Kale and Butternut Squash Pizza

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We meditate in our staff meetings.

Our coordinator leads the visualization and it’s about 5-10 minutes. Usually it takes me the first two to remember to breathe and relax then I’m good. I can use the time to truly become present which is a great way to start a meeting.

It’s great in practice and normally I love the chance to gather my chaotic brain but today I couldn’t focus for even a second.

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Today I only had one train of thought ricocheting around in this little noggin and that was….

Would I put garlic and sage in the sauce or should I put the sage in with the squash???

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Seriously, I spent the entire time I was supposed to be grounding myself and connecting with my breathe on wondering which herbs would go where and if I should use more or less cheese.

I have come to realize that food is more than a hobby for me and if I ever have an opportunity to make this a career let me tell ya I will jump at the chance. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. I work with families in a way that I feel brings real hope and we can make a huge impact but all I want to do is feed them and cook with them while we talk.20131113-212750.jpg

Maybe that’s what my goal should be. I could be the cooking counsellor. I would invite people to my kitchen and we would cook together while discussing their concerns and planning what to do. Then we would eat a lovely meal build our relationship and everyone would be the happier and wiser.

There may be some insurance concerns though… Some people just shouldn’t be given pointy things and even I burn myself on an almost daily basis.
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Oh well the idea was fun

Until then here’s the recipe that I worked out while I should have been meditating.

It’s a perfect fall pizza with ingredients that are in season and usually available locally. Kale and sweet squash seem to pair wonderfully and mingling with a little sage and parmesan makes this pizza something I could eat way too much of. I also went with the theory that if you’re feeding non-vegetarians a veggie based meal, cheese usually makes them happy.20131113-212731.jpg

Actually I’m really not using that much cheese compared to an average pizza. The bechamel base adds a creaminess that helped ease the cheese. If you wanted to cut back on the butter too I have made white sauces with olive oil quite successfully.

This pizza was also the first time I have used a home made crust. Usually we just don’t have time but hubby was off and loves baking so he prepped the crust earlier today. We used this Recipe

Kale and Butternut Squash Pizza

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
3 cups diced Butternut squash (about half a medium sized squash)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
1 bunch of kale chopped 
salt and pepper

Garlic Parmesan Sauce

1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 clove of garlic finely diced
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan
pinch of both chili flakes and nutmeg

1 cup of old white cheddar or mozzerella
Parmesan 

Makes 2 pizzas

Preheat oven to 425F

In a medium saucepan over medium heat warm 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Add the squash, season with salt and pepper sautéing for 5 minutes then add the fresh sage. Continue cooking for up to another 5 minutes until the squash is fork tender then set aside.

In a seperate pan heat the 2nd Tbsp of oil and wilt the kale, cooking for about 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper

In a small sauce pan over medium heat melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook for 1-2 minutes regularly whisking. Warm the milk (I used the microwave) and slowly stir into the flour and butter. Continue cooking until the sauce begins to thicken then stir in the parmesan, garlic, chili flake and nutmeg. Once the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon remove from heat and set aside.

I used a metal pizza pan sprinkled with cornmeal. I find this helps it not stick and get crisp on the bottom.

Spread the crusts with the garlic cream sauce then layer on the kale and squash. Top with the grated cheese and sprinkle with fresh grated parmesan.

Bake at 425 for 15-18 minutes or until the crust is browned and the cheese is bubbly

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Please leave me a comment letting me know how your family or friends enjoyed it or really anything you have to share:)

I have a Facebook page too if you want to come on over and check it out. I post nightly meals, ideas, and share about how I feed my family healthy and tasty meals.

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Leftovers for Lunch or Fill the Freezer

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Hubby and I have been together from almost 10 years and I know it makes me a massive dork but I keep falling more in love with him.

There was a time where my tough exterior, (I do have tattoos) and a need for protection, kept me from admitting how much he meant to me. And I’d be lying if I said it was that long ago. new baby day 016

The last remnants of the wall just crumbled down this year. I think the struggle of having him work in another province really put into perspective how much he actually did and want he meant to our lives. I realized I cared a lot less about how the towels were folded and a lot more about having someone to talk to.

I wrote a blog post acknowledging what a jerk I had really been. He’d jokingly asked for it in writing when I apologized to him and since I’m an overachiever he got a public declaration of my wrongness.

The funny thing is that I had struggled with the whole loving my hubby as much as I do thing. In some ways a deep part of me thought it’s a sign of weakness to admit I need him and that I truly love the guy.Licking

I reflect on this one a lot. What what was it that I saw as weak? Was it admitting that I need someone? or the fear that if I broke down all the walls around my heart then I left myself open to hurt? Maybe I thought he’d start using my weakness against me?

I think I was just straight up scared. It meant that I had to honestly accept him for everything he is and isn’t. What he would be and what I might have to let go of ever having. I have to be accepting of the life we have and I have to take the chance that I might get really hurt.

A million years ago my auntie told me that when I was able to open up completely and be vulnerable, holding nothing back, then I would really be in LOVE. I thought I had done that but I realized I hadn’t. I’d been holding on to past resentments and my own fears of rejection.

Letting go and opening up changed everything so when I say now that I love him, this is more than a love for cheese,this is the full force of my heart open to him. This is me wanting to be with him old and feeble, young and broke, tired and in a messy house.20131109-221243.jpg

And the best part is that when I opened my heart to him he did the same for me. Each day I see the trust and belief we have in each other grow. I wanted to share that joy and that feeling of knowing that I am loved because with it comes the strength I have to do what I do and I think he draws from it too. We revel in each others successes and I trust more than ever that if the world wants to give us lemons that we’ll make the best damn lemon tart with it EVER, (really did you expect anything but a food analogy??)

This last week I lent my support in a more tangible way. Hubby’s got a new gig working on a tugboat running around on log booms. Cold, wet and dangerous so of course he loves every minute of it.

I wanted to make sure he had filling, warm suppers that would make great lunches the next day. Gotta nurture my superhero hubby, (seriously you should see what these guys do!).

This is not my usual cooking style so I pulled from some fellow bloggers recipes, adapting them a little of course because I can’t help playing with my food. I think this week is a great one for this time of year and if you don’t have someone who needs hearty lunches it’s a week of meals that will give you a freezer full of leftovers to pull from as needed.

Sunday

Irish Beef Stew
I used this recipe as a starting place and tried to recreate the stew I’ve had at Sean’s aunts. I added crushed tomatoes, peas and used stewing beef. It was hearty and filling and I made a big enough pot that I had 6 portions to freeze for lunches

Monday

Chicken Tortilla Lasagna
This is one of the few times I use a pre-made canned soup. It makes for a quick prep and tastes delicious. Using rotisserie chicken speeds supper up even more

Chicken Tortilla Lasagna

Chicken Tortilla Lasagna

Tuesday

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese
It was less challenging to make my own then I expected but my recipe needs another round of testing so I’ll share the one I used as a starting place for inspiration. Next time I want to add tortellini into the soup and I think that would make for a little more hubby friendly meal (by hubby friendly I mean really filling)

Grill Cheese and Tomato Soup

Grill Cheese and Tomato Soup

Wednesday

Perogy Bake
I was short on ideas this week and this made for a no thought supper. I placed a layer of  boiled perogies in a baking dish and topped with crumbled cooked bacon, fresh tomatoes, sautéed onions and sprinkled on some cheese. I baked this at 350 until the cheese was bubbly and served them with plain yogurt

Thursday

Tuna Casserole (aka Tuna Surprise)
I’ve made tuna casserole twice this year and that was 2x more than I had ever eaten it since I was 7. My dad made a terrifying version and I had been scarred, but I have moved on and find it’s a cheap and easy casserole that my children wolf down.

Tuna Surprise

Tuna Surprise

Friday

Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Cobbler
I used this recipe and it was great. I would cut back on the thyme as I found it a little overwhelming. I also added plain yogurt to the sauce and it seemed to cut back some of the richness.

Saturday

Baked Tortellini Casserole with Cheese and Veggies
Another easy supper inspired by something I saw on Pinterest that made for fabulous lunches. I used a cheese filled tortellini and prepared them to package instructions. Then added in a jar of my home-made marinara. I had sautéed onions, peppers, mushrooms and zucchini and added that in too. Then topped the whole thing with grated cheese and baked it for 30 minutes at 350. 

Baked Tortellini

Baked Tortellini

So there it is a sweet love story and a week of meals that will either feed a small army (or my husband) with delicious suppers and leftover lunches.

I have a Facebook page too. I post nightly meals, tips and tricks and just share a little more about how I keep my family fed with healthy and low-cost meals. So come check it out at www.facebook.com/myweeklydish

Roasted Broccoli and Chicken Alfredo

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I think that I have a relationship with chicken and broccoli casseroles that no one will ever fully understand. I love them and when I make them at home I expect hubby to declare it the best thing EVER. But he just shrugs and says “it’s okay”, terribly confused I wonder, “isn’t this the best chicken and broccolli casserole ever, haven’t I made this better than any other chicken and broccoli casserole on the planet”.

The truth is that even if I made the most divine version of this dish and perfected it completely it is still only a chicken and broccoli casserole and it’s star may just never burn as bright as say a steak.20131026-204500.jpg

My love of chicken and broccoli had humble beginnings as Chicken Divan, a combination of chicken thighs, broccoli and cream soups, plus some cheese and either noodles and rice. It was creamy and pretty tasty and I’m sure a saviour for a lot of moms. It is inexpensive and includes green vegetables in a way that most kids still ate them. My mom made it occasionally and we all loved it.

But I remember a fateful birthday where it took on a new meaning for me. My parents were struggling and still trying to make sure that everything was as normal as possible. My sister and I knew and in our awkward ways attempted to make things a little easier. Then came my birthday, in January of course when things were already at their tightest and my mom asked what I wanted for my birthday dinner. I remember thinking of all the things I could ask for and knowing that they would make it happen but I just couldn’t do it. So I asked for humble chicken divan.20131026-204511.jpg

My mom just stared at me wondering and asked if I was sure, and I was. It had become my absolute favourite thing to eat in that moment and it was what I wanted.

And since then I have happily included it in my cooking repetoire, updating it occasionally and trying to bring new life to a dish that is so special to me. I’ve done a good job I think but I have to say this pasta may be a new pinnacle. From lowly roots I think I have created something really delicious and I will probably ask for it on my birthday.

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One of the things I always hated about broccoli in a casserole is how mushy it gets. My new version roasts the broccoli and by doing this the broccoli stays crisp and is super flavourful. Roasted food just tastes better.

In the recipe I’ve written it as cooked chicken for ease of preparation. For my dish I quickly broiled some chicken tenders but a rotisserie chicken or leftovers would make this a really easy meal. You could even replace the chicken with ham or leave the meat out entirely and increase the amount of broccoli for a really tasty vegetarian version.

Plus a home made Alfredo is just AMAZING. If you have never tried a real Alfredo prepare to be let down for ever more by the cream cheese or flour and milk versions. Don’t get me wrong, I like to watch what I eat so I use the cream cheese trick to still have creamy pasta but nothing compares to the real thing.

A proper Alfredo sauce calls for a 1:1:1 ratio of 1 stick butter (1/2 cup), to 1 pint cream (2 cups), to 1 cup parmesan. I didn’t need this much so I went with a reduced version but now if you ever need an amazing Alfredo you know what to do.

And since this recipe goes all in with butter, whipping cream and parmesan cheese go with the good stuff. I buy a block of parmesan and grate my own and I think it’s well worth it. It’s not low fat or particularly healthy but really neither was the original so just go for a walk after you eat…

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Roasted Broccoli and Chicken Alfredo

2-3 heads of broccoli cut into florets (about 5-6 cups)
1-2 Tbsps olive oil 
Salt and Pepper
2 cups cooked chicken
1 500g package of penne
About a tsp of lemon zest

Preheat oven to 400F

Lay the broccoli on a parchment lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for about 15-20 minutes looking for the tops to brown slightly

Once this is in the oven I would get the water ready for the pasta and cook it to package instructions for al dente

Alfredo sauce

1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
3/4 cup fresh grated parmesan
2 cloves crushed garlic

In a large saucepan melt the butter over medium heat. Add the garlic and allow to it to cook for about a minute taking care not to let it brown. Pour in the whipping cream and stir with a whisk. Once bubbles begin to form add the parmesan and continue regularly stirring. Allow the sauce to bubble but not boil reducing the heat to medium low if needed. Continue cooking until the sauce has thickened and is able to coat the back of your spoon.

Season with pepper. I personally find parmesan salty enough but season to your taste

Once the sauce is ready, the broccoli is out of the oven and the pasta is cooked its just a matter of combining all this goodness

Layer the pasta into a large serving dish. Top with the chicken and broccoli than pour over the Alfredo sauce. Toss together and finish with the lemon zest and a touch more parmesan

Serve immediately

I hope your family and friends enjoy this dish as much as I do. I may have a soft spot for the original casserole but I think everyone can share in my love of this one,

If you’d like to see how my family eats every night and join some of the conversations check out my Facebook page @ www.facebook.com/myweeklydish

Beet and Pear Tart with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

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Our wonderful sweet daughter is such a horrible sleeper that it’s a constant challenge for me and hubby. She did just have five teeth come in so I have some sympathy for the little beast but man am I one sleepy momma.

We were alternating nights getting up with her but hubby just started a new job that has the potential for serious injury if he’s not awake. Being the wonderful wife I am I’ve taken over so that he can eek out that little bit more sleep and hopefully come home with all of his fingers and toes.

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I Just Wanted to Say Thanks

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The Canadian version of Thanksgiving doesn’t quite have the same spectacle that it does to our Southern neighbours. Yes, we have our turkeys and pies, plus a few good football games. But there are no pilgrims, large rocks or bowls and the best history I can find is that explorers had a heck of a time not dying while wandering around Canada so they ate a lot and were thankful. (I could be very wrong so please don’t quote me).

We do have our own traditions though and one is that during supper someone always asks those at the table to say what they are thankful for. Unfortunately, this is usually after stuffing myself into oblivion and even though I have lots to say  it never quite makes it out. I give the usual response of family or friends and if its been an especially good year maybe a new job or a something like that. It would seem too long winded and take too much work to say what’s really rattling around in my head.

But I really do want to share what I’m thankful for and since I’m lacking in a spectacular Thanksgiving recipe this seems like the perfect chance.

What I am so very grateful for is the second chances and sometimes third or fourth ones that the people around me freely give.

I’ll give my most recent example. This last week I was sick, Not bed ridden, the plague has arisen sick, but definitely sniffly and miserable. It seemed to linger on and on and with two small children I just couldn’t get the sleep I needed to kick it. Finally my body gave up and I took a day off just to catch up. I slept most of the day and still passed out at 9. I woke up in the morning feeling kinda icky but more alert than I have in a week.

With this alertness came a kind of saddening reality. That whole past week I had been absolutely short tempered with my lovely son. He has entered the “why” phase of childhood and my cold addled self just couldn’t answer his increasingly frustrating whys, (no I’m not going to pretend they’re not exhausting). So instead I was a little yelly and a little impatient and really the poor kid got the short end of the stick.

So today after picking him up from daycare and on the drive home I apologized. I explained that mommy realized she’d been angry this week and that I was terribly sorry for not listening better and for being upset a lot. He dropped his little head and agreed that I had been cranky and that he was sad about it. My heart broke and I thanked him for being so wonderful and told him that mommy would try to remember not to  be a jerk.

And that was it, we moved on and he was back to his exuberant little self, full of  new and wondering “whys”, except this time I harnessed all my energy and answered every last one, even if it was with “hmmmm, maybe dadddy knows”.

So that’s what I’m truly thankful for, the opportunities to fix mistakes, apologize and carry on. The space to be human and hope that even when I hurt those around me I can repair the damage done. Knowing that I can never take advantage of these chances because then maybe then they wouldn’t be given so freely.

Because the gods know I’m far from perfect and this will not be my last apology but most likely one of many that I will have to make.

So if you happen to be at the table with me when I say “I’m thankful for friends and family”, then see me shove more pie in my mouth, know that there is a lot more behind those words and that I am grateful for the chances you all give me throughout the year.

Happy Thanksgiving all and may your long weekend be filled with pie and love!

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Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos

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Every time my husband meets a vegetarian he asks if they eat bacon. The man is convinced that even vegetarians can’t resist it and that they all obviously cheat. I honestly think he struggles to believe that a person could happily choose to not eat meat. It’s terribly embarrassing and thankfully my vegetarian friends have been submitted to sillier questions so they  laugh it off.

I’m not really surprised though. When I met his family and told them that I was a past vegetarian  they had a hard time imagining a person living on carrots and potatoes. Meat was central to family dinners and hubby just came to expect to see it on his plate.

I didn’t help much either, at least at first. When we first started dating I  adapted my mostly veggie ways and made meals more to his tastes and preferences. I guess I believed the saying “a way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. Over time this started to drive me a little batty, (shocking), and since he isn’t the cook in the house I decided to cook the way I prefer. I dropped the meat-ccentric meals and slowly shifted our diet to the veggie focused way I ate before he came around

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More recently I’ve managed to get us eating  three vegetarian meals a week, (our budget is thrilled). It’s taken some finessing and finagling to keep a meat eater happy with all veggies for dinner, but other than the odd request for an entire ham for supper I think he’s adapted well. One of the tricks I’ve learnt is to give him something that’s familiar like pizza or a burrito. He already knows he likes them so he’s willing to try a veggie version.

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These burritos are a great example. The combination of sweet potatoes, beans and cheese provide not only all the nutrients you need but come in a familiar package. Plus they are filling and hearty enough to satisfy hubby. The kids loved them and I get my way, which of course always makes me happy.20131024-183631.jpg

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup diced onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
1 clove crushed garlic
2 cups small cubed sweet potato
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 can black beans
1 cup diced red pepper (about 1 pepper)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup veggie stock
2 Tbsps lime juice (about 1 lime)
1 tsp honey
salt to taste

2 cups of grated cheese
6 tortillas

In a large skillet melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they start to become translucent. Stir in the garlic, cumin and chili powder cooking another 30 seconds or so then add the sweet potato. Continue cooking for about 5-10 minutes or until they are fork tender.

In a separate bowl combine the stock, honey and lime juice.

Stir the beans and peppers in with the sweet potatoes and pour the stock mixture over top. Cover the pan and leave for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and continue cooking until the sweet potatoes are cooked through and most of the sauce has been absorbed. Season with salt and sprinkle in the cilantro

Lay out the tortillas and place about a half cup of the mixture near one edge of the tortilla and sprinkle in a layer of cheese.

Roll and place in a clean skillet.

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Place a heavy pot or another pan over top and cook over medium low heat for a few minutes on each side until golden brown.

Serve with salsa and plain yogurt:)

I hope these burritos make your family as happy as ours and that they satisfy even your most carnivorous members. Enjoy and have a yummy week!

This is my first time including a video. I’d love to know what you think! I also share dinner ideas on my Facebook page @ www.facebook.com/myweeklydish

Painted Plates

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Curried Cauliflower with Almonds, Raisins, Spinach and Gnocchi

For some people art or music is their source of creative expression. Not me, I can scribble a little and love music but it’s not an outlet or an extension of my personality. For me the most creative and most me I feel is in the kitchen. It’s my canvas

The prep is my meditation, I get into Zen mode thinking out the rough form of a recipe. And as I cut and prep it’s like an artist sketching in pencil before picking up the paints. Then cooking starts and I find myself tasting and dancing around the kitchen. Smelling spices and peeking back in the fridge.  New ideas coming like little jolts from the divine cooking gods. “What about curry….oooohhhhh what about curry and raisins…yes!”. I feel free and joyful and excited to share my masterpiece, (or crayon drawing, depending on the day). Continue Reading »

Doing the broke dance – a week of meals for $100

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We all have fears and things that create anxiety in our lives. For me it’s money or the lack thereof. I hate being broke more than anything and I can tend towards obsessiveness around finances. Not that I’m good at it. In fact I kind of suck and that really doesn’t help. It takes me a million hours to create a budget and make sure the bills are all paid.

Looking back my concerns probably started in university. I had next to nothing and there were times where the best meal plan I could create was rice with either hot sauce or soy sauce. Coffees were an absolute luxury and I snuck on the train to get to school. I hated it and everything I thought it said about me. Since then I’ve always squirrelled a little away or stockpiled toilet paper and pasta to get us through the little bumps that all families face. Continue Reading »

Curried Yogurt Marinade

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or How to Make Anything Taste Good

Years ago I realized I go through so many dried herbs and spices that those little dink jars  were just silly. So I started buying in bulk and storing them in reused glass jars with the label washed off. I’ve been using the same jars for so long that I know what size jar the chili powder is in and that the cumin’s lid has a trace of rust on it. However, if you aren’t me and don’t know the jars and aren’t super familiar with what’s in them cooking could be a bit of a crap shoot.

My spice cupboard

My spice cupboard

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Comfort in a bowl – Split pea soup

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My husband grew up in a small community in rural Newfoundland. It’s really small, like 400 people small. He spent most of his time outdoors on dirt bikes, snow mobiles or on the water and not much time watching Much Music or wearing neon. Because of this I sometimes tease that he grew up under a rock, (or on a rock depending on how you look at it). However, both of us were pretty fortunate and had adventurous cooks in our homes. It’s probably why he loves me so much.

His dad is the cook in the home and always willing to try new things in the kitchen. However, in his own way he is really picky and there were certain meals that didn’t make it to the table like pizza or pasta.  I think that’s why to me its so cute that when hubbers was growing up and they got to go to a restaurant he ordered pea soup. Going out for supper in such a small community would be a big deal. And my lovely, sweet man wanted pea soup. Continue Reading »