Toad's Kitchen

(mostly) healthy recipes for the family

Archive for the month “June, 2013”

Top Chefs-inspired Leftover Pasta Idea

Don’t worry, I am not yet quite delusional enough to call myself a Top Chef – I have to say, though, that having recently watched Top Chef Canada 3, I found myself fired up and totally inspired by what those amazing chefs could produce on very short notice, often with no knowledge of what ingredients would be available to them!

The other day I made a double batch of Adrian’s Tomato Sauce (recipe posted on this site back in September) and a double batch of pasta to go with it. Adrian and his friend Hayden were coming to visit, and I wanted to make sure we had enough! Needless to say, there was a lot left over…the leftover pasta and sauce were mixed together in a bowl and put in the fridge, and we have been working away at it. Tonight, there was enough for one last meal for us, and I really did not want to eat it as it was…again. As we know, pasta absorbs sauce when it is left for any amount of time, so this stuff “needed help” – and not just lashings of cheese, again!

Wanting to do something creative with what was left, and not really wanting to  go shopping to do so, I thought about Top Chef Canada and the various challenges the chefs faced in their competition, which were always inspirational to watch 🙂 I rummaged though the fridge and pantry to see what all I had, and the following casserole is the result. 

This is kind of a “freeform,” recipe – I have listed the ingredients without quantities, because if you are in a similar position, you may not have the ingredients I used, or the quantity of pasta/sauce I started with. My only recommendation would be to add the pesto gradually as you want it to flavour and moisten, not be a sauce. Add other “fillers” to taste, and be creative 😀

Olive oil (EVOO for the flavour)
Cooked chicken breasts, chopped
Basil pesto
Sundried tomato pesto
Garlic scapes, chopped (flower tops of garlic plants – available at farmers’ markets -or just use some minced fresh garlic!)
Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
Pine nuts
Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Panko breadcrumbs

Drizzle pasta with a bit of olive oil to moisten it very slightly. Mix in the chicken. Blob on some pesto (I used both kinds), a tablespoon at a time, and toss until pasta and chicken is coated lightly.

Mix in some of everything else listed as desired, except the Panko. Put mixture in a greased casserole dish. 

Make a gratin topping of grated Parmesan, pine nuts, and some Panko. Distribute this over the top. 

Bake casserole in 350 degree oven, covered with tinfoil for 15 minutes, then uncovered for 15 minutes longer or until heated through and top is crispy and browned. Good with a simple green salad and a flavourful red wine (we had a Spanish one) 🙂

Getting Freekeh

Oh, that name…I could get really punny, but will quit before I get rolling.

I am always interested in finding new things to try.  Now that so many “new” ancient grains are available, it is fun to experiment with them. I recently discovered freekeh, which is dried, roasted green wheat. Its taste and texture are intriguing – smoky, earthy and chewy. You could use it in place of rice or any other grain. I bought a box of it, “Casbah” brand, to try, and messed around slightly with their recipe for freekeh salad – with happy results. There are lots of different recipes online for freekeh dishes, and I am looking forward to experimenting!

Salad:

1 package (145g) freekeh
1-3/4 cups water
1 cup roasted red or yellow peppers, chopped,
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or equivalent in dried thyme)
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped coarsely
1/2 English cucumber, diced

Dressing:

Juice of one lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 large garlic clove, minced
Large pinch sea salt

Combine freekeh and water in pot. Bring to boil, then reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes or so, or until water is absorbed and freekeh is tender. Cool.

Once freekeh is cool, combine in bowl with remaining salad ingredients. Whisk dressing ingredients together. Pour over salad and stir to combine.

Yummy and different! 🙂

“I Miss Hawaii” Cookies

We recently returned from a wonderful trip to Hawaii…first, a great week in Maui, followed by a fantastic week in Oahu where we attended our son’s wedding! What a fabulous time 🙂

Now we are back at home on our own (admittedly cooler) island in the Pacific. It is currently raining, nothing unusual for June.  I have been wishing for summer and remembering the endless sun and turquoise water in Hawaii….what better way of spending a rainy day than baking cookies? Wanting to add a bit of tropical yumminess, I came up with the (incredibly original!) idea of adding toasted coconut and macadamia nuts to the carob chip cookie dough, and I must say the results are divine 🙂

This makes lots, you can halve the recipe…

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup coconut oil
2-1/4 cups brown sugar, lightly packed
4 eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla
I cup toasted unsweetened coconut (toast at 350 degrees for 5 minutes), cooled
1 cup macadamia nuts, chopped and toasted with the coconut, cooled
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 cups carob chips
Pinch salt

Beat fats together. Add sugar and beat until blended. Add eggs, beating in one at a time. Add vanilla. Mix dry ingredients together in separate bowl and stir into butter/sugar mixture. Drop 2″ apart onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

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