Category Archives: Italian

Vegetarian Healthy Choice Frozen Meals

It has been a while since frozen meals had knocked my socks off, but while surrendering to impulsive snacking last night at 10 because I did not make enough food for dinner, I reluctantly pulled out a frozen box of Healthy Choice’s Mediterranean Pasta. I know, it’s not really snacking when one reaches over for a full serving of pasta but hey, it was only 360 calories, all-natural (according to the label) and it had lots of whole grains, beans and fruits in it. Plus, I did share some of it with Andy, so I felt less guilty about it.

Upon removing the plastic film from the microwaved tray of pasta, the sweet aroma from apple and elderberry juice and spices used to make this meal hit my olfactory receptors, thus activating my salivary glands. This dish not only looked appetizing with pops of red from dried cranberries, it also has a lot of beans. Now, Andy never liked beans but even he could not resist this dish after dunking a whole bowl of Maggi Mee Kari by himself. The saltiness from Fontina cheese gave it the right amount of kick and balance to this meal.

I’m ecstatic to find out that Healthy Choice finally made something good and substantial for vegetarians. Perhaps if you are not cheapskates like Andy and I who would think twice before spending more than $2 for a box of frozen meal, you could find something decent. I remember poring my frozen ass over aisles and aisles of frozen food at the grocery store and wished that Healthy Choice actually made something for vegetarians aside from plain old linguine alfredo and mac ‘n cheese. I know that I shouldn’t buy all these frozen stuff, since I highly advocate eating homemade and fresh food as much as we can, but when one has to get up for work at 6 a.m. and only gets home at 8 p.m. at night, aside from cutting an apple and packing it up for lunch, I really don’t want to make anything else for lunch the next day. So, that’s my lame reason for bukling under. Ha-ha. I have given them up since I was laid off anyway, and this box of frozen meal was bought prior to that unfortunate incident.

Anyway, someone at Healthy Choice must have telepathically heard me because their all-new all natural line of products consists of very exciting and mouth-watering vegetarian entrees. YIPPEE!! On their website, I found out that they now offer the following vegetarian all natural choices:

  • Mediterranean Pasta (360 calories, 45 calories from fat, 500 mg sodium, 13g protein)
  • Portabella Marsala Pasta (270 calories, 70 calories from fat, 550mg sodium, 12g protein)
  • Portabella Spinach Parmesan ( 270 calories, 70 calories from fat, 600mg sodium, 11g protein)
  • Pumpkin Squash Ravioli (300 calories, 60 calories from fat, 600mg sodium, 9g protein) – Lean Cuisine also makes a version of squash ravioli that is very good
  • Sweet Asian Potstickers (380 calories, 45 calories from fat, 600mg sodium, 8g protein)
  • Tomato Basil Penne (260 calories, 60 calories from fat, 600mg sodium, 8g protein)

The Mediterranean Pasta that I had left me feeling thoroughly satisfied and actually kinda stuffed. The sweet, sour and salty flavours tantalized my tastebuds and despite being a little salty, I thought it was worth it.

For only $2.00 from on sale at Target, I think this is a very good buy. I say give it a try ūüôā Lean Cuisine, watch out!

Vegetarian Creamy Seafood Pasta

I have a confession. I love alfredo sauce, or any cream-based pasta dishes. I also loved seafood prior to being a vegetarian, but I’m severely allergic to shellfish/seafood. One mock meat that I love to use is vegetarian shrimp/prawn and so, I’ve incorporated it into this dish. You don’t have to use vegetarian shrimps if you can’t find them. The dish would still be very good. Vegetarian mock meats can be very expensive. Also, I love to combine my cream sauce with lemon, I think it gives it a nice tangy taste.

Ingredient

  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon,¬†zested and juiced (roll on counter prior to get the most¬†juice from the fruit)
  • 2 cups of cream (I use 18% table cream)
  • 1 cup of grated parmesan regianno cheese
  • 1 packet of wholewheat spaghetti or linguine
  • 1 zuchinni or yellow squash, diced into 1cm cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced into 1cm cubes
  • 10 vegetarian shrimps, halved lengthwise or 20¬†whole¬†
  • Salt (we use seasalt or kosher salt because it is healthier and taste so much better than iodized salt)

Method

  1. Cook spaghetti/linguine according to package instruction until al dente. Drain pasta from water but reserve some of the starchy water to help thicken the sauce.
  2. Brown the shrimps in 2 tbsp of olive oil. Set aside.
  3. Add another tbsp of olive oil and cook minced garlic, cubed zuchinni and peppers over medium heat. Season with 1 tsp of seasalt.
  4. As vegetables begin to soften (about 3 mins), add the semi-cooked pasta. Stir thoroughly.
  5. Add cream and bring to boil for half a minute, then season with 2 tsp of salt. Turn off the heat.
  6. Add browned shrimps back into pasta.
  7. Add lemon zest, juice and grated cheese. It should thicken up or else use the leftover pasta water or more cheese.
  8. Serve while warm with a few cracked of black pepper if desired.

Herbed Butter Bruschetta

I have to say, this is the best bruschetta I’ve ever had, or made myself. I’m so glad that we’ve started planting our own herbs and this simple appetizer was using the herbed butter that I made myself using the first harvest of the herbs. I’ll write about making herbed butter in another post. This makes planting your own food so rewarding!

This recipe yields 6 pieces of bruschetta.

Ingredients

  • 1 small French baguette, cut to 6 slices at an angle
  • 6 garlic cloves, one clove per slice of bread
  • Herbed butter
  • 1 cup tomatoes, diced to about 1cm square
  • 1/2 cup red onions, diced
  • 2 pieces basil leaves, chopped
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 t salt
  • Black pepper, freshly cracked
  • 1 small lemon, juiced

Method

  1. Roast whole garlic cloves in the oven at 400F degree for 15 minutes, or until the edges start to brown. Remove from oven, peel the skins off and mash garlic in a small bowl.
  2. Spread mashed garlic generously over sliced baguette. Top baguette with a sliver of herbed butter. Broil in the oven at high until edges start to brown, about 3 minutes.
  3. In a bowl, combine chopped tomatoes, onions, basil with olive oil, salt, freshly cracked black pepper and lemon juice.
  4. Spoon tomato mixture on broiled baguette pieces. Best served with good red wine ūüôā

Velvety Brocolli and Feta Pasta

Cooking is one thing that Andy and I¬† love to do together. Although he’s is constantly asking me for directions, we work amazingly well together in our small kitchen. He has gotten used to following my instructions and online recipes to prepare the necessary ingredients for our meals while waiting for me to get home. Today, I can’t help but to realize how blessed I am to have him in my life. Our wedding anniversary is in about 6 weeks and it has been a great year living together thus far. Here’s what we cooked up together this lovely Sunday evening.

I chanced upon this simple and healthy recipe while browsing on one of my favourite daily reads, ApartmentTherapy.com. Their sister site is called The Kitchn, and I love reading it for simple and inspiring ideas in and out of the kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound broccoli
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion or two shallots, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup chopped flat parsley
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese (low-fat if you want to be good) – divided
  • 1/4 cup water

Method

  1. Cut the broccoli into small florets and steam on the stove or in the microwave with the 2 tablespoons of water. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large saut√© pan. Cook the onion and garlic until it just begins to soften then add the broccoli. Cook for several minutes or until the onion turns translucent. Add the parsley and cook until it’s well wilted. Pour in the lemon juice and simmer for about two minutes.
  3. Transfer to a blender and add 1/4 cup of the feta cheese and the 1/4 cup water. Puree until smooth, adding a drizzle of olive oil and a little more water if it sticks and turns to a lump. Puree until as smooth or chunky as you prefer.w
  4. Taste and add any necessary additional salt and pepper. Serve with a good ridged pasta. (I used wholewheat penne instead).
  5. Garnish with extra crumbled feta and lemon zest.

Source

Basil Chicken Flatbread Pizza

We went grocery shopping at Zehr’s today and found some cheese flatbread and naan that were freshly made. We bought them and used the flatbread as our pizza crust. For the toppings, we had put sliced tomatoes, sliced vegetarian Tuscan chicken breast, chopped basil and Bocconcini cheese.

Here are some before and after pictures:

Before

After

Mushroom Risotto

This is my first time cooking risotto, and I thought it was quite the same as cooking congee, with the exception of cooking the rice in butter/olive oil first until translucent prior to adding liquid. Anyway, this was supposed to be asparagus and wild mushroom risotto, but I wasn’t able to find wild mushrooms this weekend, and my asparagus had gone bad. Luckily we still had some white and portabello mushrooms lying around.

The initial idea is to use both broth and white wine, but I didn’t want to buy a bottle of wine just to use 1 cup of it, so I resorted to cooking with vegetable broth and water. I would think that it would be much better with wine. Nonetheless, the risotto was amazing and I would make this again with other interesting combination of vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 1 half of sweet onion, chopped¬†
  • 1 cup of arborio rice
  • 3¬†cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 cup of¬†white wine or water
  • 2 cups of chopped mushrooms (any variety except enoki would work I think)
  • 4 tbsp butter (you can use half olive oil and half butter if you like, but butter is yummier…)
  • 2 tbsp of pasta¬† or Italian seasoning (use¬†combination of chopped fresh herbs i.e. thyme, Italian parsley,¬†if available, of course)¬†
  • A sprinkle of garlic powder or any amount of chopped garlic (personal preference)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of freshly grated Romano cheese (Parmesan would work too).. I LOVE CHEESE!!

Method

  1. Warm broth in a saucepan.
  2. Melt 2 tbsp of butter in a large non-reactive saucepan. Caramelize the chopped onions until translucent. Add in¬†chopped garlic and mushrooms and cook until they start to soften. Some recipes called for saving the mushrooms to be added to the risotto later, but I think it is not necessary for mine unless I’m using more “tender” mushrooms, like wild mushrooms. In that case, I would cook the wild mushroom with butter and garlic first, and then cook the onions with the rice, adding the garlic, mushrooms and butter mixture to the risotto later.
  3. Melt the remaining butter and add rice. Stir to coat with oil/butter.
  4. When the rice turns to a pale gold, add in wine (if using, or else add broth). Stir constantly until it is absorbed. Add 1/2 cup of broth to the rice and stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed. Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and adding just enough hot water (if not using wine) when the broth is finished to cook the rice until al dente. I think it took us about 20- 25 minutes of constantly adding liquid and stirring. The rice should be slightly firm and creamy, not mushy.
  5. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon zest, chopped chives, romano cheese and more butter if desired. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Serve while hot.

Greek Pasta Salad

I’ve made this pasta salad many times, and every time is quite different.

This has cucumbers, tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, and feta cheese. I just use store bought Greek dressing, but jazzed it up with extra lemon juice for a nice twangy taste biggrin.gif I also sprinkle crushed dried chilli peppers in it before eating.
You can pre-toss the cucumbers, tomatoes, sundried tomatoes in extra virgin olive oil before adding in the pasta. Add the feta cheese last so that it doesn’t get melted when you add in the hot cooked pasta.

Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.