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Apple Tuna Melts with Broccoli Slaw

tuna meltsTHE VERDICT:

I  am a big tuna melt fan, so when I came across this recipe for tuna melts topped with slices of apple, I had to try it. I was especially curious to find out if the flavours of apple and tuna would mix well together. The answer? They do! These tuna melts are super tasty, and it’s that apple/tuna flavour combo that makes them so good.

These tuna melts are great for a light lunch, but also pair well with a bowl of soup for a hearty dinner. We’ve made them several times and typically serve them with salad. This weekend we served them with a packaged broccoli slaw, which is a crunchy and flavourful alternative to traditional cabbage slaw. It’s made of shredded broccoli stems, carrots and purple cabbage. We jazz it up with a little Miracle Whip and some raisins and/or sunflower seeds. It is available at most grocery stores that sell salad kits.

We didn’t serve these melts to Zayden as they’re a little beyond his self-feeding skills at the moment, but he did enjoy some apple slices and an English muffin with peanut butter for his lunch, so we didn’t have to completely reinvent the wheel in order to feed him at the same time.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Apple Tuna Melts (source: Today’s Parent magazine; original recipe)

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Vegetable and Red Lentil Soup

lentil soupTHE VERDICT:

I love a good vegetable soup, but this one puts a yummy twist on the classic. A touch of curry, some coconut milk, red lentils and zucchini dress up the usual round up of vegetables. It quickly became a winter favourite after the first time we tried this recipe a few years ago. The fact that it’s easy to throw together is another plus. If you’re good at chopping veggies, you can have this soup on the table in about 25-30 minutes.

It is a tasty, but low calorie soup, so it’s great for those whose new year’s resolution was to lose a few pounds, but it pairs well with grilled paninis or garlic toast if you’re looking for a more substantial meal. While the recipe calls for chicken stock, you could easily substitute in some vegetable stock and you would have a great vegan soup on your hands.

The leftovers taste amazing because the curry flavours have had time to develop, so this makes a great lunch for the next day as well.

In this house, it is also a very kid-friendly meal because Z loves anything with a touch of curry.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Vegetable and Red Lentil Soup (source: Good Food Fast by Australian Women’s Weekly)

2 tbsp. mild curry paste

400g can of diced tomatoes

3 cups chicken stock

1 large carrot, chopped finely

2 trimmed celery sticks, chopped finely

1 medium potato, chopped finely

1 large zucchini, chopped finely

3/4 cup red lentils

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/3 cup light coconut milk

  • Cook curry paste in heated large saucepan, stirring, about 1 minute or until fragrant.
  • Add undrained tomatoes, stock, carrot, celery, potato and zucchini; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 5 minutes.
  • Add lentils to soup mixture; return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until lentils are tender.
  • Add peas; return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer soup mixture, uncovered, until peas are just tender.
  • Remove soup from heat and stir in coconut milk.

Serves 6

Total time: 30 minutes

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Spiced Pumpkin Soup with Open-Faced Sandwiches

Pumpkin soupTHE VERDICT:

This was certainly the perfect soup to usher in the fall, and you can expect lots of soup reviews from us as the weather cools as soup is one of our favourite  foods to enjoy during the chilly and rainy winter months. This soup is a breeze to prepare, so it’s a wonderful weeknight warm up. Leftovers taste even better the next day once the flavours have had time to marinate.

If you have the option when grocery shopping, select the larger can of pumpkin. We’ve used both sizes and find a standard-sized can greatly reduces the overall pumpkin flavour.

There is no need to modify this soup recipe for baby as it is a pureed soup. To thicken it and add a boost of iron, just add some rice cereal.  Zayden really enjoyed this soup, but that’s not a surprise. He’s a soup-a-holic. Whenever he has soup, he goes in to hysterics if we don’t shovel it in fast enough. Thanks to his passion for soup we’ve learned a few tricks to help speed up delivery. We thicken it with rice cereal and thicker soup results in less drips, and he can get it off the spoon more easily. We also pop an ice cube into the soup to help cool it down faster so we don’t have to blow on every spoonful.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPES:

Spiced Pumpkin Soup (source: Spark Recipes; original recipe)

Build Your Own Open-Faced Sandwich (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

1-2 slices of bread per person, toasted (we suggest ciabatta, French bread or sourdough)

A condiment of your choice, optional (we suggest Dijon mustard)

About 50 g of deli meat per person (we suggest smoked turkey, salami or black forest ham)

Sliced or shredded cheese (we suggest cheddar, swiss, jack or havarti)

Some sliced veggies of your choice (we suggest red onion, green peppers and/or tomatoes)

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Spread pre-toasted bread with condiment, if using.
  • Top bread slices with meat, cheese and veggies.
  • Bake in oven until cheese is melted and bubbling, about 5-7 minutes.


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Gazpacho

GazpachoTHE VERDICT:

I was really excited to make this recipe. I fell in love with gazpacho on a backpacking trip in Spain and have obsessed over the gazpacho on Burgoo’s summer menu for the past several years, so I was delighted to discover that Zayden loves gazpacho as well. Having lunch at the Bakehouse in Edgemont a few weeks ago, I gave him a few bites of my gazpacho. He quite literally went hysterical between bites; he loved it so much, he would be shrieking for more before he’d even swallowed his current spoonful. He ended up eating almost the entire bowl. Gazpacho seemed like a natural choice for our baby-friendly menu.

I picked a simple, traditional Andalucian gazpacho recipe, but realized after Zayden took his first bite that this was a mistake. Andalucian-style gazpacho is heavy on the vinegar while the gazpacho Zayden loved was heavy on the tomato (kind of like eating salsa without the spicy kick). He had two bites and quickly made his displeasure known. We made the full recipe (almost 4 litres!) thinking we could freeze some of it for him to eat later, but now Justin and I are stuck eating it all ourselves. Thank goodness we really like it. In fact gazpacho is one of those brilliant foods where the flavours marinate over time and it just keeps tasting better with each passing day. It’s great for a light meal or as a starter, but it’s not hearty enough for a full meal. Be sure to serve it with some crusty bread or a toasted bagel for dipping.

A couple of things we did differently from the recipe:

  • We didn’t marinate things over night. We didn’t have the time to prepare it the night before. If you have the time, I would take this step. As I already mentioned, gazpacho only tastes better as the flavours blend.
  • We didn’t peel the tomatoes. Gazpacho is a pureed soup, and it seemed unnecessarily time-consuming to do so. We really don’t notice the skins.
  • We didn’t use red wine vinegar because we intended to serve some of the soup to our baby. We substituted 1/2 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup cider vinegar and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. It still tasted good.
  • We didn’t strain it through a sieve. Again, it still tastes great and you have one less thing to clean in the end. Strain it only if you don’t like the texture of pureed soup.

If you want to try it yourself, we recommend you halve the following recipe…

THE RECIPE:

Gazpacho Andaluz (source: The Professional Chef  by The Culinary Institute of America)

8 lb/3.63 kg peeled, seeded and medium-diced plum tomatoes

1 lb/454 g diced cucumbers

8 garlic cloves, crushed

8 fl oz/240 ml red wine vinegar

16 fl oz/480 ml olive oil

salt, as needed

ground black pepper, as needed

  • Combine all the ingredients, cover, refrigerate and marinate overnight.
  • Puree the marinated ingredients in a blender or food mill, working in batches if necessary. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
  • Chill the soup thoroughly before serving.

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The Mediterranean Crackers That Never Were

Zayden chows downTHE VERDICT:

We never ended up making the crackers themselves. Zayden has recently transitioned for three naps down to two, which has moved his bedtime a little earlier, so we’ve been sitting down to dinner earlier and the afternoon snack is no longer needed. We did end up making our own hummus using a recipe I’ve had for ages and have always used with great success. I got it out of Seventeen magazine (*blush*) when I was in high school, and it has been one of my staple party foods ever since. I often add a little more garlic than the recipe calls for because I believe there is no such thing as too much garlic, and I think it tastes better if you use fresh squeezed lemon juice instead of the kind from a bottle.

I ended up using the hummus and veggies that we bought for this recipe to make a pretty tasty lunch: I smeared a pita with hummus, topped it with sliced tomato and cucumber, sprinkled on some salt and pepper and folded it up like a taco and took it on a picnic. Very yummy. Zayden also enjoyed the hummus. It’s definitely a very baby-friendly food. It’s a puree with few ingredients, so great for a little guy just starting solids. It’s also an excellent protein alternative if your little one hasn’t quite warmed up to meat yet.  And I know lots of moms with older kids who use hummus to trick their kids into eating more veggies because it’s such a popular dip. Definitely a food that will please the whole family.

If you want to try it yourself. . .

THE RECIPES:

Hummus (source: Seventeen magazine)

1 pound can of chickpeas

1/3 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup tahini

3 cloves garlic

1/2 tsp. salt and pepper

paprika

olive oil

freshly chopped parsley

  • Pour some of the liquid from the chickpeas into a food processor or blender. Then drain the chickpeas.
  • Add lemon juice, garlic and tahini to the food processor or blender. Blend together.
  • Add chickpeas, salt and pepper. Blend again.
  • Spoon into a bowl. Top with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of paprika and parsley.
  • Chill.
  • Serve with pita or veggies for dipping.

Mediterranean Crackers (source: Clean Eating magazine)

5 Armenian whole-wheat crackers, or similar, topped with:

2 Tbsp. hummus

1/4 cup chopped tomato

1/4 cup chopped cucumber

1 tsp. lemon zest

Makes 1 serving.

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Rotini with Peas, Carrots and Goat Cheese and Wilted Spinach & Arugula Salad

Rotini with Peas and Goat CheeseTHE VERDICT:

This meal was edible, but not amazing. The pasta dish was bit bland and the arugula overwhelmed the spinach in the salad. We liked the saffron broth base for the pasta dish and will probably try using it in other dishes before we completely write it off. As for the salad, we were just trying to use up some leftover greens from last week’s shopping trip, so we weren’t hugely disappointed when it didn’t turn out. To fix for next time: twice as much red onion, half as much arugula and some other ingredient (bacon?) to round it out.

If you want to try it yourself. . .

THE RECIPES:

Rotini with Peas, Carrots and Goat Cheese (source: Clean Eating magazine)

8 oz. pasta

2 diced carrots

2 cups fresh shelled peas

1 1/2 cups Simple Saffron Broth (see recipe below)

2/3 cup crumbled goat cheese

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

  • Cook pasta according to package directions adding peas and carrots to the pasta water during the last 3 minutes of cooking.
  • Drain and toss with saffron broth and goat cheese.
  • Top with fresh parsley.

Makes 4 servings.

Simple Saffron Broth (source: Clean Eating magazine)

2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

4 tsp. arrowroot flour (corn starch may be substituted)

1/2 tsp. saffron threads, crushed

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 shallots, finely chopped

Fine sea salt, to taste

  • In a medium bowl or measuring cup, whisk together broth, arrowroot and saffron, set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, warm oil. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 2 minutes.
  • Stir in broth mixture, increase heat to high and cook, stirring occasionally until mixture thickens slightly and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and season with salt. Cover and set aside to steep for at least 10 minutes or until ready to serve.

Yield: About 2 cups. Hands on time: 15 minutes. Total time: 30 minutes.

Nutrients per 1/3 cup serving: 37 calories, 2 g fat, 3 g carbs, 0.25 g protein, 67 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol

Wilted Spinach & Arugula Salad (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

3 cups baby spinach

3 cups arugula

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1/3 cup cider vinegar

1 Tbsp. dry mustard

1/2 tsp. garlic salt

1/2 tsp. sugar

1/8 tsp. pepper

  • Wash and dry spinach and arugula. Add to salad bowl. Set aside.
  • Saute onions in a splash of oil. Add remaining ingredients and heat until it is bubbling.
  • Just before serving, pour hot dressing over salad, tossing gently to wilt the greens.

Makes about 4-6 servings.

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A Quick No-Cook Lunch for Mom & Baby

Avocado, Tofu & TomatoTHE VERDICT:
My favourite baby foods are those that require little or no special preparation, and I love coming up with new flavour combinations for Zayden to try. This one looked so good, I ended up eating the leftovers for a snack the first time I made it and made extra the second time so that I could have it for my lunch too. Baby can enjoy it as is, but mom (or dad) can easily make it into a more substantial meal or snack by using it as a topping on crackers, toast or grilled meat or stuffing it into a pita or tortilla. It would also be a good alternative to salsa or guacamole if you wanted to serve it with chips.

THE RECIPE:

Avocado, Tomato and Tofu Salad (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

1 avocado, finely diced

1 brick of soft tofu, finely diced

2 roma tomatoes, seeded and finely diced

garlic powder and black pepper, to taste

  1. Thoroughly wash all the vegetables.
  2. Dice veggies and tofu–increasing the size of the dice as your baby becomes more competent with solid food.
  3. Serve atop crackers or dip with chips, if desired, but remember, your baby shouldn’t be eating chips until at least age 3 as they are a choking hazard.

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Brown Rice & Lentils with Lime Grilled Veggies

Lentils, rice & veggiesTHE VERDICT:

I actually ate this meal for lunch. It is made up of leftovers from two weekend meals, and Zayden ate exactly what I ate with very few modifications.

The brown rice and lentils were a side dish for a dinner where we enjoyed a baked ham and some steamed broccoli. As the rice/lentil combo is a complete protein, they became the main dish for my lunch the next day. I really love the simple, earthy flavours of this dish and cooking it in chicken broth with bay leaves really adds some flavour (too often lentil dishes can end up tasting like dirt). I did absolutely nothing to change this dish in order for Zayden to eat it. He has been eating solids for about a month at this point and has already shown he can handle chunkier food if it’s soft enough, so I thought I would try serving this dish as is, and he really enjoyed it. He liked the rice and lentils so much, in fact, that I froze some of the remaining leftovers in order to have more on hand for him later. I can now say from experience that this version of brown rice and lentils freezes and reheats well.

The lime grilled veggies were leftover from a barbecue where we served them alongside Yogurt and Tamarind Grilled Chicken. These veggies are one of our summer BBQ staples, but they can also be broiled in the oven. Though the recipe says to boil the potatoes and carrots for 10 minutes before putting them on the barbecue, my experience tells me that this is not long enough for the potatoes. Try boiling them for 5 minutes before adding the carrots. And a little extra lime never hurt either. As for preparing this dish for baby, simply mince finely and serve. It’s a great combination of veggies that complements most casual grilled meals very well.

If you want to try it yourself. . .

THE RECIPES:

Brown Rice and Lentils (source: The Best of Chef at Home by Chef Michael Smith)

a splash of olive oil

1 large onion, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup of brown rice

1 cup of dried lentils

4 cups of chicken broth or water

a bay leaf or two

a sprinkle or two of sea salt and freshly ground pepper

  • Splash the olive oil into a small pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for a few minutes until they just start to turn golden brown.
  • Add the rice, lentils, chicken broth (or water), bay leaves and salt and pepper. Bring everything to a simmer. Cover and reduce the heat to low, just enough to maintain the simmer. Continue cooking until the rice and lentils are tender and the liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and let stand for a few minutes before serving.
  • Freestyle variation: you may add any fresh or dried herbs you like to this dish. Rosemary, thyme and tarragon all work well. At the last second, you may also add a 1/2 cup of raisins or some sliced green onions.

Lime Grilled Veggies (source: Spark Recipes; original recipe)

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Honey-Wasabi Grilled Shrimp with Tomato and Bocconcini Salad

Wasabi Shrimp with Tomato-Bocconchini SaladTHE VERDICT:

Both of these recipes are easy to make and extremely tasty.  We used wasabi paste for the shrimp marinade and halved the amount based on the recipe, which used wasabi powder.  Next time I’d use closer to the same amount of paste as powder, as the shrimp could have used more kick.  The tomato-bocconcini salad was inspired by the traditional Caprese, but we did a mini-version, with heirloom cherry tomatoes from the Farmer’s Market, baby bocconcini, basil and olive oil.

This was a very quick meal to throw together, but still might make a better weekend meal because shrimp tends to get rubbery when reheated. That might explain why the  recipe made just enough shrimp for dinner with no leftovers.   The salad kept well for lunch the next day. I think we might use pearl or cocktail size bocconcini next time, as the baby bocconcini was a little big.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Honey-Wasabi Grilled Shrimp (source: Everyday with Rachel Ray magazine; original recipe)

Tomato and Bocconcini Salad (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

4 or more cups of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1 container of baby or cocktail bocconcini

2 Tbsp. fresh basil, sliced into thin strips

olive oil

coarsely ground black pepper

  • Combine first three ingredients in a salad bowl.
  • Drizzle with olive oil.
  • Add pepper to taste.


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Grilled Mozzarella and Spinach BLTs

BLTTHE VERDICT:

These sandwiches were yummy! Grilled sandwiches are some of our favourite things to make on the Griddler though we rarely follow a recipe. I liked how the classic BLT was jazzed up with spinach, garlic and mozzarella. You have all your food groups covered with this one, so it’s suitable for a night when you need a quick meal or for a tasty weekend lunch.

THE RECIPE:

Grilled Mozzarella and Spinach BLTs (source: Fine Cooking: Fresh and Quick magazine; original recipe)

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