My husband is in Cancun...for a week...with his buddies...celebrating the year they turn 30. I am at home...with toddler...34+ weeks pregnant...32 years old. I think that makes me wife of the year. I agreed to the trip ages ago, with the thought that there would be a slim chance that they would actually pull it off, get organized and book. Proved me wrong. I do think this is a great chance for him to hang out with his best friends who live mostly in Edmonton. Am I sympathetic to the fact that today he is hung over, tired and has a sunburn? Not at all.
I went over to Vancouver to take said husband to the airport and enjoy some time with my girlfriends. My parents being the amazing grandparents that they are agreed to watch Hudson for the weekend. So don't feel too sorry for me. I squeezing in an amazing dinner at Vij's (if you haven't been, go!), a pedicure, brunch, an Ikea shopping spree and good times with friends I miss. The only hitch was not being able to make it home on Sunday because the ferries were not running due to extreme weather. I did arrive home Monday ready for lots of Hudson snuggles and forever indebted to my parents (again).
Anyways we still need to eat. Sausage and Spinach Stuffed Shells sounded about right.
16-18 jumbo pasta shells
1 pound Italian turkey sausage, casing removed (or low fat pork)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 bell pepper (colour of your choice), diced
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeeze dry
1/2 cup light ricotta cheese
1/2 cup shredded skim milk mozzarella cheese
salt and freshly ground pepper
Adapted from here.
I doubled the whole recipe to use up the entire box of shells and tub of ricotta while I was at it. I made a few changes to the recipe: I added the bell pepper, more spinach and a little less sausage. I think it could handle a sprinkle of chili flakes if you feel up to it. There was enough to freeze plus there was some filling left over. I added it to some jarred pasta sauce and had another meal just like that. Filling the shells was a tad tedious, but I didn't put in any great effort to make them look perfect (as you can see in the photo). I served with a simple salad with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
Who needs sunshine and fruity drinks when you can have wind storms and food like this?
I have made it no secret that I love soup. Given the snow we have gotten over the last few days it is the perfect time to share a Curried Butternut Squash soup recipe. I am not really a snow person, I tend to be cold all the time. I would much rather a beach house than a mountain chalet. I do like that I am cozy in comfy clothes and scarf with a hot cup of tea in front of the fire. I also like that my son is enchanted by it all. He is in the refusing to wear gloves stage which leads to many "oh no, no gloves for baby" comments from the peanut gallery. Yup, when we go outside gloves are only allowed for myself and husband, not for my young child with bright red hands. One day he will come around and stop torturing himself and making me look like a bad parent (on second thought does that ever happen?).
So over the last few weeks I have made this soup three times (to this recipe's credit there have been no complaints). I have been on a quest to find the easiest way to deal with the squash. These are the things I do for my readers. The first method was to cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and bake it cut side down in a 350 degree oven for 45 min. This gave a nice result but took the recipe to a length of time that was not after work friendly. The second method was to cut, peel and cube raw and add to soup to cook with the other ingredients. I do not recommend this, I felt like I was going to lose a finger at some point and my vision of easy peeling with a vegetable peeler didn't materialize. The final, winning method was to prepare the squash in the same way I did for the oven but popped it into the microwave on high for 15 min (I pierced the outside skin with a fork to release steam). I let it cool for a few minutes then scooped it out with a spoon into the soup. It wasn't 100% cooked but enough to scoop.
1 butternut squash
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 potatoes, chopped (I was thinking this would also be good with yam)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp curry powder (optional, but delicious)
1. Prepare butternut squash as per one of the above methods (seriously use the microwave).
2. Add oil to a large pot over medium heat. Combine onion, celery, carrot and garlic and sauté for 4-5 minutes.
3. Add potato, squash, stock and curry powder. Bring up to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook covered for about 30 minutes (or until veggies are soft).
4. Puree with a hand blender or blender and serve.
This recipe was passed on from a friend, so I have no idea where it originally came from. I have made other butternut squash soups that call for apples or cinnamon, but I much prefer this less sweet version. The addition of curry powder gives just the right amount of spice and an added feeling of warmth. I served this up with cheese toast and a raw veggie platter. Of course I made extra to freeze. This can be vegetarian and gluten free depending on the stock you use.
Stay warm people, I know my Alberta readers are really feeling the cold these days.
It is no secret that babies keep you busy. You get into a cycle of feeding, changing, bouncing, soothing and rocking to sleep that repeats all day (and night) before you realize that you haven't brushed your teeth, hair or had a real meal all day. If your baby is really small you might never make it out of your jammies. Then there is the dinner issue. You might think of what to have but the time and energy to execute the plan seem to evaporate as the day wears on...out comes the take out menu.
Before I had my son I did a full day cooking and freezing extravaganza, so I had options other than take out and convenience foods. This time around I don't have a full day without a toddler to go nuts in the kitchen (and if I do have a full day without toddler I don't want to cook). I have decided this time to cook double batches of dinners I am already making. Doesn't take much longer, just buy double ingredients then there is a meal to freeze and enjoy post baby number two (who is set to arrive in about seven weeks!). Now you don't have to have a baby on the way to use this idea. We all have busy lives where making dinner from scratch day in and day out is not always possible. It feels like an amazing trick to pull something healthy and homemade out of the freezer.
I started my freezer filling quest with Black Bean Quinoa Chili.
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 (19 ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 green bell pepper, cut into bit sized pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into bit sized pieces
2 celery ribs, cut into bit sized pieces
1 tablespoon chipotle chili sauce (or other hot sauce)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup corn, fresh, frozen or canned
1 handful cilantro, chopped
Perfect for a cold, windy night. I served it with a dollop of light sour cream and some homemade cornbread (recipe here, I reduced the sugar to 1/4 cup). Very hearty for a vegetarian chili given the black beans and quinoa, not to mention high in fiber.
This freezes well. I like to freeze in large zip top freezer bags, that way I am not tying up all my containers in the freezer. They also tend to fit better in the freezer. Make sure your food is cooled completely before putting in any plastic. The food safe way to do this is to plug your sink and put your pot of food in and fill the sink with cold water and add some ice. You may have to re-fill with cold water to cool effectively. Give the food a stir so you don't get a hot spot in the middle. Once cooled add to desired container and write the date and what's in it. Once frozen it can be hard to tell what's in there.
I doubled the recipe and had enough for a dinner for us, a dinner for our freezer and a dinner delivered to our friends that recently had a their first baby. I am a big believer in food drop offs for new parents. Don't think my freezer will be too full....hint, hint ;)
I know how important it is to write down goals, they told us in university, I watched Oprah and had many people tell me about The Secret. Have I done much writing down of goals though? Mmmm no. It's not that I don't think about them or have any, I just don't usually write them down.
I was doing some house re-organizing as we have moved our oldest son into his big boy room in prep for the arrival of youngest son into the nursery. I happened to find a 2008 monthly planner in the closet and right there on the notes section of January are some written goals. Most are to do with financial things, but at the very bottom of the list is: Tiffany to start business. So this didn't happen in 2008, it happened last year in 2011 along with my return to work after maternity leave. When I started Tiffany McFadden Nutrition Consulting it was out of necessity. I wasn't sure how many hours I was going to get at the hospitals I work at and figured I will have to make some work for myself. It wasn't until a few months in that I realized this is actually what I had always wanted to do (I had even written it down!).
I had also thought before that I would like to write a blog, but couldn't figure out what to write about. Funny how I didn't even think about nutrition topics. When I look back on 2011 I think of many things: friends, family, vacations, adventures and of course starting this journey into blogging and my business. I am grateful to have you all as readers and to have a creative outlet in my life that brings me more joy than I ever thought it would. I am so looking forward to 2012 bringing more adventure, a new baby, my in-laws to Campbell River and maybe a few goals written down....maybe.
After a great holiday it is time to get back to some home cooked, healthy meals. I think this recipe for sun-dried tomato pesto is a quick and easy way to get back into the swing of things.
12 ounces whole wheat penne pasta
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
2 garlic cloves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, blend the sun-dried tomatoes and their oil, garlic, salt and pepper, to taste, and basil in a food processor and blend until the tomatoes are finely chopped. Transfer the tomato mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the Parmesan.
Add the pasta to the pesto and toss to coat, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper and serve.
Adapted from here.
Super fast, easy and full of flavour. I used my beloved hand-blender with the mini-processor attachment, but am sure you could do this in a Magic Bullet as well, just don't over process. I served it up with a spinach salad heavy with veggies. This meal is high in fiber, vegetarian and rich in heart healthy fats from the olive oil. It is also a great way to use up the rest of a bunch of fresh basil (I used stems and all). This pesto can also be used on pizza, as a panini spread or a topping on grilled chicken.
Thank you all again for reading, commenting, encouraging and making my 2011 a year where goals were accomplished.
Tiffany McFadden, RD