It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! At least this is what happened at my house a few weeks ago when my husband answered the door to greet someone dropping off a bag of flavour goodies for me to play with.
As a Brand Ambassador for the loveliest of local lovelies Blue Door Oil & Vinegar, I get sent a few samples to play with from time to time, in order to come up with recipes and ideas on easy ways to prep nutrient-dense meals, using their delicious products. NOT A HARD THING I assure you.
And so play I did, and have for you two recipes that will make dinner prep a snap for this busy time of year. Not only that, I will also be giving away one of the products Bruce and Courtney have at the store to a lucky winner! Read on for full details.
Now if your world is anything like mine right now, it feels like things are getting close to being a little too much on the hectic side of things: projects to finish or chapters to NOW WAIT A SECOND. I don't want to add anxiety or tension to the list of things you have on your plate. You know the things you need to look after, you don't need me to remind you.
But know this: good food can still happen in this environment. In fact, cooking food can be a good tool in busier times, as it is a task that requires some pretty focused attention, and one that can involve some of your loved ones, meaning some QT spent together. Or can mean your littlest brings in the colouring book with crayons to sit at the island while you prepare the night's meal. It can also be a part of self-care, choosing good foods and nourishing ways to feed yourself and your family. I know that I tend to think about who it is I'm cooking for when I'm preparing the meal, and that alone brings my anxiety levels down. It's a meditative kind of thing. Giving you respite from the rush. And it doesn't have to be an onerous thing either. Read on for a few recipe ideas, and ways to up the nutritional ante for the meals in your near future. (And maybe a few good ideas for gifts or stocking stuffers for someone in your life you adore!)
My most favourite flavour in this last box of treats is the Baklouti Green Chili Pepper Fused Olive Oil. Out of this world!
This fused olive oil is Tunisian in origin, from the Barbary Coast of North Africa. The baklouti green chili pepper is a fruitier cousin to the hot peppers we may be better acquainted with. It is part of the traditional fare from this region of the world, an essential component in curries, couscous dishes, one of the ingredients in Harisa, a traditional chile paste used to give sauces and dishes a flavour boost. What makes this a flavour fused olive oil, as opposed to an infused olive oil you ask? The flavour fused olive oil means the whole fruit is crushed in with premium harvested olives in order to create an indelible blend of flavours. An infused type of olive oil means the natural flavour essences are combined with a top quality olive oil, and the results are stunning. To me, the fused olive oils pack a bigger punch flavour-wise, and because the whole fruit is used in the making of the product, I am telling myself it contains more nutrients. (*not scientifically proven. Just my musings.)
I am a multi tasker by trade, and a miser I MEAN frugal lady so I like to pull double duty when I can. As I was using the oven to roast something for dinner one night, I decided to prepare a spaghetti squash a day in advance in order to lessen the load of work for meal prep the next night. (My meal plan work on the weekend takes the guesswork out of weeknight dinnertime, and ensures I use all of the produce in my fridge before it goes bad. And prevents me from reaching for quick fix meals, although those nights are ok too. Working on balance, I am.)
My aim was to make a noodle-like side dish for a quick saute I was preparing the next evening. My family loves noodles, but I wanted to increase the nutritional content for us and offer a grain-free version we could all feast on, and so I prepared this spicy roasted spaghetti squash. See, when you slice the spaghetti squash into rounds and roast it, as opposed to cutting it in half, your 'noodles' end up being longer, and more like, well, spaghetti. And so slice it into rounds I did, scooped out the seeds, and set the discs in a pan and drizzled this baklouti green chili pepper fused olive oil on top, roasting at 375F for 45 minutes. Tucked it away in a glass dish after shredding the discs with my fork, storing in the fridge until the following night.
The following night, took that baby out of the fridge, drizzled more olive oil on top (because I love the flavour so!) and popped it in the oven at 350F for about 20-25 minutes until it was warmed up and scooped it out on plates ready to serve. As the stir fry I was topping the 'noodles' with had a sesame-garlic-heat vibe happening, I tossed some sesame seeds on top of the noodles to add some crunch and a bit of calcium. (Oh yes, sesame seeds are a fabulous source of calcium!)
You could easily add just about any flavoured or fused olive oil here to a dish like this, making it an easy side for any meal. Blue Door's olive oils are top quality and are incredibly fresh, and so they are safe to use at higher roasting temperatures while still retaining the beneficial qualities. I roast up to 425F with these oils, and feel ok doing so.
Here are a few flavour combinations that may be pique your interest: Fused Lemon Olive Oil with fresh chopped parsley and chives; Butter Olive Oil with chopped chervil and white pepper; Wild Mushroom & Sage olive oil with re-hydrated dried mushrooms; Chipotle Olive Oil with nigella (or kalonji) seeds; Hojiblanca Mild Olive Oil with sauteed peaches, gorgonzola and prosciutto. Simply add these along with the spaghetti squash when reheating or initially cooking. Use any kind of squash as your side, they are excellent sources of fibre and beta-carotene, one of those liver-loving antioxidant vitamins. It's so good you PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD!
Another easy meal prep I pull out of my sleeve when I feel we have a busy week is this one-pan roast dinner. In fact, I made it last night and tossed it in the oven on a timer while I went out to enjoy a bit of skating at the local ice rink with my little lady. (How's that for stress-busting!) This is one of those easy peasy one-pot meals that involve little prep (10 minutes of chopping), little cleanup (one pan and a knife), maximum flavour, and just a titch of forethought, providing you with loads of good nutrients to keep you going.
SHEET PAN DINNER
Sausages, chopped into bite size morsels (I used locally made chicken apple sausages from Paolini's at Crossroads Market)
Vegetables that are about to go bad in your fridge*
Vegetables that are taking up space in your freezer**
Flavour boosting Olive Oil (I used the Cilantro & Roasted Onion olive oil – yum!)
Flavour boosting spices if you need more (I used salt and pepper, and red chilis; you could use a smoked salt, conveniently available at Blue Door!)
Slather a good fat on the base of your pan. I use the roasting pan that came with the oven, find it works like a charm. I slathered with butter. Because butter.
Toss in everything you've chopped.
Drizzle on your olive oil. This is your major flavour component, so use liberally. (It's also an anti-inflammatory powerhouse. FYI.)
Sprinkle your spices.
Toss in the oven at 375F for 1 hour. (Use your timer on your oven for this if you have a busy night – love this feature!)
Dinner is served.
*Veggies that went in last night's dinner at our house: wedges of cabbage, peeled sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli, shallots. You could use yams, parsnips, cauliflower, beets, garlic, onions, leeks, I mean your crisper is the limit here. Use up something that looks like it's about to give up the ghost! Radishes would be yum!
**I threw in some green beans that had been in the freezer for a bit too long. As they roasted, they became crispier and more delicious, so the texture that would have rendered them unpalatable had they been steamed was nowhere to be seen, and crunchy was the end result. Especially because they were on the top layer of this sheet pan, and had some good olive oil on top. You could use peas, frozen cauliflower or broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, any leftovers from previous dinners that you didn't have the heart to throw out and instead kept adding them to that freezer bag you have for just such emergencies. Empty that sucker on this sheet pan dinner, and free up more space in your freezer without wasting your resources!
This is what JERF and Nutrient-Dense is all about. Just. Eat. Real. Food. Nutrient density means every component in this meal is chock full of nutrients that will satiate (Good fats! Olive oil! Animal fats and protein!). This is easy, frugal, and tastes really great as lunch the next day. Just remember to drizzle on more olive oil before you reheat that sucker.
As this is the season of giving, I am pairing up with Blue Door Oil & Vinegar for a giveaway! Their shop -- online and in person at West 85th (8561 8A Ave SW) or at Symons Valley Ranch Farmers Market on the weekends -- is one of my favourite spots to go to for that special gift for your child's school or piano teacher, your most favourite clients or business partners, or for those tasty surprises as I help Santa fill the stockings of grown-ups in our family. We are giving away a jar of yummy Smoked Artichoke Tapenade Spread to a lucky Calgarian! In order to get your name in the draw for this prize, you must comment below. Just a one word comment is all!
I will be drawing the name of the lucky winner the evening of Tuesday December 22nd. You have until 6pm that night to comment here. I will be in touch!
Yes. I'm going to say it. GO PLAY WITH YOUR FOOD.
And many thanks to Bruce and Courtney at Blue Door Oils & Vinegars for bringing such flavours to our dinner table. Support local!