Catalan Canelons

Catalan Catalons Recipe

From the Martlet

Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and gravy, oh my! Christmas is upon us and so is the insane amount of turkey that will be consumed and made into sandwiches and soup for days. What if there was another food you could make for Christmas instead of turkey? If you have multiple dinners during the holidays and are dreading the two weeks of turkey leftovers that will follow, here’s something new to try that will give Christmas a bit of an interesting twist.

I moved to Spain two months ago and am looking forward to seeing what a Spanish Christmas is all about. Every region of Spain has their different traditions, but aside from that, Christmas is always about feast and family. For example, in Catalonia, where I’m living, Christmas must include soup and cannelloni.

“Canelons” are similar to cannelloni. Most North Americans are familiar with this recipe: cheese, tomato sauce, and noodle tubes stuffed with more cheese or meat or vegetables, but the Catalonians rarely use tomato sauce, reserving it for an ordinary weeknight when they run out of milk.

Catalan cannelloni is made with a béchamel sauce—creamy, simple, and of course, doused in grated cheese before going in the oven. Also, it can be filled with whatever is in season. Because beef tends to be more expensive in this country, ground pork or sausage is the go-to filler for the noodles. You could also use spinach or mushrooms as a filling, since both are more fall/winter vegetables—Catalonia is famous for wild mushrooms too. 

It’s a rich and delicious meal that is the turkey of the Catalan Christmas dinner, perfect to switch up your own traditions and take a break from turkey round two (or three), or even as a Christmas Eve treat for your family as a pre-turkey feast. Really, it’s good for any time of year you’re craving cannelloni and need a new recipe. Give it a go! Whatever you eat this festive season, Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, and as they say in Catalan, Feliç Nadal, to all! And to all a fantastic food-coma siesta after dinner.

These Catalan canelons (makes four servings) are inspired by a recipe from EatCatalunya.com.

Ingredients:

1 package dried cannelloni or lasagna square noodles

3/4 lb ground pork or pork sausage, or a mixture of both

salt and black pepper

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1/3 cup flour

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups whole milk

1 pinch of nutmeg (freshly grated preferred)

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1/3 cup vi ranci, sweet sherry or vermouth

2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

5 oz Parmesan cheese, grated

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 425º F.

Cook noodles according to the package until al dente. If using oven-ready cannelloni or lasagna, you will need to cook them in boiling water until al dente. Drain and lay out on paper towels.

To make béchamel, melt butter over low heat in a saucepan.

Remove the pan from heat and sprinkle in flour. Whisk to combine. Return to heat and cook for two to three minutes, stirring constantly.

Add milk gradually, whisking constantly, and cook, still stirring, until the sauce coats the back of a spoon (about three to five minutes). Add nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and keep warm.

In a frying pan, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until softened. Add ground meat and continue sautéing until cooked. Add wine and season with salt and pepper. Cook until wine reduces, for about four minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the egg yolks.

Grease a 9×12-inch baking dish. Stuff about one tablespoon of filling into each cannelloni noodle or, if using lasagna, place a tablespoon on each square and roll into a tube. Create a single layer of cannelloni on the bottom of the pan.

Whisk three-quarters of parmesan into the béchamel sauce and pour over cannelloni. Sprinkle with the rest of cheese and dot the surface with butter.

Italian Quinoa Bean Salad

Quinoa for the Soul

From the Martlet

Spring has finally sprung! And so has hay fever and finals season. With papers, presentations and exams looming in this last month of school, cooking is the last thing on anyone’s mind. In my hunt for fast and minimal effort meals, one of the healthiest options I found was quinoa salad. It’s a fairly versatile meal that’s easy to whip up with whatever veggies you have on hand. It’s gluten free and can easily be vegetarian or vegan. And it’s a source of fiber and protein to tide you over through those last few hours of cramming. Quinoa is your new best friend.

My mom sent me this recipe that’s always been fairly popular not just in my family, but with our friends. The kind of lunch you had to pack extra of for your friends in high school so they’d stop stealing it out of your container. With lemon-herb dressing, a medley of beans, fresh peppers and tomatoes, with lots of crumbled feta, what’s not to love? This is actually a pasta salad recipe, but it tastes even better with quinoa. It’s a healthy study break worth the healthy meal. And as a bonus, it’ s also easy to double for tons of leftovers that will save you from all the cooking you won’t be doing for the other six days of the week. Sharing is also an excellent way to ensure your roommates love you.

Italian Quinoa Bean Salad (Inspired from a recipe by Rose Reisman)

250ml (1 cup) of quinoa (rinsed or pre-rinsed)

540 mL can of mixed beans (I used Unico Bean medley)

550 mL (1 pint container) of cherry tomatoes

1/2 a small red onion or 1 large shallot

1 bell pepper, any colour

125ml (1/2 cup) feta cheese

Handful of freshly chopped basil or parsley (or a mix of both)

75ml (1/4 cup) of fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon’s worth)

45ml (3 tbsp) olive oil

15ml (1 tbsp) balsamic vinegar

1 clove of garlic, minced

12ml (2 1/2 tsp) of dried basil

7ml (1 1/2 tsp) of dried oregano

Cook the quinoa in two cups of water via rice cooker or stove top (bring quinoa to boil then cover and simmer for about 30 min or until all liquid is absorbed). Set aside to cool.

While quinoa is cooking, dice the peppers, onion/shallot, half the tomatoes and rinse the beans. Place in large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, oil, vinegar, garlic, and dried herbs.

Add cooled quinoa to the veggie bowl with fresh basil/parsley and feta and mix until evenly combined. Dress the salad a few minutes before serving.

Kale Pecan Pesto

Perfect Pesto For All Occasions

From the Martlet

Gourmet, green—pesto is my favourite food to experiment with. It all comes down to a pretty basic formula: toasted nuts, parmesan, fresh herbs, olive oil, garlic, and sometimes a veggie or two. Mix in a blender (or for the fancy, authentic folk, with a pestle and mortar). This combination is pretty open to play. There’s always the classic basil pesto combo, some more fancy ones, like roasted red pepper or sundried tomato pesto, but why stop there? There are many options to make your perfect pesto.

I like to stick to leafy greens for my veggies and a nut with a richer texture and flavour.  Cashews, pine nuts, and pecans are some of my favourites. Almonds are okay, but are a little bland sometimes. Peanuts can add more of an asian flare if paired with cilantro and some sesame oil and seeds. I tend to go for a bit more substance in my pestos by adding more than just herbs. Spinach and kale are my go-tos for basic pestos. A nice dose of dark green veggies for colour, but also for the sake of having veggies. Basil is the standard herb of pesto, but depending on your taste, you can play with some different flavours.

I was craving kale when I made this version. I had some pecans kicking around my pantry and goat cheese was on sale, so I thought I’d make a creamy pesto pasta sauce. You should try it too! But if kale and pecans aren’t your thing, play around with other ingredients and create your own signature pesto recipe.

Oh, and tip for St. Patty’s: green food pairs well with green beer.

Kale Pecan Pesto  

  • 1/2 bunch of kale
  • 30–60 ml (⅛–¼ cup) pecans
  • 30–60 ml (2–4 tbsp) grated parmesan (or more, if you love it that much)
  • 1–3 cloves of garlic
  • 60–125 ml (¼–½ cup) olive oil (keep some extra on hand in case it gets too thick, or sub the extra oil with water)
  • 4–5 leaves of fresh basil (or to taste)
  • Plain goat cheese (optional, to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a frying pan, toast the pecans until they are slightly darker in colour and aromatic. Set aside to cool.

In the same pan, blanch the kale (steam it with a little bit of water until wilted and dark green in colour, then drain and squeeze excess water from the leaves). Set aside until cooled.

In a blender or food processor, add the pecans, kale, parmesan, garlic, oil, basil, goat cheese, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth.

If the mixture is too thick, add extra oil or water to desired consistency.

Serve in various forms, like as a pizza sauce, over your favourite pasta, or as a dip for veggies. The possibilities are endless.

Gluten-Free Chicken Nuggets

A Gluten-Free Solution to your McD’s Cravings

From the Martlet

Now that midterms are in full swing and the rain is making a comeback, everyone is stuck inside. What better time to snack on some comfort food than on a rainy night with your textbooks?

My go-to comfort food is not the greatest. I get these nasty cravings for Chicken McNuggets, which are probably the only thing from McDonald’s I enjoy way too much.  Trying to eat healthy doesn’t always discourage me from the dangerously convenient two-minute walk to McD’s, but the rain just kills any motivation for me to leave my apartment (my umbrella happens to be beyond broken). I was told to pick up an Alive Magazine one time to check out an article, but as I leafed through for the article, I hit the jackpot for McNug cravers: gluten-free chicken nuggets. “Breaded” with ground flax seeds, herbs and Parmesan. Why this never occurred to me before, I don’t know.  But I knew it had to happen.

The first time I made this recipe, I found there was too much of certain ingredients. The melted butter added to the egg ended up making the nuggets a bit too greasy and soggy, so I halved it. The lemon zest was also a bit strong, although I dipped the nuggets in strong honey mustard, which didn’t compliment the tartness very well. Overall though, it’s a great twist on Shake ‘n Bake and a tasty alternative to McD’s. Serve with some homemade yam fries (I used purple sweet potatoes—purple skin, white inside), a (hopefully) good book that may or may not be required reading, and curl up in your snuggie to wind down after a long day of class.

Gluten-free Chicken Nuggets
(Inspired by a recipe from Alive Magazine)

(Serves about four)
1 large egg
10–15 ml (½–1 tbsp) melted butter
125 ml (½ cup) ground flaxseed
80 ml (⅓ cup) grated Parmesan cheese
2–5 ml (½–1 tsp) lemon zest (optional)
5 ml (1 tsp) onion powder
5 ml (1 tsp) garlic powder
5 ml (1 tsp) yellow mustard powder
Dash each salt and pepper
450 g (1 lb) boneless, skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into 2.5 cm (1 inch) cubes

Preheat oven to 375º F.
In medium bowl, lightly beat egg and stir in butter. In another bowl, combine flaxseed, Parmesan, lemon zest, onion powder, garlic powder, mustard powder, salt, and pepper.

Dip each piece of chicken in the egg mixture, let excess drip off, and coat in flax mixture.

Place chicken on parchment-lined baking sheet and cook, flipping once halfway, for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

To make yam fries, slice one or two yams (or purple sweet potatoes) lengthwise into fry shapes. Place the fries in a bowl and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a sprinkle of cornstarch. Mix until evenly coated (there should be no white patches of cornstarch). Spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake at 425º F for about 30 minutes or until crispy, flipping halfway.

Dip in whatever sauce your heart desires, such as honey mustard (combine honey and mustard to your taste).

Coconut Flour Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies – Hold the Wheat!

From the Martlet

I was having one of those days when my brain was not having it with anything school-related, so I had to take a few hours off to do something else. Like bake cookies. And for an extra challenge, I figured I’d go gluten-free.

I’ve had a hankering for sugar cookies, mostly after my roommate’s parents brought over Hanukkah decorations and dreidel cookie cutters. I usually keep my gluten-free baking flourless, because the steep price of alternative flours has always deterred me. I’ve blended cooked quinoa into a chocolate cake mix before and it added an interesting crunch, but made a pretty coarse batter. Rice flour comes up in a lot of baked goods, but even though it’s one of the most affordable, I find it dry and crumbly. Flour blends are also common, but a hassle to make, because the ingredients are usually expensive or tough to find.

A friend of mine recommended coconut flour, which I’d never seen before. I lingered in the gluten-free aisle at Lifestyle Markets, and although I was iffy about spending six to 10 dollars on a 500 gram pack, my friend assured me that a little goes a long way. Some of the labels even suggested substituting coconut flour in any recipe using white flour, by halving the amount. When I opened the package, I got a burst of coconutty aroma, which ended up adding a subtle flavour to the cookies too.

The recipe I found online seemed simple, with its organic, whole-food ingredient list, but as with all cookies requiring cookie cutters, it was a lot more work than anticipated. The dough was really moist and kept ripping, so I greased the parchment paper to stop it from sticking so much and carefully peeled the paper off the cookie to transfer it to the baking sheet. If you’re not rolling all the dough at once, keep it in the fridge or freezer until you get to it, to keep it firm and not as sticky. And to avoid them breaking easily, roll the dough a bit thicker than you would for a normal sugar cookie (this also makes it easier to move them onto a tray). This will make fewer cookies, but I cut the ingredient list in half and got about a dozen anyway.

The sky is the limit when it comes to cut-out cookies, so get creative with shapes! And if you feel the need to colour co-ordinate your sprinkles, as I did, be aware of how long it takes to sort the blue elephants from the pink elephants in the zoo sprinkle pack.

Coconut-flour Cut-out Cookies 

Inspired by a recipe from Whole Lifestyle Nutrition

(Suggests 36 cookies, but I would say 24–30, depending on the size of your cookie cutters)

  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup room temperature butter
  • ¾ cup raw honey
  • ¼ cup cane sugar (may be subbed with more honey)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup coconut flour

Preheat the oven to 375˚F.

In a large bowl, beat coconut oil, butter, honey, eggs, vanilla, and cane sugar.

In another bowl, stir together coconut flour, salt, and baking powder. Add this to the wet ingredients, and blend until dough is stiff.

Roll dough in a ball, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour (I left mine in overnight).

Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thick.

Cut with cookie cutters and place on baking sheet. If adding sprinkles, lightly press them into the dough before baking. Then bake for eight minutes.

Enjoy!

Coconut Oil Peppermint Patties

Coconut Oil Peppermint Patties

From the Martlet

(Makes about 10 patties)

  • ½ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup raw honey
  • ½ teaspoon peppermint essential oil (not extract)
  • 100-gram dark chocolate bar or 100 grams dark chocolate chips
  1. In a cereal bowl, combine the coconut oil, honey, and peppermint oil. Mix with a spoon until smooth and creamy (no clumps, but not liquid).
  2. Throw the mixture in the freezer for a minute or two until the oil starts to harden, then remove.
  3. Spoon coconut oil onto a baking sheet or plate lined with wax paper or parchment. Roll into balls.
  4. Place back in freezer for a minute to firm (not too long or they won’t flatten).
  5. While they’re are in the freezer, melt chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl on a medium – low power level for about 1–1 ½ minutes.
  6. Remove rolls and flatten into patties with a spoon.
  7. Dip patties into chocolate and coat completely.
  8. Place plate back in freezer until chocolate is hard

Chocolate has the power to make life a little bit better and, I think, even more so when it comes in miniature form. Halloween-sized candy bars: they’re delicious, they’re cute, but they tend to come in hundred packs. And then there are those pesky midterms, which coax you into buying hundred packs of “study snacks,” or the common excuse of “stocking up early for the children” (otherwise known as you and your roommates).

Now let’s be real: with towers of Halloween candy looming over you every time you set foot in a grocery store, it’s tough to say no. So how does one resist buying all the chocolate? Look each box dead in the face and know that you can make something just as delicious and way healthier to satisfy your sweet tooth.

My cousin Lisa, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) in the Okanagan, recommended this recipe to me from an InspireHealth blog. I couldn’t resist this tasty combination of my two loves, chocolate and mint. They take under 10 minutes to make and have four simple ingredients. The coconut oil really makes the texture. And if you use virgin coconut oil, which is much more fragrant than regular, it can contribute a subtle coconutty flavour. With a touch of peppermint oil and raw honey, it makes for a healthier treat than the sugar rush from candy bars. Keep these in the fridge or freezer and enjoy whenever you need a sweet fix.

Stuffing Muffins

Thanksgiving in a Muffin

(From the Martlet)

It’s that time of year again. When everybody goes home for the long weekend, stuffs themselves with home-cooked turkey goodness, and comes back with lots of leftover freezer packs. And the rest of us get to stick around and work, “read,” and not eat turkey.

If there’s one thing I’m always choked about missing on Thanksgiving, it’s the stuffing. I mean, turkey is meh, and I was never really got into cranberry sauce, but stuffing. Kudos to whoever thought to stuff bread into a bird to soak up all the flavours. The problem is, who has time to roast a turkey? Or even a chicken. Then when stuffing it, you get raw meat all over your arms and all over your kitchen; it’s pretty gross.

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to the next best thing: stuffing muffins. My mom and I discovered this recipe in Ontario’s Food and Drink magazine as a fix to making our Christmas turkey gluten-free. It’s fantastic. Perfect little portions so that you don’t overstuff yourself. These muffins allow you to keep the bird free of gluten for all your celiac and wheat-sensitive friends, and you don’t need a bird to cook them! Just in case you get those late-July hankerings for stuffing, but maybe that’s just me.

In the spirit of expending no effort to whip up a legit turkey dinner, pair your stuffing muffins with a chicken roasted for you by your local grocery store, some stovetop gravy, good company, and the rest of the white wine left over from cooking.

Bacon Mushroom Stuffing Muffins

(Inspired by a recipe from the Food and Drink Holiday 2012 issue)

(Makes eight muffins)

  • 4 slices of thick cut bacon
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup of sliced mushrooms
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • ½ tsp dried rosemary, crumbled
  • ¼ cup of dry white wine
  • 5 cups of cubed, preferably stale, bread
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • Approx. ½ cup of chicken broth

Put eight muffin wrappers into a muffin tray. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C), if you plan to bake them right away.

Fry up the bacon on medium heat until crisp, then set it aside on a paper towel to soak up some of the extra grease.

In the bacon pan add celery, onion, and some salt and pepper. Sauté until they start to soften.  Add mushrooms, sage, and rosemary until the mushrooms start to brown, then pour in the wine and scrape up the brown bits.

Transfer the veggies into a large bowl and mix with the bread and fresh parsley. Crumble the bacon and add it to the mix. Add enough chicken broth to moisten the stuffing (when you squeeze it, a handful should just hold together). Season with some more salt and pepper.

Divvy the mixture up among the muffin wrappers, packing lightly. Bake immediately, or cover and set aside in the fridge for up to eight hours.

When you are getting ready to eat, bake them for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden and crisp and the stuffing is hot in the centre. Let them cool for about five minutes, then remove from the pan and have at ’em.