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

January 14, 2013

Chicken Piccata

As I learn more about cooking, I'm also realizing that I gravitate towards certain kinds of flavours. I'm not one for spice, but I realize that spice-less does not have to mean taste-less. Lemon is one of my favourite flavours to cook with (as shown here and here). It's a bright flavour that can take a regular dish to the next level. Too much lemon though can easily overpower a dish so less is more, especially with this recipe. It won't look like you have a lot of sauce once it's reduced down, but it's intense and a little goes a long way.

I also try to cook with fresh ingredients as much as possible, but on the occasion that I have turned to bottled lemon juice (unless called for) the flavour simply doesn't compare with fresh.

From a preparation perspective, I finally got a reamer and it made juicing the lemons a million times easier, plus I got more juice than the good ol' hand squeeze method I was using.

Chicken Piccata
Serves 2


  • 4 split (2 whole) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
  • olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons room-temperature butter
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), with lemon halves reserved
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • sliced lemon, for serving
  • chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for serving

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking tray with parchment paper
  • Pound out each chicken breast to 1/4" thickness (it will be so tender!) and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper
  • Take three shallow bowls and put flour in one, eggs beaten in another and Panko bread crumbs in the third. Take each chicken breast and coating first in the flour, shaking off the excess, next dip in the egg and finally coat with the bread crumbs. Lay flat on the baking.
  • Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add two chicken breasts and cook for two minutes on each side, until browned. Place them on the sheet pan while you cook the rest of the chicken. Heat more olive oil in the saute pan and cook the second two chicken breasts. Place them on the same sheet pan and cook for 10 minutes in the oven while you make the sauce.
  • For the sauce, wipe out the saute pan with a dry paper towel. On medium heat, melt one tablespoon of butter and then add the lemon juice, wine, reserved lemon halves and salt and pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced by half, about two minutes. Off the heat, discard the lemon halves and add two more tablespoons of butter and swirl to combine. 
  • Serve one chicken breast on each plate, spoon on the sauce and serve with sliced lemon and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.
Recipe from The Barefoot Contessa at Home

January 11, 2013

Lasagna Rolls

I have made these a few times now and I always love them. They're a little fiddley (try not to be put off by the number of ingredients and steps!) but perfect for one of those days that you just like being in the kitchen. They are also chock full of spinach, which I like to think balances out the quantity of cheese. Once I'm back at work, I think these will be a staple that I can make on a lazy Sunday afternoon and then have prepared for the week ahead to pop into the oven for dinner.

When making these, I also tried my hand at making marinara sauce, which I think went quite well. Now that I've used it as a base, I'm more confident to experiment and squeeze some more veggies into this meal.

Lasagna Rolls
Serves 6


White Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 tsp flour
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk (I used a combination of skim and 10% cream)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • pinch nutmeg


  • 1 15 oz container ricotta cheese
  • 1 10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 6 cooked lasagna noodles*
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella


  • Make the white sauce: melt the butter in a medium sauce pan over low-medium heat. Add the flour and whisk for three minutes. Whisk in the milk and increase the heat to medium high. Whisk until the sauce comes to a simmer and is thick and smooth, about 5 minutes. Whisk in the salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  • In a bowl, blend the ricotta, spinach, parmesan, egg, salt and pepper.
  • Lay the noodles out on a cutting board and spread the ricotta mixture out evenly over each noodle. Roll like a jelly roll.
  • Pour the white sauce over a 9x13 baking dish and place each noodle roll seam-side down. 
  • Spoon one cup of marinara sauce over the noodles and top generously with mozzarella cheese. 
  • Cover tightly with foil and bake in pre-heated oven at 450 degrees F for 20 minutes. Remove tin foil and bake for an additional 15 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling. Let stand for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat the remaining marinara sauce and serve alongside.
* the original recipe says 12 noodles, but I have only ever been able to get six, though they are full and big!

January 9, 2013

Marinara Sauce

I always try to have tomato sauce in the house because it's one of those staple pantry items I find myself turning to constantly. But I've never found a great sauce, they're always just "ok," leaving my dish something to be desired.

But then a stroke of fate happened. As I was making my lasagna rolls, I realized I didn't  have any sauce and wasn't eager to pack up The Bean and go out to get some, so I turned to www.allrecipes.com and made "The Best Marinara Sauce, Ever." I had every ingredient in the house (thanks to a weekly purchase of canned tomatoes and tomato paste) and set out to make the sauce.

I loved that it made my kitchen smell amazing and it seemed the longer it simmered, the better it tasted. Many people on All Recipes even noted that the next day, the sauce was twice as good as the first day. The sauce is simple, but what I particularly liked about it was the wine. Wine just makes everything better, doesn't it?

Best Marinara Sauce, Ever
Makes about 4 cups

  • 1 28 oz can Italian tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 4 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 finely diced medium onion
  • 1/2 cup white wine


  • In a food processor, blend the tomatoes, tomato paste, chopped parsley, minced garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth
  • In a large pot over medium heat, sautee the onion in the olive oil until transparent
  • Add the tomato mixture and the white wine to the pot and simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally 
Recipe from www.allrecipes.com 

January 7, 2013

Parmesan Salmon

We try to eat salmon at least once a week. I've made it with shallot vinaigrette, poached in white wine, and a regular staple, salmon cakes.

As part of my 2013 goals to introduce some new foods to our table, I turned to my newest cookbook: Dinner Chez Moi, the Fine Art of Feeding Friends, by Laura Calder. Now that I've been cooking for awhile, I feel like I'm getting the hang of "reading" a recipe -- at least simple ones -- and knowing what it will turn out like. This one, was one of those for me, and I almost couldn't wait to make it. It is so simple that you're bound to have most of the ingredients in the house, save for the parsley, and is simple enough for a weeknight meal but elegant enough to serve to company.

Parmesan Salmon
Serves 6


  • 6 salmon fillets 
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs 
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh, chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Lightly oil a baking sheet and place salmon on it
  3. Season with salt and pepper
  4. In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs, cheese and parsley
  5. Pack crumb mixture on top of salmon to form a crust
  6. Drizzle melted butter evenly over top
  7. Bake until salmon is just cooked, about 10 minutes

January 6, 2013

New Year, New Kitchen, New Food

Happy New Year!

It's been awhile since I posted -- 16 long months. I thought I could blog during a kitchen renovation, but that turned out to a horrible time in culinary adventures (thank goodness for the barbeque!). And then I got pregnant (yeah!), suffered serious morning sickness (boo), moved in with my parents to stay away from the dust and debris in our renovation and wasn't cooking at all at their house.

The Bean
But now it's been seven months since we had The Bean and I have reconnected with the kitchen, and hopefully, my blog.

The inspiration stemmed from the book Dinner: A Love Story. I inhaled it over the holidays and learned about the food journey of Jenny Rosenstrach first with her husband, and then together with their two daughters. It reminded me of the need for organization in a household where both parents work, to ensure a healthy dinner is on the table each night.

So while I have been preparing good meals almost every single night since I've been on maternity leave, I think I'm ready to stretch my culinary muscles again.

Here are my 2013 Food Resolutions:
  • Create a weekly menu plan. This was a resolution two years ago, and for the short time I did it a couple of years ago, it was extremely effective, both from an organizational perspective and financial as we were more conscience in what we were buying. And this will be especially helpful when I go back to work.
  • Make at least one new thing each week
  • Make The Bean's food and help him explore new foods. I've been making purees for him for the past two months, but now I think we're ready to start introducing some new flavours and textures. nd twinkies
  • Continue to blog. This helps with my accountability for sure, and I love that it's a one stop resource for me for tried-and-true recipes, once I've posted them. 
So here's to a delicious year! 


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