Butternut Squash, Kale and Caramelized Onion Lasagna

Hello wonderful people!

Here in Ontario it appears that winter was not quite ready to move on, as we got one more cold spell and even some snow over the weekend. The forecast is calling for a few more days of cold, and then the temperatures are expected to start to rise again, thankfully! Spring and summer – you’re welcome to make an appearance any time now!

Although I tend to hide inside on these these chilly, snowy days and don’t get to enjoy much of the outdoors, one perk is that I do find myself spending a little extra time in the kitchen trying to come up with fun new recipes. I love running my culinary “experiments” on days like these, and it’s even more exciting when the result of the experiment is actually a tasty one haha!

Take for example the recipe I’m sharing with you today: my Butternut Squash, Kale, and Caramelized Onion Lasagna – a delicious and healthy vegetarian dinner option. I wasn’t sure how this would go and whether the ingredients would come together to compliment one another, but fortunately they did. This lasagna is packed with fresh and nutritious veggies, and black beans for some extra fiber which aids digestion and helps you to feel full for longer. I used Blue Menu brand whole wheat lasagna noodles (more fiber – yay!), along with low sodium pasta sauce, and finished it off with a bit of herbs, spices, walnuts, and cheese.

BN squash kale onion veg lasagna 1
Butternut Squash, Kale, & Caramelized Onion Veggie Lasagna

This recipe is relatively easy to prepare, delicious and filling (with all that fiber!), and will keep well for about 4 to 5 days if stored in an air tight container in the fridge. It does take a little more time to prepare – about 1.5 hours – but I assure you, it’s totally worth it! As always do try to use fresh, local, and organic ingredients when possible to get the greatest nutritional benefits from your food.

Butternut Squash, Kale, & Caramelized Onion Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 12 whole wheat lasagna noodles (I use blue menu)
  • 1 medium butternut squash (about 4 to 5 cups), peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
  • 1 large red onion, sliced vertically
  • 4 cups fresh kale, washed and chopped (use spinach if preferred)
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 (19 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed (I like the PC Blue Menu kind)
  • 1 (650 mL) jar low sodium pasta sauce
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1.5 cups Asiago or mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 3 Tbsp chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp olive oil

Method:

  • Drizzle a rectangular (13 x 9 x 2 inch) baking dish with about 1/2 tbsp olive oil and set aside. Preheat oven to 375*F.
  • Soak lasagna noodles in cold water for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl gently stir to combine black beans and ricotta cheese, set aside.
  • In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat and add in onions. Saute for approximately 10 minutes, or until beginning to soften. Add in butternut squash and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium, cover and continue cooking for about 10 to 15 minutes stirring occasionally, or until the squash begins to soften and is slightly brown.
  • Add in kale and garlic, sage, oregano, and parsley, stirring gently to combine. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook about 5 minutes more or until kale is slightly wilted. Remove from heat.
  • Layer 1: Pour 3/4 cup (about 1/3 of jar) of pasta sauce into baking dish, smoothing out to cover bottom of dish. Arrange 4 lasagna noodles over the sauce, then top with 1/2 of the veggie mixture, then 1/2 of the ricotta cheese black bean mixture.
  • Layer 2: Cover with 4 more noodles, 3/4 cup pasta sauce, then remaining 1/2 veggie mixture, and 1/2 cheese black bean mixture.
  • Layer 3: Cover with 4 more noodles, then remainder of pasta sauce. Sprinkle Asiago or mozzarella cheese over top, then walnuts, some fresh ground black pepper and a sprinkle of parsley.
  • Bake covered for about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and uncover. Bake for about 5 to 10 minutes more, or until top is slightly brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before serving.
  • Smile, think of one thing for which you’re grateful, and ENJOY! πŸ™‚
BN squash kale onion veg lasagna 2
Slice of delicious & healthy Butternut Squash, Kale, & Caramelized Onion veggie lasagna with a side of greens + simple olive oil & balsamic vinegar dressing from The Pristine Olive

I hope you’ll enjoy this hearty and healthy veggie lasagna as much as my family and I did; It’s the perfect meal for a chilly day, and is sure to warm and fill up your bellies and hearts, too!

Wishing you health and happiness,

XO Julie

Cashew Crusted Cod & Mushroom Kale Quinoa

Hello Lovely People!

I hope you’ve all been having a wonderful week. Mine has been a productive yet hectic one between meetings with students, and writing a manuscript for submission to a scientific journal presenting my findings from a study I did on the effect of oxytocin on pro-inflammatory cytokines and sickness behaviour. With any luck (finger crossed) it will get accepted and published.

We’ve been getting a lot of snow here in Ontario and the temperatures have dropped again so it’s pretty chilly. I recently decided I’d like to learn how to snowboard, and having acquired a snowboard and boots from my wonderful aunt I think there will finally be enough snow on the ground for me to go out and give it a try. Should be interesting… dun dun dunnn lol.

Calvy hasn’t been enjoying the weather much. He loves to get outside and play. So with all of this snow he mostly lies around and sleeps, has a few rowdy spurts here and there throughout the day where he bolts around like a maniac, and snacks. He will be happy when spring is here and he can spend all day outside, hunting leaves and such heh. Oh to be a cat.

Calvin + Little Dragon 2016
Calvy and his bff, Little Dragon, relaxing inside on a cold winter day

I’ve been keeping on track with my Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide fitness program which I recently started, and so far I’m really enjoying it. I like that it’s challenging yet quick (each workout is only around 30 minutes), as this approach compliments my busy schedule very well. Another plus is that it can be done at home and requires minimal special equipment, which I really like as I’m not a fan of going to the gym and prefer to do my workouts alone. I’m certainly feeling (and starting to see) the results of this program!

My healthy eating has been right on track too. Interestingly, I find this healthful practice much easier to be consistent with than I do exercising. My assumption is that since I’ve already established the habit of healthy eating and cooking for myself, it has become ‘second nature’ to now engage in healthy dietary practices. Not to mention coming up with fun, nutritious meals is a great break from all the writing I regularly do, especially lately!

As you may have noticed I mostly stick with vegetarian-type dishes because well, meat doesn’t really appeal to me. But occasionally I do like to enjoy some fish or seafood. One awesome recipe that I love to make which isΒ  quick and delicious, yet healthy is Cashew Crusted Cod with Mushroom Kale Quinoa!

Cashew cod + quinoa
Cashew Crusted Cod with Mushroom Kale Quinoa

Based on ingredients I had at the time I actually adapted my version of this recipe from the original “Almond Encrusted Tilapia” which I found on a wonderful blog called Fit Foodie Finds. I’ve tried the Almond Tilapia recipe and it’s super tasty as well, so if you’re a fan of tilapia please check this one out. However, I for whatever reason seem to prefer the cod-cashew combo (ha! try saying that five times fast). I find the cashews add a little extra sweetness to the cod, and I prefer the taste of cod a bit more than tilapia.

The fish only takes about 10 minutes at most to make, while the mushroom kale quinoa takes maybe about 20 minutes (and can be prepared ahead of time if need be and then warmed up). Equipment wise, you’ll only need some type of food processor for the cashews (I use a Magic Bullet). Alternatively, if you don’t have a food processor you can put your cashews into a plastic bag, wrap it in a dish towel, put it on the floor and stomp on them (yes, I’ve done this before haha). I know this sounds ridiculous, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and this honestly does work (albeit not as well) if you find yourself without a food processor. Not to mention if you’re feeling stressed and agitated stomping on some cashews may help to alleviate these feelings in a more productive way πŸ™‚

Alright, enough chit chat. As always try to use fresh, local, organic ingredients when possible. Here’s how you make 2 servings of my Cashew Crusted Cod and Mushroom Kale Quinoa recipe:

Cashew Crusted Cod

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cod fillets, defrosted (if using frozen)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted cashews, ground
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • fresh ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice, divided (approx. 2 lemon wedges)

Method:

  • Drizzle both sides of cod fillets with olive oil, then coat the side of the fish that’s facing you with ground cashews and a pinch of black pepper. Meanwhile heat coconut oil in a pan over medium-high heat.
  • Place fish in pan with the cashew crusted side down, then top the uncoated side (that’s now facing you) with remaining cashews and a bit of black pepper.
  • Cook fish for about 2 or 3 minutes then flip. Continue cooking for about 2 minutes more, or until fish flakes with a fork and cashew crust is golden brown on both sides.
  • Remove from heat and spritz with fresh lemon juice. Serve hot and enjoy!

Mushroom Kale Quinoa

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 cups fresh kale, washed & chopped
  • 3 – 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1/4 cup onion, diced
  • 1.5 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 – 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice (optional)

Method:

  • Cook quinoa according to package directions, then set aside.
  • Meanwhile heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add in onion and saute for about 5 minutes, or until starting to soften. Reduce heat to medium and add in garlic; saute about 2 minutes more.
  • Add in mushrooms, kale, turmeric, a pinch of salt, and pepper. Stir to combine, cover and cook over medium heat stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes,Β  or until the mushrooms and kale begin to soften.
  • Remove from heat, add in warm cooked quinoa, and stir to combine (Note: If you’d like a little citrus flavor, spritz a bit of fresh lemon juice on at this time)
  • Think of one thing for which you’re grateful, smile, & enjoy!
cashew cod + quinoa 2
Yummy Cashew Crusted Cod + Mushroom Kale Quinoa

Here you have it folks: a quick and nutritious meal that’s easy to prepare and oh-so-yummy! This one’s perfect for a busy weeknight, since it won’t take a lot of time to prepare. To make things even easier, try having your veggies prepped in advance and ready to go. You could even cook your quinoa ahead of time, then simply reheat it when adding it to the veggies!

For those of you with little ones, the cashew crusted cod recipe can easily be adapted to make a healthy version of fish sticks for the kids by simply cutting the fish into strips, then prepare and cook them in the same way. This is a much healthier and more nutritious (and better tasting!) option compared to the processed stuff you find in the frozen isle of the grocery store.

On a final note: this meal is also dairy and gluten free! Turns out quinoa is actually not a grain, but rather a pseudocereal seed. However, issues with gluten can come into play when quinoa has been processed in a facility alongside grain products. More on this can be found here. Thus, when purchasing your quinoa just be sure to look for that which has been processed in a grain free facility or that is certified to be gluten free.

Well it’s about time for me to get back to writing up that manuscript. Until next time, happy eating, folks! πŸ™‚

xo Julie