Healthy, Creamy Vegetable Risotto

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Risotto is usually a really heavy dish. As delicious as it is, it’s not something that we can eat everyday. Although, with this recipe, by cutting down the oil and replacing the heaps of parmesan cheese and heavy cream, you can still have a creamy risotto; just a little bit lighter. I used Zucchini blossoms and spinach for this recipe, but you can use whatever vegetables you have in your fridge!

Ingredients

  • Arborio Rice
  • Vegetable broth
  • 3 carrots
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • vegetables of your choice!
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • parmesan cheese
  • cream cheese
  • 1 tsp of rosemary
  • 1 tsp of thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste

 

To start off, Finely dice your carrots, celery, garlic and onion. This trio is the basic of any flavour development. It’s crucial for soups, risottos and stews. Once that is prepped, you can chop your other vegetables that you’re using into larger chunks. Since I used Zucchini blossoms and spinach which wilt down very quickly, I added in my vegetables at the very end. If you’re using hardier vegetables like zucchini, squash, broccoli, etc, you can either roast them and add them in at the end or cook them once your trio of celery, carrot, garlic and onion has cooked down a little bit.

Add your olive oil to a high side skillet and cook your carrot, celery, garlic and onion until softened. At this point you can add any other vegetables you’d like to use. To your vegetables, add your thyme and rosemary. While that’s cooking off, in a separate pot, bring your stock to a simmer. For Risotto, you need to gradually add your liquid so that you can gage the perfect texture of the rice. Keeping the liquid hot will help keep the temperature of the dish consistent and won’t slow down cooking. You can use water instead of stock if you would like.

Once everything is soft and almost cooked through, add your rice to the dry pan and let it sit and soak up the excess oil and flavour from the vegetables. Then, gradually add in your stock. A couple ladles of broth at a time is perfect. Wait until the rice has almost absorbed all the liquid and then keep adding more. Keep doing this until the rice is cooked al dente (please don’t let it to turn to mush). If you’re adding spinach or any vegetable that wilts down fast, add them in now.

Turn off the heat and finish off the risotto with a tablespoon of low fat cream cheese. Ricotta is also a good alternative. Also add a tablespoon of parmesan cheese. once the cheese is melted, season with salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe is light and as low fat as you can make a creamy risotto. Also completely Vegetarian! It may not be traditional, but it is definitely Nonna approved!

Grilling Side Dish: Corn and Bean salsa/Salad

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This is a perfectly light and tangy side for grilling this summer. This is also awesome on tacos or Fajitas or even alongside fish. This is such a versatile recipe that everyone will love. You can use frozen corn for this recipe (I did), although if you would like to use corn on the cob and grill it before using, that would work really well too.

Ingredients

  • Corn (frozen or on the cob)
  • 2 Bell peppers
  • 1 bunch of Scallions
  • 2 Jalapeno peppers
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 limes
  • 1 can of Navy beans or black beans
  • Cilantro (optional)

Spices

  • 1/2 tablespoon of Garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon of Chilli powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon of Oregano
  • 1 tablespoon of Cumin
  • Salt to taste

To make the dressing, start off by zesting your limes in a bowl. Then, roll your limes on the counter to loosen them up and squeeze the juice of all 3 limes into the bowl as well. Whisk in your 2 tablespoons of olive oil until emulsified. Add your spices and whisk until all is combined well. This dressing can chill out while you prepare your ingredients.

Next, cook your corn. If you’re using frozen corn, cook it in boiling water until tender and then let it drain extremely thoroughly until it is dry and cooled down to room temperature. If you’re using corn on the cob, I would suggest grilling it and getting a char on the cobs first.

Finely chop your bell and Jalapeno peppers. Then, on a diagonal, finely chop your scallions. Mix all your vegetables in the bowl so its all evenly distributed.

Drain and Rinse your beans and place in the bowl with your scallions and peppers and give it another toss. Once your corn is ready to use and cooled down, place it in the bowl as well and give everything one final mix. Pour the dressing over the salad and combine thoroughly.

I would suggest placing this salad in the fridge for about an hour to chill and let the flavours meld together better. I personally like to add some cilantro right before serving, but that’s totally optional. Once chilled, this salad is tangy and fresh and perfect to cut through fatty meat or fish and hardier sauces like sour cream.

 

Grilled Tofu with Creamed Spinach and Sweet Potato Cakes

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You can still get some use out of your grill if you’re vegetarian. In fact, the grill is an awesome way of adding some depth of flavour and smokiness to your vegetables and meat substitutes. In this recipe, I’m using smoked tofu because I think that it lends an extra hand with flavour. Tofu tastes like anything you put near it. It’s like a sponge. But at least by using smoked tofu, your flavour sponge will already be less bland! My serving size made an obscene amount of potato cakes so please adjust the recipe to how many you want. My measurements made about 30.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 7-8 cups of spinach
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 4 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of ricotta or parmesan cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups of flour
  • smoked tofu
  • 1 tablespoon Barbecue sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Maple Syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon Ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon of rosemary or sage
  • 1 tablespoon of your favourite steak spice

Prep

First, peel and wash 4 large sweet potatoes. Cut into chunks that will cook quickly and place in a bowl. Next, finely chop your onion and garlic and place in a separate bowl. For the tofu, we’re going to marinate it so that it has time to suck up all the flavour. Mix together your barbecue sauce, maple syrup and soy sauce. Coat both sides of the tofu with your favourite steak spice (I used Montreal steak spice). Next, place each piece of tofu into the marinade and coat evenly. Place in the fridge until needed.

Sweet Potato Cakes

For the sweet potato cakes, you have to boil your sweet potatoes first. Cook them until they are super tender and slightly falling apart. Drain the sweet potatoes and place them back in the pot. Mash with your ricotta or parmesan cheese. This helps lighten the batter. Sweet potatoes are very dense, so the cheese helps make it fluffier. You can also use regular potatoes for this recipe, but sweet potatoes have so many amazing health benefits that I would definitely recommend using them. Gradually add your flour until it forms a loose dough. Season with salt and pepper to taste. I used rosemary in this as well, but sage would be just as tasty.

Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Use a spoon to create little cake type of form on the paper. Once your form all your cakes, place them under the broiler for about 5-7 minutes of until the top of them are brown and crusty, then flip them and broil again on the other side. Both sides of the cakes should be crisp and browned but the inside will remain fluffy. You can also preheat your oven to 425 if you prefer that over the broiler.

Creamed Spinach

Creamed Spinach is a traditional barbecue side dish. I wanted to lighten it up. First, I softened my onions and my garlic in a bit of water. You can use oil for this but I prefer to keep this whole meal as oil free as I can. Once the onions and garlic are fragrant and softened, add your milk and cream cheese to the pan. With a whisk, work the cream cheese and milk together until there are no lumps and the cream cheese is melted. Then, add your spinach to the sauce. Let the spinach wilt down all the way, then turn your heat on medium low and let it simmer and reduce for about 15 minutes. Spinach contains a lot of water which will water down your sauce. Reducing the sauce for about 15 minutes will evaporate the excess water in the sauce.

Smoked Tofu and Glaze

The last step is to grill your tofu. Tofu just needs to be cooked so that its warmed all the way through. I like a char on the top as well, so throw it on your grill and cook the tofu for about 1o minutes of until its warmed through the inside and the top is nice and crusty like a steak would be. Watch your tofu carefully so that it doesn’t burn. Because the marinade had maple syrup in it, the sugar may cause caramelization.

The sauce that it was marinating in makes a great glaze! Pour it into a pan with 1/2 a tablespoon of ketchup and let it come up to a simmer. The ketchup will balance out the sweetness from the maple syrup. Taste for salt and pepper. Once it’s come up to a simmer, take off the heat.

 

I hope that this recipe shows you that you can still have a classic barbecue without the meat! For all the vegetarians out there, you don’t have to stay away from the grill because you don’t eat steak or burgers. The tofu steaks are meaty and a great source of protein. Plus, the smokiness from the smoked tofu and the grill replicate all the flavours you love in a good barbecue.

Guilt-free Banana Oatmeal Muffins

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These muffins are oil-free and have a small amount of sugar, so they’re perfect for breakfast and for snacks. They’re not heavy, but definitely hearty!

Cooking time: 35 minutes

Serves: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 3 large bananas
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup of applesauce
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
  • 2 tsp of cinnamon

 

First, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Mash the bananas in a bowl and combine with your applesauce, cinnamon, vanilla, peanut butter, egg and sugar. In another bowl, mix all your dry ingredients (your flour, oats, baking soda and baking powder).

Next, gradually incorporate your dry ingredients with your wet ingredients. Once all mixed, line a muffin tin with paper liners and scoop the mixture evenly in the 12 cups.

Once your oven is preheated, pop the muffin batter into the oven and bake for 35 minutes. After around 28 minutes, check the inside of your muffins with a toothpick to see if it’s still runny. If the middle seems very soft, put them back in until the toothpick comes out dry.

These are super easy and super healthy! The applesauce makes a great substitution for oil in baking, so keep that in mind to make all your cakes and favourite recipes a little bit healthier.

Oil Free, Vegan Potato and Leek Soup

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This hearty, leek and potato soup is dairy free, oil-free and still delicious! You won’t miss the cream, I promise. This soup is so satisfying and filling, but also guilt free. I made some substitutions to make this soup extra healthy, which I will explain below! My measurements served about 10 large bowls of soup and comes together super quick! This recipe is Vegan but feel free to add anything you want to this! Use this as inspiration and create something that you feel good eating. If that means adding some dairy or some olive oil, you go for it.

Ingredients

  • 6 Leeks
  • 1 large onion
  • 6-7 cloves of garlic
  • 2 large sticks of carrot
  • Half a head of Cauliflower
  • 1 large potato (or 2 small ones)
  • 6-8 cups of vegetable broth
  • 2 cups of water
  • salt and pepper to taste

The prep for this soup is very simple and pretty much the same as the prep for every soup. Starting with your vegetables, cut up your onion, carrot, and leeks into a fine chop. We’re going to blend the soup at the end so it really doesn’t matter if the cutting isn’t perfect. 6 Leeks may seem like a lot but if you’re making Leek and Potato soup, you want that sweetness of the leeks to come through. Place all your cut up onion, carrot and leeks into a bowl and grab your garlic.

Garlic has so many health benefits. If you haven’t noticed, most of my recipes include a hefty amount of garlic. Garlic is not only detoxifying and great for the inside of your body but its also great for your skin, and for healing scars and blemishes. So, don’t skip on the garlic! Slice your garlic thinly and place in another bowl. We’re going to cook the garlic after the vegetables so don’t mix them.

The last step of prep is the cauliflower and the potatoes. Dice your potatoes into one inch cubes and just roughly cut up your cauliflower. Place that into a separate bowl as well. These are going to be added in after the liquid has been simmering so we don’t want to add this right away. This is what is going to make the soup creamy and thick without the dairy.

To start the soup, Place a large pot with high sides on medium-high heat. Add your carrots, leeks and onion to it and add your 2 cups of water. The water is going to help the vegetables break down and soften. Also, the water will take on the flavours of the vegetables, creating its own quick little stock. You don’t need oil when you’re cooking down vegetables for a soup! The vegetables will infuse the broth with flavour when you’re simmering it, so no need for the extra fat. Once your onions are translucent and your carrots are beginning to become tender, add in your garlic. Garlic only takes about a minute to cook, so stir it around for about 60 seconds then add in your stock. You can use as much vegetable stock as you need. I used about 7 cups for my soup, but if you use 6, your soup will be a thicker. If you use 8, your soup will be thinner. Adjust the broth level depending on what consistency you want your soup to have.

Simmer this on medium-high heat for about 25 minutes to let the flavours get to know each other. Once its been simmering for that long, toss in your potatoes and your cauliflower. I chose to do half potato and half cauliflower because I wanted this soup to be a little lighter and also a little healthier. Adding cauliflower still makes it creamy, but adds a bit more vegetable to this soup. You can add all potatoes if you wish, but I found the cauliflower really did the trick and also made this soup even more guilt free than it already was, which i’m all for!

Cook the soup until the potatoes and cauliflower are breaking down and almost falling apart.

The last step is to blend the soup smooth. This soup, even though lacks the creaminess in colour, makes up for it in the texture. It is both smooth and creamy.

Once your soup is blended, taste for salt and pepper and season to your taste. I find this soup is best with a good helping of black pepper, but if you’re not into that, by all means, put less!

To finish it off, I added some sliced chili on mine because I love the heat, and some scallions for freshness!

It’s great to indulge in food once in a while, but if you can avoid using oils in your food, you should. Oils can be a bad fat if used too sparingly. If you’re looking to lose a few pounds, the first thing to cut down on should be your oil intake. It makes a big difference. Also, whenever you’re making creamy soups, I suggest using the trick of half potatoes and half cauliflower. It keeps the creaminess but is just a tad better for you than using all starchy potato.

I hope you all enjoy this hearty soup, even though it’s not needed in this hot weather!

Light Pasta Florentine With a Kick!

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This 20 minute pasta is light in calories but has that creaminess you want. It has some green snuck in there as well as a kick to spice up a quick weeknight dinner. These amounts make about 4-5 servings. Start to finish, this recipe only takes around 20 minutes.  The Ricotta makes this pasta almost guilt free, especially if you use part skimmed or fat free ricotta! Healthy, but still satisfying.

Ingredients

  • Pasta of your choice (I used Cavatappi)
  • 1 can of good quality diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 – 1 cup of ricotta
  • 2 chili peppers
  • 6-7 cups of fresh spinach (you can use frozen, but squeeze all the water out of it before using)
  • 1/2 cup of Basil

First off, take a large pot and fill it with water. Turn the heat on the highest and let the water come up to a boil to cook your pasta. Salt the water heavily. In Italy, they say that your pasta water should be as salty as the sea because its the only chance you’ll get to season your actual pasta noodles. You can use whatever pasta your heart desires, but this sauce is thick and really sticks to short noodles. I would suggest a medium cut pasta. When the water comes up to a boil, add your pasta and let it cook just about 3 minutes shy of what the package instructions say. You will cook the pasta in the sauce for another 2 minutes which will finish the cooking process.

Chop up one onion and 4-5 cloves of garlic depending on how much you like. I like a lot of garlic so I added 5 cloves. I finely minced 2 red Thai chili peppers but if you like the heat, add some more. If you like less heat, only add 1. 2 was not too spicy but had a kick to it.

While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. In a skillet on medium heat, add a tablespoon of olive oil and sweat off your onions, garlic and chili. It should take about 5 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent. Next, add the can of tomatoes into the vegetables and rinse out the can with just a touch of water and add that to the skillet as well. Season with salt and pepper. Let the sauce simmer on medium to high heat until the pasta is done cooking.

When the pasta is done, drain it, but not well. Leave it slightly wet with the starchy cooking water. Add the pasta straight into the skillet. While the pasta is cooking in the sauce, add your spinach into the pasta and put the lid on it to let the spinach wilt down. Once the spinach is wilted and the pasta has cooked in the sauce until al dente (cooked, but still has a slight bite to it), take the skillet off the heat.

Now, stir in your Ricotta. You can add as much Ricotta as you’d like. 1/2 a cup will make it slightly creamy but a whole cup would definitely up up the richness. Keep stirring until the Ricotta has melted. Once the pasta is creamy and everything is well combined, fold in your fresh basil. Basil is best used fresh and not cooked down. It makes the whole dish fragrant and is a definite must in this recipe.

And thats all! I topped mine with some more freshly minced chili and basil. This recipe comes together so quickly, but is so delicious that you’ll be wanting to make it a weekly treat.

Shrimp Red Thai Curry with Jasmine Rice

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This recipe is super easy to make and takes half an hour to cook. The sauce cooks while your rice does, and everything comes together at the same time. This is awesome for a hardy, fast, weekday dinner. I used shrimp, but you can use a flaky white fish such as cod, or even chicken if you’d like. Whatever protein you decide to put in, it will turn out delicious either way.

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons of Thai red curry paste
  • 1 cup of Coconut Milk (light or full fat)
  • 1 1/2 of Vegetable broth
  • 2 Shallots
  • 5 cloves of Garlic
  • 2 large Carrots
  • 2 cups of Broccoli
  • 2 bell peppers
  • A handful of Cilantro
  • 3 scallions
  • 1/2 tablespoon of avocado oil
  • 1 1/2 cups of Jasmine Rice
  • 1 Lime
  • 2 pounds of frozen shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons of cornstarch

Spices

  • White or black pepper
  • Cumin
  • Salt

Prep

For this recipe, I used carrots, broccoli and bell peppers. You can use whatever vegetables you have on hand, but I find this combination works really well. Chop up your vegetables into pieces roughly around the same size. In total you should have about 5-6 cups of vegetables. This may seem like a lot, but the measurements I used were enough to feed about 6 servings, so if use less if you’re making less. Next, finely chop your shallots and garlic and place in a separate bowl than your vegetables. For the Shrimp, if you’re using frozen shrimp, defrost them before using. This recipe is awesome for frozen shrimp and frozen veggies so whatever you have in your freezer, defrost them and toss it in. It will taste good no matter what you put in.

Jasmine Rice

For the rice, I started off by bringing 3 cups of water to a rolling boil on high heat. I added my shallots and garlic to the water and seasoned it with salt. Then, I added a cup and a half of Jasmine rice and put the cover on the pot, lowering my heat to low. Every 5 minutes, give the rice a little stir so that nothing sticks. Jasmine rice takes about 25 minutes to cook, but check your rice for instructions. You can use whatever rice you have on hand, but Jasmine rice is more traditional to serve alongside thai curry.

After your rice is cooked, take it off the heat and let it rest with the lid on for about 5 minutes to let everything soak up and become fluffy. At the very end, before serving, squeeze in the juice of half a lime and taste for salt.

Curry sauce

While the rice is cooking, I started by heating half a tablespoon of avocado oil in a high side skillet. Next, I put 6 tablespoons of the red thai curry paste in the oil to cook it. Red thai curry paste needs to be cooked because it is a purée of vegetables. Red thai curry paste is also quite spicy, so if you’re not into too much spice, I suggest adding a little bit less than I did. Cook the curry paste in the oil for about 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Then add 2 teaspoons of cumin and a teaspoon of white pepper. Once the curry paste smells fragrant, add in your cup and a half of vegetable broth and your cup of coconut milk. I used light coconut milk, but use full fat if you want a creamier texture. Next, Roll your lime on your counter top to release the most juice possible and cut in half. Reserve half for the rice. Squeeze the juice of half a lime into the sauce. Turn the heat up to high and let the sauce cook.   

Once the sauce has cooked for about 10 minutes, add your vegetables. Put the lid on your skillet and let the vegetables steam until the broccoli turns bright green and the carrots are a bit tender but still have a bite to them. I had pre-cooked frozen shrimp that I wanted to use up, so I defrosted those about an hour before using. The whole bag was about 2 pounds. I put the shrimp right in the sauce and put the lid back on, heating them through for about 5 minutes. If your shrimp are still slightly frozen when you put them in, don’t worry, just cook them a little bit longer. To finish off the sauce, in a small bowl, I mixed 2 tablespoons of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water. I stirred until completely smooth and poured into the curry. Once it comes back up to a boil, your sauce will thicken. This is to give the sauce a thicker consistency and help it stick to the protein and vegetables better. Cook the sauce until the rice is done.

Finishing Up

To tie everything together, I folded in some cilantro into the curry. Then, I served it with some more cilantro on top, as well as scallions. You can also serve this with some lime wedges if you like a little added brightness and acidity to your curry. Use this recipe as a guide and add whatever you have in your freezer! This is a great recipe to be creative with, so use it as inspiration!