February 6, 2013

Spanish Omelette

We discovered this omelette dish about a year ago and make it once every few weeks. It's quick to pull together and I always work to have the ingredients on hand for an easy meal. We often eat it for dinner on an especially chaotic night because by the time we're ready to sit down to eat, it's cooled to the perfect temperature. Nigella suggests this as a great item for a picnic lunch though as the warmest you want to eat it is room temperature and it's easy to transport.

What I love about it though is the combination of colours and flavours. Simple ingredients highlighted together in an equally simple dish. The sweetness of the peppers, the sharpness of the cheese, the texture of the soft potatoes with vibrant colour of the bright green onions.

Spanish Omelette
Serves 4


  • 12-15 baby new potatoes, halved and boiled until cooked through
  • 5 eggs
  • 3/4 of a jar of flame roasted peppers, roughly chopped
  • 3 green onions, finely sliced
  • 3/4 cup old cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Heat an oven-safe, heavy-based frying pan on medium heat
  • In a bowl, whisk the eggs, add the peppers, green onions and cheese and season with salt and pepper. Add the cooked, drained potatoes
  • Heat the butter in frying pan and, when hot, pour in the omelette mix and cook gently for five minutes
  • By this time, the bottom of the omelette should be set and, rather than turn it, simply sit the pan under the grill for a few minutes to set the top. It should be a little wobbly in the middle still but it will continue to cook as it cools
  • Once cool, slice into wedges and serve at room temperature
Recipe from Nigella Express

February 1, 2013

Rigatoni with Sausage, Peppers and Onions

I wrote down this recipe from Giada de Laurentis' Everyday Italian at least two years ago and I'm so glad I've reconnected with it and finally made it. This is a wonderful pasta dish, unlike anything I have ever made, I think. It's rich and flavourful and the addition of the red wine makes it a truly special dish.

It was a little time consuming to make, but worth every minute. To help make this into a weeknight meal, it would be easy to make the sauce ahead and the toss it with pasta when ready to serve. We enjoyed it on a Sunday, which is the day I truly enjoy spending time in the kitchen and I was so happy to sit down and finally enjoy this one. This is definitely one for the regular rotation.

Rigatoni with Sausage, Peppers and Onions
Serves 4-6

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound sweet Italian turkey sausage
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded and sliced
  • 2 yellow onions, sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup Marsala wine
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese, for garnish

  • Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until brown on all sides, 7 to 10 minutes. Remove the sausages from the pan.
  • Keeping the pan over medium heat, add the red peppers, onions, salt and pepper and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano and basil and cook for 2 minutes. 
  • Add the tomato paste and stir until incorporated, then add the Marsala, tomatoes with juice and red pepper flakes, if using. Stir to combine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the brown bits. Bring to a simmer.
  • Cut the sausages into 4-6 pieces each. Return the sausages to the pan. Simmer uncovered until the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes.
  • While the sauce simmers, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta. 
  • Drain the pasta and add to the thickened sauce and toss to combine. Spoon into individual serving bowls and garnish with parmesan cheese.
Recipe from Giada de Laurentis' Everyday Italian

January 30, 2013

Chicken Pot Pie

I laughed just now as I looked at the name of the recipe I'm about to type out. The author, Laura Calder, calls it "Chicken Pot Pie for the Perfectionists." Well, that's an understatement. This recipe is the longest recipe I have ever made for something that T tells me I could buy for $9.99 at Costco. I will argue up and down now though, having made it, that you cannot even begin to compare the two.

I didn't think of this recipe as a challenge. It's chicken pot pie, after all, not a dish I'm unfamiliar with. But it definitely was a challenge in cooking endurance. And if you think you can cut corners, don't. It is the detail in this recipe that makes it a truly incomparable pie. When all was said and done, this recipe took me two days to make, so if you do decide to do this, you need to be organized and have the time to dedicate to this. In fact, you'll even need some decent time to sit down to read through the ingredient list, let alone the instructions. So, grab a coffee and maybe a snack and settle in. Here goes:

Chicken Pot Pie for the Perfectionists
Makes 2 pies, 8-10 servings in all


For the Chicken
  • 1 chicken, about 3 pounds, whole
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened

For the Enriched Stock
  • 1 large carrot, halved
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 celery rib, roughly chopped
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • 1 generous sprig of thyme
  • a few sprigs of parsley
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1 tsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 5 cups chicken stock

For the Crust
  • Lard pastry

For the Garnish
  • 3 carrots, sliced, about 2 cups
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 3 leeks, halved and sliced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 slices of bacon, cut in lardons
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 2 large handfuls of chopped fresh parsley

For the Sauce

  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 to 1 cup heavy cream
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika, more to taste

To Finish

  • egg wash

  • For the chicken, heat the oven to 375 degrees F, set the chicken in a roasting pan, season with salt and pepper, rub with butter and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes. When cool enough to handle, discard the skin, remove the meat from the bird and set aside and put the carcass in a stock pot with the rest of the stock ingredients.
  • Bring stock ingredients to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours. Strain and reserve 2 1/2 cups of stock for the recipe. Chop the chicken meat into bite sized pieces. You should have about 5 cups.
  • While the chicken roasts, make and chill the lard pastry, then prepare the garnish. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt it and blanche the carrots and celery until al dente, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and rinse in ice cold water to stop the cooking. Drain thoroughly.
  • Heat the oil in a pan and saute the bacon, until cooked but not crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate, leaving the fat in the pan. Add the leeks to the pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and cook 5 minutes, adding the garlic in during the last minute. Add the bacon, peas, parsley and reserved chicken meat. Season with salt and pepper.
  • For the sauce, pour the reserved chicken stock into a saucepan, add the wine and bring to a simmer. In a separate saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking for 1 minute. Gradually whisk in the warm stock and cook until thick, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup of cream. Add more cream if needed but without making the sauce too thick. Season well with salt and pepper and add in the paprika. Pour the sauce over the chicken and vegetables and mix gently to combine thoroughly.
  • To assemble the pies, spoon the filling into two 9" pie plates. Divide the pastry into two disks, roll out rounds and lay over the filling, pressing to seal the edges. Cover and refrigerate until ready to bake.
  • Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Brush the tops of the pies with egg wash and cut three slits in the top to allow steam to escape. Bake 25 minutes. reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and continue baking until the crust is deeply golden and crisp, about 30 minutes longer.
Recipe from Dinner Chez Moi, by Laura Calder

January 28, 2013

Lard Pastry

It's easy to tell the difference between a homemade crust and a store bought one. The homemade one, to me, is always so much flakier and it always just tastes a million times better. I made this recipe for the top of my chicken pot pie and it was delicious. The crust became a deep golden colour, was perfectly flakey and didn't take any flavour away from the pie itself. Just what you want in a savoury pie. 

Lard Pastry
Makes 2 disks, to cover 2 9" pies

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup cold lard, cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup ice-cold water
  • egg wash
  • fleur de sel for garnish
  • Put the flour, lard and salt in a food processor and pulse to crumbs
  • Add the water and pulse until the dough just comes together
  • Remove, pat into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill until you're ready to roll it out
  • Once it's on the pies and just before baking, cut a few steam vents, brush all over with egg wash and strew over fleur de sel

Recipe from Dinner Chez Moi, by Laura Calder

January 25, 2013

Spaghetti with Quick Meat Sauce

As a wedding gift, I got the pasta maker attachment for my KitchenAid stand mixer. It could easily be one of those gadgets that languishes in the cupboard collecting dust, but surprisingly, I use it quite regularly. It's usually pulled out when I'm making something for company, but since that hasn't happened in awhile, I thought it would be a treat for T and I to enjoy some fresh pasta.

Since the process of making pasta though is a little lengthy, the idea of a quick sauce to go with it sounded brilliant. What was also amazing about this sauce is that it's an easy vehicle to hide veggies in for unsuspecting picky diners (I'm looking at you, Dad). The second time I made this, I added red and yellow peppers and it was even better.

Spaghetti with Quick Meat Sauce
Serves 4

  • 12 ounces spaghetti
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3/4 pound extra lean ground beef
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan

  • Cook the pasta according to package directions
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, garlic and cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 8-10 minutes
  • Increase heat to medium high. Add the beef, 3/4 tsp kosher salt and 1/2 tsp ground black pepper and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon until no longer pink; about 5 minutes. 
  • Add the tomatoes and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about five minutes. Add the parsley.
  • Serve the pasta with the sauce and sprinkle with the parmesan

January 18, 2013

Stuffed Shells with Ground Beef

Another wonderful make-ahead dinner is stuffed shells with ground beef. I have made a similar dish with ricotta and spinach and the premise is the same -- make ahead and bake what you need. Perfect for a healthy weeknight meal.

These are hearty shells, full of ground beef and loads of cheese. Serving them with sour cream is decadent and it's almost like eating a plate of nachos. In fact, my dad, who shared this recipe, even tops them with crumpled nacho chips for an added crunchy texture.

Stuffed Shells with Ground Beef
Serves 4


  • 1 pound extra lean ground beef
  • 6 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese, at room temperature cut into cubes (3/4 of a box of cream cheese)
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 package of Taco seasoning (make as directed with a cup of water to mix)
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese
  • 20 large pasta shells


  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  • In a large saute pan, cook ground beef and drain off fat
  • Add cubed cream cheese, chili powder and mixed taco sauce. Help the cream cheese to blend by pressing on it with a spoon
  • Let simmer gently but don't boil off the taco sauce, keep it fairly runny
  • Meanwhile, cook 20 pasta shells, then strain under cold water
  • Use a soup spoon to stuff each shell carefully (open the shell in the palm of your hand with the points between your thumb and little finger, spoon in mixture with the other hand. This is easiest if the mixture is cooled, too)
  • Place each shell in a buttered, oven proof dish meat side up
  • Cover and cook for at least 15 minutes (if just out of the fridge, cook for about 30 minutes)
  • Remove from oven and cover with cheeses and broil until cheese is bubbling
  • Serve with sour cream

January 16, 2013

Chunky Banana Bran Muffins

My mom always has a batch of muffins ready to go at a moment's notice. Since I have been home on maternity leave, I have had people come over for lunch often and it's always nice to have something homemade for lunch. Since my meal planning resolution was exclusively for dinners however, sometimes lunch ingredients don't always make it into the mix so I'm going to try my mom's trick: freezing muffins.

I made this recipe for Tim and I, but it made a dozen muffins which we can't eat fast enough so I took half of them, and froze them. Now if I have some unexpected visitors, I can easily pull some out of the freezer and it looks like I just made them! Brilliant.

These muffins, from The Barefoot Contessa, were moist and delicious but what I love is that you could probably have a lot of fun with the add-ins, too. Next time, I'm going to add blueberries to the mix instead of raisins for an added punch of antioxidants, colour and flavour. What add-ins would you try?

Chunky Banana Bran Muffins
Makes 12 muffins


  • 1 cup unprocessed wheat bran
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/8 pound (1/4 stick) butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup large diced bananas (about 1 large banana)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
  • Combine the bran and buttermilk in a bowl and set aside
  • Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on a high speed for about five minutes, until light and fluffy
  • With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time
  • Scrape the bowl then add the molasses, orange zest and vanilla (the mixture will look curdled)
  • Add the bran-buttermilk mixture and combine
  • In another bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.
  • Fold in the raisins, banana and walnuts with a rubber spatula
  • With a large spoon, fill the muffin cups full and bake for 25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans.
Recipe from The Barefoot Contessa at Home


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