Lasagna Bites

LasagnaBites1

It’s that time of year again. Holiday celebrations are upon us and with them comes an abundance of decadent and delicious foods. Snacking becomes a way of life, doesn’t it? Forget having 1 thing for your meal when you can have bites of 10 different things! Add these lasagna bites to your menu and they are sure to be a hit, even with the spiteful drunk uncle who hates seemingly everything about life. Wonton wrappers are baked in mini muffin tins to form little vessels which are then packed with cheese and meat – and then topped with more cheese. Need I say more?

LasagnaBites2

Lasagna Bites
 
Author:
Recipe type: snacks, appetizers, game day food
Serves: 36-48 bites
Ingredients
  • 500 grams ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning blend (mixture of dried herbs like rosemary, thyme and oregano)
  • ¼ cup whipping cream
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 package wonton wrappers
  • shredded mozzarella (2 cups or as needed)
Instructions
  1. Heat your oven to 400F. Place wonton wrappers into a mini muffin tin and back until slightly golden around the edges, about 5-10 minutes.
  2. To make the cheese filling, combine the ricotta, parmesan and nutmeg, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. To make the meat filling, sear off the ground beef over medium/high heat until golden brown. Add in the shallots, breaking up the beef into small pieces.
  4. Season the meat with Italian seasoning and salt and pepper to taste. Add in the tomato paste and cook until fragrant.
  5. Finally add in the cream and allow the mixture to reduce slightly. The sauce should remain relatively thick.
  6. To assemble, take your pre-baked wonton shells and add about 1 tsp. of ricotta filling to the bottom. Then add about 1 tsp. of meat filling on top. Top each with a pinch of shredded mozzarella cheese.
  7. Bake again at 400F until golden and bubbly, about 15 minutes. Finish by broiling to ensure a golden brown exterior. Enjoy!

LasagnaBites3

Vegan Chocolate Muffins

Vegan Chocolate Muffins

Vegan Chocolate Muffins

Holy moly what a week. It probably would not have been so bad had I actually studied for my midterms during “Reading” Week but I opted to watch the Olympics 24/7 instead which I guess is my own fault. Then the Blacklist returned Monday night which meant that another hour of potential studying was shot. Did I mention that my new life goal is to be Agent Keen when I grow up? I’m not kidding. My stress levels definitely were not helped by the fact that the steering went in my car either. Seriously, you do not realize how important power steering is until it is gone. Every time I drove it was actually an arm work-out just trying to turn the wheel. But, I can happily say that I managed to overcome all of the aforementioned obstacles and successfully (well I guess we will see about that when I get my marks) completed all of my midterms. I think some chocolate is in order.

Funny how quickly things change. At the beginning of this week I was ready to ditch sugar.   I seem to go through these cycles where I get really down on my eating habits and decide to overhaul them. This time it didn’t last very long. Within 12 hours I had already decided that it was not worth it and went reaching for a caramel. The thing is, when you look at the big picture, my diet is not unhealthy. I eat a ton of fruit and vegetables, especially as a vegetarian. The problem is that I have this habit of sucking on candy. It may only be 5 or 10 pieces a day, but over the course of a week, or even a month, that is a lot of sugar. So I make up my mind that it has got to go, only to find myself re-incorporating it into my diet. Somehow I was able to give up meat without any issues but when it comes to even just the slightest amount of sugar, my will power is virtually non-existent. Then I ask myself the basic question, “What would I gain if I gave it up?” I would probably drop a couple of pounds eventually (apparently changing your caloric intake by only 100 calories per day can lead to weight loss), not that I am trying to accomplish that. I always find myself validating the habit via what I call the “enjoyment principle”. I ask myself if I am happier with sugar than without it and the answer is invariably “yes”. Thus having determined that the pros outweigh the cons, I continue on with my candy-eating ways.

It still rides me though because otherwise, my diet is the picture of health. No pop, chips, french fries, none of that. I have not eaten it in years. More than anything, I think it bugs me because it is contradictory to everything I believe in (can you say high-fructose corn syrup?). And I still do it. But if you don’t enjoy life, what’s the point? It really reinforces my mantra that as humans, we don’t just eat to satisfy hunger. If that was the case, none of this would be a problem. Food is both social and pleasurable – or at least I think it should be. As long as I have that mentality, I don’t think my habits will be changing anytime soon.

Since I am staying on the sugar bandwagon, let’s make some vegan chocolate muffins for a little weekend treat. They are super moist and stay that way for a couple of days, thanks to the addition of mashed banana (although it does not obviously contribute to the flavour). Not that they are going to last for a couple of days. Actually I hate that cliche. Doesn’t everyone say that? “Oh it makes x amount and keeps for this long but that won’t be a problem because it will be consumed almost instantaneously.” It makes us sound like we are all malnourished and starving. So scrap the first part, let’s take the time to savour these muffins. Let them last for as long as you want to. Until they start to grow mold that is, then I would recommend trashing them.
Vegan Chocolate Muffins
Vegan Chocolate Muffins

5.0 from 3 reviews
Vegan Chocolate Muffins
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Makes 10-12 muffins
Author:
Recipe type: dessert, snack
Ingredients
  • 1½ cup all purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ¼ cup neutral flavoured oil (vegetable, canola, safflower, etc.)
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tbsp. cider or white vinegar
  • ½ cup vegan chocolate chips
  • turbinado sugar, as needed
Instructions
  1. Heat your oven to 350F.
  2. Line 10-12 muffin cups with liners.
  3. Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and chocolate chips. In a separate bowl whisk the oil, water, banana, vanilla, brown sugar and vinegar until it is as smooth as you can get it (there will probably still be some lumps from the mashed banana, no worries).
  4. Mix together the wet and dry ingredients. Whisk until smooth, you don't want any lumps of flour or cocoa. The original recipe calls to pass it through a strainer if there are still lumps but I feel that this is a bit extreme. If you want to, all the power to you though.
  5. Portion the batter into the lined muffin tins. Leave them about ¾ full, you want some room for them to rise. Sprinkle the tops with turbinado sugar, if desired.
  6. Bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick/skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool and eat!

Vegan Chocolate Muffins

Vegan Chocolate Muffins

Candied Squash Seeds

I have an interesting relationship with pumpkins and their seeds. As kids, we would carve a pumpkin every Halloween and my mom would roast off the seeds with just oil, salt and pepper. This sounds good in theory but I can say that years later, there are still only a few things I hate more than sticking my hands in a pumpkin and scooping out its slimy guts. I cringe just thinking about it. And that smell? Ugh I just want to gag. Actually I think it is the smell over the tactile experience that really does me in. Which makes sense actually because the chemical receptors in our noses that detect odour connect to the olfactory bulb which then connects to the amygdala in the brain. What does this mean in English? Essentially the amygdala is one of the key centres in the brain when it comes to the emotional salience of memories. Thus certain smells can actually conjure up specific memories. So when you hear people saying that a batch of cookies brings them back to their grandma’s kitchen as a little kid, there is some scientific truth to it.

Candied squash seeds

To bring this all back to pumpkins, when I cut one open and smell it, it is just like I have been transported back to my kitchen a few days before Halloween and immediately my stomach turns. This applies to squash too. See then when I smell the seeds roasting, I am really conflicted because as much as they smell good, it still reminds me of that raw pumpkin stench. I know, I should probably see a psychologist and have this dealt with.
I would like to say I am going somewhere with this, but I’m not really. It has gotten better over the years, I am not as repulsed as I used to be but it’s definitely not my favourite smell in the world. Baring this slight phobia in mind, it is perfectly logical that I would roast off a kabocha squash and candy the seeds, no? I candy nuts and seeds all the time but this was my first time applying the technique to squash seeds. That being said, I think it made the grossness of dealing with squash guts totally worth it. Crystallized sugar gets me every time. I think I can actually eat these candied squash seeds. Moral of the story; the ends can justify the means. If you don’t like an ingredient, make something really delicious with it and that can all change.
Candied squash seeds
Candied Squash Seeds
Ingredients
seeds from one squash (or pumpkin), be that kabocha, acorn or butternut, cleaned and dried off
about 1/2 cup white sugar
a splash of water
Instructions
1. Put the sugar in a saucepan with a splash of water, just to help it dissolve. This technique is similar to the beginnings of a caramel but you actually want the sugar to crystallize. Cook the sugar over medium/high heating, stirring as much as you want until it becomes thick and bubbly.
2. Once it looks somewhat white and crystallized, add in the pumpkin seeds. Continue to cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it goes from shiny and syrupy to dry and sandy. You will know the seeds are done because they will stop sticking together and separate into individual nuggets of seedy sugary delight.
3. Toss the candied squash seeds into a bowl and allow them to cool slightly before consumption. They can be eaten as is are used as a garnish for salads or even fall desserts. Also, they will keep well in an airtight container for about 1 week.
Candied squash seeds