Category Archives: ideas

Fall favourite – beef stew with heirloom vegetables

Fall is one of my favorite seasons. The smell of the leaves, the colours, the cold air that makes your cheeks a bit rosy when you’re walking outside. I absolutely love everything about it. Also fall is a great time to start using my slow cooker. If you don’t have one, or if you have one that is gathering dust somewhere, trust me when I say this is one of the best kitchen tools you can have. You can make chili, sauces, soups, stews, even desserts!

We were at the market and there were tons of gorgeous heirloom vegetables, I thought they would be perfect to make some stew. Local heirloom vegetables are gorgeous and taste amazing. We assume carrots are only orange but they can also be red, black or yellow. Beets are not just red they can be orange or yellow too. Visit a farmer’s market and try some of the unique varieties available.

I cubed some beef, and coated in flour, then placed in the slow cooker while I diced the veggies.

 

Add the chopped veggies and two cups of stock (beef or vegetable). Also add cracked pepper, a pinch of salt, Worcestershire (tablespoon) and a few dashes of tabasco. The veggies I used are carrots, onion, peppers, garlic, potato, turnip, beet and possibly one or two veggies that were in the bushel I forgot about (but tasted amazing!)

Mix everything and add the lid. Cook on low for around 7 – 8 hours while you’re at work or 4 hours on high.

Cold weather food is just one of the many reasons I love fall, and I’d like to share a new reason I adore this time of year. Fall is beautiful, comforting, and a great time to gather with family and friends. September of next year, Andrew and I will be holding a small gathering in my hometown – our wedding! Hopefully I will be able to share some of our wedding planning and food ideas once we wrap our heads around all of it. What I do know is that there will be candy apples and a red velvet wedding cake, and that I’m beyond thrilled to be marrying my best friend in less than one year.

Have a great day, and if you get a chance go outside and enjoy the fall – I suggest a comfy sweater and reading a good book on a park bench.


Aged cheddar mac and cheese with pancetta

I love everything about fall; the leaves changing colour, cozy sweaters, sipping hot chocolate and warm comfort food. Homemade macaroni and cheese is one of my favorites, and adding a bit of pancetta makes it even better. I think aged cheddar works best, since it’s the main ingredient. When you’re making recipes with very few ingredients, you should try to pick the best quality ingredients you can so that the flavours really shine through.

Grate 1 1/2 – 2 cups of aged cheddar, and chop 1 lb of pancetta. Set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan. Add two crushed cloves of garlic, cook for one minute then add the chopped pancetta. Cook for two minutes, and add a tablespoon on flour to thicken.

Slowly add 1/2 cup of cream and 2 tsp of mustard (I like Dijon) to the pan and mix thoroughly. Add the grated cheddar bit by bit and mix to incorporate into the sauce, fully melting the cheese. If the sauce is a bit thick add a bit more cream. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Add the macaroni to the pan mixing to coat the pasta evenly. Serve immediately.

Best enjoyed with your favorite beer while wrapped up on the couch in a cozy blanket and watching a movie. (Bonus points if it’s a “cheesy” movie). 😉

Enjoy!


Easy weeknight cream cheese pasta

When the weather starts to get cooler, pasta is a great comfort food.  It’s also really easy to make after a long day, and there are so many recipes out there to choose from.

We made a delicious cream cheese pasta the other night, and it was the perfect dinner to eat curled up on the couch with a movie.

What we did

Boil the pasta. When the noodles are halfway cooked, heat a pan on medium and saute garlic in a few tablespoons of butter. (Use as much or as little garlic as you like. I prefer 3-4 cloves, but only if someone else is eating it too. Then we both have garlic breath.)

Add chopped green onions to the pan and heat for a minute.

Add one package of cream cheese, a pinch of sea salt, and lots of fresh cracked pepper.

Heat and slowly stir, until you have a smooth and creamy sauce. If your sauce is too thick, thin it with a bit of milk.

Mix the sauce with the pasta, and garnish with a bit of fresh basil if you have any on hand.

What’s your favorite cold weather comfort food?


Rice Paper Wraps

It can be a lot of fun getting outside of your comfort zone in the kitchen and trying new things. I made rice paper wraps for the first time years ago, it was a bit of a disaster to be honest, but once you get the hang of it rice paper wraps are a really easy and versatile ingredient. You can add meat or tofu and any veggies you like. (They’re also a great date night food to make together!)

If it’s your first time trying them, the two best bits of advice I can give you are:

– Use two sheets, one sheet is too thin

– DO NOT overfill your wrap, it will just be an absolute mess

Rice paper wraps are available at most Asian grocery stores (I live near Chinatown in Toronto and pick mine up at a store called The Lucky Moose). For veggies we used cilantro, red peppers, lettuce and green onion with a bit of satay chicken. First chop all your veggies and set aside.

Dice the chicken and brown in a pan. Add chili sauce (I used a prepared lemongrass satay sauce)

Wet two sheets of rice paper together in lukewarm water. They will start to soften, put them onto a plate and add your ingredients

Fold over the top and bottom to seal in the sides, then fold over the top to put the ingredients into a “pocket”.

Continue rolling the rice paper wrap tightly

Now, do this a bunch more times and you will end up with a plate full of delicious wraps!

You can experiment and fill these with anything, avocado tastes great. For a dip mix crushed garlic with chili sauce, soy sauce and minced ginger.

Enjoy! 🙂


Let him eat cake

Birthdays are a perfect time to get creative, and for people who love to bake making a homemade cake is the obvious way to go. Some people are great at decorating, some make balloon animals, me – I bake. So for Andrew’s birthday I took his favorite theme (next to horror movies or music – maybe I’ll try one of those next year) Space! I made him a space themed cake.

You can do one of two things, make cake batter from scratch or use boxed cake mix. I honestly don’t think it makes you a bad person or means you care any less if you use boxed mix when you’re pressed for time. Same with the icing, pick which side you want to be on; make your own or use premade. Either way, the cake assembly will be the same. You will need: cake batter (enough for two layers), icing, food coloring and any accessories or candies that you want to add.

Find a large piece of cardboard or a box, and cover it with foil. This will make a great base for your cake.

Bake your cake in square or round pans, you will need two full cake slabs to make a two tiered cake.

While your cake is baking, mix your icing. I used a combination of mainly blue colouring with a few drops red added slowly to make a very pale blue (almost grey). I used this as to cover the base I constructed the cake on and to make it look like a planet, with craters and an uneven texture by pushing it with a spoon (I was trying to make it look like the moon).

Next add your sheet of cake, I trimmed the top off to make it flat. Add a layer of icing to this layer, and top with the second layer of cake. From here, ice the entire cake top and sides (I used a much more vibrant shade of blue as “the sky”).

The fun part is decorating. I went to a toy store and found some great figurines, the entire solar system in miniature along with astronauts and space equipment. I placed the planets on the cake, dotted the entire cake with yellow icing as “stars” then placed the space explorers around the cake.

This is how it turned out:

Andrew was surprised, and I was so happy I was able to make his birthday special. (It’s really hard to surprise someone when you live together – a.k.a please leave for a few hours). We celebrated with great friends and food, and I look forward to making personal cakes a bit of a birthday tradition.

If you don’t have time or feel like making the cake yourself, why not buy a premade cake and decorate it with icing and personal touches? The fact that you took the time and wanted to make something unique is guaranteed to make anyone feel extra special.

Happy birthday Andrew!


Cheeseburger Pizza

Craving fast food but can’t choose between a burger or slice of pizza? Well it turns out you can have both! I’ve seen cheeseburger pizza as an option when ordering delivery, and even though I’ve never ordered it I was curious. So, I tried to recreate it at home and actually it was pretty amazing.

Brown ground beef (you can use vegetarian ground beef substitute if you are a vegetarian, or if you’re trying to cut back on the amount of meat in your diet) with diced onions, fresh cracked pepper, Worcestershire sauce and chili flakes.

Instead of using traditional pizza dough, we used leftover puff pastry rolled out with a bit of flour. Otherwise you can just as easily use a premade pizza base or even pita shells. Top with tomato sauce. (I added red peppers, not really a “cheeseburger topping” but I was trying to add a bit of veggies to make this slightly healthier.)

Add the browned beef to the pizza, then top with shredded cheese.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 F for 20 minutes, or until the dough is cooked through and the cheese melted.

I was curious, but not brave enough, to try this with sliced pickles. If anyone tries it let me know what it’s like!


French Toast with Figs

French toast is really quick and easy for a weekend brunch, you can pretty much top them with whatever fresh fruit is in season. I made these with fresh figs that I cooked in a splash of dry red wine – they weren’t as sweet as using berries but still tasted great. (Sautéed apples are still my favorite.)

Clean and dice the figs (or other fruit), heat a pan on medium and add the fruit with a splash of red wine. Once cooked through, mix to create an even fruit puree. (If you like you can add sugar to the fruit while cooking to make it sweeter.)

For basic french toast, whisk together 2 eggs with milk, brown sugar , cinnamon and vanilla. Dip your bread slices into the egg mixture and place in a heated pan with melted butter.  Top the french toast with fresh fruit mixture and enjoy!