Freeze Now, Feast Later

As my baby’s due date approaches, I’ve become inundated with advice for the days and weeks immediately following the birth. One I come across time and time again is to make and freeze some meals for Phil and I to enjoy while we’re adjusting to life with a newborn. I’ve never been one to do this normally (cook meals ahead of time and store them in the freezer) except for vegetable stock (which definitely isn’t a meal) but I think it will come in really handy for us.

I looked up a few freezer-friendly dinner recipes and tweaked them a little. And today was my cooking day since the rain is relentless and certainly doesn’t make it feel much like Memorial Day weekend!

The first recipe actually makes a double batch (I decided to freeze both, but you could always cook these before dinner – serve one that night and freeze one for later). Here’s my Garden Baked Penne:

Garden Baked Penne

Garden Baked Penne

by The Particular Kitchen

Prep Time: 35 mins

Cook Time: up to 2 hours

Keywords: bake simmer saute entree gluten-free wheat free vegetarian soy-free Italian

 

Ingredients (serves 8)

  • 1 pound brown rice penne
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 10 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
  • 2 small zucchini, grated
  • 1 cup goat or buffalo Mozzarella, broken into small chunks
  • ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

This recipe makes 2 separate batches. If you’re serving one for dinner tonight, preheat the oven to 375F. If not, start at the next step.

Line a baking or casserole dish with foil with excess folded over the sides.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions, draining 1-2 minutes before completely cooked.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat and add the onion and red pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes, then add the garlic, herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 2 minutes. Then pour in the crushed tomatoes and water, along with a teaspoon of sea salt. Simmer for 20 minutes uncovered.

Add the sauce to the cooked pasta, along with the spinach, pecorino, zucchini, and a pinch more black pepper. Stir to combine.

Divide between the two dishes and top with the mozzarella.

IF COOKING NOW: bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is lightly golden.

IF FREEZING NOW: leave to cool completely, then cover with foil and freeze for up to 3 months. (Once the dish is frozen after 24 hours, you can remove the foil wrapped meal from the baking dish to be used in the meantime. Place the foil wrapped meal back in the freezer by itself). To cook, transfer the covered meal back into the original pan you used and place directly in a 375F oven for 90 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes until golden.

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I also made Gluten-Free Salmon Cakes (adapted from a recipe in the April/May issue of Kiwi Magazine) and Butternut Squash & Black Bean Enchiladas (adapted from the April/May issue of Clean Eating).

That’s plenty of food for us as we get into the rhythm of parenthood!

 


15 Minute Dinner

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Last night was one of those where I hadn’t planned what to make for dinner. Usually, that means I’ll make some brown rice pasta or a big salad with whatever’s in the fridge, but it was time to come up with something different. I had a bag of red quinoa in my cupboard, some spinach in the fridge, and half jars full of sun dried tomatoes and black olives. The result? An Italian-inspired quinoa dish topped with a fried egg for extra protein.

Warm Italian Quinoa topped with a fried egg

 

When frying anything, but particularly eggs, make sure you don’t overdo it on the heat. Gently frying over a low heat will ensure that the wonderful and delicate proteins in the egg aren’t harmed. Don’t burn it, whatever you do!

Healthier options for cooking an egg (if you have more time):

  • Hard or soft boiled
  • Poached
  • Gently scrambled
  • In an omelet or frittata

Warm Italian Red Quinoa

by The Particular Kitchen

Prep Time: 5 mins

Cook Time: 15 mins

Keywords: saute simmer entree gluten-free nut-free soy-free vegetarian wheat free

 

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 cup red quinoa
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 8-10 sun-dried tomatoes (with some of the oil from the jar)
  • 10-12 pitted black olives
  • 2 handfuls organic spinach
  • 2 oz pecorino cheese, grated
  • 2 organic eggs

Instructions

Cook the quinoa in 2 cups of water according to package instructions (should take about 15 minutes).

Meanwhile, saute the red onion and garlic in some olive oil for 3-4 minutes (for extra flavor, use some of the oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes). Add salt, pepper, and some dried basil and stir well. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and the olives and continue cooking for an extra 2-3 minutes.

When the quinoa only has a couple of minutes to go, add the spinach to the saute pan and cook until wilted. Move the veggie mixture to a bowl and add a little more olive oil if needed. Gently fry the eggs in the same pan for a few minutes, until cooked to your liking. (Pregnant ladies like me – cook until the yolks are set!)

Toss the cooked quinoa with the veggies and the grated pecorino.

Top each serving with a fried egg.

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Weeknight Pasta Upgrades

When did pasta become such a dinner staple in the US and the UK? Was it always the standby dinner for our parents and grandparents? I have a feeling it wasn’t until the last 50 years or so that people in these countries started eating pasta at home on a weekly basis (unless they came from Italian families of course).

Broccoli & Mushroom Pasta with Crispy Tempeh and Garlic

And now, as gluten-free diets become more and more commonplace, pasta is turning up in different forms. Our household is no exception.

Phil and I have pasta about once a week. He loves making his own pasta sauce; I like coming up with interesting additions to the dish.

But one thing is constant: we use brown rice pasta.

I haven’t eaten wheat-based pasta for a long while now. I haven’t even had spelt pasta for a while (something we ate pretty regularly in the UK). And we really can’t tell the difference in texture or flavor! There is, however, a noticeable shift in the way we feel physically. Gone are the days of weighed down, bloated, over-stuffed bellies after a bowl of pasta. The brown rice-based versions leave us feeling lighter, our bellies happier.

And that is upgrade number one.

Here are some other ways you can upgrade your standard bowl of pasta, while still hanging onto that convenient midweek dinner option:

  • Add Fresh Veggies. Choose one or two vegetables. Don’t boil them. Instead, steam or saute for just a few minutes, so that their color remains intact and they still have a bit of crunch. Bonus points if the veggies are in season!
  • Add an Interesting Protein. Too often, a pasta dish is garnished with nothing more than a jar of sauce and some powdery parmesan. Give it a bit of oomph with some protein, in the form of eggs, organic chicken sausage, or tempeh crumbles (see recipe below).
  • Spice it Up. All it takes is a few shakes of some spicy red pepper flakes, or a small red chili chopped up finely. Gone are the days of bland pasta for dinner.
  • Keep it Zesty. Lemon zest can take a dish of pasta from boring to vibrant.
  • When in Doubt, Add Olive Oil. If you’re going sauce-less, like the below recipe, extra olive oil is definitely your friend.
  • Grate the Cheese Yourself. I urge you to never buy grated cheese from the supermarket. It’s dry, tasteless, and usually full of added preservatives. Instead, buy a chunk of some fresh parmesan or pecorino (I like Pecorino because it’s made from sheep milk yet still has the saltiness of Parmesan) and grate as needed. It will last FOREVER in your fridge (so don’t let the price tag scare you off).

Now, go forth and make dinner interesting!

Broccoli & Mushroom Pasta with Crispy Tempeh and Garlic

by The Particular Kitchen

Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 15 mins

Keywords: boil saute entree gluten-free nut-free soy-free vegan vegetarian wheat free Italian

 

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 16 oz brown rice penne (or other pasta)
  • 8 oz plain tempeh
  • olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped into small bitesize pieces (stem too)
  • 2 handfuls shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped (tough parts of stems removed)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 oz Pecorino cheese, grated (or Parmesan)
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • optional: 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Instructions

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Brown rice pasta typically takes a little bit longer to cook. Drain the pasta and leave in a covered pot off the heat while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan. Crumble the tempeh up into very small pieces and add to the hot oil carefully. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until the tempeh starts to brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Leave to drain and cool slightly.

In another frying pan, add some more oil and the garlic. Cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes, then add the broccoli and mushrooms. Saute for 5-8 minutes, until warmed but still with a bit of crunch to the broccoli.

Add the veggies, tempeh, grated cheese, red pepper flakes (if using), and lemon zest to the cooked pasta. Season with salt and pepper and add another glug of olive oil.

Toss well to combine and serve.

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Comfort Food Makeover Part 2

It’s definitely feeling more like comfort food season here in New England. While we keep raking leaves in our driveway, they just keep falling! So we really wanted something warm, comforting, and satisfying for dinner the other night to soothe leaf-related frustrations.

Mac & Cheese is such a classic American comfort food dish. It’s warm, creamy, and soft. Yet I’ve been seeing some fancied up versions on many a restaurant menu (Phil had Lobster Truffle Mac & Cheese recently!) so I thought it would be cool to make a healthier, gluten-free version.

This one is super creamy and incorporates two of my favorite fall/winter flavors: pumpkin and sage. I decided to bake ours at the last minute to get a little bit of crispy edge on top, but it wasn’t necessary. If you’re short on time, this works great all mixed together once the pasta is cooked.

I used Lundberg brown rice pasta for this dish. Between that and the Tinkyada brand, I don’t feel the need to ever buy wheat pasta again. Phil agrees – we don’t miss that heavy, bloated feeling after eating wheat-based pasta, plus we’re getting some extra nutrients by substituting brown rice instead. Some gluten-free pastas are pretty lackluster – I’d highly recommend steering clear of any corn-based pastas or white rice-based ones. They tend to have a weird texture and fall apart easily once cooked. There are a few quinoa-based pastas that are pretty good too (with an added bonus of some protein) but I’ve been really happy with these brown rice ones so far. The texture is great and they hold up when stirred with some sauce.

I also used a can of organic pumpkin puree and some delicious plain goat cheese (the soft kind). These two, along with some cooking water from the pasta, create that rich, creamy texture that all good Mac & Cheeses have! As for the sage, I used some dried sage, but fresh would be even better. Just make sure you chop it finely before adding it to the recipe.

Enjoy this fall comfort dish as much as we did!

Pumpkin Sage Mac & Goat Cheese

by The Particular Kitchen

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cook Time: 15-20 mins

Keywords: bake saute entree gluten-free vegetarian wheat free soy-free nut-free fall winter

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 10 oz brown rice pasta (macaroni NOT required!), cooking water reserved
  • 1 tbsp goat butter or ghee
  • 2 small yellow onions, finely chopped
  • 5 small cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • sea salt & black pepper
  • 1 can organic pumpkin puree
  • 4 oz. soft goat cheese
  • large handful organic spinach
  • handful fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped

Instructions

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain the pasta but keep the cooking water in a separate bowl.

Optional: preheat the oven to 350F.

Meanwhile, heat up the butter or ghee in a saute pan and add the onion. Cook gently with a pinch of sea salt until softened and slightly golden. Add the garlic and dried sage along with some freshly ground black pepper. Saute over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes.

Add the cooked onion and garlic to the drained pasta in it’s cooking pot, as well as the pumpkin puree, goat cheese, and spinach. Stir to incorporate, pouring in the pasta water a little at a time to thin out the sauce created by the pumpkin and cheese. You probably won’t need all of the pasta water, or even half. Just add a little at a time and see how it goes.

You can serve this now with the parsley sprinkled on top, or you can bake it to create a nice crispy top layer. Just pour the pasta mixture into an ovenproof baking dish and place in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until a nice golden crust has formed. Serve with the parsley sprinkled on top.

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Dinner in a New House

Hello from Newton, Massachusetts!

It has been almost 3 weeks since we said goodbye to our London flat and headed west. And we’re feeling pretty settled here in our new home. As settled as we can while our British stuff still sits on a dock in the UK, waiting for a container it can fit inside to come across the ocean. That’s how I imagine it anyway.

It’s been a pretty smooth transition, all things considered. It probably helps that Phil is a teacher and gets the summer off, which gives us a lot of time to move in gradually and make thoughtful decisions about what we want and need in our house. Where before, we relied on the cheapest furniture Ikea offered and a few hand-me-down family pieces, now we’re choosing items we’d like to hang onto for a long time, to outfit not only this rental house, but some future owned property. It’s exciting!

The best part about our new house is this kitchen:

Love the retro touches that were left intact by the owner! This house was built in the mid-20’s, but was extensively renovated and touched up just before we moved in. A lot of quirky characteristics still remain, which I love. The fully metal kitchen cabinets and counters are so interesting. It has already been awesome making meals in here, despite the heat and humidity!

And we’ve already taken full advantage of the nearest farmer’s market, held weekly during the summer and early fall in Cold Spring Park.

They’ve got some great stalls here with plenty of fresh produce to choose from. So far my favorites have been the blueberries, peaches, and leafy greens (of course!). I hope I don’t have to miss a single market day!

With that in mind, I prepared a simple summery meal for dinner recently using a lot of what we purchased at the market. This is a simple meal requiring very few kitchen appliances and tools (perfect if you’ve just moved house!). And the ingredients are simple too – nice and light for a warm summer evening. Brown rice pasta can be tricky to find, especially one that has a good texture. In the UK, I liked Rizopia products. Here in the States, I’m partial to Tinkyada. Both provide a nice texture that is similar to wheat pasta without the tricky digestion associated with gluten-containing foods!

Enjoy this satisfying and simple meal and I’ll be back with you again very soon…

Summery Pasta with Mushroom Ragu and Goat Brie

by The Particular Kitchen

Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 15 mins

Keywords: boil saute entree gluten-free wheat free vegetarian sugar-free soy-free nut-free Italian summer

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 300g brown rice pasta (any shape)
  • 2 tbsp organic olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 28-oz can organic diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 handfuls baby bella mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 2 oz goat brie (or other soft goat cheese), broked into small chunks
  • handful of fresh basil leaves, sliced into thin strips

Instructions

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. We used Tinkyada shells, which took just over 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the mushroom ragu. Heat the oil in a medium-sized saute pan over a medium heat and add the onion. Cook until just softened, about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and mushrooms. Cook for another couple of minutes, then pour in the tomatoes and herbs, and season well. Turn up the heat and cook until the sauce starts to bubble. Reduce to a gentle simmer and leave to cook for at least 15 minutes.

Once the pasta is cooked and drained, toss with the sauce. Stir through the goat cheese to let it melt a little.

Serve warm with a scattering of fresh basil on top.

(This is a great dish to make extra of, as the leftovers when eaten cold are wonderful!)

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