Herb and Basil are zesty squares!

Photo: Flickr "macaroni with tomatoes, brie and basil

This week’s menu is:

  • Asparagus and Herb Soup 
  • Macaroni with Tomatoes, Brie and Basil
  • Lemon Squares

With the vast improvement and growth in the IQF (individually quick frozen) industry, so many off-season produce can be made available worldwide at amazingly good prices. Often the frozen varieties of vegetables are hard to distinguish from fresh when cooked properly because they tend to be cooked more rapidly and for shorter periods of time. With microwave ovens becoming a ‘must have’, even in restaurants, food companies are falling over each other trying to come up with the next item to be displayed in grocer’s freezer sections. Makers of prepared meals are emerging from all corners of the earth with their particular version of their local cuisine. Sadly, with that, additives and preservatives are used in excess.

We are becoming a population of stressed out, over committed individuals who have lost or never learned the art of preparing and eating real food. With such an impressive array of meats, fruits and vegetables available for the taking, even budget conscious cooks can eat a healthy diet. While satisfying the requirements of Canada’s Food Guide http://hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/food-guide-aliment/index-eng.php, even more exciting is that budding cooks can cook flavourful, easy to make meals with the diversity the palate demands. No more packaged noodles every night for a week if a small amount of time is devoted to budgeting and planning a menu for the week or month.

While not a fall vegetable, asparagus is versatile and lends itself to so many applications. It is starting to show up on many neighbourhood pizza parlour vegetarian pizzas which is a good indication that it is affordable. It is high in nutrients and low in calories http://www.asparagus.org/maab/nutrition.html.

Brie, on the other hand, is not something you want to indulge in too frequently. High in saturated fat, this soft cheese, served at room temperature, is a popular choice on cheese platters served with crackers. When used as an ingredient in a cooked recipe, such as this week’s macaroni main course, it melts into a succulent, gooey sauce that clings delicately to the tomatoes and basil. So bad but oh so good!There are many different types and grades of Brie on the market today and it is possible to find it on special at many grocers or even cheese specialty shoppes.

Asparagus and Herb Soup

The splendour of fresh herbs and vegetables define this fragrant, soothing soup.

asparagus and herb soup Photo: Flickr

1½     tsp      canola oil (7.5 ml)
¾       cup      leeks (white), trimmed, chopped fine (180 ml)
1       clove    garlic, minced
¼       lb         baby potatoes, scrubbed and diced (115 g)
1        cup      vegetable stock, low/no  salt (25 ml)
½        lb        asparagus, trimmed, diced (225 g)
1/3     cup     snow peas, stemmed, diced (80 ml)
1½     tbsp     fresh chives, chopped, divided(22.5 ml)
1        tbsp     fresh parsley, chopped fine (15 ml)
1         tsp      fresh chervil, chopped fine (5 ml)
1         cup     skim milk (250 ml)
1½      tsp      lemon juice (7.5 ml)
to taste          sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
¼       cup       plain yogourt, low/no fat, for garnish (60 ml)

In a large saucepan on Medium-High, heat oil. Add leeks sautéing until soft, not brown, stirring frequently. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.

Add potatoes and stock and bring to just below a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, ± 12 minutes.

Increase heat to Medium-High and add the asparagus and peas. Simmer, covered, 3-4 minutes or until al dente. Remove from heat and stir in parsley, chopped chervil and 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of the chives. Allow mixture to cool for 10 minutes.

Pour portions into food processor bowl and purée carefully, in small batches, until smooth. Return to saucepan and add the milk. Reheat thoroughly, to a very low simmer. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper and stir well to blend.

When thoroughly reheated, ladle into soup bowls. Garnish each with a spoonful of yogourt and sprinkle with remaining chives.

Serves 4

115 Calories, 24 Calories from Fat, 2.6g Total Fat, 2 mg Cholesterol, 46 mg Sodium, 18.4g Carbohydrates, 3.6g Dietary Fibre, 7.7g Sugars, 6.3g Protein

Macaroni with Tomatoes, Brie and Basil

macaroni with tomatoes, brie and basil Photo: Flickr

2         ripe      tomatoes, hothouse or Italian         
½        lb         brie, remove rind and cut into little pieces (225 g)
½        cup      fresh basil, cut into thin strips (125 ml)
2        clove    garlic, minced           
1         tbsp     olive oil (15 ml)
¼        tsp       sea salt (1 ml)
½        tsp       fresh ground black pepper (2.5 ml)
½        cup      fresh grated parmesan cheese (125 ml)
½        lb          macaroni (225 g)
optional          spring onion, slivered, for garnish

Two hours before serving, combine all ingredients (except macaroni, parmesan and spring onion) in a large serving bowl. Leave covered at room temperature.

Boil the macaroni in a large pot, with a splash of olive oil.

When “al dente”, drain and immediately pour over the mixture (so the brie will melt)

Toss and serve right away.

Add parmesan to taste

Serves 4

601 Calories, 289 Calories, from Fat, 32.2g Total Fat, 16.9g Saturated Fat, 145 mg Cholesterol, 949 mg Sodium, 46.6g Carbohydrates, 1.2g Dietary Fibre, 2.7g Sugars, 31.7g Protein

Lemon Squares

This is so easy to make. Despite the fact that this has a pastry crust, you do not have to roll it out so there is much less work and skill required.

1         cup      flour (250 ml)
½        tsp       baking powder (2.5 ml)
¼        tsp       salt (1 ml)
¼        cup      powdered sugar (60 ml)
½        cup      butter  (125 ml)

Preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Spray an 8” x 8” (20.3cm x 20.3cm) baking pan lightly with cooking spray.

lemon squares Photo:Flickr

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with 2 knives. When broken up and mixture looks pebbly mix by hand until dough forms a ball. Pat into prepared baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

2       large   eggs, whipped           
1       cup      sugar (250 ml)
2       tbsp     fresh lemon juice (30 ml)
½      tsp       lemon zest (2.5 ml)
                      powdered sugar for garnish
Beat together then pour over the crust while still hot. Bake for an additional 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack. Cut into squares when cool. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Yield: 16 x 1” (2.5cm) squares

145 Calories, 58 Calories from Fat, 6.5g Total Fat, 3.8g Saturated Fat, 42 mg Cholesterol, 85 mg Sodium, 20.6g Carbohydrates, 14.5g Sugars, 1.7g Protein

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Categories: Dinner for 4 for -$40, Food, Uncategorized

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2 Comments on “Herb and Basil are zesty squares!”

  1. October 22, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

    That macaroni looks divine!!

  2. October 24, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    this macaroni looks bomb.

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