Hi there, I'm Leels, a hardcore gamer and passionate cook. I cooked professionally for a good 6 years of my life out in Vancouver BC, making a variety of foods, developing and testing recipes for a small catering company/cafe.
I’ve gotten more requests for one pan meals so I threw this together inspired by something similar I’ve had before.
A hearty pasta meal that you can throw together in about 20 minutes, that you can customize a few ways depending on preference/available ingredients. At the end of the post I’ll include some substitutions for inspiration!
Be sure to use low sodium chicken stock and season at the very end as the liquid will reduce significantly and you can overdo it with the salt!
What you need:
8 oz spicy or sweet italian sausage, removed from casing
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, finely diced
1/2 tsp chili flakes (optional)
1 1/2 cup orecchiette
2 1/2-3 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 cup asparagus, sliced on the bias into 1″ pieces
1/2 cup grated pecorino romano or parmesan cheese (the good stuff!)
handful flatleaf parsley, minced
salt and pepper to taste
In a large saucepan (make sure it’s deep enough!) or wide bottomed pot begin sauteeing italian sausage over medium heat until it begins to brown. I don’t add any oil since it’s generally very fatty but if you have leaner meat add 1 tbsp of a neutral flavoured oil to get it started.
Add garlic, shallot and chili flakes and continue to sautee until translucent.
Add chicken stock and scrape bottom of pan to get those tasty brown bits and add orecchiette. Stir to combine and lower heat slightly to continue simmering but not a hard boil, place a lid on top but don’t completely cover, leave a gap for steam to escape.
Let simmer for 18-20 minutes or until stock has mostly absorbed and pasta is al dente. If your pasta is underdone, or dry just adjust, add a bit more stock and continue to cook until desired doneness.
Remove lid and gently stir in asparagus. Cook for 1 additional minute. Season to taste.
Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 of grated cheese and minced parsley. Stir gently and divide into bowls. Serve with additional grated cheese on top!
You can endlessly sub out the protein, vegetable or pasta types with this recipe, so make it your own!
For the protein try chicken, pancetta, or go vegetarian and sautee some wild mushrooms. Use any hearty vegetable like broccoli, peas, green beans or stir in spinach/arugula at the very end instead. Use any shape pasta you like, keep in mind that larger sized shapes may require more stock.
I had the craziest craving for carrot cake (probably from all of these blogs posting Easter recipes) so I decided to throw together one for myself. Not a cake-cake because I didn’t want to fuss with layers and have that much. Just a denser blondie type batter with all the flavouring and carrots required.
Feel free to add raisins or swap the pecans for walnuts.
What you need:
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 cup finely grated carrot
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/2 cup unsalted butter
8 oz cream cheese
2 cups sifted powdered icing sugar
1-2 tbsp milk
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large bowl mix melted butter, sugar, and eggs until smooth. Add carrot. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking powder, spices and salt. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet and mix until just combined. Stir in toasted pecans.
Line a 9×9 brownie pan with parchment paper, and pour in batter.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until lightly golden on edges and baked through.
Let cool completely.
In a large bowl combine butter, cream cheese, icing sugar and salt. Mix and gradually add milk to desired consistency.
Spread cream cheese icing over cake with an offset spatula. Place this cake in the fridge for a few minutes to set up the icing before slicing.
If you wish, set aside some extra icing to use for decorating. I dyed some orange and red and we piped a few carrots on top.
One pot/sheet pan meals have been on my blog “to-do” list for a while, I asked on instagram what people wanted to see and was asked to make one so here we are!
There are a million similar recipes to this, but this one is my version. I tried to make it in as few steps as I could, but still trying to allow each ingredient to shine. Sometimes one pan meals meld together a little too much and everything is a bit samey.
Tender savoury potatoes, juicy herbed chicken and some bright roasted vegetables topped with feta. Lots of garlic, a pop of lemon and fresh rosemary make this one a keeper!
The key to these types of recipes is to make sure you cut everything appropriate to it’s cooking time. Potatoes take the longest, so you want them thinner, chicken needs to be an even thickness and size, and the vegetables not too thin so they wont overcook and become mushy. I keep potatoes to around 1/2″, either halving them or cutting into slices. If the tomatoes are small enough I leave them whole, and match the rest of the vegetables to their size. You get the picture.
This makes 4 dinner sized servings, or is great for meal prep!
What you need:
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or breasts) approx 4oz each
1 lb baby potatoes, halved or sliced
1 medium zucchini, large diced
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, left whole or halved
1 small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
juice of half a lemon (save other half for garnish)
1/4 cup crumbled feta
Preheat oven to 400F.
Prepare a large sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper (foil if you don’t have any).
In a small bowl mix oil, garlic, rosemary, oregano, salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl place potatoes, add 1/3 of oil mixture, mix and place at one end of the baking sheet.
Add lemon juice to the oil mixture and whisk to combine. Add vegetables to the same large bowl and add another 1/3 of the oil mixture, mix to coat and place at opposite end of baking sheet.
Lastly add chicken to the same bowl and add the remaining oil mixture. Toss to coat and place in between potatoes/vegetable mixture in a single flat layer.
Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes, or until potatoes have cooked through and chicken is done. After the 35 minutes, turn on broiler to brown everything slightly on top, 2-3 minutes depending on your oven (keep an eye on it!!)
Remove from oven and crumble feta on top of the vegetable mixture. Sprinkle with additional fresh herbs if you have any and lemon slices. Serve!
You’ll notice in this recipe we do not add lemon juice to the oil/lemon cooking marinade for the potatoes. You don’t have to do it this way, but I find the potatoes crisp up a bit more if it’s just the oil mixture. If it’s more convenient to mix the lemon juice in at the start, it will still be delicious! You can even skip the bowl part and toss everything together on the sheet pan. You do you!
I wanted to share my favourite meal-prep recipe that I make weekly that’s been keeping me sane. It’s not one of those hyper “clean” recipes or anything, but it has whole wheat pasta, lean protein, broccoli and it’s approx 350 calories per serving. It is comforting and filling which is all I can really ask for as a frequent binge eater and deep lover of carbs.
Personally, I find I’m so much more successful when I meal prep in a realistic sense. No absolutes, no extreme restriction or deviation from what I would normally eat. Focusing on lower calorie/workarounds to enjoy the things I normally would in a controlled manner. It’s something I can maintain long term instead of forcing myself to get through some crazy restriction heavy diet.
You can swap out literally almost everything in this recipe to make it your own, change the spices, the pasta shape, vegetable, try a different sauce etc. Your calories may differ slightly but you just need to adjust the math!
Per serving I try to portion like this:
2 oz dry whole wheat pasta (200 calories)
1 cup frozen broccoli (20-30 calories)
2 oz lean ground turkey (60 calories)
2 tbsp taco spice (15 calories)
1/4 cup low sodium light alfredo sauce (45 calories)
salt and pepper to taste (but be mindful, alfredo and taco spice generally has a lot of salt already)
You then just cook each component in bulk depending on how many servings you want to make. I usually make around 4-5 servings worth at once. Divide equally into containers and you’re good to go.
I highly recommend using a kitchen scale for this as everyone’s “cup” scoop can differ significantly.
I also prefer to keep the pasta sauce in a separate compartment or corner of the container, otherwise the pasta will absorb some of the sauce while storing and won’t give you a nice reheated dish.
Do you meal prep? What’s your favourite thing to make?
I don’t eat enough lentils even though I love them. They’re such a useful protein source and make THE BEST meatloaves/meatballs. This is an offshoot of one of my older recipes: The Best Lentil Meatballs with a few adjustments, feel free to try that recipe as well, it’s great! And if you do, you can always just sub leftovers from that into this recipe.
You can make this recipe vegan if you want, either omit the cheese or if you can find a vegan cheese that melts/caramelizes well use that! The cheese just adds a layer of flavour and fat but it will still be delicious without.
It might seem unnecessary to prep and bake the lentil mixture before adding it to a liquid tomato sauce, but it really helps with the end texture. Cooking off additional moisture prevents the final product from just being soup and allowing the cheese/lentil to crisp lightly adds another layer of flavour.
The lentil ground recipe is a completely separate recipe as well, that you can use anywhere you’d replace ground meat. It’s especially delicious in tacos!
Makes about equivalent to 1 lb of cooked ground “meat”
1/2 cup dried lentils (1 1/4 cup if you’re using canned)
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup finely grated cheddar or mixed cheese (really whatever you have)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Begin by prepping the lentil mixture. In a large pot of boiling water, add dried lentils and cook about 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender and a lot of liquid has absorbed, you should be able to crush a lentil between your fingers. It’s fine if you overcook this. Preheat oven to 400.
Strain lentils and allow to cool slightly. Add to a large bowl and mash either with a fork or potato masher until lentils are a lumpy mashed potato texture. This doesn’t need to be smooth, just smashed up a bit. Add tomato sauce, oats, cheese, garlic, parsley, cayenne, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
On a parchment lined baking pan, lay out lentil mixture into a 1/2″ even layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes until lentil mixture has lightly browned, and the cheese has melted. Let cool.
Set aside and prep rest of sauce.
This mix is really tasty as is, please refrain from picking at it and eating all the delicious crispy bits as you prep your pasta sauce like I do.
It’s really good!
What you need for the sauce:
6-8 servings of sauce
1 tbsp oil
1/2 white onion, coarsely chopped
1 small carrot, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
14 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2-3 leaves fresh basil, minced
2 tbsp fresh oregano, minced
In a large pan over medium heat add oil, onion, carrot, celery and garlic. Sautee until cooked through and onions are translucent.
Add lentil ground and mix thoroughly, cook for about 1-2 minutes. Since there is both oats and cheese in this mixture, if you’re using a stainless steel pan it will stick to the bottom, don’t panic! The liquid we add will help it lift up.
Add can of tomatoes, about 1/2 to 1 full can of water and bay leaf. I start with 1/2 a can of water first, you just want it to be fluid enough to simmer/bubble a bit. Too dry and you’ll just burn the sauce.
Lower heat and cover leaving a gap for steam to escape. Let simmer for about 30 minutes.
Remove from heat and taste! Season liberally with salt and pepper to taste. We wait to season at the end as the oats and lentils will have absorbed additional liquid and that can concentrate things making them too salty if we season it before cooking.
Serve with your favourite pasta (I used pappardelle) and sprinkle with fresh basil/oregano. Have some parmesan or romano cheese as a garnish as well!
This recipe makes a LOT of sauce, and it also freezes well, so if you don’t end up eating it all, throw it into a ziptop container and freeze. You can use this in many different pasta dishes, or throw it on pizza or flatbread!
You might be looking at this asking yourself “what and what chicken?” but trust me if you haven’t yet been introduced to either za’atar or harissa, it’s beyond worth it, and may become a new family favourite.
So, what are they?
Za’atar is a middle eastern splice blend containing thyme, oregano, marjoram, or some combination thereof, mixed with toasted sesame seeds, sumac and salt. It’s herby, savory and the sumac gives it a lemony tang. Delicious on grilled meats, baked on top of breads, in dips or sprinkled on anything.
Harissa is a Tunisian red pepper paste. Spicy with roasted red peppers giving it some sweetness, chilis, garlic and spices. Great as a condiment or for cooking with. I love putting it in shakshuka or “eggs in purgatory”.
Combine both and put them on chicken? Yes please!
You can find these both online, in Mediterranean specialty shops or even your local grocery store. I’m lucky enough that my large chain shop actually carries more than one type of harissa!
Give your za’atar a taste before using as the amount of salt in the mix, if any, may vary. Adjust the amount of additional salt added if needed. (This is the one I’m using: link here)
I also add a bit of potato starch/corn starch to this. It won’t completely crisp these (unless you deep fry.) but it gives it some body, helps everything adhere to the chicken and will have some crunchy bits.
What you need:
1 lb boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite sized chunks (feel free to just sub wings here)
1 heaped tbsp of za’atar
1 tbsp honey or agave
1 tbsp mild harissa
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp potato starch or corn starch
Preheat oven to 400, and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl combine all ingredients and mix.
Place in an even layer on the baking sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken. It should be cooked through and lightly browned. If you chose to use bone-in chicken wings, this will take 20 minutes longer. Cook until the skin is crisp and fat is rendered.
I like to sprinkle a little bit more za’atar on the top at the end and serve. They are saucy and flavourful enough that they don’t need any dipping sauce, but you can always serve them with a side of extra harissa.
It’s bento time! I was sent one of these lovely boxes to try from Tavva Kitchen and I couldn’t resist since I’ve been making bentos and cute lunches for my husband. If you didn’t notice, you’d better follow my instagram!
I grabbed their deluxe lunch container, it’s a cute single level stainless steel box with a silicone lid, they come in different shapes and sizes as well. Their label states that everything is food grade and bpa/bps free. Dishwasher safe and a lifetime guarantee. Not bad for a container that we generally look at as a temporary vessel. It’s sturdy, the steel doesn’t feel flimsy or like I’m going to dent it in any way. The lid is thin but strong feeling enough, and grips around the rim of the steel bottom, I don’t think it’d pop open very easily and is as well sealed as most plastic containers.
It says leak free but I wouldn’t put soup or anything liquid in these, best for sandwiches or bentos. Not to mention you cannot microwave in this. It’s fairly deep, and good for a healthy portioned lunch or snacks. As you can see I’ve fit about 1 cup of cooked rice, veg, half an egg and a few ounces of pork.
Personally I like this, and it’s useful for those times where I feel like I can’t adequately fill a two level bento. Seems a good investment if you’re avoiding plastics and making bento boxes or healthy meal prep.
Steel can sometimes stain or corrode (even stainless steel) I haven’t put anything acidic in this or washed it a few times, that’s generally when you know if it’s good or not but they definitely feel sturdy and higher quality. I’ll keep an eye on it and update in the future if anything changes, but so far so good!
It’s the New Year, and that means we’re all trying to get back on track once again. When we’re eating mindfully, I try to have some sort of breakfasty thing pre-made that my husband can grab and take to work, and to have something around if I need a snack midday. I have an older recipe for another style (link here) but honestly I think I like these best!
I’m really trying to cut down on fake sugars and trying to fit more vegetarian/vegan options in, so these are the perfect choice without rocking the boat too much. These vegan and oil free cookies are subtly sweet, warmly spiced with perfect little pockets of tartness from the cranberries.
This recipe makes 6 breakfast sized cookies, perfect for a quick guilt free breakfast with a coffee (they come out to around 275 calories per cookie).
Feel free to sub out the 1/2 cup of cranberry with an equal amount of your favourite nuts/seeds/dried fruit, along with any additional spices. These are endlessly customizable!
What you need:
3 cups rolled oats
2 medium ripe bananas
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
Preheat oven to 350C.
In a large mixing bowl mash bananas. Combine remaining ingredients and mix.
On a lined baking sheet scoop into 6 large cookies. Form them gently into discs with damp hands and press down lightly to flatten.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cookies are cooked through and lightly browned on the outside.
Let cool completely and enjoy! Store them in an airtight container, they’ll last a few days but are always best in the first few. You can also freeze this and bake as needed.
We all love garlic knots, and pull apart Christmas tree bread has been all the rage lately, so why not combine the two?
This is far from an original idea, but I thought I’d throw one together anyway (and eat it all, y’know, for science).
You can make this recipe volumes easier by subbing out store bought pizza dough or biscuit dough, but I’ve provided a recipe in case you wanted to make the effort. Store bought would still be immensely delicious, so don’t feel bad if you wanna save yourself some time during the usual holiday insanity.
I prefer to use the cheaper, shelf stable plastic container of parmesan, it adheres easier to the knots and looks more like snow! If you wish to use the good quality stuff, add it to the knots before baking, it wont look like snow but it’ll be much tastier. Otherwise those shreds will not stick to the knots and will look greasy at room temperature.
What you need:
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4-ounce packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons salt
3 tbsp salted butter
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup grated parmesan
Jarred marinara, ranch or anything fun for dipping
Add sugar, yeast and warm water to a mixing bowl or stand mixer. Let stand for 5 minutes to activate yeast. Add olive oil, flour and salt and mix.
Knead mixture for about 10 minutes, until dough has removed from the sides of bowl and is a cohesive, but still slightly tacky ball. If your dough still feels too wet, add flour gradually until it’s the appropriate texture.
Toss dough around in oiled bowl, and cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
Prepare a large baking sheet with non stick parchment paper. Do not use wax paper or tin foil. Once dough has risen, divide into 15 2oz balls on a floured surface, or whatever size you wish. I made fairly large garlic knots, but you could make them even smaller.
Roll dough into a 6″ log, loop into a basic knot and tuck the two ends underneath itself. Place in tapered rows, forming a triangle tree shape.
You can be as creative with your tree as you wish. Smaller garlic knots, more rows, braids, have fun with it!
Once you’ve arranged your Christmas tree shape, cover dough with liberally oiled plastic wrap and let rise once again in a warm spot. Another 45min-1hr. Make sure wrap isn’t too tight or touching the knots as it may hinder it’s rise.
While dough rises a second time, preheat oven to 425F.
In a pot or small microwaveable dish, place garlic and butter and melt. Do not add parsley at this time.
When dough is ready, brush with half of butter and garlic mixture. Place in oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. If you made smaller garlic knots, it should take less time so keep an eye. Everyone’s oven is different and garlic is easy to burn, so use your eyes and your nose!
Remove bread and brush with remaining garlic and butter. Sprinkle liberally with parsley and parmesan.