Quorn, Pasta, Mushroom, Pepper and Cheese Treat

So last night we decided to try a variation on an old favorite. When Meg was sharing a house with a young lady named Emily, she was introduced to one of the tastiest and easiest meals in the world.

Dead simple to make and extremely tasty.

It doesn’t have a name although you could call it Emily’s Pasta Dish. The main ingredients for the original dish are bacon, flat mushrooms, green and red pepper, pasta and cheese.

Now just in case you didn’t notice the bacon –which I helpfully highlighted in italics and bold print– I’ll point it out again. This lovely delicious treat has artery hardening, cholesterol raising, heart attack inducing bacon in it.

We decided to substitute the real bacon with Quorn bacon.

Now I don’t know if you remember or not, but I did say in another post that my first introduction to Quorn was not a roaring success. The texture was wrong and it didn’t taste quite right. Interestingly enough it was ham, another pork product, and I had a similar problem with the ersatz Quorn bacon. Meg noticed immediately that it looked more like bacon shaped baloney. I hasten to add it was shaped like English bacon. I had to agree.

Further more, to me at any rate, it tasted like baloney. I consider myself a bit of an expert as I used to dearly love fried baloney sandwiches. I know, you are sitting there thinking, “And this man is surprised that he had a heart attack?” But if you notice the operative part of the sentence is the phrase, ‘used to.’

Now the more crunchy portions of the Quorn bacon did taste a bit like bacon, but the less crispy bits did not. The dish was still enjoyable in many ways, it just did not taste as good as the rest of the Quorn dishes we’ve tried.

I guess there really is no perfect substitute for good old greasy, crisp bacon.

The recipe is as follows –if you are still interested:

4 slices of bacon (real or substitute)

3 – 4 flat mushrooms (by all means use organic ones if you wish)

1 green pepper

1 red pepper

2 – 4 bowls of cooked pasta (we use the twist aka Fusilli pasta, again you can use whole wheat or any variation)

1 tablespoon of Olive Oil

grated light cheese for topping.

If you use American style “streaky bacon” you won’t need to add any oil to your frying pan.

First start slowly frying your bacon in a pan big enough to hold your bacon, mushrooms and peppers.

Start boiling your water for your pasta

While you’re boiling and frying, cut your flat mushrooms into medium-sized pieces and then do the same to your peppers. (I’m sure everyone knows this already but, don’t forget to get rid of the seeds)

Once your bacon is cooked to your level of satisfaction (crispy or not) add the cut mushrooms and peppers.

Continue to cook the bacon with the mushrooms and peppers until done.

Once your pasta is al dente enough drain the water from the pan.

Now drain the excess liquid from the frying pan.

*If you time it right, the pasta and the other ingredients will all be ready at the same time.*

Add your bacon, mushrooms and peppers to the cooked pasta and stir.

Once you’ve plated up the dish, add the grated cheese to taste.

This is a great recipe for students or someone who doesn’t want to spend a long time preparing a delicious meal.

With real bacon or fake bacon and lovely dish.

Please excuse the blurriness of the photo, I was starving and had a hard time holding my phone still!

There is one thing I need to mention. The Quorn bacon might not have tasted like real bacon but, the dish was a lot “cleaner” with it. Making the dish with real bacon is “yummier” but “greasier.” It’s really up to you whether or not you use real Porky Pig bacon or not.

If you try it out, let me know what you think of it. Is it better with real bacon or did you prefer the imitation bacon.

Healthy Heart Lasagne or Tastes Good & Good For You

My lovely assistant (actually Meg was in charge, there’s just not a picture of me doing anything).

If these pictures look a little fuzzy or a bit out of focus, it’s because I was weak from hunger while we labored our way through the first of my ‘healthy heart’ meals that were on my new FLORA proactiv (cholesterol lowering butter replacement) recipe booklet.

Out of all the recipes listed, the Winter Vegetable Lasagna looked the most straightforward and easy to follow. Amazingly it was fairly easy to prepare, although getting the ingredients was a little challenging.

Now I don’t know what classifies as “winter vegetables” where you live, but over in the UK it’s veg of the root variety. Parsnips, sweet potatoes, swede, carrots, onions, and so on. All of these bar the swede were used in the lasagna and the only ‘non-root’ vegetable was the red pepper that the recipe called for.

Now I will hold my hand up and state quite loudly that I like my vegetables. Not as much as meat though, there’s just something about tearing at the cooked flesh of most animals with my teeth that appeals to the Neanderthal in me. Unfortunately since my “life changing event” in August I’m having to rethink my mealtime choices.

One of the first things that the pharmacist gave me when I went in for my first wheelbarrow full of pills and potions that my new condition required was a recipe book. It does have quite a few little healthy meals in it and if you’re interested they also have a website with loads more recipes and food ideas to tempt your taste buds. FLORA.com just click on the link and have a drooling look or two at what’s on show.

The recipe is simple and easy (it really is, otherwise I couldn’t have helped at all) just have a look:

Preparation time
35 to 40 minutes
Cooking time
35 to 40 minutes
Serves
4
Course
Mains and soups
Main ingredient
Vegetables
Ingredients:

2 tbsps olive oil
1 red onion, peeled, cut into wedges
2 parsnips, peeled
1 sweet potato, peeled
2 carrots, peeled
1 courgette
1 red pepper, diced
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp oregano or thyme
6 sheets no-cook lasagna
25g (1oz) Flora Buttery spread
25g (1oz) flour
350ml skimmed milk
55g (2oz) reduced fat Cheddar cheese, grated
½ tsp English mustard

The recipe won’t tell you, but these puppies need roasting for about 45 to 50 minutes.

Method
1. Cut the parsnips, sweet potato, carrot and courgette into chunks and place in a roasting tin. Add the onions and pepper, drizzle with oil and roast in a preheated oven at 180˚C (fan assisted)/gas mark 5 for 25 to 30 minutes or until cooked.
2. When cooked, mix with the tomatoes, tomato purée, chilli powder and herbs.
3. Meanwhile prepare the sauce by placing the Flora Buttery spread and flour into a saucepan. Add the skimmed milk gradually, constantly stirring over a moderate heat. Bring to the boil.
4. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until smooth and thickened. Add half the cheese and the mustard.
5. Assemble the lasagna by placing half the vegetables in a ovenproof dish, cover with three sheets of lasagna and top with half the sauce. Repeat layers ending with cheese sauce.
6. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and return to oven for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown.
Now the only thing we left out was the English Mustard. We also added a bit of extra cheese. The mustard was left out because Meg’s not a huge fan of the taste and the extra cheese was to meet my culinary requirements.

The smell while the vegetables were roasting prior to adding the cheese sauce and the lasagna sheets was maddening. If I could figure out a way to include the aroma here, I would.

I will warn you that the measurements are English measures. If you look on the net though you’ll find quite a few different sites that will convert those pesky “foreign” measurements to something that US kitchens can use. I’d convert them myself, but hey, I never claimed to be Martha Stewart.

But do take that extra minute or two to get the measurements converted and don’t be tempted to just use the existing recipe as is. Trust me when I say, it won’t taste the same and it may even not be edible.

The end result is an aroma to die for and a taste that (for me anyway) is surprisingly delicious.

Scrumptious

The recipe states that it will feed four folks and it probably can. It certainly stretched to two meals for Meg and me. There is also a menu for homemade garlic bread but, as we did not prepare that, I’ve left it out.

You can find that recipe, along with the one for the lasagna on the website I linked above.

I was a bit leery about the new dietary requirements that awaited me after my heart attack but I think that I can relax a bit. If only a few recipes are as good as this one, I think I’m going to like my new menus and my heart will hopefully thank me.

So Long Taste Buds My Old Friends

Slightly better than connect the dots.

So, it’s been over a month now since my ‘life changing’ heart attack and resultant two surgeries (one of which was an emergency). My scars are now looking more like pink ‘stretch-marks‘ and less like a Frankenstein cross-stitch. I have lost weight (this is a good thing according to my doctor) and I’ve got my first follow on appointment with my cardiologist/surgeon.

I no longer smoke cigarettes, relying instead on nicotine patches and ‘harmless’ e-cigs which have no nicotine and gives me the ‘placebo’ of inhaling something non carcinogenic and that isn’t just air. So far my cravings for the old demon weed is non-existent. To be honest though, the best deterrent in the world is that sensation of acute pain brought on by a heart attack.

When I was discharged from the hospital, my cardiologist explained that I could eat whatever I wanted and as much as I wanted. I was ‘healing’ she said and my body needed all the nutrients it could get. My new diet would start later after I’d gotten back on my feet.

What no-one explained was that when I first got out of the hospital, everything I ate would taste like ash. Salt, which had been my lifelong friend, burned my mouth and other spicy things that I had grown to love now tasted horrid. I soldiered on and kept trying to eat to heal.

Unfortunately, the other thing no one warned me about was my loss of appetite. Oh my spirit was willing alright, but, the room just wasn’t there. It’s like they’d taken my stomach in an inch or two while they worked on my leaky pipes and clogged arteries. I just didn’t have enough space in there to eat anywhere near the amount I used to.

But good things come to those who wait and my taste buds soon regained their old habits (except for the salt thing, it still burns my mouth). I started craving certain spices and foods that had long been on my favorite list.

Then?

Tragedy struck.

I went to my first appointment with my local cardiologist. It had been decided that my recuperating period was over. Now I had to start eating healthily and I needed to avoid foods that I’d eaten all my life.

Steak, bacon, pork chops, cheese (unless it’s in the form of cottage cheese) and most forms of red meat were verboten.  Butter, chips (aka french fries) anything fried (unless it was done in olive oil and then only lightly) or anything that even remotely resembled tasty food.

My recovering heart sank as the list of bad foods got longer. I could see a future of tofu, soybean meat substitutes and vegetables that I don’t even like to look at let alone eat.

I was given a list of ‘heart clubs’ and a couple of booklets with ‘healthy dishes’ in them for future reference. I also had been told I needed to contact these clubs for support. I felt that I’d been sentenced to a life of bland.

I don’t know what it is, but they say it tastes like chicken.

Fortunately for me, I don’t eat that much red meat. Chicken is eaten on a regular basis. Fish is eaten quite a lot as well, but not in the oily category. Mackerel, Herring and  Eel are too smelly and rich for my taste buds. Tuna and sardines are alright but I wouldn’t go out of my way to eat them.

I haven’t been brave enough to look at all the recipes in the booklet yet. I have had a glance or two inside one and the first thing I noticed was a cheerful picture of an aubergine aka eggplant. My blood curdled. If ever there was a more disgusting tasting vegetable than the eggplant (actually as I set writing this, I think that cooked celery might just tie the aubergine for disgusting)…

Don’t get me wrong, I do like vegetables and quite a lot of them. Unfortunately the way I like my veg is drenched in salt and butter. Neither of which is on my list of foods to eat.

I know, I’m moaning and whining about a very little thing here. It was my prior eating habits and lifestyle that got me hospital bound to start with. I will say though, with not a trace of embarrassment or regret, it does seem like I’m still being penalized for that old life style.

It sort of makes me think of that old joke. You know the one, I’m sure. An old guy is setting outside the town’s barbershop and he’s telling a group of young men how to live longer. “You don’t smoke, drink or chase wild women,” he says. “And you’ll life longer?” One of the young men asks. “No,” replies the old man, “You just feel older.”

Watch out for them wild women boy.