Category Archives: Dinner

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.

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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! 🙂


Channel your inner Italian by making gnocchi! (Well, unless you are Italian I guess)

One of my best memories living with my old roommate Marissa was making homemade gnocchi from her grandmother’s recipe. It was a lot of fun, and ever since then I have loved fresh handmade gnocchi. This recipe is from the book Cook with Jamie (one of my favorite cookbooks, I’m a huge fan of Jamie Oliver.)

What you need (for 6 servings):

  • 6 medium potatoes
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • nutmeg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • all-purpose flour

First, preheat the oven to 425 F and rub the potatoes with olive oil, pricking them with a fork to let steam escape. Bake the potatoes for about an hour until they are fluffy on the inside.

Cut the potatoes in half, and scoop out the inside putting it through a potato ricer (I bought mine at Homesense but you can get one at most kitchen supply stores).

When you have all your potatoes… riced? (I don’t know the technical term, sorry) add a dash of nutmeg, salt (1 tablespoon) and pepper (just a pinch), the egg yolk and a few handfuls of flour. Mix thoroughly.  Now this is the tricky part about gnocchi and you might have to try it a few times before you get it just right. You need to add enough flour to make a dry dough, if it’s too dry add a bit of water and if it’s too wet you’ll need to add more flour. Aim for the texture of play dough and you’ll be fine.

Once you have the dough, roll it our on a floured surface in little tubes and cut them into 1 inch pieces or half inch pieces. To test your gnocchi place one in a pot of boiling water. If it falls apart you need to add more flour to your dough. These are basically potato so you need to be careful with them, they aren’t noodles!

Once your gnocchi is rolled and cut, place it on a floured tray in the fridge for 10 – 20 minutes to set. After setting you can cook them right away, or put the tray in the freezer to freeze the gnocchi then put them into bags to be cooked another day. I doubled the recipe and made some for dinner, and froze a few bags to use whenever we have gnocchi cravings.

The sauce that you use it up to you really; tomato, cream, pesto etc. Oh, and make sure to clean up all the flour from the kitchen. There will be a lot, unless you’re a lot neater than I am. (It was like a flour bomb went off in there!)

If you give it a try, let me know how it turns out!


What to make your Dad on Father’s Day? Manly crepes, obviously.

That’s right, crepes. But not just any old crepes, manly crepes. Crepes that have lots of cheese, big pieces of mushroom and maybe a chunk of bacon or prosciutto in there. That’s the kind of thing any dad would love to have made for him on Father’s Day.

Crepes are actually incredibly easy to make, and can be filled with just about anything. They can be topped with fruit cooked in wine, slices of steak and blue cheese or even grilled veggies. My Dad is the one who taught me how to make crepes growing up, and so I thought I would share this meal idea just before Father’s Day.

There are a lot of crepe recipes out there, they use very  few ingredients mixed until smooth. I used this basic crepe recipe from Allrecipes.com

What you need

  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

To make the batter mix the flour and eggs, then slowly add the milk and water. Once smooth add the salt and melted butter and combine.

Heat a nonstick pan and add about ½ a cup of batter, then tilt the pan  in circles so that the batter spreads out thinly. Keep turning the pan until the batter isn’t thinning anymore and has spread as evenly as it will go. Once browned, flip and cook the other side. Crepes cook very quickly, so keep an eye on them. (Sneaky crepes...)

In another skillet cook your filling. I used a combination of spinach and portabella mushrooms that I cooked with two cloves of garlic then added salt and pepper.

Arrange the crepe on a plate, add cheese and a line of filling. Roll the crepe. Repeat and arrange them beside each other, garnish with parsley or spice of your choice.

I also made a simple arugula salad, very popular in Italian cooking. (Yes, I made French crepes and an Italian salad. Very multicultural of me, right?) This salad is simple but tastes great, just toss baby arugula leaves with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper until evenly coated.

Feel free to try out a lot of combinations and come out with your own signature style of crepes, here are a few that I really like:

  • Blue cheese, fresh fig and prosciutto
  • Brie red pepper and chorizo
  • Asparagus with hollandaise sauce
  • Berries simmered in red wine
  • Banana, coconut and nutella

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Cheese Sauce

Cheesy pasta is one of my absolute favorites, but it’s not the healthiest option so I tend not to make it very often. Then I discovered nutritional yeast cheese sauce. Nutritional yeast is powdered tiny yellow flakes that you can buy in most health food stores, I get mine from Kensington Market in Toronto. I’m sure you can also find them online, you can buy pretty much anything online right?

I’m not a vegan or vegetarian but I do try to eat meat free one or two days per week. It’s healthy, good for the environment and forces me to try recipes I never have before. (Besides, how much actual “cheese” do you think is in processed cheese foods anyways?)

This sauce is so much better than I assumed it would be before trying it, and I now make it pretty often. Healthy points: nutritional yeast is a nutrient dense source of protein (apparently it has more protein than meat) and it’s a source of vitamin B. Then there’s the fact that it just tastes really, really good.

There are a lot of recipes online but after tweaking mine quite a few times here is (in my opinion) the best way to make nutritional yeast cheese sauce.

Dry Ingredients:

  • ½ cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (I like to use coarse sea salt)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (if you like garlic, you can use two like I do)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard powder (or the prepared kind if that’s what you have on hand)
  • Chili powder to taste
  • Pepper to taste

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of water
  • ½ cup margarine

What you do:

Mix all dry ingredients in a saucepan until blended.

Turn stove on medium, slowly whisk in water. Use a whisk, honestly, it helps prevent clumping. (Yes, I know I didn’t use a whisk. It would have been much easier if I had.)

Continue stirring as the sauce begins to bubble and thicken. If the sauce is too thick, add a bit more water until it thins out to your desired consistency.

Serve over pasta noodles. I used wagon wheels because that’s what we had, and I like funny shaped pasta.

 

I like a bit of spice so I sprinkled chili powder on top of the pasta before I served. You can also use the sauce to make a vegan/vegetarian nacho dip with a bit of diced jalapeno in it, again, it tastes really good.

Hope you like it!