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
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
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.
That’s plenty of food for us as we get into the rhythm of parenthood!
There’s a lot going on around here. My baby is due in just over a month and we just bought a house, moving in next week! Hence, a lack of recipes, let alone blog posts.
But every so often, when time allows, I get a strong urge to bake. It’s therapeutic in the same way someone might enjoy painting or singing as a way to de-stress. The simple act of combining ingredients to create something delicious that can be enjoyed for a few days afterward (depending on your level of self-control!) always seems to take the tension away, at least for a little while.
This recipe came from one I found on Pinterest, from a blog called Ambitious Kitchen. They were originally designed to be blondies (i.e. brownies without the chocolate) but I couldn’t find the right baking pan the first time I made them, so they became cookies instead.
The brilliance of these cookies/blondies/whatever you want to call them are in the ingredients. No flour is used. No sugar. No eggs or dairy. You rely on your food processor to do most of the work for you and combine a few items you most likely already have in your pantry or fridge.
With a base of chickpeas and peanut butter, these cookies stay pretty chewy and gooey in the middle. Almost like cookie dough. Pretty decadent.
They’re the perfect comfort food for an early summer filled with excitement and anticipation!!
I’ll be back as regularly as I can – in the meantime, take good care and have a look through my recipes page if you need some inspiration!
Chewy Chick-PB Cookies
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Keywords: bake dessert gluten-free soy-free vegan vegetarian wheat free cookie
Ingredients (6 large cookies or 9 squares)
- coconut oil, for greasing the pan
- 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup natural peanut butter (a little oil separation is good)
- 1/3 cup maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp vanilla powder
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease either an 8×8 baking dish or a 6-cup muffin pan with coconut oil.
Combine all ingredients, except the chocolate chips, in a food processor and blitz until smooth and creamy. Add in some melted coconut oil if the mixture is too dry.
Fold in the chocolate chips.
If using a square baking dish, pour the mixture straight in and spread around to evenly distribute.
If using a muffin pan, scoop out the mixture with an ice cream scoop to distribute among the 6 cups.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown on top.
Carefully cut the cakey batter into 9 squares in the baking dish (or simply remove from the muffin pan) and leave to cool for 15 minutes before enjoying!
Fresh herbs. A true sign of Spring springing. While our garden is slowly starting to grow back into its lush old self, the huge mint patch is still a dead heap of brown stalks. So the next best thing was to buy a little bunch of organic mint leaves from the store. I used it all up in two delicious meals – and can’t wait for our own mint to grow again!
As well as being a wonderful stomach soother, fresh mint offers many other health benefits, including:
- Antimicrobial properties in peppermint oil, inhibiting the growth of certain bacteria and types of fungus
- Natural breath freshener
- Relief from nasal symptoms associated with seasonal allergies
- Excellent source of vitamins C & A, and the mineral manganese
- Nerve soother, especially in the form of fresh mint leaf tea
Mint livens up a grainy salad like no other. The first dish I made was a farro salad with a classic combination of mint, feta, and pomegranate (although not in season, if you can find a package of the arils – the juicy red seeds – they are such a nice treat every once in a while). Watermelon chunks would be great as an alternative when we’re in the thick of summer, or slices of fresh peaches.
Farro Salad with Pomegranate, Feta & Mint
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 30 mins
Keywords: simmer entree salad side wheat free vegetarian soy-free nut-free spring summer
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 1 1/2 cups farro
- 3-4 celery stalks, sliced
- 1 cup pomegranate arils (or diced watermelon or 1 peach, sliced)
- 1/2 cup sheep or goat feta, crumbled
- 1 large handful fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
- sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Cook the farro according to package instructions (usually takes about 25-35 minutes in twice the amount of water). Leave to cool slightly before tossing with the remaining ingredients.
Serve warm, or place in the fridge to cool completely for a refreshing summer salad.
Another fabulous use of mint is in homemade pesto. I saw a wonderful recipe in the May issue of Real Simple magazine that I had to try – and all of a sudden I’ve found a new love. Mint Pesto is bright, fresh, and zesty and takes all of 5 minutes to make yourself. It came paired with steamed artichokes in the magazine recipe, but you could also serve it with fish, lamb, or in a salad with thinly sliced zucchini.
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 cup cashews
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp lemon zest
Combine all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
We’ve lived in the greater Boston area for 9 months now (hard to believe!) – in that time, so much has happened. Bought a house. Baby on the way. Started up my nutrition consulting business in Newton. Traveled here there and everywhere.
But we’re really starting to get to know our new home town. In particular, we’ve made our way around some wonderful restaurants in the city and the surrounding neighborhoods. While we haven’t quite explored our soon-to-be neighborhood yet (Roslindale), there are quite a few places I’d highly recommend if you live in or are visiting Boston.
What are my criteria for a good restaurant? Healthy options. More than one vegetarian option. Thoughtful ingredients sourced as locally as possible. Fresh fresh fresh! A good selection of menu items that are naturally gluten-free. And above all, delicious food!
The Elephant Walk
Cambodian/French food with plenty of delicious choices for vegetarians, vegans, and gluten-free diners. 3 locations: Boston, Cambridge, Waltham. Website: elephantwalk.com
Vegetarian and vegan delights, mostly pizza (although you can order any of the toppings on rice instead of dough). Cambridge. Website: veggieplanet.net
Blue Shirt Cafe
Nice spot for lunch, mostly wraps and sandwiches. Somerville. Website: blueshirtcafedavis.com
Tasty breakfast and lunch spot with a few healthy vegan options. Jamaica Plain. Website: ulacafe.com
Creative and delicious vegan food, including DESSERT (which always gets a thumbs up from me!). Watertown. Website: theredlentil.com
Mei Mei Street Kitchen
The number one greatest food truck in Boston, hands down! Fabulous, locally sourced Chinese street food served by some seriously awesome people. All over Boston. Website: meimeiboston.com
Seriously great wholesome lunch grub with a smorgasbord of options. Cambridge. Website: lifealive.com
Locally sourced and thoughtfully prepared meals to celebrate over. Cambridge. Website: henriettastable.com
Beautiful menu that changes all the time to reflect what’s growing nearby. Newton. Website: farmsteadtable.com
Fun and inspired menu full of the best ingredients found in New England. Newton. Website: 51lincolnnewton.com
Seasonal, fresh ingredients grace this bistro’s menu, along with some of the best pickled veggies I’ve ever had. Newton. Website: sycamorenewton.com
From the same people behind 51 Lincoln, this small restaurant is a neighborhood gem featuring elegant local food. Newton. Website: wabankitchen.com
Vegan cuisine from the same owners as Red Lentil with an almost identical menu. Newton. Website: walnutgrille.com
A neighborhood favorite with the best gluten-free pizza I’ve ever had and a fabulous selection of toppings. Newton. Website: billspizzeria.com
I’m sure I’ll be updating this list in the months to come! Does anyone have any places to recommend in Boston that I’ve missed?
As you read this, I’ll be on the tropical isle of St Thomas, soaking up some much needed sunshine before our baby arrives in June! And with that warmth in mind, I thought I’d offer you a salad recipe that requires very little effort and time but is worth making any day.
Even if it’s still Arctic temperatures where you are (and believe me, that’s how it was when the above photo was taken), you’ll feel a little lighter and brighter when you make this salad. The idea here is to keep everything simple and green, combining a decent amount of leafy greens, a bit of protein, and some healthy fats, along with some great flavors in the dressing.
Making your own salad dressing requires nothing more than a little glass jar (next time you buy capers or olives, wash out the jar and keep it!) and some everyday condiments I know you have already! If you made too much for this one salad, which happily serves two, keep the rest in the fridge for another salad.
Romaine salad with avocado and pumpkin seeds
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 0 mins
Keywords: raw salad gluten-free nut-free soy-free sugar-free vegan vegetarian wheat free
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 1 head of organic romaine lettuce
- 1/2 ripe avocado
- handful green pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
- 1 tsp German mustard
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
- sea salt and ground black pepper
Slice the romaine into 1-inch strips and throw in a big salad bowl. Cube the avocado flesh and add that to the romaine, along with the pumpkin seeds.
Make the dressing in a small glass jar by combining all ingredients, placing the lid on top, and shaking vigorously for a few seconds to incorporate.
Just before serving, toss the salad with the dressing and serve!