Zucchini and Olive Pasta Bake

It’s SUMMA TIME and there’s an abundance of zucchini! Zucchini is delicious fried, roasted, in a fritter, and in salad, but today we’re using it in a Pasta Bake. Our guest star is the olive, which adds so much dang flavour into the sauce. If you’re not a fan of olives you can leave them out, but you don’t know what you’re missing. Don’t be a party pooper and just throw them in there!

We’re using my fave kitchen tool again- the amazing veggie peeler- to create little zucchini rolls for the bake.

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The pasta that I used was Go Go Quinoa brand macaroni, and it usually takes about 4 minutes on the stove top to cook. I baked it in the oven for 10 minutes, and it was just slightly past al dente. So if you’re using just regular wheat macaroni or small shells (you don’t want to go any bigger with your pasta selection) that normally take 7-9 minutes to cook in boiling water, I bake them for 10-15 minutes for an al dente texture. My recipe below doesn’t account for that, so just keep in mind what kind of pasta you’re using when baking this bake.

And that concludes my Ted Talk about how great this pasta bake is! DEFINITELY try it out and let me know what you think because it is now officially one of my favourite recipes. Here it is!

Zucchini and Olive Pasta Bake

Serves: 3-4

Total Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1/2 a red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 200 ml can of sliced black olives, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup Go Go Quinoa Macaroni **see note above if using a different pasta**
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add in the sliced onions and cook until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, then add the beans, olives, tomatoes, basil, oregano, balsamic vinegar, chilli flakes, and some salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and then turn the heat to low and cook for 25 minutes.
  2. While the sauce is simmering, use the veggie peeler to create as many zucchini ribbons as you can. The centre part of the zucchini, where the seeds are, won’t make nice ribbons, so you can dice it up at toss it in the sauce, making sure it has at least 10 minutes to cook in there.
  3. Add the macaroni into a small glass loaf pan or baking dish. Roll up each zucchini ribbon into a little rosette and place evenly spaced out in the pasta, like this:
  4. Once the sauce is done simmering, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Add the 1/2 cup of water to the sauce and bring it to a hard simmer before removing it from the heat. Scoop enough of it into the baking dish so that the pasta and zucchini are fully covered, about 2-3 cups of sauce. You may have some sauce leftover that you can eat with the pasta after it’s baked or save for later.
  5. Cover the glass dish with foil (shiny side down) and bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and enjoy!

Hope you like this pasta dish! See you Wednesday;))

Yours Truly,

Olivia;)

The Fantasy Lover’s Book List

Hi guys! It feels like it’s been so long since I’ve done a book post, so I’m back with one today. I’m SUPER excited because fantasy is my absolute favourite book genre. There are so many great fantasy series out there, and these are definitely at the top of the list of books I’ve loved reading the most. They’re full of adventure and really allow you to escape into them! Summer is a great time to lie outside in the sunshine with a good read, so stock up on some of these novels and enjoy!

Throne of Glass Series

This is my second all-time favourite series, just a smidgen beneath Harry Potter. It has pretty much all I want in adventure novels; a great heroine, lots of action, twists and turns, and some royalty. I would give a LOT to read these books for the first time again! They feature Celeana Sardothien, who is an ex-assassin brought to compete in a series of challenges to become the king’s champion. (The king is a bad dude, by the way). But there’s a bigger evil force at play and she needs to delve into her past (queue a MAJOR plot twist- I won’t spoil it though) and she gathers a whole bunch of interesting characters to help fight it. This is a lengthy series but it’s so well done, and there’s so many little side stories and pieces of background information that come together beautifully at the end. These books are definitely must-reads!

Red Queen Series

I read these books a while back but I really enjoyed them. They have a bit of a futuristic/sci-fi spin, which is pretty cool. They take place in a world where some humans have evolved to have awesome powers and silver blood. I wish. Everyone else with ordinary red blood are ruled by those with silver. A red-blooded girl named Mare is revealed to have powers too, and the king is like, not cool man, so he betroths her to his son and calls her a long lost silver princess to cover it up. Mare has to survive in the world of silvers and, as the series goes on, a crazy war that’s started after some twists. Be sure to check these out!

A Court of Thorns and Roses Series

These books are by the same author as Throne of Glass, and I have to say I like Throne of Glass a bit better. This series of four books is still pretty good though. It starts off as a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but then it gets a bit darker and features betrayal and some shocking reveals, as well as some magical lands (which are always awesome). I enjoyed the adventure and plot line of these books a lot, but there was a little too much romance for me.

Six of Crows Duology

This is a set of two books that I want to read again soon because I remember really loving them! They’re about a group of criminals who get offered a crazy amount of money to pull off a heist. These books are great because the characters are developed so well and they each have their own kind of backstory, which adds so much. And it’s still set in a magical destination with magical stuff going on, so you get your fantasy fix. 10/10 recommend!

Three Dark Crowns Series

Finally, we have the Three Dark Crowns series, which is the one I finished the most recently. I really enjoyed all of the folklore and magic and mystery in this series! It’s about three sisters that are destined to fight to the death to become the Queen of the island of Fennbirn. There’s people with magic powers, rebellion, plot twists, and so much more in these books! You should for sure check them out.

Hope you got some great summer reading ideas! I love all of these books so much and this made me want to revisit some of them;) See you on Friday!

Yours Truly,

Olivia

2 Summer Smoothie Bowls

Smoothie bowls are my ABSOLUTE favourite breakfast! They’re so refreshing, and make me feel like I’m having a treat on vacation somewhere. You can pack a bunch of veggies in there without even noticing, and the topping combos are endless. ENDLESS!

It took me a while to get the perfect smoothie bowl thickness, but I think I’ve finally cracked the code. You want to have the ingredients as cold as possible, and limit the amount of watery fruits that you put in your smoothie. The base of all of my smoothies is a frozen banana, because that’s what makes them thick and creamy. If you don’t like banana you can try using mango, because I’ve found it has a similar effect. The ingredients might take a little while to come together in the blender, but eventually they’ll form a mixture that’s almost like soft serve in texture. Using a tamper is critical here, because you can continually push the ingredients towards the blender blades.

In this post, I’ve included two different recipes for summer smoothie bowls, because I couldn’t decide which one to pick! One has banana, berries, and spinach, and the other has banana, spinach, kale, and watermelon. Yum! My watermelon didn’t get completely frozen, and so the result was a slightly more watery smoothie bowl. Make sure that you leave it in the freezer at least overnight! These recipes are definitely some of my favourites though, because they TASTE LIKE SUMMER and allow you to get some greens in!

Lets talk toppings. Really anything goes when you’re topping your smoothie bowl, but some ideas are more fruit, granola, dates, nut, seeds, and nut butters. I like a few different toppings on my bowl because it keeps things interesting. Some granola recipes that go GREAT on smoothie bowls are my Nutty Granola and Chocolate Coconut Granola. I’ve also been known to top my bowls with a Seedy Energy Square or two….. it’s so good!

I hope that these recipes get you hooked on smoothie bowls!

Berry and Spinach Smoothie Bowl

Serves: 1

Total Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

For the Bowl:

  • 1 frozen banana (sliced)
  • 3/4 cup frozen blueberries
  • 3/4 cup spinach (not packed)
  • 2 tbsp water

For the Toppings:

Directions:

  1. Add all of the smoothie ingredients to a powerful blender and blend on low, using the tamper to push the ingredients down.
  2. Once the ingredients are starting to come together, turn the speed to medium and continue using the tamper. It may seem like you need to add more water, but continue until a thick, soft-serve like mixture forms. This can take a few minutes.
  3. Scoop the smoothie into a bowl and top with the strawberries, granola, and peanut butter.
  4. Enjoy!

Greens and Watermelon Smoothie Bowl

Serves: 1

Total Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

For the Bowl:

  • 1 frozen banana (sliced)
  • 3/4 cup frozen water melon chunks
  • 1/2 cup kale leaves (loosely packed)
  • 1/2 cup spinach (loosely packed)
  • 1 tbsp water

For the Toppings:

Directions:

  1. Add all of the smoothie ingredients to a powerful blender and blend on low, using the tamper to push the ingredients down.
  2. Once the ingredients are starting to come together, turn the speed to medium and continue using the tamper. It may seem like you need to add more water, but continue until a thick, soft-serve like mixture forms. This can take a few minutes.
  3. Scoop the smoothie into a bowl and top with the chopped dates, granola, and peanut butter.
  4. Enjoy!

I know I’ll be enjoying these bowls all summer long! Thanks for reading and I’ll see you Wednesday:))

Yours Truly,

Olivia

Thai Ribbon Salad

Hey there! Today I have a quick and easy recipe for you guys that you can just throw together and top with whichever protein you’d like! This Thai Ribbon Salad looks super fancy, but all you need is a veggie peeler and some veggies and you can whip it up in a snap!

In this salad I used zucchini, which is one of my favourite summer vegetables, along with cucumber, carrots, and bell peppers. Top it all of with some spinach, crispy quinoa, sunflower seeds and a protein of your choice (salmon goes amazing in this salad), and you’ve got a perfect summer salad!

Did I not mention the dressing yet? Because it’s AWESOME. I used the peanut dressing from my Asian Kale and Quinoa Salad with Peanut Dressing. I had to put the dressing in the name because THAT’S HOW GOOD IT IS. I’ll link to the recipe in the ingredients down below. In the meantime, lets get to the salad!

Thai Ribbon Salad

Serves: 2

Total Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1 carrot
  • 1/2 a cucumber
  • 1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 2 tbsp quinoa (optional)
  • 1 batch of Peanut Dressing
  • Protein of your choice (optional)

Directions:

  1. Using a veggie peeler or mandolin, slice the zucchini, cucumber, and carrots into thin strips. Start by dragging the peeler down the outside of one side of the veggies so that you don’t get a piece of all skin in your salad. Then continue to drag the peeler down lengthwise to create thin pieces. Once you’ve reached the middle of the vegetable, you can turn it around and repeat on the other side. It might be hard to get all the way through the middle of the veggies, so you can save that part for a lil snack later;)
  2. Toss the veg with the peppers, spinach, sunflower seeds, quinoa, and dressing. Top with a protein of your choice (or leave as is) and enjoy!

Hope you like this simple summer salad!

Yours Truly,

Olivia

Stove Top Baked Beans

Hey guys! The weather is finally getting nicer and nicer, and I’m really starting to miss those summer barbecues! While we’re all stuck at home, you can still have a taste of summer time. These Stove-Top Baked Beans bring together caramelized onions, garlic, vinegar, and spices to make the perfect side dish.

I feel like all of my recipes are super versatile right now, because it can be hard to get super specific ingredients. You can use pretty much whatever canned beans you’d like in this recipe. I used black beans and red kidney beans to keep it interesting. Beans are so good man! They’re definitely underrated but are a great source of protein. In this dish, they’re great as a side with another protein, or just with some pita or bread. The recipe below makes a pretty big batch, which you can always halve if you don’t want to make too much. Or double it and freeze some for later- I haven’t tried that yet but I’m sure it would be great for when you’re in a pinch and are craving some beans. And lets be honest, that was me all the time before quarantine started. Now I’m still carving beans but I have more than enough time to make em.

I also caramelized the onions more than usual in these beans, to give them extra flavour. You want them nice and soft and brown. Maple syrup gives this recipe some sweetness, and red wine vinegar cuts through the sugar. The result are some seriously good beans! And since I made them on the stove they take less time to make as well. How can you go wrong? Here’s the recipe.

Stove Top Baked Beans

Serves: 8 as a side (I have a lot of bean eating to do)

Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 a medium sized yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp shawarma spice (or use smoked paprika)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne powder
  • 2 cans of beans, drained and rinsed (I used black and red kidney)
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent, about 6 minutes. Add in the shawarma spice or paprika and cook for an additional 5 minutes, until the onions are soft and caramelized. Add water or more oil if the pot starts drying out.
  2. Put the beans, tomatoes, vinegar, maple syrup, cumin, and cayenne pepper in the pot and stir until combined. Bring the mixture to a simmer and then turn the heat to low.
  3. Cover the beans and let them cook for about 20-30 minutes. Remove from the heat, season liberally with salt and pepper, and enjoy;)

Hope these beans transport you to an awesome summer BBQ!

Yours Truly,

Olivia;))))