New Start?

I love to eat!  Who doesn’t love to eat right?  Food is such a large part of lives, we talk about it, we socialize around it, we also of course need it to live.  I have been thinking and reading about that last part for a few weeks which has inspired me to take this barely used blog in a different direction.  I am hoping I will give the blog more attention under a new theme.  It seems that while I love to eat I am not very good at or motivated to write about what I am eating.  I would rather spend the time cooking and eating.  The problem with eating is that not every thing that I love to eat loves me back, I mean to say it is bad for my health (such as my dear love the cookie.) I will delve more into my bitter sweet relationship with cookies on another post, for now I want to leave you with some never posted pics from the last couple months.  Even though I have not been posting that does not mean I have not been cooking. Before I turn this into one off those boring health food blogs and start posting pictures of sprouts (I really do have pics of sprouts to post, gah!) I thought I would purge my photo album of all the good stuff. : )

Let’s start with the cookies and sweets (of course)

Attempts at bread

Some appetizers (just cause I like mini-food)

One entree to share in preparation for my trip to Spain later this month, Migas!

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Butternut Squash Soup

I was recently stuck on a liquid diet for a week after having my wisdom teeth removed. How did I get away with waiting so long to get them out! I feel too old for this!

The steady bowls of mashed potatoes and glasses of chocolate milkshakes got old quick (well less so for the milkshakes.) Healing up on the couch when it is so cold outside required a comforting soup. Martha always knows best so I headed to her website to find a recipe for some liquid comfort. I love butternut squash at this time of year so when I saw this recipe I knew it would be perfect.

I recommend topping the soup with crumbled blue cheese or sour creme. It also pairs well with an afternoon on the couch watching a Cary Grant movie, my favourite is Talk of the Town.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 piece (2 inches) fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 3/4 pounds small butternut squash, prepared and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper

Directions

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, and squash; cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in 4 cups water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer until squash is tender, 20 minutes.
  2. Puree soup in two batches. When blending hot foods, allow the heat to escape to prevent splattering. Remove the cap from the hole of the blender’s lid, and cover with a dish towel. Stir in juice and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Serve hot, with sour cream, pepper, and pumpkin seeds, if desired.

Dutch Boy Pancakes

I remember making dutch boy pancakes with my father on sunday mornings when I was still in single digits. I loved the bubbly crust on these pancakes.  They tasted so good drenched in the melted butter from the pan and then smothered in maple syrup.  My adult self is apprehensive about the effects of consuming that much butter and syrup.  Which is a reason to not make this mega pancake every weekend, but once and while can’t cause too much harm right?

I used whole wheat flour to try to make this recipe a bit more healthy….some things are not meant to be healthy.  The whole wheat flour made the pancake a bit dense.  It was not as fluffy or bubbly as I remember it being in my childhood memories maybe I just didn’t inherit my fathers talent for pancake baking.

Ingredients:

1/3 c. butter
4 eggs
1 c. flour
1 c. milk

Directions:  Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Put butter in 8 inch round cake pan and place in oven while oven is heating.

In blender, put 4 eggs. Turn on and blend for 1 1/2 minutes. While still whirling, pour in flour and milk. Blend another 30 seconds to 1 minute longer.

Pour batter into pan in oven, pouring slowly so melted butter is not on top of batter. Bake 20 minutes. Serve hot with powdered sugar and lemon juice or maple syrup.

Pasta Pie

I saw this recipe for pasta pie and could not wait to try it out! The pasta is baked standing on end stuffed with tomato and bolognese sauce and of course smothered in cheese!

I am a huge pasta lover!  This recipe is a great alternative to the standard pasta bowl or bake. I served it up by cutting the pieces out like a cake, it actually kept it shape with some help from the upper cheese layer.  When eating all the ingredients mix together in a gooey tomato pasta mess that is completely scrumptious.  The pasta is particularly flavourful because it is placed in the pan cooked al dente.  It finishes cooking while baking in the oven, it absorbs up the tomato sauce surrounding it, providing a spicy herby flavour.

Recipe:

1 pound rigatoni

2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 pound ground beef

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1/4 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon fresh thyme

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 can (28 ounces) good quality crushed tomatoes

1 small can of tomato paste

Butter, for pan

Salt

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

8 ounces coarsely grated mozzarella

In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook pasta until slightly underdone (I cooked mine for 12 minutes when the box indicated 14 minutes).  One pound of pasta should be cooked in 6 quarts of water, make sure you are using a big enough pot so the pasta doesn’t stick together.  When done, rinse in cold water and drain again.  Toss pasta with 1 Tablespoon olive oil to coat.  Set aside.

Heat remaining 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add ground beef.  Cook, stirring occasionally until browned.  Add garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper and other spices.  Cook 2 minutes more.

Add crushed tomatoes and tomato paste; simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Toss pasta with Parmesan cheese.  Butter a 9-inch springform pan.  Tightly pack pasta into pan, standing each piece on end.  Spread meat sauce on top of pasta.

Push the meat sauce into the pasta holes filling each one up.  Stuffing the meat into the holes is a weirdly satisfying task.  Enough said.

Place in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes.  Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top and bake another 10-15 minutes until cheese is golden.  Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes.  Run a knife around the edge to loosen and then unmold.

Cut into wedges and serve with any remaining meat sauce you might have.

Blue Potatoes

I remember having blue (to me they look purple) potatoes growing up in Ontario.  It didn’t happen often and they usual appeared as a gift from someone who grew them in their own garden.  I never see these colourful potatoes in grocery stores, and have not eaten/cooked one in years.  I was super excited to see some at a farmer’s market last week. I roasted them in the oven with some rosemary and italian parsley.

The leftovers ended up in a colourful frittata for breakfast the next morning.

Grandma’s Macaroni & Cheese

The weather has turned rainy lately.  I have a cold.  Haaachooo. This situation calls for some serious comfort food. For me this means one thing: my grandmother’s homemade macaoni and cheese.

This was my most requested meal when I went to visit my grandmother as a kid and probably the first meal I ever learned to make.  I have long ago lost the recipe but I will never forget how to make this dish.

Three elements created my love for this dish: bacon, mushrooms, and lots of gooey cheese sauce.  That plus macaroni is basically the recipe.  Some of the most beautiful things are so simple.


Start with lots of cooked macaroni. I have no measurements for this, I make massive amount because I like my casserole dish to be bursting with macaroni.  Then cook bacon and mushrooms separately. Grandma always used white mushrooms, I decided to add in some oyster mushrooms this time. Even though this recipe is a classic I still like to experiment the ingredients. So far grandma has always made it best.

For the cheese sauce make a roux of equal parts melted butter and flour in a sauce pan, slowly add milk to desired constancy and then add grated cheese slowly while stirring so it melts into the sauce. Next add more cheese, and then even more cheese.  If you choose at this point you can add more cheese.

Combine all elements in a cassarole dish to bake, I often add more grated cheese into the mix as well.  Top with bread crums and more cheese to give it a crusty crunchy top. Heat in oven at 350°C for 35-45 minutes.  Let cool before eating, otherwise you will burn your tongue, I know from experience.

Thank you Grandma!

Perogies

When I was in school I always had one of those big bags of frozen perogies in my fridge for a quick easy filling dinner.  I decided to give home-made perogies a try, it was the complete opposite of quick though it was fairly easy.

I often shy away from recipes that require making dough, this recipe proved to me I should trust my instincts.  Rolling out the dough for each individual perogie and moulding them in to shape took way to long! I am seriously never repeating this recipe!….Well give me a couple of  months to forget how annoying it was and I may reconsider that statement.

Most recipes I looked up for perogies had the basic potato and cheese filling.  I decided to add some sweet potato to the filling and I am very happy with the result.

These perogies were seemed to get better with age.  I found them a bit tough and the dough tasted a little starchy.  When I had some leftovers for lunch the next day they were perfect and soft.  My theory behind this was that they sat in oily sautéed onions overnight or maybe they just needed some time to rest, I know I did, What ever it was I now know to make lots for leftovers in the future.

The Recipe: (Though I recommend buying the dough and perogie molds)

Dough
2 cups all-purpose flour (500 ml)
1/2 teaspoon salt (2 ml)
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vegetable oil (10 ml)
1/2 to 3/4 cup hot tap water (125 ml to 175 ml)

Potato Cheese Filling
1 white and 1 sweet potato, peeled, cut in chunks
2 teaspoons sour cream, plain yogurt or milk (10 ml)
1 cup grated cheese (250 ml)
salt and pepper, to taste
Assembly
1 pound sliced bacon, chopped in 1/2-inch pieces (454 g)

Directions
Dough
Place flour on counter or wooden board. Sprinkle salt on top of flour. Make a well in centre. Place egg yolks and oil in well. Using the tips of your fingers, stir in circular motion, working from middle of flour mixture out and adding water with other hand, a little at a time, as you go. You have added enough water when dough begins to hold together and so just slightly sticky. Form into ball, scraping up and adding any bits that stick to counter
Knead dough, adding a little more water if necessary, 20 to 25 times or until soft and elastic. Wrap in plastic wrap. Chill at least 1 hour or overnight.

Potato Cheese Filling
Add potatoes to medium pot of boiling salted water. Cook until soft. Add sour cream, yogurt or milk. Mash with potatoes masher or ricer. Stir in cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Assembly
To fill perogies, divide dough into 3 to 4 pieces. Using hands, shape into logs about 1- inch in diameter. Slice each log into pieces 1-inch wide. Dust each piece lightly in flour. Using hands, shape each piece into a round disc, then pull gently as you would pizza dough to make the disk thinner. When dough is thin, place a rounded tsp. of filling in centre. Using your fingers, gently pull dough over filling to form half-moon shape. Pinch edges together carefully but tightly, crimping as you go, to seal. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Fry bacon in non-stick pan over medium high heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels.
To cook the perogies, bring large saucepan of salted water to boil. Reduce heat so water simmers and does not boil rapidly. Add perogies, one at a time, taking care not to over crowd the pan. Cook uncovered, 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and gently with wooden spoon to loosen from sides of saucepan. Drain.
Garnish with sautéed onions or bacon.