Last week I attended an evening with, who I called Canada’s Chef, Michael Smith. Part of our swag bag included a signed copy of his new book. I promised to make a dinner from his new recipes and the other day, I did. He doesn’t include a vegetarian section of the book, but there are several vegetarian recipes scattered throughout. The book’s intent is to encourage people to start cooking at home. He wants people to see how easy (and fast) it is to make food at home using simple ingredients and also how important it is to eat together at the end of the day. He also wants us to eliminate processed foods from our lives. In our house, we have always eaten together as a family. In April 2012, we decided to become weekday vegetarians. My husband and I agreed that if we were going to live with a healthier diet, it had to be completely. So… out went the processed foods and juice boxes and packaged treats for lunch boxes. It was a bit of a food revolution in our house. Almost half a year later, we are still weekday vegetarians and our children are much more used to eating diverse and flavourful foods without meat. Sometimes I get a “can I have a cheese string like my friend in class” or “why don’t we have yogurt drinks anymore?” but most of the time, a quick explanation and a healthy alternative to what they’re looking for does the trick!
I decided to try Smith’s Stove-top Mac and Cheese with Broccoli and the Pan-Stewed Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Chickpeas. This was after gymnastics so there was a bit of a rush to get food into bellies – these recipes were fast! Smith also encourages his book be used as a starter for cooking to be adjusted to your palates and ingredients on hand. Use the book to inspire you but don’t follow it exaclty – I made my stove-top mac and cheese with orange cauliflower that I picked up from the farmer’s market instead of the broccoli. My son is going through a green-thing right now. The pan-stewed zucchini, tomatoes and chickpeas was out of this world delicious.
Pan-Stewed Vegetables & Chickpeas
The only way I altered this recipe was by cooking it a bit longer than he said as I had time to spare while I got the mac ‘n’ cheese ready, using cherry tomatoes and adding shaved parmesan on the top for a little bit of oomph. Adapted from Michael Smith’s Fast Flavours.
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2-3 large zucchini, sliced
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 cloves of local garlic, sliced
- 1 can of cherry tomatoes
- 1 can of organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 Tbsp dark balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
- shaved parmesan
- In a large pan, heat your olive oil on medium-high and place the onions, garlic and zucchini in the pan, allowing it to soften and get some colour. Careful not to let it burn.
- Add the tomatoes and chickpeas and warm through. Then, add your oregano, vinegar and salt and pepper. Reduce the heat, cover and allow to cook until whatever else you’re cooking is done. If you like it saucy, you can stop the cooking after the additions, but if you would prefer a drier “stew,” cook longer until the liquids get evaporated.
Stovetop Mac & Cheese with Cauliflower, adapted from Michael Smiths’s Fast Flavours
Here, I changed the amount of butter (it was too dry and I couldn’t get the “paste” he was looking for), I added smoked paprika to the dish, I omitted the hot sauce and, I changed the broccoli to orange cauliflower. All in all, it was delicious and way better than the boxed varieties!
- 3 Tbsp of butter
- 1 clove of garlic, pressed
- 1/3 cup of flour
- 2 cups milk (2%)
- 1 can evaporated milk
- 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 large bar of old cheddar cheese, about 500 grams, shredded
- 1 lb elbow macaroni, enriched
- 1 1/2 cups cauliflower, broken into small pieces
- Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.
- In another large pot, melt the butter and quickly cook the garlic until you can smell it but not letting it brown. Add the flour and cook until it comes together. Add the milk and whisk until the “sauce” thickens.
- Add the pasta to the water and cook for 6 minutes. Add the cauliflower and cook the pasta for another 6 or 7 minutes, until the pasta is how you like it (we don’t like it al dente, we like it done a little more) and the cauliflower is cooked through. Continue with your sauce.
- Whisk in the mustard, paprika and salt and pepper. Sprinkle in the cheese and stir until melted.
- Drain the cooked pasta and cauliflower and pour it into the sauce pot. Stir together and serve!
Not sure if you want to buy the book? Watch the show on Food Network Canada first or get it from your library! Regardless, if you can cook at home, avoid processed foods and eat together, you’re already on the right path!