Filed under: Foodie Swellness

Foodie Swellness: Gnocchi with bacon, spinach and mushrooms

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I find I need new and different tastes all the time.  What can I say, my tastebuds get bored easily. I’ve never understood how people can eat the same exact meals every week (well, of course I have some things I do eat regularly, like what I have for breakfast is pretty consistent).

But I do return to certain recipes a few times a year like this pasta dish, for one, and this frittata recipe will become a regular now. And I get pretty excited when I try making a new dish and it’s so yummy that I know it’ll be added into my annual rotation. Especially when it’s a super simple thing to cook but tastes so damn good. Like this gnocchi recipe.

The other night it was freezing cold out and after a few days of eating turkey, I was craving pasta. And then the idea of gnocchi popped into my brain. I used to rely on packaged gnocchi a lot as a fast meal to prep on nights I didn’t feel like cooking but I’ve fallen out of that habit. Well, hello old habit, you’re back in the rotation! Gnocchi always feels to me a bit fancier than pasta, is it just me or do you feel the same? I’ve never made gnocchi from scratch, but I have made gnudi (which is similar to gnocchi except it’s made with ricotta instead of potato), which was most wonderful!

A few quick searches online and I decided I wanted to use bacon as well since I had some in my fridge. I picked up the gnocchi and the other few items and I was ready to go. I think the stewed tomatoes with olive oil and garlic not only added a lot of flavour, it also helped me skip having to mince garlic, so hurray for even simpler prep! Here’s the recipe.

Gnocchi with bacon, spinach and mushrooms

  • 1 package of gnocchi
  • 5 slices of thick-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1 19-oz can of stewed tomatoes with olive oil and garlic
  • two handfuls of mushrooms, sliced
  • half a bag of spinach
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon chili pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • pepper and Parmesan, to taste
  1. Fry bacon to desired crispiness in a large pan. Before bacon is entirely done, add mushrooms so that they’re cooked through.
  2. Stir in tomatoes, sugar, chili pepper flakes and balsamic vinegar and cook for about five minutes until flavours are blended. Season with pepper.
  3. In the meanwhile, cook gnocchi in a pot of boiling salted water until done (the gnocchi will float once cooked through). Add spinach and cook for about 30 seconds until wilted.
  4. Drain gnocchi and spinach and add to the pot with the sauce. Stir to combine.
  5. Grate as much Parmesan as you wish! I used Lupa cheese, which chef Massimo Bruno recommended.

Another great thing about this recipe is all the veggies it includes (I’m always looking for ways to eat more veggies). Plus you can easily swap in your fave veggies or use up the ones you have lurking in your fridge. Not a fan of mushrooms? Toss in some chopped carrots instead!

If you’re not in the mood for bacon, I think you could likely make this vegetarian by simply sautéing a chopped onion in a glug of olive oil instead of frying up the bacon to start the sauce (although that bacon fat likely adds a lot of depth of flavour to the sauce…). I haven’t tried it this way but I did consider adding onion to the dish.

Do you have any fave ways to make a quick meal with packaged gnocchi?

Leave a Comment December 30, 2017

Fitness Swellness: How I get stronger with protein

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My schedule is always pretty full. Sometimes too full (I think it’s just my nature to try to pack in as much as possible) and then, yes, I take a step back to find more balance. But I’ve accepted that it’s just my personality to maintain a busy, demanding schedule. I’m often rushing from meetings and lunches to hopping onto conference calls and then over to events. Besides work demands, I also am working out whenever I can—I’m trying to fit in more dance classes, more workouts like yoga and Pilates, and to learn how to play tennis during the warmer months. And you may also know that I’m a runner. The fitness in my life gets way more intense when I’m training for a marathon since this calls for running up to five times a week.

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(And we haven’t even touched on a social life yet. I also cram in movies and dinners with friends and hikes and play time with my dog, Billie Jean, too).

This post isn’t a humble brag about how busy I am, I promise! It’s about how I power up to have the stamina for all of this. After all, to power through my workouts and life, I have to make sure I have the energy and feel strong enough and so what I eat is really important—and getting enough protein in my diet is a crucial part of that. Many of us know that protein is essential to our health (it helps boost the immune system and helps to build and repair muscle tissue). And while meat is often what comes to mind when you think protein, dairy is an excellent source of high-quality protein, too.

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How do I get my dairy, which contains two kinds of protein—whey and casein, to help power me through my day? On a regular weekday, I don’t have time to have a huge breakfast, but I do need something satisfying and filling. The solution? One of my favourite breakfasts is Greek yogurt topped with berries and something for a bit of crunch (that might be hemp hearts, nuts or granola). For an everyday snack, I need something I can prepare quickly, so I’ll often just grab some cheese (I always have cheese in my fridge!) and either an apple or some whole-grain crackers. And 50 grams of cheddar contains 12 grams of protein.

When I am training for a marathon, the most satisfying post-workout replenishment, especially so in the summer, is a smoothie with yogurt in it or an ice-cold chocolate milk. I swear that during a long run, it’s probably around the 15k mark that I start craving and salivating about the smoothie or chocolate milk that I plan to have right after that run. Besides being thirst quenching, the protein in these drinks help your muscles to recover more quickly. Research has proven that. And besides protein, milk products also contain up to 16 essential nutrients.

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An interesting fact about protein: Did you know that your body benefits most from protein when you spread out your consumption over your meals throughout the day? It should break down roughly into 30 grams per meal. Which I think works well when it comes to getting your protein from dairy, since I find it easier to incorporate milk products into my meals than meat. The right cheese can top most any dish, for example; I can easily cube some cheese to throw into a salad at lunch or with my eggs in the morning compared to having to cook up some chicken or fish (which I wouldn’t have on hand at home anyways; that’s not how I personally stock my fridge).

Roasted broccoli mushroom mozza frittata

What’re some of your favourite ways to power up with protein through dairy sources? I know I mentioned chocolate milk after a run in the summer, and I’ve now found an option for lunch to warm me up after a run on a cold winter morning: roasted broccoli mushroom mozza frittata. You can find the recipe on dairygoodness.ca (but I’ve also included it here in this post). Round out your lunch with a leafy salad and you’re all set! I’d love to hear about your favourite recipes for fuelling up on protein, please share!

Roasted broccoli mushroom mozza frittata close up

Roasted Broccoli Mushroom Mozza Frittata

Prep time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 40 minutes. 4 servings.

Ingredients

2 cups (500 mL) small broccoli florets
1 cup (250 mL) quartered mushrooms (halved if small)
1 tbsp (15 mL) butter, melted
1/4 tsp (1 mL) pepper, divided
1/8 tsp (.5 mL) salt, divided
6 large eggs
1/4 cup (60 mL) milk
1/2 tsp (2 mL) dried basil or thyme
1 cup (250 mL) shredded Mozzarella cheese, divided

 

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425 °F (220 °C). Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Butter a 9-inch (23 cm) glass pie plate or 6-cup (1.5 L) shallow baking dish.In a medium bowl, combine broccoli, mushrooms, melted butter, and half each of the pepper and salt. Spread on prepared baking sheet. Roast for about 15 minutes or until tender and browned. Let cool slightly. Reduce oven temperature to 350 °F (180 °C).In the same bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together eggs, milk, basil and remaining salt and pepper until frothy. Stir in half of the Mozzarella.Pour egg mixture into prepared pie plate Sprinkle broccoli and mushrooms evenly into eggs, pressing to immerse slightly.Bake for about 25 minutes or until evenly puffed and almost set. Remove from oven and sprinkle remaining Mozzarella on top. Broil for about 3 minutes or until cheese is until melted.

(sponsored)

 

Pilates photos shot on location at Misfit Studios in Toronto. Photographer, Sean Pollock.

 

Leave a Comment December 18, 2017

Foodie Swellness: 3 reasons to celebrate the holidays at The Keg (+ GIVEAWAY!)

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The holidays are all about getting together with friends and family, right? Even though we have all year to get together, somehow we’re all compelled to make the extra effort to reunite this month. I guess we all feel a little more festive this time of year.

If you’re anything like me, you have high standards about where to get together. Throw in just about everyone having some sort of diet restriction, and this can make choosing a place to eat and drink that pleases everyone stressful. And extra stress is not what any of us have on our holiday wish list. Which is why The Keg is a great spot to to celebrate the holiday season–there is something for everyone there.

The Keg bar

I’ve got three reasons The Keg is an ideal spot to get together for your holiday merriment–I even went there for dinner this week with friends to research this (I am thorough, people!):

The Keg crispy cauliflower

1. The menu has so many choices. Yes, the Keg is known for steaks, but there are plenty of other choices, too, such as the pistachio-crusted salmon a few of my friends considered. A few of us wanted escargots to start, but we compromised and got the lobster au gratin special instead, along with the crispy cauliflower, calamari and baked brie (yes, my friends and I have healthy appetites!).

The Keg lobster tails with filet mignon

When it came time to decide, for our mains, we did all end up going with steak (the New York strip loin I ordered was heavenly and cooked perfectly medium-rare). And because two of us were indecisive between beef or seafood, we each added some surf to our steak entrees: I went with king crab (so meaty and delectable) while my friend got the Atlantic lobster tails, which I wanted to grab from her plate, they looked so incredible. You know it’s a good dinner when the conversation lulls because you’re all devouring your food.

The Keg striploin with crab

People with restricted diets can easily find dishes to enjoy, too. The items that are gluten-free are clearly marked (the heirloom tomato and burrata sounds like heaven on a plate); so you don’t have to grill the server about what gluten-free options you have (although they, of course, will gladly answer your questions — we had many about the different cuts of steak and sauce choices). For vegetarians, you’ve got some options, too, but I think the one that sounds most delicious is the cauliflower “steak'; with chickpea and sundried tomato relish and asparagus.

And by the way, if you’re counting calories, those, too, are clearly indicated on the menu.

We also ordered several dessert to share. I was very into the Billy Miner pie (I love mocha ice cream!) whereas my friends really liked the creme brulee, which was incredibly smooth and creamy and which had a slightest hint of salt to balance the flavours.

The Keg desserts

2. Let’s talk about the affordable wine and cocktails at the Keg. No word of a lie, the cost of the wine and cocktails at The Keg had all four of us (1) very surprised, and (2) planning on making it a regular place to meet for drinks. In fact, we ordered a bottle of prosecco to start (which I believe was $26), and then a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon to enjoy with our meal. I usually only order a bottle if I’m feeling like splashing out but with the prices being so reasonable, it just made sense to order bottles.

The Keg dining room

3. The cozy atmosphere. While I’ve been to other locations of The Keg, this was my first visit to the location on King St. West in Toronto. It’s modern and dimly lit and it just feels cozy inside. There’s the sleek bar closer to the entrance; we sat in the dining room in a comfortable booth. The design aesthetic manages to be both refined and comfortable. I’d also say it’s a touch more masculine in design (the dark wood tones, for example), but it’s definitely a place a group of girlfriends would feel at home in as well. It’s a spot that is entirely appropriate for a client dinner and yet also somewhere you can go with a date or out for a fun evening catching up with friends.

Sold on The Keg yet? Guess I’ll see you there. You’ll find me trying the escargots dish we didn’t end up ordering and sipping on some of that delicious, affordable wine!

(And by the way,  if you’ve got a secret Santa exchange you need to shop for, a giftcard to The Keg is something everyone can make use of — with several locations, and all of the reasons above, it’s a stocking stuffer that I think most everyone would enjoy).

UPDATE: I’ve got a $100 giftcard to The Keg to give away! How to enter to win? Comment on this blog post about what you’d order at The Keg! The giveaway ends at noon E.S.T. on Thursday, December 14th. For additional ways to enter, visit my Instagram! The winner will be chosen at random.

Disclosure: I have partnered with YMC and The Keg and have received compensation for this post. All opinions in the post are my own.

 

 

75 Comments December 5, 2017

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