Category: Main Dish

Sanity-Saving One Pot Pasta

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Life is beautifully full these days. Between caring for an energetic toddler and running my own business while attempting to carve out some time to cook, have a social life, exercise, pursue creative things and do laundry? It’s full-on. And wonderful. And then there are days when I feel that I may just lose it.

We were sitting down to dinner the other night, to a very simple meal that I had thrown together in a mad dash. My husband took a few bites, looked up and said: “This is really, really good.”
“Really?” I asked in disbelief. “I actually cooked the whole thing in 10 minutes and in the same pot” (a triumph for me – I’m a bit of a tornado in the kitchen).
“This is the kind of thing you should blog, Sarah. People like simple things.”

Not that I had forgotten this fact, but I also feel the need to like, blow your minds most of the time. Or at least attempt to, ya know? This was not a blow-your-mind kind of dinner. It was made on a busy weeknight from stuff we had in the fridge and pantry, while a hangry 2-year-old clung to my bare legs since he had already pulled my pants off. If this situation sounds familiar, this dinner will be your new go-to. It’s simple, fast, easy, and most importantly, very delicious. Just because you’re going insane doesn’t mean that you’ve lost all sense of taste. In fact, saving one’s sanity often hinges on proximity to good food, as evidenced by post break-up ice cream binges, and bad-day-at-work pizza parties. I get it.

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Legume-based pastas have been popping up in regular grocery stores all over Copenhagen lately, and I am loving them! They are made from just legumes (red lentils, green peas, adzuki beans etc.), they cook in about 6 minutes and contain unbelievably high amounts of protein and fiber, thanks to the only ingredient being, well, legumes. Although I have some “rules” in my diet which exclude most things that I couldn’t recreate in my own kitchen, these pastas are a serious life-saver when I don’t have a ton of time to make dinner, and a seriously great alternative to wheat pasta. I will compromise a little when my sanity is on the line, won’t you?

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The brilliance of this dish, besides the fact that it is so fast to make, is that it’s cooked in just one pot! Although it differs from the one-pot pastas I’ve seen online where everything is cooked together from the beginning, my version requires a little bit of timing on your part, adding the asparagus and peas about three minutes before the pasta is cooked. Theoretically, you could toss everything together in the same pot from the get-go, but this produces overcooked veggies, and no one really digs that.

You can use any legume-based pasta you like this, in any shape that appeals to you. And, you can really pick any seasonal veggies that cook in the same amount of time or slightly less than the pasta. It’s great with broccoli, sweet potato, green beans, zucchini or snap peas. I even enjoy this dish cold – so it’s the perfect make-and-take meal for a picnic dinner.

If you are not vegan, this is delicious with some grated Pecorino Romano grated in, or crumbled feta.

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Show me your pasta on Instagram: #MNRsanitypasta

Chickpea Tortilla Nachos

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Chickpea Tortilla Nachos

My husband and I come from two different worlds: a potato chip world and a tortilla chip world. I distinctly remember the moment we realized this, on our honeymoon, deep in a Whole Foods vortex deciding which chips to buy for our three-week road trip across California. We were undoubtedly surprised and perhaps a little dismayed that we had committed our lives to each other without discussing this one rather important preference, but in the spirit of everlasting love and compromise, we pretended like it was no big deal. We bought two bags of chips and ate them separately. We remain happily married to this day.

I guess growing up in North America has had a real influence on me (shocking, I know). Tortilla chips and salsa was a classic childhood snack, especially at backyard barbeques, birthday parties and sleepovers. We would take a family-size bag out on picnics, road trips, and sometimes my dad would toss a few in my lunchbox, right beside the Wonderbread sandwich and fun fruits. Not joking. Anyway, I don’t really eat a lot of chips these days (another shocker), but that doesn’t mean that the occasional one doesn’t somehow sneak past my lips from time to time. I’m only human.

Chickpea Tortilla Nachos

This idea to make tortilla chips from chickpea flour literally came out of nowhere. I don’t even remember what I was doing when the lightening bolt struck me, but it was fast and furious and I dropped absolutely everything to make them immediately, almost like I didn’t want the inspiration to get away on me! Thirty minutes later, the chips were in my belly. So fast and easy, I couldn’t believe it. Which lead my overly-excited mind, hepped on folate and molybdenum, to turn towards nachos. I mean, why wouldn’t I go there?

These chickpea tortilla nachos are crisp and golden, just like tortilla chips, but with a more satisfying and substantial heft to them, delivered by pure chickpea goodness. They are so filling and rich that it’s impossible to overeat them (that is not a challenge). And with really just two ingredients, how can you go wrong?! I’m going to experiment with making large rectangular flatbreads out of this dough too, which will be prefect for lunches, maybe with some seedy add-ins, spice blends, and I am dying to try a Doritos knock-off! I have a Cool Ranch makeover itch that needs to be scratched, if you know what I’m sayin’.

Chickpea Tortilla Nachos

Snack smarter!
If you’re an enthusiastic snacker like myself, you’ll relate to the challenge in finding snacks that are balanced, healthy, and actually sustain you for some time until the next meal. “Food satiety”, is the measure of how full food makes us feel and how long it keeps our appetite at bay. Although calories definitely contribute to the of feeling fullness, a high calorie count does not always reflect the satiating power a food has. Factors that effect food satiety also include fiber, protein, and water content. And it is surprising that high fat foods, which are typically very caloric, tend to have lower satiating power.

Because of their high fiber and protein content, along with their remarkable ability to stabilize digestion, chickpeas and things made with chickpea flour (like these chickpea tortilla nachos) fall into the category of serious filler-uppers, even though they only contain a moderate amount of calories. It’s a win-win. One serving of these chips (about one-quarter of the recipe / 12 chips) delivers 11 grams of protein (!!!) and 5 grams of fiber for under 300 calories. Not that I am a numbers girl at all,  it can be helpful to take note of these things, especially if you are someone interested in weight management.

Other snacks that rank high on the food satiety scale are popcorn, pears, raspberries, oatmeal, beans, avocado, and chia seeds. Fill up on these guys to get, well, full.

If you’re buying chickpea flour for the first time, know that it’s available at most health food stores and natural grocers, where it can sometimes be sold under the names garbanzo bean flour and cici flour. Your most reliable source however, is an Indian grocer or market, where it is typically labeled besan or gram flour

Chickpea Tortilla Nachos

So yea, nachos. The chips kind of demanded it. And I had more legal fun making a mountain of food than you could ever imagine. Layer upon layer of black beans, lime, avocado, onion, toasted pumpkin seeds, chili…bah! And the cilantro avocado crema is soooo delicious – not essential – but a major flavour and texture bonus. You can dollop it throughout the nacho pyramid as you build, kind of like tasty spackle, or put the crema into a squeeze bottle for drizzle fun. Everyone loves drizzle fun. The plate comes together like you’re witnessing some sort of awesome miracle take place, and then you get to eat it.

And just for the record my potato chip-loving husband devoured these tortilla chips. He would like to add that he is not a convert, just appreciative.

Chickpea Tortilla Nachos

I hope you guys dig this recipe as much as I do. These chips are going to be a new staple in my house! I can’t wait to really start playing with different flavours and add-ins – let me know if you do the same.

xo, Sarah B

Show me your chips on Instagram: #MNRchickpeatortillachips #MNRnachos

Sri Lankan Beetroot Curry & Kale Mallung

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Beetroot curry

Where do I even begin?

I guess I’ll start by saying that I feel like I am waking up from the most spectacular, flavourful, technicolour dream. Sri Lanka deeply touched me, from its incredible landscape, beautiful people and of course, the food. The food! The food.

When I was first invited by Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts to go on a food tour of Sri Lanka, I was a bit uncertain – to be honest, I didn’t know anyone who had visited Sri Lanka before, and I especially had no idea what the cuisine was like. I assumed that it was probably very much like Indian, but what I discovered is that it has its own totally distinctive flavours and cooking techniques.

Sri Lankan people are very passionate about their food and the culture around it. From my perspective, they seemed especially connected to the earth and the bounty that springs year-round from their incredibly fertile land. Many of the world’s spices are grown on the island, so you can imagine how rich and complex their traditional dishes are. Sri Lankan food is also hot. Like, crazy hot. Chilies play a dominant role in everything from curries to relish and are accompany every meal of the day – even breakfast. An interesting way to start your morning, I might add, is being startled awake by an explosive plate of food. And with coconuts quite literally dripping from the trees everywhere you look, the backbone of many Sri Lankan dishes, both savoury and sweet, is coconut water, milk and flesh. Heavenly. And a welcome antidote to all that chile.

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Rice and curry is a Sri Lankan staple, and in fact the word “food” there is synonymous with this combination. Happily for me, there are countless vegetarian and vegan options to choose from. My favourites were jackfruit curry (mindblowing!), cashew curry (yes, a whole pot of cashews cooked in coconut milk), wingbean curry, mung bean curry, eggplant curry, lentil curry, and pumpkin curry. But my favourite curry of all? Beetroot curry. Surprising, eh? The first time I was offered this dish, I kind of thought that it was an accommodating east-west mashup or something, but no! It’s a thing. And a wildly delicious thing at that. I never imagined combining beets and coconut before, but it works incredibly well. The earthiness of the beets contrasts perfectly with the sweetness of the coconut milk, and the beets are neither crunchy or mushy, but a perfectly balanced succulent-tender texture that pairs so well with rice.

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The other major love affair I had in Sri Lanka was with all the little side dishes that come with the curries themselves: sambol and mallung (or mallum). Sambol is like a relish, typically based on freshly shredded coconut (but not always), with a featured vegetable, along with chilies and lime. Pol sambol (coconut sambol) is ubiquitous and served at every meal I can remember. It varies in spiciness from table to table, but more often than not I couldn’t eat more than a couple teaspoons with my curry – which was already insanely hot enough, thank you.

Mallungs are “green dishes” made with cabbage, kale, broccoli, beans or other leafy veg. These are always cooked without any oil, and instead use just the heat of the pan and a little bit of water to steam the vegetable – a groovy technique in my opinion. Spices are used in mallung as well, and vary from recipe to recipe. They can be served warm or at room temperature, almost like a lightly cooked salad.

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Curry leaves are an essential ingredient in Sri Lankan food. Many people are confused by this name because they associate curry with a spice blend, and assume that curry powder must then come from dried and ground curry leaves. In truth the word curry vaguely refers to a dish prepared with spices, but means very little to Indian or South Asians, where “curries” originate.

Curry powder is largely a Western creation, and should in fact be referred to as masala, meaning a spice mix. Most curries in Sri Lanka rely on whole spices, not ground or pre-mixed ones, so that the cook can balance flavours according to his / her tastes.

Anyway, back to the curry leaves. Small, dark green and glossy, they are deeply aromatic with a distinctive savoury-smoky scent that is difficult to describe. And no, they don’t smell like curry powder – we’ve already established that. They can be difficult to find fresh here in Copenhagen (and I would imagine, many places in the world!), but dried ones are available at most ethnic grocers or specialty shops. With about half the pungency of fresh curry leaves, the dried ones are an okay substitute if that’s all you’ve got, but do try and seek out some fresh ones – you’ll never look back! Plus, if you find them fresh, you can easily freeze them until your next curry.

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It was very difficult to decide what kind of Sri Lankan dish I would post first (oh yea, there’s more to come…) but I chose beetroot curry and kale mallung because they are both relatively seasonal here in Denmark, and because I think that both of these recipes take us out of our comfort zone with familiar veggies, and make use of entirely unique cooking techniques. You’ll find both applications totally surprising, I guarantee that, and I hope that they inspire you to make curry out of things you wouldn’t normally, or try an oil-free, steamy stir-fry. Yum town.

There is so much complexity and diversity to Sri Lankan food and I am forever inspired. I cannot wait to go back to this enchanted island to explore, and eat, once again.

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A huge thanks to Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts  and Sri Lankan Airlines for making this incredible trip possible!