Category: easy

Stuffed Dates with Pistachios

Quick! You just found out that you have guests coming over and you haven’t had time to cook up any appetizers. You know they’re going to be hungry as soon as they walk in the door. What do you do? Simple. You make these stuffed dates, of course! These babies have been a lifesaver for me, time and again. So quick to throw together, and always a hit. It’s a little sweet and savoury gourmet at your fingertips. Make a couple right now, just to see what all the hype is about. But, be warned. These beauties are highly addictive. I got the idea for these at a NYE gathering one year. The host had put out something very similar, using pine nuts instead. I happened to have pistachios at home when I decided to try it out. If you want to add a really interesting middle eastern twist, you can try adding a tiny drop of rosewater and a pinch of cardamom to the cheese. Note that rosewater isn’t for everyone, though I think it works perfectly in this setting.

Stuffed Dates with Pistachios and Honey
makes 24

24 medjool dates, pits removed
1 tub old fashioned cream cheese (Liberté brand, if you’re in Canada) or plain goat cheese
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
Honey, for garnish
Rosewater (optional)
Cardamom (optional)

Open up your dates on the long side, removing the pit and creating an opening to hold the cheese. (If using rosewater and cardamom, mix into cheese now!) Spread cheese inside and top with pistachios. Arrange on a platter and drizzle with honey.
(Seriously, seriously simple.)

Honey Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts. Known only to some as “that food in movies that kids never eat,” Brussels sprouts have gotten a bad rap over the years, possibly due to the fact that people have been cooking them the wrong way. However, there is a reason that they’ve been experiencing a resurgence – and you’ll probably see them make an appearance a lot more often this Thanksgiving, Christmas & holiday season. These miniature cabbages of joy are sprouting up everywhere from upscale restos to food network kitchens. New age foodies have learned that when prepared and heated correctly, these little green powerhouses make for a tasty, tender, buttery dish. Now, what I’m about to say may shock you, so brace yourselves – YOU DON’T HAVE TO ADD BACON! I know, I know. Forget what all those other foodie sites & food network stars tell you. The secret to brussels sprouts that taste good ISN’T bacon. The secret is proper cooking time. To me, bacon is a cop-out. You’re basically adding it to mask the flavour that you don’t like. Thing is, if you make these little babies properly, they’re so delicious on their own that you don’t need the bacon at all. In fact, bacon would only distract from the natural tastiness. Before we get started, let me give you a few other pointers that’ll help amp up your brussels sprouts game in the future.

3 Things not to do with brussels sprouts:
1. Do not boil the living daylights out of them.
2. Do not boil the living daylights out of them.
3. Do not boil the living daylights out of them.

Great! Now that we’ve got that covered, remember: do not boil your brussels sprouts. This is a surefire way to make sure you’ll never eat them again. They become soggy, bitter, and truly unpalatable.

3 Things you should do with brussels sprouts:
1. Leave whole & steam them.
2. Finely chop & pan-fry them.
3. Half, glaze & roast them.

Today, I’m going to show you how to glaze and roast the tastiest brussels sprouts you’ve ever had.
So heat up your ovens, and get your sprout show on!

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Honey Glaze
an original recipe by allison sklar

ingredients
2 cups brussels sprouts, chopped in half, woody bottoms removed
2 tbsp honey
3 tbsp oil
1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together honey and oil until homogenous. (If you’re having trouble stirring, it helps to heat the honey slightly in the microwave.) Add salt, pepper & cayenne. Toss brussels sprouts to coat. Transfer to greased baking dish (8″square should do the trick!). Roast in preheated oven at 400F for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring half way through. They are ready when golden and very tender.

Creamy Pumpkin Sauce

Fall is just around the corner – which means it’s time for pumpkin EVERYTHING! Last year, I showed you how to make your very own pumpkin spice latté, and some homemade pumpkin alfredo pasta. This year, pumpkin season kicks off with a super easy weeknight meal that requires very little prep and comes together in less than 15 minutes. Happy *almost* autumn!

Pasta with Creamy Pumpkin Sauce

Ingredients
2 tbsp butter
3 crushed garlic cloves
1/4 cup milk (or cream, for a richer sauce)
1 brick cream cheese (250g) cut into cubes
3/4 cup canned pumpkin purée
pinch salt, black pepper, and clove, to taste

Method
Prepare your favourite pasta according to directions. (I used a herb-speckled pasta, but you can use anything you desire!) Drain, reserving some of the water for the sauce. Meanwhile, melt butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add milk. Add cheese, a little at a time, until melted. Add pumpkin. Mix together until homogenous. Continue stirring for about one minute, until mixture comes together and is hot. If mixture is too thick, add a few tbsp of cooking water until desired consistency is reached. Add salt, pepper and clove. Toss with pasta. Serve warm.

Vegan "Meat" Sauce with Lentils

I got 99 posts, but a meat sauce ain’t one! (Well, until now!)

You guys! This is my 99th post! Are you as excited as I am? Well, you should be. Because this is by far the best of the best. I mean, this is some real stick-to-your-ribs, blow-your-socks-off, even-ravenous-carnivores-will-love-it saucy sauce. Even my boyfriend, the lover of all things meat, declared this sauce to be “so meaty!”

Do you need any more reasons to make this right now? Really? Alright. Here are 10 reasons you should make this sauce: It’s hearty. It’s tasty. It’s spicy. It’s easy. It’s healthy. It’s vegan. Low sodium. Soy-free. Gluten-free. No added sugar. And, for all of those worried about protein intake, it’s an excellent source of the good stuff!

Serious winning all around.

One of my favourite things about this sauce is how quick and easy the process is. Chop up your ingredients, toss ’em into your slow cooker, set it, and forget it! Let your kitchen, and your house, smell like you’ve been slaving over the stove all day (when really, you’ve just been doing other important things, like catching up on some Netflix.)

Ok, ok. I’ll spare you more blab and just get right to the recipe – so that you can get right to it and cook!

Hearty Vegan Slow Cooked “Meat” Sauce
with lentils, olives, and sun-dried tomatoes
a.k.a AWESOME SAUCE
an original recipe by allison sklar

ingredients
1 medium red onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup brown or green lentils (dried)
1 large can no-salt-added diced tomatoes with liquid
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped pitted mammoth green olives
2 tbsp olive oil
2 small green chile peppers (or more, if you like a spicy sauce!)
1 tbsp Jamaican jerk seasoning mix (or a mix 1/2 tbsp paprika (not smoked), and 1/2 tbsp herbes de province)

method
Mix all ingredients together in slow cooker. Set on high for 3 hours. Remove lid, stir. If you notice it is starting to become too dry, add a few tbsp of water until desired consistency is reached. Return lid to pot and continue to cook for another 3 to 4 hours. Lentils will be tender and sauce will darken in colour.

Ways to serve it

  • On top of pasta
  • Mixed in with rice
  • On bread (as bruschetta)
  • With a spoon




Waste Not, Want More (Roasted Spicy Squash Seeds)

Over recent years, I’ve come to notice that my vegetarian lifestyle is often accompanied with a heightened sense of consciousness in relation to environmental and health issues. I am more aware of what I put into my body, and I am more aware about the amount of waste that I produce. Suffice to say, this doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy the occasional processed food item. I do. I am just aware now that these are not the healthiest of options, so I opt for moderation over deprivation. It also doesn’t mean that I won’t buy anything in a package – I will. I just try to re-use as much as possible. notice how I didn’t say “Recycle”… because I’ve also learned that tossing paper and plastic into blue bins doesn’t do much to save the planet.

So, what do I re-use? First off, I opt for glass jars over plastic whenever possible – because once the food inside them is done, they’re washable and re-usable, even heatable… a chemical-free alternative to leeching plastic lunch containers. As for the things that come in plastic that I can’t live without – yogourt containers, for example – I bring the empties to the art teacher at my school so that she can use them for projects in class, as well as holders for art supplies.

And then, there’s my food. I like to throw away as little food waste as possible. Unfortunately, my area doesn’t have a composting program, and living in a small top floor apartment, it’s just not an option for me to be doing on my own. So, I reduce the amount of waste that I produce in the first place. I do this by buying less groceries, more often. I’ve been told that it’s the “European” way of shopping, and whether it is or not, I’ve come to find that it’s the best way to eat. The benefits of buying a little at a time (instead of one big grocery order): Foods are fresher, I get more exercise with bi-weekly walks to the market, I save money, and I waste less. Tips for anyone who’d like to try this – keep essentials on hand such as oils, vinegar, seasonings and grains. Buy one or two vegetable items at a time, and use it all up for a meal or two. To save even more money: buy what’s on sale each week – this will also encourage you to eat a bigger variety of veggies and fruits.

Ok, so what does this all have to do with the mouth watering picture above, you ask? My waste-not methods encouraged me to use up every inch of my winter squash after I made this (or this, or this…). I couldn’t bear to throw out all the lovely little seeds! Inspired by watching my mother roast pumpkin seeds every halloween, I decided to roast these baby versions of them and see what came out. Oh. My. Goodness. Heaven in a handful. The best part – you can eat the shell. Warning – these are very addictive.

Roasted Spicy Squash Seeds
an original recipe by allison sklar

what you’ll need
seeds from a fresh winter squash (butternut or acorn squash seeds work best)
1 tbsp grapeseed or light olive oil
1 tbsp Montreal Steak Spice*

* if you can’t find this in your area, you can order some on Amazon, or make your own with a recipe here
If you’ve never had this spice mix before, get ready to be introduced to your favorite seasoning mix ever. I put this on everything from sweet potato fries to avocado salads to tuna sandwiches!

how to do it
Preheat oven to 300F. (I do this in a convection/toaster oven for faster results.)
Rinse the seeds, removing any squash goop, and pat dry with paper towel. In a small bowl, mix seeds with oil and spice, coating evenly. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 8 to 12 minutes (if in toaster oven, 4 to 8 minutes), or until golden. I highly recommend to turn your oven light on and check on these often. Every oven is different and it is possible to burn these very quickly. When the seeds change colour (brownish gold), they’re ready. 

Easy As Cheese Pie

So… you know that feeling when you’ve got so much going on that it feels like you’ve got no time to think of cooking, let alone baking, but all you really want to do is eat cheesecake? Or maybe, you just generally want to eat cheesecake? In either case, I’ve got the solution for you! I present to you my super easy, five ingredient cheesecake. Though, technically, this is more pie than cake, as it’s baked in a pie shell. In any case, it’s delicious, and you should probably go ahead and drop whatever you’re doing and make it. Now.

Easy As Cheese Pie
an original recipe by Allison Sklar

what you’ll need
1.5 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter, melted
1 block light cream cheese (250g), at room temperature
2 eggs
1 can light sweetended condensed milk
topping: 1 can pie filling of your choice
note: to make this pie even EASIER, you may substitute a ready-to-bake deep dish graham crumb shell (available at most supermarkets in the baking section.)

how to do it
combine crumbs and butter. Press into 9” deep dish pie plate.
combine cheese and sweetened condensed milk. Beat until fluffy. Add in eggs, beating well after each addition. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 310F for about 45 minutes or until set. Note: oven times and temperatures may vary. Let cool. Top with your choice of any of the following; canned pie-filling, jam, chocolate sauce, spiced nuts, whipped cream or fresh fruits. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

My Noodly Appendage

I’ve always been known to keep a well stocked fridge and pantry. Among other basic necessities, you’ll rarely find me lacking any of the following foods: assorted cheeses, frozen vegetables, multiple bags of pasta and jars of Classico tomato sauce. [A note on the latter: though I’m a stickler for homemade, those chefs over at Classico really know what they’re doing. Though I wasn’t paid to say that, I’d just like to inform the fine folks over at Classico that I really wouldn’t mind some free sauce. Or a coupon. You know, both are good!]

All I had was an hour, but all I wanted was pasta. With some garlic toast. And maybe even a little use-up-the-veggies-up-before-they-wilt salad. I thought it would be as fast as boiling some noodles and opening up a jar. Alas, I was jar-less. My Classico supply had been depleted.

That’s when I hit the vodka… 

Paired it with tomatoes and cream and turned it into a velvety smooth sauce!
Though the actual preparation is quick, if you have the time I highly recommend that you make this earlier on in the day and let it simmer over low heat in order for the sauce to thicken and the flavours to enhance. I served mine over spinach fettucine (to add a splash of colour & pizzazz to the plate… yes, I just used the word pizzazz) with a side of pumpernickel toasted with garlic butter and a hint of shredded cheese. I balanced it all out with a cherry tomato, avocado & romaine salad tossed with Renee‘s naturally low-cal cucumber, dill & yogourt dressing.


Nutrition facts about this meal

Pasta myths debunked: Spinach pasta is not any healthier than regular pasta – the spinach is mostly used for the colour, though the spinach content does add a small ammount of vitamin A and some iron. I choose spinach pasta because I prefer the taste and texture, but you may prefer the enriched semolina (regular) variety. If you’re looking to add fibre to your diet, whole-wheat pasta is the choice for you. The “healthiest” pasta in my opinion is quinoa pasta, as it contains the most nutrients overall – however, this is not to say that you should banish pasta from your diet. In a well-balanced meal like this one, pasta can be a satisfying and healthy choice, no matter what variety you use.

Vitamins & Nutrients: Lutein, the compound that gives tomatoes their bright red colour, is a vitamin that is said to reduce the risk of serious eye disease. This sauce is chock-full of it! The avocados in your salad are a source of HEALTHY fat – the kind that helps to unclog your arteries, as well as 20 other minerals and nutrients. Contrary to popular beleif – eating avocados will not make you fat! The yogourt in the dressing is a source of “good” bacteria that help with food digestion, and is low in saturated (unhealthy) fat. People who are slightly lactose intolerant can often digest yogourt due to it’s bacterial content.

Drunken Tomato Sauce 
note: you can add other vegetables into this sauce while simmering, such as diced carrots, crushed garlic, chopped spinach, etc. I kept the recipe simple because that’s how I like it but I’ll leave it to your discretion to make it your own! 

what you’ll need
•    1 large can plum tomatoes (other varieties will do, but this is my recommendation)
•    1 large onion, diced
•    1 tbsp vegetable oil
•    1 tsp sugar
•    1/2 cup cream (at least 10%, use 35% if you prefer a creamier sauce)
•    1/4 cup vodka
•    2 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
•    dash tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
•    handful of fresh basil, chopped (optional)

how to do it
In medium saucepan, heat oil on medium and add onions. Sprinkle with sugar and cook until soft. Add tomatoes, breaking up with mixing spoon. Stir in tabasco & vodka. Simmer until tomatoes begin to break down. Bring cream to room temperature while simmering. Once sauce has reached desired consistency, slowly stir it, one tbsp at a time, into cream, just until the cream is warm. This will ensure that the cream does not curdle upon entering the hot pot. Whisk cream into sauce, slowly, little by little. Add salt and basil. Cover and simmer 10 minutes or until ready to serve. Garnish with grated fresh parmesan cheese.