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Salsa Shrimp Rollups

An interesting combination of flavours.

“Salsa Shrimp Rollups” are another creation of mine. Shrimp, tomato sauce, salsa, and cottage cheese are mixed into the filling, then wrapped in lasagna noodles, and sprinkled with deliciously salty feta cheese.

To serve as a main dish, give 2 to 4 rollups to each person, and as a side, one or two rollups. These will compliment garlic bread, soups, and a variety of chicken or fish dishes.

I used a ‘hot’ variety of salsa to ensure that the salsa flavour was in the forefront. With mild salsas, it will be merely an accent.

Time to Make: 45-50 minutes

Serves: 2, as written

Ingredients:

  • 6 lasagna noodles
  • 200 g (7 oz) shrimp
  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup hot salsa
  • 50 g (2 oz) feta cheese
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • sprinkle of garlic powder

What to Do:

  1. Boil shrimp in a pot on the stove.
  2. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions, drain.
  3. When the shrimp are cooked, cut them into smaller pieces.
  4. Combine shrimp, cottage cheese, tomato sauce, and salsa in a small bowl. Add around 1/2 tsp of dried parsley.
  5. Lay out the noodles. Spread the filling down the entire length of the noodle, and roll it. Be careful not too roll it too tightly, or the filling will come out.
  6. Arrange the rolls in a small baking dish on a thin layer of tomato sauce. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on top as well. Sprinkle with feta and garlic powder.
  7. Bake in a 400 F (200 C) oven for about 25 minutes. Serve hot.

Modifications:

No shrimp? Use scallops, or if you dislike seafood, try ground meat. Ricotta cheese easily stands in for cottage cheese, as does parmesan for the feta. Feel free to use your canned or homemade pasta sauce of choice, rather than tomato sauce.


Spicy Chili Fries


Spicy fries make a nice treat.

These fries are quite simple to make, and certainly a healthier choice than the alternative, using only a few ingredients and giving you full control of the salt shaker.

The quantities that I’ve listed for the spices are approximate. Use however much you like. Remember, though, that the time in the oven will dull the spices, so don’t be too alarmed if you think you’re using a bit too much spice.

Time to Make: 40 minutes: 5-10 minutes prep, about 30 minutes in the oven

Serves: 1, as written, adjust as needed

Ingredients:

  • 1 large potato – 200 g (7.5 oz)
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • pinch each of cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried parsley

What to Do:

  1. Slice the potato into long, thin strips. If you like, cut wedges, but remember that those will take longer to cook.
  2. Toss the slices in oil. Make sure they’re evenly coated, so that the spices stick and they brown evenly.
  3. Season the fries. The exact quantities of each are up to you. I like the chili powder being the prominent spice, though they would be good with a strong garlic flavour, as well.
  4. Arrange the fries in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 F (200 C) for about half an hour. Halfway through the cooking time, turn all of the fries over.
  5. Salt, and enjoy!

Chicken Pineapple Curry


The exciting flavours of pineapple and curry make for a delicious, quick meal.

It doesn’t have to be hard to prepare a quick and healthy homemade meal. While there are countless recipe books on the subject, with a little bit of practise, you won’t need any of them.

For today’s recipe, I took a quick look through my fridge and freezer to see what ingredients I already had. I had some frozen pineapple in the freezer, and decided to pair it with curry for some great contrast.

As always, there is a lot of room for adjusting – and fun in the kitchen- with this recipe.

Time to Make: 45-50 minutes, a lot less if you use minute rice instead

Serves: 1, as written, adjust as needed

Ingredients:

  • 130 g (4.5 oz) raw chicken
  • 1/2 cup pineapple chunks (frozen, fresh, or canned)
  • 1/4 cup long grain brown rice, dry
  • 1/2 cup frozen mixed vegetables (corn, peas, etc)
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder
  • pinch of garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp soy sauce

What to Do:

  1. Start cooking the rice in a small pot.
  2. While the rice is cooking, cube and cook the chicken in a pan. Make sure to cook it throughly.
  3. Combine the rice, chicken, and pineapples in the pan with the oil.
  4. Add the soy sauce and spices.
  5. Add the frozen mixed vegetables. Its ready when the vegetables are nice and hot.

Modifications:

Feel free to use another kind of meat if you don’t have any chicken on hand. Rice can be easily substituted with couscous or macaroni. The pineapple is a little tricker, though I think you could try any fruit that would remain reasonably firm after cooking – apples come to mind immediately. Ginger also compliments curry quite well, if you’d like more spice.

Chocolate pudding is made more festive with the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Basic chocolate pudding has only a few ingredients, generally milk, cocoa powder, butter, flour, and sugar. Since there are only a few ingredients, its important to use good quality ones, since low quality or stale ingredients will greatly impact the flavour.

Since there are only a few ingredients, today I decided to add some different flavourings to make my basic chocolate pudding recipe a little more exciting, and festive.

Using nutmeg, cinnamon, and almond extract, I transformed a basic dessert into something a tiny bit more showy.

Time to Make: 30-45 minutes

Serves: 8

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • approx 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • approx 1/4 tsp cinnamon

What to Do:

  1. Whisk together the dry ingredients (cocoa powder, sugar, and flour) in a saucepan.
  2. On low heat, slowly add the milk.
  3. Stir almost constantly on low heat – this is important. If you only stir it infrequently, or cook it on too high of a heat, your milk and sugar will both be burnt and it will not be pleasant.
  4. If you burn a bit on the bottom of the pan, take care not to scrape it off with the spoon as you stir. This will spread the burnt taste around and ruin your pudding.
  5. Gradually, the pudding will thicken. This should take 30-45 minutes, depending on the heat and any modifications you’ve made to the pudding. When its consistency changes from that of milk to that of melted ice cream, you know you are ready for the next step.
  6. Add the butter, almond extract, and spices. Continue stirring it until the butter has melted and is well combined.
  7. Remove from the heat, and pour into a dish. Choose a size that lets the pudding spread to a few centimetres (or a couple of  inches) deep, so that it sets faster. Refrigerate until the pudding sets.

Spicy Beef Pasta

An incredibly fast and spicy main dish.

Let me introduce you to ‘Spicy Beef Pasta’.

I had a minor dilemma today, namely the leftover ground beef sitting in my fridge waiting to be used.

One of the biggest benefits of not relying on recipes, and instead cooking using your senses, is that you can improvise based on the ingredients you have on hand. Its easy to spend an inordinate amount of time searching for recipes which use your leftovers, but that isn’t necessary.

With this recipe, the main ingredients are quite basic, what really completes this recipe, as with most recipes, are the spices.

Time to Make: 20 minutes if you have leftover cooked ground beef, add another 10-15 minutes if you have to cook the meat.

Serves: 1, as written

Ingredients:

  • about 50 g (2 oz) cooked ground beef
  • about 50 g (2oz) dry pasta – your favourite kind should do just fine; I used rotini
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • splash of soy sauce
  • splash of worcestershire sauce
  • spices: a pinch each of thyme, marjoram, sage, crushed red pepper, and garlic powder
  • about 1/8 tsp paprika

What to Do:

  1. Start by cooking the meat.
  2. While its cooking, boil your pasta of choice.
  3. Don’t cook the pasta fully, or it will end up mushy and overcooked. Drain it when its still a minute or two from al dente.
  4. Combine the pasta and cooked meat in the same pot you just cooked the pasta in. Over medium heat, add about 1/2 cup of tomato sauce.
  5. Stir in a splash of soy sauce and a splash of worcestershire sauce. A ‘splash’ is a poorly defined quantity, I know, but exact measurements are too limiting. If you’re unsure how much to use, start with just a few drops of each, and then taste and adjust.
  6. Add your spices. I usually pour a tiny portion into the palm of my hand and sprinkle it into the cooking pot and adjust as necessary. I knew mine was done when it started smelling like ribs with barbecue sauce.

Modifications:

The beef could easily be replaced with other ground meats. If you use ground chicken or ground turkey, you may need more worcestershire sauce to add to the ‘meaty’ flavour, as well as a bit of oil to bring out the flavours. Pine nuts or slivered almonds would also complement this recipe, if you have some on hand. Raisins, likewise, would create an interesting dish. Feel free to use rice instead of pasta. Cooked spinach or green beans would also be interesting.

Ginger and Honey Chili

I still had some leftover cooked ground beef from yesterday’s dinner, so I used a bit of it in this new dish.

This has a lot of interesting flavours all working well together, with the ginger, honey, soy sauce, and chili. The ginger and the honey provide a touch of sweetness to compliment the spiciness of the chili powder.

With this recipe, you’ll need to spice it to your liking. When in doubt, add a bit more spice, since usually recipes are ruined by being too bland, not too spicy. If you add too much chili, you could add a bit more honey to balance it out, also.

Depending on your skill level, either taste it as you add the spices, or rely on the smell coming from the pot.

Time to Make: 40 minutes to cook the rice (or use quick rice, if you’re in  hurry), then about half an hour for cooking the beef and combining the dish.

Serves: 1, as written, adjust to suit your needs

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup brown rice, dry
  • 130 g/ 4.5 oz ground beef (raw weight)
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup mixed frozen vegetables
  • spices: chili powder, crushed red pepper, ginger, garlic powder, onion powder, dried parsley
  • soya sauce
  • honey
  • 3/4 cup water

What to Do:

  1. Cook the rice. Long grain brown rice is what I used, but use whichever kind of rice you prefer, or have on hand.
  2. Brown the ground beef. Ensure that it is cooked completely.
  3. Drain the rice, and combine the rice, ground beef, and tomato sauce in the pot.
  4. Add about 3/4 cup water. It looks a bit like a soup at this point, but most of the liquid boils off.
  5. Now for the part that involves intuitive cooking: adding the spices. I didn’t measure any of the spices, though I used approximately 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper, a pinch each of garlic powder, onion powder, and dried parsley. Adjust the amounts of the spices little by little until it smells good – you can also taste it to be sure the spices are right.
  6. Let it simmer until most of the water is gone. Add the frozen mixed vegetables.
  7. Add honey and soy sauce. This provides a balance for the spicy ingredients. I used a drop of honey and around 1/4 tsp of soy sauce. Add more honey if you’ve made your dish too spicy. You may need more soy sauce than I used.
  8. When the frozen vegetables are cooked, it’s ready. Enjoy!

Modifications

If you don’t have an beef, any other meat should be able to stand in quite well. You may want to add a small amount of olive oil if you’re using  low fat meat, to bring the flavours out. If you are a vegetarian, try it with your favourite type of beans, or some tofu.

Missing one of the seasonings I used? It’s not a problem. Just use something spicy, and something sweet. Curry could replace the chili, or cinnamon could replace the ginger. The soy sauce could be left out or replaced with a pinch of salt. If you’re out of – or don’t like – honey, white or brown sugar should work.

A stuffed pepper sprinkled with parmesan cheese.

Stuffed peppers are simple to make. The basic recipe is a green pepper stuffed with ground meat, rice, and tomato sauce. Modify the amount of meat and rice, depending on how large your peppers are. I try to choose large ones, with flat bottoms. The flat bottom is important because it needs to sit upright in a baking dish, and not topple over, letting the filling fall out.

Green peppers are usually used because of their mild flavour, but you could try yellow, red, or orange peppers as well. No peppers? Make stuffed tomatoes instead.

Time to Make: 40 minutes to cook the rice, and an additional hour to bake the pepper. (You could use instant rice to save 40 minutes)

Serves: 1, as written, adjust to suit your needs

Ingredients:

  • a green pepper
  • 130 g / 4.5 oz ground beef (that’s the raw weight, and just an approximation)
  • 1/4 cup brown rice (dry)
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • dried parsley
  • oregano
  • 1/8 cup water (approximately, to add some moisture)

What to Do:

  1. Boil the rice. While the rice is cooking, brown the ground beef.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 F/ 180 C.
  3. Wash the pepper, and remove its stem, centre, and seeds. Don’t remove the bottom or the filling will escape.

    Remove the stem, centre, and seeds, while taking great care not to harm the bottom.

  4. Mix the rice, cooked beef, and other ingredients. This is where you can experiment a bit. Add enough worcestershire sauce and spices to make it smell good. The exact quantities depend on you. Stuff the mixture into the pepper.
  5. Bake the pepper in an oven safe baking dish for 1 hour. Every 15-20 minutes, baste the pepper with the juices from the filling.
  6. (Optional) You can now sprinkle the peppers with crumbled feta, parmesan, mozzarella, or another cheese that you like.

Modifications

You can do a lot to this basic stuffed pepper recipe to make it more exciting. Use macaroni or couscous instead of rice, chicken, shrimp, or lentils instead of beef, or use a cream based sauce instead of tomato sauce.

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