July 31, 2010

Veggie Quesadillas

I can't handle spice. I barely like pepper, though I'm becoming more tolerant of it. So quesadillas are about as much Mexican as I can handle. You can top these as you like, but I like just cheese and some veggies, topped with some sour cream.


  • 2 flour tortillas
  • lots of shredded cheese
  • 1 yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • sour cream and salsa


  • In a sautee pan, heat olive oil, cook onion and pepper for a few minutes
  • Place a large tortilla in a separate frying pan
  • To half, add shredded cheese, onion and pepper, tomatoes and top with more cheese (this is the "glue")
  • Flip other half over top (now a half circle), and cook on medium heat until brown and cheese begins to melt
  • Carefully with a large flipper, flip quesadilla over to cook other side
  • Put on cutting board, let cool for a minute before cutting in two or four
  • Top with sour cream and salsa and serve

July 29, 2010

Apple Pie with Caramel Sauce

T. was going away for a boys weekend, so I thought I'd make something special for the guys to enjoy. He was kind enough to bring me back one slice (as I could hardly send a pie with one slice missing -- could I?) and it was delicious!
This amazing recipe had nearly 3,000 people give it five stars on www.allrecipes.com. What's special about it is that you pour a caramel sauce over the lattice top and then as it cooks, it seeps into the spaces between the slats and leaves a nice glaze on top. The presentation was amazing and it was a great opportunity to try out a new way to top a pie. 

Lattice was time consuming but surprisingly easy. I simply rolled out a pastry crust like I would if I was going to put on a regular top. Then, using a fork, I measured out even sections, and then I used a pizza roller and a box of tin foil as a guide to cut them. Then I draped every other piece over the pie -- this is important so they're even on the pie. Then, going the other direction, I wove slats through the pieces already on the pie -- one over, one under. What I found really helpful is each time I went to weave a new piece, I flipped up all the slats that it was going to go under, then I could just put it down, and flip the pieces back over. I found www.youtube.com very helpful for this visually!

  • 2 flakey pie crusts
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 6 baking apples, peeled, cored and sliced (I used Royal Gala)
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in flour to make a paste. Add water, white sugar and brown sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce temperature and let simmer, stirring often until forms a caramel consistency.
  • Toss apples with cinnamon.
  • Place the bottom crust in pie plate. Fill with apples, mounded slightly.
  • Cover with a lattice work of crust. When finished latticing, tuck top crust into bottom crust and tuck into pie plate. Pinch crusts together with two fingers.
  • Gently pour the sugar sauce over the crust. Pour slowly so it doesn't run off. Pour right over crust too, as it will seep into holes while cooking, but will leave a nice glaze on crust.
  • Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees. Continue baking for 35 to 45 minutes, until apples are soft.

July 27, 2010

Chicken Fajitas

I love an easy weeknight meal that comes together with ingredients from my own kitchen. I have a dream that one day I'll menu plan so grocery shopping is more productive and meal-time less stressful, but for now, I'll just take it when I can create a healthy and satisfying meal from my items I already have. 

Fajitas are easy and can be personalized to any taste. I keep mine simple with lettuce, tomato, cheese and chicken, but feel free to add additional toppings. T, for example, added artichokes, olives and hot sauce. I'm trying not to judge.

These are also fun to serve at a casual party and have the toppings in separate bowls and let your guests put them together. Enjoy!

  • 1 pound ground chicken (turkey or beef would work too)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 package of fajita seasoning (stay tuned for an at-home version to make)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • lettuce, shredded
  • cheese, shredded
  • tomatoes, diced
  • sour cream and salsa
  • tortillas (once I get a cast iron skillet, I'm going to make these tortillas)


  • Brown ground chicken until no longer pink and drain off any excess liquid
  • Add diced onion, seasoning and water and simmer for a few minutes
  • Warm tortillas in the oven 
  • Add chicken to tortilla and add preferred toppings, such as lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream and salsa
  • Wrap tortilla pulling bottom up (perpendicular to line of toppings), then fold in sides to create a leak-free fajita
  • Serve with a fork -- in case the leak-free fajita, well, leaks

July 24, 2010

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was looking for a good, classic chocolate chip cookie recently and I decided not to look any further the chocolate chip package. This was bound to be a good recipe because anyone who would put it on their package, had to be confident in them. These did not disappoint and fully lived up to their name of Chewy Milk Chocolate Chip cookies. I put these in just before So You Think You Can Dance came on, and was eating them by the first commercial. Yum!

  • 2/3 cup butter, melted
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp hot water
  • 2 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 package chocolate chips

  • Combine melted butter, brown sugar, eggs and hot water. Mix well.
  • In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to butter and sugar mix.
  • Stir in chocolate chips.
  • Drop from a small spoon onto a an ungreased cookie sheet.
  • Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Makes about four dozen cookies.
Recipe from Hershey's Chipits package

Fresh Green Bean Salad

To balance out all the baking I've been doing, we've been eating a lot of salads. Each week, I enjoy going to the farmer's market outside my office and finding fresh veggies to make a new salad with. I stumbled on this recipe on www.allrecipes.com/ for a two bean salad with cherry tomatoes, feta and a balsamic dressing and we were not disappointed. Unlike the other salad dressings we've made, the balsamic was sweet. This will be a regular staple in our summer salad rotation.


  • 1/2 pound green beans

  • 1/2 pound yellow beans

  • 12 cherry tomatoes, halved

  • 1/2 brick of feta cheese

  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

  • 1 tsp olive oil

  • 1 clove garlic, minced

  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Mix together the balsamic, oil, garlic and salt and pepper

  • Clean, trim and cut beans into bite-sized pieces

  • Mix vegetables together in a medium-sized bowl with dressing
  • Crumble feta cheese on top

Recipe adapted from www.allrecipes.com 

    July 20, 2010

    Icing Success!

    Do you remember the icing worms? They were a disaster.

    But these cupcakes! These delicious ones, made out of our family birthday cake recipe and mocha buttercream icing -- these not only tasted great, they were pretty!

    What did I do differently? First, I watched a lot of videos on YouTube. I find this to be a tremendous resource when learning a new technique.

    Second, I made a smoother icing that was more pipe-able.

    Finally, I got the proper tools. Last time, I used a really small tip with a really thick icing. For these, I got a 1M icing tip, which is significantly larger and is even called the standard cupcake swirl tip. 

    I know I'll continue to improve, but I wanted to share my progress!

    July 19, 2010

    Risotto with Aged Cheddar and Sweet Peas

    T. and I were recently in Ottawa and one of the highlights of the trip for me was stopping at Maple Dale Cheese. We buy obscene amounts of delicious cheeses -- pesto cheddar, garlic cheddar, aged cheddar and cheese curds -- regular and garlic. It's embarrassing how quickly we go through this cheese when we return home. I think mice live here.

    Looking for new and creative ways to use some of our loot, I made a basic risotto and added some of the aged cheddar and balanced out the creaminess and sharp flavour with some fresh peas I picked up at a farmer's market. It was a simple and delicious weeknight meal that was good for two nights and a great way to enjoy some cheddar.


    • 1 cup arborio rice
    • 3 cups chicken stock
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 3 tsp butter
    • 1/4 cup heavy cream
    • 1/2 cup grated aged white cheddar cheese
    • 1/2 cup fresh peas
    • 6 cloves of garlic (I like a lot of garlic!)
    • pepper to taste

    • In a medium saucepan,combine the chicken stock and water on medium heat. You want it to be warm when you add it to the risotto because it will absorb better. I used a ladle to transfer the liquid over to the risotto.
    • In a shallow but large pan, melt three teaspoons of butter on low to medium heat, add garlic and sautee the diced onion until soft.
    • Add the risotto and coat with the butter until it's "toasted," about three minutes.
    • Add the wine and stir until absorbed.
    • Increase heat slightly (I never went past medium) and add in broth-water mixture about a 1/2 cup at a time. Stir frequently until liquid is absorbed before adding more. This process should take about 30 minutes of stirring and adding liquid slowly.
    • In a separate pot, boil water and add peas. Cook for about five minutes until bright green.
    • Cook rice until tender and mixture has a creamy consistency.
    • Add cream, cheddar cheese and peas. Stir until mixture is creamy, about 2-3 minutes.

    July 18, 2010

    Blueberry Pie

    I made another pie! This time it was made with fresh Ontario blueberries and I learned a few tricks along the way.

    I spent some time on YouTube to learn how to roll the crust out and better make edges. The first time I made pie, I just cut off all the edges -- resulting in a pretty thin crust. This time, I learned to trim off the excess crust but to leave about an inch of dough around the edges, and then fold the top layer over the bottom layer and tuck inside the pie plate. I didn't do a great job, but I also tried fluting the edges here. So two pies down and already a vast improvement. 

    I had this pastry dough in the freezer from the first batch that I made and it still tasted delicious. I had frozen the remaining pastry dough into balls (each ball makes one pie crust). To use it, I just left it in the fridge for a couple of days to thaw, then I rolled out as normal. 

    With the pastry already made, this pie really just took about 20 minutes to prepare and then I popped it in the oven! Like the strawberry-rhubarb pie though, the fruit is really runny when it comes out of the oven, so it needed to sit for about three hours to firm up before I could cut it. It was worth the wait, for sure!


    • 1 Flakey Pastry Crust
    • 4 cups blueberries
    • ¾ cup white sugar
    • 3 tbsp cornstarch
    • ¼ tsp salt
    • ½ tsp ground cinnamon


    1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
    2. Mix sugar, cornstarch, salt and cinnamon and sprinkle over blueberries. Toss together.

    3. Line pie dish with one pie crust. Pour berry mixture into the crust.

    4. Cover with remaining pie crust. Cut off excess dough and fold edges (top over bottom) and tuck into pie plate. Slice air vents into top of pie.
    5. Bake pie on lower shelf of oven at 425 for 15 minutes. Turn oven down to 375 degrees and bake for another 35 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.

    Download printable recipe for Blueberry Pie

    July 17, 2010

    Orzo with Parmesan and Basil

    This simple dish is a cross between risotto and macaroni and cheese. It was a super easy weeknight meal and you could enjoy it like we did as a main, but it would also be great as a side dish. This is also one of those great flexible dishes where you can really just add anything you want. For example, I didn't have enough parmesan, so I tossed in some herb and garlic cream cheese. I love those dishes where anything goes!


    • 2 tbsp butter
    • 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
    • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
    • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
    • salt and pepper to taste


    • Melt butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat 
    • Stir in orzo pasta and saute until lightly browned
    • Stir in chicken stock and bring to a boil
    • Reduce heat and simmer until orzo is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes
    • Mix in parmesan cheese and basil
    • Season with salt and pepper to taste
    Recipe from www.allrecipes.com

    July 15, 2010

    Light Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

    In this sticky summer weather, I love a crisp, refreshing salad. And this salad dressing makes me want to eat nothing but salads and vegetables all summer long.

    This dressing is light, with light flavours and really lets the salad shine through. I find it best with iceberg lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes, but I know this would be great with anything. 


    • 4 tbsp light oil (I used Crisco vegetable oil)
    • 1 tbsp vinegar
    • 3 cloves finely chopped fresh garlic
    • salt and pepper to taste
    **you can make this recipe in any quantity, but note that the ratio is always four parts oil to one part vinegar

    • Mix ingredients together and stir!

    July 13, 2010

    Butter Tarts

    I eat my food in sections. I have done this my entire life and continues to mind-boggle my parents. If you gave me a plate with three different foods on it, I would eat them one at a time, starting with the vegetables and ending with the meat. In the case of desserts, I always eat butter tarts with a spoon. I first scoop out the filling and eat it, and then I eat the pastry. It's weird. I know. But that's how I roll.

    Anyway, I'd had a pining for butter tarts for awhile and I always resist them in the grocery store, but after I made the strawberry-rhubarb and blueberry pies, I had one pie crust left in my freezer -- perfect for a batch of butter tarts. A quick search online told me that I had all the ingredients I needed on hand and away I went.

    The most challenging part of these was getting the pastry into the muffin tins. I took timbit-sized balls of dough, rolled it out and then manouvered it into the pans. They weren't pretty, but for a first try they were acceptable. If nothing else, they tasted delcious and way better than those ones you buy in a grocery store. And, for the record, I ate these with a fork and enjoyed the pastry with the filling and it was good!


    • 1 unbaked Flakey Pastry Crust
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1 tbsp vinegar
    • ½ cup butter, melted and cooled
    • ¾ cup raisins, walnuts or pecans

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

    2. Roll out pastry and fit carefully into 12 muffin tins.

    3. In a large bowl, beat eggs, then beat in brown sugar. Stir in vinegar and vanilla extract. Mix well, then stir in melted butter (make sure it’s cool). Fold in rasins or chopped nuts.

    4. Carefully spoon mixture into tart shells.

    5. Bake in oven for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake an additional 8 to 10 minutes, until set.

    Recipe from http://www.allrecipes.com/

    Download the printable recipe for Butter Tarts

    July 12, 2010

    Big, Soft Pretzels

    I made pretzels. Those big, soft ones you get in the mall that are slathered in butter and sea salt. And? They. Were. Delicious. 

    This recipe does make a lot -- 12 full size pretzels -- which are really best once you first make them, so unless you're making them for a crowd, you might want to halve the recipe. But this is really a keeper and a nice treat for at-home enjoyment.


    • 4 tsp active dry yeast
    • 1 tsp white sugar
    • 1 1/4 cups warm water
    • 5 cups flour
    • 1/2 cup white sugar
    • 1 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
    • 1/2 cup baking soda
    • 4 cups hot water
    • 1/4 cup kosher salt for topping
    • 1/4 cup melted butter for brushing


    1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tsp sugar in warm water. Let stand until creamy -- about 10 minutes
    2. In a large bowl, mix together flour, 1/2 cup sugar and salt. Make a well in the centre and add the oil and yeast mixture. Mix and form into a dough. Knead the dough until smooth -- about 7 - 8 minutes. 
    3. Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl and coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.
    4. When risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope and twist into a pretzel shape. 
    5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a large pot, dissolve baking soda in hot water and dip each pretzel into the baking soda solution for about 45 seconds and place onto greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
    6. Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes, or until browned.
    7. Brush melted butter on top and enjoy!
    Recipe originally from www.allrecipes.com

    July 11, 2010

    Summer Couscous and Chickpea Salad

    It's hot out. I mean steamy, sticky, humid hot and what am I looking for to cool down? A refreshing, cold, delicious salad. I love this time of year, but the thought of standing over a hot stove is the last thing I want to do and I just find that I always gravitate towards cold foods and healthy ones. This dish meets all those requirements and then some! This is my new go-to for the summer pot luck and I'm sure it will be yours, too!

    • 1 cup cooked couscous
    • 1 can chickpeas, rinse and drained
    • 1 red bell pepper, diced
    • 1/2 red onion, diced
    • 1 field cucumber, chopped
    • 1 tomato, diced
    • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 2-3 limes, juiced
    • salt and pepper to taste

    • In a large bowl, toss all the ingredients with the olive oil and lime juice. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve cold.

    Recipe from Ezra Pound Cake

    July 5, 2010

    Speedy Beef Stroganoff

    Beef stroganoff is one of my favourite meals. It's one of those meals that I could enjoy all the time, and now that I know how to make it, I just might. 

    This is easy to make, and not that expensive. It makes a solid four portions, which is what I look for on a weeknight that I can get two nights out of it. You could use various cuts of meat, but I actually just grabbed a package of beef stirfry strips, which meant that they were pre-cut and quick to cook.

    Give this a try on a weeknight. You won't regret it.

    • 1 lb beef or pork tenderloin, sliced into one inch strips
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 3 cups sliced mushrooms
    • 1 1/4 cups beef stock
    • 1/2 cup sour cream
    • 2 tsp dijon mustard
    • 1 tsp worcestershire sauce
    • 3 tsp butter
    • two green onions
    • pkg of egg noodles


    • In a large pan, melt 1 tsp butter a cook onion for about 4 minutes until tender.
    • Add beef/pork strips and cook until no longer pink, about 5 or 6 minutes.
    • Remove onion and meat from pan. Melt remaining butter in same pan and cook mushrooms on medium heat for about 3 or 4 minutes.
    • In another bowl, mix beef stock, sour cream, dijon mustard and worcestershire sauce.
    • Add meat and onion back into pan and pour stock mixture over it. 
    • Let simmer for a few minutes. 
    • Pour over rice or egg noodles and sprinkle with green onion.

    July 2, 2010

    Rhubarb Dessert Bars

    If you can say that title five times fast, treat yourself to one of these delicious treats.

    I'm now seeking out new options for rhubarb to satisfy T and I found these rhubarb bars which promised to be a new way to enjoy rhubarb. The majority of rhubarb recipes are for crumbles, pies and muffins, so I was excited to try something different.

    These bars have a great shortbread base, layered with a soft, tart and sweet topping that is both attractive and delicious. I wouldn't be shy to serve these to company or to just have them on hand to enjoy. Hope you like these too.


    • 2 cups flour
    • 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
    • 1 cup butter, softened
    • 2 cups white sugar
    • 1 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 4 eggs, beaten
    • 4 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    In a medium bowl, mix together two cups of flour, confectioners' sugar and butter until it forms a crumb-like mixture. Press into the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish and bake for 10 minutes.

    While the crust is baking, whisk together white sugar, salt, flour and eggs in a large bowl. Stir in rhubarb to coat. 

    Spread rhubarb mixture evenly over the baked crust.

    Bake for another 45 minutes or until rhubarb is tender. 

    Let cool for at least an hour for top mixture to become more solid.

    Cut into squares to serve.

    Recipe adapted from www.allrecipes.com

    Print recipe for Rhubarb Dessert Bars


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