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Turkey Meatballs with Spinach & Ricotta Pasta

Turkey MeatballsTHE VERDICT:
For the last month or so, our menus have focused on clean eating. Our current favourite clean eating recipe is from one of our newest cookbook purchases, and we thought we would pass it on. We know that ground turkey has a reputation for being flavourless and dry, but these turkey meatballs are so tasty and flavourful we guarantee that you won’t miss the boring old ground beef version that you are used to. The pasta they are served with is reminiscent of another of our favourite dishes, so the combination is a real winner.

My cousin, Jenny, is also a fan of clean eating and she used the meatball recipe to whip up some pretty tasty burgers the other night when we were at her house for a BBQ. So really you get two great recipes in one.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Turkey Meatballs with Whole-Wheat Spaghetti, Spinach and Ricotta (source: The Best of Clean Eating)

1 tsp. olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb. extra-lean ground turkey

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh oregano or marjoram

1/2 cup whole-grain bread crumbs

1 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 egg

1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

8 oz. whole wheat spaghetti or pasta of your choice

4 cups baby spinach

3/4 cup low-fat ricotta cheese

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Heat oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until soft, but not browned, 3-5 minutes.
  • In a large bowl, place turkey, onion, garlic, basil, oregano, bread crumbs, tomato paste, egg, salt and pepper. Using your hands or a large spoon, gently mix together until combined.
  • Using a small ice cream scoop or a table spoon, portion out turkey mixture in golf-ball-sized increments. Use clean hands to roll mixture into 20 meatballs and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned and cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook spaghetti according to package directions, until al dente. Drain pasta, reserving a half-cup of pasta water.
  • In a large serving bowl, add spaghetti, spinach, cheese, zest and juice, and a 1/4 cup reserved pasta water. Gently toss to combine, allowing heat of pasta to wilt spinach and cooking water to melt ricotta into a creamy sauce. Add more reserved pasta water, if necessary, to reach desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning if desired. Add meatballs and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

Hands-on Time: 20 minutes    Total Time: 40 minutes

Per serving (5 meatballs, 2 oz. pasta): 477 calories; 44 g protein; 8 g total fat (3 g saturated fat); 63 g carbs; 10 g fibre; 3.5 g sugar; 126 mg cholesterol; 787 mg sodium

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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 Beef & Rice Soup

Beef SoupTHE VERDICT:
I was a little skeptical when we decided to make this soup. I’m not the biggest fan of ground meat in soup. Chili I can do. Stew I can do. But soup, not so much. I am so glad I didn’t listen to my gut. This soup is AMAZING! There is no way to effectively describe just how good it is in words, so I will just have to insist that you try it yourself.

It is easy to prepare. All you need to do is brown the meat, chop and sauté the veggies and throw it all in a slow cooker and let it cook while you’re at work or out running errands. It’s a great soup for hardworking families and busy days. While the recipe asks you to add frozen peas and lemon juice at the end of the cooking process, we have forgotten this step both times that we have made this soup and it still tastes great. In fact, it tastes so good, we will probably never try it with lemon juice and peas—why mess with a good thing?

Our little soup loving boy was all over this soup the first time we made it. The second time he wasn’t thrilled with the ground beef (guess he takes after me), but toddlers are finicky and unpredictable when it comes to food, so we’ll say he gave it one thumb up instead of two.

Leftovers of this soup reheat well. It’s so good there probably won’t be anything left to freeze.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Vegetable Beef & Rice Soup (source: Canadian Living Slow Cooker Collection)

8 oz. lean ground beef

2 large carrots, diced

1 large onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, diced

Half sweet red pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp crumbled dried rosemary

1/2 tsp. salt and pepper

6 cups beef broth

2/3 cup parboiled whole grain rice

1 cup frozen peas

1 tbsp lemon juice

  • In large skillet, sauté beef over medium-high heat, breaking up with fork until crumbly and no longer pink, about 8 minutes. With slotted spoon transfer beef to slow cooker.
  • Drain fat from skillet. Fry carrots, onion, celery, red pepper, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 6 minutes. Scrape into slow cooker.
  • Add 1/2 cup of the broth to skillet; bring to a boil, scraping up brown bits from bottom of skillet. Scrape into slow cooker along with remaining broth, 2 cups water and rice. Stir to combine.
  • Cover and cook on low until vegetables are tender, about 5 hours.
  • Stir in peas and lemon juice. Cover and cook on high until steaming hot, about 15 minutes.

Makes 8-10 servings in a 4-6 L slow cooker.

Per serving: 129 calories, 8 g protein, 4 g total fat (1 g saturated fat); 16 g carbs; 2 g fibre; 13 mg cholesterol; 629 mg sodium

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Pasta With Fresh Greens

Pasta with Fresh GreensTHE VERDICT:

This recipe blew my mind. So simple and yet so good. The delicious success of this recipe made me realize how consistently good the recipes from Today’s Parent magazine are. I have enjoyed almost every recipe we have made from the magazine and I’d say that my top 3 favourite new recipes have all come from there this year:

1. Fresh Tomato Pasta

2. Parmesan Chicken Cutlets

3. Sneaky Snack Bars

Clearly it’s a great resource for parents looking for healthy recipe ideas to feed their families, but I think any home chef would benefit from checking out the recipes on their website.

To modify this recipe for baby: Tear your greens into bite-sized pieces that are small enough for baby to handle. Choose small noodles or cut noodles into smaller pieces. Zayden’s verdict was a definite thumbs up, but our baby is a big pasta fan, so this was going to be an easy sell no matter what.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Pasta With Fresh Greens (source: Today’s Parent magazine; original recipe)

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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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Citrus Salad

Citrus SaladTHE VERDICT:

Before we started clean eating, we often enjoyed a big glass of orange juice (or two!) with breakfast. But when you drink fruit juice, you lose all the fibre and gain a lot of sugar–not very clean eating friendly, so we came up with this idea for a salad that would allow us to still enjoy all the juicy flavour without compromising our clean eating goal.

The colours of this simple salad are wonderful–a bright, vibrant pick-me-up for the eyes when you’re still groggy first thing in the morning. But the sweet and sour blend of lemons, limes, oranges and pink grapefruit was a little to heavy on the sour for our liking. The basic concept of the citrus salad was good, but next time we’d stick to the sweeter citrus fruits to avoid the overpowering sourness of this version. The good thing about this salad: you can make a big batch on Sunday night and it will keep for the rest of the week.

THE RECIPE:

Citrus Salad (source: Tonight’s Dinner)

Assorted citrus fruit–amount will vary based on how many days you wish to serve it for breakfast

  • Rinse each piece of fruit.
  • Slice off the blossom and stem ends of each piece of fruit. Stand the fruit on end and slice off the skin in strips. Try to get all the bitter white pith without losing too much of the flesh in order to do so.
  • Working over a bowl to catch the juices, cut each segment of the fruit free from the membranes, letting each one fall into the bowl. When all the segments are free, squeeze the empty wheel of membranes to get the last of the juice.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Strawberry Rhubarb PieTHE VERDICT:

It is hard to go wrong with strawberry rhubarb pie. ‘Nuf said.

A couple of  tips if you decide to make your own pastry: It’s really easy to incorporate the butter into the flour if you freeze it first and then grate it into the bowl (you can thank my boyfriend, Chef Michael Smith, for that tip) and it’s much easier to roll out cold dough, so stick it in the fridge for a few minutes before rolling it out.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPES:

Basic Pastry (source: Jessica’s great grandmother’s recipe book)

3 cups flour

1 tsp. salt

1 cup shortening or butter

3/4 cup ice water

1 tsp. baking powder

  • Sift the flour and salt into mixing bowl.
  • Work in shortening.
  • Add baking powder to cold water, stir and add to the flour mixture.
  • Mix, handling as little as possible.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie (source: Closet Cooking; original recipe)


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Pork Tenderloin, Rhubarb Chutney and Lemon Parmesan Green Beans

Rhubarb ChutneyTHE VERDICT:

Having made a number of sweet rhubarb dishes since rhubarb season began, I decided it was time to try out a savory recipe. I’ve always wanted to try making my own chutney, so this recipe immediately appealed to me.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to make chutney (I’m not quite sure where I got the impression that it would be difficult), and the results were quite tasty. But the recipes makes about 6 times more chutney than you would need for the 2 pork tenderloins it also calls for. If you plan to try it, try to plan a second dish that would go well with chutney later in the week. I did not plan that well and the leftover chutney went to waste.

The side dish was a fairly simple one. It was a good combination of flavours and would pair well with a number of main dishes. I don’t think the green beans are quite good enough to become a house favourite though we will still probably make them again from time to time.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPES:

Pork Tenderloin with Spiced Rhubarb Chutney (source: www.epicurious.com; original recipe)

Green Beans in Butter and Lemon with Parmigiano Reggiano (source: Closet Cooking; original recipe)

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Crispy Roast Chicken with Oregano and Lemon, Mashed Yams and Apples, Green Beans

Roast Chicken with Yams and Green BeansTHE VERDICT:

This roast is dead simple and results in moist, tender chicken in the same vein as Swiss Chalet. The gravy was very non-traditional and tasted more like a vinaigrette than a full-fat gravy. We think the gravy would appeal to Swiss Chalet fans, but we’d probably skip it in favour of a more traditional format next time. As with all roasts, cooking times may vary due to factors such as oven size and bird size.  The key is internal temperature, so the first time you cook this, leave some extra time just in case.  For the record, it took us closer to 1.5 hours to get to 170°F.

The yams and apples turned out delicious, and almost seem too good to be vegetables.  Definitely good if you want to “hide” vegetables in a tasty dish that the kids will love. Also a possibility for a sweet potato pie filling. We hardly had any leftovers because we both enjoyed thirds of this simple, but flavour-packed side dish.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPES:

Crispy Roast Chicken with Oregano and Lemon (source: Canadian Family magazine; original recipe)

Mashed Yams and Apples (source: www.epicurious.com; original recipe)

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Pavlova with Lemon Curd Filling

Pavlova with Lemon CurdTHE VERDICT:

Justin loves pavlova and anything lemon, so combining these two recipes was a natural choice for his birthday “cake.”  The pavlova turned out great; I found the instructions easy to follow and even someone who had never made meringue before would have a high chance of success with this recipe. The lemon curd tasted great, but there was not enough of it. Next time, I would double the recipe.

How are the leftovers? I have no idea. This dessert was so delicious and deceivingly light-tasting that we ate the whole thing between the two of us the same night that we baked it. But what’s a birthday if you can’t indulge a little bit?

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPES:

Pavlova (source: www.epicurious.com; Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Berries)

Lemon Curd (source: family recipe)

8 Tbsp white sugar

Juice of 2 lemons

1 Tbsp butter

2 eggs

  • Mix well.
  • Put in top of double boiler and cook until it thickens, stirring constantly.

Note: 2 Tbsp of lemon juice=1 lemon

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