optional)

Directions

I like my one bowl messes, so I start this recipe by combining the dry ingredients and then the wet. Add your flour, sugar and baking powder to the mix. Take a whisk and stir the dry ingredients together. Add the egg, then the oil and milk. Add cinnamon here if you would like. Mix together until well incorporated, there will still be lumps. I usually make a double batch so I have extra to freeze. Once the wet and dry ingredients are stirred together, set the bowl aside. Get your griddle or pan out and preheat. I use our griddle about 325F and set the stovetop to 5/10.

Setting the mix aside will help the dry ingredients to absorb the wet, making your mix thicker. If the mix is too thick, add a bit of milk, then oil until you reach the desired consistency. If you want to add cinnamon, now is the time to do it. I suggest a 1/4C of milk to a 1tbsp of oil for ratio. Stir the pancake mix until all the clumps have dissolved. Letting the mix sit is key to fluffy pancakes. I usually mix well, then let the griddle come to temperature before stirring the mix again. I whisk it, ensuring there are no clumps and thin as needed. The mix should be thick to stir, but still in a runny batter form. If you are making waffles, thin the mix a bit further so it is runnier. Add more milk than oil, but in small amounts.

Spoon a small ladle, about 4-6″ in diameter. Cook the pancakes until bubbles form, then flip. Once you see steam coming off the pancake, you know it is cooked. For waffles, thin this recipe a bit using 4:1 milk to oil ratio until the batter is thinner and easily runny. Pour the batter into your waffle maker as per the directions

We often make a double batch of french toast, pancakes or waffles and freeze what is left over. Putting the leftovers into a ziploc bag then right into the freezer is easy. My kids can take the bags out, and put the frozen french toast, pancake or waffle into the freezer for a quick and easy breakfast. Who needs eggos when you can make them yourself?

Fabulous French Toast

French Toast topped with fresh raspberries

Breakfast is one of my family’s favourite meals. I prefer a slow wake up, whereas the rest of my house wakes up with hungry stomachs ready to go! Weekends we tend to all move a bit slower, so time to cook bigger meals is available. Pancakes, Waffles, bacon, eggs, sausages, fruit salad, french toast, whatever we have on hand and are in the mood for is on the menu. My favourite is french toast. I love the sweetness of vanilla, spices of cinnamon and nutmeg all wrapped up in a fluffy, slightly crispy bread. A new twist I tried a few years ago was cooking the bread in coconut oil. Oh! I wish I had have tried this sooner. It adds an extra level of sweet and cooks the bread so well. It quickly became my favourite way to make french toast!

What You Need

Eggs (we use about 4 for half a loaf of bread)

Milk or Cream, not higher than 10%

Vanilla Extract (real is best)

Ground Cinnamon and Nutmeg

Bread (You can use so many different types. For ease, we prefer a texas toast cut)

Coconut oil for frying (optional, but so much better)

Shallow dish to sip the bread in

Frying pan or griddle to cook on

Directions

Start by cracking eggs into your shallow dish. A glass pie plate works perfectly for this! break the yolks and whisk them well with a fork. Add in a bit of milk or cream, about 3 tbsp is good, depending on how many eggs you’re using. You want to thin the eggs a bit, but not make the dish watery. Add in 1 tsp vanilla and mix. Shake your cinnamon and nutmeg on top. I add more spice as I dip bread, so start with 3 to 4 shakes of cinnamon and 1 to 2 shakes of nutmeg. Just enough to sprinkle the top. Take your fork and gently swirl the spices, careful to leave them on the top of the egg mixture.

Warm your pan. If using coconut oil, put the heat just below medium. Keep an eye on it as you cook as coconut oil has a lower heat point. Once the pan feels warm (test by holding your hand above it to see if you can feel heat, please do not touch the pan itself), add 1 tbsp of coconut oil. It will melt fairly fast. Take a piece of bread and holding it by one corner, lay one side of the bread in the egg mixture, then flip and cover the other side. Quickly set into the pan to fry. Cook on one side until the egg is dry and the bread is looking golden, flip and cook the other side.

Continue to do this until all your egg mixture or bread is used up, or you’ve cooked as many as you can eat! You’ll notice the spices don’t stay in the egg mixture long when you leave them swirled on top. I add more every 3 slices or so, so each piece has that fantastic flavour! Serve with syrup, butter, fresh fruit or any other toppings you like.

Quick and Easy Shepherd’s Pie

This recipe is not a traditional Shepherd’s pie. It’s a variation for a quick and easy dinner that kids gobble up! I usually plan this meal to follow a night we have had mashed potatoes. I make a bigger batch with dinner the night before so prep for the Shepherd’s pie is so fast and easy. The key to this one? The cheese topping. Once I added that, it was like the kids couldn’t get enough! This recipe was tested with my own kids and my daycare gang with great success. This recipe can be frozen very easily and cooked from frozen or after defrosting in the fridge overnight.

Ingredients

1 lb ground beef

Mashed potatos (about 4-5 medium sized potatoes worth)

500G bag of frozen mixed vegetables

2 cans condensed tomato soup

2C shredded cheddar cheese

Garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper to taste

1/2C diced onion (optional)

Casserole dish (I used 2.5 qt)

Directions

As I said in the introduction, the easiest time to make this is when you’ve had mashed potatoes and have leftovers. It makes preparation so fast and simple.

Start by browning the ground beef in a pan. Add the seasonings and diced onion. If you’re unsure how much to add, 1/4 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of pepper, 1 tbsp of garlic powder and 2 tsp of paprika is a good measurement. Cook until brown all the way through and drain any excess grease. If you don’t have any mashed potatoes ready to go, start by peeling and cutting the potatoes to make mashed as they will take longer than your beef.

While the beef is cooking, warm the mashed potatoes. Preheat the oven to 400F. Add the cooked beef to the casserole dish. Add enough frozen vegetables to suit your preference. I add about 2/3 vegetables to beef. Stir in 2 cans of condensed tomato soup. Stir all 3 ingredients together until mixed well. Top with the mashed potatoes. I add a hearty spoonful in various places over the top of the beef mixture, then spread evenly with the back of a spoon until about 2 inches thick. Sprinkle the grated cheese over top. My kids prefer marble cheese on almost anything, but you can use any cheddar you like.

Cover the casserole dish and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the cover and continue to bake for 10-15 minutes longer. The sauce will be bubbling up the sides and the cheese melted and golden on top. If you are cooking from frozen, it will take an hour to an hour 20 to cook all the way through. Cover for the main portion of cooking, then remove the cover for the last 20 minutes if cooking from frozen. Again, the side will be bubbling and the top melted and golden.

Remove from the oven and serve.

Soft and Sweet Sugar Cookies

Mini cut outs for our tea party

I LOVE sugar cookies! Just the right amount of sweet, soft and delicious and they go with any occasion! We have quite a few cookie cutters for any holiday and season. My favourite is topping them with sprinkled sugar. My kids prefer icing and bigger sprinkles. My husband just likes them plain. We have big cookie cutters and mini ones. This was the first time we tried minis and they turned out so well I figured it was about time to post the recipe I have been using for over a decade. The key to these is to not over flour or over mix and to refrigerate for the solid hour or so that it calls for. That will help them keep shape and bake well.

Ingredients

1 1/2C Butter, softened (real butter is key here, not margarine)

2C Sugar

4 Eggs

1tsp Vanilla (real vanilla is best in these, not artificial)

5C All purpose flour

2tsp baking powder

1/4tsp salt

Extra flour for your work surface

Parchment paper for baking

Sprinkles, sugar or other options for decorating

Directions

Start by beating the butter until creamy. Soft butter helps the sugar to incorporate better. Next, add the sugar. Beat until fluffy and light. Beating the butter and sugar long enough is key to really good dough. Add in the eggs, one at a time, careful to not get any shells in the mix. Then add in your vanilla. Beat until combined. Ideally, you mix your dry ingredients separately then add slowly, but I don’t love doing extra dishes, so I tend to add my dry ingredients right to the bowl. While I have the mixer going, I add the salt, then the baking powder. Then, I slowly add the flour, one cup at a time so it can mix in well. I usually have to scrape the sides of the bowl down half way during adding the flour. Mix the flour until combined, but don’t overdo it. If the flour is worked too much it can make the cookies a bit tougher. If you want a smaller batch, you can half this easily.

Once all mixed, separate the dough into 2 balls and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the fridge to chill for an hour. Fridge, not freezer even if you are in a rush. You can chill for longer than an hour, I often do. I’ll start with this dough, do a few other things, then come back to it well after an hour. If it has been a few hours, I will let it sit on the counter for a few minutes as I get my space prepped.

You will need flour for dusting the counter so the dough doesn’t stick, a rolling pin and any cookie cutters you like. I have a marble rolling pin and it has been the best tool ever! It makes amazing pastry dough and rolls cookies out so smooth.

Take your baking tray and line it with parchment paper. This helps remove the cookies from the tray easier and avoids melted sugar or sprinkles on your baking tray! Preheat the oven to 400F.

Start by unwrapping one ball of dough. Knead it a few times on your floured surface to make sure it holds together well and it’s warmed up a bit. Don’t overwork it, especially on the flour or it will make the dough more tough once cooked. Once the dough seems more pliable, start rolling it out. Roll it evenly until it’s 1 inch thick. You can see this thickness well in this picture, and don’t worry, I wash every surface the dough touches!

Take your cookies and evenly space them on your baking tray about 2 inches apart. They will spread a little when baking, and puff up, but they shouldn’t melt too wide. This is why we chill the dough! You can add sprinkles, sugar, chopped nuts, cherries whatever you like to the top, or leave them plain for decorating with icing later.

Once you have cut all you can with the dough you rolled. Gather it back up, and roll it again, repeating the process until all of your dough is used up. I tend to do one round with each ball of dough, then combine them. It helps to keep them at similar temperatures and makes it easier to cook and bake with.

Bake your cookies at 400F for 6-8 minutes. Take them out once the bottom edges turn a golden brown. Watching for that perfect colour is key to keeping them soft and light. They are ok a bit crunchier, but the best way to enjoy and keep them is when they are just golden. The tops will look a bit dry too. Let them cool for a couple minutes before moving to a cooling rack. If you want to use icing, let them cool completely then you can use royal icing which dries or softer icings if not stacking. For easy icing, I happily buy the small Wilton tubes in the grocery store so my kids can easily handle them and do designs. These will dry a bit, but not as hard as royal icing. You can add decorations or sprinkles or sugar with the icing when it’s wet as well.

The cookies can be frozen plain or decorated in a tightly sealed container. To defrost, just let them sit on the counter in the container for a couple hours and they will soften. I do this especially at Christmas when I make dozens and dozens for various friends and family. Of course, as with any cookie, they are always best fresh from the oven! Once you have one bite, they will be hard to resist not taking another!

Fish in a Bag

Weird title, right? But that is LITERALLY what this meal is. Fillets of fish, on a bed of vegetables, wrapped up in a parchment paper “bag” and baked. The veggies steam and give the fish such a fresh flavour, there is nothing better! This meal can be done with almost any type of fish, it is so quick to prepare and cooks within 30 minutes. The fish is tender, flaky and moist. Once you try it, you’ll be hooked. This was a menu item when I worked at Red Lobster and although I never knew the recipe, the method was easy enough to test out and love!

Ingredients

These will be the loosest ingredients I have ever listed, so bear with me! You will need enough fish fillets for the group you are feeding. Anything as small as 1 or 2, to a few bags with 5 or 6. Depending on the size of fillet, I would do 1-3 per bag. I usually use Tilapia, Salmon or Trout, skinless is best. The pictures I’m posting feature a larger trout fillet which fed our family of 4.

Vegetables! You can use any vegetables you like, anything that will steam or roast well. Think about what fish you’re using, how the fish will absorb the flavours and what you like to eat.

Butter, salt and pepper to taste, lemon wheels, garlic cloves and any herbs you want to use to add flavour. I suggest dill, thyme or even sage or basil.

Parchment paper! Key to the cooking process!

Baking tray to lay the bags on

Directions

Start by deciding how many bags you are making. Is everyone having their own individual serving? Are you making a big bag for everyone to serve from? Plenty of options for this recipe. I’m going to focus on making one big family bag today. Put your baking tray in front of you in your work area, then lay the parchment paper over it.

Wash and cut any vegetables you are using. I tend to wash and cut as I go and make layers. I put my heartiest vegetables on the bottom. In this case, I went super simple and laid baby carrots as my first layer

First layer on parchment paper

Next, I chose celery and mixed cherry and grape tomatoes. The tomatoes were great because they were already in a perfect size. The celery I cut into bigger pieces so they wouldn’t get too soft while cooking.

Adding more vegetables

Next, I added squares of bell pepper and cut about 4 garlic cloves in half, tucking them in amongst the sides of the vegetables. The garlic cloves aren’t pictured below.

Finished the vegetables

Now it’s time to lay the fish fillets over the bed of vegetables. Lay the fish over the vegetables, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then thinly slice some butter and lay over the fish. Add any fresh herbs you would like to use. I had chives on hand, so decided to Last, lay the lemon wheels on the fish. All the flavours will steam together with the fish and the vegetables creating such a delicious, fresh taste!

All ready to bag and bake

Now it’s time to make our parchment paper bags. Pull a piece of parchment paper that is as big as the bottom piece. Next, fold the corners over together to help keep the pieces together. Now, slowly start to roll the edges together and in towards the centre. Keep rolling along the edges, squeezing them tightly to form a “bag.” Once you have finished rolling and the edges are sealed together, you can put the tray in the oven.

Bake at 375F for 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how many fillets you have in. Once cooked, remove from the oven. Carefully take a knife and cut along the middle length of the parchment paper. Steam will be escaping, so watch that you don’t burn yourself. Serve and enjoy! If doing individual bags, you can plate and open at the table for extra flair. With individual bags, you can eat right out of the bag!

Voila! Dinner is Served!

Hearty Lasagna

Look at those layers!

Every year when I ask my husband what he wants for his birthday dinner, nine times out of ten, his response is lasagna. Not take out, not a big, juicy steak, all he wants is a giant, homemade lasagna. It is a fantastic family meal, easy to make and share with a large group, or freeze for an quicker meal another night. Today I’m posting the recipe for our giant lasagna, but I will include modifications for smaller ones and at the end a quick recipe for a super fast lasagna you can make in a pinch on nights when you may not have a lot of time or energy!

Ingredients

1 box lasagna noodles

2 lbs ground beef (use 1 lb for smaller lasagnas, 2 lbs for a giant or 2 lbs if making 2 smaller ones)

2x 24oz cans pasta sauce

1 yellow onion

2 bell peppers

6 cloves of garlic

1 tbsp italian seasoning

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 x 500g container of cottage cheese

1 1/2C grated parmesan

1 egg

4 C uncooked baby spinach leaves (optional)

1/2 tbsp olive oil (only if adding spinach)

1 400g of mozzarella cheese, grated

Directions

This recipe uses a 9×12 glass dish to build the lasagna. If you would rather make smaller portions, adjust the ratios based on your pan size. I often use my 3qt glass pyrex casserole dishes to make one lasagna for dinner and one for the freezer which works wonderfully.

Start by bringing a pot of water with a tsp of salt to boil that will be big enough to hold all of your lasagna noodles. Once the water comes to a boil, add your noodles and reduce heat to low. Cook until noodles are tender, about 10 min. Once noodles are cooked, empty into a colander and rinse with cold water until you are able to handle the noodles.

While the water heats, dice up your peppers, onions and garlic and set aside. Place a skillet big enough for your ground beef and diced vegetables on the stove top and start warming it on medium. Once heated, place your ground beef into the skillet. Use a spatula to break up the ground beef into small pieces. Add your diced vegetables. The beef should contain enough fat that you won’t need to add any additional oil to sautee the veggies. Add salt and pepper to taste and your italian seasonings so the beef cooks and absorbs the flavours of all the seasonings.

Place another skillet on the stove, turn to just under medium heat and add the olive oil. Once warm, add the spinach, salt and pepper and sautee until the spinach is cooked. It will reduce quite a bit. Remove from heat and let cool. If you don’t want spinach, skip this step.

While the noodles and beef cook, take your casserole dishes and pasta sauce. Place enough sauce in the bottom of your dish to cover the bottom in a thin layer. This will prevent the noodles from sticking. Pour a bit in the center, then gently turn and tilt your dish until the bottom and up each side a bit is covered. As the noodles and beef continue to cook, take a bowl and place the cottage cheese in it. Add the egg and 1 C of parmesan. Add pepper and salt. Stir together until fully blended. Add the spinach once it’s cooler.

The noodles should be done by now and under water cooling. The beef should be cooked until it is fully brown and cooked all the way through. Drain the excess fat. Place it back on the stove and add the rest of the pasta sauce. It should be enough to cover the beef and veggies, but not enough to make a soupy sauce. Stir the pasta sauce in and remove from heat once warm. It shouldn’t require much time on the stove to get warm enough.

Preheat your oven to 400F. Assemble all your layers (noodles, beef, cheese and spinach mix) around your casserole dish for easy access. Start by placing the lasagna noodles on the bottom of the casserole dish. Shingle them slightly so there are no gaps. Next, place half the beef on the noodles. Spread it out so it covers corner to corner and is flat. Place another layer of noodles, again shingled so there are no gaps. Now pour your cheese and spinach mixture. Repeat again with noodles and beef, then noodles again. All your filling should be used up, so now it’s time to top the lasagna. After your last layer of noodles, sprinkle of the grated mozzarella cheese over the top. Spread it out evenly so every inch of noodle is covered and there are no big clumps. Take the last 1/2 C of parmesan cheese and sprinkle it over the mozzarella. Time to bake! (If you’re doing two smaller lasagnas, separate your beef into 4 portions and your cheese into 2.)

My Little Helper!
Ready to bake.

Take aluminum foil and place it over the top of your lasagna, tenting it up in the middle. Place the dish in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake uncovered for another 15-20 minutes. Bake until the sauce is bubbling up the sides and the cheese on top is melted and browning.

Remove from the oven, cut, serve and enjoy!

Quick Lasagna

Ingredients

1 lb Ground beef

Garlic powder, italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste

1 kg package fresh Cheese and Spinach stuffed ravioli

1 24oz can pasta sauce

320g bag of shredded mozzarella

Directions

Place the ground beef in a skillet to brown, add in your spices to taste. 1 Tbsp of each garlic powder and italian seasoning should be a good amount, less of the salt and pepper. Cook pasta according to directions on the bag.

Just like above, place the pasta sauce in the bottom of your casserole dish to prevent the ravioli from sticking. Once the beef is fully browned, drain the fat and add enough pasta sauce to cover the beef without making it too dry or too soupy. Once the pasta is cooked, as above, drain it into a colander and rinse with cold water until you are able to handle it.

Preheat oven to 400F. Start to assemble your lasagna in the casserole dish. Begin by placing a layer of ravioli on the bottom, tight enough that there are almost no gaps, but not too tight that they are squished together. Add half the meat mixture. Repeat the noodle layer and another layer of meat, then a final layer of noodles. Top with the shredded mozzarella cheese. Place foil over the dish, tenting in the middle. Place in oven and bake covered for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and continue cooking for another 10 to 15 minutes until the sauce is bubbling. If the top isn’t melted enough, turn the oven onto broil at 400F and cook until the cheese starts to bubble.

Quinoa Summer Salad

When the weather gets hot, I find we like to eat lighter meals. Trying to find meals that aren’t too heavy, but still pack a lot of nutrition can be harder, especially when we’d rather be playing in the backyard or park with the kids than cooking. Quinoa is such a healthy grain, full of vitamins, minerals and protein and so versatile. You can eat it hot or cold and add so many different ingredients to it. The weather here this week is like an early blast of summer, so grilled chicken on the bbq was on the menu for last night. I had a day off and had been working on moving a garden all day, so a fast dinner was in order. What better side to grilled chicken than a light, fresh, citrusy summer salad full of nutrients!

This salad can be made in the morning, or right before you’re ready to eat. It’s quick and easy enough you can bring it to a potluck or make a bigger batch to have for lunch throughout the week.

Ingredients

1C Uncooked Quinoa (Cook using the instructions below)

1 medium size bell pepper (red, orange or yellow

1/3 cucumber cut into circles then 1/8’s

1 plum tomato, diced

Chives and cilantro to taste

Dressing

1/8 C white vinegar

1/8 C Lime juice

1/4 C Olive Oil

2 Cloves of garlic, diced fine

1/4 tsp sea salt

Pepper to taste

Preparation

Start by cooking the quinoa. The easiest way for this salad is boiling on the stovetop. Start by rinsing 1 cup of uncooked quinoa for about 30 seconds until well rinsed and the water runs clear. Place into a small to medium pot with 1C of water. You may need just under 1C, but can drain the excess if the quinoa doesn’t absorb all of the water. Turn the element on to med-high and bring the pot, uncovered, to a soft rolling boil. Keep the water at a slow boil until the water looks absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat, cover the pot and let sit for 5 minutes. The remainder of the water should absorb and the quinoa become fluffy. Remove the lid, take a fork and fluff the quinoa. Put into a fine colander and rinse in cold water to cool. Place the quinoa into a bowl.

As the quinoa cools, start by combining all the ingredients to make the dressing. Whisk together and let it sit so the flavours infuse into each other. Put the dressing aside.

Cut the cucumber into circles about 1cm thick, then cut the circles into 1/8’s. Dice the tomato into small cubes. Cut the top off the pepper, remove the seeds and slice into small squares. Add the diced veggies to the cooled quinoa.

Finely chop a small handful of cilantro and about 6 chives. Add to the quinoa and vegetables. Pour the dressing over the mixture and stir until all the ingredients are combined.

Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. This will last up to 5 days fresh in the fridge. You can pair with chicken, fish or other light meats to make a full meal.