Category: Healthy

Roasted Carrots with Lentils and Soft Cheese

I made soup last week and bread this week. Fall is definitely here. I’m still not quite ready to go full on “braise” but roasted veggies, especially over something hearty but still healthy… yup, I’m down with that.

I was at Costco last week and bought a “YUGE” bag of carrots for, like, zero dollars and went decidedly French by pairing them with Puy lentils. You guys, if you haven’t added those tiny, green French lentils to your repertoire you are missing out. They are so easy to cook properly if you soak, then steam them (just say no to mushy lentils) and they are delicious warm or cold. Use them as a base for almost any roasted vegetable as I did here, or toss them in a salad. (Or simply season them and add a fried or poached egg on top… oh yes I did!). And they’re healthy. I almost hate to say that because it’s beside the point. They are delicious… just go with that.

This dish is hearty enough for a vegetarian main but it can also be served alongside some protein (or that egg we just discussed). I served mine with a couple pieces of chicken confit I had in the fridge which I simply reheated by adding to the tray of carrots when I removed the tinfoil. Anything to save washing another dish!

1 1/2 cups green French Puy lentils

2-3 pounds of carrots, washed or peeled and halved lengthwise
1 tsp cumin seeds, roughly ground with mortar and pestle
1 tsp coriander seeds, roughly ground with mortar and pestle
1 tsp dried thyme leaves, roughly ground with mortar and pestle
1 tsp kosher salt
Red chili flakes, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBS red wine vinegar
1 1/2 TBS olive oil
1 whole lemon, peel zested and lemon halved

2 TBS red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 TBS tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp anchovy paste
pinch of salt and few grinds of fresh black pepper
1/3 cup good fruity olive oil

To finish:
fresh chopped basil or other herb of your choice (optional)
1 8-oz ball of fresh mozzarella (optional, but seriously…)

Make dressing by combining all ingredients except olive oil. Slowly drizzle in oil while whisking until emulsified. Set aside.

Cook lentils to your liking. I soak mine for at least a few hours or overnight, then steam for 15-30 minutes (depending on how long you have soaked) until just tender but not falling apart. Put drained lentils in a larger wide bowl (enough to accommodate the carrots) and stir in 3 TBS of dressing while they are still warm so the lentils absorb the flavour. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Combine your spices in the bottom of a bowl along with minced garlic, red wine vinegar, olive oil and lemon zest. Add carrots and toss to coat. Place on oiled cookie sheet along with your zested lemon halves (cut side down) and cover with a piece of tin foil. Roast for 20 minutes. Uncover, toss and roast another 15-25 minutes until carrots are tender and browned in spots. Remove from oven, squeeze over juice from roasted lemon.

Putting it together:

Taste and re-season lentils if necessary (they may need more salt, especially if you skipped the anchovy paste). Tip carrots over lentils and gently toss. Tear fresh mozzarella over the dish and drizzle with remaining vinaigrette to taste. Scatter fresh herbs on top if using and dish up!

Grilled Corn and Chickpea Salad with Smoky Lime Vinaigrette

Yesterday morning before I went out to meet a friend for coffee I put a batch of chickpeas in my Instant Pot to cook. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with them but cooked beans are always a great thing to have in your back pocket (just don’t sit down. HAHAHA… sorry). They are healthy, filling, and will sit in the fridge for a few days until you need them. Mine didn’t sit because on the way home I stopped at the market and spotted some fresh corn and some lovely ripe mangos. Throw in some filler vegetables and amp it up with a zesty smoky vinaigrette and you got yourself a yummy Southwestern inspired salad.

The ingredients below are what I had on hand but it is infinitely adaptable. Use black or white beans instead of chickpeas. Add sliced radishes, diced bell pepper or kohlrabi. Try a different cheese. Shower with mint and basil instead of cilantro. And as always, enjoy sitting outside on your patio with a beer. Cheers!

juice from one fresh lime (about 2 TBS)
2 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup good fruity olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1 cup dried chickpeas (to make 2 1/2 cups cooked, or you can use canned)
2 fresh cobs of corn
handful cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 English cucumber, seeded and diced into bits-sized pieces
1/4 cup pickled onions
1 ataulfo mango, peeled, seeded and diced into bite-sized pieces
crumbled feta (garnish)
handful chopped cilantro (garnish)

Cook chickpeas using your favourite method. I do mine in the pressure cooker with a clove of garlic and bay leaf.

Make vinaigrette by combining all ingredients except olive oil in a bowl. Slowly drizzle in oil while whisking. Taste and re-season if necessary. Set aside.

Preheat BBQ grill. Shuck and grill corn, turning until blistered in places (about 10 minutes). Let cool enough to handle. Remove kernels with a knife. Set aside.

When you’re ready to eat, combine chickpeas, corn kernels, and the rest of the salad ingredients (except feta and cilantro) in large bowl. Drizzle with half the vinaigrette and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning adding more vinaigrette or salt and pepper. Garnish with crumbled feta and chopped cilantro. We enjoyed this with grilled bread.

Quick & Dirty: Quick Pickled Beets

I made a lamb tagine for dinner last night and decided a zingy side dish would be the perfect finishing touch. Remember those beets from my garden that I have stored in my garage? Boom!… I whipped up a batch of pickled beets and I think it’s about time I share this easy, quick recipe with you. Isn’t that what “Quick & Dirty” is all about?! I know I just shared another beet recipe with you a couple weeks ago, but they’re just so darned tasty!

It’s the same marinade I use for my pickled rhubarb but with a touch less sugar. These pickled beets are a delicious side to almost any meat dish and are especially good alongside stews as a “sweet and sour” palate cleanser. They also add a nice punch tossed in almost any salad.

Cook the beets any way you like. I did mine for 15 minutes in my Instant Pot. You can steam, boil or roast yours. Let cool enough to handle, peel and then chop into bite-sized pieces and put them in a jar (I used an empty pickle jar). Heat marinade ingredients together in a small saucepan to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Pour over beets and let sit for a couple hours. Congrats!… Pickled beets! They will keep in your fridge for at least a week or so.

1 1/2 – 2 pounds beets (about 5-6 medium-large)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 whole star anise
5 whole cloves
10 whole peppercorns
1/2 cinnamon stick
pinch of red pepper flakes

Quick & Dirty: Beets with Creamy Vietnamese Dressing

It’s beet season at my house. I finished my garden clean-up a couple weeks ago except for those leeks again this year. I usually use a lot of them in chicken pot pie but this year I want to try a chicken stew and dumplings, heavy with leeks, obviously. Coming soon (maybe ;) ).

Aaaaanyway, I pulled up the last of my carrots and beets and put them in a couple sacks in the garage. I do love beets but rarely cooked them until last year when I got my Instant Pot. It’s just so fast and easy now. Give them a rinse, throw them in for 7-15 minutes (depending on size), let sit in cold water for a couple minutes, slide the peel right off. Easy peasy.

I am enjoying experimenting with my Instant Pot. The other night I tried a “pot in pot” dinner where you cook everything at the same time. Ummm, what?! I made mashed potatoes, meatloaf, and beets in the same pot. The only thing I made separate was the mushroom sauce. It was surprisingly good. Perhaps not something I would do all the time as I hate to give up control over exact timing and temperature (Yes, I am a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to cooking). And if you want some texture to your food you still have to utilize the stove or oven (I put my meatloaf under the broiler for a few minutes to caramelize the top) but I can certainly see why working families adore the Instant Pot.

(Pot in pot. The potatoes are under the meatloaf and beets. Cool, hey?)

So those beets. When they were finished cooking I let them cool a bit, chunked them up, and covered them in a easy Vietnamese dressing. I had about a pound of beets for Husband and I. You can make as many as you want and double or triple the dressing as required. Cook the beets however you want. My mom boils them, I used to bake them (it took foooooreeeeeeverrrrr), and now I use my Instant Pot pressure cooker. 7 minutes on high for smallish beets, 10-15 minutes for medium to large.

The dressing amounts below make a small batch of dressing and can easily be doubled or tripled. Try it over roasted carrots as well, or spread onto a sandwich.

Cook beets (about 1/2 pound per person). Cover with dressing. Eat.


1/2 small shallot, diced
1 TBS fresh ginger, peeled, sliced then cut into matchsticks
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1 TBS fish sauce
1 TBS sugar
1 TBS fresh lime juice
1 TBS mayonnaise
2 TBS vegetable oil
salt to taste

Add shallot, ginger, garlic, chili flakes, fish sauce and sugar along with 2 tablespoons of water to small saucepan and gently simmer until half the liquid has evaporated and aromatics are soft, 7-10 minutes.

Turn into small food processor or blender and add lime juice, mayonnaise and vegetable oil. Blend until emulsified. Taste and season with salt. Drizzle over beets. Can be served warm, room temperature, or chilled!

Quick & Dirty: Chickpea Dip

I have been making this dip for years and never thought to write it up because, well, I’ve always just thrown it together. People love it and always ask how to make it so I give them the 30,000 foot view “you take some chickpeas, mash them up, add some stuff, serve with nacho chips”. And I was asked again last night after serving it as an appy at a dinner party so now I’m going to actually write it down to share with you.

As with all my Q&Ds, it is infinitely adaptable. My version below is on the salty side and zesty enough for, in my opinion, the perfect burst of flavour on a cracker but you should adjust the recipe to your taste. I also sometimes sprinkle in some hot chili flakes. You could also add diced bell pepper, artichokes or fresh tomatoes. For a more “salad-y” route try diced carrot and celery. Smoky paprika would also be delicious. Shower with fresh grated Parmesan or Pecorino instead of feta. And I have to admit I have wondered about adding a sweet note… raisins? Cranberries? A touch of curry powder?

See?!?! Adaptable :)

One more thing… I’m a huge fan of preserved lemons. They add a salty, briny, intense “je ne sais quoi”. You should be able to buy them in almost any Mediterranean market but you can also easily make them at home like this! Fresh lemon, of course, works almost as well.

1 1/2 cups of dried chickpeas to make 3-4 cups, or 2 cans (rinsed and drained)
1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
1/2 – 1 cup Moroccan dried cured olives (the wrinkly black ones) or other olive of your choice, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped
1 whole preserved lemon (peel only), finely diced (or use the zest and juice of a whole fresh lemon)
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
couple glugs of good fruity olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
2 ounces crumbled feta to garnish

Boil your chickpeas (I like to do mine in stock or add a whole smashed clove of garlic, bay leaf and a pinch of salt to regular water) until quite tender but not mushy, or rinse and drain 2 cans of chickpeas. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and mash them into a nice chunky texture. I use a pastry cutter to do this but you could use a potato masher or a just a fork. Add in your other ingredients (except feta) and stir to combine. Taste and adjust with salt and pepper. Garnish with crumbled feta and serve with nacho chips or toasted pita.

Quick & Dirty: Blistered Green Beans with Miso, Lime and Gochujang

Although the weather the past couple weeks has gone from “summer” back to “drizzly West Coast spring”, I know summer will be back again because green beans are just starting to show up at our local markets. I smoked a small brisket yesterday for dinner and threw together this side dish in literally 10 minutes. And was it fantastic. Fresh and zesty from the lime, loads of umami flavour from the miso, a little bit of spice from the gochujang, all slightly mellowed by a touch of honey.

Heat a cast iron pan or thick bottomed frying pan (not non-stick) over medium high heat with just a swipe of canola oil covering the bottom of the pan; you don’t need much, you’re basically dry-frying the beans. Don’t use olive oil as you need a high smoke point. Throw your beans into the hot pan and let them sit for a couple minutes without stirring so they start to blister. Toss (or if you’re using cast iron which is too heavy to toss, stir) your green beans every few minutes until they are lovely and blistered and done to your liking. For me this took about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit a minute before tossing with the sauce or it will burn in the hot pan.

While the beans are cooking, mix together the sauce ingredients. It will be quite thick and cling to the beans nicely. I didn’t use any salt as the miso paste is salty enough. The measurements below makes enough for about a pound of beans. Enjoy!

Note: I’m really loving these “Quick & Dirty” posts, aren’t you? Much quicker to write so I get to visit you more often and much closer to the way real people cook. If you don’t have lime, try lemon. If you can’t find gochujang, throw in a pinch of red pepper flakes. Don’t have green beans in your crisper?, try it with broccoli (including the stems!). It’s all good :)

1 lb green beans, washed and stemmed

1 TBS white or light miso paste
juice and zest from 1 small lime, or 1/2 large lime (about a generous tablespoon or so)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp honey
1 tsp gochujang (Korean fermented red chili paste)

Quick & Dirty: Fennel Orange Salad

I haven’t always been a fan of fennel. The thought of that licorice-y flavour in my food just seemed, well, weird. In the past year, though, it has not been uncommon to find it in my crisper. Why? Because I tried it. Yep, me who preaches about trying everything really didn’t try fennel. I really started using it regularly after I made this… then this. Last week I made a yummy sausage, fennel and white bean spring stew. And last night instead of cooking the sucker I made a salad that I know will become a regular around here… fennel orange salad. I dare you.

This is a Quick & Dirty recipe so I didn’t measure exactly. And except for the two main ingredients (fennel and oranges) I really just tossed in what I had in the fridge. I had a large bag of oranges sitting on the counter but you could even substitute canned if that’s what you have. And I forgot to sprinkle the couscous over the first serving of the salad (Husband going up for seconds: “What’s in the pot?”… arghhhhhh) so I’m calling that optional. You can switch out the the arugula for another salad green, change the pepitas (pumpkin seeds) to another seed or nut, sub in a different cheese, and/or switch the grain to farro or quinoa. Whatever floats your boat.

I had planned on serving this with grilled squid for some protein but ended up searing a sous vide smoked pork shoulder steak that I had in my freezer and adding a couple slices on the side. Sausage would be yummy as well.

Throw the fennel, oranges, arugula, mint and cilantro into a large bowl. Toss with about half the vinaigrette, adding more to your liking. Sprinkle over pepitas, feta, and couscous. Serve with a protein to make a meal.

handful of cilantro leaves
TBS or so chopped fresh mint
2 large handfuls of baby arugula
3 oranges, zested (set aside to add to vinaigrette) then peeled and sectioned, each section cut in half
1 fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup pepitas
1/2 cup crumbled feta
1 cup cooked couscous (about 1/3rd cup from dry)

Orange Lime Vinaigrette
juice from whole juicy lime (2-3 TBS)
1 TBS orange zest, more or less to taste
1-2 tsp honey, more or less to taste
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt & pepper, to taste
pinch of red pepper flakes (I used Korean gochugaru which has a lovely fruity element)
good quality olive oil to emulsify (about 1/3rd cup)

Put all ingredients except oil in a bowl, whisk in oil in a thin steady stream until dressing starts to thicken. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Quick & Dirty: Warm Fried Chickpeas With Tons of Herbs

Welcome back to Q&D! After eating meat a couple nights in a row I had a craving for something fairly healthy and lighter tasting. I love cooking up dried beans in my pressure cooker so I whipped up a batch of chickpeas. When I cook my chickpeas I add a teaspoon of Better than Bouillon to the water along with a couple smashed garlic cloves and a bay leaf. It adds a bit of flavour to the chickpeas and the extra broth drained from the chickpeas at the end is delicious. I freeze it and use in place of stock or broth for soup, stew, cooking grains and rice, etc.

Sooooo, quick & dirty! Make sure your beans are well dried. I put mine on a sheet pan lined with a clean tea towel and let them sit for a couple hours, shaking the pan a couple times to move them around. They won’t crisp up in your frying pan if they are wet. Wash your herbs and green onion, chop ’em up and toss them in a big bowl. Melt some sort of fat in a non-stick frying pan. I used leftover fat drained from the beef ribs I smoked the other night which added a nice flavour. Add your cooked or canned chickpeas (or other beans!) to the frying pan and fry over medium to medium-high heat for about 15 minutes (tossing every few minutes) until they start to get crispy. I had a lot of beans. If you have less it may not take 15 minutes. Stir in garlic, lemon zest, chili flakes and salt to taste. Tip the beans into your bowl with the herbs and squeeze over the lemon juice. Toss and re-season to taste. We ate these “as is” but if you want to make a real meal of it top with a fried or poached egg. I wouldn’t say no to a nice big piece of soft bocconcini or burrata torn over the top either, or even crumbled feta. Go for it :)

1½ cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight in water then simmered until tender
– OR 2 cans of drained and rinsed chickpeas, WELL DRIED
2 cups (more or less) chopped mixed herbs such as parsley, cilantro, basil, mint
1-2 green onions, sliced diagonally
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
couple shakes of chili flakes
1 lemon, zest and juice
about 1/4 cup vegetable or olive oil or some other sort of fat (schmaltz would be yummy as well)

Chicken and Zucchini Meatballs over Butternut Squash “Spaghetti”

Guess what?!?! I have another meatball recipe and this one is healthy healthy! Not just healthy, but healthy (lean chicken and zucchini meatballs), healthy (over BUTTERNUT SQUASH NOODLES!). Seriously, unless you’re going to eat grass for dinner, you’re not going to get much healthier than this. It is ridiculously delicious for an almost “normal” meal. Unlike those “zoodles” that are all over the internet (yes, I’m talking about you, limp and wet zucchini noodles), spiralizing butternut squash (or one of those huge carrots you get in an Asian market) and roasting at a high heat for 7-10 minutes to bring out the sweetness is an almost perfect stand-in for real spaghetti, without the calories and carbs. I dare you to try it! Go ‘head… I DARE you. :)

I’m dissing the wet, limp zucchini noodles but adding grated zucchini into the lean chicken meatballs helps keep them tender and moist and adds an extra helping of invisible vegetables. And spooning them over more vegetables?… pffft, I feel like I should be given a medal.

Read more

Summer Stew

veg stew4Well that doesn’t sound very tasty. Summer stew? Hmmmph.

Wait! Don’t go yet!! It’s not as dull as it sounds!

My garden is overflowing with gorgeous little tomatoes as sweet as candy, summer squash, carrots, garlic, leeks and a variety of herbs. I wanted to use up a bunch at once and I’m sort of over grilled vegetables for a while. This stew was just the ticket. It is very lightly seasoned which allows the fresh vegetables to shine. I had some leftover bits (a few mushrooms and a cup of corn kernels) hanging around the fridge which I threw in as well but those ingredients are optional… use what you have! We ate this spooned over quinoa and it was a lovely summer meal, even if it was *stew.

*this reminds me of a story. I invited a friend over for dinner many years ago and told her I would make curry. She told me she hated curry. Really? Why do you hate curry?! It turned out that when she was little her mother would clean out the fridge every Friday and throw all the leftovers into a pan, heat it up, and call it curry. My curry was not THAT curry, and this stew is not a mash of overcooked vegetables… really.

veg stew1

1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions
2 TBS olive oil
2 yellow squash (or zucchini)
1 red onion
1 red pepper
1 large or 2 small carrots
1 leek
2-3 garlic cloves
1 generous pint of small tomatoes
couple sprigs of fresh dill (to taste)
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground fennel
pinch red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
handful of fresh chopped herbs (I used basil and shiso leaf)
grated pecorino or parmesan to garnish
mushrooms (I had a few hanging around my fridge)
Corn kernels (I had about a cup leftover from making this salad the previous night)

Cook quinoa according to package directions (I usually use 1:1 seed to water or stock ratio, plus a quarter cup of liquid “for the pot”).

Cut squash, onions, and red pepper into bite size chunks. Slice carrots, leeks (and mushrooms if using). Mince garlic and chop fresh dill.

veg stew2

Heat 2 TBS olive oil in a frying pan. Add carrots and red onion and fry until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add red pepper and leeks and continue to fry until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add squash (and mushrooms if using) and continue to fry until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, dill, stock, and spices and continue to cook until tomatoes have started to break and release their juices and veggies are done to your liking… mine took about 5 minutes more.

veg stew3

At this point you can also throw in any leftovers you have in your fridge to re-warm. I had a cup of corn kernels. You could also add leftover bits of protein such as sausage or shrimp, etc. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Spoon over quinoa, garnish with cheese and herbs and serve.